Happy draft lottery, Cleveland-ites! Is having another 1st overall pick enough to lure LeBron back?! I think chances of that are as good as Anthony Bennett turning out to be a good player…
And now to the fun stuff… Figuring out where to rank the volatile middle-tier guys. As Paris Hilton once said, “Studs are studs! Except for when they’re busts!” Wow, awful. Needed to get some shock value in here – that was my proverbial watermelon mallet.
After the top 20, things get pretty tricky this early in the offseason. And until a good bit after the NBA Draft, 50 is as high as we’re gonna go. The draft class is loaded, and several should proliferate into the top 100, with a few even top 50 guys in the right situation. Then free agency, old guys retiring, all that hooblah. But if you’re thinking ahead to some dynasties or formulating some early fantasy draft strategies, here’s my way too early Top 50 for the 2014-15 Fantasy Basketball Season (spoiler alert: still no Jonas Valanciunas):
21. Kawhi Leonard – Kawhiiiiiii! Weee, Weee, Weeeeeee! Kawhi is going to move into the top 20 depending on Spurs retirement plans and how the rest of the playoffs shake out. Regardless, he finished 29th overall in total value in only 66 games, despite a [John] maddening start then a broken hand. The injury was a little flukey and he was otherwise a workhorse. I briefly typoed “workhore” which is kinda an awesome word. Oh, and Kawhi was 15th in per-game value. If you weren’t on the wagon with me.
22. Kyrie Irving – Get ready for it! Buckle your seatbelt! Strap down the cargo! Be sure you’re wearing an adult diaper! Are you ready?! It’s time for the ridiculous run on PGs! And I didn’t even mean to do this, not trying to be funny or trendy or lazy (well maybe a little – it’s early offseason!), but all these next 9 PGs are all so narrowly close that it’s an absolute third round frenzy! I think Kyrie is the obvious pick to lead the pack. Slim has him as a top 20 guy, other ranks do as well, but his inconsistency last year was a bugaboo. And he finally looked like he was gonna get through a whole season, but he flexed his guns too hard and missed time with a biceps issue. The 71 games last year were a career-high after not topping 60 his first two, and that’s scurry enough for me not to reach. Not to mention he shot under 36% from deep, the assists have only gone up all three years because of minute increases… I dunno, the Cavs are in disarray, so I can’t take him higher. But too much upside to not be the frontrunner to my PG run, and things will get even more rose-colored glasses if they don’t screw up the #1 pick. I think they have to go Andrew Wiggins as he fits a need. They’ve screwed up first picks in the past though, watch them reach for… James Michael McAdoo or some scrub… Hah!
23. Goran Dragic – Contestant number two! Last year was a career year. We all know that, and sometimes you hear “don’t pay for the career year.” I’d like to put it in whoever said that’s ear! Um, yea. So he shot over 50%, I don’t think he can do that again, but man, high 40s from a PG?! I don’t think he scores over 20 again, and there’s the big red flag that Dragic scored the best AND shot the best FG% in Jan and Feb while Bledsoe was out. But I’m a Hornacek believer, I think he and Bledsoe are going to run some nasty game, and he comes really close to duplicating next year’s numbers with some safety. Last year he was 25 overall in 76 games, with the missed games early on with some fluke things.
24. Rajon Rondo – Wanna hear something scary? In per-game value – not overall – Rondo ranked at 141 according to Basketball Monster. Yikes! In 30 games returning from the ACL, Rondo shot a career-worst 40.3 and tried to establish a perimeter game with horrific results – going 0.9-3.0 a game for 29%. The dimes were there, almost 10 a game in fewer minutes than Rondo’s usual pre-injury, but that’s about it. Then you throw in the uncertainty if he gets moved. All that said, he’s just such a good player that he deserves a third round pick.
25. Kyle Lowry – Aherm. Cough. Shrug. Look away in shame… I didn’t like Lowry much last year with the injury history, and he put together a ridiculous career year. And not only that, played 36:13 a game – over 2 minutes more than a career-high – for 79 games. [Conan O’Brien voice] “What in the world!?” I’ll be buying this upcoming season and sacrificing many live animals to the fantasy gods. By live animals, I mean the crabs in Slim’s beard. Career best 2.4 treys on top of the 7.4 dimes and 1.5 steals and 4.0 FTM a game at 81%!? That’s no ThrAGNOF that’s JBwannagottahaveaNOF. That makes no sense. Moving on….
