FIVE… DAYS. The NBA “offseason” has kept us almost constantly entertained with a loaded draft, free agency rumors, the best summer league ever, and multiple superstar trades. But, it’s time for some real, official action. And by that, I mean actual stats that count in our fantasy leagues, of course. This season, more than any other, I’m just a huge fan of the entire NBA and my fantasy teams. You see, I’m a longtime Bulls fan. And while I’m an optimist that’s been quite obsessed with the Sixers rebuild and their amazing potential, the Bulls have messed up their tank job in half a dozen ways prior to even getting it off the ground. So, I’m really itching for some Lonzo outlets, CP3-to-Capela lobs, and an unexpected six-steal game from my most recent free agent acquisition. Let’s get going already with this new crop of talent!

Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Last week, I talked about ways to find advantages by removing certain stats your team doesn’t need for various reasons and shuffling up player values so you have a better idea of who’s actually the most helpful for your team during drafts. That’ll be a theme as the season goes on, because it really leads us to trades that can help us a ton, while helping the other team enough that they pull the trigger. But we’ve got another weekend of drafting to go, so I’ve compiled a list of a few more places to take advantage of what I see as market inequities. If you’ve already drafted, maybe this can spark some trade proposal ideas, too.

New Situations

Obviously, we’re interested to see how the new big three in OKC meshes and what that means for their fantasy values. But, instead of analyzing stuff like how Gordon Hayward’s numbers change when dropping from the first option on the Jazz to the second option on the Celtics, it’s more advantageous to look at who is filling the void that these stars left. For example, do Michael Beasley and Joe Ingles become fantasy starters? Is Patrick Beverley capable of more in L.A.? KCP? There’s nothing like taking a shot on a guy with a new opportunity and watching him get, like, 15 more minutes and 8 more shots per game than he’s ever gotten before.

Bad Teams

This leads me into another great strategy. Remember when Greivis Vasquez went 14/4/9 for the 27-win Hornets in 2013? Isn’t that about what you’d want from Lonzo this year? Look at a team like my Bulls (if the sight of a Jerian Grant/Justin Holiday/Paul Zipser starting trio doesn’t sting your eyes too much). They have to score more than 60 points per game, right? Please? Bad teams have roughly the same amount of possessions as good teams. The shots attempted by Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade go somewhere. Find them. Really hoping they go to Nikola Mirotic, by the way. And, a lot of those shots will be misses, so find those rebounds! Check out the Hawks sans Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard for another example of fertile fantasy ground.


Scroll all the way down in the rankings or average draft position before or during your draft to make sure you’re not missing out on a draftable player that got inexplicably buried. There are some crazy names down past 150, 200, and beyond that will surprise you. Josh Richardson. Seriously.

Name Value/Points

If you’re playing with casual fans, big name stars and guys that score will likely be overrated. Unfortunately, high-scoring often goes hand-in-hand with robust stats in lots of other categories, so you can’t afford to completely ignore these guys. But once the first few rounds are through, let your league-mates go crazy over Andrew Wiggins and his 20 points (and hardly anything else). You! Grab a guy that helps in five categories instead, like Brook Lopez, Al Horford, or Goran Dragic (all going after Wiggins on ESPN). Later, let them have the names they recognize, like Rudy Gay, Derrick Rose, and Zach Randolph, while you take Beverley, Brogdon, and Richardson.

Play the Waiver Wire in the Draft

Pay attention to who’s hurt, and grab their fill-in for the month. There are better players available for the whole season when picking in the 150s, but there’s a great chance the aforementioned Justin Holiday might get the most shots on the Bulls for a while and be better for that stretch. Jeremy Lamb gets a good chance, too, with Nicolas Batum out.

“Old and Boring” is the new “Young with Upside”

Okay, settle in a bit here, because this could take a while. While there are definitely second, third, and fourth year guys that could breakout, most of the candidates are hyped up so much that your chances of getting value from them are slim. But, I specifically want to address rookies here. I’ve been drooling over this rookie class more and for longer than I care to admit. It’s tantalizing. We could easily see 5-10 of these guys in the top 50 ranks within a couple seasons, but it’s quite rare for a rook to meet the lofty expectations we put on them. Now, this year’s first year players will surely provide us with more fantasy usefulness than last year’s abysmal rookie crop, but let’s see how the best rookies fared on the ESPN Player Rater last season (8-cat).

83 Malcolm Brogdon

107 Dario Saric

145 Jamal Murray

147 Willy Hernangomez

157 Buddy Hield

159 Marquese Chriss

*168 Joel Embiid

*I’ve got to mention that Embiid was 20th in per-game results, because that was really something.

Now, here’s where ESPN had the rookies ranked near the start of training camp 2016. And knowing our collective penchant for reaching on these guys, I’m guessing every one of these players was being drafted ahead of these ranks.

73 Ben Simmons

102 Buddy Hield

111 Brandon Ingram

130 Joel Embiid

131 Dario Saric

132 Kris Dunn

157 Jamal Murray

177 Dragan Bender

So, Saric and Murray were really the only drafted rookies (Brogdon was mainly added as a free agent) that might have earned their draft price for the full season. And, each was only truly startable for a short stretch of games (Saric, because Simmons and Embiid were injured). Throw Embiid in there, because he was excellent for his 31 games… unless you played in a weekly league.

As hard as it is, try to resist the hype on the rookies. Most of these kids just aren’t ready to roll right away. Ben Simmons is 21 with a year of NBA life and practice under his belt, so he’s got a similar head-start to Embiid, at least. But Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Dennis Smith Jr. are 19. They do all have good opportunities off the bat at point guard, where rookies have put up decent numbers in the past. But, make sure you consider the risk at their average draft positions.


50 Ben Simmons

52 Lonzo Ball

89 Dennis Smith Jr.

91 Markelle Fultz

109 Kyle Kuzma (Kooooooooz with a huge jump)

112 Jayson Tatum

118 De’Aaron Fox

121 Josh Jackon

123 Milos Teodosic (at least he’s 30)

155 Malik Monk

161 Lauri Markkanen

162 Jonathan Isaac

168 Zach Collins

172 Justin Jackson

173 Frank Ntilikina

183 Luke Kennard

184 Bam Adebayo

186 T.J. Leaf

188 Frank Mason III

193 Jordan Bell

Of those, I’ll guess that Dennis Smith Jr. is the only player that finishes in the top 100 AND beats his ADP on the Player Rater, though he seems to be going higher and higher. I love Lonzo’s game, and there’s a chance he’s Summer League Lonzo most of the season, but I’m going to have to side with the Basketball Monster projections that have Ricky Rubio at 35 and Lonzo at 74. ESPN ADP for Rubio is 60. And most probably have a rosier outlook on Simmons, but these projections have him at 123 (serious chance his game is not very fantasy friendly, at least not this year). Wouldn’t you rather have a guy projected in the top 50, like Serge Ibaka, Robert Covington, or Victor Oladipo (all going after Simmons)? We all love the CHANCE that we pick the guy that beats his draft spot by a ton. But with the rookies, the odds are much more likely that they’ll end up worse and unstartable most of the year.

Notice, I say most. This is the place that I think we can get an edge with rookies. Most of them are going to start slowly, buried on the bench. And when they do play, they’ll be just trying to figure it out, shooting poorly, getting yanked out of the game for not understanding team defense well enough. THAT’S when you pounce. Buy low on the rookies, or watch for the lesser ones to get dropped, because later in the year, some rookies will go crazy. Ask anyone that had Tyler Ulis, Skal Labissiere, Murray, Chriss, or Hield to close out the season. Or Dario when Embiid went down. Anyway, the point is to be patient and try to pounce when fantasy owners are getting down on their suddenly not-so-shiny new toys.

But back to the old and boring guys. Yes, you need to hit on some guys that outperform their draft slot by a good amount to win. Just don’t assume that only includes rookies and other young, hyped-up breakouts. That could easily mean the veterans that get pushed down in the ranks/ADP by these whippersnappers with all that upside. Here are some more names with whom people are bored enough that I think you can get them at a great value: Nikola Vucevic, Trevor Ariza, Danilo Gallinari, Thaddeus Young. Yes, by taking the elder statesmen of the NBA, you could end up with the next 2016-17 Monta Ellis (pre-season rank 76) as he falls off the proverbial cliff, but veterans are generally  much more predictable than the new guys.

