More ranks, here we come!
Whew, I admittedly had a little rankings-shock after writing War & Peace with my Top-10 there. I gotta whittle this down a little bit if we’re gonna have the ranks done by September like I hope! No one wants to wait until early October to read about the 198th ranked Jeremy Lamb… Or maybe they do!
I must preface these ranks with an admission – I’m buying more and more into punting. I’m Todd Sauerbrunning it! You can pull off some pretty crazy rankings changes when you knock off some categories in BBMonster valuation. And before everyone gets all snotty with their comments, I know I’m going to bounce around using some 9-cat valuation for some guys, then take out some cats for others. Ranks can’t be a one-size fits all, they change each player you draft. It would be like ranking a white wine high with a steak recommended as the pairing, THAT’S BLASPHEMY, DAMMIT! Here’s the Top 25 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:
11. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah… If you didn’t catch that, YEAH YEAH I GET IT! LeBron not in my top-10 seems blasphemy. But it’s not like the epicness we saw in the playoffs was what we got from BronBron in the regular season. BBMonster had him at only 9th in per-game value; steals fell to a career-low 1.4, blocks at only 0.6, only 1.1 treys (although that might be a GOOD thing as his FG% got to over 50 again at 52.0), and the FTs remains a mysterious knock on his game. Sure there’s the safety factor, but with schedules out now as we get through the rest of our ranks, there’s some big red flags. In the H2H semis, the Cavs have only 3 games, going @DEN (thin air on the road? DNP?) then back-to-back Fri/Sat. Then in the 4-game finals, another Thur/Fri b2b with the Friday game at the Q vs. the Sixers. We could very well see 4-5 games over your pivotal final two weeks. The safety through the regular season still keeps him a must-draft first-rounder in 12-team leagues, but you may want to consider shopping as you approach your trade deadline, even if he falls to you at 11.
12. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
So Trillllll! A perennial Razzball favorite, Millsap is aging like a fine wine (unlike the swill I mentioned in the open!) as a Swiss Army knife PF that no one gives the proper cred to. BBM had him finishing 10th – a mere .01 behind BronBron – thanks to those sexy 1.8 STL and 1.7 BLK. With Big Al Horford now a Big Ol’ Celtic, we get the Big Ol’ useless-outside-the-paint Dwight Howard to clog the lane. Thankfully Millsap has been continually improving that perimeter game since getting to Hotlanta! I expect a very similar 15-16 from Trill, with maybe a few less boards and blocks, but more offensive touches and points.
13. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
I think Slim might reprimand me for this, but in the debate between Lowry and Wall, I’m going to the PG North of the Border. Which I hope serves better food than South of the Border! Can you say bland?! Anyway, Lowry finished 11th in per-game stats and proved the hand injury issues he had in 14-15 were an isolated anomaly. Sure he might not grind through 37+ MPG again, but he should be amongst lead-leaders in minutes and saw a dramatic improvement/career-high in FT rate. He also got to a career-best 2.8 treys, and can maintain 6+ dimes at a sub-3 TO rate. 2.1 steals were a career-best as well. Late bloomer Kyle!
14. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Even though Wall finished down at 22nd in per-game, the two PG are razor close for me. I’ve always maintained that if there’s one stat to punt, it’s TO, and Wall gets em by the boatload. He hops up to 11th in 8-cat, yet still behind Lowry. Yes, you could argue you wouldn’t want to pay for Lowry’s career-year– wait why am I talking Lowry?! These two are forever intertwined to me now! Like Magic and Jordan. Ok, not quite… Wall finished 3rd in the league in dimes at 10.2 – a career mark – while also setting career bests in treys and steals. Yes, the 0.8 blocks are huuuuge for a PG, but I wish we saw more than 1.5 treys for his low FG% (42.4 in 15-16) and more FT attempts like we saw earlier in his career – FT volume has fallen for 4 straight seasons down to only 4.5 FTA a game.
15. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
PG13 isn’t elite! Let’s brew this up again!
What a fantastic bounce back for George off the injury, and then looking a little rusty in a brief few minutes in 14-15, to an incredible 15-16. Played 81 games, another 4+ dime season, 2.6 treys were a career-high, and the FT volume also set a big milestone in his numbers at 5.6-6.5 a game. Sure there’s a little concern with Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young brought in – more mouths to feed – but this high-pace Pacers (pun police!) offense is centered around the PG13 engine. You could easily do the same with your fantasy offense.
16. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
As you see cliched across virtually all fantasy sports, “you can’t win your league in the early rounds, but you can lose it”. And Boogie feels like he could be the main reason you lose if you still think he’s a first rounder. Only 65 games last year after 59 in 14-15, and after a nice step forward in FT% that season, it came crashing down to 71.8% on a horrific 10.2 attempts per game. Nearly have to FT punt! STL+BLK remained at over 3, but without Rajon Rondo’s vortex of TO-proneness, I easily see the TO going over 4 again. If you could guarantee me 80 games (which you can’t due to injuries and front office issues), then lord give me strength, he might end up a first-round value. Big might though.
17. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
I had #OccupyDraymondGreen at 10th in my Way Too Early Ranks, but with all the talent Golden State is showering on their line-up, I gave him a little hit. Thankfully his game isn’t centered around scoring the ball, and if you’re gonna help pad your stats with BS assists on kickouts to jump shooters, you couldn’t be in a better situation. I sound a little jaded on Dray, don’t I? I just don’t take nut taps lightly, it’s such bush league! I’m like the Wolverine. I’d start swinging if people did that ish to me like they’re some 19-year-old frat boy with a Bud Lite Lime in their hand. But alas, bush league isn’t a stat category, and instead we will likely get less scoring and maybe a little hit in dimes. On the flip side, we should see less FTA (FT% is a problem for him), similar treys, and I’d be shocked to see his TO stay over 3 (3.2 last year). It might look a little less “popcorn statty”, but the D stats and dimes should keep him afloat as a solid 2nd-rounder.
18. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Mannnnn, I’ve always liked Kemba, but didn’t see a breakout like THIS! He wrapped up a top-20 finish in 15-16, thanks in large part to finally shooting over 40%. Not only did he go over, but WAY over at a career-best 42.7%, while shooting 6.0 3PTA and 16.4 FGA, also both career-highs. Mo shots, mo makes! FT volume also went up, and the real kicker to Kemba’s game is only 2.1 TO. He would make a fantastic pairing with KAT – sure you’ll need to nab some dimes in the mid-rounds, but that could be a great %-pair with low TO.
19. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
Like Wall and Lowry, Walker and Lillard are forever intertwined! 3pt shooting, undersized yet dominant… I love them both! I don’t hate ALL small players, only Nate Robinson! So Lillard finished last year at 18 – a few spots ahead of Kemba – and I think a lot of people will be surprised to see Kemba ahead. Comes down to those popcorn stats – Lillard will crush in Pts, 3s, and Ast, but WHERE’S THE BEEF?! Only 0.9 steals, Omen?!?!? Add onto that a large-ish hit 3.2 turnovers. I just don’t see him as quite as good a fit with the first round bigs, so I docked him in that regard. Hopefully he doesn’t make the animals go nuts in the Zoo when we go on our field trip day together…
20. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
If you listened to our latest Pod, you got some genuine surprise on my part. And sometimes a paradigm shift in your thinking can finally spark in one live moment. Finishing 70th in per-game stats, the enigma that is the FT punt that is the DeAndre Jordan looked to be another 30-40ish overall pick for me. But if you toggle off FT%, DJ vaults to third in per-game stats. THIRD! Curry, Whiteside, DJ. Nonsense. Equally as nonsense is the NBA changing the FT rules. If you can’t make FT, you shouldn’t be rewarded! Ugghhhhh, that really grinded my gears, Silver! Now you get a FT AND the ball back for a foul under 2 minutes away from the ball EVERY quarter. Dumb. But nothing I whine about will change that, and it should help DJ get the FTA to under the 8.0 mark like we saw last year.
On top of his value as a FT punt, the Clippers also fall into arguably the best playoff schedule,
going 3/5/4 (editor’s note – oops it’s 4/5/3, but same idea). Yup, 5 games! DJ went 2012-15 – THREE seasons – playing all 82 games before 77 last year, so I think even with maybe one fantasy-playoffs-benching (if that), you’re getting some unreal numbers and likely close to locking up REB/BLK in the playoffs up until the finals with the safety of this pick. Stays healthy, great postseason schedule… I’m in on the punt!
21. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
I know what you’re thinking. “JB is super lazy, and just ranked the two FT punt guys together”. Nuh uhhhh, meanie pants! I just think they’re THAT close.
