Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Buy low, sell high? Been there, done that.

A lot of times you’ll see someone put up an impressive line, but hold off picking him up because he’s getting playing time only because of an injury. The injured player will be back in a few days, so why bother? Because in the NBA, injuries always last longer than you think they will, and it’s hard to take a hot hand out of the lineup. Another common refrain in fantasy circles is “buy low, sell high.” Makes enough sense and is a rather obvious strategy. But it’s so obvious that even the weakest players are on to it. So you almost have to overthink things and target guys who some might consider “sell high” players, but who are really “buy low” candidates. A few examples:

Chris Wilcox can flat out play. I saw just about every game he played in college and he was obviously plenty raw back then, but the talent was plainly obvious. Since he went to the Clippers, I’ve rarely seen him play, but I can see the numbers. Yes, his 24/9 in the season opener and 27/10 against the Blazers were very impressive, but even an “off” game, like against the Pistons on Monday shows what he’s capable of. He was in foul trouble (a common problem) and played on 29 minutes, but still contributed 15 and 7. Everything you read about Wilcox says how he’s just a placeholder until Chris Kaman comes back, but read that again. Yes, Kaman was actually selected two spots higher than Wilcox, but he is not a proven star. He is a more natural center, which does work in his favor, but I just can’t see Kaman averaging 20/7.5 on 63% shooting over any four game stretch. If Wilcox is available, get him now, this instant. And if his owner thinks he’s working on borrowed time and that Wilcox might not be valuable in a week or two, see if you can acquire him.

Kirk Hinrich did his best Baron Davis impression in the season opener, going off for 34 points, 8 assists, 5 3s and 3 steals. He was likely drafted relatively high in your draft, but it’s possible that whoever ended up with him didn’t think he was for real, and may think this is a good time to sell high, especially after he came down to earth with a 12 point, 8 turnover performance the next night. Hinrich will be a top 30 player this season, you can count on that. In fact, he could be just as valuable as the aforementioned Davis, depending on how many games Davis misses due to injury. The Bulls are a young, young team, Hinrich included. They have four rookies (Deng, Nocioni, Gordon and Duhon) getting consistent PT, at least early on. Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler are very unproven, still. The Bulls brain trust loves Hinrich, and have basically put him in control of this team. He will have the ball in his hands more than most point guards, and will put up numbers across the board. After averaging under 13 ppg in his rookie year, expect him to approach 20 this year and to finish in the top 10 in the league in 3PM. He will be one of the few players who will be a dominant force this year who you can still probably acquire relatively cheap.

Rafer Alston is another PG that your window is closing on. He too has had a great start to the year that’s not quite consistent with his past performances. But there is no reason to think it won’t only get better for Alston. One think to like about him is that he launches 3s like they are going out of style. He has made three in each game this season, and the fact that he will continue to fire away will give him value even when he slumps. Like almost all PG, his FG% will probably drag you down a bit, but you’ll be able to live with that when he’s racking up the 3s, assists and steals. It’s almost impossible to win your league with PGs that aren’t dominant in those categories, and Alston will give you that. It’s only a matter of time before he’s recognized in the top tier.

Rookies are almost always dicey picks. But Emeka Okafor slipped way too far in most drafts. People gave far too little credit to his offensive game, forgetting the fact that he’ll be playing a huge number of games against teams with inside “forces” such as Brendan Haywood, Jason Collier and Dwight Howard. Still, there are some people out there who might think his fast start is a fluke and that the long season and back problems will catch up to Okafor. This is a possibility, of course, but he has great work habits and knows the team and city are counting on him, and I’d expect to see him in the lineup for at least 75 games this year. With only three blocks in two games, he hasn’t asserted himself in that category yet. Don’t worry, he will. And if you need blocks, he is a great “pretend to buy high” candidate.


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