NBA Fantasy New Year’s Tip-Off

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    Updated: January 2, 2014
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    To start off the New Year, and as this is my first story with La Sportsa Nostra, I think the best thing to do would be to put all our cards on the table and first decide who’s the best of the best in NBA fantasy basketball. As many of you probably know, the best in the NBA doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best in the fantasy world.

    While players like Kevin Garnett, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobli, and Steve Nash may ring a bell or four, they are hardly rosterable on fantasy basketball teams. KG, Tyson, and Manu will go down in the record books as champions, while Nash will always be a two-time MVP of the league. Those are credentials that can get you a ticket straight to the Hall of Fame. But, as mentioned before, in 2013-2014, you will probably not see those guys on championship fantasy teams.

    By the time I’m done with you, you’ll be able to see how little-known players like Paul Millsap, Wesley Matthews, Spencer Hawes, and Kyle Korver can help you get to the top of your fantasy league. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s first see what players are at the top of the fantasy basketball world (all rankings and statistics are as of January 2, 2013): 

    1) Kevin Durant (SF/PF - OKC)

    Durant has been the undisputed king of the fantasy world for a couple of years now. And when you’re the king, life is good. Not only is he absolutely elite in a number of categories, but also he basically has zero weaknesses. Lebron is a decent free-throw shooter, Tim Duncan is forced to sit a game out here and there, and Chris Paul doesn’t really get you rebounds.

    As of today, Durant has averaged 28.8 points per game (ppg), 8.5 rebounds per game (rpg), 4.8 assists per game (apg), 1.5 steals per game (spg), 0.8 blocks per game (bpg), and 2.0 three-pointers made per game (3pg), all while shooting 49.4% from the field (FG%) and 87.9% from the free-throw line (FT%). I mean, is there a letdown? He plays every game, almost never gets hurt, and when you know you’re the king, you have a certain cockiness about you, and KD has swag for days. 

    2) Anthony Davis (PF/C - NOR) 

    Courtesy of warriorsworld.et

    Coming into this season, Anthony Davis was an afterthought. Everyone could see the potential, but after an injury-riddled rookie season, AD came out this season like gangbusters. His preseason (not that it means anything, but still) may go down as one of the greatest in the history of preseason. And there was no let up once the regular season started. He was the consensus number 1 player in fantasy until he fractured his hand on December 1st against the Knicks.

    Before the injury, he was swatting shots like Hakeem and getting steals like The Glove, averaging 18.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2 apg, 1.6 spg, and a very Hakeem-like 3.4 bpg. In seven games after returning from the injury, he’s been averaging 20.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.0 spg, and 2.3 bpg.

    His FT shooting has taken a strange hit since then (shooting only 63% compared to 84.6% earlier in the year), but his FG shooting has somehow gotten better (shooting 57% compared to 49.8% earlier in the year). I foresee his FT shooting ending up somewhere in the 75% range, which is outstanding for a big man. 

    3) LeBron James (SF/PF - MIA) 

    courtesy of essence.com

    The Undisputed King of the NBA has been chugging along like a well-oiled machine all year-long, ankle injury notwithstanding. However, he’s number three on this list for a reason. While LeBron may be one of the greatest players in the history of the league, his fantasy game has a couple of holes: 

    a) Free Throw Shooting: LeBron is a 75.7% FT shooter. Not bad by any means, but it is the lowest out of the rest of the Top 10. He also averages more TO’s than K-Love, CP3, and Paul George. You’ll notice he’s still above those players in the ranks. Why? Absurd numbers elsewhere: 59% FG, 25.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.3 spg, and 1.5 3pg. If LeBron ever shot free throws like Durant, watch the F out. 

    b) End of Season rest: This is common with a lot of players, but it matters the most with a player this high in the rankings. Most people used either their number 1 or number 2 pick on LeBron.

    When Coach Spoelstra decides to rest him during the end of season (and as of now, it looks like he will - Miami has started the season at 24-7 already and LeBron already has had a multitude of small injuries), it happens to fall during the crucial weeks of fantasy basketball playoffs. To not have your first round pick play when you need him the most is a huge negative.

    LeBron will probably bring you to the playoffs, but if past seasons are any indication, you might be shaking your fist in the air at Spoelstra by the end of the year. Believe it or not, this issue caused me to lose in the championship finals two years ago. 

    4) Kevin Love (PF - MIN) 

    Courtesy of msn.foxsports.com

    While the last Kevin named in this list had no issues coming into this year, a lot of people had their questions about this Kevin. Last year was as tumultuous a year as any superstar can possibly have (oops, sorry Derrick Rose fans). This year has been a complete 180-degree turnaround for Mr. Love.

    He came as close as you can to a 50-20 game ten days ago when he put up 45 points and 19 rebounds. Those kind of numbers have definitely helped his averages this season: 26.3 ppg, 13.5 rpg (!!), 4.1 apg, 2.5 3pg, while shooting 46.6% FG and 83% FT. Let’s hope he stays healthy and keeps this top-5 pace up all year-long. 

    5) Chris Paul (PG - LAC) 

    Courtesy of lakerholicz.com

    CP3 has been the engine behind the Los Angeles Clippers this year and anyone with this guy on their team is almost an instant contender. He’s only the number 1-point guard to own in the fantasy world. Oh, and he averages 19.6 ppg and leads the league in apg at 11.3.

