2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: ESPN vs Yahoo – Rankings Analysis
Every year fantasy basketball rankings get put out, read, deciphered, flipped through, browsed, debated, loved, praised, hated and then finally thrown away.
This year is no different, as the two heavy hitters in fantasy basketball hosts have both released rankings of hundreds of large athletes under the veil of maths, prompting desk-chair athletes like me to thumb our noses at the ones we deem WRONG!
So here are the 30 most ‘hmmmm…really?‘ worthy ones that I found when perusing both sets of rankings from the two sites.
I get Yahoo’s ‘caution’ with not ranking Grant inside their top 150 200 300 400 500. But #559 for a guy who the Knicks openly like? Derek Fisher played Langston Galloway big minutes and he’s for want of a better choice of words, Langston Galloway. So Grant will play – if not immediately – and that alone warrants a top 150 ranking when you see what both Galloway and the immortal Alexey Shved did when running the triangular ship for the Knicks. Jose Calderon’s there ahead of him and potentially Galloway is too, but Grant’s going to play based on his skill-set alone and the fact Fish has said he isn’t fazed about starting two rookies.
Lawson‘s a tough one to peg, there’s no doubt about it. But come on ESPN – 23rd best player? That’s bush league. James Harden is the point guard there in Houston regardless of what position eligibility he has in fantasy, while Patrick Beverley will punch, claw, dodge, dip, dive, duck, and dodge his way to holding onto that starting gig. I suspect my man Matt Smith is right that the incumbent Beverley remains starter purely because of fit, unless pre-season proves otherwise and Lawson shows he can knock down open shots and play off-ball. I’d rather take him closer to 101 than 23, so we’ll split the difference and suggest around 65-75 seems a good pick for him due to his upside.
I’ve written about Jack the Journeyman at length here, so if you need to be told again that there are very few starter quality fantasy PGs out there after round 7-8, here it is: There are very few starter quality fantasy PGs to be found after round 7-8. Jack is ridiculously overvalued by ESPN at 51, but he’s back-handed by Yahoo in the same regard at 119. Somewhere in the middle seems spot on, so round 6-7 and then you can trade him at his peak or cut him when he gets traded.
There are injury prone players and then there is former MVP Derrick Rose. Everyone knows the history and that he’s a former top 10 guy – but that was many years and surgeries ago. Having been burnt by him last season, I won’t go near him in the first six rounds – which is right about where Yahoo has him. Anyone taking him in the top 50 is either a die-hard Bulls fan or they have a fantasy death-wish. Rose was serviceable in some cats (17.7pts, 3.2reb, 4.9ast, 1.5 threes, 81% FT on 3.7 FTA) but he was abysmal in the others, shooting just 40.5% from the field, 28% from behind the arc and continuing his frustrating trend of providing underwhelming steals, at just 0.7 a night in 30 minutes per game. The split seems fair at around pick 65-75 where reward outweighs risk.
The former fantasy darling David Lee was once a double-double machine, tearing off an 8-year stretch averaging 16pts-10reb-2.6ast and elite percentages. The guy could play but rarely got a chance after Draymond Green took off and never looked back, holding onto the starting PF for the champion Golden State Warriors. Lee is saying and doing the right things so far in Boston – but the same can be said for every NBA player at the moment. There’s room for upside at 112 where Yahoo have him, but not at 65 where ESPN has him pegged.
I’m a Beal-iever. He’s young (22), has a clearly defined role and he’s entering his fourth season, which are all signs pointing towards a career year. His playoff stats are absurd for someone so young, as he thrived with a much larger role due to John Wall’s injury. Paul Pierce sailed away to L.A. and all signs point to Beal stepping up in the clutch and perhaps becoming the Wizards’ leading scorer. In short, ESPN is right, Yahoo is wrong.
The fantasy friendly Frenchman had what can only be deemed an ‘off’ season in 2014-15, but he’s hardly two full rounds worse than Gordon Hayward for example. With MKG’s unfortunate injury, Nicolas Batum will need to get his rebounding numbers back to his peak levels just two seasons ago (7.5 per game). He’s always had his highest value as a secondary ball-handler in the starting unit so it will be interesting seeing his assist numbers for a team featuring Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin and Brian Roberts at PG.
