For regular basketball fans, October marks the lead-up to the regular season and a period of increasing excitement. For all us armchair GMs, October marks arguably the most crucial month of the fantasy basketball season.
We’re starting our fantasy basketball blogging adventures with a general list of players that we like and dislike at their current ADPs (average draft positions). Sometimes, the hype train can drive players past the point they should be drafted – Rudy Gobert as an example in 2015-2016. On the other hand, most championship teams are built with at least one, if not multiple mid-to-late round steals – Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Karl-Anthony Towns among the prime examples in recent years. So these are the players that each of us are targeting / avoiding in drafts. Draft strategy (in particular, punting for H2H) changes a lot of things, and creates a whole extra list of potential bargains – but follow us for more on that in coming weeks.
Without further ado:
(Note: The discussions below are based on head-to-head (H2H), standard 9-category, 12-team leagues. Yahoo! Ranks and ADPs are as of the time of writing this article and will likely change as the preseason continues).
Jared: Devin Booker (Y!: 112, ADP:93.5)
Player A: 13.8 PTS, 1.3 3PTM, 2.5 REB, 2.6 AST, 0.3 BLK, 0.6 STL, 42.3 FG%, 84.0 FT%
Player B: 20.7 PTS, 0.7 3PTM, 3.6 REB, 2.0 AST, 0.6 BLK, 1.0 STL, 45.9 FG%, 76.1 FT%
What if I could get you Player A over 50 picks after Player B?
The aforementioned Player A is Devin Booker (and his 2015-2016 stats), and if you followed basketball last year, you probably know that Booker outperformed his first half production by miles in the second (aka once Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight were out). Booker’s stats increased to 16.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 3.3 APG during his time as a starter. Sure, efficiency took a decrease, but this was a rookie forced to take the responsibility of being both the primary ball-handling and shooting option. With Bledsoe or Knight, or even both, on the court with him, we can expect him to get a lot more clean looks and become the prized go-to shooter that he is capable of being.
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) September 30, 2016
Booker’s current ADP has him being picked significantly behind the likes of Monta Ellis (ADP: 82.2) and Andrew Wiggins (ADP: 42.8; Player B above) – with gaps that seem unjustifiable. The only thing that will keep Booker off the court is Coach Watson because no coach likes to play a sieve on defense. Even if Knight starts ahead of him, which does not look to be the case, Booker leading the bench mob is not a bad alternative as he’ll be going up against lesser talent and having the ball in his hands a lot. Simply put, he should be a solid fantasy asset both as a starter or off the bench. Worrying about minutes is an obvious concern with Knight and Bledsoe around, but he’ll likely be on to close out games since he’s the team’s best option to spread the floor.
Wayne: Clint Capela (Y!: 102, ADP: 111.5)
With Dwight Howard taking his talents to Atlanta, Clint Capela should feast on all the minutes he can handle leftover from Howard, with an extended role at the center position for Houston. And at an ADP of 111.5, I’m willing to gamble on Capela taking advantage of those to become a strong fantasy asset.
Last year, Capela averaged 7.0 PTS, 6.4 REB and 1.2 BLK in 19:03 minutes per game. On a per-36 minutes basis, those stats are quite attractive – his 2.3 BLK per-36 put him just shy of elite shot blockers DeAndre Jordan (2.5) and Rudy Gobert (2.5). Capela has the potential to play minutes in the 30s, run pick-and-rolls with Harden all day while grabbing most of Houston’s defensive rebounds (that is, if they can stop anyone). His main competition is a 34-year old Nene Hilario who has been injury prone for the last few seasons (53 games in 2013-2014, 67 in 2014-2015 and 57 in 2015-2016) whose minutes have decreased each of the last three years, down to 19.2 in 2015-2016. Capela is a solid late-middle round center with his 58.2 FG%, and per-36 averages of 13.3 PTS, 12.1 REB, 1.4 STL, 2.3 BLK. He probably won’t reach 36 minutes due to foul troubles and the tendency of the Rockets to go small, but with Coach D’Antoni promising to increase the pace even more this year, he may not need to play 36 minutes to reach those numbers. If you aren’t running a free throw punt strategy, his 37.9 FT% will hurt – there is certainly hope that he’ll make some improvement there going into his third season, but if not, you’ll want to have drafted a good, high-volume free throw shooter in the early rounds.
Greg: Enes Kanter (Y!: 72, ADP: 88.6)
With Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant’s departure from OKC, Enes Kanter has a major opportunity to step into the starting four spot, or at least significant minutes, for Billy Donovan’s team. It all starts on the defensive end: with a Defensive Box Plus/Minus of -3.1 in 2015-2016, Kanter ranks just below defensive stalwarts Isaiah Canaan and Marcelo Huertas.
Jokes aside, looking back just a couple of years ago when Durant was previously injured, Kanter put up 18.7 PTS and 11.0 REB on 57 FG% and nearly 80 FT% in just 31 minutes a game. Currently being drafted in the 9th round, Kanter is a low risk, high-floor player whom you can easily count on for points, rebounds, and solid percentages for a big man. If Kanter can keep his turnovers down and provide close to a block per game, you could easily be looking at a Top 40 player.
With solid percentages, Kanter fits many different types of builds / strategies in fantasy basketball. His main deficiency is a lack of defensive stats, so if you do choose to draft Kanter, I recommend picking up a steals or blocks specialist later to complement him. Or draft him just so you can cheer for one half of OKC’s “stache brothers”.
Sean: Wes Matthews (Y!: 90, ADP: 92.5)
Wes Matthews burned a lot of people last year, myself included. He shot a career-low 38.8% and was far too inconsistent to use in weekly leagues due to his propensity to drop complete duds. But I’m willing to let bygones be bygones and I’m grabbing stock in Wes in as many leagues as I can, as long as he’s going in the 8th Round (ADP: 92.5).
For starters, he can’t possibly shoot that badly this year – he’s a career 43.5% FG shooter and is bound to return closer to that this year. Chandler Parsons’ 20.5% departing usage rate will need to be distributed somehow, and while they’re paying Harrison Barnes like a player who is going to come in and do that, anyone who watched the Finals last year probably is not sold on that. And while there’s an argument to be made that he no longer benefits from the double teams drawn by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the talent in Dallas is no slouch and they have a good coach that does a pretty good job of maximizing the talents of the players on his roster (see: Williams, Deron and Harris, Devin). He’s a solid multi-category contributor that fits into a number of builds, offering solid 3PT contribution and low TOs, but limited blocks.
Unlike last year, he’s had a full offseason and training camp to prepare, and has reportedly shown up at camp in great shape. I expect him to return closer to 2014-2015, when he was the 37th best player in fantasy basketball, and therefore love him at his current draft position. He might not necessarily reach those same heights, but I can’t imagine him not improving on last year’s performance. Of course, that’s exactly what I said about Ty Lawson last year…
Jared: Hassan Whiteside (Y!: 13, ADP: 14.4)
They don’t want you to draft him this high! By they, I mean me.
Remember how in elementary school, there were always a few kids who matured really early and carried the team in sports and then there was you? You weren’t fully there but you reaped the benefits of the attention the other kids drew. You would be raised up by their talent and aura only to have them leave or play up a year and reality would come crashing down. That’s kind of how I imagine Whiteside felt surrounded by future Naismith inductees in Wade and Bosh.
From a pure basketball point of view, I’m usually one of his loudest advocates. Going into this season, I truly wish I could say some (or even just one) of these things confidently:
- Whiteside has a ton of experience being a primary option.
- If he’s doubled, he’s a great passer out of the post.
- Whiteside has proven that he is able to create his own shot.
- I would rather have Hassan than Boogie on my team.
I’d like to be able to say these things but I can’t because it wouldn’t make sense with the goal of being a smart GM and win my fantasy league. Whiteside has had the benefit of getting a lot of clean looks due to the personnel he’s played with. His shot-blocking and rebounding numbers will still be elite; however, with an increased workload and defenses planning around him, his field goal percentage will be hard to replicate from last year. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to bless Hassan up at this draft spot.
