A few weeks ago, during our NBA Roundtable discussion on sell-high players, Ryan Knaus, a colleague at the Rotoworld Gazette, made a comment that stood out to me. In reference to Emmanuel Mudiay, he said that the Denver PG “isn't so much a 'sell-high' recommendation as a 'sell-before-everyone-realizes-he's-toxic' candidate.”
The comment resonated because it got me thinking about other players who might be destroying your fantasy squad more than you realize. Or, perhaps more likely: You fully realize how bad they are for your team, but because they’re big-name players, you’d rather not sell low. And you can’t just outright drop them, right?
Well, maybe you can. And with all of that in mind, here's a handful of high-profile players – some of them former MVPs – whose numbers are practically screaming for some addition by subtraction…
(Recommended listening: Every Rose Has Its Thorn, by Poison)
Derrick Rose, PG, CHI
The Numbers: 13.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.7 apg, 0.7 spg and 0.6 3s (36.3 FG / 71.7 FT)
What Makes Him Toxic: First, let me say this: Rose in theory can certainly put up better numbers than what he’s shown so far this season (just last year, for example, he posted 17.7 ppg and 1.5 3s). But at this point, after all the injuries, how much upside does he really have? Rose used to cover up a lack of steals (he has only averaged as many as 1.0 per game once in his career) with high-volume points and assists. But the last time he really put up eye-catching points/assists numbers was for a half season back in 2011-12, when he posted 21.8 ppg and 7.9 apg (along with 0.9 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.4 3s). In the two-plus years he’s played since then (79 games total), Rose has averaged 16.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.0 apg and 0.7 spg on 38.9 percent shooting. That’s right – 38.9 percent from the field since 2013-14 (including 36.3 percent on a lofty 15 attempts per game this year).
In large part because of that horrendous shooting, he’s currently the No. 253 player on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard. For perspective, that means he’s been notably less helpful than Trey Burke (No. 177 overall), who presents just one example of a player who’s not very good but is still more valuable than Rose. You may not agree with this assessment, but given Rose’s awful shooting, I would personally rather start a Patrick Beverley or a Jose Calderon (and to be clear, I find Calderon to be a pretty boring fantasy option these days, but this is one case where getting more boring wouldn’t be a bad thing).
Bottom line: Rose still sometimes looks dynamic in real life, but in fantasy he’s a big name who no longer looks capable of posting big numbers. And that’s not even taking into account, as we’ve known forever, that has a ton of trouble staying healthy. Deal him for someone, anyone, who can help you in a couple categories without crushing you in percentages or turnovers, and I think your team will immediately become a better place.
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Kobe Bryant, SG/SF, LAL
The Numbers: 15.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 3s (30.9 FG / 81.5 FT)
What Makes Him Toxic: Unlike Rose, Kobe does offer somewhat useful numbers in 3s and steals right now. The cost, however – as you are probably aware – is a devastating 30.9 percent from the field on 17.5 attempts per game. Repeat: 30.9, 17.5. Unless you play in a points league that doesn’t penalize misses that much, there’s just no way to justify putting this dent in your FG percentage on a weekly basis. Even if it gets significantly better for Kobe, it’s hard to picture him getting into a range where he’s not still mauling your FG numbers pretty severely (last year, in 35 games, he shot 37.3 percent on 20.4 attempts per game). The farewell tour has had a few fun moments – for a minute there the other night I thought he was going to drop 50 on the Sixers – but overall this is bad. Very, very bad. I can’t imagine you can get anything in a trade for the No. 249-ranked player right now, but again, we’re talking about addition by subtraction. Get rid of Kobe’s unspeakably awful shooting, get some less tumultuous production in its place, and your team should improve right away.
Jrue Holiday, PG, NOP
The Numbers: 11.4 ppg, 4.6 apg, 0.8 spg and 0.9 3s (41.3 FG / 81.6 FT)
What Makes Him Toxic: My main problem with Rose and Kobe as fantasy options is their high-volume bad shooting. With Holiday, it’s more an issue of durability. Specifically: He still hasn’t been cleared for back-to-back games, has sat out five times so far and hasn’t once played more than 27 minutes all season (he’s averaging 22 minutes per game). I don’t blame the Pelicans for handling him carefully (as you probably know, he has missed 90 games the last two seasons due to leg injuries), but what reason do we have to think that he’s suddenly going to be durable if and when New Orleans lifts his restrictions?
Ultimately, I guess it would be foolish to completely rule out Holiday getting healthy and staying healthy given that he’s only 25, but taking everything into consideration I just don’t think he’s worth the headache right now. He’s not really good enough to start even when he isn’t sitting out games (No. 188 overall in 9-category leagues), so I find him a hard player to stash unless your league has a big bench and you have no other injuries right now. The one thing working in his favor is that unlike Rose and Kobe, he’s not occasionally posting a big line that tempts you to put him into your lineup. So if you have the discipline to hold onto him and wait to see how things pan out if and when he gets turned loose, there’s certainly a chance that could work out for you – but you’re way more patient than I am.
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, DEN
The Numbers: 11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.7 bpg, 0.8 3s. 4.0 TO (31.3 FG / 68.2 FT)
What Makes Him Toxic: Since it was a comment on Mudiay that started this whole thing, we’ll go ahead and end this section of the column talking about him. I also think Mudiay is worth discussing here because he’s a slightly different case than some of these other names. What makes him toxic isn’t the fact that he’s a big-name player who’s desperately chucking up shots in his final games (Kobe), or is just too beat up to be as dynamic as he once was (Rose). Mudiay, in fact, is a dynamic young player who’s still figuring it out. The problem is, the figuring out is profoundly ugly. He has hit half or more of his shots just twice all year, and since the last time he did, on Nov. 20, the rookie has posted 8.9 ppg and 5.4 apg on 27.8 percent shooting in nine games. I haven’t quite given up hope that Mudiay could start clicking on a higher level later in the season, but you have to be very careful here. If you’re patient enough to put him on your bench and never start him until it really looks like he’s figured things out, then great. I am in awe of your discipline and patience. But if you’re like me, and might find yourself tempted to throw him into the lineup for a four-game week one of these days – because he probably won’t shoot that badly this week – you’re honestly better off dropping him.
Other Random Thoughts: I don’t really trust Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, but Jon Leuer’s last five games (14.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.2 bpg, 0.8 3s) make him well worth a look in most leagues right now. … The aforementioned Patrick Beverley has averaged 12.4 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg and 3.0 3s in his last five games. … The aforementioned Jose Calderon, in his last six: 7.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 3s, 54.5 FG, 0.7 TO. … Career-first for yours truly: writing a column about toxic players and having a legit case of food poisoning at the same time.