Since the real stock market is doing so…erm…well at the moment I thought it might be a good idea to ignore it completely and make our own Blazer version. We’ll probably repeat the exercise at each quarter mark of the season to see where things have gone.
The concept is simple: each player will get a recommendation of buy, sell, or hold based on how he’s valued at large right now versus what he’s likely to produce. A couple IMPORTANT caveats here:
1. This has nothing to do with trade value or the advisability of trading players! This is only a measure of a player’s value amongst the Blazer community, not around the league. Turning a “sell” recommendation into a trade recommendation is a misuse of intent. (For the same reason it’s not much good for your fantasy league either…sorry.)
2. Part of the fun of an exercise like this is debating the ratings, which is encouraged. However realize what you’re debating before you enter the fray. This is not as simple as “Player X has a ‘buy’ rating so Dave thinks he’s good but Player Y has a ‘sell’ rating so Dave is saying he sucks.” This is not strictly a measure of player talent. Rather it’s an attempted measure of how much the player is valued by the fans (as far as I can tell from reading comments and such) versus his actual value. Microsoft is generally a great stock in the real market. If you woke up on a Tuesday and had an offer for $90,000 a share you’d get a STRONG sell recommendation! That doesn’t mean it’s a bad stock or a bad company, it’s just being overvalued at that moment. This is not a strict measure of talent, but perceived value. This is not a strict measure of talent, but perceived value. Make sense?
So here we go.
Brandon Roy Recommendation: Hold
Right away the “not talent, but value” mantra is put to the test.
Lamarcus Aldridge Recommendation: Buy
Lamarcus is going to be a fantastic investment this year. He gets less attention than Roy or Greg Oden but he’s likely to be the main go-to guy on offense and the team’s leading scorer. If Oden plays Lamarcus should show huge strides in defensive effectiveness, free to roam around instead of watching the paint. If Oden doesn’t play then Lamarcus gets to take even more shots. There’s really no way he won’t have a major effect. The fact that he’s the third name in the big three and he’s not new and sexy anymore to thrill seekers chasing the Next Surprise Rookie means you can monopolize bragging rights about him now and sound smart later.
Greg Oden Recommendation: Short Term--Hold, Long Term--Buy
If you need an investment to pay off right away you have to steer clear of Oden. This is no surprise…we’ve been saying that for months. He’s going to be solid this year, hopefully develop some dominating features as the year progresses, but you’re going to have to wait at least a year to see his full game if not more. When that game gets here it will have an amazing effect though, so if you can afford to wait Oden’s stock can be had cheap from all of the impatient people and too-smart-for-their-own-good nay-sayers. You’ll never be able to invest so affordably in him again. One word of caution though: one reasonably bad injury and he’s going to become a penny stock for a while.
Martell Webster Recommendation: Buy
Martell’s play has gotten steadily better over the last couple of years and he looked to be coming out strong again this season before injury laid him up. Still, the enormous expectations he carried early in his career haven’t left him entirely. Plus his game is mostly non-sexy to the casual eye. Combine that with the injury that will keep him out for a few more weeks and you have someone whose contributions are undervalued on the market. This isn’t an airtight guarantee of return, but it has a reasonable chance of hitting and making you look good later.
Steve Blake Recommendation: Hold
Every other year before this Blake would have been a serious “Buy”. He’s chronically underrated by everyone he doesn’t play with.
Travis Outlaw Recommendation: Hold
Travis was pretty much the strongest “Buy” of last season and traded hard and high during the first part of the summer. Another so-so training camp has brought his value back to earth, leaving all of those “Travis at any price” investors nervous. If he doesn’t have a good early performance there could be serious backlash against him, which would then be the time to buy, because he’s really not that bad. On the other hand if he has a spectacular early performance his stock would shoot right back up, meaning you missed an opportunity to buy here. My guess is he will simply have an inconsistent early performance, making his stock too volatile to invest in at this time. We have to know which way he’s going. It’s not time to dump your Travis stock, but it’s not time to acquire more either.
Joel Przybilla Recommendation: Hold
The smart investors filled their portfolio with Joel stock last summer, when his value was way low. He had a good year in 2007-08 and fans are excited about seeing him in a back-up role this year, figuring he’ll be powerful there. They’re probably right. So why isn’t this a “Buy”? Because as the year progresses Joel’s role will depend less and less on him and more and more on how Oden fares. It’s always dangerous to invest when the target of your investment doesn’t have his destiny in his own hands. Also even though Joel will make a dandy backup right now fans may be overestimating the value of a backup in general, meaning they’re trying to sell him too high. Plus if Oden goes down Joel will probably be perceived as a medium-decent starter instead of a fantastic sub, so there’s no real upside in perceived value even if he gets more minutes.
