Welcome back to the third post of this mini-series as we take a moving snapshot in time, even if that sounds like an oxymoron. But basically, we’re taking this point in the season to take a look at the NBA landscape through the meta-fantasy lens. Sounds like it’s from the future, with robot dragons wearing tight leather and blasting Daft Punk. But yeah, here’s the breakdown so far…
“The Greys” Tier
#23 Memphis Grizzlies
#24 – Atlanta Hawks
#25 – Brooklyn Nets
#26 – Portland Trailblazers
“Draft Capital” Tier
#27 – Washington Wizards
#28 – San Antonio Spurs
#29 – Charlotte Hornets
#30 – Detroit Pistons
And now, we reach that weird zone where teams could theoretically still reach the play-ins but will probably fizzle out around All-Star break and be closer to “The Greys” than whatever I name the tier above this one. This group we’ll call: “The Mystery Men”, half-homage to a strange 90’s hero flick, half reference to the fact that we the teams here are still sorta of a mystery. I mean, except for the Warriors, unless trades start happening, this definitely not a play-in team…
#22 – Golden State Warriors
Speaking of which! Look, my hatred of Draymond Green is both obvious and somewhat subdued, only because I don’t like getting choked, punched, slapped, kicked in the balls, any one of the number of ways Green decides to play “defense”. But I still find it hard to count out a team that has Steph Curry on it, and it’s not like he’s old and busted… yet. And, despite the Green hate, they did somewhat survive the 16-game absence and sorely missed his skillset.
Jonathan Kuminga seems to want to produce again (though some of this is Kerr’s fault), but Kevon Looney finds himself as the bait for a potential upgrade going into the deadline, along with Chris Paul. But keep in mind that one of the leagues better 3&D guards will return soon in Gary Payton II, and I continue to love watching Brandin Podziemski play. I don’t think this team will have enough to reach the play-ins, then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, along with Draymond inevitably getting suspended leading to a playoff exit. This is the way…
#21 – Chicago Bulls
We’ll be talking about the Raptors and Rockets right after (spoiler alert!), but these three teams are similar in a lot of ways. Fantasy-wise, they have a great core of spread-talent. There’s a mix of everything, from useful bench guys, slightly-above average starting options, and of course a smattering of young players with potential. (Does Lonzo Ball still count? Yikes.)
The Bulls are all that, but unlike the two teams ranked ahead, they are just way older. Perhaps a bit more busted too. Also take into consideration that this team may look incredibly different, depending on how the trade deadline goes. DeMar DeRozan might likely stay, but Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso continue to be caught up in rumors. Both could benefit by a change of scenery, especially LaVine, who could still be an amazing catch-and-shoot non-ball slasher to either the Lakers or 76ers.
#20 – Toronto Raptors
You’d think with the trade of Pascal Siakam, the Raptors might be a tad bit lower, but the fantasy lens is somewhat kinder to younger, faster teams. While it’s pretty rare to see a successful retool rather than a reset, having a Scottie Barnes probably helps.
The other two pieces of this emerging young core in RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley also offers a great set of perimeter players, with Barrett looking really great in the paint since coming over from the Knicks. While the lower-ranked Hawks might have a better record, I’d much rather have the Raptors balanced roster going forward.
#19 – Houston Rockets
Similar in a lot of ways to the Raptors, the slight edge goes to the Rockets because of my endearing love for Alperen Sengun. The “H” is invisible. Another team with a young core, both Cam Whitmore and Jabari Smith Jr. has seen some improvements with a bit less usage. Having a solid point guard in Fred VanVleet will do that, and that’s helped both Sengun’s game, but also Jalen Green.
While I wouldn’t go as far to say Sengun is the next coming of Jokic (that would be something wouldn’t it?), there’s nothing wrong with having some shades of him. The team itself might not go far in the play-ins, but the season has been already an overall success, both in real world and fantasy terms. Both the team and players are taking steps forward and could be a force to be reckoned with in the 2024-25 season.
As a Clippers fan, you have no idea how badly I wanted to put the Lakers here, but I couldn’t quite tell if I was being bias or too kind. Which is also shade I guess, but it’s a delicate balance. Would I take, say, the Rockets over the Lakers in a fantasy-context? Probably, but don’t forget we’ll dealing with a pretty healthy AD and LeTimeless so until next time!
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell.