2014 Fantasy Basketball: The Return of Al Horford

Photo Credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The man I call ‘dependable Al’ was off to his usual solid start to the 2013-14 season until December 26th when he left the Hawks game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. Later we found out that it was instead a torn right pectoral muscle which reminded his owners immediately of January 2012 when Horford tore his left pectoral that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. This injury sadly also ended his season, but in 2012 he returned for three games during the playoffs but this time he was unable to return for the first round. The Hawks could have really used him, as they lost to the Indiana Pacers in an ugly seven game series.

The only good news about Horford having this injury previously is that we know exactly how he is capable of bouncing back. After missing most of the 2011-12 season Horford played in 74 games in the 2012-13 season. His counting stats in that next full season were actually his best as a pro, averaging 17.4 points (career high), 10.2 rebounds (career high), 3.2 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals (career high). The downfall though was his percentages, where he shot .543 from the field (lowest since his 2009 sophomore season) and .644 from the free throw line, the lowest of his career by a good margin. Horford had never previously shot below 72% from the stripe, so that was a bit of a surprise. On average over his career, Horford has gotten to the line for three free-throw attempts (FTA) per game. So, even at 64% he’s not going to totally destroy you in that category, and while 54% from the field is sub-par for him, it’s not bad at all fantasy-wise, just a slight digression from his career rate.

Was the drop in shooting efficiency due to a change that the previous year’s torn pectoral caused? Without checking deeper I was assuming his FG% simply declined due to his two field goal attempts (FGA) per game increase, and also that he played a career high 37.2 minutes a night (two minutes above his previous high). Then, I did some more digging and I’ll show what I found via the shot charts of his last two full seasons before and after the first pectoral injury.

Al Horford 2010-11 shot chart

Al Horford 2010-11 shot chart

Above you see Horford’s 2010-11 season which was the season before his 2011-12 injury.

Below you see Horford’s 2012-13 season which was the season after his 2011-12 injury.

Al  Horford 2012-13 shot chart

Al Horford 2012-13 shot chart

You instantly realize that in 2012-13 he shot way more at the rim than 2010-11, possibly indicating a lack of confidence in his jumper compared to other seasons. Of course it could also be that his coach simply told him he wanted him to get more shots at the rim rather than taking so many jumpers. Either way you look at it his numbers outside of the restricted area took alarming hits. Despite his drastic increase in shots at the rim, he still had just 21 less FGA away from the rim. So, he didn’t totally abandon his jumper but he did demand the ball more and got it to the bucket a lot more often than in the past. Two extra FGA a game may not seem like much but spread over 70+ games that’s an extra 140+ shots on the season. Luckily for his fantasy owners the majority of those added FGA were taken at the rim which at a 73% clip made up for the less accurate jump-shooting and made the drop in overall FG% hardly noticeable. It’s also worth noting that through 29 games in 2013-14 Horford was on pace to go 292/388 at the rim at 75%, so it seems he was again dedicated to getting to the rim more frequently. While the drop in outside the restricted area shooting is worth noting, his increased number of layups makes up for it and makes the concern about his FG% basically non-existent.

Coming in to the 2013-14 season we all expected Horford to continue his consistent ways, and it seemed as though he was well on his way to doing just that through 29 games. We knew there may be a slight change with the departure of Josh Smith and the arrival of Paul Millsap, but besides being one rebound below his career average and his points being at 18.6—which was on pace to be his highest ever—he was pretty much same ol’ dependable Al. Two seasons removed from his past pectoral injury he found middle ground on his FT% at .688 which is down from his career avg of .735 but up from the previous season coming off of the injury at .644 as well. That seems like a good sign except that this past seasons opening month Horford’s FT% was at .654 but he salvaged that by shooting .742 in eleven December games. It’s hard to place where he’ll land this coming season from the stripe but if I had to put an over/under on it, I would say 67.5%. While 67.5% isn’t amazing, it’s not pitiful for a big man either and his low FTA/gm totals make it less concerning.

