Hey there all you Razzball readers! The Duke is coming at you with an entire rundown of the Western Conference from a 9-cat fantasy perspective. We’ll start with a top 20 player ranking, then go team by team looking at all the viable fantasy options for the 2020-2021 season and see how to fit them into your roster to bring home another chip for the mantle!

 

2020-2021 9-Cat Fantasy Basketball Rankings (Western Conference)

1.) Anthony Davis

2.) James Harden

3.) Karl-Anthony Towns

4.) Damian Lillard

5.)  Luka Doncic

6.) Nikola Jokic

7.) Lebron James

8.) Stephen Curry

9.)  Kawhi Leonard

10.) Devin Booker

11.) Rudy Gobert

12.) Kristaps Porzingis

13.) Jusuf Nurkic

14.) Paul George

15.) Jrue Holiday

16.) Donovan Mitchell

17.) Russell Westbrook

18.) Jamal Murray

19.) De’Aaron Fox

20.) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Starting off in ever-sunny Southern California, the Larry O’Brien trophy-hoisting Los Angeles Lakers once again feature two first round fantasy options. Some lists may feature James Harden first, while others may have Anthony Davis there, but it is undeniable that Davis will continue to dominate as the number one offensive option for the reigning champs. Finishing the 2019-20 regular season with a monster average stat line of 26.1 PTS, 9.3 REB, 3.2 AST, 2.3 BLK, 1.5 STL, and 50.3 FG%, Davis shows no signs of slowing down. His partner in the Los Angeles terrible two, Lebron James, also put together an impressive 17th season last year. Leading the league in assists with 10.2 per game, Lebron and his potent passing and scoring ability would pair quite nicely with an assist-dominant 2nd or 3rd round guard option such as De’Aaron Fox or Jrue Holiday. As for the rest of the team (yes, there are other players on this team) there isn’t a whole lot to be desired here fantasy-wise. Rajon Rondo (if he re-signs) may get some assists, Kyle Kuzma might score a bit and hit a few threes, JaVale McGee/Dwight Howard (if he re-signs) might be decent rebound specialists depending on who stays and goes with this team. Other than Davis and LBJ, most of these guys fall to deeper league consideration in rotating roster spots to help push those specific categories over the hump to land in the W column.

 

Denver Nuggets

The Mile High City is definitely an interesting team to look at from a fantasy perspective. After their playoff performance where the Lakers ended their streak of playing in four postseason game sevens in a row, a few players on this team definitely stand out. Jamal Murray was pretty lackluster fantasy-wise in the 2019-20 season and bubble seeding games, but once the playoffs arrived he was nothing but dominant. He put up some incredible performances with multiple 40+ point games (some threatening a triple-double) and shot the ball exceptionally well. He will likely surge in ADP a bit because of this, but look to land him somewhere between the high 20s and the low 40s. He has shown the capacity for monster stat lines, but the question remains whether or not his playoff performances will stick. His teammate, Nikola Jokic however, is a consistent lock for first round value. The man is a constant triple-double threat due to his elite passing ability from the 5-4 positions. He finished last season coming in just under 20 PTS with 9.7 REB and 7.0 AST on 52.8% from the field. The other exciting option from Denver is the young stud Michael Porter Jr. At just 22 years of age, there’s potential for him to be drafted fairly aggressively in dynasty leagues after posting some seriously strong performances in the bubble seeding games where Coach Mike Malone was able to give him some extra minutes. Porter Jr. could certainly be worth the gamble for those looking to land a potential up-and-coming star down the road, but don’t count on him immediately coming in scoring like he did in the bubble. The rest of the Denver roster features a revolving door of role-playing guards and some big men that leave a lot to be desired.