    He’s also one of the NBA’s elite thieves at 2.5 spg. Doc Rivers has been a godsend for him, as he’s been blowing away his numbers from last year, a year in which he missed 12 games. In the year prior, he missed 22 games. Injuries are an issue with many players, and CP3 ranks pretty high in the “Please don’t get hurt, you’ll destroy my fantasy team” category. But so far, he’s only missed 1 game.

    Let’s all hope he can make it out this season at the same rate. Bonus Ranking: In case you were wondering, Cliff Paul ranks 327th in our rankings. 

    6) Stephen Curry (PG/SG - GSW) 

    Courtesy of mercurynews.com

    Elite points? Check. Elite assists? Check. Elite threes? Check. Elite FT%? Check. Elite rebounding from a PG/SG? Check. Elite ankles? Unfortunately, no check there, but owners should take that gamble. Curry’s ankle issues have been in the forefront of his career, as he missed 4 games in 2012-2013, and 40 games in the lockout-shortened season of 2011-2012.

    However, a guard being absolutely elite in 4 of the 9 categories is a great foundational piece, but like CP3, he’s also in the “Please don’t get hurt, you’ll destroy my fantasy team” category. Actually, Curry’s probably the poster boy for that category. But look at these numbers and tell me you don’t want him playing for you:

    22.9 ppg, 3.2 3pg, 4.7 rpg, 9.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 44.3 FG% and 86.4 FT%. Those numbers are downright scary. Even his 1.8 spg can be considered elite. His only negative is turnovers (4.1 topg). 

    7) Paul George (SG/SF - IND) 

    Courtesy of theleaguenews.com

    Paul George has blossomed as the Pacers’ number one option and his fantasy game has done the same. His biggest improvement has been in the FG% category. Last year, he shot 41.9 FG%. Coming into the New Year, he’s shooting 46.8%. That’s a huge improvement in just one offseason.

    How did he do it? I personally feel it can be attributed to better-shot selection and better chemistry with his teammates. He’s getting a better sense of when to shoot it and his teammates are getting a better sense to give him the ball and get the F out the way. 

    8) James Harden (SG - HOU) 

    Courtesy of atlantablackstar.com

    Harden was ranked the number 3/4 (it was like 3a and 3b with CP3…[that was a funny line]) fantasy player coming into this season, right below the two juggernauts named Durant and LeBron. To see him here at 8 is somewhat of a disappointment, but owners shouldn’t be too worried about the drop in ranking.

    What they should be worried about is his overuse (38.4 minutes per game) and injury issues (he’s already missed games). Still, 24.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.2 apg, and 2 threes a game are hard to ignore. He’ll even carry your team FT percentage as he takes 9 FT’s a game and shoots them at an 85% clip, which is a great advantage to have. 

    9) LaMarcus Aldridge (PF/C - POR) 

    Courtesy of espn.go.com

    Coming into this year, the Portland Trailblazers were an afterthought. Many looked up and down the roster, and while pieces were there like Nicholas Batum and Damian Lillard, not many imagined they could mix it up with the Western Conference’s elite. But as of January 1st, they’re sitting 2nd in their conference, with a record of 25-7.

    The main reason? LaMarcus Aldridge has become a superstar. He’s scoring buckets, grabbing boards, and taking names. Check out these numbers coming into the New Year: 23.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.9 bpg, and a very low 1.7 topg, while shooting 47.3 FG% and 80% FT% (a great, great number for a PF/C.) An article regarding big men and FT shooting is incoming, keep an eye out for it. 

    10) John Wall (PG - WAS)

    Courtesy of susanshan.com

    Wall’s name may be a bit surprising to see this high, but in the last two weeks, he has really made a conscious effort to improve his shooting. Let’s take a look at some splits:

    Before 12/19 (2 weeks ago): 19.6 ppg, 41.7 FG%, and 83.7 FT%

    After 12/19 (2 weeks ago): 23.4 ppg, 49.4 FG% and 90.6 FT%. 

    See the difference? While his counting stats (rebounds, assists, steals) have gone down a bit, he has become a lot more efficient shooting the ball, which in turn has increased his points per game.

    His FG% was really a negative, but as you can see, he’s turned that negative into a real positive, especially as a point guard, which shows growth and maturity as a player. I expect better things to come from him in the near future.

    Personal side note: I’ve had Wall on my fantasy team for the last two years, and traded him both times, only to see him go off for one of my competitors. I swore to myself that this year would be different and it has paid big dividends so far.

    On the cusp: 

    11) Damian Lillard

    12) Dirk Nowitzki

    13) Carmelo Anthony

    14) Serge Ibaka

    15) Paul Millsap 

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    3 Comments

    1. Jerry

      January 9, 2014 at 6:24 PM

      I would say very well researched . . . read like a term paper . . . boring! but 400+ people would disagree so I will shut my “pie hole”.

    2. Johnny

      January 3, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      great article.

      • Frantz Paul

        Frantz Paul

        January 3, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        I agree. An amazing first article and the information was well researched and well though out by the author.

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