From November to December Al stepped his game up a level, so when the injury happened it had to make it that much more painful of a loss to his owners. Let’s take a look at his 2013-14 November-December splits to show how he was finding his comfort zone and headed toward a dominant season:

Horford Dec-Nov SS

Obviously anytime a player comes off of an injury that kept them sidelined the majority of a season there is reason for caution, but in Horford’s case he’s done it before and played a full season the next year and this is the opposite pectoral so not a repeat injury. He’s shown he can play well alongside Paul Millsap and I believe Millsap helps Horford’s fantasy game much more than Josh Smith did. Horford’s renewed effort to get to the basket is a plus and his scoring should top his previous career high while his rebounds, assists, steals and blocks should all stay on par. It seems like Horford should be 32-years-old by now but he actually just turned 28 this summer, showing he’s right in his physical prime. He’s an elite big man in fantasy and should be drafted as such. Last season on ESPN Horford had an ADP of 27 and I feel that’s pretty much where he should go again this upcoming season. He should go after bigs like Joakim Noah and Al Jefferson but ahead of David Lee and Chris Bosh. If he falls any in drafts due to re-injury fear or people forgetting how great he was, he could become a steal. Al has already decided not to play in the FIBA summer tournament which is another positive for us fantasy nuts. He should easily be 100% for camp and the regular season while poised to have his biggest statistical season of his career all-around. I wouldn’t at all be shocked to see Horford crack the top 20 if he stays on the court all season.

Follow Zack on Twitter @BigZack44 for more fantasy basketball analysis and advice.

2013-14 Fantasy NBA Awards: The Fixies, Part II

Base photo credit: Allen Eyestone-The Palm Beach Post

Base photo credit: Allen Eyestone-The Palm Beach Post

Here’s part two of our end of season fantasy basketball recap, including the players to avoid and who to target early.

This piece was a joint effort by Zack and myself, so set aside some time and have a read!

Five Players to watch in 2014-2015

Zack

Taj Gibson – A 6th man of the year candidate who could move into the starting five if the Bulls do as they should and amnesty Carlos Boozer this off-season. In nine starts this season Taj posted 19.3ppg – 9.8rpg – 2.8apg – 1.8bpg. The Bulls even tend to go with Taj for his defense over Boozer late in games as is, so bringing back Boozer and his high salary seems totally senseless, #FreeTaj.

Jonas Valanciunas – Love this guy and his end of the season and playoff showings may make his ADP too high to be a value pick but he’s the real deal. JV will very soon be regarded among the upper tier of centers with his solid post moves, great rebounding and good (and improving) shot-blocking ability. Also, he’s good from the field and shoots over 75% from the charity stripe. Oh, and did I mention he’s only 21 (turns 22 in May) years old? Absolute beast in the making.

Jimmy Butler – The Butler is serving up a lot of future potential for the Bulls much like Taj. Butler didn’t take off quite as expected when Rose went out but he showed flashes of what he can develop into. His hustle on both ends is something Tom Thibodeau loves, and his currently inconsistent jumper is very likely to improve with another off-season of focus on it. His ADP shouldn’t rise to anything crazy so he should still be a great value pick with nice upside with his ability to score, hit threes and load up on the steals. I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him post a 15pt – 4reb – 4asst season with around 1.5 steals and 1.5 treys next season.

Nerlens Noel – This is going to be a popular pick on lists like this headed into next season but he has to be mentioned here. If the 76ers can make a guy like Henry Sims be fantasy relevant, a guy like Noel has to be on everyone’s radars. He’s coming off a major knee surgery but he’s had a long time to get that right and he’s also very raw on the offensive end. Also, with any youngster who is a shot blocker, you have to worry about foul trouble until they adjust to the plentiful pump fakes they’ll be getting from NBA vets. I’d like to believe Noel could deliver a 10pt – 8reb – 2blk first season with upside for more. As is the case with so many of these types, Noel shot just over 52% from the foul line in college so beware of that.

