Fantasy Basketball

2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Box Score Browsing – Brow Down to the King

Anthony Davis

You’re witnessing the second consecutive season of fantasy dominance people and Kevin Durant is nowhere to be seen.

It’s true, Anthony Davis is plowing his way through the NBA, swatting shots and deflecting balls like no other big in recent memory.

Has there ever been a player like Davis? Sure, he doesn’t score or pass as well (yet) as prime David Robinson, nor does he (yet) have prime Hakeem Olajuwon’s insane scoring, steals, blocks and rebound numbers – but he is VERY close – in just his third season. So what if he’s slightly under those two fantasy behemoth’s stat-lines? Davis’ work with Team USA this off-season cannot be undersold, because it allowed him to go toe to toe – with the need to compete for a place in the team – with some of the elite of his NBA peers. It’s no surprise that Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay and James Harden are all joining Davis on their way to career seasons.

He’s already passing the eye test by putting up league leading rebounding and shot-blocking numbers, while his shooting stats aren’t suffering because he’s a rare Superstar who doesn’t force the issue on offense. His stats are like prime Andrei Kirilenko on D combined with Tim Duncan. Not a bad compliment?

These are legitimate historically great statistics – last year we were warned, this year Davis is taking names.

Not to mention, he already has this very weekly column named after him!

The Boston Bigs: Jared Sullinger & Kelly Olynyk 

Two promising bigs, two somewhat similar fantasy skill-sets, two very different looking players.

Though Sullinger is more of a classic banger in terms of rebounding and being a post presence, he has yet to have a really big ‘wow’ game this season, which is a good thing as he’s already under the radar top 50 in most formats. He’s blocked some shots, knocked down his free throws and is seeing a lot more touches in the post as a legit option down-low, whether scoring or passing to team-mates.

The re-emergence of Jeff Green from last year’s let-down year has seen Sully score a little less than we’d like, but you can’t complain about 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 blocks from a 22yr old in under 31 minutes per game. There’s always a chance that Green is moved to a contender, but with the East seemingly always wide-open, the Celtics might actually be buyers rather than sellers (not likely). Likewise, Kelly Olynyk has started somewhat slowly but the percentages (61% FG, 53% 3pt and 83% FT) are absolute fantasy gold, as is the 1.3 threes from the C spot. Neither player will likely end the season averaging much more than one steal or one block per game, but they’ll do enough to help you rather than be a Pekovic sized black-hole doing nothing on the defensive end. Sullinger has more fantasy upside than KO, as the Celtics would likely shift Olynyk to the bench if they could find a more classic banger to man the 5.

Deron Williams 

Just quietly, Deron Williams is putting together a fine fantasy season. He’s in the top 30 for Yahoo rankings, with averages of 19.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists, in 6 games.

A much maligned player for a variety of reasons, Williams was on a lot of people’s avoid list going into drafts, but after off-season ankle surgery he seems to have righted the ship for the suddenly hot Brooklyn Nyets. Brook Lopez’s return from injury has given Williams a new post target, so the assists will stay steady at around 7-7.5 per game – obviously a ways off his prime stats when he was legitimately talked about in the same breath as Chris Paul  in terms of elite NBA point guards.

Williams again has some legit talent around him, including 2013 All Star Joe Johnson who continues to score at a high clip, while Jarrett Jack is back to being a competent half-game back-up – where he should be. Williams has three point gunners around him him in Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson and rookie starter Bojan Bogdanovic, so teams can’t collapse on him when he drives.

I don’t want to speak too soon, but Williams is having a heck of a comeback season after last season’s Jason Kidd Experiment fantasy disaster, and were I to be a more pessimistic fantasy writer I’d say cash in your chips and sell high right now.

K.J. McDaniels

K.J. McDaniels puts the D in defense.

The dude simply crushes it on the defensive end and the rumblings going into the season that his offensive game wouldn’t keep pace with his defensive abilities are slowly eroding away.

