Fantasy Basketball

2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Box Score Browsing — A Walk Among the Batumstones

Nicolas Batum

There are very few players in basketball capable of putting up the variety of stats this fantasy friendly Frenchman frequently produces.

When healthy and involved with the offense, he is truly a unique fantasy contributor because of his combination of rebounds, assists, steals, threes and free throw percentage – along with his generally low turnovers (just 1.6 per game for his career, in over 460 games at 30 minutes a night).

With Wes Matthews’ horrendous Achilles’ injury potentially derailing the Blazers’ season, Arron Afflalo steps right in at starting shooting guard, but it’s been Batum who has seen his production increase over the last week or so.

Earlier in his career he was known more for his explosive athleticism and defensive prowess, but a ‘growth spurt’ of sorts (i.e. expanded play-making role) saw him begin to handle the ball a lot more from the small forward spot for Portland. It wasn’t a new role for him as he plays a large chunk of minutes for the French national team at point guard and his fantasy game has subsequently rounded into one that had never been seen before in the NBA.

For a player to average over 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.0 block and 2.0 threes per game is astounding; Batum is the only player in the history of the NBA to achieve this diverse stat line as he did back in 2012-13, and apart from the slight drop in blocks and threes he’s still producing around those stats, even in what has been called a ‘down year’ for him.

Over his last four games Batum has gone on a tear, averaging 17.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.8 blocks, 3.0 threes and 54% shooting from the floor and 86% at the line – good enough to be the 12th ranked player in fantasy over that stretch.

The Blazers will rely more on Batum’s scoring to replace the hole left by Matthews’, a role which as a pass-first player he may not be accustomed to, but it is not something he can’t do. He’s topped at least 15 points in six of his last eight games, having hit that mark just five times through his first 47 games!

If Forrest Gump was describing NBA players, Batum would be his box of chocolates. One game he might have five steals, the next night he could dish out 10 assists, while he could have six threes later in the week – you never know what you’re gonna get.

 

DeMar DeRozan

In the past I’ve been open about my ‘meh’ attitude towards DeRozan’s fantasy prowess, but last year he really proved he could be an asset. But, even with his impressive 23-4-4 slash and that elite free throw percentage, the fact remains he was still only the 56th ranked player in standard 8 category fantasy.

What is his upside? Is he ever going to develop that three point shot to the point where he can average at least one a game? I liken his game to a smaller version of former on again/off again fantasy asset Corey Maggette; that rare breed of athleticism and slashing with an innate ability to get to the rack – but an inability to knock down threes at a consistent, respectable clip.

Playing for Team USA definitely helped his play, going toe to toe against arguably the top two MVP candidates this year in Stephen Curry and James Harden (…Russell Westbrook emerges from the shadows wearing a mask to a chorus of oooohs and aaaaahs as he cackles “KD says I’m the Real MVP!”).

He doesn’t get a lot of steals (though this year his 1.3 is a career high) nor does he grab a lot of rebounds or dish many assists, but he does enough of the latter to be an asset at shooting guard and small forward.

That field goal percentage though. Eek. There’s a nasty trend occurring here as it has plummeted to a career low (and almost un-salvageable) 40.4%, which isn’t as easy to stomach when he’s scoring under 20 points a game.

Injuries are a cruel mistress, and she isn’t fussy on who she takes to bed. The collective moan from The North when DD went down to an always cringe-worthy groin tear was massive; the team’s form has gone missing after bolting out of the gates at 13-3, their once firm grip on the top seed in the East plucked out of thin air by the dominant Atlanta Hawks.

That early success went missing with DeRozan on the side-lines (just 12-9 without him), and the Raptors have gone just 1-9 in their last 10 games, but it hasn’t been DeRozan’s fault (at least from a fantasy standpoint!).

A look at his last five games shows he’s been killing it, especially with that epic 51% shooting from the field (nearly 22 attempts a night!) and 92% shooting at the line, on 4.8 attempts. He buried the 76ers with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, and has scored at least 21 points in five straight games, topping 50% from the floor in all but one of those games and proving to be the sole consistent performer on a team faltering at the wrong point of the season.