Wayne: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Y!: 7, ADP: 12.0)
The Greek Freak is awesome to watch and his potential as an NBA player is amazing. That said, his Yahoo! rank of 7 and his current ADP of 12.0 – just after proven well-rounded fantasy commodities such as Paul George (ADP: 10.8), Jimmy Butler (ADP: 12.8) and many picks ahead of Kyle Lowry (ADP: 20.8) – are straight up ridiculous in my opinion.
There’s no denying his ceiling – his post-All Star averages in 2015-2016 show those pretty well. However, there are holes in his game – for example, his career FT% of 72.1% and non-existent 3-point shooting (0.3 3PTM per game). If you can get him later in the second round to complement an elite shooter like Curry, Durant or Harden, that could be an interesting combination. Better yet, in a 3-point punt build with Westbrook, you could have two triple-double threats. But overall, I feel that grabbing him around 12 is drafting for the ceiling. WIth Giannis as the primary playmaker in Milwaukee now, there’s a decent chance his turnovers could further increase as teams adjust and better game plan for dealing with a 6’ 11” PG (if that’s possible). Without Khris Middleton for a portion of the season, there will likely be less space for Giannis to operate – and considering his lack of a consistent 3-point shot, that could work against him. And honestly, my caution here is probably based on the traumatic case of Rudy Gobert in 2015-2016 – player has a great post-All Star run (in 2014-2015), gets drafted early in the second round (as Rudy was last year), only to regress, remain inconsistent, and ultimately disappoint his owners. Consider yourself warned.
Greg: LaMarcus Aldridge (Y!: 20, ADP: 22.0)
At an ADP of 22.0, I’m probably not drafting Lamarcus Aldridge – mainly because there are so many other options in later rounds that could easily produce the stats that Aldridge provides. After averaging 18 PTS and 8.5 REB for the Spurs last year, I expect Aldridge to continue to produce slightly decreased numbers with the arrival of Pau Gasol who will be demanding more shots than Tim Duncan did last year. In addition, given that Aldridge is on the Spurs, expect a few games off here and there, especially during the fantasy playoffs.
Overall, Aldridge is still a great big man with superior efficiency, but given that he’s only giving a paltry 0.5 steals and 1.1 blocks a game, I’d rather gamble my later picks on players such as Pau Gasol (Y!: 51), Nikola Vucevic (Y!: 52), or Marc Gasol (Y!:57).
Sean: Russell Westbrook (Y!: 4, ADP: 3.2)
Kevin Durant is gone (along with his 30.4% usage rate). Russell Westbrook is the new alpha dog in OKC. He’s motivated. He’s historically been a durable player. The team will be built around his strengths, and he has the potential to be a walking triple-double. The stars are all aligned for Westbrook to have a monster season – potential that has not gone unnoticed by drafters, with Russ sporting a ranking or 4 and an ADP of 3.2 on Yahoo! as of the time of this article.
Russ is going to get his stats as long as he’s healthy. That being said, if you want to draft him this year, you’re going to have to use a Top 5 pick, and you can count me as one drafter that doesn’t think he’s going to return Top 5 value. Russ has never finished higher than Top 7 in 9-cat leagues, even in the 2014-2015 season where he played 40 games without KD. Any increase in volume stats – in 2014-2015, he averaged 0.97 REB and 1.26 AST more in the games without Kevin Durant – will likely be offset in efficiency stats (FG% and TO) as more defensive attention is dedicated to stopping him. His turnovers will likely creep close to 5 (4.73 per game in games without KD in 2014-2015) and it seems unlikely he will maintain his FG% of 45.4% from 2015-2016. His career FT% of 81.8% can help to stabilize a team with its high volume, but is hardly elite for a guard.
Despite the inevitable volume increase, I’m not sold on the rise to fantasy stardom for Russ. He still has holes in his game and his new running mate, Victor Oladipo, is also a guard who excels with the ball in his hands. The floor is pretty high for Russ (probably Top 10), but if I have a Top 5 pick, I’m using it on Steph Curry (ADP: 1.9), Kevin Durant (ADP: 2.1), James Harden (ADP: 3.5), Kawhi Leonard (ADP: 6.9) or Chris Paul (ADP: 9.1), for starters.