I often have people send me fantasy basketball questions about their teams on Twitter (you can find me here: @ProfessorDrz). By far, the most common question is a variation of whether they should drop their worst player in order to pick up a new player of interest.
It's a bit easier in weekly transaction leagues, because often there is enough time to watch the player you are considering a couple of times before weekly bids have to go in. However, in daily transaction leagues, you have to make add/drop decisions quickly -- often on partial information -- or else risk losing out on the player to some other manager in your league.
There are a few things I'd like you to know about how I answer questions like this. First, you should know that I can't run your team for you from afar. I don't know your roster like you do. I don't know your league like you do. And any decision you make is going to come with some amount of risk. That's just part of the game.
Second, my method of answering is often more informational than persuasive. I'll note some pros/cons for both sides under consideration, before giving my actual advice. And to my way of thinking, the information and justification is probably worth as much or more as the advice itself -- because again, I'm not the one making the ultimate decision. I'm trying to instead help you have the information you need to make the decision.
Let's look at an example question I received yesterday, from "M":
@ProfessorDrz thoughts on dropping oubre for ullis? Cat league
- M (@thegonzilla) December 5, 2017
In this example, I noted that Tyler Ulis (available in 95.4 percent of leagues) was coming off one of this best games of the season, a 12-point, 12-dime double-double in which he played 37 minutes versus only five from backup Mike James.
Kelly Oubre Jr. is a solid roto role player of the type that I call a "garbageman," in that he contributes a bit in several different categories but doesn't have any one dominant area.
Then, there's the extenuating circumstance that James is in a complicated contract situation, in which his two-way deal expires on Thursday, Dec. 7, and it's possible (though unlikely) that the Phoenix Suns could decide not to re-sign James at all and instead roll with Ulis full-time.
Based on those notes, this was my response:
Oubre's a solid multi-cat role player, and he's played relatively well lately, but he's not a world beater. It's risky to go for Ulis, as the Suns could work things out with James and they seem inclined to play a PG by committee. But it's not the worst risk to take if you need PG
- Andre Snellings (@ProfessorDrz) December 5, 2017
That last line ("... it's not the worst risk to take if you need ...") is probably the most important, and it's the third thing I'd like you to take away from this discussion.
Ultimately, fantasy sports results are all about risk and reward. When contemplating whether to drop the worst player on your roster for a free agent with upside, the main thing to do is identify whether what you're dropping is too big of a risk for your potential reward.
In this example, Ulis is unlikely to blow up into an every-night double-double threat as a point guard ... but it's possible. More importantly, losing a player like Oubre (ranked 125th on the Player Rater) is very unlikely to come back to haunt you. So it's a relatively low risk to drop Oubre for the possibility of Ulis breaking out.
So by all means, keep sending me questions. But when you do, know that the above is often what's going through my mind as I answer you.
Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns: 5 points (2-5 FG), 3 assists, 1 3-pointer, 1 rebound, 1 block, 3 TO, 21 min
TJ Warren, Phoenix Suns: 11 points (5-11 FG), 1 rebound, 1 3-pointers, 4 TO
Beal had been struggling in his recent games before his detonation on Tuesday. In post-game interviews, he used Monday's 46-point loss to the Jazz as motivation for the inspired play on Tuesday. He was expected to pick up his offense with John Wall injured these past six games, but until Tuesday, he was struggling. In his interview, he said that he had previously been trying too hard to be a point guard, and now he was ready to just let loose and fire away. Let's see if Tuesday's game acts as a springboard for Beal.
On Monday morning, I cautioned against Westbrook on Tuesday due to a tough matchup with the Jazz, and the thought that Tuesday might be a game when Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (combined 17 points in their last outing) might try to shoot more. They did shoot more, but Westbrook was still clearly the ring leader on his way to a monster triple-double. After sacrificing a lot of shots through the first 15 games, it appears that the more aggressive Westbrook is back for good. Which is a very good thing.
Ibaka didn't have the best line on the Raptors on Tuesday, but it was extremely encouraging to see Ibaka (available in 20.7 percent of leagues) have a good game after his very slow start to the season.
Similarly, Aminu (available in 94.8 percent of leagues) started and put up strong numbers in heavy minutes. Center Jusuf Nurkic sprained his ankle on Tuesday (see below), which could open up more frontcourt minutes for Aminu to re-establish himself after a series of injuries have weakened his last couple of seasons.
Ulis had a great game on Monday, sparking the question above, and I noted him as a potential low-priced value play in DFS on Tuesday in case James' contract issues kept him off the court. Instead, Ulis laid an egg, James got just enough minutes to again split the production, and neither of them were fantasy useful.
Warren is one of the most volatile volume scorers in the NBA, capable of popping for 35 points one night and five the next one. This was a down night for him, but with Devin Booker injured (see below), he could become an even larger offensive focal point for the Suns moving forward.
Favors was playing great basketball while Rudy Gobert was out, but even with Gobert playing limited minutes, Favors' numbers have been down in both games since Gobert has returned. It appears that he has trouble producing next to the French giant, so Favors' run as a consistent impact player could be over for now.
Injuries of note
On Tuesday night, Booker strained his left adductor, an injury that looked horrible based on its location, the obvious pain that Booker was in, and the fact that his teammates carried him off the court without him putting any weight at all on his legs. It is listed as a strain for now, but keep an eye on the MRI results and prognosis to see whether it turns out to be more serious.
Nurkic rolled his ankle twice on Tuesday night. The first time, he got up limping but stayed in the game. The second time, he rolled it even worse and was done for the night. An X-ray of his right ankle came back negative, but he may have an MRI. No official return time has been released.
Stephen Curry injured his ankle earlier in the week, and it has been announced that his ankle will be reevaluated in a couple of weeks. This puts Curry on the shelf until at least the later part of December.
Analytics advantage for Wednesday
The New Orleans Pelicans are now starting two point guards in their backcourt, with Rajon Rondo taking over the point guard slot and Jrue Holiday sliding to shooting guard. Interestingly, their opponents on Wednesday, the Denver Nuggets, have allowed 24.5 assists per game, the fifth-highest mark in the NBA.
This means that Rondo (available in 48.3 percent of leagues) and Holiday, who have averaged 15.3 combined assists over their past three games, should be in a position to produce.
Top players to watch tonight
The Pelicans' perimeter players. Rondo, Holiday and even E'Twaun Moore (90 percent) have all been playing very well in their past few games with Anthony Davis out. Davis is doubtful to play on Wednesday, giving them the chance to put up numbers against a Nuggets team that is susceptible to their strengths.
Zach Randolph has been playing well and suddenly finds himself with less competition for playing time. Willie Cauley-Stein is out with a back issue, and Skal Labissiere has been demoted to the development league. If the Sacramento Kings can keep the game competitive with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a huge if, Randolph could be in for a good game.
Austin Rivers and Lou Williams combined for 53 points in their last game and have been the dominant offensive forces for the LA Clippers since Blake Griffin went down. Danilo Gallinari is questionable to play on Wednesday after missing the last 13 contests with a hip injury, and if he plays it will be interesting to see how he potentially changes the dynamic.