I’ll Be Damned: Damned if You Do…

Serge Ibaka is third in the league in blockahs.

Each week in this space, I like to take the time to marvel at the oddities that abound in the fantasy basketball universe. What’s more important than pure wonder, however, is useful knowledge. We can’t act so surprised that we turn to stone. This week I’m going to take a look at players off to surprising starts, and offer verdicts on whether or not they are destined to be this good all year.

When considering trading players, a lot of people get caught up in what someone has done in the recent past as opposed to the near future and beyond. Remember, you don’t ever get someone’s current stats in a deal.

I’m damned about the following players vastly out-performing their draft spot. It’s a worthy buy-low or sell-high exercise to do this regularly with any players who seem to be trending well below or above their norms. If the player seems to be here to stay and worth hanging on to, I’ll exclaim “Damn!” about how good they’ve become. If I feel you’d be better off moving one of these guys before it’s too late, or if you might be stuck with them, I’ll simply label them “Damned”. We good? If you have any questions, please wait until after the presentation.

Wilson Chandler
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 120
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): 121
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 16
Verdict: Damn!
Chandler’s taken advantage of Anthony Randolph being a huge disappointment, and the Knicks having very few reliable frontcourt options, to post numbers the envy of all who failed to draft him: 17.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 3FG, 1.7 BPG. Chandler is logging monster minutes since moving permanently into the starting lineup in late November – close to 40 per game. The blocks and threes should still be there. Hang on to Chandler if you have him and enjoy the ride.

Serge Ibaka
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 135
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): N/A
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 30
Verdict: Damn!
Ibaka is the real deal. While his 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds won’t blow anybody away, he averages 2.4 blocks and shoots wonderful percentages (58.5 FG/80.6 FT). I’m not sure anyone outside of the most rabid fantasy hoops owners know Ibaka is really this good. In fact, you should go after him if you can. His playing time has been inconsistent and it is conceivable he could be even better if he gets just a few more minutes per game.

Dorell Wright
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 143
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): N/A
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 41
Verdict: Damn!
Wright got off to a scorching start and you would have been right to trade him then and there. But if you held on to him, he has rewarded you. While he’s had the inevitable hiccups, for the most part he’s been a consistent source of production in several areas. You can always count on Wright providing goodies in every box score, be it steals, blocks or threes. But did you know he is averaging over 10 boards a game in December? He’s doing it all, and playing over 40 minutes a game on a team with a backcourt of shaky health. Don’t trade Wright unless you get an amazing deal for him.

Channing Frye
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 101
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): 87
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 42
Verdict: Damned
Frye is providing superb production for his fantasy owners right now, but I’ve never been a huge fan. His rebounding is so poor for a center that his three-point shooting doesn’t quite make up for it. Frye’s blocks are up to 1.3 per game, so that’s a plus, but this is the kind of player who isn’t quite good enough in too many categories. Robin Lopez is due back eventually as well, so Frye’s current role isn’t assured. Deal him while you can.

Mike Conley
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 102
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): 108
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 47
Verdict: Damned
Conley’s job is safe but you probably missed your window to secure something great for him in a deal. Don’t give up. He’s ranked this high on the strength of his 2.1 steals, a number that won’t stick, and chances are he’s your third point guard anyways so those 7.2 assists aren’t vital. His other numbers are rather average. After an other-worldly start, Conley is now trade bait.

Arron Afflalo
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 229
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): N/A
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 62
Verdict: Damned
I sense Afflalo’s trade value is pretty low despite his ranking, as I’ve been getting questions from readers and tweeps about completely jettisoning him for weeks.  This is a case of a lesser-name player not making enough of a splash on the consciousnesses of fantasy owners. This is too bad, because he has been tailing off ever so slightly after a hot start. His ranking over the last two weeks is 80th; over the last month it is 85. He is what he is at this point: a tweener on your team, and not good enough to be targeted by others.

Amir Johnson
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 138
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): N/A
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 66
Verdict: Damned
It’s not that I don’t like Johnson, it’s that I don’t like his current trade value. He has yet to prove he can consistently help fantasy teams week in and week out, and that translates to skittish owners afraid to part with their sure things for him. But that’s okay, as Johnson should have a nice finish to the season. But he hasn’t seized his opportunity like we’d like to see him do, at least statistically. You’re damned if you trade him, and damned if you don’t.

Landry Fields
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 278
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): N/A
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 69
Verdict: Damn!
Fields won’t score you much in trade talks, but so what? He’s locked into major minutes in New York, shines in unique categories for a shooting guard, and is ranked higher than Zach Randolph, Brandon Roy and Andrew Bogut. I’m not saying he’s better than those guys; that depends on the makeup of your roster and statistical needs. But Fields was a waiver wire find. Everything he does is gravy. Let him do it for your team.

Wesley Matthews
Preseason Yahoo! Rank: 253
Average Draft Position (Yahoo!): N/A
Current Yahoo! Average Rank: 78
Verdict: Damn!
Matthews’ rank in the last month: 17th. Brandon Roy’s reliability ranking: 1,017th. Matthews’ fantasy value: tremendous and only getting better.

Note: Yahoo! uses some sort of computerized system to rank players based on their statistics. It’s a pretty moronic thing to use as a Bible but a good barometer of general fantasy trends. As always, your personal categorical needs outweigh these rankings.

I’ll Be Damned is a weekly fantasy basketball column written by Jeff Andriesse without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs, pending a urinalysis test. The column appears on Damn Lies & Statistics every Tuesday and won’t leave until you give it attention. Leave your feedback in the comments or contact Jeff using the Contact Us link at the top of the site. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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