As with DJ, Drummond is ranked all the way down at 122 (!!!!), but goes up to 7th with FT removed. Drummond has proven the impossible, by somehow getting WORSE at the line the past three seasons, down to 35.5%. On the flip side, the rebounding is epic, he’s finally settling in as a go-to post scorer (16.2 PPG last year), and gets steals out-of-position. You don’t quite get the blocks, and if I’m reading the sched right, Detroit only has 3 games in the semis. I think these guys are razor close, but unless your league has shoulder hair as a category, I’ll go DJ first. By just a shoulder hair…
22. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
The big man run continueth! Our good friend the Ol’ Clownfoot is off another healthy season, where he only missed games due to being shut down due to Nets-awfulness. And therein lies the issue – I don’t think the Nets are going to be any better, as I mention in their Team Preview. On such an extremely friendly deal in the NBA’s runaway valuation free agent market, contenders are gonna salivate over adding Brolo, and the Nets desperately need picks and young talent. It just seems so logical he’s moved at the deadline! Somewhere where he would no longer become the focal point (most likely) and cede some touches. But there is plenty to be said for safety and consistency – he’s gonna score 19-20 points (on the Nets), nab 7+ boards, shoot well over 50%, and get close to 2 swats with a good-enough FT%. His blocks were actually right at 2 last year as well, until only 2 swats the final 8 games. Laziness due to lousiness. Brooklyn in a nutshell.
23. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
As I said in my Way Too Early Top 25, I’m going to plagiarize my plagariziton. Does that count? It’s just sooooo good! “Porzingis had a solid season with averages of 14.3 points, 7.3 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.9 blocks, 0.7 steals and 1.1 3-pointers, becoming the first rookie to ever score more than 1,000 points, grab 500-plus rebounds, make 75-plus 3-pointers and block more than a 100 shots.” And like I said then, he’s what we were HOPING from Serge Ibaka last year! Durability questions still remain, but he’s been working on adding body strength and really getting embraced by new head coach Jeff Hornacek. I’m also a little worried that Rose and Melo become USG vortexes, but hopefully Zinger can still get his shots on. And you have to love the minuscule TO.
24. Al Horford, Boston Celtics
Big Al, big new team, Big Boston… It’s a big change! And as much as I love his game, I just have this creeping suspicion that the production is gonna drop a tad. Our favorite, albeit annoying, younger-cousin-that-wants-to-always-talk-boy-band-music B-Rad loves to play his rotations Larger than Life and a game is Incomplete if everyone doesn’t get off his bench. Horf should still be playing 32-33 minutes in my book, trust me I Want It That Way, but I could easily see him slip to 29-30. The added perimeter game is awesome, but I wish the FG% was More than That 50.5% we saw last year, a career-low since his rookie season. I’m also not quite sure if the 3+ dimes will fit in that system, but we’ve yet to see the Shape of My Heart, or the shape of their offense. At a 16th finish in per-game last year, I could see Everybody rushing to put him atop this big man run, but I don’t see Big Al playing 2016-17 with All I Have to Give. In a World Like This, I am keeping him at 24.
25. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Yeesh. The 2015-16 season in review for Blake – constant ridicule due to Kia commercials, punches an equipment manager and breaks his hand, earlier had a battery charge in a Las Vegas nightclub fight dropped, tore a quad, then had further soreness in that quad in the playoffs. BUT WHO CARES ABOUT THAT, KRIS HUMPHRIES GOT GIZZED ON!
THERE’S SOMETHING TO SWIM IN!
Too far? Sorry, I just got caught up in that Blake Griffin-rage. Trying to finish strong off the injuries, Blake was atrocious in the playoffs in the four games he played before the Clip fell to the Blazers in the first round, shooting 37.7%. Well, the rest was fine I guess. Here’s to hoping he can shake off the rust, as he’ll want a big season before heading into 17-18 free agency. But with the caps expanding so big, he’ll likely get a max regardless. I think there’s plenty in the tank to bounce back, and his numbers were phenomenal before his final 5 regular season games post-injury brought down the averages (23.2/8.7/5.0/0.7/0.6 with only 2.4 TO and shooting 50.8% in the first 30 healthy games). With CP3, the Clip are definitely going to make another run, so no concern of a deadline trade or anything, just hopefully a healthy, bounceback Blake season.
And that’ll wrap the top-25! A few big names had to get squeezed out, and I’d surely like to hear about em in the comments. Shoot your thoughts below, and happy off-season prep, Razzball Nation!