Player Rater underachievers
Why some top stars have not lived up to lofty expectations so far this season
If you're anything like me, you have some players on your roster who haven't lived up to the draft pick you used to get them. Underachievers are a constant source of concern in fantasy leagues, because they put you in the position of having to decide whether you think they can turn it around or whether you should try to trade them while their value might still be higher than it ultimately should be.
The Player Rater gives us a handy way of comparing players using their ADP (average draft position) and current ranking, and that can provide some sort of a guideline for thinking about how much better a player could be if everything were going well. Here are a few players who have underachieved this season as well as some thoughts about their future prospects.
(ADP and current ranking, based on per-game averages, in parentheses)
Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat (5.5, 35): Wade was much better in December than he was in November, so it's certainly possible he got off to a slow start after winning his second ring last season. On the other hand, a deeper look at the numbers is a little more foreboding. Wade's usage rate and rebound rate have fallen, so he's scoring and rebounding less per minute than he did last season; in fact, he's scoring fewer points per minute than he has in any season since his rookie campaign. Of even more concern is that the combination of blocks and steals that has made him such a great fantasy player over the past few years now appears to be in serious decline. His numbers in both categories will be career lows if they don't get better by season's end.
To me, the fact that he's been shooting the ball extremely well of late gives you an opportunity to sell high on him in fantasy leagues, as there might be the impression he's in the process of turning it around. Yes, the offense seems to be turning around, but it seems unlikely at this point that he can accumulate the blocks and steals he would need to turn himself into a top-10 fantasy player again.
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets (5.3, 43): For one thing, it's looking more and more like Williams just isn't all that great a shooter. We're three years removed from the last time he shot better than 40 percent on long 2-pointers, and he's only shot the 3 particularly well in three of his eight seasons; he's at 34.7 percent for his career. He's also attempting his fewest free throws per game in any season since 2006-07, which could be a sign -- along with his dipping usage rate and true shooting percentage -- that he's just not the athlete he used to be. He's only 28, so he should still be in his prime, and for the first time in a few years, he's in a great situation, so the fact that he's not performing is a major concern.
He's currently shooting just 30 percent on 3s, and that number should get a little better, which, in turn, will move him up the rankings a bit, but watching the Nets this year, I've seen very little evidence that Williams is anywhere near looking like the point guard people used to claim was better than Chris Paul. I think his days of being a top-20 fantasy player might be through.
Goran Dragic, PG, Phoenix Suns (32.8, 57): In this case, I think we just expected way too much. Dragic is averaging career highs in points and assists per minute and playing more minutes than he ever has before. He's also barely slipped in true shooting percentage, and if he can boost his free throw percentage back up to last year's 80.5 percent, he'll be right there with last season's numbers. He's also shooting the 3 a bit better than he did last season and has increased his steals from 1.3 per game to 1.6. If you thought Dragic was going to be much, much better than what he's done so far this season, you probably were expecting a bit too much.
So why was he drafted 33rd on average in ESPN fantasy leagues? It's a good question, and I'm guessing it has a lot to do with the mistaken notion that the Suns would be the same Suns they were when they had Steve Nash. This is Dragic's team now, and he's a really good young point guard who is probably still getting better, but that doesn't make him a top-50 fantasy player quite yet. You're probably better off holding on to him for now, as I don't think his perceived value is anywhere near 33rd overall anymore.
DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, Sacramento Kings (19.4, 69): Let's start with the good. Cousins has combined the passing ability he flashed his rookie season with the ability to rack up steals he showed his second season and is now averaging 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals, both very good for a big man. He also sharply cut his foul rate and is making a higher percentage of his own free throws on a similar number of attempts. Unfortunately, Cousins has flashed a lot of bad this season as well. No player in the league with a higher usage rate has a lower true shooting percentage, and Cousins is an overpowering big man with a phenomenal amount of offensive talent, so there's really no excuse. His bread and butter is shots around the rim, and he does well on those, but he's a disaster from everywhere else on the floor, and one feels that it's a matter of concentration more than any sort of lack of talent. I'm even more troubled by his defense. His blocks have fallen off a cliff, from a respectable 1.2 per game last season to a pathetic 0.6 this season; that's fewer than Glen Davis!
Still, I'd be willing to offer a lot to get Cousins in a trade, because it's so obvious that he's underachieving. The talent is there, and every once in a while he shows flashes of absurd potential -- a triple-double in a win over the Boston Celtics, 18 free throw attempts in a win over the Golden State Warriors, etc. -- that point to a player who absolutely could be a top-20 fantasy guy, if not top-10. But for now, he's a center who plays around the rim and still shoots just 41 percent from the floor. I'd forgive you if you wanted to give up on him now; I'd happily -- if a little reluctantly -- take him off your hands.
Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets (42, 71): A lot of this can possibly be chalked up to a guy playing on a new team for the first time since his rookie season; Iggy was the man in Philly, and he's not exactly that in Denver. Still, he was already transitioning into this kind of a role last season for the 76ers, and he's actually boosted his scoring average from last season to this season. However, last season he set a career high with 6.1 rebounds per game and threw in 5.5 assists for good measure, and those numbers are down to 5.7 and 4.5 this season. Additionally, last season's mirage of 39 percent shooting on 3s has vanished, and he's back down to a much more Iguodala-like 33 percent.
Unfortunately, I think what we're seeing out of Iggy so far this season is just what he is now. His December numbers on the offensive end were actually a decline from his November numbers, so even though the assists and steals were up, things might even be getting worse. Still, he's been in the league for a while at this point, and his reputation in fantasy basketball is pretty good; you might be able to get fair value for him if you trade him to someone desperate for his ability to rack up steals and assists from the small forward position.
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