Can they both be wrong? For whatever reason ESPN thinks Dwight Howard is a better option than Kevin Love, Al Horford, Mike Conley and Kyle Korver – and those are just some names on this list! He hasn’t been a top 60 player in 8-cat since 2011-12, so why they feel he’s going to be 50 spots higher than what he was last year is anyone’s guess. Yahoo even has him too high for my liking at 69, as last year he finished the season ranked 90th and then 62nd the year before.
I’ve been vocal on my FANTASY criticism of Wiggins’ game, but you can’t ignore the kid has talent. He also has freakish athleticism, a locked in 35 minutes a night job and ample opportunity to succeed. But, reality doesn’t always translate to fantasy. Wiggins could develop into a 1.0 three plus 1.5 steal per game guy, but he isn’t there yet. Currently his fantasy game is somewhat like DeMar DeRozan, who is not a top 50 guy but nor is he a high-80s guy either, so let’s split the difference and say Wiggins’ value is around 65-75. Feel free to bump him up to the 30-40 range in dynasty or keeper leagues, because odds are he’s going to improve across the board and should be a 20-6-3 guy for many years to come.
Okafor’s first preseason showing was solid, and if he can avoid going to the free throw line for the entire season you’re looking at a top 20 guy! That’s not possible obviously and neither is his ability to not crush your fantasy dreams in the FT% category. Think of him as a Z-Bo-lite option late (after Rd 8-9), who will have his ups and downs, but he’s likely to end up closer to Yahoo’s 106th than he is ESPN’s 82nd. Obviously bump him up into Rd 5-6 for dynasty/keeper leagues, but I need to see him average at least 1+ block a night before he goes any higher.
I’m all in on Gordon Hayward this year. With Dante Exum unfortunately going down and Alec Burks still working his way back into NBA action, Hayward will be leaned upon more for his play-making. It’s not going to be surprising if he puts up a 20-5-5 season as he barely missed it last season (19.3pts 4.9reb 4.1ast). His scoring has increased EVERY season since entering the league and he put up 5.1rebs and 5.2ast in 2013-2014, so he looks primed for a career year and will easily surpass the 41st ranking Yahoo have him at.
Call it semantics as the 19th pick is still generally a great player/pick, but I have a hard time believing Damian Lillard will be available in any draft at pick 19. In the leagues I’ve drafted in, he’s gone 12th twice and 9th twice (including in our ‘Superstars of Fantasy’ league). Lillard will have free reign in Portland and I don’t mind going on record as predicting he has a prime Gilbert Arenas type season of epic PTS, AST, STL, 3PT, FT% production with the accompanying bad FG% and turnover kick to the fantasy crotch.
I have the same approach to John Wall as I do Lillard. Sorry Yahoo, but there is NO WAY WALL WILL BE AVAILABLE AT PICK 21. And if he is, make sure league dues are paid before you rob him from the draft-pool. He’s gone 11th in three of my drafts and inexplicably fell to 18th in another league – which does count turnovers, essentially the only real foil for Wall’s roto friendly game. There’s a 20-10 season looming for Wall and he’s not even in his prime yet, so that’s top 10 talent in my book – again, sorry Yahoo.
I’ll admit, I have a fan-crush on Nerlens Noel after he helped lead Matt and my team to victory in the Fantasy Hoops Insider pod listener league last season, dominating the second half to the tune of 13.1pts, 10.0rebs, 1.9ast, 2.1stl and 2.3blk! With Jahlil Okafor not known as being defensively spry, expect Noel to up his weak-side shot-blocking as he won’t be covering bigger Cs like he did last year. The steals numbers are absurd from the PF/C spot and he actually averaged more than 15 times as many assists as Hassan Whiteside last season. Haha.
Valanciunas just got paid and Dwayne Casey has already talked about playing him more than the paltry 5.1mins he played last year in the fourth quarter. Val’s definitely more roto friendly than H2H, so ESPN having him as the 73rd ranked player seems at least a full round too late. Yahoo putting him in the middle of the 5th round seems about right. Greg Monroe just four spots later might score more points, grab more rebounds and get more assists – but Val has him on toast in the percentages and blocks categories, which are harder to find at that point in the draft.
