"There's a sucker born every minute." -- P.T. Barnum
This saying is true in entertainment, politics, circuses (apparently), crime and especially fantasy sports. That makes it particularly relevant to those of us in the business of committing Grand Theft Roto. Let's face it, people like us are really just grifters looking for the next mark to swindle in a fantasy trade con. Who's the sucker in your league? Who are you going to gaffle next?
We're actually at an interesting part of the season right now. After a few weeks of action, there are enough stats that plenty of owners are ready to hit the panic button on a slow starter or to believe a hot starter is legit. These people are suckers if they don't have the right read on a given player, because even the best baller can have a three-week swoon before churning out top-end stats the rest of the season. And the biggest bum can get hot for a little stretch. If there's someone in your league who you think won't see beyond the current stats, try conning him/her into a flim-flam of a trade with proposals involving the players below. See how many suckers are born every minute in your leagues.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs: It's no big secret that I can't stand Ginobili, but that's because of his incessant flopping, not his fantasy game. I've had him in plenty of leagues through the years, because he's consistently churned out great stats and his name carries weight in trades. His name still carries weight and his incredibly hot start pretty much puts his value at its max for the season, because there are real concerns. He typically misses 7-8 games (but sometimes a lot more) and is now 33 years old and playing increased minutes. That sounds like a recipe for injury. He's also averaging abnormally high stats, even considering the boost in playing time. Specifically, he's averaging a career-high 21.3 ppg (19.5 ppg and 16.5 ppg his other peaks), 7.1 3-point attempts per game (5.3 his previous high), 2.9 3-pointers made per game (previous best of 2.1) and 1.8 spg (averaged 1.5 in the past 5 seasons). Considering his age and health risks, the odds of Ginobili maintaining this pace all season are remote -- unless your league counts flops per game, in which case he'll be gold until he retires!
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls: Having Noah in the "Sell High" section is no knock on him or his fantasy game. He's fully capable of leading the league in rebounding, while maintaining quality percentages, blocks and scoring production. But the ensuing return of Carlos Boozer is a legitimate concern, because it could affect Noah's rebounding and scoring production. It's possible that Noah could maintain his overall value, but why not let someone else find out. Trade him right now at peak value.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers: Even Hibbert's biggest proponents couldn't have expected him to explode out of the gates by averaging 16.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 blocks. That's exactly why you should try to trade him right now. Any time someone is playing at such a massive rate that no one expected it to happen in the first place, a red flag should pop up in your head. He is talented and in the right environment to produce well all season, but the odds of him maintaining this pace are slim.
First-rounders Stephen Curry, Dirk Nowitzki and Amare Stoudemire: These players were all taken in the first round or so in most drafts, but they aren't matching that value on the Player Rater. Curry is ranked 16th on averages, but has top-5 potential. If you believe he's that good (like I do), this may be your only chance to pry him away from his current owner. Nowitzki is ranked 33rd and STAT is ranked 38th. Less is being asked of Nowitzki this season, so he may not crack the top 10 by season's end, but I'll be shocked if he isn't in the top 15. Amare already is starting to turn it on, and we should expect to see his scoring continue to increase as he gets comfortable with his new teammates and system. He won't be ranked this low for long.
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets: It really is hard to imagine how a 7-footer who averaged 8.7 rpg last season could average 5.6 thus far this season. It's also hard to imagine how a guy who hit about 51 percent of his shots from the field his first two seasons could shoot just 42.1 percent at this point. That's exactly why he's a great buy-low candidate. We could debate how high his value might go this season, but there's little doubt it won't be any lower than it is right now. His ADP was 16th and his current Player Rater rank based on averages is 83rd. Go get him on the cheap before he turns it around.
Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers: Batum's been playing well enough out of the gate that whoever owns him isn't going to give him up for nothing. On the other hand, Brandon Roy's bum knees could lead to a statistical explosion from the 21-year-old Batum. Roy admitted that he has no meniscus left in either knee. This would be scary news for fantasy owners if it came out in late March. Less than a dozen games into the season, this news is terrifying. If Roy plays, he's going to be a shell of himself. If he opts for something like microfracture surgery, we won't see him on the court until next season or beyond. Batum's the perfect player to pick up Roy's minutes and stats if the star goes down. He won't handle the ball like Roy, but he can run the floor, score points, drop treys and even block some shots. Get him at his current price and you may end up with a stud for the second half of the season.
Tom Carpenter is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.