Fantasy Basketball

2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Don’t Close Those Caskets Yet

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It’s normal to enter your fantasy hoops redraft league wanting the young flashy players and wanting to reach on a guy who could be the next big thing, but let’s not forget why we do this. Tell ’em Herm:

Herm

That’s right, and last I checked neither upside nor highlight reel dunks are categories in fantasy leagues. Sure, some hyped youngins will take that next step and be more than expected, but more will not live up to the hype (yet) and will be outproduced by less sexy names. The world’s favorite upside guy right now seems to be Giannis Antetokounmpo who is just 19 years old — turns 20 in December — and he’s gone 70th and 72nd in the first two early industry mocks I have been in (one H2H, one roto). As Joe Polito tweeted out recently, only four players in NBA history have averaged a minimum of 10 points, 5 boards, 45% FG% and over 25 minutes played a game at the age of 19: Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis and Chris Bosh. Now, could he be the next member of that group? Possibly, but I wont be one of the ones owning him even if he does at an average draft position (ADP) of 71.

He did go 95th in a Rotoworld hosted 14-team H2H 9-cat mock I participated in this past week. That spot is tolerable but had he fallen two more slots to my pick, I still planned to pass. I think by the time the season nears and most writers have him on their sleeper lists he’ll go of an ADP around 65, and that’s just too high for me personally. I love the potential of him becoming a one steal, one block and one trey player like others, but Wesley Johnson did that last year, and even had we known ahead of time he was going to average that he wouldn’t have gone top 100 in drafts.

There are much more sure things out there to take that kind of a gamble just because a kid grew a few more inches over the summer and looks like he could one day be the next Shawn Marion of fantasy. In a year or two Giannis will probably be an absolute stud, but as of now others can sail away on that ship.

I’m not writing this just to make my anti-Giannis stance for the season. He’s just a perfect example of what I am talking about. I also wanted to talk about some aging and/or less sexy names that are often overlooked for younger guys. Sure, one name on this list is a major risk in his own right, but I’ll explain why I — possibly alone — am going to own several shares of the ‘Black Mamba’ this season.

Dirk Nowitzki – “You say it’s because of my age [fantasy GMs], but age aint nothing but a number!” Ok, now that I got my annual unnecessary Pretty Ricky lyric in there, I can get back to the script. Coming into last season Dirk was obviously going to have his lowest ADP he’d had in a long time coming off of a season where he missed 29 games and he turned 35 over that summer. Dirk found himself going at an ADP of 20 last season. Those who did swoop him up ended up with the number eight player in 8-category leagues. Now admittedly Dirk is my favorite player, but not even I could have fathomed that he could have finished inside the top ten for fantasy again in his career.

That said, I don’t expect him to finish in the top ten this season either. The Mavs made a lot of changes this summer first by making a trade with the Knicks swapping out Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert and bringing in Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton. So, they took a definite hit at PG but reunited with the big man who was one of the biggest leaders on the Mavs 2010 NBA title team. The Mavs figure between Felton, recently signed Jameer Nelson and re-signed Devin Harris (plus Monta Ellis) they will be good enough at PG to do this deal. They also made a big splash by agreeing to a max deal with now former Rocket Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a guy who will surely demand a lot looks on the offensive end. That said, with the departures of Shawn Marion and Vince Carter that opens up 20 shots a game. The Mavs new backup SFs Al-Farouq Aminu — who is more of a defensive and rebounding guy — and Richard Jefferson won’t be threats to steal many shots off the pine.

Last season Dirk averaged 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.6 treys while shooting a sick .497 from the field on 15.9FGA and .899 from the free throw line on 4.7FTA. Re-read that one more time, yeah, that was a fantastic season for the future hall of famer. I really only think Dirk will drop to around 19 PPG, and it wouldn’t be a shock at all if his FG percentage dropped to 48%. But everything else should stay around the same. Dirk has also been one of the better studs in terms of not turning the ball over, making him even better in 9-category leagues. Dirk has averaged under two turnovers a game for six straight seasons and sat at just 1.5 last season. It’s pretty rare to find a top tier player like Dirk who touches the ball a ton but doesn’t lose the ball more frequently.

Dirk is one of the most lethal offensive players of all-time. He has mastered the post-up offense whether it be high post, low post or anywhere he wants you. And the fade-away jumper — a 7 footer with a fader as accurate as his should be illegal. How his defender approaches him decides their own fate. Defenders may think they’re in good position, but when he’s got his back to you, you’re about as helpless as a UFC fighter with Jon ‘Bones’ Jones on top of you, it’s already over. As you’ll see below ,even a good and lengthy defender like Anthony Davis is totally helpless. You think your length has you in position then he steps back and fades. You leave him too much room for a three, have to run to recover and he embarrasses you with a pump fake, steps forward and buries a jumper. AD goes to help out on another player leaving an undersized player to charge at him and Dirk acts as if they’re not even there, nailing a three. Then again, have AD right at the three point line ready to cover and he just shoots it from a few feet beyond the arc. Why bother, sometimes?