 

Los Angeles Clippers

This post is being written on 1o/24/2020. The season supposedly starts in two months on 12/22/2020. That is not a lot of time for free agency. This is a team that will almost certainly make some sort of move to complement the two stars they have now after their supremely disappointing performance in the postseason. It’s tough to predict what that might look like, however. They’ve already moved on from coach Doc Rivers and have reached an agreement with Tyronn Lue. There have also been rumors about making a move to bring someone in for the starting point guard job. Whether he packs his bags or switches to a different role, look for Patrick Beverley to be affected. The other major issue is the contract of Montrezl Harrell. He is now an unrestricted free agent, as is Marcus Morris, with quite a bit of talent. With all that said, its tough to predict what the landscape of this team will look like this upcoming season. There are however, some things that you can count on. Though their team’s playoff performance and their fantasy owners’ all too common gripes and moans may affect the outlook on these two players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have repeatedly shown that they can produce solid numbers over the course of a season for a fantasy team. Even with Leonard’s load management and George’s decline in production since moving from OKC, it should still be expected that these two find their spots hovering around the top 10 and 20 respectively. Look to take advantage if they fall in the draft.

 

Houston Rockets

This current Houston Rockets team is akin to a ship run by a captain who surmised it could made faster by removing all the sails, found out he was wrong, and then lit it on fire with the entire crew asleep in the brig. Their season was hallmarked by a decision to fully commit to a small ball mentality by shipping away Clint Capela, and not allowing anyone over 6’9″ to see the floor. Former coach, Mike D’Antoni, was always known as being an offensive minded coach that had recently complemented a player like James Harden quite well. As of right now there is no head coach for this team, and their future is certainly in question. What isn’t in question though, is the money they’re paying James Harden to be one of the best offensive players the game has ever seen. Harden has averaged more than 29 PTS for five consecutive seasons, with three of them over 30 PTS per game. During his average of 37.1 MPG over the past eight seasons in Houston, he has found time to stuff the other major stat categories as well to the tune of 7.7 AST and 6.0 REB. Last season he shot 44% from the field including 12.4 threes a game while making close to 4.5 of them. He is more than deserving of his top 1-2 overall ADP. While his compatriot, Russell Westbrook, didn’t average a triple-double last year, he still found a way to put up 27.2 PTS, 7.0 AST, and 7.9 REB a game without the team using a second ball. Robert Covington was a fantastic source of defensive stats, but could see his BLK decline depending on roster changes to the frontcourt. Its tough to predict what the rest of this team will look like this season, but domination from those two is a guarantee.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

Rip City is the heart of the Pacific Northwest (sorry Seattle). Their backcourt has recently been labeled as one of the best the league has to offer. Though their playoff performances have not always lived up the hype, they know they can compete and play hard night in and night out. Relative to some of the other teams this offseason, it’s likely Portland’s roster doesn’t change a whole lot. Damian Lillard put up his best season yet in 2019-20, with career highs in PTS, AST, FG% (both overall and 3pt), 3PA, and 3PM. This was in part due to losing a major offensive option in Jusuf Nurkic for most of the season. That being said, Lillard didn’t show any signs of slowing down as he maintains his game changing shooting and creative finishing abilities. CJ McCollum remains the number two option here posting 22.2 PTS on 45% from the field. Carmelo Anthony has had a resurgence with this team and has been playing great minutes for them, but likely won’t be a major fantasy contributor. The interesting bit is in the frontcourt with the return of Jusuf Nurkic. Hassan Whiteside entered the season as the starting center and dominated the stat sheets. He was a near double-double guarantee, with top 3 numbers in rebounding and a league-leading average in blocks. Unfortunately for his fantasy outlook, head coach Terry Stotts will likely have him coming of the bench if he returns to the roster this season. It’s a safe bet that he won’t post the same caliber of a performance fantasy wise this season should he remain in Portland. His replacement in the starting role, Jusuf Nurkic, is primed for a fantastic season. Nurkic is a major piece to the Portland offense allowing the ball to leave the hands of Lillard and creating shots for Lillard, McCollum, and the rest of the team. During the all-important 8 seeding games, Nurkic averaged 17.6 PTS, 10.3 REB, 4.0 AST, 2.0 BLK, and 1.4 STLs. Take as many grains of salt as necessary for the small sample size. These stats however, show a continuation of what he was able to do in previous seasons, even after the injury. Nurkic will be a strong fantasy option this year, regardless of Whiteside’s presence.

 

Dallas Mavericks

Mark Cuban struck Eastern European gold with the best young player in the league in Luka Doncic, who is 21 years of age and already playing at a superstar level. 2019-2020 saw him post averages of 28.8 PTS, 8.8 AST, 9.4 REB, .463 FG%, and 2.8 3PM. His FT% leaves a bit to be desired at 75.8, but with 9.2 attempts per game at the line, if he manages to improve the efficieny, his value becomes that much more insane. In dynasty leagues, it’s criminal not to take him at number one overall. Bringing in Kristaps Porzingis was a brilliant move as shown by his performance in the bubble. Porzingis is still plagued by injuries, but if he can be healthy this season look for him to post some giant stat lines. Tim Hardaway Jr. can be a late-round asset in the PTS category along with some decent numbers in 3PM. The real story here is Doncic and Porzingis, as the rest of the production gets spread out evenly. With Dwight Powell tearing his ACL back in January, Maxi Kleber could see a nice bump in value at the backup center.

 

Utah Jazz

The playoff series between the Jazz and the Nuggets this summer was easily one of the most entertaining to watch. Donovan Mitchell was the number one fantasy player in the postseason with 36.3 PTS, 4.9 AST, 5.0 REB, .948 FT%, and 4.7 3PM on a ridiculous 52.9% from the field. This insanity of course will not likely stick for the upcoming regular season, but it is, at the very least, an indicator that he can make a jump in value from where he’s been the past few years. In the playoffs, he got to the line 8.3 times a game. That is a major jump from his regular season average of 4.7. With his incredible accuracy from the line, he could definitely look to jump in ranking if he can find a way to draw a few more whistles each night. The shooting will likely drop, and along with it the PPG, but he can still be counted on for a very solid performance this year. Mike Conley started to click with his new role in this roster towards the end of the year as well. Conley was the 16th overall fantasy player in the postseason. Look for him to land somewhere in the 50s this season. Rudy Gobert remains a massive French tower of defense. He consistently threatens to lead the league in blocks and is a guarantee for solid rebound numbers as well. Don’t expect anything to change there. Bojan Bogdanovic also put together a solid season last year with 20.2 PTS on 44% from the field.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder blew it up after Damian Lillard waved them home from the 2018-19 playoffs and they will likely look to blow it up again now. There are rumors Chris Paul is up for trade, Danilo Gallinari is probably leaving, and they already sent coach Billy Donovan on his merry way to the Chicago Bulls. The core here is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander is young but ready to step into a starting point guard role. He has been able to produce great minutes next to Chris Paul, and looks to get a pretty decent bump if and when Paul departs. During the 2019-20 regular season he put up averages of 19 PTS, 3.3 AST, and 5.9 REB on 47% shooting. Steven Adams remains his consistent double-double threat with great FG% and some BLKs. Dennis Schroder is a good outlet for some scoring and distribution. Nerlens Noel is also an interesting piece. Noel is one of the best fantasy players in the league on a per-minute basis. Though he doesn’t get many of them, he is able to be incredibly efficient when it comes to racking up defensive stats. He has remained a great option recently as a low cost STLs and BLKs specialist. Stay tuned to see who else survives the explosion

 