Say what you will about the Cavs’ big man, there aren’t many players who average 16.4pts, 9.7reb, 2.2ast, 1.9 threes and just 1.8 turnovers with 4 FTA at 83% in a down year! The Cavs will use Kevin Love better because Kyrie Irving will miss time – whether now or later, because he always does, so better to have him take up a larger part of the offense now rather than try to integrate him later on. This whole Tristan Thompson contract nonsense needs to be stopped; he’s a rich man’s JJ Hickson at best with better lateral quickness. In no world would Hickson get the MLE, let alone 3.5 times that which is what Thompson wants. Love may miss some games early on, but not enough for him to slip to the middle of the fourth round like ESPN have him.
Consistently underrated and consistently overlooked, Mike Conley‘s the girl who you work with, drink with, laugh with, then one day think ‘she’s actually kinda hot’ and then you end up marrying her/picking her in the late third round (love you Mike Alyce). ESPN crapped the bed here, there’s no way Conley should be sitting there at 55 behind fantasy options like Kenneth Faried, Dwight Howard, Monta Ellis and Jarrett Friggin Jack. Draft this man closer to Yahoo’s 31st ranking than ESPN’s 55 and lock in consistent production at the PG spot.
Why does this always happen to Kyle Korver? He dominates threes whilst hurting you nowhere. Sure he doesn’t net you a steal (0.7) or a block (0.6) per game, but he finished 35th last season for a good reason – his game is tailor made for roto. ESPN have him too late (75) and Yahoo too early (51), so the smart thing to do is split the difference and target him at around 63. He’s finished top 40 in 9-cat for three straight seasons, he keeps himself in great shape and he’ll likely find his job a little easier playing more SF as he won’t be chasing SGs round all over the court.
Elfrid Payton doesn’t seem to get much love in roto, possibly because cool hair isn’t a roto category yet. Did people not see him average 11.6pts, 5.8reb, 8.9asst, 2.7stl and 0.5blk a game over the last 14 games of 2014-15? For all the fanfare about how bad he shot, during the last month he shot 46% from the field and 73% from the line – hardly numbers that would scare you off his other counting stats. He may never be even a good shooter, but that REB/AST/STL combo at PG is worth of a pick right around the average of 80th.
Old man Dirk really faded last season, so much so he was just the 92nd player over the last 2 months of the season, averaging just 15.4pts, 5.8rebs and a combined 0.9 STL+BLK. You don’t draft him for his defensive stats, but the 44% field goal percentage is brutal when there’s only 1.4 threes and not many rebounds accompanying it. Yahoo’s 38th ranking is closer to his age than where he’ll finish; advantage ESPN.
This guy is no stranger to my fan-crush, having been featured in more than a handful of my pieces over the last 12 months. His combination of everything roto makes him a bargain at 84, but is 54 slightly early for him? I think it is for a regular draft, until we see what the Mayor plans to do with his starting line-up. Nikola Mirotic is a great top 40 guy for dynasty and keeper leagues, as he’s young enough to stick on your team for the next 4-5 years but he’s also polished enough if you’re in win-now mode.
Aminu is another player going into the season with momentum from a very strong playoff run. I talked him up and unfortunately some of my 4 friends clearly read the piece, as he’s only on one of my teams. If you’re looking for a potential 10pt – 8reb – 1.6stl – 0.9blk guy to shore up your rebounding and defensive stats, look earlier than ESPN’s 135th ranking. 100 seems about right, but if you need a SF/PF and the aforementioned stats, you could reach for him anywhere after 85.
Big Al Horford, the big, quiet roto beast. Contract year + larger role with the loss of DeMarre Carroll = bigger numbers? Not so fast. I’m not going near Horford in the first round and unless all of my other PF/C targets are somehow gone in the second, I’m not taking him there either. In my drafts he’s gone 14th, 23rd, 24th and then in the SSOF 29th. That’s enough for me to say that Yahoo are dreaming – but in the same vein so are ESPN at a ridiculous 49! The thing that gets me is that ESPN’s projections are 90% the same as last season, where Horford was a top 30 player in all formats (top 20 in 8-cat).