Dirk2

Anyways, I have Dirk ranked 18th this season and that could possibly be too low, but he will be a safe bet to be top-20 assuming he plays a full season. He’s a player that I have landed in two of three early off-season mocks at what I feel were both terrific values. I got him 28th in the Fantasy Fix hosted 8-cat roto mock, 32nd in the RotoExperts hosted 12-team H2H 9-cat mock, and he went 21st in the Rotoworld hosted 14-team 9-cat H2H mock — I had pick 13 and took LaMarcus Aldridge at 13 and Kyle Lowry at 16 for those who care. That Rotoworld mock will be viewable as part of the Rotoworld fantasy basketball draft guide.

Also, if you ever have a few minutes to spare and want to see more of Dirk’s ridiculous moves from the 2013-14 season, check out this youtube. It’s 15 minutes long but even 5 minutes can wow you. If you watch it and don’t think his game is a work of art you’re either A) a Spurs/Rockets fan hating or B) Don’t like basketball and probably also don’t like how amazing the Spurs offense is because you feel it’s “boring.”

Kobe Bryant – Yeah, the guy coming off of an achilles injury that caused him to miss the 2012-13 playoffs and the start of last season. He then played just six games before he fractured his fubula and missed the remainder of the 2013-14 season. Why would anyone want to buy-in on a 36 year old who has recently proven fragile? Because it’s Kobe f’n Bryant, and he’s angry, hungry and looking to pad his HOF career stats on the scrubtastic Lakers. Kobe’s field goal percentage may not be ideal this season, but he’s going to get a lot of shots. Do I think he’ll be at his pre-injury 2012-13 numbers (27.3 PPG, 5.6RPG, 6APG, 1.4SPG, 1.7treys/gm with 46% fg and 84% ft)? Not fully, no, but I do think a projection of 22.5 points, five boards, five dimes, one steal, 1.5 treys while shooting 43% from the field and 80% from the free throw line is realistic. This is me assuming he also goes from playing 38 minutes a night to around 34 to lighten his workload just a tad, but he wouldn’t allow more than that. Those are still elite numbers and would likely end his season inside the top 15 of most fantasy leagues.

There comes a point in drafts where, despite the risk, the upside is too great to pass on. Would you pay $250 for a scratch-off lottery ticket if you knew there was a 25% chance you would win $100,000? Especially if you were told there’s a 50% chance you would at least win your money back? If you ended up winning nothing you’d be mad, but you’d do it again if you had another chance. That’s the fun in the gamble when you know the potential reward is great. Sure, you’d have to pass on some really good players to get Kobe, but it’s doubtful any have near his upside. I got Kobe 45th in the Fix mock which I thought was a huge bargain and not much risk. He went 30th in the most recent Rotoworld 14-team mock and 39th in the Rotoexperts 12-team mock. It seems his ADP is rising a bit, but I’d expect him to stay in the 35-40 range, which is where I’m willing to roll those dice unless someone I have ranked higher falls a bit. I have Kobe currently ranked 27th and the more positive health news I hear the more I may nudge him up.

Next, let’s start with one of my favorite games: NAME THOSE PLAYERS!

TD:Ibaka ss

Now while it’s pretty clear you take Player B over Player A due to the better blocks and percentages, everything, for the most part, is in the same ballpark. Well, what if I told you you’d have to take Player B at the end of the first or early second round while Player A will go somewhere between picks 50 and 70 in drafts? Yeah, that’s what I figured. So, why is it that Player B, Serge Ibaka, goes so high and our next subject Player A, Tim Duncan, is so undervalued? I know, I know, “Popovich benches his guys.” Only, when it comes to Duncan that’s a bit over exaggerated.

Yes, Timmy did sit out eight games last season, but two of those were in the final three games of the season when the majority of H2H fantasy leagues were already finished. So, Duncan missed six games during the common H2H fantasy season and eight games for roto leagues, and one of those was the second game of the season due to injury. Over the last five seasons Duncan missed four, six, eight (lockout shortened season), thirteen and eight games. That outlier in 2012-13 was due to TD being sidelined for eight games due to injury. When he is on the court ‘the big fundamental’ is a player you can count on for great and consistent big man stats. Would I like him to play 80 games? Sure, but am I opposed to him getting the occasional rest game where he ends up playing around 76 games? Not at all.

I love players that you know exactly what you’re going to get from them and Tim is one of those without question. Even more impressive is that the best power forward of all-time has been so good the past five seasons averaging just 29 minutes a game. While Popovich is blamed for resting his guys with limited minutes and days off, I like to think of it as Pop helping the situation by keeping his older guys fresh allowing Duncan and others to go all out when they are on the court. Duncan ended last season 32nd in 8-category leagues, and I have him ending up 33rd in my current ranks. You’ll see in my ranks intro — when I release them — that I advise you to note players I have higher than the rankings of the site on which you’re drafting. Don’t take Duncan around 33 if you’re confident you can get him at 50+, but don’t be scared to grab him a little ahead of his rank on a site either.