Alec Burks – This is a guy I liked especially in deeper leagues this season because of his ability to score the basketball and get to the free-throw line. Tyrone Corbin held him back by making his playing time inconsistent while giving guys with zero upside like Richard Jefferson way too many minutes. I don’t understand coaches on obvious rebuilding teams who play old vets who aren’t a part of the long-term plans over the players of the team’s future. With Corbin now out of the picture, Burks should be set free to really hit his potential. If the Jazz decide not to re-sign Gordon Hayward and/or if Burks can improve his three point shot, he could be in for a really big breakout season.

Sam

Jared Sullinger – I really like Sully’s chances in that young Boston Celtics team. The fact Rajon Rondo can’t shoot – or won’t shoot might be a better way to put it – means he’s going to be spoon fed open shots. His improvement from the outside as well as conditioning improvements led to him eclipsing his rookie stats across the board, but this might just be the beginning. Sullinger’s in a prime position to snag the starting PF spot, as he’s the only real banger who can both rebound and score. Pencil him in for 14-16 points, 8-10 rebounds and a handy amount of threes for a player eligible at PF/C – that’s if he’s starting of course. Troy Murphy and Mehmet Okur were very comparable players in terms of essentially ‘athletically lacking’ stretch fours who could also rebound, but Sully is already far ahead of their development at the same age.

Giannis Antetokounmpo – You don’t need to spell his name to draft Alphabet. The dude has length up the wazoo and his versatility and ability to play multiple positions will surely translate to significant fantasy gains next season. Below is a comparison between six players (including Antetokounmpo) who all came into the league young, long, athletically gifted and without a defined position. Three were/are All Stars. The other two were/are on the cusp of the ‘not quite All Stars’ at more than one point in their career. Check at the bottom of the article for the answers – but Giannis is Player 1. I’m pencilling him in for 29-32 minutes a night, along with 12-14 points, 6-7 rebounds, 2-3 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.2 blocks, 1.2 threes per game and shooting splits of 45/75 – not elite numbers by any means, but potentially top 60 production. The starting SF spot on Milwaukee should belong to Giannis for the next 10 seasons.

Timofey Mozgov – Mozgov may have leapfrogged JaVale McGee’s tissue paper-strong ‘grip’ on the Nuggets’ starting C spot going into next season, on the back of some eye popping stats (29 rebounds at Golden State whaaaaat?) down the stretch. Everyone knew his name but he’d never delivered consistent production; he was the relative unknown Russian hope brought over by the Knicks in the hope he would hold down their C spot – which he didn’t. He was shipped off the Denver in the Melo deal and became the guy getting owned in seemingly every Blake Griffin dunk mix, but through perseverance and necessity, Moz started delivering the fantasy goods late in the season. If he can have a strong pre-season and lock down the starting spot, you can look at his last nine games in 2013-14  and be safe drafting a potential sleeper anywhere after pick 75 – those stats are better than other Cs such as Roy Hibbert, Miles Plumlee or Tyson Chandler.

Bradley Beal – Beal was somewhat of a disappointment this season. I drafted him in multiple leagues and was hoping for that big second year leap that many young players take – it didn’t happen. He crushed it in the playoffs, so his likely draft position is probably 10-15 spots higher than it was before the postseason as he has more name recognition from the exposure. He’s not as much as a three point/scoring specialist as Kevin Martin or Klay Thompson, so you can expect to see him going off the draft board anywhere after pick 50 I suspect – at which point he’ll be a Bradley steal. He should push 20 points per game next season and I’ll have no qualms about taking him over bigger names like the aforementioned Thompson or even, gasp, Kobe Bryant! Beal is already comparable to some current/former top tier fantasy SGs, but he is two years younger than these other players were in their sophomore seasons, as per the graphic below:

Nerlens Noel - Zack has already covered the likely fantasy value of the once ‘lock’ for the 2013 1st overall pick, so I won’t go into too much detail. Noel has the rare ability to contribute in both steals and blocks at the 4 or 5, so you’re going to want to monitor his summer league and preseason showings, to see if he can bang with the big boys. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has a Marcus Camby type start to his career – ie solid rebounds, more than a steal per game and a minimum of two blocks per contest.