“So, what if I’m starting a dynasty league or drafting in, say, a 5-keeper league? I’ve got to change it up and lean young, right?” If that’s the most fun for you, sure. Go for it. But, those formats mean you’re likely to get EVEN BETTER deals on veterans. Watch the other owners avoid almost every player over 30 like a point guard avoids Hassan Whiteside in the lane. They’re probably half-playing for this year and half-playing for the next five years. Okay, so you’ll just play for this year and win, then, if that’s alright with them. And, you can pretty much keep that up if you continue to draft/acquire valuable youngsters to ship off for vets that are good now. Sure, it’s fun to pick upsidey rookies and watch them turn into Nikola Jokic after a few years (squeezed in all three Nikolas here today! …condolences to Pekovic), but you’re probably going to go through dozens of disappointing rookies and waste seasons hoping they work out and also peak at the right time if you focus on super young dudes. That advice goes partially out the window if you have a deep bench, because that really is the best when you have something like a minor league team on your bench that you’re cultivating and subsequently shipping off when it’s time for reinforcements.

Lastly, if you do have a deep enough bench that you can stash a few players there without needing to play them, go ahead and grab some high upside rookies late in the draft. John Collins and Donovan Mitchell sure look like the kind of guys that could be in store for a top 75 2nd half that can be had very very late.

Good luck in your drafts! Next week, we’ll talk about projecting our leagues’ results and finding our teams’ strengths and weaknesses so we can get trading!

This week’s classic fantasy line:

3/28/90, Michael Jordan’s career high game: 50 minutes (OT), 69 points (23/37 FGs and 21/23 FTs), 18 rebounds,  6 assists, 2 threes, 4 steals, and 1 block.




  1. RicoSuave says:

    Great Job Tad! Thanks for the great article…

    When are you guys going to post the H2H playoff calendar write up?

    The last couple of years has helped me BIG time… And it’s easier to prepare for draft day with that schedule…

    Thanks again guys and keep up the good work…

      • Eddie says:

        @Eddie: did this for my own purposes — my H2H league has playoffs in week 21,22,23 — Houston and Toronto play 12 games then, Minnesota only 8

        12: Rockets, Raps
        11: Bulls, Clips, Cavs, Grizzlies, Heat, Pels, Kings, Jazz
        9: Celtics, Mavs, Suns, Wiz
        8: Wolves

        • RicoSuave says:

          @Eddie: Thanks a lot man! …I appreciate it.

          • Tad

            Tad says:

            @RicoSuave: Thanks Rico and Eddie!

  2. Kuz says:

    Who are you biggest sleeper picks?

    • Kuz says:

      (For H2H 9 cat)

      • Tad

        Tad says:

        @Kuz: Keep the above advice in mind, too. Sleepers don’t have to be young guys about to bust through. They can be unexciting guys that were given up on and/or injury risks.

        Looking at the players being taken after 100 on ESPN, here are some I’d love to take a chance on: Favors (used to be a top 50 guy, so if he’s finally healthy…), Jamal Murray (a common sleeper getting taken way earlier everywhere I’m aware of, so he may not be a deal where you have to take him), Cauley-Stein, Kanter, Warren, Noel, Hood, Mirotic, and Richardson. I think these guys have a great chance of far exceeding their draft position (if ESPN’s ADP is at all reflective of your league).

  3. Matt says:

    MJ = God in a basketball uniform. Goosebumps.

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Matt: Fun to go back and watch highlights every time I wonder if I’m just remembering him as better than he was. Proves to me that I’m definitely not.

  4. Aa says:

    Fantastic article. For dynasty leagues, do you have any favorite advanced stats to apply to small sample sizes that might help predict which guys’ skill sets might translate best with more minutes? For instance, I used to pick up and drop Brandan Wright about 5 times every season because his PER was always so great… obviously that never worked out. I also love the “old and boring” strategy to go against the grain.

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Aa: Thanks a lot. I definitely use per 36 stats a lot for young guys only getting like 15 minutes. The don’t always do the same with extended minutes, if they even get them, but I think it’s helpful. Percentages and efficiency usually improve, too. But, I guess it’s more speculation on role and opportunity to figure out which guys are going to get the chance to get the 32-36 minutes someday. I’m going to be talking dynasty/keeper in a few weeks with some additional aspects to study.

  5. J.O.T. says:

    Do you agree with ESPN that Donovan Mitchell won’t finish top 200? He is conspicuously absent from that list and far more likely to see minutes than Jordan Bell on a juggernaut, don’t you think? Especially for a guy who crushed summer league and is taking well over 10 shots a game in the preseason rotations. Why do you think ESPN projections so frequently lowball guys?

