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Trade for Fred VanVleet in fantasy basketball while you can

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The Raptors’ guard is out with injury, but don’t let that distract you from the underrated and extremely productive season he’s having.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Fred VanVleet, PG/SG for the Toronto Raptors, and the 40th best player on ESPN’s Player Rater for the season, is out with an injured hamstring and could miss an extended period of time. His ownership in ESPN leagues has dropped by 14%, and VanVleet is now owned in 71% of leagues. If his ownership continues to fall, he becomes a must-buy-low target in a fantasy trade.

Why should a 6’1” guard who doesn’t score 20 points per game be a good trade target?

Consider this: So far this season there are 121 NBA players who average 4+ 3-point attempts per game, or one per quarter. The 61st best three point percentage in that group of players belongs to Darius Garland, another 6’1” combo guard, at 37 3PT%. 48 of those 61 players also average 10+ points per game. 16 of those 48 average 4+ assists per game, or at least one per quarter. 8 of those 16 players also average a steal per game. Those players are:

  • James Harden, #1 Player Rater, 100% owned
  • Trae Young, #5PR, 100% owned
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, #25PR, 99.9% owned
  • Brandon Ingram, #11PR, 98.2% owned
  • Zach “The Dentist” LaVine, #16 PR, 97.9% owned
  • Playoffs Terry Rozier, #29PR, 94.4% owned
  • Chris Paul, #13PR, 98.7% owned
  • and, Fred VanVleet, #40PR, 73.1% owned

Everyone on that list is over 94% owned, except for FVV. Even before his drop in ownership, he wasn’t in the 90s. He may score less than most of the other players on that list, but he’s also only 25, and he isn’t even the main guard on his team.

Let’s think about FVV based on traditional numbers:

  • VanVleet’s averaging 7 assists per game. Only 13 players are averaging 7+ APG this season, and ALL OF THEM are at least 90% owned.
  • FVV also averages 18+ PPG and 1+ steal per game. Only 53 players are averaging 18+ PPG this season; when you combine that with 7+ APG and 1+ SPG, you get this list: James Harden, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, and Lowry’s teammate, FVV.
  • VanVleet has the third best 3PT% of that group, 37.2 3PT%, behind Ice Trae (37.5 3PT%), and the Beard (37.9 3PT%).
  • FVV has greedy hands. His 1.9 SPG is 5th best in the entire NBA (at least 10 games played). Only Ben Simmons, Kris “Knife” Dunn (whose sole purpose in life is to get steals), Jimmy Buckets Butler, and Andre Drummond average more steals per game.

Fred VanVleet is an elite volume three-point shooter, an elite assists compiler, an elite steals, uh, thief, and he’s 25 years old, and he qualifies at two positions in fantasy. And, most importantly for our purposes, he’s undervalued in fantasy, even more so now that he’s injured. FVV is an underrated asset, a good young player who should continue to improve, especially if and when he becomes the main guard on a team and his shot volume increases. If you’re thinking of making a trade for the future, or if you’re just trying to buy distressed assets, you should train your sights on Fred VanVleet. “Buy low” is relative: he won’t come dirt cheap, you’ll at least have to trade back a good player and a draft pick; but, if your team’s having a tough season, you might have some surplus good players to sell, in which case you can try to distill a few of those win-now (and, presumably, older) players into an awesome young stud who should be able to help you for years to come. There’s probably an owner or two out there who are looking to move their injured players for healthy options. Now’s the time to pounce.