This is it, my friends, the last Tuesday night recap of the regular season. I hope your hoops seasons have gone well and you’re enjoying your hard-earned hardware. For those of you still grinding out the last days of the season, I wish you well. I hope there’s a ring waiting for you come playoff time.
It might seem like a cop-out for me to pass on handing out the last of the lede player honors here, but I was inspired by Time Magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year and Kevin Durant’s 2014 MVP speech. That’s right, dear reader, you are the real MVP and the lede player for this last post. I appreciate you hanging out with me and reading my jokes, notes, and musings every Wednesday. I’ve got some offseason writing ideas percolating, so don’t expect me to disappear entirely, but we’ve reached the end of the road for now.
Here’s what I saw on an incredibly busy final Tuesday night in the NBA…
Despite another monster night, it certainly feels like the MVP momentum is swinging away from Embiid here in the waning days of the season. Whether or not he brings home the hardware, there really isn’t much more you could have asked for form the big fella this year. A top-3 player on the year who has kept his foot on the gas through the finish line (top-3 over the last two weeks as well), Embiid has stayed on the floor (65+ games played) and cashed in on his enormous potential. He’s got three more games to make his case and push the Sixers up the Eastern Conference standings. Expect big numbers.
Yeesh. I wouldn’t be thrilled to take Harden in the back end of the first-round next year — he’s clearly beginning the slide now — but he has turned in a top-10 campaign despite a noticeable lack of explosiveness and crashing out of Brooklyn. His days atop the player rater are behind him, but only CP3 has been a better source of dimes on the year.
The last two weeks haven’t been especially kind to Maxey (a top-150 contributor), but he’s weathered Harden’s arrival and lived up to his sleeper status during draft season. He’ll likely finish the year inside the top-70 after playing 35 MPG in more than 70 games. The usage rate is below 20% too, so there’s room to grow for the 21-year-old.
Harris was my man in the fourth round of the RazzJam, a value he ultimately fell short of. Still, top-60 ain’t so bad. He’s a points and boards play, and a dip in both FG and FT value acted as a bit of wet blanket on his overall value. The usage dip on account of Harden’s arrival and Maxey’s emergence also didn’t help.
There’s good reason to be excited about the jump made by Dejounte Murray into first-round value, but I’d argue that the leap Hali has made is just as impressive. After posting top-65 value as rookie for the lowly Kings, Tyrese was shipped out to Indy in a win-now move for Domas and then went ahead and jumped 40 spots into the top-25. A dimes/steals base will carry value going forward, and as the efficiency ticks up, there’s a lot to like on the horizon. Working next to Malcolm Brogdon and his penchant for getting dinged up is a cherry on top.
I may have been the last passenger still riding the Buddy Hield hype train, and my persistence hasn’t exactly paid off. He’s likely to end the season on the wrong side of the top 100, though only just. He’ll start next year as a 30-year-old, so it feels safe to finally shelve aspirations of Hield being anything more than a one trick pony. That one trick — three balls — is pretty good though. Only five other players provided more value from the long line than Hield. Not an amazing player, but a useful specialist in his own right.
Myles Turner will throw some cold water on these two young breakout candidates when he returns to the court next year, but both I-Jax and Smith have proven that they can contribute when given the chance. It wouldn’t surprise me if Turner is wearing a different jersey at some point next year — is he on the Haliburton timeline? — so I think being long on both could pay dividends.
After showing promising flashes last year, Garland blossomed in 2021-22. My man jumped 90 spots into the top-35. Just 22-years-old, he’s already a five-cat contributor. Even better? After losing his running mates Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, Garland has still put up excellent value as the focal point of a depleted offense. Weird as it is to say (or type), the future is so bright in Cleveland.
Another year, another new home team for LeVert. I had some interest in him pre-season because I thought he’d thrive in having a set role in Indy, but instead he was on the move and banged up once again. He can get a bucket for you, sure, but there’s not a ton to love about his outlook for next year.
I wasn’t the only one surprised by Coach JB Bickerstaff’s decision to roll with a jumbo lineup of Allen-Mobley-Markkanen, but it’s hard to argue with the results. The Cavs overachieved and all three were inside the top-100 on a per-game basis. Lauri mostly helps with triples, but there’s a little bit of everything here.
