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Fantasy Basketball: Buy Low, Sell High

It’s that time in the season when managers have a good idea of “who” their team is. Of course, it is important to give players time to build into the 82 game campaign before making trades or hitting the waiver wire.

Alas, the time is now to address the needs of your roster, because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s common for teams to win and lose the same statistical categories week after week. Utilizing the value in players who bring a surplus of a statistic you often win, can allow managers to address holes in their roster.

Here is a list of players that might yield good value if you’re looking to sell, and a group of players managers may be able to obtain without having to give up much at all.

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Sell High

Jusuf Nurkic, C – Portland Trailblazers

The Bosnian beast has been on an absolute tear for the injury-ridden Blazers. Over his last 10 games, Jusuf Nurkic is averaging a blistering 17.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and  0.8 blocks per contest.  During that stretch, Portland was without Damian Lillard, who remains without a timetable to return, and CJ McCollum who is now back. The bruising center undoubtedly can put up big numbers, but there is no guarantee his minutes will stay consistent.

This is unequivocally Nurkic’s best form of the last two seasons, and there will be many interested parties for a center who can snag 10 boards and a steal a night. Don’t part with the Portland big man too easily, as this moniker of “Sell High” is no slight on his talent. When he’s right, he has top 7-10 center capabilities, but if you’re in need of stats in areas Nurkic doesn’t produce there is no better time to sell than now.

Josh Giddey, SG/PG – Oklahoma City Thunder

Don’t get me wrong, I too appreciate what Josh Giddey brings to the Thunder, and the guard now crowned, “youngest triple-double in NBA history” has been somewhat of a revelation in OKC. That being said, his inefficiencies in shooting and lack of real three-point range can bury your team in a given week. His defensive statistics are also nothing to call home about at a steal, and under a half a block per game.

Giddey has become a bit of an internet sensation, and a favorite of fantasy buffs across the social media landscape. It’s likely clamor for the impressive rookie has him slightly over-valued for a player who really only is a plus in assists and rebounds.

Mo Bamba, C – Orlando Magic.

Mo Bamba is putting together the best season of his career by a wide margin. Across all formats, the fourth-year 7-footer is in, or around the top-10 threshold for centers. Unfortunately, his minutes are very inconsistent and the Magic prefer Wendell Carter Jr as the starting center. This leaves Mamba in a precarious position of playing limited minutes at times even as a starter or occasionally coming off the bench. Orlando is also getting more healthy and forward Chuma Okeke along with guards Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs are eating into the big man’s court time.

There should be a huge market for a player who is 4th in the league in blocks, but unless he gets traded it’s hard to imagine Bamba will get the playing time to replicate his impressive first half of the season on the second. As a side note, the fact he doesn’t have PF eligibility also diminishes his value in some formats.

RJ Barrett, SG/SF – New York Knicks

There is a lot in a name, basketball fans have known about Barrett since before he even played a game for Duke. To his credit over his last ten games, the Knicks wing has scored 25 or more 5 times. That being said his stat sheet has a lot of empty calories, he doesn’t average a steal or block, shoots under 70% from the line, and is 35% from three, which was closer to 30% before his hot streak.

The two attributes making him a sell-high candidate are his run of form and his name. Barrett is almost a household name, and at the very least well known by any fantasy manager. If your team’s scoring is doing fine, it may be time to ship out Barrett in search of a more healthy stat-line.

Buy Low

CJ McCollum, SG/PG – Portland Trailblazers

CJ McCollum has finally returned to the Portland backcourt after a month and a half absence for a collapsed lung. The scary, and rare basketball injury kept him out longer than expected, and McCollum and the blazers were already off to a rocky start.

Fast-forward to now, CJ is tasked with the main ball handler duty and the main offensive threat for the Blazers sans Lillard. He’s averaging 20, 4, and 4 right now but look for each of those numbers to increase.

Jalen Suggs, PG/SG – Orlando Magic

Orlando is terrible, it’s fairly clear the Magic are going to finish in the bottom 3 this year. What that means is rookie Jalen Suggs should get plenty of opportunities to assert himself as a key member of Orlando’s backcourt. He’s currently averaging a hair under 13, 4, and 4, not exactly taking the league by storm. He, like the Magic as a whole, has suffered from multiple injury setbacks this season and has only played in 26 games.

There is a good chance he could be a 5-rebound, 5-assist, 2-steal performer in the near future. While he’s only averaging 27 minutes a game, recent trends suggest he could crack 30 a night on a regular basis going forward. Cole Anthony clearly looks like the best fantasy prospect in the Magic backcourt, but it would be surprising to see the rebuilding Magic prefer veterans Gary Harris or Terrance Ross over the up-and-coming Suggs in the second half of the season.

Lauri Markkanen, PF/C – Cleveland Cavaliers

Former Bull, and the NBA’s resident Fin, Lauri Markkanen is off to a slow start. He’s averaging a career-worst 13.6 ppg and shooting a career-low 34% from three. The fifth-year big man has struggled to fit into a role as the small forward, (despite his eligibility) alongside twin towers Jarrett Allen and rookie of the year candidate Evan Mobley.

What remains promising is the Cav’s rotation or lack-there-of.  Cleveland has lost Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio for the season, and they often only go 8 or 9 deep into the bench. Markkanen should continue to play 30 plus minutes a night and seems reasonable to think he should get his shot going. It should also be noted he missed over two weeks, and apparently had a tough bout of covid. It has been commonplace for players across all sports to struggle getting “right” after a covid infection.

If there is a team willing to bail on a bad start from Lauri, I recommend managers take a chance on what looks like a great upside in the second half of the season.

He Might Come Back, Right?

This category is for the likes of Damian Lillard, Paul George, Zion Williamson, and Kawhi Leonard. I didn’t want to dedicate a whole section to each, but the allure of a top-20 fantasy player is strong for any manager. There is word about all three of these that they may be shut down for the season. That sort of verbiage should make them available for pennies on the dollar.

It should be said that it is a massive risk to give up ANY value for guys who may not see the court at all in the 21/22 season. I’ve personally seen Lillard offloaded for Jerami Grant in one league, and every manager should have their price for a player that has likely frustrated them all season long.

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