With the full 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Rankings now complete, let’s take a look at the top 50. Through the top 20, we’ve already had 6 PGs taken off the board, but your third round is going to be more littered with 1s than Neo’s kung-fu program! If you don’t have a PG through your first three rounds, you may as well turn into Brendan Fraser and live for 30 years with your dad Christopher Walken. Or just scream in your draft lobby chat “WILLLLSSSOONNNNNN!” …because you’ve been left behind, not because you’re drafting Wilson Chandler… “It’s not funny if you have to explain your joke, JB!” Fine! Probably the biggest change from the Way too Early Ranks is the catastrophic Isaiah Thomas falloff moving to Phoenix. While he’s not in the top 50, I still think he’ll be a value. More on that later! Here’s my top 50 for the 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Season (based on 9-cat H2H):
21. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers – I’ve got no concrete! I imagine that sold as a bumper sticker at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We’ve never seen a PG of Irving’s caliber play with LeBron James, so seeing Irving finish at this value is just a theory! “There’s a ton of theories that didn’t pan out… lone gunman… communism… geometry…” With Kevin Love also joining The Drew Carey Show, there’s no reason to not suspect (double negative police!) Irving get all saucy with his ratios. His FG% has fallen significantly in each of his first three seasons, but he has steadily improved his AST:TO to 6.1:2.7 last year. I see Kyrie taking a few less treys, pumping up that FG% to 47-48, and maybe a 7:2 AST:TO. Of course that means a good amount of rock in his hands. Man the Cavs are gonna be a tough team.
22. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs – I want to rank him top 20 so baddddddd! I wanna be hotter for Kawhi than I am for the AT&T manager chick! But unfortunately for us, the crypt keeper is coming back (I’ll let you decide if that’s Pop or Tim Duncan), and that means more maddening rotations than if you had vertigo and watched a hyperkentic porno. Last year was… interesting. Kawhi started a little slow, broke his hand, then finished strong. Sounds like a good porno to me! Maybe I’m too low, especially with Kawhi’s per game at 15th overall in his 66 games, but I see Pop’s rotations being maddening. Maddening as in turducken-ing. That makes no sense. I love Kawhi’s all-around game and he’s one of my favorite players to watch, but I just can’t bring myself to grab him top-20.
23. Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics - Want to hear a stat so frightening, so nauseating, you might vomit on your keyboard or mobile device like an Exorcist? Rondo finished 141st in per-game value last year. Buzz’s girlfriend, woof! A career-worst FG% at 40.3% (a lot due to his attempt at expanding the perimeter game at 0.9-3.0 a game) and career-worst steals output sunk his value. Plus it didn’t help he was limited to 33 minutes a game after being well over 36 the previous 4 years. The Celtics are in complete rebuild, Brad Stevens is trying his hardest to have Pop-like rotations, so there is risk. But I see him getting the FG% back up a tad while still getting the newly incorporated trey a game, and back up to close to 11 dimes.
24. Kyle Lowry - Toronto Raptors - Talk about a 180 JB! And no, that’s not the number of games Lowry has missed in his career… Lowry (and, well, Jonas Valanciunas – damn the Raptors!) was pretty much the guy I was most wrong about last year – I ranked him low, constantly labeled him a sell-high due to injury concerns, and he was a better Lowry than Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys. So here’s to hoping he doesn’t turn into Bad Boys 2! Finished 17th last year in per-game, and all the way up to 12 last year in total value with a career high in dimes, and obliterated his previous best in treys up to 2.4 a game. Sure a lot had to do with a minutes increase to over 36 a game, but he got through 79 games and even though the injury risk is still there, I’m happy to draft him at the 2/3 turnaround in 12ers.
25. Ty Lawson - Denver Nuggets - When you look at the overall rank (finished 43rd last year in per-game), it’s not too impressive. It’s actually kinda funky. Smells Huge something like a brown bag of french fries you forgot you left in your bookbag for a month (true story!). His final slash of 17.6/3.5/8.8/1.6/0.2 screams “more dimebags than a Denver dispensary!” to me. The cold water was a 43% FG rate and 1.2 treys with a career-high 3.2 TOs a game. If you’re drafting Lawson here, you probably went big/big to start your draft, and you can handle the TOs. I’ve got no problem with Lawson as my main dimer.