Jose Calderon – Knock knock. Who’s there? Jose Calderon. Knock knock. Who’s there? Jose Calderon. Knock knock. Who’s there? Still Jose Calderon.

You know what door that is that Jose continues to knock on? The 8 and 9-category league top 50.

Sure, he’s 32 — face going on 45 — but Jose still has plenty of game in the tank. This offseason he was traded to the New York Knicks where he’ll be the starting point guard running Derek Fisher/Phil Jackson‘s triangle offense. Calderon gets very little attention from fantasy owners these days as he’s about the least “sexy” point guard in the league. Despite not getting the love, he’s remained a consistent source of quality PG stats for seven straight years now.

People will point to his largely declined assist total in his one season with Dallas of 4.7 per game, but that was mostly due to his sharing of the rock with Monta Ellis. The other factor in the assists decline was playing with Dirk Nowitzki. You pass it to Dirk and he does his post-up dance long enough most times that you don’t get credit for an assist when he makes the bucket. Calderon may have dipped in dimes, but he managed a career high in treys at 2.4 per game and still sat right about one steal a game as well. Many believe the assists will stay down because the point guards just don’t seem to rack up many dimes in the triangle offense. But I don’t believe Phil Jackson ever had a PG as good as Calderon for his system in all of his Laker years.

The closest comparison was a 35-year-old Gary Payton who did go from 7+ assists a game to 5.5, but that was with his minutes going from around 40 the previous eight seasons to about 34 in Laker land. Gary was playing with a Monta-esque (but even more so) ball dominater in Kobe Bryant who averaged five APG, and a good passing power forward in Karl Malone who got four APG himself. Jose has always done his damage playing right around 30mpg, so he doesn’t need huge minutes to get it done for his owners.

In New York, I believe Calderon should stay near 30 minutes, maybe get a slight bump to 32ish if anything. Jose has one of the best scorers in the game (Camelo Anthony) on his wing and other shooters at his disposal. If Raymond Felton was able to average 5.5 dimes with this team last season, Calderon should get a minimum of 6.5 in his sleep regardless of the offensive system. I landed my boy Jose in all three of the mocks I’ve partaken in — I got Calderon 80th and 95th(!!) overall in the two H2H 9-category mocks, and I landed him 76th in the 8-category roto mock. I think those are fantastic spots to land a starting PG who can help a fantasy team like Jose can.

Calderon isn’t a big scorer by any means, but he’s one hell of an efficient player on offense. Simply put, he makes teams better on the offensive end. Believe it or not, Jose led the league in 3P% in 2012-13 at 46% hitting 1.8 a game, and he was lethal at 45% this past season (4th best in the NBA). Don’t think the shooting is a fluke though, he was 17th in the league in TS% (true shooting percentage), 5th in eFG% (effective shooting percentage) and 7th in offensive rating in 2013-14. It’s not just recent either, he’s a career 48% shooter from the field — although 45% is more likely what you’ll get this coming season — and 87% from the charity stripe. Calderon is a an even better late mid-round pick in a 9-category league because he’s so good at protecting the ball. In 81 games last season he only committed 103 turnovers.

So let’s recap: great percentages, real good threes, 6+ assists per game (in all likelihood), about 11 PPG, super low turnovers and just shy of a steal a game, and I got this at 80th overall? Yes, please! He’s not going to score you a ton of points but if you rack up points early (as you should) and need a point guard to do the other things, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on “the other” Spanish guard.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below or for quicker reply follow me and hit me up on Twitter @BigZack44

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8 Comments

  1. Jim E
    September 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm — Reply

    Good article, not just the usual headline fluff. Excited to start planning fantasy this season!

    • September 10, 2014 at 5:18 pm — Reply

      Thanks, buddy. Hard to believe the preseason starts in less than a month. Gotta love it.

  2. Jordan Pacheco
    September 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm — Reply

    Nice article. Basically telling people to draft substance instead of style. Numbers win fantasy, not potential. Worth noting those multi category guys and would love to see an article bsaed on the best multi cat guys in the game outside of the obvious.

    • September 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm — Reply

      Appreciate it. I already had a piece like that planned. I am big on getting the lesser known guys who help in the not so acknowledged stats, DeMarre Carroll types.

  3. Marlo
    September 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm — Reply

    awesome article…i’m not sure if i agree with the scrubtastic Lakers comment though.

    • September 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm — Reply

      Thanks for compliment and sorry for the diss to your team, Marlo. There’s worse teams for sure but it’s far from the level of talent that Kobe is used to playing with.

  4. Biko
    September 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm — Reply

    Thoughtful. Looking forward to future articles. Maybe you could write the article fantasy hoop fans everywhere want to read: “2014 [ESPN] Player Rater Ranking v. 2015 Fantasy Draft Ranking” We know what everyone did last year – tell us who is going to perform differently this year and why, so we can draft accordingly.

    BTW — looking for a league…

  5. September 15, 2014 at 5:16 am — Reply

    Yep, great read as always Zack – nice work.

    ‘Name Those Players’ could be a really fun column over the season, could even mesh in some old school players as well to see where current players stack up…

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