An April tradition, Moses Brown is a factor during this part of the calendar and absolutely no time else.
Another April star, Okeke always seems to be buried during the meat of the season, but clearly there’s something here. He’ll finish the season as a top-120 player and is definitely viable in leagues larger than 12 teams. There’s a logjam of bigs in Orlando, but the Georgia product is only 23. A change of scenery would be just what he needs, as it doesn’t look like Orlando is ready to commit to him in a serious way.
One of those aforementioned logs, Bamba has been a top-60 player despite averaging only 26 MPG and toting a usage rate south of 20 percent. 2021-22 has been Bamba’s most productive season by a mile. The blocks are self-evident, but Mo is also a decent contributor in the FG and FT departments as well. Splash in some three pointers, and you can see an exciting future here, assuming the Magic don’t bring in another big to stymie him.
Speaking of bringing someone in, the Magic are looking at another high lottery pick this summer and it’s hard for me to see where exactly they go. Between Carter, Bamba, and Franz Wagner, they should be set in the front court, and after taking Suggs in the lottery last year and handing Markelle Fultz a three-year/$50M contract ahead of this season, that sure looks like a backcourt. Maybe someone like Jaden Ivey can come in and upset the apple cart, as there seem to be a lot of bigs at the top of this draft. Maybe the best path forward is taking the best player available and going from there.
Kevin Porter Jr
It looks like things are clicking in Houston’s backcourt. An uptick in efficiency for both has put KPJ inside the top-15 this week, while Green — who has dropped 30+ in five straight — is hanging out in the top-40. Both are in the top…200 on the season, so the chances that you drafted these two and survived long enough to see it come to fruition seem extremely remote. Still, better late than never.
This was the last year you could safely sleep on Sengun. I don’t blame you if you punted on the Rockets this season — hell, the Rockets punted on the Rockets this year — but Sengun has got next.
Kai’s “season-long” stats for this year make me want to cry. 27/4/5.5/1.3/0.6 on 46/42/91 shooting in…30 games. Oh what could have been.
I want my bad days to be this good. Despite the rare clunker, KD is still the second best player in our game.
I don’t have a great explanation for where Brown was earlier this season (top-140 overall), but he’s been lights out for the last two months (top-60). Brown seems to thrive playing alongside KD, especially when Brooklyn gets out in the open court. He cuts well and has nice touch from 15 feet in. The recent block party feels like found money.
Same as it ever was.
Well, it certainly hasn’t taken long for the youngest Ball brother to make good on the considerable hype his pops was able to whip up on his behalf. A top-75 player as a rookie, Melo made strides in every category except FG% and TOs, and is lined up to finish the season as a second-round value here in year two. I’m not sure if the shooting ever moves into plus territory, but considering the frequency and degree of shooting struggles for young guards, it’s hard not to be bullish on LeMelo for seasons to come. If you can pair him with shot blocking/making big, you’re looking at a dynamite first two rounds.
Speaking of shot making/blocking, Melo’s IRL running mate wouldn’t be a bad guy to have your fantasy rosters going forward either. While he’s not a first rounder yet and probably never will be, if you took Miles anywhere after 30 overall this year, you got your money’s worth. Bridges has been a revelation in Year Four, where he saw his usage spike and the offensive goodies followed. He’s leapfrogged the aging, steady hands like Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton as a 24-year-old, and the Hornets have set up a nice, wide window for themselves going forward.
In the 2019-20 season, Adebayo was the 44th player on a per-game basis before taking a big step forward into the top-20 last year. Then this year Kyle Lowry took his talents to South Beach and Adebayo’s assists evaporated. The result? He’s the 40th-best player in fantasy basketball.
Shades of DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy also doesn’t seem to aging at all. It’s been a long time since Butler has had a season where he wasn’t a top-15 producer and he’s in line to turn another fringy first-round season. Neither guy uses the three-ball much and it matters naught.
After struggling all season (and for long portions of last year too), Robinson was eventually supplanted by Max Strus (12/1/3 last night) in Coach Spo’s starting five. Duncan has Miami on the hook another $75M (!) over the next four seasons (!!!). Buyer’s remorse anyone?
It feels strange to say that the next Lou Williams is white kid from Wisconsin, but that’s the comp that comes to mind when I think about Tyler Herro. An absolute bucket off the bench, Herro isn’t asked to do much else and that seems to suit everyone just fine. I spent most of the season saying that you could probably sell high on him, and I think that could be true for seasons to come. The scoring is flashy, but other than a paltry serving of assists, there isn’t a ton else on the table right now. As presently constructed, Herro is right around top-90.
I don’t know what happened to Trae last year when I took him at 9 overall (other than the threes drying up and the shooting and steals getting worse. Hmm, maybe I do know what happened to him last year) and he crashed down as the 58th most valuable fantasy player. This season, the one where Young actually is a top-10 player, is much closer to the production I was hoping for. Points, threes, dimes, and FT% might not be enough across the board production for you to want to buy in when he’s wearing a first-round price tag, but if he can notch up his defensive output even a little it’s not hard for me to see him as a top-12 kind of player for years to come.
While Young returned to form from a fantasy perspective, every single one of his teammates listed above took a step back in 2021-22. After the surprise run the ECF, Atlanta in general has really disappointed. There are a lot of useful pieces here, but the overall vibes are way off. I’d expect management to some roster editing in the offseason. Less is more, I suspect, and if CC or Huerter/Hunter find themselves in different laundry next year, it could be a boon for all parties.
Siakam is closing with a kick and should be good for top-40 value when this season is fully cooked. Spicy indeed.
This ugly one notwithstanding, FVV will end this year as a back-to-back top-20 player. Steals, dimes, trips, and heavy minutes from his coach are a calling card for Van Elite. It’s hard not love guys who Nick Nurse loves, and Freddie absolutely qualifies.
Gary Trent Jr.
Speaking of guys who are hard not to love, Gary Trent is putting the finishing touches on a monster season. He’ll finish the season as top-50 contributor with massive value in steals and threes. Dude is 23-years-young and his workload as the off-guard up north is enormous. I don’t think his value is coming down any time soon.
My one true love. A top-70 effort as a rookie, if I’m able to bring home a RazzJam title this year, Scottie B at pick 200-something will have been an invaluable contributor. Buy all the sock you can.
The treboucher was dialed in against Atlanta. Toronto plays a lot of non-traditional lineups that don’t feature a true big, and Boucher’s production has been erratic as a result. He seems like an extremely challenging guy to roster outside of DFS action, as forecasting what you’re going to get on a nightly basis is an act of divination.
The free throw shooting and lack of threes are the last pieces of the puzzle, but as a two-time MVP, DPOY, Finals MVP, and top-12 player on the season, there aren’t many mountains left to climb. He’s still only 27, so calling this his ceiling seems premature.
“Fade these older, champion Bucks,” I said in October. “Especially the gold medalists.” A top-45 season for Khash and a top-30 season for Jrue later and I stand corrected. If Milwaukee makes another deep postseason run, I don’t necessarily anticipate changing my tune. Eventually all this ball will catch up to these 30-somethings, but not this year.
BroLo just turned 34, and considering how many miles are already on that balky back, it would have to be a pretty big discount for me to want to buy in after this lost season. Unfortunately for me — or maybe fortunately — I suspect that the asking price on Brook will be much lower during draft season next year. I can already feel myself wrestling with it.
A top-60 player on the season, this may end up being the high water mark for Portis. He’s beloved in the Good Land, a feeling that was only further cemented after his massive effort spelling Lopez this year, but it seems a foolish to bank on Crazy Eyes getting to eat like this again unless things continue to spiral for Brook.
A top-25 season in year 14. I believe DeRozan is Compton for “aging like a fine wine.”
Yuck. Ugly night. He’s definitely not going to make anyone forget about that other Nikola, but Vuc’s value did not crater when Chicago added firepower this last offseason. The offense has dipped to be sure, but the blocks have come back some en route to a top-30 season.
A name to remember for next year. Injuries kept him under wraps, but Williams should have a big role in Chicago going forward.
Thomas Satoransky started, but Smith has been the man if you were looking for late season dimes. It seems unlikely to me that Beal is still in DC by this time next year, which makes me wonder: Who will be in the Wizards backcourt next year? KCP will be on an expiring, so I’d imagine he’s gone too. Raul Neto? More Sato? Ish again? It’s a hell of an organization they’re running over there.
