That’s right! WELCOME BACK! It’s been a long, yet eventful offseason. You know the dramas. You know the situations, so no need to go there. You are here for the Top 10, but before I unveil the goods…I like to play hard to get…there are some things I need to do. First and foremost, have to give props to the great and venerable Rudy Gamble, who blessed me with his Excel wizardry. Also, shout out to Viz….Nobody Beats the Viz….who helped me tinker, refine, and make the list what it is. He’s a Jazz fan so guess who got a huge bump? Finally, I’ll give you a brief window into my process. I went through each team individually, mapped how I saw the depth chart playing out, and allocated the 240 minute-per-game pie. The one thing I wanted to do when projecting the players was to weight volume for both FG% and FT%. Therefore, in my projections below, I will use a-FG% and a-FT%, instead of FG% and FT%. I then threw all the players into a list and calculated the Z-score for each statistical category, then added them all up to get my final list. EZ-PZ. Not really, but that’s why I get the big bucks…not really.
Every Wednesday, I will blurb about and reveal more players, culminating in the final release of the entire list, which is 340 deep. I’ll only blurb about the Top 200, though. Hope you enjoy!
The Grand Poobah:
Anthony Davis (C – New Orleans Pelicans)
That account would appear too often on my timeline, as AD never played more than 68 games in a season for the first four years of his career and exited countless games early. AD has now logged back-to-back seasons with 75 games played. Back-to-back-to-back? AD literally does it all; scores from all three levels, boards, dishes dimes, 211s, blocks and….misses games!!! There’s risk for sure with AD, but on a per-game basis, he MC Hammers over all contenders. The Pelicans played at the fastest pace in the league last season and, while Rajon Rondo is gone and Julius Randle has been added to the rotation, they should remain one of the fastest-paced teams.
2) James Harden (SG – Houston Rockets)
I gave slight boosts across the board from last year’s numbers for Harden. I wanted to give massive increases, but was only able to do that with the rebounding numbers. It’s tough to give huge bumps to numbers that are at such lofty levels. Anyways, why did I want to bump him up so much? If you didn’t notice, the Rockets became more of a grind-it-out team last season, as they ended the season with the 6th-best defensive rating and were middle-of-the-pack in offensive pace. Well, Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are now gone, and both helped forge that defensive identity. De’Anthony Melton is known for his defense but he’s a rookie and a little undersized. James Ennis is….James Ennis. Here’s the beauty with Harden. The floor is super high. Chris Paul coming to town didn’t faze his fantasy prospects. Neither did the change in offensive tempo. What happens if the defense gets worse, the pace picks back up, or Paul gets hurt? How about if the Rockets acquire Carmelo Anthony? As Buzz Lightyear said, “To Infinity and Beyond.”
Three and to the Four:
Stephen Curry (PG – Golden State Warriors)
Threeecola. Projected to be the only player to make over 4 three-pointers a game next season. The only thing Curry doesn’t provide is blocks. Maybe start trolling he and Ayesha on Twitter. The Warriors are going to be up there in pace of play and buckets will be plentiful. Really the only knock on Curry is injury, as he’s had multiple ankle injuries throughout his career. With that said, he had played at least 78 games in five straight seasons before the 51 games he played last year.
Kevin Durant (SF – Golden State Warriors)
A freaking cheat code. Dude is seven feet tall, can break ankles with his handle, and get his shot up anywhere/anytime; in the post, dribbling to the elbow, or rising up from three-land in transition. You know how most guys add an inch or two to a question? How tall are you? How big is your penis? Well, Durant is a legit seven-feet with shoes, but he’s always told people that he’s 6′ 9″ and all the sites have that as his designation. That’s like Roberto Esquivel Cabrera telling women to not worry; it’s not that big. Curry and Durant are so close and complement each other so well that it’s freaky. Durant gets the blocks, but Curry gets the steals. Curry dishes the dimes, although Durant ain’t no slouch, and Durant grabs the boards. Curry gets the slight advantage due to more Threeecolas, but the overall z-score difference is only .29.