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @J.O.T.: The ESPN average draft position thing is weird. It looks like they don’t really keep track after 140, which might be how many are drafted in their standard leagues. So, I wouldn’t put too much stock in anything after 153 (everyone after that has “140” as their ADP). Anyway, I love Mitchell. He’s got “it” or whatever. Basketball Monster’s got him projected at 129 for this season.

  6. Dan Lo says:

    Whats up!

    Since you were talking about the hype on rooks…

    My lonzo for garry harris str8 up?

    Im inclined to do it, My league has 3 points made, and 3point %

    What you thank?

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Dan Lo: That’s a good one. It’s a perfect risky vs safe question. Harris is likely better in both % and threes and points, while Lonzo is probably better in boards and dimes. Harris is probably still improving, but you pretty much know what you’re getting. Lonzo is actually about the safest rookie we’ve had in a while, and his ceiling is pretty high. So, maybe he’s not that risky. I’d guess his realistic range of ranks is like 90 to 30. And Harris is more like 45-65? So, probably comes down to who fits your team better and what your risk tolerance is.

  7. Patty Mills is my homeboy says:

    Hey Tad,
    Love the article. I am in a 10 team, 9-cat h2h with 12 roster spots so its pretty shallow. Normally I look to punt points or at least try to get value by avoiding scorers. I ended up with what I think is a balanced team, just wondering your thoughts and who I should look to bring in as I fill my IR spot with Batum, I’m thinking someone boring like Crabbe or more fun like Taurean.
    Thanks man.

    1 – KD
    2 – Jimmy Buckets
    3 – Draymond
    4 – Horford
    5 – Rubio
    6 – Dieng
    7 – Capela
    8 – Crowder
    9 – Batum (IR)
    10 – Polish Hammer
    11 – Fultz
    12 – Thad Young

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Patty Mills is my homeboy: Thanks for reading. I ran your team’s projections, and you’re low in points and threes (i’m sure you’re aware), and not great in ft%, but you’re fine in TOs and very good in the other 5 cats.. So, you’re either deciding to punt points/3s or scrounge for them. Sounds like you’ve got a good idea of how your league works and if it’s worth chasing those or strengthening your others cats. Those two guys seem like good ones to take a shot on, since they have a slight chance to be nice surprises.

      • Patty Mills is my homeboy says:

        @Tad: Thanks man, appreciate it. I ended up going with Reddick but I’m happy to stream that spot.

  8. Tino says:

    Hi Tad,

    thanks for the article, very helpful. Can I get some advice on my team? It’s a 12er league with 11 cat (with a/t and OB). My team is, in round sequence:
    Otto Porter,
    Clint Capela,
    Willie Cauley-Stein,
    Danilo Gallinari,
    Wilson Chandler,
    Evan Fournier,
    Jamal Murray,
    Trevor Booker.

    I feel like I dont have enough big man and too many wing players. What should I look to do to improve this team? FAs availanles are: Will Baton, Bazemore, Mudiay.

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Tino: Thank you, Tino. Here’s how your team projections shake out: strongest in 3s, then points and fg%/ft%. Weaknesses are your two additional categories and blocks/assists/steals/rebounds (TO is fine). Since you’re so stacked in 3s, maybe try to ship off a guy like Murray if someone in your league loves him for a big man that can help you with blocks/rebounds/offensive rebounds. Maybe you can get someone like Robin Lopez plus another similarly ranked player, since Murray’s a popular breakout guy. Anyway, that’s just one idea. Good luck!

  9. Dave says:

    Hey, nice column. Thanks.

    I’m new and just drafted. 8 team points league where this is the scoring system:

    Points (PTS) 1
    Blocks (BLK) 1
    Steals (STL) 1
    Assists (AST) 1
    Rebounds (REB) 1
    Turnovers (TO) -1
    Field Goals Made (FGM) 1
    Free Throws Made (FTM) 1
    Double Doubles (DD) 10
    Triple Doubles (TD) 20
    Quadruple Doubles (QD) 30

    So I loaded up on PF and C. Maximum 4 C per team. Here’s my team:

    PG – Bledsoe
    SG – Hayward
    SF – Middelton
    PF – Jokic
    C – Towns
    G – Rubio
    F – Saric
    Util – D. Jordan, Gobert, Capela
    BE – Bradley, Favors
    IR – I. Thomas

    I will move Thomas to the IR once the season starts, leaving me with an open slot. Do you see a weakness anywhere? Did I mismanage the draft? With only 8 teams and small rosters, there are some really nice players available. Top 10 ranked are:

    Ilyasova, Dirk, Harris, Brogdon, Mirotic, T. Booker, Warren, both Morris’

    C available are Kanter, R. Lopez and Noel, all in there, but I already have 4. Thoughts?

