Woooo, bring on the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season, baby! I know what you’re thinking… “The 15-16 season isn’t even over yet, why are you putting out rankings today?!” Well, the early bird gets the Worm! Which I guess means I’m drafting Dennis Rodman next year… Sleeper alert!
As we do every off-season, we’ll be ranking 1-50 right as the previous season ends for some Way Too Early Rankings. Getting much past that opens Pandora’s Box to free agency, the NBA draft, the ever-important Summer League… Hey, I keed, but look what happened with Myles Turner! Gus Ayonin’! We’ll be getting through the top 50 by next week, and until then, let’s see some 73rd W history, Golden State! Here’s my Way Too Early Top 10 for the 2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Season:
1. Stephen Curry – Really no way you can muck this one up… Not since Kevin Durant’s foot was intact in the summer of 14-15 did we have such an undisputed #1. I’ve heard he can shoot 3s. I’ve heard he can maintain percents. I’ve heard he’s this gen’s Jordan. And as we’re seeing as the Warriors make their quest for 73 – another reason I wanted to get these out this morning – GS has shown a willingness to play their studs until the end. Unless the Warriors are bounced out of the playoffs in round 2 and Curry is absolutely gassed, I don’t see a big reason to suspect they bench him egregiously often late next year either. That was one of my knocks going into this year, but that was mightily proven wrong in this 73 W run.
2. Kevin Durant – Back to the ol’ KD! His foot healed up right, the points came back, and everything was peachy. I don’t think there’s any question on #1 or #2. I will say that KD did have some signs that his age (well I should say minutes since he’s still a Spring Chicken) are creeping up there, with career-highs in 3s (2.6 in 15-16 & 2.4 in 14-15) and career-lows in steals (1.0 & 0.9) the past two seasons. Plus his FT attempts have been under 7 the past two years, after 9+ in 2012-14 and never being under 7 since his rookie year. Those are the telltale signs of age – 3s up, STL and FTA down. Just some food for thought, more for the dynasty/keeper angle.
3. James Harden – Woooooo, breaking league records left and right! Because, ya know, everyone dreams of breaking the TO record in a season! 373 TO heading into the finale night, and I say he tries for 27 TO just to make the record an even 400. But besides the horrific TO, career-highs in scoring, 3PTM, REB and AST, while strong everywhere else. Beard the anchor!
4. Russell Westbrook – If anyone in the NBA right now could post the Oscar Robinson triple-double averages, I think it’s Westbrook. Wait, maybe Giannis too! Spoiler alert! He’ll make an appearance sooner than later… Just had a tripdub before the end of the first half against the hapless Lakers in the penultimate OKC game, and proved he could be more efficient from the field (45.4% – nearly a career-best) and improve his AST:TO ratio (8.6:4.4 in 14-15, 10.4:4.3 this past year). Given he had to do it all at the end of 14-15 with KD gone and we saw a career-spike in scoring that season, all-in-all 15-16 was a career year. I’ll invest.
5. Karl-Anthony Towns – Fresh faces in new places! An absolutely revelatory year from the #1 pick, who had to rub it in the face of Andrew Wiggins and… Anthony Bennett… Awwwww, poor Anthony Bennett! Going into tonight’s games, he came out to 12th in average stats according to Yahoo, and unless something drastic happens, he will have played all 82 games in his debut season. So much for that knock I had on him for not playing a ton of minutes at Kentucky! No rookie wall here! A stud in all categories, what was really impressive is he more than doubled his AST post-ASB, from 1.4 to 3.0. Great %s, could hit half a three a game next year, there’s not much to dislike.
6. Anthony Davis – Speaking of dislike, I can think of many owners who dislike what Brow has done to them to past two years! Back-to-back injury-plagued seasons with shutdowns, Brow also fell to 6th in average stats after being the #1 or #2 guy in per-game metrics the past few seasons. The TO went up in 15-16, blocks almost got shaved by a third (2.9 down to 2.0), and the developing perimeter game took his FG% to under 50%. Plus his FT% oddly fell. On the other hand, Brow played through this shoulder thing all year, and mayyyyybe the offseason time for the shoulder (now determined won’t need surgery, apparently) and surgery on the knee could get his body ready for a full season. I won’t spend a top-5 pick on that though, especially with dwindling numbers, given he is still young.
7. Chris Paul – I’ll fully admit I was wayyyyyy wrong to doubt on CP3 early in the year when he dealt with a few minor injuries and was awful. But after that slow start, from mid-November on he was same ol’ same ol’. He’ll be 31 next year, but that’s still a little younger than I thought. Alls good in the neighborhood.
8. Hassan Whiteside – Since Feb. 3rd, Whiteside has ranked as the 4th best player in per-game stats and 3rd in total. Why February 3rd you may ask? Well he left on 1/20 with that non-contact hip/oblique injury, going on to miss the next 6 games. From that point until now, he’s been a 74.2% FT shooter. While at 5.3 attempts that percent is still iffy. but it also made him no longer a punt. The blocks are the best in the league, FG% elite, and the TO low. This rank could change somewhat dramatically depending on where he ends up in free agency, but for now, he’s in my top 10.
9. Kawhi Leonard – Slim will come in here and absolutely slam Kawhi’s injury history. I bet if he wasn’t on the Spurs, he woulda been near 82 games this year though. San Antonio has the luxury of benching guys all the time, but I do agree the games played over his career knocks him down a couple. But not out of the top-10 as Slim would want. According to both Yahoo and BB Monster, Kawhi was 3rd in per-game, and by a pretty big gap from 4th. He’s an absolute superstar, just unfortunately on a non-superstar team, plus he’s the epitome of a metrics-whore. Hits all the cats with nothing exemplary with low TO which the metrics love, but doesn’t necessarily equate to H2H dominance. I will always love Kawhi – he’s my REL anchor and arguably the best 9-cat player around – but in redraft leagues I don’t think he offers enough category killing to draft higher than 9, with the DNP risk obviously a factor as well.
10. Draymond Green – Who else would #Occupy the final spot in my top 10?! Per-game had him 13th heading into the Warriors pivotal final game tonight on BB Monster, but shoots up to 11 in total as he played all but 1 game this year. We saw the scoring go up, FG% take a massive step forward, baby steps in FT%, and the biggie – exactly doubling his AST from 3.7 to 7.4 these past two seasons. Easy to get dimes when you kick out to the Splash Bros! The TO unsurprisingly went up too, but there’s enough stability here to lock in dimes with great D stats that not many other guys can provide as we near the second round.
Happy offseason prep, Razzball Nation! Be on the lookout for 11-20 and 21-50 through the next week. Let me know your thoughts on the early ranks so I can get em right on the official ranks in August!