Did we ever find out why he was away from the team for so long? I’m glad he was able to catch one highlight against the Wolves. Outside of the top-200, this has been a lost season.
Same as it ever was. KP puts up top-20 value when he’s out there, but the last time he played more than 60 games was 2016-17. That’s basically the Obama era. Do you remember that far back? I’m not sure I do.
I’ve got Avdija in a dynasty league that I inherited this season, so when I see lines like this I feel flickers of hope. “It’s getting better,” I tell myself. “Washington is going to move off of Beal and and Deni will get more oxygen. He’s only in his second year!” And then I look at per game values and my self-soothing dissolves. It’s trending in the right direction, but it feels like a slow ascent.
It doesn’t seem to matter how well Gafford plays (or where), getting 20+ minutes a night with any kind of consistency has been a tall order. He’s been a top-80 player over the last week, which is probably enough to stick in our minds and coax us into believing again during draft season.
If you’re playing in a league that doesn’t count turnovers, KAT is almost perfect. He contributes positive value in almost every kategory (steals are slight negative) and is one of the rare centers who helps you out with blocks without tanking free-throw percentage. Towns has never finished outside of the top-12 on a per-game basis, and year seven is no different. Meow.
One of Ja Morant’s only real challengers for most electric player in the league, Edwards still has some growing to do in order to be a premium fantasy asset. Scoring and steals are his strongest suit, and he’s turning in a top-50 season, but I’d love it if he wasn’t so keen on the long ball and used that explosiveness to get to the cup more often. A true breakout seems to be right around the corner, but he’s not quite there yet.
It seems unlikely that DLo will ever been a terribly efficient lead guard, but his particular blend of scoring and assisting definitely serves a purpose. After falling out of the top-100 last year, Russell handed out more helpers and snagged more boards this time around, and is back on the right side of the line. At the same time, the d-stats regressed and the usage fell a bit. A real mixed bag.
The Blazers did the impossible: They managed to out-tank OKC, at least for one game. I know that silly season stats count just as much those numbers in November, but this was really nothing more than a G-League exhibition. Keon will probably be on the roster in Portland next year, but I’d rather not spend my last Tuesday night recap throwing up words about Ben McLemore’s 17-point night or sussing out what in the hell is going on with the Thunder. Each tanking team will only get one blurb.
Yeah, man, I don’t know.
Talk about finishing strong! Vassell has seen his minutes and usage edge up over the last two months, and he’s bloomed with the additional shine (top-30 value over the last week). He’ll likely finish inside the top-100 here in year two after chipping in across the board value. Steals and threes are his strengths at the moment, but in reality I think he’s just a good basketball player. Murray, Keldon, and maybe even Josh Primo will come into next year with more relative sparkle on them, but Vassell is a hidden gem for the savvy, balance-focused fantasy player.
Another quality young player who is putting it together down the stretch. Jones has spent a lot of time on the bench this season, but he’s been a top-100 player while filling in for Dejounte Murray (get well soon). A dimes-first play like big bro Tyus, Jones has proven that he can hang in the best basketball league on Earth. Murray puts a hard ceiling on Tre’s upside at the moment, but Tyus has provided the blueprint for having long, productive career as a plus backup point guard.
In my preseason preview of San Antonio, I wondered aloud about Johnson’s ability to provide value beyond points and rebounds. 70-something games later, our answer is…kinda? The threes are dropping for Young Keldon, and the steals and assists are coming along too. It all adds up to a top-120 player this year, but at just 22 year of age, it should be safe to assume there’s more on the horizon.
AG was Jokic’s only help out there, as these two were the only Nuggets to break double-digit scoring. Gordon is outside the top-100 on the year, but he’s pushing hard as the season winds down. He’s scoring efficiently, including from deep, and has upped his rebounding and blocks over the last two weeks. Imagine how good Denver would be if Gordon was their fourth best player instead of their second.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Trip broke Memphis’ season-long blocks record, routinely brought the ball up and Euro-stepped his way through the lane, and then drilled some massive triples in Gobert’s grill in crunch time of a great game in Utah. There’s going to be a ton helium on JJJ during draft season next, especially if he and Memphis show out in the Playoffs, but he looks so ready.
