LeBron among players with surprisingly hollow fantasy stats

For all of his greatness in fantasy hoops, LeBron James's box scores are lacking in certain categories. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Mrs. Cregan is the Red Auerbach of December 25th.

She always wins Christmas. She plans ahead. She cares. She empathizes. She puts herself into the competition's shoes ... and blows them off the proverbial court.

But most of all? She wins because she is willing to take risks. Mrs. Cregan is the most high-risk, high-reward gift giver of all time.

People don't remember who went 42-40 and garnered a first-round exit. And people don't remember who gave them socks for Christmas.

With Mrs. Cregan, there have been some scarring gifting disasters. The cheese tasting kit of 2007. The RGIII jersey of 2015. The Banana Republic leather pants of 2005. But then there are the big wins: the original pressing of Alice Coltrane's Journey In Satchidananada, the white-label promo copy of Big Star's Radio City, and my most sonorous acoustic guitar.

Mrs. Cregan plays to win ... by being unafraid to lose. Come this stage of the season -- the holiday season -- I try to affect her gifting spirit in fantasy hoops.

If you're in a competitive league? You have to take some risks to win. You need to consider selling high on a player.

And you need to do it now. The holiday season is the time where we have to confront taking some true fantasy risks.

Think about it. Most of us also play fantasy football. By December 25th, most of our fantasy football seasons are over. We spend a lot of late December off of work, contemplating the ramifications of our fake hoops draft night decisions.

Now is the time to bait the trade market in our fantasy basketball leagues.

Because if you strike first in your league with a major trade? You win in three areas. One: you are setting the market, the bar all other trades will be judged by. Two: the earlier you make a trade, the more time you have to reap the statistical benefits of your trade. Three: the earlier you make a trade, the more you can reap the benefits of early-season overvaluation.

Even if you're in first place -- you need to play to win. You need to start thinking trade. Because the other teams are coming after you.

No one gets a fake trophy for winning on December 26th.

If you're playing to win? You need to take some risks. You need to think high-risk, high reward.

You need to deal empty points per game.

Empty points players are the junk bonds of the fantasy hoops trade market. Points per game is the No. 1 overinflater of fantasy value. There is no greater distorter of fantasy value than a high points-per-game average ... especially when the points per game is far outpacing relative production in other categories.

When a player's value is overly weighted towards his scoring average? That's the time to think about selling high. Fantasy managers crave point production.

I'm going to give you a few names. Some names might surprise you. But all of their values are currently overinflated by points production. If you're thinking high risk, high reward? You should at least test the waters of a trade discussion or two.

LeBron James, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers

Points per game: 28.0 (tied for third in NBA)

Player Rater: 11th

In terms of wins, the Lakers have outperformed my expectations. So has LeBron's scoring: more than 25 percent of LeBron's Player Rater total is coming from the points production.

LeBron has yet to miss a game. The playing time is there; he's averaging 34.9 minutes per game in his age-33 season. But LeBron's efficiency numbers are trending downward (60.4 TS%, 57.4 eFG%) from the gaudy heights of his past couple of campaigns. And his volume-based stats -- outside of points and 3s -- have all regressed.

Most damning is the performance from the free throw line. LeBron is hitting only 67.9 percent of free throws across 7.8 attempts per game. That anemic percentage extrapolated across his high volume of free throw attempts amounts to a poison-pill situation. It's what is keeping LeBron out of the top 10 on the Player Rater.

Lurking as a reason to sell high: LeBron is overdue for a rest. I don't see LeBron sitting out games at Popovichian proportions in the second half. The Western Conference playoff race is too tightly packed. I know he played 82 games last year, but you have to assume Luke Walton will schedule a couple of mini-vacations for LeBron post All-Star Weekend.

LeBron's points per game average -- his highest average since season 2009-10 -- is overinflating his fantasy value. And LeBron's hype factor, already sky high, has gone through the roof since he joined the Lakers. The scoring and the hype mean you could get maximum return on a trade.

Find the Lakers exceptionalist in your league and drop him or her an exploratory email.

Blake Griffin, PF, Detroit Pistons

Points per game: 25.7 (ninth in NBA)

Player Rater: 37th

Griffin has long confounded the Player Rater. He's always a top-10 scorer. He offers point guard-esque assist averages (5.3 APG). He's improved on his early-career free throw woes (52.1 FT% in 2011-12). The rebounds (9.1) have regressed slightly over the years ... but are up slightly this season. He's added a 3-point shot (2.4 3PG).

And yet, his ranking in points per game always outpaces his Player Rater ranking. What keeps Griffin from being a top-10 fantasy player?

The answer: a slight lack in shooting efficiency and relatively pedestrian defense. Shooting-wise, his current 58.6 true shooting percentage would represent a career best (another reason to sell high). His 1.1 steals + blocks is only about half of his career high.

But the No. 1 reason to consider taking your profit off Griffin in a trade? Health. Griffin hasn't played more than 67 games in a season since 2013-14. He's been sturdy so far in 2018-19, playing in 28 games. But Griffin's injury history tells us that he's due to miss 10-15 games at some point.

Zach LaVine, SG, Chicago Bulls

Points per game: 23.8 (12th in NBA)

Player Rater: 29th

Fully functional after his ACL tear, LaVine has finally crashed the top 30 on the Player Rater. He's going having a career campaign. A "look at me" campaign.

LaVine is outperforming his ADP by four rounds. If you drafted LaVine, congratulations. You chose wisely. Now get ready to send out some feelers.

LaVine's efficiency remains replacement-level. His PER (17.55) is sub-elite. His TS% is stuck at 55.6%. And if your league counts turnovers ... LaVine's turnover ratio is at a Trae Young-esque 13.4.

LaVine's early-season rampage has been goosed by overwhelming volume. With all of the Bulls' early injury woes, LaVine had to carry a high proportion of the Bulls' scoring load. But the Bulls are getting healthy ... and LaVine has a history of getting hurt. Right now? He's on the shelf after "hearing something pop" in his ankle.

You can't trade LaVine while he's in street clothes. So wait until he comes back and he goes for 30. Then test the waters.

Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors

Points per game: 22.4 (16th in NBA)

Player Rater: 33rd

I usually don't advocate looking to deal players in contract years. Or players who help you in both percentage categories. But Thompson posted a huge scoring November (25.0 PPG) that might still fetch maximum return in a trade.

Just keep in mind Thompson's November (25.0 PPG) was largely due to Stephen Curry's injury. So far, for December, Thompson is averaging only 19.9 PPG.

CJ McCollum, SG, Portland Trail Blazers

Points per game: 21.9 (17th in NBA)

Player Rater: 56th

If you took away Thompson's steals+blocks ... you'd have CJ McCollum. When his shot is off, he tends to regress across the board.

You might have noticed that there are several shooting guards on this list. That's because shooting guards, as a group, tend to be empty-points players. So I'll end this with one small caveat: Truly productive shooting guards are hard to come by. Don't consider trading a shooting guard unless you have a productive replacement.

Happy holidays ... and happy trade hunting.