Trade these high scorers with inflated fantasy value

Collin Sexton is scoring well this season, but he isn't a big contributor in other areas. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Last week, we discussed the pernicious influence of points per game in fantasy.

Maybe I got you thinking. Thinking how to build hidden value within your fake teams by prioritizing other stats. To regard points as a byproduct of successful roster construction.

Maybe you'll try the approach in your 2020-21 drafts. Fine. That's commendable.

But it's a long way to Halloween. What about right now? How can you leverage this approach to improve your current teams?

Right now: it's all about trades. Identify which players are overvalued due to PPG bias. If you're rostering any of these players? Deal them. Deal them to less savvy owners for players that carry hidden value.

If you do it right? They'll never know what hit them. They'll hit "accept trade" thinking they ripped you off.

Hurting others while helping yourself. It's known as the Poison Pill approach. It's sneaky. Underhanded. Machiavellian. And shockingly effective.

How do you ensure you're not hurting yourself by de-prioritizing points? Make sure you're still factoring in the stats that drive point production. 3s. Free throws. True Shooting Percentage... but weighted via total shot volume.

You're looking for the right mix of efficiency plus volume. If a player is clocking in at 60.0% TS? If he's taking a high number of attempts from beyond-the-arc? That's a keeper you can build on. You can trade an extra point or two per game for his premium efficiency.

But if a player is generating a high PPG average, but is taking a ton of shots to get there? If he's overly reliant on deep 2-pointers? And he isn't supplying at least replacement-level value in other categories? Then there's a good change he's what I call an "Empty Points Player."

He's delivering the sugar high of a high scoring average, but the high PPG is masking other deficiencies. You wait until this guy goes on a scoring binge (because Empty Points Players tend to be streaky) then start working the phones and interwebs with your fellow managers.

I'm going to highlight some players that have logged classic empty-points seasons but have played well as of late. These could be Empty Points Players peaking in value...or evolving out of empty points status. Either way, their trade value is on the rise.

(NOTE: to set the proper perspective, I'm removing PPG and points scored references whenever possible.)

Collin Sexton, PG/SG, Cleveland Cavaliers
1.1 3PG, 3.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 53.1 TS%, 26.5 USG%

When you read fantasy assessments of Sexton, a common theme emerges: high-volume scorer who lacks stats in "secondary" categories. But in our construct, where we throw points out? The "secondary" categories become our primary categories. And then... Sexton is a player that just lacks stats.

And why would one ever consider rostering a guard that barely contributes in any category? Because he can put the ball in the hoop. The points allow many managers to power past uncomfortable truths. That Sexton's struggling to convert one 3-pointer per game. His mediocre rebounding. His terrible assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2 assists vs. 2.0 turnovers per game). His anemic defensive stats (1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG).

You say maybe he was miscast as a point guard? Fine. But he's been playing off the ball this season. And his numbers still don't work at point guard or shooting guard.

What's troubling: Sexton has gotten more opportunities. More Usage (up from 25.2 USG% to 26.5 USG%). But has failed to improve his overall game. As a matter of fact, he's regressed in the one area that should be saving his fantasy candidacy: 3-point shooting.

Sexton is taking fewer 3-pointers (down to 3.3 3PA). Making fewer 3-pointers (down to 1.1 3PG). His 3-point percentage has dropped to just 32.6%. The flatlining in 3-point production is so complete, that it's kneecapping incremental improvements in 2-point shot selection.

Sexton has shifted the majority his 2-point attempts to within 10 feet of the basket (55.8%). He's doing a better job getting to the line (up to 3.8 FTA). But Sexton's still only shooting 39.0% from 3-10 feet.

We have to parse Sexton's scoring at a granular level because that's all he delivering. The 18.8 points per game are decent. But it's how he's getting there. Hitting 45.4% of his 2-pointers and 32.6% of his 3s.

When a player that's branded as a scorer posts a below-replacement value True Shooting Percentage? He's not even a scorer. He's just a player on rebuilding team that takes a lot of shots. He's a Process player.

Sexton's 20. He won't be able to rent a car without a parent's signature until 2024. There is ample time to turn this around. Room for growth. Upside.

There are flashes. January 4th against the Thunder might have been Sexton's best game as a pro: 30 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 3-pointers.

But Sexton's January 9th game against the Pistons is what gives me real hope: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks...on a night where he didn't take a single free throw. And shot only 47.4% from the floor. Because Sexton's shooting rhythm wasn't there, yet he still found other ways to impact the box score. That's what you want out of a "scorer": a player that shifts to other categories on the nights when the shot isn't there.

Sexton's gone for 25 points in two of his last three games. He's averaging 21.9 points and 2.1 3s per game for January. Meaning: his points-based value is peaking. If you roster Sexton, this is an ideal time to start exploring trades.

RJ Barrett, SG/SF, New York Knicks
1.2 3PG, 5.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 47.2 TS%, 26.5 USG%

Like Sexton, Barrett's January is relatively strong: 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 3s, 42.2 FG%, 76.1 FT%. Unlike Sexton, Barrett is flashing value in non-scoring categories. HIs line on Tuesday was soothingly complete: 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 3s, a steal and a block. Just as important: going 5-of-6 from the line. Coming off a game against the Heat where Barrett was just as dominant.

The question with Barrett: are the past two games his new normal? Is Barrett following a classical rookie arc, where he turns it on post All-Star Weekend? Is his maturing beyond empty points status?

Barrett hasn't lacked for that most common rookie asset: inconsistency. But if you think Barrett is just starting to put it all together? Fine. Don't deal him. Ride it out. Or... wait until he puts together five good games, then reach out to the Knicks fan in your league that will be frothing at the mouth to acquire his services.

Russell Westbrook, PG, Houston Rockets
1.1 3PG, 7.8 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 51.0 TS%, 33.9 USG%

If you just focus on the rebounds, blocks and steals? Westbrook is throwing down a season that's defying expectations. But he's only 41st on the Player Rater against a 14.4 ADP. In actuality, he's continuing a regression that began in 2017-18.

The volume still packs a punch. Westbrook had his game of the year last night against Portland. A classic Westbrook triple-double: 31 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, 2 3s and a steal. That was the Westbrook you were expecting in the second round.

Westbrook has scored 95 points over his last three games. Problem: as his scoring has increased, his rebounds and assists have decreased. Last night's triple-double aside, Westbrook has been sliding deeper and deeper into empty points status.

If you think last night's game means Westbrook is locked into his old triple-double self, you might want to wait on a deal. Because you'd finally be getting the Westbrook you were expecting in the second round. (But even then, you overdrafted him by a round).

But if the triple-double was an aberration? If Westbrook continues to regress into empty points territory? Stitch together a deal.