Not often that Adams out-assists the starting point guard he’s playing alongside, but here we are. Normally a rebounding specialist, the Big Kiwi was dropping dimes while Tyus stayed aggressive in Ja’s absence. Tyus has been a top-70 player for the last fortnight and top-20 over the last week. His light will stay green through the rest of the regular season with Morant on the sidelines. For the sake of all of us, hopefully Ja will be back for the playoffs.
One last exercise of self-flagellation for me and my Melton/Bane blunder. Dez has posted a top (ugh) 35 (ugh) campaign (ugh) while Melt (ugh) is (ugh) outside (ugh) the top (ugh) 100 (ugh). What a fool I am.
He’s a regular Jaylen Hoard I tell ya!
Though it may not feel like it because the Jazz have taken a step back from their past successes, but this was Spida’s best fantasy season by far. A legit third-round option, Mitchell has upped his steals and dimes, and has turned in familiar scoring figures on the best efficiency of his career. A breakup in Salt Lake could ding his numbers — I can’t imagine he’d find himself in a situation where he’s handling the ball less — but these are the strides you want to see.
A top-150 player this year, Clarkson has taken a step back from the 109 per-game ranking he cashed in the season prior. There’s not much more to Clarkson’s fantasy game, so there’s a hard ceiling here. I said this about Joe Ingles on the Son pod, and while Jordan is much younger than his ex-teammate, it still rings true: The only surprise left in Clarkson’s game is that one day he’ll wake up and not be able to do it anymore.
BI was and still is a mystery to me. Nights like this, where the boards and dimes are bountiful, make me want to believe, but the overall numbers are kind of hollow. He’s never been a plus rebounder, and the defensive stats are consistently lacking. Maybe one day the efficiency will ratchet up, but ultimately I don’t know how high Ingram can climb in the player rate. He’s top-70 this year, which feels like a disappointment, but that might be my fault for laying lofty expectations on him.
Since moving into the starting lineup alongside JV, Hayes has started to come into his own. A top-100 player over the last week and top-115 guy for the last few months, Jaxson has shown more than his season-long ranking of 197 would lead you to believe. Providing big man stats and a dose of triples, I’m in on the 21-year-old next year.
On a personal level, I’m glad that CJ has been able to make lemonade after being traded out of Rip City. I’ve always enjoyed watching him work to get to his spots and then splashing in the mid-range J. He’s a top-50 player again this year, and given the meh options in the New Orleans backcourt, I’d expect him to retain that value again next year. Father Time will be coming for him eventually, but you could do worse than snagging CJ in the middle rounds next year.
Shades of taking Bagley over Doncic, Davion Mitchell now finds himself in a position where the Kings really, really want him to be a good player. The efficiency is predictably crummy and he’s well outside the top-200 on the season, but Sac has pinned a lot of hope onto the young guard. Given his reputation and defensive chops, I imagine the steals will start to show up in the future, but for now Mitchell is a assist-only asset.
This Sabonis guy is blocking Damian Jones! The Kings should find a way to clear the path for the kid. I’m joking, of course, but this did get me thinking: If the Kings were to trade Sabonis, do you think you they’d be able to get a player as good as Tyrese Haliburton for him? It’s a grim thought, right?
Well, that’s that for the Lakers this year, as the Suns officially put them out of their misery. There will be no postseason, not even the play-in, for the Lake Show. On the bright side, these are two decent box scores for the last of the Lakers’ stars. Don’t worry, dear readers, we’re doing periodic wellness checks on Son. He’s still with us and is clinging to some Dodger dreams.
Even with the depleted blocks, DA is going to finish with top-50 value on the season, just as he did the year before. I suppose the added scoring and career-best efficiency are positives, but the rebounding, shot-blocking, and free throw shooting all were career lows for Ayton. I’m looking elsewhere when it comes time to draft a big next year.
Another guy who made the leap this year, Book will finish inside the top-20 on the season for the first time ever. Improved rebounding and defensive rates were the catalysts for the jump, as we all already knew what he was capable of as a scorer. CP3 deserves a lot of credit for the success of the Suns too, of course, but Booker has earned his roses. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him take home a chip and a Finals MVP trophy in a few weeks. It just feels like his time.