By Henry Weinberg, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Amid a turbulent start to the regular season, seven teams that missed the playoffs last season currently find themselves among the top 10 in their respective conferences. As we investigate mirage versus reality, multiple players from these squads come under the microscope. Part of selling high in fantasy is proactively seeking an opportunity to do so — a pivotal component of the sell candidates featured below.
But first, we buy.
Buy Low: Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan, Spurs
Following personal/legal misconduct, Joshua Primohas been cut by the Spurs. Tre Jones is a direct recipient of Primo's vacated role. Jones is already experiencing a giant leap in playing time, ascending from 16.6 minutes per game last season to 31.0 thus far. As a midrange scorer and new maestro of the offense, Jones' initial struggles acclimating to lead duties are logical.
However, his 4.6 free-throw attempts per game are awesome. That's considerable growth from his 1.3 free-throw attempts averaged last season. Additionally, Jones’ career 4.33 AST/TO ratio through his first two NBA seasons hints that his 2.30 AST/TO ratio through seven games in 2022-23 will probably improve.
Also, Jones is slumping, connecting on just 37.8% of his field goals and 26.2% across his last four games. This makes the 22-year-old a prime buy-low candidate. Per Cleaning The Glass, Jones ranked in the league's 93rd percentile among guards by knocking down 51% of his midrange attempts last season. Expect his overall scoring efficiency to slowly creep toward 45-50%. Expect his AST/TO ratio to improve. Jones and Devin Vassell will be locked in as San Antonio's backcourt anchors down the stretch.
For those unfamiliar with Sochan, the following snippet was part of my pre-draft evaluation of him in the Spring: "Sochan's calling cards are defensive versatility, passing, and strong activity off the ball on both ends. The defense stacks up — Sochan's switchability should translate well to the NBA."
The 6-foot-9 combo forward fits the modern philosophies of positionless basketball, so the subtraction of Primo from San Antonio’s rotation will result in a minutes/usage uptick for Sochan. Already holding a place in the starting lineup, the No. 9 pick of this year's draft has upside.
Sochan logged at least two steals or two blocks in 13 of his 30 games at Baylor. He flashed his vision Friday, notching five assists against Chicago. Sochan is widely available across fantasy formats, and while he’s more suitable for deeper leagues, the 19-year-old is a name to monitor.
Buy Low: Khris Middleton, Bucks
Fantasy managers likely drafted Middleton willing to be patient. Despite being expected to miss only "the first few weeks of the season," there's been no recent update about Middleton's recovery. Logically, the well-stocked Bucks will be cautious with his return. Middleton could take additional time to return to complete comfort with his shooting form.
But Middleton is a metronome. He’s averaged 19.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 355 games since 2017-18 — never straying above 20.9 points or below 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists in any season.
He’s not a flashy/untouchable asset, but opportunities to buy low on Middleton are rare. His injury status creates an avenue, although it would take a combination of impatience and early-season struggle from Middleton’s incumbent shareholder to part with him. Bust out some persuasion skills. "Maybe the 31-year-old Middleton will never be the same after wrist surgery..."
Sell: Klay Thompson, Warriors
With Thompson, a historic shooting night can occur any day of the week. A sell-high point isn’t upon us, but fantasy managers should be looking for one.
Thompson is a known commodity offensively. In 2017-18, 65.3% of his offensive possessions came off of screen actions, in spot-up shooting opportunities and in transition. Thus far in 2022-23, 65.7% of his offensive possessions reside in those same categories. However, now 32 years old, post-ACL and Achilles tears, he might be losing a step.
Losing a step equals being less open, getting tougher looks and being less efficient.
Across 32 contests last season, Thompson connected on 38.5% of his threes — a fine but career-worst figure for the future Hall of Famer. He’s struggled out of the gates in 2022-23, hitting just 28.6% of his 8.2 3-point attempts per game. He'll improve, but I believe that the overall trajectory will continue, and Thompson will finish with a similar/worse 3PT% compared to last season. He’s certainly lost a step defensively, which dents his steal/block totals — formally a cherry on top for a player that infrequently provides substantial production elsewhere in the box score.
Sell: Josh Giddey, Thunder
Josh Giddey has a bright future in the NBA. However, I'm skeptical of his scoring upside and fantasy value this season. He turned 20 in October and his upside is excellent, but with his youth comes inconsistency. Navigating his peaks and valleys is much more beneficial for the real-life Thunder than the average fantasy squad.
This is not a panic sell on Giddey. This is not a sell-low on Giddey. An unfortunate wrinkle is that Giddey has missed Oklahoma City’s last three games due to a minor ankle sprain, but if selling high based on his reputation can net a quality return, it’s something I’d very seriously look into.
Giddey still can’t make threes. He was 4-of-13 from beyond the arc across three games before spraining his ankle. He was 1-of-14 during Summer League. Giddey’s performance in preseason (8-15 3PT) showcases long-term hope, but this example hammers home his inconsistency. He’s a great passer and a high-level processor on offense, but if your league punishes turnovers, Giddey counteracts some of his assist production. His career 1.97 AST/TO ratio isn’t stellar.
Additionally, Jalen Williams (13 points, three assists, 27 minutes played) looked sharp Sunday in his return from an orbital fracture, filling the stat sheet on both ends. He's another player in Oklahoma City that operates with the ball in his hands, joining Tre Mann and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA is a bonafide superstar who will hunt for 30 points and eight assists every night. Mann and Williams deserve developmental reps. How high is Giddey's current fantasy ceiling?
Some managers invested a fifth-round pick in Giddey. Understandable. He’s a real triple-double threat and a jumbo initiator on offense. Giddey’s future is alluring, but the combination of the Thunder’s depth plus my belief that Oklahoma City isn’t an environment conducive to maximizing growth lowers my fantasy evaluation of Giddey.