Channing Frye Recommendation: Sell
Remember…this is not a measure of talent. Channing is a good player. Channing is extremely popular amongst those who know and hear him. That makes his value in some ways rightfully high. The big problem is the one we’ve always mentioned: meet Lamarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, and Joel Przybilla. The more those guys excel and serve their purpose, the fewer minutes will be available for Channing. Lamarcus is going to play a ton, we know that for sure. Greg will play as much as his recovery and development allow. Both will have a chance to solidify their positions as the season progresses. That means the popular and talented Channing Frye may not find time and touches to take advantage of his gifts. If that happens his perceived value will lower. If he does get major minutes it probably means something is wrong with Aldridge or Oden, which could cause the entire market to come crumbling down. The only truly happy scenario for Frye and the market is if he assumes Przybilla’s minutes for some reason, but that’s a thin thread to hang an investment by. Channing may well be at the peak of his popularity right now, which is when you want to sell if the future is uncertain.
Ike Diogu Recommendation: Sell
I’m not sure many people have Ike stock, but if you do he looks a bit cumbersome in pre-season. He’s enough of a veteran to know where to move but he’s not looking special when he gets there. If Channing’s minutes will be hard to come by, Ike’s may be non-existent. If you are a huge, huge speculator then buy up all of the Ike stock you can right now and pray that Coach McMillan wants a traditionally physical guy at power forward sometimes. Chances are, though, this will just end with a whimper, so make sure you can afford to lose the investment if you make it.
Rudy Fernandez Recommendation: Hold
Rudy started making waves well before he arrived and the hoopla hasn’t stopped. He’s one of those guys where if you got in on the IPO you’re good to go but now that the stock’s been out and listed as hot everywhere there’s not much point in buying it up. Rudy will be a great team player but may not rack up the kind of stats every night that make his stock remain at Brandon Roy level long-term, even though it’s certainly there right now. Don’t sell unless someone makes you an insane offer, but hold off on buying up more Rudy until we see what happens in the regular season.
Nicolas Batum Recommendation: Sell
Nic’s not a bad player and has several qualities that recommend him to the team: defense, quickness, doesn’t need to shoot or dominate the ball. But the book on him so far reads inconsistent, streaky, sometimes amazing and sometimes passive. So much has been made of his insertion into the starting practice lineup due to Martell Webster’s injury. Investing because of a game or a week in pre-season is hazardous in any case, even with veterans who are supposedly reforming or re-shaping their game. For a rookie with situational skills and Batum’s dossier it’s ultra-risky. We haven’t seen him in even one regular-season game against guys like Bruce Bowen, Lamar Odom, Carmelo Anthony, Shane Battier, Ron Artest, Rudy Gay, Richard Jefferson, Tayshaun Prince, Danny Granger, Corey Maggette…the list of big, athletic, talented, veteran small forwards goes on. Chances are he won’t be a starter or even have significant minutes once the season gets rolling and everyone is healthy. Not that he couldn’t if he’s incredibly quick to adjust, incredibly quick to learn, and incredibly consistent as well as being talented and physical enough to hang with those guys. Chances are that won’t happen immediately and Coach McMillan will go with other options. Given that, sell your Batum fan stock while it’s this high and maybe look to re-invest later.
Sergio Rodriguez Recommendation: Hold
I hate to change iffy recommendations based on short-term, pre-season performances, but the fact remains that the smart money was on a Sergio sell-off this summer and we’re not so sure anymore. He’s demonstrated enough basic improvements to make you think he could get a shot at minutes. There are point guard minutes to be had on this team too. Plus you can’t sell your Sergio stock yet at a price that’s as high as when you bought it. That makes the decision not to sell easy at this point. We could be looking at a future “Buy” but I’d hold off right now for a couple of reasons. One, this is still new and untested. As always, consistency will be the key to performance. Two, Sergio has always had a cadre of early adopters that inflate the price, making a buy recommendation more difficult. Still, keep the corner of your eye on this stock.
Jerryd Bayless Recommendation: Buy
While Sergio’s perceived value has risen during pre-season, Jerryd Bayless’ has plummeted. This could precipitate a “Sell” recommendation to cut losses. But I’m going the opposite direction. Why? Market overreaction. People were expecting Summer League-like returns on their investment and they’re nervous now that it’s become evident that they’re not going to get them right away. But Jerryd’s still a player and he’s going to be a player. Plus--and this is a key--he has a skill set that’s not duplicated elsewhere at his position and not much on the team either. Sergio is playing better than Jerryd right now but Sergio is competing with Blake for minutes because they’re both pure point guards. Jerryd is competing with Jerryd. (He’s losing right now, but still.) Neither Sergio nor Blake can bring that specialized scoring punch. Travis Outlaw is the second-unit scoring master but his stock is slipping and he doesn’t get into the lane and draw those tough, Iverson-like fouls the same way Bayless can. Jerryd has a niche if he can just figure out how to fill it. At some point during the season he’s going to get that chance. At some point he’ll probably figure it out too. That’s not to say he’s going to be a great player in the short term, just that he’s not as low as his reputation has him right now and there’s plenty of potential open field in front of him. For that reason this could be a good speculative investment.
Raef LaFrentz Recommendation: None Necessary
If you invested you’re probably stuck with the stock. Sorry.