5 Players to avoid in 2014-2015

Zack

Victor Oladipo – As a Magic fan, I hope I’m wrong on this one but I’m being unbiased. I know putting him here and not the “players to watch” list will put me in the minority. It’s not that I don’t think Dipo will be good, because I do like him, but I know his ADP will be way too high for what I expect from him. With Jameer almost assuredly gone, some will expect Dipo to be the PG but he’s just simply not an NBA caliber point man. For short stints he can handle it but not as the primary ball handler. I expect the Magic to take a PG with their early draft pick (likely Dante Exum) and a PF with their other first round pick. This leaves a logjam at the wing spots where Dipo will still get run but not enough to garner his draft spot in my opinion.

Dwyane Wade – Wade had an ADP of 14 this past season and I expect that to drop to the 20s but I still wouldn’t be buying any shares of DWade. He just seems to be more nagged by injuries the past few seasons and is a frustrating player to own. He’s missed a lot of time when it mattered most for his fantasy owners the past couple of years and I don’t like messing with players like that. His points and blocks have dropped each of the last two seasons and his inability to hit the deep ball just further buries him on my rankings.

Brook Lopez – He will be ready to go by training camp and while he is an elite scorer when healthy and his blocks are solid but I like a big man who can grab boards. Six boards a game is not what I want from a fairly early drafted big man. Add in the fact that he has missed the majority of two of the last three seasons with foot injuries, I want no part of it. It just seems too Yao-esque for my liking. Someone else can take that gamble.

Kevin Martin – Always relied on to supply his owners with points, trifectas and FT%, Martin has stayed inside the top 100 ADP for a while now. I don’t have any stats (found some! – Sam) to back up my feelings here besides I think his best days are behind him and I doubt the next T’Wolves coach will be as big a Kev fan as Rick Adelman. His treys are no longer elite and the points just aren’t enough for me to pay for alone, even if they stay up which I am pessimistic on.

Andrew Wiggins – I have no clue who will draft him in the top three, but I do know that he’ll be highly hyped regardless of where he lands. I’d expect that hype to carry him into the top 50 of ADP, and while I think he’ll be a good player in time, I don’t think he’s NBA ready. That’s not a bad thing really, compare his size and game to Paul George for example. George didn’t get a ton of minutes his rookie season until late, while his sophomore season was an improvement as he started all 66 games, but not until his third season did he become a top 50 player. Obviously he was much better than top 50 his third season, but just saying for this arguments sake. Wiggins will be good but not near his ADP good, so I will be avoiding the young gun winger out of Kansas this season.

Sam

Nikola Pekovic – Another one of those PF/C types who just doesn’t do anything that stands out. He can score around 15-17 points per game as well as rebound well at around 8-9 per, but he doesn’t block shots, steal, or make threes and his free throw percentage isn’t exactly an asset at 74.7 for his career. I want my C to do more, but if he’s there late then he’s worth adding – but be weary of his injury history. For a guy who looks like he kills his dinner with his bare hands each night, he has his fair share of stints on the bench, as over his four seasons in the NBA he’s missed 17, 19, 20 and 28 games – you don’t have to be able to draw graphs to know that’s pointing up (not in a good way) each year.

Tony Parker – I’ve never been a massive fan of Parker’s game and this season was no different. With the always awesome Gregg Popovich at the helm, Parker’s minutes dropped from his usual 32 minutes per night to a frustratingly low (from a fantasy perspective) 29.4 per game. The emergence of Patty Mills necessitated this drop, as did Coach Pop reducing the workload on the 12 year vet to ensure freshness for the playoffs – and it has paid off for the Spurs. I don’t know about you, but if I’m drafting a PG in the top 50 (or an average of 30th in ESPN leagues this year!), I want more bang for my buck than 0.5 steals or 0.4 threes. Yahoo also had him ranked 30th overall coming into this season, despite being ranked 60th in what was his best fantasy season last year. That overall ranking placed him ahead of Damian Lillard, Monta Ellis, Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Teague, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry. He may bounce back next year, but he’s not going to be that 21-7 player who could carry your field goal and free throw percentages. Anywhere after pick 75, take a flyer.

Carlos Boozer – The Booze cruise has officially dried up. His inability to play crunch minutes or defend anyone with footwork better than a sofa has caused his fantasy production to shrivel up. He was barely rosterable this season and only held value in really deep leagues where his rebounds had some value. The field goal percentage has fallen off the face of the earth at just 46%, while the defensive stats (0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks) would make Eddy Curry blush. He’s likely to get amnestied or traded by the Bulls which is why I love Zack’s sleeper pick next year (Taj Gibson), but if Boozer does end up starting he’s not likely to improve in any stat next season except possibly field goal percentage.

Eric Gordon – Gordon made more money than James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Al Jefferson and Dirk Nowitzki – all of whom thoroughly outplayed the former borderline All Star. The Suns avoided a dodgy-kneed bullet when New Orleans matched the max deal they signed him to, as he’s another player who is simply too hurt too often to warrant being on your roster. The last four seasons he has missed 20, 26, 57 and 40 games, along with 18 games this season. You can’t draft someone who doesn’t play and even when they do, they deliver sigh inducing production. His scoring dropped for the third straight season to just 15.4 points per game, which ranked him below such fantasy phenoms Jodie Meeks and Dion Waiters. You can do better in the first 100 picks next season.

George Hill – I like George Hill’s game, especially as he regularly qualifies at both PG and SG. The fact remains, however, that as long as Lance Stephenson and Paul George are around, there are only going to be so many assists Hill will accumulate. He was BAD for a number of games last season, particularly this stretch where he simply looked ordinary. He’s better suited to being a 6th man (ie a Jason Terry or Jamal Crawford) type off the bench for a very good team, so don’t bank on a bounce-back even though he has his improved his numbers slightly during this season’s playoffs. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Pacers attempt to upgrade at PG in the offseason, as Hill just isn’t quite ‘enough’ at lead guard for a team with championship aspirations.

Biggest Fantasy Sleeper for 2014-15

Zack

Jared Sullinger – I feel like although Sully had moments this season that he showed he could be a really good fantasy big man, most chalked it up to him being on a poor Celtics team. I think Sullinger will come out in 2014-15 and solidify his name amongst the top 15 PFs in fantasy. I’m optimistic that he continues to improve his mid-range jumper and love that he has the range to knock down treys as well. He’ll no doubt be the starter at PF for the Celtics next season and I am currently projecting him at 15ppg – 10rpg – 2apg – 1bpg – 1 trey/gm with improved FG% due to a more consistent jumper and he’s always been solid from the free-throw line. I’d imagine he’ll be ranked on most leagues around 110 to 125 and I believe he’ll end up in the top 60. I’m always a fan of players with loads of potential in their third season and this is my pick from the 2012 class to go from a later in the pack ADP player to becoming a fantasy beast.