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies held the 8th seed coming into the bubble restart, but lost it to the, at the time, red hot Portland Trail Blazers. This sort of do or die environment did however, give some very valuable experience to their rookie star: Ja Morant. Playing 38 MPG in the bubble, Morant definitely shined in the leadership role, putting up some great performances. Jaren Jackson Jr. also gained some valuable experience, seeing 37 MPG. Before his knee injury, he was electric in the bubble. Jackson Jr. improved significantly in areas where he was strong but remained stale in areas where he was weak. He has a strong ability to score and shoot from distance, but his rebounding is abysmal for someone standing 6’11” and weighing 242 lbs. Jackson Jr. may be a decent mid-late round pick for 3PM and PTS on rosters looking to punt REBs. Morant will also look to improve in his sophomore year, but will likely not make the jump akin to that of Luka Doncic or Trae Young. He may see some pretty aggressive ADPs especially in dynasty leagues, but still has a bit left to go before he can see 3rd or 4th round value in standard leagues. It was Jonas Valnciunas who was the highest ranked Grizzly coming in at 53. This is largely due to his 11.3 REB and .585 FG%. Valanciunas is by no means old at 28, but with guys like Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke, he could see his numbers decline a bit this season from where they were at in 2019-20. Even still, Valanciunas is definitely a solid choice for a center spot who can also shoot the three.

 

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs were just short of qualifying for the 2019-2020 playoffs in the Orlando bubble. LaMarcus Aldridge did not play during those eight games due to a shoulder injury, but is healthy and ready to go for the upcoming regular season. Even at 35 years of age, Aldridge is still able to produce solid numbers at the power forward position. These numbers have to drop off at some point, but for now Aldridge looks to continue on to another season of around 19 PTS and 7 REB with a shooting percentage in the high 40s. He remains solid at the line for a big man living around 80%, and even got up to 1.6 BLKs this past season. DeMar DeRozan will likely stay on with the Spurs this year and do what he does best, which is score points. DeRozan has averaged over 20 PTS per game for the past eight seasons while living around 1 STL and 4 AST. The interesting guys in San Antonio are their young guards. Derrick White and Keldon Johnson both put up solid performances in the bubble, though their usage was a bit skewed due to the lack of Aldridge. If given the minutes and the usage, each of these guys can threaten 20+ PTS on any given night.

 

Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns were the most exciting team in 2019-20 to not make the playoffs. They chewed and spat their way to an undefeated 8-0 record in the bubble. Unfortunately, the hole dug during the regular season was just too big. Barely. With the unstoppable Devin Booker, a strong, young big in Deandre Ayton, a capable distributor in Ricky Rubio, and the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft, they could look to make a run for a playoff spot in a seriously competitive Western Conference. Fantasy-wise, Devin Booker is a bucket-scoring murder hornet. He had fantastic value this past season with averages of 26.6 PTS, 4.2 REB, and 6.5 AST while shooting 48.9% from the field. Booker also shot above 90% from the line on 7.3 attempts. Ayton was also great in his sophomore year posting 18.2 PTS and 11.5 REB on 54% shooting. Rubio was a great source of assists with 8.8 per game including 13 PTS and 4.7 REBs. Kelly Oubre Jr. was also a decent provider with 18.7 PTS and 6.4 REBs. Oubre Jr.’s FT% was fairly poor at 77% however, and his shooting left a little to be desired at just 45%. It will be interesting to see who they pick up in the draft, but the Suns have a solid core of young guys, and have definitely improved upon the past few years.

 

Sacramento Kings

In recent years, the Kings have been what one might call “good-adjacent”. They have some strong young players who can string together impressive performances, but they’re one or two established stars away from being relevant. De’Aaron Fox is a talented young point guard with skill in distributing and a competent level of scoring. Buddy Hield can shoot. Other than that, they end up looking like a random bunch of talented twenty-somethings trying to win a pickup game. In all honesty, that’s a pretty accurate description of their team. Fantasy-wise, though, they hold some good options. The aforementioned Fox is good for 7 or 8 assists on any given night with the occasional double-digit showing. He tends to show up more on the underside of his 21.1 PTS per game than not, but he can go off on some teams for a big night. The shooting is there from the field at 48% this past year, but he tends to hurt a fantasy roster sitting at around 70% from the line. Hield is the other main offensive option with 19.2 PTS in 2019-20 and close to 4 3PM. Richaun Holmes is also worth a look in some deeper leagues. Unfortunately, he was plagued this past year by injury and rotation woes, but if given the minutes he has shown that he can produce solid value as a 10 and 10 guy with a few BLKs.