He doesn’t force shots, he doesn’t do things he can’t do and he plays within the flow of the game. Let Tony Wroten shoot 27 times in a game – KJM isn’t going to have that many shot attempts in three games, let alone in 34 minutes like Wroten did last week. He’s been written about across the interwebs as a deep-league darling, one of those guys who has the potential to win you blocks for a week in H2H formats, or help you in roto because of his varied fantasy game. He’s only averaging 0.7 steals but it’s the 1.7 blocks from the SG spot that is fantasy gold, especially when you factor in that he’s only playing 23.7 minutes a night so far. He already has three 3+ block games – the only others to do that in this early season? Anthony Davis, Al Jefferson, Roy Hibbert, Robin Lopez, Larry Sanders and Pau Gasol – you may have heard of those guys.

I’m not fussed about the poor FT shooting (just 50%, but only 7 of 14), because he got to the line a lot in College and made a lot of them (84%). This isn’t a trend like it is for the aforementioned Wroten, who was even more awful from the line in College (58.3%, 154 of 264 – ie slightly higher than Omer Asik) than he is currently in the NBA.

McDaniels will only continue to improve and get minutes as the season goes along, so if you’re weary just add and stash until he eventually starts (he will). He’s got far more fantasy upside this season than other ‘stashes’ I’m reading about like Dante Exum, Doug McDermott or Rodney Hood.

Plus, I make it a rule to draft someone I enjoy watching – how can you NOT enjoy this swat?!

Layups

Aaron Brooks 

As long as Derrick Rose is on the Bulls’ roster, Aaron Brooks will hold some value.

See Nate Robinson in 2012 and DJ Augustin in 2013, and now Brooks in 2014. Tom Thibodeau always likes his back-up point guard to be able to hit the long ball, provide instant offence without disrupting the playbook, and Brooks is no different. Rose’s latest ankle issues have seen him play just two of the last 6 Bulls’ contests, while Brooks has stepped up despite playing off the bench. Kirk Hinrich hasn’t been relevant in fantasy circles since 2006-07 (when he was surprisingly handy), so don’t worry about the starter’s role going to him – worry about the minutes and production that Brooks is getting.

Over his last three games, Brooks is averaging less than 19 minutes a night, but he’s produced over 15 points and 4 assists per contest, while shooting 55% from the field and 100% at the line, with 2.3 threes. Monitor the Derrick Rose injury ‘will he/won’t he play?’ mess and you could have a cheap plug-in for daily leagues.

Ben McLemore

I’ll be the first to admit I had serious doubts about McLemore’s chances at holding off rookie Nik Stauskas for the starting SG spot in Sacramento. Not only has he held him in check, but over the last three games he’s averaged 32 minutes and produced 16.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 threes in that span. He’s thriving off the ball with Boogie Cousins and Rudy Gay shouldering the scoring load, with Darren Collison providing open looks with his driving game. McLemore’s a solid add now if you need threes, as he’s also turned it over just 10 times in 8 games, while making nearly 45% of his field goals – but look elsewhere for assists at the SG spot.

Iman Shumpert

Iman Shumpert impressed many NBA fans with his rock solid rookie campaign and then nothing happened over the next two seasons. Well that’s a lie, something happened, but nothing good or productive. He was constantly in the news either maligned as a flop after his rookie season, or talked about as a trade chip who could net the Knicks a better asset. For whatever reason, Shumpert wasn’t able to shake the distractions. Entering 2014-15 he found himself looking down the barrel of lost playing time, with the crowded Knicks back-court sporting at least three other potential starters in J.R Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Jose Calderon. Shumpert has outplayed all of them (Calderon hasn’t played a game yet, mind you!), handling lead guard duties as well as defending the opposing team’s best perimeter player. My colleague Zack touched on Shump already, but ride the hot hand while he has it. Sure, the Knicks have lost every game Shump has played at least 30 minutes in this season, but your fantasy team doesn’t care that his team sucks while he’s doing 16/4/4 with 2.6 threes and 55/70 splits does it?

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.

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