Woooo, here we go Razzball Nation!
The 2015-16 Fantasy Basketball Season is nearly upon us, well, kindasorta, in the same way that I “kindasorta” liked Michael Carter-Williams last year! OK, that might be 100% false, DON’T LOOK AT LAST YEAR’S FINAL PRE-RANKS! Dammit, who linked that?! MCW’s agent hacked Razzball…
So here’s to hoping I can avoid the pitfalls of last year, avoid the bone density issues, avoid good players moving to Cleveland, and avoid falling for adorable Latin Lovers! You just can’t help from having your balls near his face! Why couldn’t you have avoided getting a kankle, whyyyyy?!
As we did last season, we’ll have a master rankings post (which I… I mean, aherm, MCW’s agent will link when it’s live) which will be updated all through the preseason, along with Slim’s 9-cat and MPG projections. Let’s get this shizz started! Here’s the Top 10 for the 2015-16 Fantasy Basketball Season.
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans – So I was ready to have the same top 6 as in the Way Too Early Ranks in April, and then started to write Brow’s rationale at #2. “I would easily have him #1 if I knew he would play 82 games.” Then I thought, well 80. Or 78. Probably 75. And even though he’s been a little brittle his first two seasons, who’s to say this isn’t the year he plays em all?! They brought back Omer Asik to bang the 5s in the middle, and with Asik clogging the paint, there has been affirmation Brow will get even more touches in new coach Gentry’s offense, including the deep ball. In per-game value, Basketball Monster had Brow at 1.20 in per-game value (#1 overall) in 14-15, while Kevin Durant’s no-question fantasy MVP seasons scored 1.25 in 12-13 and 1.06 in 13-14. And I take everything the Pelicans are saying fairly truthfully, so if Brow gets up to 0.5 treys a game, he’s a true 9-cat stud and that 1.20 per-game value should be even higher. Brow for President!
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets – While I’m not that worried Ty Lawson can lay off the sauce and take too much usage out of Harden’s hands, it certainly doesn’t help. What is Patrick Beverley good at? Defense! Guess again… Sitting in the corner and taking 3s! Of his 9.5 shots a game last year, a whopping 5.8 (61%) of em were long balls. And what is Ty Lawson not good at? Judgement! Guess again… Driving! Wait, I mean like on the basketball court! Of his 12.3 shots last year, only 2.7 (22%) were treys. So Harden will have one less threat on the perimeter, and one that likes the ball in his hands. I don’t think it destroys his value, but it’s enough of a hit along with Brow’s treys to have me flip flop the top two. All three of these top guys are razor razor thin. More like, Mach 20 razors thin, or however the hell many of them fit on there…
3. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors – Although we’re still a good bit out, Brow seems a fairly consensus #1 while Curry the #2. Obviously Curry was a monster last year – 2nd to Brow in per-game value and #1 in overall – but he only played 32:39 MPG game last year. Of course you could easily say, “whoa, he was fantasy’s best overall player in fewer minutes than all the other studs!” but to me I read it as, “the Warriors are juggernauts, and again aren’t going to push him in blowouts.” I see no reason the Warriors won’t be just as dominant again in 15-16, and I think they keep an eye on his run until the postseason. The Kerr doesn’t fall far from the Pop tree, and while Curry is in his prime and not 40 like the Spurs guys, I wouldn’t be shocked to see sub-32 minutes this year. Beastly minutes though!
4. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – Spoiler alert! Slim is going to challenge me on Brow, but his logic on Brow not quite being worth the #1 risk is more applicable to Durant for me. Would it really shock anyone to see Durant come back as a monster and finish as fantasy’s #1 player? Well, to KD owners last year it might! Let’s put it this way – if Durant didn’t hurt his foot last year and had what he’s averaged the previous 3 season before that, would there be any question he would fend off the field in pre-ranks for #1 overall? It all comes down to risk – enough risk that will have several drafters avoiding him in the first round altogether – but enough to keep him safely out of the top 3 for me.
5. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers – What started as a horrific (well, for BronBron) season (4.2 TO pre-ASB, only 5.6 boards), LeBron turned it around dropping the giveaways to 3.5 and upping his boards back to 6.9 a game. What’s interesting is the only time he’s had over 3.5 TO a game in a season was his first year in Miami, so team transitions seem to get LeBron confused. “Wait, are we in red or white jerseys?! I forget!!” Then there’s the precipitous fall in FG% that dropped from the mid-50%s the previous 3 years to 48.8% in 14-15. He’s likely to improve there too – and I can get the LeBron before Durant debate – but I think he’s as locked in to #5 as anyone in the ranks.
6. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers – And same with Paul, who I think is a tier unto himself as the #6 option. 4th in total value last year (Playing all 82 helps! Especially after missing 32 games the previous two years), but what’s really shocking is 4th in per-game as well. The ridiculous 10.2 AST to 2.3 TO was yet again Stockton-esque, and with DeAndre Jordan back amidst absolutely no controversy at all, Paul should get those lob-dimes yet again. There’s really little else to say here.
7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers – Wooooo, time to hop off the rails! Likely a consensus 2nd-rounder, this is going to be the big call of the top 10. I already had him 9th in late April, but if there was any team that had a complete makeover this offseason, it was the Blazers. LaMarcus Aldridge ranked a whopping 7th in the league in usage with The Omen down at 20th, and Wesley Matthews and “can’t shoot anymore” Nicolas Batum are both gone too. Not to mention their former worthless center. In a season where I think the Blazers are going to more-or-less tank, I think they tell Lillard to go out and take any shot he wants and try to put up ridiculous lines, leading to a near NBA lead in usage. Sure it might hurt his already sub-par FG%, but I see him getting a ton more FTA with his great FT% and amp up the AST.
8. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder – The question is, where would Westbrook rank if Durant was gone?! Might have to be #1 overall! Post-ASB averages of 31.4/8.6/9.9 were absolutely absurd, in a run ala a hybrid of Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan. Add into the mix 2 steals and a monster-volume FT%, and he was your 2nd half MVP. But the TO were still horrific (5.3 in the second half), and if you expect Durant to even be 75% of his old self, Westbrook will be back to the TO-prone, lowish (for a stud) AST PG he is.
9. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings – Well, the George Karl tenure started out about as graceful as a kick to the SAC, amiright?! The league’s most dysfunctional franchise at least still has a top-10 fantasy option, with Boogie finishing 10th in pre-game value last year. That viral infection hooblah certainly hurt his overall numbers, but he wasn’t too far behind Westbrook for the 2nd half’s MVP averaging 24.8/13.1/4.1/1.8/1.8 post-ASB. Of course just like Westbrook, way too many TO (4.2), but we all know Cuz’s game. I don’t think the scrubby Rajon Rondo is going to hurt the big fellah’s usage too much, but Willie Cauley-Stein should gobble up enough boards to take a couple away. I do think WCS will help Cuz keep his energy up though, as Cauley-Stein should be guarding the best opposing big – PF or C – on any given night, giving Cousins more focus on O and hopefully help his fouling issues.
10. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs – After the top 9, I think there’s another tier dropoff. The next 6-7 could all be shuffled up in any sort of order, but I’m going to stick with Kawhi rounding out the top-10. Sure the injury label is going to scare a lot of drafters off – as will the acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge – but most of the injuries have been fairly fluky. Remember he missed a lot of time last preseason with that eye infection that somehow jumped from eye to eye, then that weird hand tendon thing. I don’t think any of his issues are any sort of lingering things drafters should worry about, and I don’t see any reason to not expect 80-ish games. Adding Aldridge does hurt – as above with Lillard I mentioned Aldridge’s 7th highest usage rate in the NBA – but I think it means more 3PTA and wider lanes to drive in to minimize, if not absolve, any FG% risks. I love to see players have their AST totals rise every season in the NBA, with Kawhi steadily rising to 2.5 last year (1.1 in 11-12 to 1.6 to 2.0 to 2.5), along with the TO staying really low. I would be shocked if Kawhi doesn’t get the dimes to over 3 a game, make 1.5-2.0 treys, and maintain the elite steals from a wing. It’s going to be a fun year in San Antonio.
And there’s your top 10! We’ll have the top 20 out mid-next week along with our Podcast on Tuesday, with Slim slamming a few of these ranks. See you then, Razzball Nation!