The Raptors will be a failure if they don’t get out of the first round of the playoffs this year, something they failed to do last year even with home-court against the Brooklyn Nets, so they’ll be scrapping for every win they can which means continued high usage and production from DeRozan.

 

Nikola Mirotic

Mirotic has been a fantasy darling whenever he’s gotten minutes this season – but getting them in that crowded frontcourt when it’s healthy is the problem.

Taj Gibson is Tom Thibodeau’s preferred back-up to both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, but the writing appears to be on the wall for Gibson’s tenure if the Bulls have another early exit in this year’s playoffs.

Mirotic is the future. Heck with the numbers he’s put up in limited minutes, he should be the present as well.

Since Gibson went down with yet an ankle injury, Mirotic has been killing opposing second units. He’s averaged 20.1 points over his last seven contests – but the Bulls have gone just 3-4 in that span, as they struggle to cope with an emergency ward Hawkeye and Trapper would be pressed to handle.

In those seven games he had a run of three straight 20+ point games, including 29 points and 9 rebounds against the Clippers, following that up with 23 and 8 against the Wizards, then 26 and 8 versus the Thunder. Not only has he averaged 1.6 threes in that stretch but he’s also gone 35-40 from the free throw line over his last five games (14-16 against the Thunder).

An intense competitor who is as comfortable camping out on the three point line as he is cleaning the defensive glass, Mirotic is a guy you should be targeting in keeper/dynasty leagues because of his upside. The team is 20-6 when he grabs at least six rebounds, while he’s had back to back 12 rebound contests in his last two outings – the last such performance being in his third career start.

The Bulls need fresh legs and will likely rest Gibson at least until he’s 100%, so he’s healthy and prepared to battle in the playoffs, which means Mirotic will be getting 28-30 minutes from here until the end of the regular season.

 

Layups

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Finally a scoring explosion to accompany the drool-worthy defensive stats he’s been putting up over the last few weeks. He’s recorded at least one steal or one block in 39 straight games, a streak dating back to 15 December 2014 – that’s kind of a big deal.

The excitement over Ante’s fantasy potential is coming to the fore, as that length and quickness is being utilized to perfection in Jason Kidd’s defensive schemes, as Giannis has averaged 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks over his last eight games.

He’s also produced 13.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 48% shooting from the floor during that stretch – one of the more eye-popping lines for a guy who still can’t go into a bar yet.

 

Tony Parker

Stop me if you’ve heard it before, but the Spurs are winning again and Parker is penetrating and scoring at will. It happened last year when they were cruising towards the title and it’s happened just when people were questioning both the Spurs fortitude and Parker’s mileage.

Since a truly forgettable five game sputter (6.8 points, 26% field goal shooting), Parker has exploded back into vintage form – with the Spurs winning six straight overall, with Parker playing a starring role in their last four.

24.5 points, 5.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 59% from the field and just 1.0 turnover per game over his last four games – this is what has vaulted the collective Australasian (Australia and New Zealand) entry to the top of the Fantasy Hoops Insider listener podcast. Of course Nerlens Noel, Russell Westbrook and that LeBron guy also helped right Matty?

There are few sure things in life. Never trust a skinny cook, don’t try and ice skate uphill, and don’t bet against Tony Parker doing what Tony Parker does.

 

Dennis Schroder

Watch this guy play if you haven’t already seen him.

He runs the team like a good shooting Rondo, with some extra spunk thrown in via his nationality (German) and a tuft of blonde hair (never thought I’d see that written in a fantasy column. Well fantasy basketball that is).

The simple fact is the Hawks continue to MDK everyone they come across, which means Schroder will be playing big minutes as Jeff Teague prepares for the onslaught of a (assumed) deep playoff run.

When he gets minutes, he produces. Since the All Star break he’s averaged 12.8 points and 6.1 assists in just 23.8 minutes a game. That’s really strong production in deep leagues and definitely worth a look in dynasty leagues, especially if you’re short on point guard.

Over his last six games he’s been even better, producing 14.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.2 threes and a very useful 88% shooting from the line, on 4.0 attempts per game no less.

 

As always we welcome your feedback, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@macetasticand I’ll do my best to reply to any comments.

Big ups to the amazing Basketball-Reference, for all the links and for de-railing me so often, all in the name of research.

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1 Comment

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