5) Giannis Antetokounmpo (PF – Milwaukee Bucks)
I love G. They need to remake Coming to America starring him. Anyways, he’s the Greek Freak and will contribute in every category. He’s a little light on the Threeecolas, but punch anyone in the face that….Ok, don’t do that. Just kidding. What I meant to say was, AD is projected to attempt 2.40 3s a game and make .82. G, on the other hand, is projected for 2 3s a game and make .64. Not so bad in that context. I mentioned this a few times last year, but I want the Bucks to implement some Olympic Handball plays into their arsenal. G could jump from behind the three-point line, end up somewhere in the middle of the lane, then finger roll or tear drop it in for a Threeecola. NBA teams, I’m available any time. Seriously, though, the acquisitions of Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez could give G more space to operate, which could increase his dimes, free throws, shooting percentage, and easy buckets.
6) Karl-Anthony Towns (C – Minnesota Timberwolves)
KAT. Has never missed a game in his three-year NBA career. So, indubitably he will succumb this season. I hope not, but that’s how life seems to work most of the time. He is so skilled as a player that even Heaven had to rewind the life tapes to make sure that God didn’t cheat when he created him. With that said, he is lacking in the D stats for a big man, but the overall consistency and knowledge that Coach Thibs will give him the minutes regardless of game script, negates it a bit. There is also the possibility that he gets an uptick if Jimmy Butler does not return to Minnesota. That’d be a shame because the guy that needs to go is Andrew Wiggins, but I’ll go into him later….waaaaaay later, as he’s buried down the list.
7) Nikola Jokic (C – Denver Nuggets)
Y’all know my love knows no bounds for Jokic. For you first-timers, welcome and my love knows no bounds for Jokic. He’s a joy to watch because he’s so skilled and possesses a high basketball IQ. A nightly triple-dub threat, Jokic is the face of the franchise after inking the five-year, $148 million contract in the offseason. It wouldn’t surprise me if the minutes and usage projections were a little light, but that just means that there is room for upside while maintaining a super-high floor. I ain’t Jokic-ing around. Don’t be a Jokic. Draft Nikola. Reminds me of elementary school posters of those running for office.
8) LeBron James (PF – Los Angeles Lakers)
To be honest, I was very surprised that James ended up here. I knocked down his stats across the board from the last few seasons. I think the minutes and usage will all take hits coming to LA. With that said, here we are. He is just that freaking good. As a Lakers fan, that makes me tremendously giddy inside. It’s been mentioned that LeBron could operate out of the post more this season, which could boost his assist numbers, as teams will have to double team and the Lakers have a bunch of shooters on the roster. In addition, the Lakers played at the third-fastest pace last season, so there could be more possessions and opportunities. Finally, there’s a small chance that we could see an uptick in D stats, as he doesn’t have to expend so much energy on O. As with Jokic, the floor is super high and there’s room for upside.
9) Chris Paul (PG – Houston Rockets)
I gave boosts to Paul across the board, as I think there’s a good chance the D is worse in Houston and the offensive pace picks back up. The incorporation of Paul into the Harden-centric offense was fairly seamless last season and Year 2 should take them to a new level. Now, there’s injury risk for sure, as Paul has only played 80 games in a season once in the last seven seasons and he’s 32 years old. The upside is so high, though, as he’s only a negative in blocks and field goal percentage. I have a bias that the Rockets will have to run-and-gun more this season, so the upside is worth the risk with Paul.
10) Damian Lillard (PG – Portland Trailblazers)
Y’all know what time it is. For you first-timers, here you go…
Never gets old. Am I trippin to think that Lillard is one of the more underrated players in the NBA? He’s basically Steph without the elevated steal and Threeecola numbers. I love you, though, Dame Dolla.