Let the Phoenix Suns’ decision to trade Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks serve as a reminder: Players’ fantasy basketball value can change at a moment’s notice.
While Bledsoe, Thon Maker and John Henson should receive boosts in value moving forward, Malcolm Brogdon, Greg Monroe and the rest of Phoenix’s frontcourt took a hit. Not only does a trade affect the fantasy value of the players involved, but teammates likewise swing up or down depending on whether they suddenly find themselves in a fiercer competition for minutes or if a larger opportunity opened up for them in the wake of a trade.
Players who signed new deals as free agents this offseason are eligible to be traded beginning Dec. 15, so the Bledsoe deal may be the first in a flurry over the coming months. That means fantasy owners may stay abreast of the latest reports, rumors and speculation, as a player’s fantasy upside could soar or plummet at a moment’s notice.
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For those in nine-category, head-to-head leagues, these rankings should help shine a light on how to value players moving forward. Below the rankings, read more about some notable risers and fallers from the week.
Brook Lopez, C, Los Angeles Lakers: Lopez began his Lakers career on the wrong foot, averaging just 11.7 points on 38.2 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 23.4 minutes across his first seven outings, but he caught fire since the calendar flipped to November. Over his past three games, the 29-year-old poured in 27.3 points on 55.8 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 triples and 2.0 blocks in 30.2 minutes per night. His rebounding leaves much to be desired, but that should come as no surprise given his past production in that department. With Larry Nance Jr. sidelined for the next few weeks due to a fractured hand, Lopez’s short-term outlook is rising rapidly. He’s firmly back among the top 50 after an early-season plunge.
Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs: Injury optimism appears to have claimed yet another victim in the fantasy realm. On Tuesday, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told reporters that Leonard is “coming along more slowly for whatever reason” in his recovery from the quadriceps tendinopathy that has sidelined him since training camp. With no return in sight — last Thursday, Pop told TNT’s Kristen Ledlow that it “could be tomorrow, could be a month from now” — it’s time to downgrade expectations for Leonard. Once he’s healthy enough to return, Pop figures to ease him back into action to avoid any setbacks, so fantasy owners may not receive his typical top-five output until closer to the All-Star break. He’s a risky buy-low option at this point, as he’d be lucky to post top-25 value from this point forward.
Trevor Ariza, SF, Houston Rockets: With a pair of two-point performances in his first four outings, Ariza likely put a scare into fantasy owners during the opening week of the season. Those who remained patient with him through that early-season malaise should be feeling better now, as he averaged 11.8 points on 41.7 percent shooting, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.6 triples and 1.0 steals in 34.8 minutes over his past five games. Ariza has turned into a poor man’s Robert Covington in fantasy — someone who isn’t likely to erupt for 20-plus points on a given night, but a player whose relatively meager scoring output is boosted by a steady source of 3-pointers and steals. If an owner in your league panic-dropped Ariza — he’s owned in only 66.7 percent of ESPN.com leagues — rectify that immediately.
Serge Ibaka, PF/C, Toronto Raptors: Serge Ibaka flirted with a top-50 average draft position heading into the year, but those who selected him with a fifth- or sixth-round pick can’t be thrilled with the early returns. Through nine games, Ibaka has averaged only 13.2 points on 51.1 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 triples and 0.9 blocks in 26.5 minutes per game, giving him fringe top-100 value on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. The days of him averaging north of 10 rebounds and two blocks a night appear to be a thing of the past, as Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is limiting his minutes to get young bigs Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl more burn off the bench. Until (unless?) that changes, Ibaka slides down to a middle-round value rather than a potential top-50 option.
Tyreke Evans, SG/SF, Memphis Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans would have been the star of Monday’s waiver-wire column, but his ownership percentage already surged past 50 percent in ESPN.com leagues this past weekend. With per-game averages of 23.6 points on 53.1 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.4 triples and 1.2 steals in 31.8 minutes over his past five games, it isn’t difficult to see why. Evans topped the 20-point threshold in each of his past four outings, and he has played 30 or more minutes in five straight. The oft-injured former Rookie of the Year may not continue producing at this rate all season, but there’s no arguing with the production while he’s this hot. He looks like a top-100 rest-of-season value at the moment.
Danilo Gallinari, SF, Los Angeles Clippers: While Blake Griffin is lighting the fantasy world ablaze, his new Clippers teammate can’t say the same. Prior to missing Tuesday’s game with a hip injury, Gallinari averaged only 12.8 points on 35.5 percent shooting, 4.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 triples in 31.9 minutes over his first nine outings, which put him outside of the top 100 on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. On Sunday, Gallinari told reporters, “I’ve been having paint he past two or three games and now it’s getting to a point where I’m having problems walking,” which doesn’t seem to bode well for his short-term outlook. As a result, he slipped down into the 90s for the time being.
Evan Fournier, SG, Orlando Magic: Among the early-season top 25, no player is a bigger surprise than Fournier. Through 10 games, Never Google is averaging a career-high 20.3 points on 50.7 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.7 triples and 1.2 steals in 33.8 minutes, which has him sitting as the 18th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Though Fournier is likely to fall back to earth at some point, he did post top-70 value in 2015-16, so a middle-round rest-of-season output isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. He’s looking like a draft-day steal and a top-75 value moving forward.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder: So, uh… when can we talk about Russell Westbrook being one of the biggest first-round busts to date? With Carmelo Anthony and Paul George soaking up touches, Westbrook’s scoring average has tumbled by nearly 12 points from his 2016-17 output, although he’s once again damn near averaging a triple-double per game. Even if you remove his 5.2 turnovers per game from the equation, though, he’s only the 36th-ranked player on a per-game basis in nine-category leagues. Anthony and George are imploring Russ to stop deferring and get back to his dominant ways, but the new-look Thunder remain an obvious work in progress. Until the OKThree develop more chemistry, Westbrook plunges from a first-round value to a fringe second-rounder.
All ownership percentages via ESPN.com. All average draft position info via FantasyPros. All rankings via Basketball Monster are based on nine-category leagues and are current heading into Wednesday, Nov. 8.