The 2018-19 Golden State Warriors have one of the greatest rosters ever assembled and are huge favorites to win their third NBA Championship in a row, which would be their fourth in five years. This offseason they added one of the best big men playing in the NBA today, DeMarcus Cousins, to a roster that already includes four returning All-Stars: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green. The bench is also incredible with the likes of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Jordan Bell. End of preview.
Just kidding…kind of. If this was just a preview for the regular NBA season, then my work would be done. But this is a fantasy basketball preview my friends, so I am going to go down the roster and point out which Warriors you should target for your fantasy team. Some will be obvious *cough* Curry *cough*, Durant, but there are a few guys ready to make the jump from fantasy zero to fantasy hero.
Last night it was obvious that the All-Star break did a lot of bodies good. There were some huge, I mean massive, fantasy lines last night. Some of the juiciest slash we have seen all season.
The Sixers grab the lead because of their two young stars that have #TrustTheProcess perpetually trending on (anti) social media. Joel Embiid returned from his first of many All-Star appearances with a stat line prettier than Fergie’s angelic voice. 11-of-17 from the floor, including 3-for-3 from deep and 5-for-8 from the line (the only ugly part), 30 points, 13 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks with only 1 turnover in 34 minutes. When talking about future number one overall fantasy picks, I rarely hear Embiid’s name mentioned. Now that he is playing in back-to-backs and through minor injuries, I have a feeling that this will change by the end of the season.
His partner in crime, Ben Simmons, would have grabbed the headline if not for Embiid’s epic slash. Simmons finished with: 0 (no surprise)/32/7/11/1/1 including the game winning shot. He did hit only 6-of-11 free throws, however, which along with his lack of an outside shot will continue to keep him out of the first round of fantasy drafts and is probably what kept him out of the All-Star game this year (something tells me this will change next season).
When I was younger, much younger, I used to consider myself a fairly athletic guy. Played competitive volleyball and could hang when I hooped at most courts. Then the Summer of ’96 happened. I was playing tackle football, when one of the guys brought his friend to play. The new guy was a third string cornerback for the University of Maryland and he said, “No tackle for me guys. Just two-hand touch.” Didn’t matter because no one could get one hand on the guy. Ok, I’m exaggerating. One hand was possible, but two hands? Fuggetaboutit. 3rd stringer for a Division 1 college team. I couldn’t even imagine the level of what a professional player would be at. Which brings me to TJ McConnell. Myself and many others clown him that he should be playing at the YMCA, but let’s not forget that he’s in the top 1% of ballers on the planet. Last night, he reminded us all as he messed around.
Played 37 minutes off the bench. The last time TJ received 30 minutes of run in a game was on January 20th. More than likely, TJ will get around 24 minutes a game, but does have the capacity to contribute across the board. Just don’t expect 6 steals and for him to mess around on a nightly basis. More often than not, I’m going to talk about his hair. Every once in a while, though, he’s going to remind us that it’s fun to stay at the YMTJ.
What’s up Razzballers? Anthony Davis went absolutely nutty in a double overtime win over the Nets last night, rainbowing for 44/17/2/6/3 on 16-for-35 FG (3-for-5 3P, 9-for-14 FT) and just three TOs in almost 50 minutes. Losing DeMarcus Cousins is a big blow, in fantasy and in real life, but Davis should be able to ball out in his absence. Anyway, here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy basketball:
You know those days when everything just flows perfectly? You’re driving to work and exit the freeway because there’s too much traffic. For you East Coast folk, a freeway is a toll way except that it’s….free. Anyways, while traversing the local streets, you notice that all the lights turn green and you don’t have to stop once until you reach the office. What a feeling. Well, I had one of those days yesterday. I work from home so it wasn’t the scenario I described above. Rather, it went a little something like this. I was scrolling through Twitter when the Player’s Tribune account tweeted out an article from last year: Sharpen the Arrow by Jamal Murray. In the description was the quote, “I grew up in a kung fu house. It wasn’t until I got older that I discovered that most families didn’t talk about the Shaolin Temple.” I’ve always loved kung fu and that’s a freaking unique story. Then I received a notification that Garrett Temple scored 34 points.
Garrett Temple. Shaolin Temple. My mind took me to The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, which took me back to my youth and put a smile on my face. Then that got me to think about Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which made me look like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. The Universe is a beautiful place sometimes. So, how did your day go? As for Temple, he’s not fantasy relevant. At least not on a consistent basis. He averages around seven shots per game and 25 minutes. He plays for the Kings, so he can get 15 minutes one game or 40 minutes, which he got last night. He can shoot the 3 and chip in across-the-board stats. He’s scored double figures in 16 out of the 43 games he’s played and hoisted up at least 10 shots in eight games. If you can predict when those games happen, then you deserve your own 976 number.
Somehow, we’re already halfway through the NBA season. You know your team(s). The only major unknowns left are who else will get hurt, who will get shut down, and who will get a big value increase due to those injuries and the shutting down of said teammates. Aside from trying to grab some young guys that might get some extra run down the stretch, what else can you do to increase your odds of winning at this point? Well, staying active and streaming hot players will work wonders. But beyond that, I suggest checking out your team’s standing in each of what I’ll call the forgotten stats. Even the most astute fantasy player is going to be drawn to points, rebounds, assists, and threes out of habit and because of the way that we’re most often presented with stats.
I’m going to update you on the leaders in the boring and unsexy categories of field goal percentage, free throw percentage, steals, and blocks (in addition to FG% + FT% and steals + blocks). I’m sure some of you might be much more focused on the % categories than I just mentioned, but I think most players treat them as an afterthought. So, since others are more likely to ignore these forgotten stats, take advantage of that and focus on them if you can stand to gain points there. I think you’ll find that these categories are often led by some lesser names that can be had more cheaply than the points/rebounds/assists stars. Many are even available in most leagues.
Here are your most effective players in order of Basketball Monster’s per-game values (percentages are weighted) by category or combined categories through 1/9.
Remember Carlos Boozer? He of the lead feet on defense, yelling “HEY!” every time he missed a shot in hopes of getting a foul call? At least that’s my recollection of him during his Bulls years. He actually did play decent enough team defense to not hurt the team much while putting up 15 and 10 many nights with his no-jump fade-away rainbows. Anyway, sometime around the end of his Bulls tenure, I remember finding out that this old man on the decline was younger than me. So, I guess I couldn’t really call these NBA players that were considering retirement “old” any longer. Over the years, I’ve even embraced these guys and found that veteran players can be fantasy steals because of our ageist tendencies. And if you play in a dynasty league, they come even cheaper, of course.
Of course it’s fun to pick, trade for, and add young players right before they break out. We all want upside. But I think a lot of us don’t realize that older, boring players do have upside because of their depressed draft values. Let’s see how the NBA’s advanced age players are doing on the ESPN Player Rater compared to their Average Draft Position. I do this to hopefully show that you can win with old reliable dudes, even if they’re on the decline. You can even take this information to help you figure out who to target in trades for young, upsidey players.
We all have “our” places. The doughnuts taste better at Primo’s, so I’ll always go there instead of Winchell’s. The barber at the place down the street knew when to talk and when to just chill. Plus, the trim and and after-cut wash were fantastic. It’s easy to understand why I chose those places. […]
For the first few weeks of the season, I try not to focus on the standings. I look, of course, but I do so knowing that there have been outlier games, whose impacts are more pronounced due to the small sample size. Also, most teams have a player or two that’s missed the majority of the games and they might also have been starting a replacement player that’s not going to keep it up much longer. However, we’re now about a quarter of the way through the NBA season. The data is relatively predictable. You should know which categories you need to focus on in order to gain points and which ones to ignore, either because you’re stuck at the bottom or entrenched at the top of a category (or if you always win or lose the category by a ton in head-to-head).
Today, we’ll look at the ESPN Player Rater. Tony RP’s Player Rater updates will give you a picture of who’s most valuable by position. I thought I’d go by category to see who’s doing what for us. Here are the top 20 players by category plus the bottom 20 for relevant ones, skipping players that have hardly played. So, it’s just the per-game stat leaders you may be familiar with, except that the percentage categories are weighted by volume. Turnovers are from BasketballMonster, since ESPN doesn’t include them.
So, how is this useful? Obviously, you want players that score well overall on the Player Rater. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be surprised to see some of your players pop up on these lists. Also, keeping in mind which categories you need help in, this can help you find some trade targets. Or, if you’re out of it in points or FG%, maybe ship off a guy that’s in the top 20 that’s not doing much else for you. If you’re in the middle of the pack in FT% and you see that you have one of the worst offenders there, maybe you can ditch him and gain points (just keep in mind what you might be losing in other categories from him). A lot can be gained by learning what’s actually happening compared to what we assume is happening based on previous years or projections.
Next week, I’ll get back into multi-category rankings for those that are ignoring categories, whether intentionally or as a matter of the hand you’ve been dealt. Think punt FG% & TOs, or for FT% punters: 3PTM+AST+ST+PTS+TO rankings, which are what you want to complement your FT% anchors with. That’s when you can really find trade value, since all players now have a new value to your specific team.
I’ve had fun writing these team previews, so I’m sad that this will be the final one for this season. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the journey with me. Not all is poo poo, though, because it means the season starts tomorrow night! Yaaaaaassssssss! Any of you remember Voltron, Defender of the Universe? Five robot lions, that each had specialized skills and roles, would come together and form a super robot to protect the universe from evil? That’s what the Warriors are. Five players that can do damage individually, but go to a completely different level when playing with a collective consciousness. What if the response by the aliens to one of the SETI signals beamed out to outer space is: Game on, bitches! Putting all hate aside, the Warriors would be the squad we’d send, right? They are the NBA’s Voltron.