26. Isaiah Thomas – The pizza guy! Oh how I love IT2. Which is ironic, because I’m 6’7 and usually hate short players. When I play pick up, they run so fast and squirrelly I can’t block them every time! Frustrating. Despite coming off the pine for the first handful of games with Greivis Vasquez getting the starting nod in a horrible choice, IT2 had a brilliant season – one that I bought all-in on when Vasquez was shipped off. The only concern is the mumblings we heard when the season ended that Sacramento wasn’t fully invested. I don’t know what that really means (trade chip?), but is a concern to track during the offseason.
27. Eric Bledsoe – In short, Bledsoe was the man last year. For half the year. The injuries and balky knee scare me a bit, but if you guaranteed me 82 games, he’d be above Kyrie. Shot a career-high FG% despite the jump to starter’s minutes, and was fantastic when healthy. The only thing we didn’t see was the out-of-position blocks he taunted us with in previous years, but that’s a minor quibble (the “quibble” word of the day is back!).
28. Ricky Rubio – Uh oh. JB is going all crazy again for Rubio. Hide the children!!! Last year was… a disappointment. I put Rubio at 18 I think, it didn’t pan out, but at least he wasn’t a monumental bust. In fact, you’d be shocked where he finished – 33 overall on Basketball Monster. “Say what?!” Yup, you heard that right hating commenter! Sure playing 82 games helps, but hey – he healthy! The points and FG% didn’t come around, but he had a career-high 8.6 dimes, and as Slim would say, “Mmmmmm steals!” If Kevin Love gets moved, which looks more likely than it did last week, Rubio just has to be a better scorer. He just has to. I’m willing it win my mind! Open your mind to me! Quaaaaiiiiiddddd!
29. Ty Lawson – This is a really boring rank. Go ahead and yawn. I won’t roll my eyes. Lawson was “meh” last year, only 43 in per-game value, but it felt like he was doing great early on. Actually, he was about as good down the stretch battling some nagging injuries, just hitting other stats like 3PT% and Stls a little harder post-ASB. My main concern is he’s a former UNC PG who can look a little heavy at times… If you know what I mean… And I’m a Chapel Hill fan!
30. Michael Carter-Williams – Whoaaaaaaaaaaaa! Well, this won’t look so crazy as we near drafts. In per-game, MCW was still only 96. OK, now I’m kinda freaking myself out, but I don’t wanna move him! Too much upside. Remember when the fantasy universe nearly imploded on his near quadruple-double in his debut?! 22/7/12/9/0 in a Heat loss. Trade him to the Pacers to close out this series! He’ll obviously need to improve on the 40.5 FG% and 3.5 TOs, but hey, he was a rookie on a historically bad team. Not that I see the Sixers being much better, but I think he turns in a really successful year.
31. Nicolas Batum - Thank god! JB is done with all these friggin’ PGs! Last year I got flack for not ranking Batum higher, and I was correct-a-mundo! He finished 24th overall on my 21 rank I think it was, but since he played 82 games, he was 36th in per-game. Do I think he’s a good NBA player? Abso-toot-ly! I don’t know why I just said abso-toot-ly, but yes. Drops in virtually all stats, except better FG% and a huge spike in career-best boards. Reason? Damian Lillard was solid again and Wesley Matthews (below) stayed hot all year. Plus LaMarcus Aldridge was a beast again. Batum is a great utility fit, but not a guy to reach for.
32. Marc Gasol – Gulp. I promise I didn’t have him as a first-rounder last year! I promise! Don’t fact check that! Regardless, he was still 43 in per-game while adjusting to a new regime. He was getting it together before his MCL injury, then after easing back in, ended strong. The final result was a disappointment, but just barely was below what he did in 12-13 and he’s still only 29. I think the multi-faceted center will be a value here once again.
33. Mike Conley – I should move him up two so he can extend my PG run! Finishing last year 37th overall, Conley is as durable as they come. Sure he missed 8 last year with an ankle sprain, but before that missed all of 9 games in the previous 5 seasons. Somebody get me his conditioning coach! I got injured just finishing these ranks! Career-high scoring and career-high treys for Conley last year, but assists have marginally fallen the past three seasons and he had a big dropoff in steals from 2.2/per in both 11-12 and 12-13 to only 1.5 in 13-14. He’s still a quality player, but don’t let his improving offense cloud you too much.