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Dave: Hi Dave. Sorry about Hayward. I plugged in your settings, and here’s the order I come out with for the names you mentioned : Kanter, T. Harris, Dirk, Markieff, Brogdon, Noel. Also, Saric is projected lower than all of them, so if you’re looking to make a move for him, that might help you, too. Best of luck!

  10. jay says:

    what do you think ?? 12 teams Where do you think I can improve? What is my strength?
    Point system : Fg%, FT%,3ptm, Pts , Reb, Ast, St, Blk, TO
    Karl-Anthony Towns Min – C
    Kemba Walker Cha – PG
    Blake Griffin LAC – PF,C
    Carmelo Anthony OKC – SF,PF
    D’Angelo Russell Bkn – PG,SG)
    Robert Covington Phi – SF,PF
    Dwyane Wade Cle – PG,SG
    Dario Saric Phi – SF,PF
    Reggie Jackson Det – PG,SG
    Dion Waiters Mia – SG,SF
    Ryan Anderson Hou – PF,C
    De’Aaron Fox Sac – PG
    Jamal Crawford Min – SG,SF

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @jay: Hello Jay. Your team is coming up strongest in 3s, assists, FT%, and points. The other categories could use some work. I’d suggest ditching Crawford and maybe Saric and Wade depending on how they’re looking after a few more games. I think you could really use some big men instead. They’d get you the FG%/Blocks/Rebounds you need (while helping with TOs). Good luck. I like a lot of your picks. Russell and Covington off to great starts.

  11. RICE says:

    Posted this to your previous article, but seeing as this one is newer…

    10 Team – H2H

    Hey Tad,

    Great work on this article. I wasn’t intentionally punting anything during my draft last night and from what I can tell, I ended up extremely balanced/average across all categories and not great or terrible in any categories.

    I’m noticeably thin at Center, having only got Dedmon after taking Whiteside in round 2. R. Lopez, Kaminsky, Olynyk available.

    Do you see a punt category here? I’m thinking maybe points? I ended up with three guys from your punt points list. I could shop DeRozan (already have an offer for Schroder)?

    Chris Paul
    Hassan Whiteside
    DeMar DeRozan
    Victor Olidipo
    A-ARon Gordon
    Trevor Ariza
    Robert Covington
    Brandon Ingram
    Dewayne Dedmon
    Reggie Jackson
    Tyreke Evans
    Justin Holiday

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @RICE: Hi again. I gotcha on the other article.

  12. Fear the BEard says:

    hi this is my first time playing h2h 9 categories 10 people league what do you think about my team? planning to drop jamal crawford for john collins. I think my weaknesses are boards ,steal, block … do you guys like my team? I dont know what my team’s strength..

    James Harden-PG,SG
    Damian Lillard– PG
    Victor Oladipo– PG,SG
    Khris Middleton– SG,SF
    Marc Gasol– C
    Joel Embiid-PF,C
    Robert Covington– SF,PF
    Tobias Harris– SF,PF
    Malcolm Brogdon– PG,SG
    Reggie Jackson-PG,SG
    Dennis Smith Jr.– PG,SG
    Ryan Anderson– PF,C
    Jamal Crawford– SG,SF

    • Tad

      Tad says:

      @Fear the BEard: I love a ton of your picks. You’ve got pretty big holes at fg% and TOs, so I would punt those categories. You could trade guys that are good at fg% to fortify your other categories. I see John Collins actually projected to be the most valuable there. If he keeps this up, you might be able to get someone with a terrible fg% (but solid in other categories) for him. Like Marcus Smart, Eric Gordon, Lou Williams, Rodney Hood. Maybe Rajon Rondo, actually. He’s bad in both of those categories. Anyway, you’re a little low in rebounds, too, but great in ft%, 3s, points, and assists. Good luck to you.

Comments are closed.