Fantasy Basketball

2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: Late Round Breakout Candidates

I’m always slightly dubious about tweener forwards whose game is predicated on athleticism, but Aaron Gordon looks like a player who is driven to become an NBA player, not just an NBA athlete.

From Tyrus Thomas to Michael Beasley through to Derrick Williams and Anthony Bennett, the NBA is littered with more botched picks than successful ones when it comes to high tweener draft picks. The jury is still out on Bennett as he’s still so young, but for the other three players the F listed next to their name doesn’t stand for ‘Forward’, it stands for FAIL.

From all reports both leading into the draft and as the season went along, Gordon is a gym rat and tireless worker. He’s not settling on being a rebounding ‘scrap’ type scorer, he’s expanded his range out to three point level and results spoke for themselves during Summer League.

New Magic coach Scott Skiles saw first-hand how Gordon’s game had already improved at Summer League, commenting that he needs to harness that athleticism and the progress will continue to build.

The Magic could start Channing Frye at the power forward spot, as Skiles has been known to favor veterans at his past NBA stops and Frye would be the only reliable shooter from deep considering Elfrid Payton can’t hit anything outside of a layup.

Gordon’s growth will mesh with the young Magic guards and that might see him land the starting gig on opening night. As always keep an eye on pre-season rotations and also monitor Gordon’s playing time and who he’s on the court with, as that will be a good indication of how Skiles will use him going forward.

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Someone has to start at power forward for the Toronto Raptors, so it might as well be Patrick Patterson.

Despite his fantasy-friendly per-36 numbers it’s highly unlikely to be James Johnson, as he’s more suited to an energy role off the bench. Luis Scola? He’s incredibly durable (just nine games missed in eight seasons, including six full slates), but he’s 35 and an old school banger who’s only so-so at stretching the defense.

Jonas Valanciunas is a load down-low and he needs floor spaces to operate. DeMar DeRozan is many things, but a reliable floor spacer he is not. This is where Patrick Patterson needs to assert himself as yet another stretch four on the seemingly endless production line of new age power forwards with three point range.

Patterson didn’t hit a single three in his first two seasons at Kentucky, but DeMarcus Cousins occupying the lane in his final season all but necessitated he develop and make the shot consistently. In his junior year he knocked down 24-69 from deep, for a 35% conversion rate.

Similar to his collegiate career, his NBA career started out with him making as many three point field goals as I made from 2010-2012: zero.

His lack of athleticism along with limited rebounding ability from the power forward spot (just 7.2 per-36 minutes – less than P.J Tucker for example) has meant he’s changed how he plays. He’s not quite a knockdown three point shooter like Channing Frye or Ryan Anderson – but he’s damn solid, especially from the corners.

The Raptors would be wise to start him and tell him to dial in from deep; last season they were 24-10 when he hit two or more threes and 11-1 when he hit three or more.

He’s definitely worth a late round pick if you’re looking for threes and need a power forward (with additional center eligibility thank you Yahoo), as he never turns the ball over, plus he’s at 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per-36 minutes – which means with increased minutes he’s likely to up those averages.

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I admit it, I drunk the Marcus Smart kool-aid last season.

I thought they’d start Smart right out of the gate and give him big minutes, as I expected – like most – for the Celtics to suck and aim for a low pick play the young guys to see what they had.

It didn’t quite work out that way, but Smart did snatch the starting point guard spot, even with Isaiah Thomas coming in via a trade at the deadline, and he provided enough glimpses of a fan-friendly fantasy game to warrant a flyer late.

Few players at the point guard spot possess his combination of strength, power and temperament. He’s an absolute pit-bull on the defensive end and that physical advantage he has over other point guards will see him rack up elite level rebounds and steals, along with close to half a block which is always useful at the PG spot.

Another stocky, ‘heavy’ point guard with supreme athleticism (in his younger days) was Baron Davis. Like Davis, Smart had issues with shot selection and making his freebies – with both guards attempting just under two free throws a night while knocking them down at below 65% in their first season.

Davis became a fantasy beast for a number of years, working on his outside shot (more like throwing up so many darts that a few hit the mark) and becoming a legit 20-point scorer for around six seasons in his prime. I’m not saying Smart is going to become the next Davis, but he’s already well ahead of the bell-curve in terms of three point shooting, rebounding and taking care of the ball:

Smart’s got his fair share of sceptics among us fantasy nuts – I’m not even sure I’ll use a top 75 pick on him – but I wouldn’t be surprised if playing with more vets (David Lee, Amir Johnson) eases his transition as a full-time starter.

Davis’ sophomore stats don’t seem that far off for Smart projections, but with more threes and less assists as he’s playing with so many ball-handlers.

Note to self: ‘Marcus Smart and the Funky Bunch’ should be one of my fantasy team names this year. Image here.

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The Nets have been flailing around the Eastern Conference playoffs like some expensive yet mediocre kite being flown by a Russian madman. Dramatizations aside, this team needs a new identity and Bojan Bogdanovich should be in that new look.

They have one of the best low post scorers in the league in Brook Lopez, who needs the floor opened up to truly operate to the best of his considerable ability. Thaddeus Young is a nice third or fourth option, because he plays hard and he doesn’t need or expect plays run for him. Young is a horrendous shooter though, as evidenced by his 33.8% mark as a jump-shooter and just 32% from deep.

The backcourt is solid, with dependable travelling point guard Jarrett Jack and ‘wow he’s turning 35 this season!’ Joe Johnson. Lots of starter level talent but none put the fear into anyone and the Jarrett Jack-Joe Johnson duo just doesn’t look long for Brooklyn.

What they lack is some youth and some more outside shooting, as Johnson is the only returning Net to average at least 1.5 threes a game. Could be one of the reasons they placed just 26th in the NBA in three point percentage last year?

Last season Bogdanovich was an ‘older’ rookie at 25 and he’s limited in terms of athleticism and ball-handling ability, which isn’t a good combo in today’s NBA. But he’s big, experienced and he’s under control (cheaply) for the next two seasons, so it’s in the Nets best interest to play him 30+ minutes now.

He had a lousy EuroBasket, shooting just 17% (4-24) from the outside as the Croatian’s failed to gain a berth in next year’s Olympics. In stark contrast to that poor showing was the finish to his rookie season.

Over the team’s last seven games (all as a reserve), Bogey averaged 17.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.7 threes (on an absurd 51% clip) while posting 55% shooting from the field and making 9-10 free throws. The sample size is small, but it shows he adjusted as the season went along and he’s a guy who warrants a serious look at SG or SF late in the draft, or at least the standard post-draft ‘add to watch-list’ move.

Lionel Hollins will let him play, loosening the shackles so he won’t be a bogged down Bogdanovich in the upcoming season.

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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.

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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