34. Nikola Vucevic – Vucevic will probably be on a lot of my teams next year. Last season was a disappointment, marred with 25 missed games to injury. But despite losing a minute and a half off his MPG, he was still 37th in per-game value with a vastly improved FT%, added a point a game, and other per-36 numbers very close to 12-13. He can fill up the rainbow lines, and I think has a very legit shot at something like 16/12/2/1.5/1.5. He’ll need to stay healthy, but I really like what I see every Magic game I painstakingly have to watch…
35. Joakim Noah – I think this will get some hate mail! No doubt, Noah was an absolute monster last year. During the second half, it felt like he flirted with or got trip-dubs every night, leading to a 13th overall finish. But a lot is going to change in CHI town. The main thing is the kiss of the Rose, who will be ball-hoggin’ it like a Kardashian. The big value to Noah last year was the out-of-position assists, which never topped 2.5 since the past two seasons with basically no Rose. He could be under 3 there, the FG% has dipped the past few seasons (in barely more attempts), the blocks fell a tad, and the Bulls could land a huge offensive threat in the off-season to even further separate Noah from the ball. Then there’s the nagging injuries that seem to always pop up. For a big guy with all that mileage, I could see the Bulls cutting his minutes a good bit especially if Rose stays healthy and they play well. Noah put the team on his back the past two years, and that weight scares me for 14-15. Probably avoiding given this rank.
36. Chris Bosh – There could obviously be some changes if LeBron for some reason takes his talents elsewhere and Bosh exersizes his option. But for now, Bosh is a really boring mid-fourth rounder in 10ers. Finished 18th overall last year, and 25th in per-game. It’s a boring road to take, but a productive one. Like driving across Kansas.
37. Kemba Walker – Go Hornets! Oh man, I’m such a biased home! Wait, well, not really, since Kemba I always seem to rank low. I have him higher than last year though! Last season I was spot in, citing a suspect FG% that dipped to under 40 – Buzz’s girlfriend… Woof! And while the dimes went up, steals dropping from 2.0 to 1.2 was the nail in the coffin. But another year is a fresh start, and the Hornets get a 9th overall pick, another year from Big Al, and I think Kemba shoots better and improves the dimes to another career-high. You won’t be unhappy.
38. Jrue Holiday – A stress fracture in his leg made me feel blue, but even with the injury, Jrue was only 54 in per-game value. I’ve never been a huge Holiday guy – he had one huge first half with the Sixers to get into the All-Star game, then was awful down the stretch that year. Despite that spike in scoring, he’s been pretty consistent the past 4 years, with the only outlier a huge jump in dimes in 12-13 and 13-14. If he can stay healthy and Tyreke Evans and the Brow have seasons they’re capable of (that’s more for the former than the latter), Jrue could push it to over 9 dimes a game.
39. Derrick Rose – Ohhhhh man. The Rose rank. I mean, there’s just so much data to go off of! His explosiveness won him an MVP and it makes everyone horrified about his knees. I think his ADP will be a good bit higher than this price, so lump me into the too scared pile. Or into the too scared heap! Whatever thing you’d like to lump me into.
40. Victor Oladipo – RainbOladipo! He’s gonna be on a lotttttttttt of my teams next year. We all saw his upside in some ridiculous games, he even threw in a triple-double, but he’ll have to cut down on his horrific TO rate and shoot a tad better from the field. But the upside makes me need to change my pants…
41. Thaddeus Young – When the Sixers traded, well, everyone else, Thad went bonkers. Real quick – how old do you think Thad is? He’s only 25! I thought he was closer to 30! Anyway, has huge upside, will be the offensive focal point again next year, and has a really good shot at duplicating his 26th overall finish last year. But he’s already floated it out there he might ask for a trade, and pretty much anywhere else he’d go would hurt his fantasy value. Man, this NBA offseason feels like a Game of Thrones!
42. Rudy Gay – Like Bosh, this is a really boring rank. Gay finished 47th overall last year, but that was yet another campaign with a mid-season trade, and I see him being a reliable solid guy yet again in 14-15. His worst numbers last year were in his first 18 games of the year (and last 18 with the Raptors).
43. Monta Ellis – I’m using the boring card again. Not that Ellis is boring! He’s as exciting to watch as a moped! Womp womp. Hah – I didn’t even see his overall rank until just now – he finished 41st last year. I guess that means I see him exactly replicating in 14-15… He’s a replicant! Get him, Deckard!
44. Chandler Parsons – Mmmm, he just bounces all around the court with his faux hawk and all I can think is… I want all my fantasies to be about him! Even though he had some ebbs and flows, he followed up his breakout in 12-13 with another huge year, ranking 35th overall. He had some back issues last season, but for the most part he’s been durable over his 3-year career, with a solid improvement in his dimes in 13-14. Gottaloveahaveit… Bar? Isn’t that a candy bar?
45. Andre Drummond – I think I just made a few heads explode in Razzball Nation… “JB likes Drummond this year after completely blowing it last time?!” As you’re reading this, I’m praying that Andre Drummond is practicing free throws in his home gym. Just get a hoop in your living room dude, 1,000 a day! If he can make it to, I dunno, 55%, he’ll be an absolute stud. And as Slim chimes in again, “Mmmmm steals!” The elite FG% is nice as well, as I see him taking another baby step forward offensively – helping that ratio be a little higher volume. He might get more hype than this rank, but man, that FT drain in 9-cat H2H makes him have to be in the 40s.
46. DeAndre Jordan – AD and DJ are more-or-less the same player. A little more blocks and a few less steals, but DJ has proven his FT shooting is a lost cause. At least Drummond has some youth and upside to fix it. Did you know that Jordan hasn’t missed a game in three seasons and only two the past four years? He and Mike Conley need to impart their skills on some baseball players in their off nights this winter!
47. Derrick Favors – In the “All-Underrated Awards”, Favors won the big man honors. I think a lot of owners got annoyed with his inconsistency and Ty Corbin’s noodling, but he still finished 51st overall. And he’s only 22! There’s a ton to like about Favors’ 13-14, including a FG% that was his highest since a pretty-low volume rookie year at 52.2% – accomplished with more minutes, more shots, and playing with opposing starters. I think a lot of people see him as a board-and-blocker, but he’s a multi-cat contributor going for 13.3/8.7/1.2/1/1.5 last year. Sure the blocks didn’t come through like I thought, but cut to Slim and his creepy “Mmmmm steals!” I may write a sleeper piece on him later in the year – I think ranked around here will be a good bit above ADPs.
48. Spencer Hawes – Well, this might be the boldest in the top 50, so I may have to write a treatise on this one too! Basically what this rank is saying is his 36th overall finish last year was no fluke. So I’m saying it too! The Cavs have already come out and said Hawes will be their main priority in free agency (well, we’ll see, but for now I’m assuming he stays there), where he beat out Anderson Varejao for the primary center minutes. Sure Varejao was hurt, but he’s always hurt. And I think a lot of people assume with his torrid start that his numbers were better in Philly, but he was actually the same player in Cleveland, with an even better 3PT% that was a preposterous 44.8 in 27 Cleveland games. I obviously don’t expect that to replicate, but his pick-and-pop with Kyrie was legit and he was wide mother f open all the time. Right at 40% next year from deep? Yeah man, I’m down for that! Gonna be all over Hawes.
49. David Lee – Slim and his incessant “Scoring and boarding is for losers!” bullying has worn me down. Well, the proof is also in the pudding – with the pudding being Basketball Monster and the proof his 61st overall finish. He did miss 13 games, but his boards and assists dipped, and for a big man draft pick, you just can’t take a guy who doesn’t hit some out-of-position treys OR block any higher than here. But Lee still scores with a good %, will be a dub-dub threat, and is consistent. So I’m not throwing him out on the street like Mark Jackson, but probably avoiding.
50. Dwight Howard – Ughghghg Dwight Howard. So un-fun to have in my top 50. But he has to be in my opinion, even if his blocks dropped off a bit last year. We all know you have to build around the albatross of his horrible high-volume FT shooting, but if you can do so, he’s worth a fifth round pick. Otherwise, pass.
BONUS! 51. Wesley Matthews – So this is how out-of-season mode I am right now… I had 29 twice! So I ranked and wrote up one extra guy… I was a little down on Matthews last year, and I’m kicking myself for it. And I got some long legs! Career year for Wes, narrowly securing a career best in treys and blowing away his career high in scoring up to 16.4. But his best asset is the microscopic 1.3 TOs from a guard who hits a ton of treys. Perfect compliment for John Wall if you get him earlier in your drafts. His numbers are pretty consistent everywhere else for the past four seasons, so he’s every bit worth a 51 ranking.
Well, just out are Brook Lopez and Trevor Ariza, two of the harder guys to rank this year with the injury for the former, and just the preposterous 13-14 for the latter. Overall thoughts – great PG depth in that PG run in the 20s, coupled with a pretty heavy PF/C in the Top 20. So I think right now, the best draft strategy is to grab an early big then stock up on PGs in rounds 3 and 4.
Thoughts and quibbles? We have plenty of time to round out Razzball Nation’s ranks! There will certainly be numerous changes to these through free agency and draft picks, but here’s where we sit now. Happy offseason!