This is normally a column in which I discuss business related Hobby topics, but I’m going to do something a bit different per readers’ requests. Just ahead of the NBA season, I’m tossing out a list of players I am investing in (Long) and which players I believe are overpriced and am staying away from (Short).
Victor Wembanyama has every collector intrigued, of course, but here are some other rookies and younger players who are worth discussing.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Drop a line and let’s discuss.
Franz Wagner (Orlando Magic)
Breakout season incoming. After averaging 19 points per game (ppg) on 49% shooting (and 36% from three) and helping Germany win the FIBA World Cup, a tournament in which he averaged 17 ppg, this upcoming year, his third, has all the signs that Wagner will take the next step.
Additionally, if the Magic can improve as a team, play .500 ball, and sneak into the playoffs – with Wagner being a leading scorer – his hobby popularity will further increase. Buy now and sell later in the season or hold for a few years as he becomes a consistent 20-25 ppg scorer.
Scoot Henderson (Portland Trail Blazers)
There are going to be growing pains here, but when I think about buying rookies, evaluating what playing opportunity they have immediately when they come into the league is a key factor.
With Damian Lillard gone, the 19-year-old Henderson will be the primary ball handler and shotmaker on a team with few experienced playmakers on the team (Deandre Ayton and Anfernee Simons being the others). This is a great long-term hold opportunity.
Jordan Poole (Washington Wizards)
Talk about a roller coaster start to his career. Sent down to the G-League during his rookie year, then becomes a key contributor for the Warriors the next two seasons while shooting 35+% from deep.
Then, Poole and Draymond Green get into a fight, Poole’s numbers decline during his fourth year and he shoots 25% from three in the playoffs, and ultimately the Warriors deal him to the Wizards for Chris Paul.
What an eventful four years to start a career.
Poole is probably looking around the locker room thinking that, unlike in Golden State where he was the 2nd or 3rd option, he could be the guy this year. Although the Wizards might not win a lot of games, Poole will be putting up big stat lines that are sure to attract hobby interest. There is some risk here if Poole, after playing on a dynasty to start his career, loses some motivation if he can’t change the Wizards’ losing ways, but that shouldn’t overshadow the incredible upside Poole offers to collectors.
Aaron Gordon (Denver Nuggets)
There’s no denying Gordon had a career year last season, averaging 16 ppg and shooting 56% from the field and 35% from three. He was clearly a key piece in helping the Nuggets win the NBA title. But thinking like an investor, do we expect Gordon to put up the same / better numbers or revert back to the average shooter (45% from the field and 31% from three) that he was in the nine seasons prior? There are better chances of the latter happening this year.
Gordon’s prices are at their peak and I don’t think it would be wise to buy at the top in hopes that another career year is ahead.
Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
I’m not knocking Young as a player, as I think he has showed everyone that despite his size, he can take over games and put on an absolute shooting clinic. But after a career year in 2021-22, Young’s numbers reverted, shooting 43% from the field and 34% from three. And frankly, I think that is about where he’ll be moving forward, absent any more outlier years. A player with those shooting percentages shouldn’t be viewed and priced by the hobby in the upper echelon of current NBA players.
Although Young’s prices have declined significantly in the last few years, I don’t think they’ve bottomed out yet. Stay away from buying up any of Young’s cards ahead of the season unless you have a high-risk appetite.