 

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans and their recently hired Van Gundy brother look to develop their young core of Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Lonzo Ball. Jrue Holiday trade rumors aside, there are some solid outlooks in terms of fantasy for this team. In terms of reality, not so much. The Western Conference looks uber-competitive this year and the Pelicans just don’t have the all the pieces in place to make any sort of run. In the 24 games played, Zion Williamson averaged 22.5 PTS with 6.3 REB on 58% shooting. These are great numbers for a rookie, but there are some areas that currently hurt Williamson’s value, as he knocked down only 64% of his shots from the line and had a drastic decline in defensive stats from his numbers at Duke. It’s normal for a rookie’s numbers to decline from what they were in college, but as a power forward, 0.7 STL and 0.4 BLK are just not good enough. The offensive stats are great, but his value will always be capped somewhere in the 50s if he can’t bring the other stats up. Ingram, however, had a fantastic year netting him the Most Improved Player award. Posting a line of 23.8 PTS, 6.1 REB, and 4.2 AST on 46% from the field and 85% from the line, Ingram looks like the most attractive asset on this team aside from Holiday. Lonzo Ball puts forward a strange case. He is a jack of all trades that somehow finds value even while shooting below 60% from the line and just over 40% from the field. Saved by his AST, REB, and STL, Ball is the type of player you want alongside you, so long as he doesn’t end up finishing the play.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves were an awkward Minnesota date night activity this past season posting a measly 19-45 record good for 14th in the West. The suspension brought on by Covid-19 was a definite downer for all the Timberwolves fans rich enough to mostly forget that they’re still paying for season tickets, who were effectively left with one less thing to fall asleep to. The Karl-Anthony Towns reason to watch their games was mostly forgone as well, with the stud making only 35 appearances on the floor. Those who bought him with a first round draft pick last year still have a bruise. This year will be different! He’s healthy and with that said, there’s no reason for him not to dominate in the fashion he has in the past few years. Towns is also only 24 and should remain a top 4 overall pick in both standard and dynasty leagues. This team also now has D’Angelo Russell and the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Should they take Anthony Edwards or perhaps the Ball kid, there should be plenty of usage to soak up as the rest of this roster is pretty empty. Russell may also see a slight boost playing around actual NBA players this year.

 

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors left their old home at Oracle and built a shiny new arena only to immediately struggle to fill it. Coming off a runner up finish in the 2018-19 playoffs, the Warriors made it clear pretty early on that they were headed for a lottery pick. This of course was largely due to their best players having season ending injuries. Those two players are back now and they will share the court either with the second overall pick in the draft, or whatever star they can afford to buy with its value. Despite all the pieces left up in the air, the Warriors still have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Due to this fact, it’s a sure bet that the Warriors won’t be finishing anywhere near 15-50 this season. There are some questions posed as to how Thompson will look after returning from the ACL injury, but if his dad can be trusted, his shot is looking “better than ever”. That shot is all he really needs. In past years he’s been great as a 3pt specialist with strong shooting percentages and PPG. Hopefully, he can continue right where he left off. Curry came back for one game before the season’s suspension in a loss against Toronto when he scored 23 PTS with 6 REB and 7 AST. He shot 8-for-8 from the line but a measly 37% from the field. Given the better part of a year to get back in rhythm with his jumper, it can be assumed that 37% from the field will not be a continuing trend. Curry should be looked at in the first round in standard leagues: business as usual.

 

The Western Conference of the NBA in 2020-2021 will definitely be a battleground after the free agency smoke settles. With several teams getting stronger or remaining strong, every game will count in a tightly contested race for the eight playoff spots. Make sure to keep updated on all roster news, as things will certainly move fast before the 12/22 start date. Santa will definitely be delivering some quality Basketball.