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“Jaws of Doom” The Circle of Trust: Oladipo, IT2, Bargs, and TT

“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.”  -Heraclitus

Legendary pre-socratic philosopher (and apparent fantasy basketball sage) Heraclitus has enjoyed millenniums of fame for basically saying that ‘the only constant is change’ in an excessively verbose manner.  Although my classical Greek history is a bit foggy, I’m fairly certain that Heraclitus was commenting on the dynamic nature of fantasy basketball.  He alone realized that savvy pretend NBA general managers must maintain unwavering vigilance, always searching for (the sometimes subtle) opportunities that arise from the universe’s natural flux; and 2,500 years later, Heraclitus’s work still heavily influences my fantasy basketball theory.  So in his honor, today’s post will discuss players who’ve recently gained my confidence and solidified themselves as universally trustworthy fantasy assets. The following discussion aims to demonstrate and understand the elevation of four players who I previously regarded suspiciously as potential liabilities.

Victor Oladipo, Gal Mekel

Victor  Oladipo:

It’s officially Dipo time in Orlando. Since his first start a few weeks ago, Victor Oladipo has been producing like a top-tier scoring guard — his stats from last two weeks are easily on par with some of the best two guards in the game. Check out his production over the last 14 days:

  • Victor Oladipo: 44%fg, 76%ft, 0.7 3ptm, 16.1pts, 4.6 ast, 5.7rbd, 1.7stl, 1.1blk, 3.1to
  • Monta Ellis: 43%fg, 92%ft, 0.7 3ptm, 17.4pts, 6.1, 3.3rbd, 1.6stl, 0.3blk, 2.9to
  • Evan Turner: 46%fg, 81%ft, 1.3 3ptm,17.5pts, 4.5ast, 5.7rbd, 1.3stl, 0blk, 3.3to

That’s some pretty fantastic company for a rookie who literally just got his feet wet.  Oladipo is unbelievably athletic and explosive on both sides of the ball — he brings much-needed energy to a rebuilding Orlando team. Initially I was concerned that Orlando’s desire to move their older players would limit Victor’s fantasy potential, but his recent play has largely quelled my concerns.  Oladipo has already demonstrated that he’s one of the best defensive guards in the NBA: ranking 7th in steals and 3rd in blocks among all SG’s over the past two weeks.  The scary part is that he’s still developing as a professional — his production is already comparable with the likes of stars such as Monta Ellis, just imagine what he might be doing February.  At this point Victor’s only real downside is that he tends to rack up turnovers — but you should be punting this category anyway, so who gives a shit?

However, as a long-time fan and fantasy owner, I’m worried about Jameer Nelson’s value.  He should absolutely lose his starting job — the Magic need Oladipo on the ball as often as possible. Nevertheless the Magic need to trade Nelson, which should keep him productive enough to own in most leagues. Both Jameer and his fantasy owners would likely benefit from a trade.

Isaiah Thomas:

People have been bitching vociferously about Greivis Vasquez’s disastrous starting NorCal; and with good reason too — he’s easily been one of the biggest disappointments of 2013.  The Kings, like many fantasy managers, paid a pretty steep price for a guy struggling to post 10/5 (and not much else) with regularity; very disappointing output considering Vasquez’s success in New Orleans. Maybe even more surprising though, is the way that Isaiah Thomas has quietly but masterfully ran the point in Sacto.  While you’d expect a name like Isaiah Thomas to generate a bit more fanfare than it has, his recent production has been objectively outstanding. Compare Thomas’s season stats against the league’s other top PG’s — the numbers speak for themselves:

  • Isaiah Thomas: 46%fg, 86%ft, 1.5 3ptm, 17.8pts, 4.9ast, 2.3rbd, 1.4stl, 0blk, 2.6to
  • Eric Bledsoe: 49%fg, 80%ft, 1.2 3ptm, 18.6pts, 6.0ast, 4.0rbd, 1.5stl, 0.2blk, 3.5to
  • Kyle Lowry: 41%fg, 79%ft, 2.2 3ptm, 14.3pts, 6.6ast, 3.5rbd, 1.7stl, 0.2blk, 2.3to

I actually think Vasquez is a quality ball-player, but IT2’s exceptional performance basically made Vasquez expendable.  Maybe the most impressive thing about Thomas, though, is his ability to produce like an all-star even while coming off the bench as part of a timeshare. IT2 has been a top 10 overall fantasy PG as a backup.  Forward thinking managers that had enough moxie to invest in him on draft day can count on Thomas to keeping paying dividends throughout the season.