Sam

Victor Oladipo – Zack and I couldn’t make this up – one of his biggest ‘avoid’ players is my biggest sleeper! I love Dipo’s fantasy game. He clearly isn’t a pass first point guard, nor is he a good shooting two guard – but he’s a combo guard with ridiculous athleticism and speed and there is always a place for that on an NBA team. He had some huge fantasy games on the season, including a triple double against fellow rookie MCW and a career best 35 point outing against the stingy Chicago Bulls. You have to assume the Magic aren’t going to bring back Jameer Nelson as it will stymie VO’s growth and inhibit his time with the ball. But – and this is a Glen Davis sized ‘but’ – with at least two elite PG prospects in this year’s draft (Dante Exum and Marcus Smart), there is a chance Orlando could run a Phoenix Suns style line-up with two point guards (that’s if you count Dipo as a PG) if they can’t land one of the potential stars like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker. Either way, expect the assists to stay solid at around 5-6 per game, but his scoring, rebounds, steals and threes should all rise. If he plays 34-36 minutes a night, he will excel. He played at least 34 minutes in 32 games this season, averaging 16.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.1 threes per game. Sure, there is bad with the good, like his 40% clip from the field and 3.7 turnovers per game, but you have to love a young guard who gets to the line and converts, as he got to the line 4.9 times per game in those 32 contests while knocking down 80% of them. Check out the rookie year comparisons below between Oladipo, Westbrook and fellow star combo guard, Dwyane Wade. As you can see, Dipo compares extremely favorably with the other two All Stars. Don’t expect him to immediately be a 20-5-6 guy like the other two, but if he’s there after pick 50 – draft him and hold onto him – even more so in keeper leagues.

So there you have it, an up and down season…of fantasy writing from Zack and I! There were some amazing stats thrown up and next season will be no different with the most anticipated draft class in a decade.

*The rookie seasons compared to Giannis (Player 1) were: 2-Paul George, 3-Nicolas Batum, 4-Danny Granger and 5-Josh Smith, 6-Scottie Pippen.

Zack and I have loved writing about fantasy NBA for the Fix this year and you can always hit us both up on Twitter with any NBA related questions @BigZack and @macetastic.

2013-14 Fantasy NBA Awards: The Fixies, Part I

Base photo credit: Allen Eyestone-The Palm Beach Post

Base photo credit: Allen Eyestone-The Palm Beach Post

Zack and I have had a good time writing about this season’s fantasy NBA.

So good in fact that we’re going to punish your fantasy brain with more words, recaps, previews and made up stats than you can shake a stick at.

Enjoy Zack’s ability to maintain both flow and word-count restrictions, while I plod along obliterating structure and limits like someone reading you the 10 Commandments of Fantasy Basketball (note to self…article idea).

This, is the first (and potentially last, depending on how many of you amazing, awesome readers peruse this) edition of, The Fixies.

Fantasy MVP

Zack: Kevin Durant – This is a no brainer as KD has become such an advantage to his fantasy owners that it’s almost not even fair. While his blocks came down from 1.3 last season to 0.7 this season, he managed to up his treys from 1.7 to 2.4 and his points from 28.1 to an insane 32 per game. There’s no need for me to expand more on how terrific Durant is. He simply dominates and fills up the stat sheet every night while being terrific for your percentages as well. He’s a flawless fantasy player.

Sam: Kevin Durant – There really is no comparison this season to the multitude of stats Durant was dropping on the league. Not since prime Larry Bird has someone shot at such a high volume   from everywhere on the court as well as providing such a huge lift in rebounds, assists and threes. Durant’s purge on the league where he scored at least 25 points in 41 straight games  is something that all fantasy basketball fans will remember for a long time. I didn’t have Durant on any of my teams in any of my leagues (dammit!) but I felt myself compelled to check OKC’s boxscores on a nightly basis, just to see what type of smorgasboard he was delivering. If you’re counting at home, that’s three straight #1 rankings at the end of the season for KD – still a ways off prime Garnett who basically owned fantasy NBA from 1998 until 2007.  Unless Anthony Davis can play 80 games, Durant’s likely locked in that top spot for the next few years.

