Players with upward mobility
Bledsoe, Splitter among those emerging in fantasy
This will be the last edition of the Player Rater column before Thursday's NBA trade deadline, and for all the denials coming out of front offices around the league, you can expect that there will be some player movement going on.
In today's column, we'll look at some players I think will be moving up the Player Rater rankings in the coming weeks, and, of course, some of those players have the potential for upward movement because of trade rumors. However, I'm mentioning these players because I think they're undervalued even in their current situations.
Eric Bledsoe, PG/SG, Los Angeles Clippers: Bledsoe is currently 93rd on the Player Rater based on his per-game averages, but because he hasn't missed time this season, he's a deceiving 58th based on the totals. His true value is probably somewhere in between, but if he gets traded, he's going to be in the top 50 for sure. Already he's carrying the eighth-highest PER of any point guard, even if he is playing fewer minutes per game than anyone else in the top 20 on that list because he's been behind Chris Paul all season.
The important thing here is that Bledsoe is available in roughly half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues, and in the leagues in which he's not available, you could probably have him in the right trade. If he doesn't get traded, you might lose some value in a deal like that, but it's worth considering that among point guards, Bledsoe in his current state is first in blocks per minute, second in steals per minute and fourth in rebounds per minute. That is to say that it doesn't exactly take major playing time for him to have a ton of value. If he gets traded, he's going to be a star in fantasy leagues very quickly.
Paul Millsap, SF/PF, Utah Jazz: It's almost amazing to imagine a player as useful as Millsap (currently 22nd in the league in PER) playing just 30.4 minutes per game. The players in the top 25 in PER playing fewer minutes than Millsap are rookies like Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond, injury risks like Brook Lopez and Amare Stoudemire, enigmas JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, and Spurs like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Millsap is a top-50 fantasy player already, and the fact that his name is in trade rumors could be dragging his perceived value down. This is a player you should absolutely be trying to acquire right now.
So far in February, Millsap is playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 16.2 points on 52.3 percent shooting from the floor in only 30.6 minutes per game. If he stays in Utah, he should be able to keep up that production, but if he gets traded, it's going to go through the roof, because few places have as loaded a frontcourt rotation as the Jazz. Any team that trades for Millsap will be well aware of his value and will likely give him playing time accordingly.
Tiago Splitter, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs: Splitter is still available in more than half of all fantasy leagues, and that's probably because of what might be perceived as inconsistency. Still, before two recent games in which he struggled, Splitter had scored in double figures in 16 straight games. He has a higher PER than many of the best players at his position: Kevin Garnett, Marc Gasol, Greg Monroe, Al Horford, Serge Ibaka and others.
Yes, his minutes will get yanked around because he plays for the Spurs, and the Spurs couldn't care less about what his numbers look like, but Splitter scores and rebounds, and he does those things while shooting an extremely high percentage from the floor. If he gets traded, his value could explode.
Evan Turner, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers: Turner has been terrible so far in February, and while that sounds like a bad thing, it's also true that you could probably have him in a trade if you make your move now. The Sixers might be thinking of unloading him, and I get it; they are a team that's already struggling with their spacing, and despite an improving 3-point stroke, no one would confuse Turner for a floor-spacer at this point. What he is, however, is a unique NBA player.
No guard this season is playing more minutes than Turner with as high a rebound rate, and frankly it's not even close. Landry Fields did something similar in New York a couple of years ago, but he didn't add Turner's ability to rack up assists (something that's a carryover from his all-around college game). Basically, Turner right now is a classic points, rebounds, and assists guy who doesn't do enough of the peripheral stuff to be great in fantasy leagues, but he's improving. A trade probably wouldn't help him much given that he's already playing more than 36 minutes per game, but if he ever finds himself on a team with some great outside shooting, watch out.
Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta Hawks: Teague is already a great fantasy player, firmly entrenched in the top 50 on the Player Rater, but I think he's still a bit underrated, and he is thought of as a lesser option than guys like Ty Lawson, Monta Ellis and others. Teague has been phenomenal so far in February, averaging 18.3 points on 54 percent shooting from the floor. And at 39 percent on 3s for the season, his jump shot is now a legitimate weapon.
The question, I guess, is whether Teague has it in him to be a superstar. Frankly, I think he does. His usage rate is 21.9, which is actually less than guys like Jameer Nelson and Brandon Knight. He's efficient enough that there's room for him to explore his own offense a bit more; I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility for him to average the 18.3 points he's putting up in February for a whole season. If Josh Smith is traded in the next couple of days, you'll be even more excited than usual to have Teague on your roster.