Fantasy Basketball

2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Box Score Browsing – The Nurminator

Jusuf Nurkic

The Nuggets’ big (really big) rookie pivot has carved out a large chunk of Timofey Mozgov’s minutes to warrant your attention on the fantasy front.

He had an outstanding preseason and even got a mention in the first edition of Box Score Browsing as well as a mention in Zack’s recent Waiver Wire Fix, so he’s well on his way to either a dud performance next week or a solid stretch of mediocrity!

It remains to be seen what Nuggets coach Brian Shaw will do going forward; the team is a middle of the road squad with ­not quite star level guys – and they’re really going nowhere this year in the deepest conference in years.

The Nuggets will likely be sellers around the trade deadline as they bundle good starter level talent on friendly contracts (hello Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur and the aforementioned Mozgov) to contenders needing an injection into their rotation for the playoffs stretch. This is where the Nuggets’ short term loss is Nurkic’s gain, as he’ll likely be thrust into a starting gig and essentially handed over to the basketball gods to toil away and carve out a place in the league.

Much like a prototypical Euro bruiser-banger (Marcin Gortat, Nikola Pekovic, Jonas Valanciunas), Nurkic uses his girth and his aggression to grab rebounds and bully his way to the rim. Like Gortat and Jonas, he’s shown a propensity for blocking shots – as he’s currently sending back 3.1 per-36 minutes. Since really gaining minutes and earning his spot in the rotation, Nurkic has gone to work big time, with stats that are seriously impressive for a 20 year old traded on draft day.

Over the last week Nurkic has put up some massive defensive stats, averaging 1.5 steals and 3.5 blocks per game over his last four outings. Add in 12.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 54% shooting from the field with a respectable 75% from the line and you’re looking at the 15th ranked player over the last week. That’s one spot ahead of Jimmy Butler and two ahead of Kevin Love for those wanting more juice (shout out Basketball Monster as always).

He also knows what he’s good at, with 99% of his shots coming from within 10 feet, so he’s not going to become one of those frustrating to own inside players who masquerades as a jump shooter when really, they’re not fooling anyone (I’m looking squarely at you Josh Smith).

Sure, he might currently be known more for being on the other end of an old man Vince Carter slam, but Nurkic needs to be owned in all formats – especially dynasty leagues where he could end up becoming a Gortat type center before the year is out.

Kemba Walker

Kemba has been KRUSHING it.

He’s been on fire seemingly ever since my co-owner and I sent him (along with Al Jefferson and Jimmy Butler…ugh) for LeBron, Tony Parker and O.J Mayo. Ah well, you win some you lose some ay Matty?

Walker’s leading the entire league in minutes played, while hitting career highs in threes coupled with just 1.6 turnovers per night, another career low mark.

The Lance Stephenson injury was a surprise, but while his fantasy season was as helpful as an ashtray on a motorbike, Walker has been cruising along as the 13th ranked player over the last month.

In his last four he’s been piling the points up to the tune of 25.8 per game, highlighted by a career high 42 point explosion against the Magic. In his four year career he has 13 games with at least 30 points, with four of those coming this season alone – so he has always been able to score – but it’s his field goal percentage that has held him back from higher fantasy honors.

Somewhat lost in his scoring stretch is the defensive stats he’s accrued; 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks, including a career high-tying four against the Magic. If he can keep this torrid pace up while Al Jefferson has been on the shelf (and the Cats tell Lance to move along?) then Kemba’s going to far exceed his ADP of 41.

Draymond Green

Others have said it so I’m not going to claim it – but Everybody Loves Draymond.

The dude is earning himself an extra million seemingly every couple of weeks, adding more and more fantasy morsels to his already diverse game.

He leapt onto the fantasy radars of the most die-hard NBA fan when he recorded three triple doubles over his last two seasons at Michigan State, where he enjoyed a successful team and individual run.

Steals and blocks generally translate fairly well to the NBA, look at KJ McDaniels for example as he is one of only 12 players in the entire NBA to average at least 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks this season.

Draymond Green is on that list also.

Green is also the only player ever to average at least 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 threes, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. Shawn Marion is the only one who comes close and he’s the damn Matrix!

The writing was on the wall last season when Green averaged 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks in limited minutes, but this year he’s gone bonkers. Only 4 points against the Timberwolves you say? Along with 6 steals, 3 blocks, 8 rebounds and 6 assists – not a bad day’s work.

Green has also registered a triple-double against the Raptors (16 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2 threes) while narrowly missing another against OKC earlier that month (falling one rebound and one assist short).

If you took Green early, I’m slow clapping at you right now. He was on many radars, but few had the hutzpah to take the plunge and grab him over a bigger name, so nicely played if you grabbed him at the right time.

Andrew Wiggins

Finally the top pick is living up to his billing.

With as much hype for a High School player as we’ve seen since that LeBron guy, Wiggins had everyone saying he was the consensus number one overall pick…prior to his lone season at Kansas.

He wasn’t bad, not by any means. He just wasn’t what the hype machine was promising to deliver. Names like T-Mac, Penny Hardaway, Paul George, Grant Hill and Scottie Pippen were all thrown out there as potential ceilings for Wiggins – then he stumbled out of the gate in his rookie campaign.

The guy is not even 20 years old yet, but over his last seven games – following three single digit scoring efforts no less – man has he delivered. A pair of 27 point games (against the Cavs and Kings), along with four more 20-point efforts has seen his scoring average go from 11.4 per game through his first 19 games, to 17.4 per over his last 14.

He needs to knock his free throws down at a better clip (69.6%, meh) as well as improve his rebounding, but his defensive stats are improving, as illustrated by his 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks over his last 10 games.

If you’ve got Wiggins in a dynasty league you’d best hold. The last three guys to average at least 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal and at least 4 free throw attempts per game as a 19 year old?

Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Layups

Jodie Meeks

‘Thy Stan Van will cast out Josh Smith from Thy Palace of Auburn Hills and the Meeks shall inherit the Earth (shots)’.

Or something like that.

He hasn’t exactly flooded the fantasy fields with epic stat lines, but Meeks has that ‘gunner off the bench’ role sewn up beautifully since the expulsion of Smith from the suddenly red hot Pistons.

Meeks isn’t going to unseat current starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (note to self, create a key shortcut for KCP’s full name), but he looked like a career bench shooter kind of player before grabbing the starting gig (and the 41st ranking in fantasy NBA) while Kobe was banged up last season.

His 9-three, 34 point explosion aside, Meeks has been rock solid. He doesn’t help you in rebounds, but he’ll chip in enough steals and great free throw percentage, along with low turnovers which are gold in nine category leagues.

Hassan Whiteside

As easy as it is to overlook a run of the mill 7’0” dude on the basketball court, it’s harder to overlook a guy who blocked 182 shots in just 34 College games.

Plenty of prospects who block shots in College never pan out – ask Stephane Lasme or Sean Williams how their careers are going – but Whiteside has fallen into a prime spot. Covering up the sloppy Miami Heat’s mistakes by rebounding and blocking everything that comes his way.

He’s finally gotten minutes over the last week, averaging 22.3 over his last three games. He’s made the most of his time by putting up 10.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, including 5 in his most recent game against the Nets.

Whiteside isn’t a rookie, the Heat are his second team since being drafted by the Kings back in 2010, and he might just be what the Heat hoped Greg Oden would eventually be – that defensive anchor capable of double-doubles and rim protection.

Mo Williams

Yes, he’s back. Every time I write this guy off he comes back and bites me on my fantass.

Again he finds his way onto the majority of my teams – fortunately (or not, depending who you ask) – I have Ricky Rubio in those leagues also, so the pay-off will come at some point, hopefully.

An earlier stretch in the season hinted he wasn’t quite done, providing a big boost to owners needing 14-16 points and a helping of assists, threes and elite free throw percentage. Then he got hurt.

Since returning from the back injury Williams has again unseated the dreadful (i.e. young and out of position) Zach LaVine from the lead guard role, bringing better scoring, play-making and leadership to a team seemingly bereft of any of those qualities with Ricky Rubio still injured.

Over the last three games Williams’ minutes have trended up, with his numbers reflecting the bigger role in the T-Wolves’ offense. He dished out 13 assists (with 1-9 shooting, yuk) in just 29 minutes at Denver, then against Utah he dropped 20 points with a trifecta of threes, until finally getting the start last time out versus Denver – scoring 17 points, grabbing 4 rebounds, dishing 7 assists and dropping another three threes.

The T-Wolves have won just once in their last NINETEEN games. They will likely start shipping out these vets like Williams, Kevin Martin and Thaddeus Young, which will make it easier to once again drop Williams if he ends up in a back-up role on a contender once again.

As always we welcome your feedback, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@macetastic) and 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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