Welcome to the family, Isaiah.

**About 20 minutes after I finished writing this post, Toronto traded Rudy Gay to Sacto for Vasquez and some role players. Both IT2 and Boogie should benefit from Gay’s arrival. Thomas is on the verge of becoming an elite point guard, and suddenly the Kings are one of my favorite squads on paper.**

Isaiah celebrating his choice to not draft Greivis Vasquez in the 7th roun

Isaiah celebrating his choice to not draft Greivis Vasquez in the 7th roun


Andrea Bargnani:

Andrea Bargnani deals with a ton of criticism, especially now that he’s in New York. I think people give him a hard time because he never really lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted first overall. Sure he was terrible last season, but it wasn’t that long ago when Bargs was a bona-fide fantasy stud: in 2010-11 he posted 21/5 with some threes and decent defensive stats to boot.

Since filling in for the injured Tyson Chandler, Bargnani has been one of best players in New York; in fact Bargs is on pace for his best season ever. Fantasy owners everywhere have doubtlessly enjoyed his improvements in shooting efficiency and defense — only Serge Ibaka has blocked more shots in the past two weeks. But more than anything, I think Bargnani has benefited from playing alongside Carmelo Anthony — he’s clearly more effective as a secondary scoring option.

Andrea has been particularly hot lately, posting production on par with great Dirk Nowitzki’s over the last two weeks; compare:

  • Andrea Bargnani: 46%fg, 82%ft, 1.0 3ptm, 18.0pts, 6.3rbd, 1.5ast, 0.7stl, 2.7blk, 1.0to
  • Dirk Nowitzki: 53%fg, 87%ft, 1.1 3pm, 21.9pts, 5.1brd, 3.3ast, 0.9stl, 1.0blk, 1.1to

It seems like a change of scenery was exactly what the doctor ordered for Bargs. I think his skill set meshes nicely with New York’s roster, and Mike Woodson would have to completely lose his mind for Bargnani to lose a significant amount of shots — they really are that bad in NYC.

So long as Chandler doesn’t vulture too many of Bargs’ blocks, I expect him to keep on rolling along.  Nevertheless, fantasy pundits everywhere have begun peddling Andrea as a ‘sell high’ target with Chandler’s return approaching. I, however, am a proud contrarian who salivates uncontrollably when this type of group think situation occurs. If you’re a fellow Bargnani believer, the time for action is now.

Andrea Bargnani, smooth as silk

Andrea Bargnani, smooth as silk

Tristan Thompson:

With the addition of Andrew Bynum and number one overall pick Anthony Bennett, I was leery of Thompson earlier this season. Nevertheless Tristan has continued to improve his game and has emerged as a truly exceptional rebounder. Over the past two weeks he’s averaged 11 points and 13 boards plus a bit of defense in about 32 minutes per game.  And while he’s scoring at roughly the same rate as last season, his shooting has been less efficient — down from 49% to 43%.  But if Thompson can somehow find a groove, and sink about 50% of his shots, 15/10 nights will become his nightly routine.

Here’s a quick comparison between Thompson’s and Kenneth Faried’s season averages so far:

  • Tristan Thompson: 43%fg, 72%ft, 0 3ptm, 11.5pts, 10.4rbd, 0.8ast, 0.7stl, 0.6blk, 1.5to
  • Kenneth Faried: 55%fg, 61%ft, 0 3ptm, 10.2pts, 8.6rbd, 1.0ast, 0.7stl, 0.7blk, 1.1to

Again, efficiency is the key for Tristan Thompson’s fantasy value.  That said, it’ll be interesting to see whether there are enough minutes to go around in Cleveland’s front court; I’d wager that Varajao’s age and injury risk eventually makes him the odd man out.


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