In the beginning of the season, it is very important to judge whether or not early trends are going to last or if they are the result of a small sample size. For example, last year Wade Baldwin's first game he had an incredible stat line: 7 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists - with 3 steals and 3 blocks. Of course, he ended the season being completely unownable in fantasy leagues (and is now out of the league, in fact). Today we will look at 4 players that are over-performing their projections: DeMarcus Cousins, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Jonathon Simmons.
DeMarcus Cousins (Pre-Season: Yahoo 15, Hashtag Basketball 6 - Ranked #1) per-36 stats thanks to Basketball-Reference.com. You can see that his biggest improvements from last year are in his steals and blocks, which are huge in fantasy. He is taking more threes this year but he is shooting much worse than his recent career numbers. His 2P% is much higher - this could be a function of small sample size or a change in how he is getting his buckets. His free throw percentage is significantly higher than his recent seasons.
Regression to the mean - statistically, we can expect his numbers to go back closer to his career numbers unless there is an explanation for the change. Based on this simple idea, I expect his turnovers to go down, and his blocks to go down. I think his shot selection changes are more likely to stay constant for this year as go back to his Sacramento numbers due to the change of scenery. Right now, of is taking more threes and fewer shots at the rim. His increase in mid-range shots are all in the 3-10 foot range, and he is shooting exceptionally well so far (55% this year vs 41% last year). Cousins is shooting 33% from downtown this year, much less than the 36% he shot last year. This is Cousin's third year shooting threes at a consistent rate, and he has shot 33.3% and 36.1% the last two years. This is most likely the floor for his three-point shooting.
The expected stats for Cousins for the rest of the season still look great, but the slight downturns in steals, blocks, and mid-range shooting outweigh the possible increase in threes made. Recommendation: Sell really high or hold.
If you can get a top 5 player for Cousins, go for it. Target someone you have confidence will finish in the top 5 (Cousins should stay top 10), like Giannis Antetokounmpo or Stephen Curry.
Ben Simmons looks really good, no reason he shouldn't continue putting up these numbers until he hits the rookie wall. It seems unreasonable that he would improve. All that being said, he likely will hit a rookie wall and not be this player for the playoffs - Sell high. Keep in mind if you can keep him for next year he could be a top 10 player!
Joel Embiid is playing like a top 10 player. However, he is only putting those numbers up while he is putting his jersey on - the Sixers may be protected from injuries, your fantasy team is not. Sell high. Don't settle for less than top 10 to 15 value.
Jonathon Simmons is shooting way over his career averages. He is in a new situation but his career 3P% numbers are 38%, 29%, and this year he is shooting 39%. There is a chance he will continue with 39% on much higher attempts, but chances are he will regress to the mean just like the rest of the Magic. However, he is getting a lot more opportunity than his first two years - his usage% and shooting% are both up. Don't assume he will be the fantasy player he was last year - if you can get a top 100 player for him, jump at the chance. Sell high if you can get a legitimate top 100 player (he is ranked 125 on Yahoo and 150 on Hashtag Basketball right now).
If you have any other questions about other players or reasoning behind these recommendations, hit me up on twitter @statdance. Good luck trading.