26. Michael Carter-Williams – Philadelphia 76ers - Whoa, someone has some sophomore great expectations! I love him with all of my Dickens! It was obviously an up-and-down season for the inconsistent prospect, with that near quadruple double in his debut (22/7/12/9) but finishing the season 96th in total value. Despite a nasty slash, 40.5 FG% and 3.5 TOs a game aren’t gonna cut it. But did I mention a nasty slash yet?! 16.7/6.2/6.3/1.9/0.6 – those kind of boards and blocks from your PG?! Like Lawson, if you’re getting MCW here you’re more likely to be without a PG and I think you can handle the TOs with quality bigs. And despite a horrific fall in perimeter shooting pre-to-post ASB from 29.1% to 20.9%, his overall FG% improved from 39.6% to 41.9%. He got a little more efficient from the field, an NBA season is now under his belt, he’s got upside for a sexier multi-cat line than Nicole Kidman scenes in Eyes Wide Shut.
27. Nicolas Batum – Portland Trailblazers – Batum had a really, really weird 13-14. I was lower on him than most – citing his offensive deficiencies with the wrist issues – and he ended up with fewer PPG and under 1/1 steals/blocks after doing it the previous two seasons. It was the Blazers around him that syphoned off a little goodness, but even so he played 82 games and destroyed his previous rebounding high getting up to 7.5 boards. Wait, like I mentioned with LaMarcus Aldridge, another Blazer had a huge spike in boards?! Told you Robin Lopez is a worthless flatfoot! I expect a virtually identical 14-15.
28. Chris Bosh – Miami Heat – One of fantasy’s most unheralded, most reliable, most Brontosaurus-like options, with BronBron now a Cleveland Steamer, Bosh is the alpha-dog. Now, I don’t expect him to rekindle those Raptor days, but back-to-back top 20 overall value these past two seasons surprises even the Bosh optimist in me! 18th overall last year – 79 games played sure helped – and a 16.2/6.6/1.1/1/1 slash had him in the rarefied air of a 1+ 5-catter. His shots should go back up to 15 a game after only 12 the past two years, and the increase to 0.9 treys a game last year should have him one of the best 9-cat players in the game. While nothing will stick out too remarkably, he’ll be a steadying force on your front line.
29. Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic – Last year I had Vucevic pretty close to the masses, and I see no reason to rank him differently this year. But everyone else seems to! Literally nothing changed in his game, except he lost a minute and a half and gained 8% on his FT shooting (given a pretty low volume). “Wait, so there were changes, you used literally wrong!” Thanks, David Cross… And the MPG were actually skewed with two games under 10 minutes due to an ankle sprain and an ejection. He still finished 37th overall in per-game, with the only glaring hole a lack of treys. He could very easily join Bosh as a 1+ 5-catter. Which I’m going to use often as a phrase now…
30. Ricky Rubio – Minnesota Timberwolves – “Oh great, here we go with JB and his Rubio infatuation…” DEAL WITH IT! Hah. Last season was mas frio. Was muy mal. I thought he would be able to slightly expand his game and shoot over 40%. Instead, he didn’t score 10 points a game and shot 38.1%. Womp womp! But I threw those stats on the ground! Get your checklist ready, I have a lot to like: 1 – played 82 games/healthy, 2 – the FG% doesn’t hurt so bad since the volume is low, 3 – career-high dimes in 13-14 with career low TOs, 4 – mmmmm baby gimme dem steals! 5 – it’s fun to type some of the 20 Spanish words I know! With this rank, once again Rubio will be on a lot of my teams, and I’m fine with it.
31. Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies – Conley is like the anti-Rubio. A much better scorer, pretty efficient for a perimeter shooter, but at the expense of some dimes and a steal. If I have both Conley and Rubio available, a lot depends on my roster construction up to that point, but in a vacuum, I’m swinging for Rubio’s fences with his category killing. Wait, this is about Conley! I honestly have very little analysis other than back-to-back 2.2 steals per season in 11-13, it fell to 1.5 last year. I expect that’s a little flukish, so pencil in closer to two steals if you land the Memphis MC.
32. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies - Anybody who ranked Gasol top-10 last year should be downright embarrassed… Anyway, now that that’s done, we’re a year later and I have a feeling I have to defend a higher-than-ADP Gasol rank yet again… A knee injury snipped off 23 games, and despite a 44th overall per-game value, he finished 19th in total value over the final two months. The Grizzlies started anemically slow in the Joerger reign, and I think Gasol coming off a pretty bad injury with the MCL strain and finishing strong is really encouraging for a big 7+ footer. He’s said he feels strong and is playing without the brace (well, what else would a player say?), and even though the dimes went down after that huge 12-13 season, 3.6 from a big is a huge out-of-position addition. Another guy with an underrated 1+ 5-catter season, he’s going to do it again this year.
33. Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls – “Did JB just make an out-of-position assists argument for Gasol, then rank Noah lower? Razzball can S a D real Q!” Yes, yes, yes – Noah won’t be on any of my teams. Mostly because I want to avoid his screen shot when I look at his player page… Kidding! Given Noah had some big assists games pre-Derrick Rose injury, Noah had 5.7 dimes post-Rose with 3.5 before. He’ll still be a 1+ 5-catter, but even with 80 games played last year, the health scares me as well – he’s recovering off-season knee surgery too. I just see last season as the career-year, and I won’t be grabbing him.
34. Rudy Gay – Sacramento Kings - It seems like every year Gay is a top 50ish player and no one is interested in drafting him… I literally just yawned writing that sentence. After a little bit of a rough start in 2013 with the Raptors (shooting under 40% with 3.3 TOs), Gay vastly improved his FG% (48.2%) and cut down on the TOs by a smidge. Gay is a big roster construction consideration as we’re starting to hit the middle rounds – if you’ve got one of the high-TO PGs or James Harden, Gay is an easy pass. He and teammate DeMarcus Cousins should be called the TO bros. since Sacramento’s frontcourt has worse butterfingers than Wes Welker in a Patriots uniform! Even though he’s traded, like, every season, he’s been pretty durable the past two seasons and is safe for what he is.
35. Victor Oladipo – Orlando Magic – Let’s say if you grab Gay too, avoid Oladipo even more! RainbOladipo’s TO rate was horrific, and his role shuffled more than Houdini’s deck of cards, but he showed me enough to reach for him this year. His slash as a starter in 44 games was pretty nasty at 14.7/4.6/4.5/1.9/0.5, and after watching a few of his pinnacles last year, I have a feeling a big breakout is coming. Aaron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson are both gone, giving Oladipo the driver’s seat in the Magic offense. He’s lost 20 pounds too, so it’s leaving a lot less of a buttprint. It might be bumpy sophomore campaign, but I’m sold on drafting RainbOladipo on virtually all of my teams.
36. Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons – Takeaways from last year – the Luminescent Lithuanian was a horrible call, Ricky Rubio top-20 was absurd, and I took a whole friggin’ season to buy into Drummond. FINE! I’m buying now! That said, I could see his ADP being a little higher. A ridiculous 13-14 averaging a 13/13 dubdub a night, the 13.5/13.2/0.4/1.2/1.6 slash was fantasy-championship worthy, especially the swipes from your big. The horrific FT% is obviously a bugaboo, but the volume was so low last year (1.7-4 a game), that it didn’t kill you. My concerns – opposing teams get a little more aggressive and hack-a-Drummond, and the absolute zero you get in dimes. Sure you’re not drafting bigs for dimes, but it’s overlooked, especially if you’re not a top-tier diming team.
37. Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans – Is it weird that typing Pelicans STILL feels funky? Well, it might be weirder that such a Jrue hater is so bold on him this season… The fact he’s still recovering from shin surgery is a little scary, dare I say Pelicans mascot-scary, but in his first 34 games as a Pelican before the leg injury, he was right at 8 dimes again like 12-13 on the Sixers while cutting out more than half a TO. You know me and AST:TO, if that’s trending the right way, I’m making them breakfast in the morning! Also, when you’re looking at small samples of a guy changing teams, I love seeing month-to-month improvements, and after a decent November, his December slash was an unreal 16.3/4.6/9/1.4/0.4. Then in 5 January games he fell apart, probably starting to feel the stress fracture. It’s all small sampling and you can twist and turn stats to mean whatever you want, but with Anthony Davis turning into an elite player, Ryan Anderson hopefully back and healthy to kick out for treys, and Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon both fairly adept offensive options, the Pelicans actually have a pretty enticing offense. I’m not a huge fan of the latter 3 individually for fantasy, but Holiday leading the flock I think will have a pretty surprising season.
38. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets - This is another JB perception flip-flop! I was well below his ADP last year, and was proven right with a 60th overall finish in per-game value. “Then how the hell you gonna rank him more than 10 spots higher this year?!” Well, first off is that AST:TO juice I love to squeeze, with Kemba going from 5.7:2.4 to 6.1:2.3 last year. It’s marginal, but daddy like! Then after 2 steals a game in 12-13, he fell all the way down to 1.2 last season. A lot of that decline, along with a 35.7% FG% post-ASB, I think had to do with a bad left ankle sprain in late-January that led to a left Achilles issue and a groin strain in April. I don’t know if it was the left side of his groin, OK?! While I don’t see him scoring quite 17.7 a game this year, I think the percentages improve, and we see another step forward in AST:TO and close to 2 steals per.
39. Monta Ellis – Dallas Mavericks – Ellis is the SG form of Rudy Gay. Nothing too spectacular, can hit almost all the cats (expect blocks), excels in scoring, and is a turnover machine. The move to Dallas resurrected his FG shooting to over 45% for the first time since 10-11, and I’m thin on anaylsis other than feeling good he replicates what he did last year. He’s a low-ceiling, high-floor example to the max, and with that safety – along with Dallas’ downgrade at PG which should help his dimes and touches – I think is worth me probably being a couple picks ahead of his ADP.
40. Chandler Parsons – Dallas Mavericks – Who doesn’t love them some Chandler Parsons?! Even Mark Cuban has been sucked into the fever… I feel like Parsons is guy universally loved in the fantasy community, with his true 9-cat contribution. He finished 35th in overall value last year, and should have a comparable season moving to Dallas. I’m contemplating moving him up while I’m writing this, but for now he stays at 40 – there’s still a ball-hogging SG (see one player above), an even more offensively-inclined C (well Dirk is a PF I guess, but ya know), so I don’t see the move encouraging – more lateral. Very excited to see him in Big D and the Mavs should be a really fun team to watch.
41. Derrick Favors – Utah Jazz – Criminal! Criminal, criminal, criminally underrated. If you’ve read this far, then you know I love my 1+ 5-catters. But what really does it for me is his underrated post-game efficiency. Shot 52.2% last year, but on the horrific Jazz, he was creating a lot of his own shots. It wasn’t lobs from Chris Paul to DeAndre, OK?! Favors had never taken more than 7.5 shots a game before expanding into a starting role last year, and ended up at 5.3-10.2. At only 30:09 MPG, I see Favors expanding into the 33-34 minute range, boosting those boards to 10, the blocks close to 2, and an all-around surprising season. Well, not surprising for me!
42. DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers – Love the huge blocks. Love the FG%. Love the big boards. Love the minutes and durability. But he got trimmed down almost 3 minutes a game post-ASB, and unlike my hesitation with Drummond, teams know to hack a ‘Dre. I don’t like a guy that has to be subbed out for FT reasons, and even though his mammoth dunks and athleticism are great to watch, I think if you own Jordan – the FT% drain is going to hit you in overall value both directly and indirectly – right in the Ballmers.
43. Jabari Parker – Milwaukee Bucks - Uh oh! I expect the hate mail to start flooding in! And I’m a Chapel Hill fan too! Parker’s a rookie, I get it. The Bucks suck, I get that more. But I’ve just got a feeling that Parker’s actually going to be pretty consistent in the counting stats, be a 1+ 5-catter, and be a sneaky multi-cat value when it’s all said and done. Caffeine-free Kawhi! Sure the TOs look rough in Summer League, and dude is still only a 1-and-doner, but there’s no reason for the Bucks to not let him run wild as they rebuild. I know Kidd had some annoying frontcourt rotations last year, but I think more had to do with Kevin Garnett being old than not featuring Mason Plumlee. I’m really excited for Parker, and obviously the rookie I’m reaching for.
44. Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns - Uh oh! I expect even more hate mail for this one! Look, I love Bledsoe. He’s friggin’ awesome to watch, and I hope after this contract dispute with the Suns he can get a franchise role. Quick, without looking, where do you think Bledsoe was in per-game last year? Got a guess? He was all the way down at 52nd! Sure a lot had to do with 3.3 TOs a game, but I think a lot of people saw him getting close to a block a game as a starter which didn’t work out, and the steals didn’t jump up with the minutes increase moving from LA either. He’s a really good player, boards well, chips in dimes and a trey, but the injury concerns after the meniscus last year and the relationship with the front office scares me. Plus I think Bledsoe/Dragic & IT2/Dragic both work a lot better than Bledsoe/IT2, so I could see him closer to 30 minutes per than the 33 we saw last year. I know he’s going to want to rack up the stats in a contract year, but I think he gets the money regardless if he stays healthy. Best way to do that is to accept the role in the 3-headed G monster.
45. Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers - Oh man, I’m so excited to bring back guess the Kobe line! Pretty much the only reason I’m happy Kobe is healthy, sorry Lakers fans… I’m just kiddin’, Kobe is a legend, and hopefully his last hurrah goes beter [sic - wait, can you sic yourself?] than Jeter’s. I have a feeling his ADP will be closer to the 30s, but he’ll have some wildly variant rankings depending on the injury concerns of the ranker. I’m boring ol’ middle-of-the-pack I’m guessing. Upside is obviously tremendous, downside is obviously you get nothing. But to shore up SG with 25/5/5 upside this late would be impossible to pass.
46. Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls - Back-to-back injury risks, huzzah! Well, three in a row if you count Bledsoe. Like Kobe, we all know the upside, and we all know another knee could blow out. While younger than Kobe, I’d agrue Rose probably doesn’t have the without the same explosiveness in the knees. There’s no way I see the dimes getting back into the 7 range, and the TOs are brutal. Rose and Kobe are really similar coming into draft day, with Rose I’m guessing a good bit higher in ADP. I won’t be taking the plunge.
47. Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets - Four in a row with injury concerns! You might as well plan to have your 4th or 5th round pick injured most of the year at this rate… BroLo had his foot go all yoyo (?), but pre-injury he was actually crushing it with 12th overall per-game output. Elite %s, 20 points and 2 blocks a game… Yeah you might be frustrated at the boards, but the upside is still there. But all it takes is another clownfoot to slip on another banana peel and all the sudden the only useful Lopez is out again…
48. Wesley Matthews – Portland Trailblazers - Slim hates it! I know he does! But I’m not sure why… Finished right at this spot in per-game last year at 49th overall, and despite amping up his FGA back to 10-11 levels, also improved his FG% including nearly 40% from deep making 2.5 treys a game. What really gets it done is the microscopic TOs at 1.3 a game. Matthews is a perfect compliment to a high-TO PG who doesn’t make treys if you grabbed say Rubio or Wall earlier in the draft. And other than missing 13 games in 12-13 with an ankle sprain, dude has played in every other game in his 5-year career. So much safety and consistency that he deserves a top-50.
49. Pau Gasol – Chicago Bulls - Who wouldn’t like a change from scenery after that atrocious year for the Purp n’ Gold? But despite injuries, a scary case of vertigo, and the Lakers helmed by the worst coach this side of Larry Drew, Gasol was still a 48th overall per-game player in 13-14, and I think he’s still got enough in the tank. Gasol and Noah make for one of the best passing interiors in the game, plus with Derrick Rose slashing and dishing, there should be no reason to expect his FG% to climb back over 52% like we saw 3-4 years ago. A handful of out-of-position dimes will trickle in, a block and a half as well – I’d be happy if Gasol fell to me at the end of the 4th in 12ers.
50. Gordon Hayward – Utah Jazz - Mr. Irrelevant! Wait, I’ve still got 150 more ranks to go?! Fine, I guess he can go back to being Mr. Labradoodle… Despite a career season in virtually all categories (securing him a big contract), the percentages were atrocious. Even with an increased role, and henceforth increased shots and better competition as a full-time starter, Hayward’s FG% has dropped precipitously every year in the NBA. He barely cracked 30% from deep in 13-14, and 2.8 TOs were no bueno. Dante Exum isn’t exactly a polished guy, and Trey Burke is still a big question mark, so rough percentages and TOs will be fair game. “Why is JB saying all these bad things about a top-50 player!” Mostly it’s a preemptive reasoning for Slim, who loves him some Hayward. His all-around game is worth a top-50 pick, but I prefer the safety of Matthews or the upside of Kobe for my fantasy 2.
Thoughs on the ranks so far? Who’ve you got the biggest qualms with? Shoot your awesome comments below, and happy off-season prep!