- Fantasy Football 2015: Week 1 Takeaways - Sep 17, 2015
- Fantasy Football 2015: Who’s Number One? - Sep 8, 2015
- Fantasy Football 2015: Sam Bradford, Chip Kelly and Love - Sep 2, 2015
The NBA is fun.
Every week, there is some sort of big storyline surrounding the league. What was LeBron James chatting with Dwyane Wade about on Christmas? Are they plotting another alliance? Will LeBron return to Miami with Wade and Chris Bosh? Or were they just, you know, talking.
Yeah, let’s go with that.
Seriously, though, fantasy value in the NBA can change instantly. On Tuesday night we saw the return of Kevin Durant, and he quickly reminded everyone why he’s the league MVP. Durant finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in the Thunder’s overtime victory over the Suns in his first game back after missing six games with an ankle sprain. The best line of Durant’s game: 40, as in the number of minutes he logged, which indicates that he’s likely 100 percent, a terrific sign for the Thunder, the NBA, and fantasy owners everywhere.
Even though you knew he would miss time entering your draft, this is why you still take him in the second or third round. In just nine games this year, Durant is averaging a strong 22.4 points, five rebounds, 3.6 assists, and is shooting a whopping 53 percent from the floor. It’ll be interesting to see how Russell Westbrook‘s value looks with Durant (hopefully) back in consistent action. Sure, he’s still going to be a top-seven player in fantasy, but I doubt his league-leading usage rate of 40.3 remains intact. That’s a full six points higher than Kobe Bryant, who ranks second in basketball. But with Durant’s return, he may just have vaulted back to the number one spot in my rest of season rankings. Who else is rising? Who’s falling?
Walk with me.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons- Thank the fantasy gods that Josh Smith is out of Detroit. It was just a horrible fit, and now, it allows the Pistons to do what they should have done all season long– feature Drummond. So far, in the two games without Smith, Drummond is averaging 16.5 points, 19.5 rebounds, and four blocks per game. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but Drummond is clearly capable of posting these type of numbers every once in a while, especially now with Smith no longer stealing some extra boards. The league’s second-best rebounder to this point, Drummond has posted four 20-rebound games this season, as well as eight games with at least 15 boards.
Smith was averaging about 14 shot attempts and 32 minutes per game for Detroit, so Drummond will help fill that void. He’s taken 23 shots over his last two games, logging 65 minutes during that same span. Meanwhile, only Zach Randolph and DeAndre Jordan are averaging more rebounding chances per game this year than Drummond (18.9), and he’s converting on 68 percent of those opportunities, one of the highest rates in basketball. Smith was seeing just under 13 chances per game, a healthy number that puts him inside the top-40 in the entire NBA. It wouldn’t surprise me if Drummond led the league in rebounding this year, especially on the offensive glass, which, by the way, he currently ranks tops in the league with five offensive rebounds per game. His 17 double-doubles also ranks fourth in basketball, and look for him to post them at an even higher rate with Smith’s questionable shot attempts out of the equation. Drummond is posting a double-double in 55 percent of his games played this year, and I truly wouldn’t be shocked if that number climbed upwards even more the rest of the way. He’s easily a top-10 fantasy center.
Prefer him over: DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets- If Denver finally gets serious and plays Faried starter’s minutes, look out. Last week, Faried had a three-game span where he posted 20-14, 26-25, and 17-19, showing how dominant of a player he can be. The problem is that Brian Shaw mixes up his minutes with his frontcourt so much that Faried hasn’t been able to produce like a consistent fantasy player. Hopefully that’s over, as Faried played 30, 32, and 38 minutes during that span, and probably would have logged at least 30 minutes during Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, but the Denver Post reported that he had “dead legs.” On the year, he’s averaging 11.5 points, eight rebounds, and 1.3 helpers per game, despite logging just 26 minutes per contest. Shaw was talking about Faried’s struggles earlier in the year, but it appears that he is starting to regain that Manimal form. And despite the slow start, don’t overlook the fact that Faried averaged an awesome 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game after the All-Star break last season, so expect him to have a big second half of the year.
Prefer him over: Josh Smith, Jared Sullinger
Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves- During his rookie season in 2013, Muhammad played 37 games, but never started once, averaging just 3.9 points per game. With Minnesota acquiring Andrew Wiggins during the offseason, no one was really talking about the UCLA product. They clearly should have been, as he’s lighting it up lately for Minnesota. With injuries surrounding their locker room, the Wolves have had to lean on the second-year player, and he’s delivered, averaging 18.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.6 triples per game over his last five outings, logging 34.2 minutes per game during that span. The volume has been there, as he also ranks eighth among all NBA small forwards in usage rate (23.5). That number is higher than his own teammate, Wiggins, for example. He’s shooting the ball extremely well. So well, in fact, that his true shooting percentage is higher than the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay, as Jim McCormick of ESPN points out here. He needs to be discussed a lot more in fantasy circles, and it’s odd that he just recently arrived at the 50 percent ownership mark in most leagues. He’s playing heavy minutes, shooting the ball a good amount (15.4 per over last five) and plays on a Minnesota ball club that ranks fourth in the league in pace (98.8). Not seeing a lot to dislike here, folks.
Darren Collison, Sacramento Kings- Collison was a sleeper of mine heading into the year, and now that he’s 100 percent healthy, he’s having a career inaugural season with the Kings, averaging 16.2 points, six assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game to this point. The assists should continue playing with talented scorers like DeMarcus Cousins and Gay. So far this year, Cousins is shooting a stellar 66.2 percent on close field goals, which are baskets within 12 feet of the basket. And over his last five games, Collison is averaging 18.4 points, six assists, over a steal and 2.2 three-pointers per game, all while logging around 35 minutes per game. He’ll continue playing around 35 minutes the rest of the way, and from a guy who was very fantasy relevant is a backup point guard the last few seasons, he should be able to post very good numbers with this uptick in playing time in Sacramento.
Jordan Hill, Los Angeles Lakers- Hill was a popular sleeper for many entering the year, likely playing plenty of minutes on a bad Lakers team ranking top-10 in pace. And it started off strong, as he averaged nearly a double-double during the month of November. However, the 9-21 Lakers continue to tinker with their lineup, and now Ed Davis is starting to eat into Hill’s workload. Davis has played at least 30 minutes in three of his last four games, and the game where he didn’t play 30 minutes, he played 29. Davis gives the Lakers an edge defensively over Hill, and he’s played well for them. Hill, meanwhile, has only logged 30 minutes twice over his last nine outings. And over his last five games, he’s only averaging 5.6 rebounds per game. Feel free to drop Hill if you are looking to grab someone off the wire. Shabazz Muhammad, perhaps?
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls- Noah is still an awesome player, but he hasn’t been nearly as dominant in fantasy as he was during his career season in 2013. The Bulls front court is now extremely deep, having Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and impressive rookie, Nikola Mirotic. That’s limited Noah’s minutes a bit, as he hasn’t logged over 30 minutes in six straight games. The offense is now running through a healthy Derrick Rose and a dominant Jimmy Butler, who is looking like one of the league’s top-10 players at the moment. Rose ranks fifth in the NBA in usage rate (31.1), while Butler is always on the court, logging exactly 40 minutes per game on the season. That combination takes plenty of offensive touches away from Noah, who is only averaging 67 touches per game, which ranks third– on his own team. He’s still more than serviceable in fantasy, seeing how he contributes in every category, but he’s not the elite center from last year.
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