A move to the desert won’t drop Chandler out of the top 75. Has anyone seen my Suns play? We suck at finishing round the rim and our guards are good penetrators. That to me means even if he does drop his minutes slightly with a more than capable back-up behind him (Alex Len), he’s still a near lock to repeat his last three seasons’ collective averages: 9.9pts, 10.7reb, 1.0ast, 1.2blk, 1.3t/o and 64/69 splits. The FT% is the only concern, but he’s at 70% over the last five seasons which is easily manageable.
I’m not sure what either Yahoo or ESPN are thinking. Is Marcin Gortat the 44th best option in fantasy? Probably not – but he was 45th last season overall and 26th over the last 2 months (13.4pts 9.9reb 1.4ast 0.8stl 1.4blk with 62/70 splits). ESPN are plain wrong in thinking he’s only the 88th best player in fantasy. I know who I’m taking out of Z-Bo (76), Thad Young (79) and Wes Matthews (80) if Gortat’s still there – so the split of 66th seems spot on.
The contract year guru is much like Gortat – overrated by one, underrated by another. Ariza has been top 40 the last two seasons and his role is clear and defined on the Rockets and he hasn’t had any injuries – so why are ESPN fan-shafting him with a ranking of 89th? He’s not the 42nd ranked player either, not with that 41% shooting from the field and 75% from the line over the past six seasons. I have him just behind that SF tier which features Chandler Parsons and Tobias Harris level, around where Khris Middleton and Danilo Gallinari are. Yahoo wins this if only because Ariza is more likely to finish 42nd than he is 89th.
Here’s another SF who seems to have split fantasy pundits when doing their rankings. DeMarre Carroll has dropped in two drafts I’ve been in – all the way to 75th in one and 91st in another. He went 66th in one other league and then 90th in the SSOL draft. I guess we’re not buying the crazy playoff run he had or the expanded role in TOR which could include 10-12mins a night as a stretch 4? Count me in that boat of not trusting him – but if he’s there at 104 there’s something wrong. Averaging out Yahoo’s 52 and ESPN’s 104 and we get an average of 78, which seems fine by me as there’s only upside at that point.
I’m not a Leonard fan-boy by any means, but the minutes will be there for him and he showed in his first preseason hit-out that he can and will shoot the long-ball. That’s enough for me to nudge him from outside the top 150 (ESPN) into the top 125 or so, as Yahoo have him ranked too high at 99. He didn’t qualify but the athletic big man shot 50-40-90 last season. Don’t expect that, but don’t be surprised if he starts at either PF or C and puts up 12-7 with 1.5 threes per night and elite percentages, which is essentially what he did over the last six games of the regular season.
Danny Green is like that mountain bike at the back of your garage. Sure he’s a bit rough round the edges as he’s been left out overnight (waived) a few times so there’s a bit of rust (43.6% FG) and the suspension (REB or AST) isn’t quite what you’d like from a mountain bike (SG). But the gears (3PT) go great and the frame and seat (STL and BLK) show no signs of wear or tear, so you’re very comfortable trotting him out every day cos you know what you’re getting. Oh yeah the rankings – Yahoo at 53 seems a tiny bit early, but ESPN are destined for a puncture at 114.
Kosta Koufos won’t kosta lot on draft day – which is a good thing. He showed he could be a serviceable stream guy playing under George Karl just three seasons ago, starting X games for the Denver Nuggets. The stats weren’t what you’d hope for from a starting C but he’s grown as a player and now appears to have a leg up on Willie Cauley-Stein for the other starting front-court spot next to DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Draft him late – just not ESPN late – which is 310th, exactly two spots behind whoever Tadija Dragicevic is and five behind another immortal, Michael Beasley.
Hey, the two fantasy monsters did agree on these 11 players at least, including the order of the top four and of course Zaza as the consensus 150th best player in fantasy, which is Pachulia to say the least!
As always we welcome your questions and feedback, so feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@macetastic) and I’ll do my best to reply to any comments.