Fantasy Sleeper of the Year

Zack: Kyle Lowry – I’m so glad I get to deliver this award to a player who I have had a huge man crush on for a few seasons now. After his breakout season with the Rockets, I was quoted as saying he could be a notch under Stephen Curry going forward. Then he followed that up with an injury riddled season and was on the wrong side of a split with Jose Calderon after he was traded to Toronto prior to the 2012-13 season. This season with Calderon gone, Lowry was able to show his real talent and he did not disappoint. He went off this season with 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.4 treys per game. So with an average draft position (ADP) of 95 and finishing at 15th on the player rater, KLow easily wins my Sleeper award this season.

Sam: Isaiah Thomas – Thomas has been overachieving ever since being the ‘last drafted player’ in 2011. He was never entrusted with the full time starting gig despite proving to be a legit 30+ minutes guy who contributed on both ends while directing an often directionless Sacramento Kings team. Thomas wasn’t drafted high in many leagues, averaging 91st in ESPN leagues and he found himself on many waiver wires very early in the season when he was sent to the bench. What he did after the demotion essentially triggered the Kings’ management to take notice and ship out the starting PG at the time Greivis Vasquez to Toronto, for Rudy Gay. Thomas exploded after being put into the starting five, delivering a top 25 fantasy season in all formats and proving to be a blast to watch as he knocked down 1.9 threes per night in the 54 games he started. Perhaps his biggest strength was providing a boost to free throw percentage, as he got to the line 5.7 times a night and knocked the freebies down at 85% on the year.

Most Improved Fantasy Player 

Zack: DeAndre Jordan – There were several deserving players for this award but I felt most of the others had at least shown some flashes of what they could do. DJ really didn’t seem like he’d ever be a center a coach could rely on for consistent production. Well, with Doc Rivers leading and handed an extra 11.5 minutes of playing time a night, DeAndre took his game up to a supreme level. He only increased his scoring by 1.6 a game but he took his rebounds from 7.2 to 13.6 (!) and his blocks from 1.4 to 2.5 a night. DJ ripped down double digit rebounds in 74 of 81 games and three of those when he didn’t, he had nine. For roto league he had 43 more boards than Andre Drummond who was second, and 151 more than Kevin Love who was third. He was a fantastic surprise to the owners who drafted him.

Sam: Lance Stephenson – Stephenson could have been the ‘Sleeper of the Year’ – but with an expected starting gig, most fans had him doing ‘something’ of relevance in fantasy circles – but nobody really expected him to provide counting stats like he did this season. The triple doubles by the Eight Grader were only matched by the scowls and hip gyrating this season and he will surely parlay this impressive statistical season into a hefty new contract in the offseason. Stephenson’s ability to grab double digit rebounds (7.2 for the season, tops among G eligible players) meant a fantasy manager could slot him next to a low rebounding PF/C such as Dirk Nowitzki or Channing Frye, without worrying about overall production in terms of boards and assists, due to Stephenson’s frenzy of activity on the court each night. Buyers beware for 2014-15, unless he lands in an ideal situation – say, as the lead ‘big’ guard on Phil Jackson’s new New York Knicks – don’t expect a repeat of that line next season.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year

Zack: Michael Carter-Williams – Admittedly I was not a fan of MCW’s game at all coming out of Syracuse. Rarely do they play good defense in the league because they’re spoiled from playing zone, and between his poor jump shot and average at best court vision, I just didn’t see it translating. Fortunately for him, he was drafted by the 76ers who this season were set up to let any player with half a bit of skill produce quite well. Only four players averaged at least 16 points, five rebounds and five assists this season -  two obviously being LeBron James and Mr. Durant – the other two were Gordon Hayward and Michael Cater-Williams (Russell Westbrook also hit those averages but only played 46 games). That’s a nice set of players to be in a short list with after a rookie campaign, and although I can’t help but remember a similar stat when Tyreke Evans was a rookie and averaged 20-5-5 and his next season was not nearly as stellar. MCW was a great find for his owners as he was one of the last starting point guards coming off of the board in drafts. Despite the poor FG%, his points, boards, assists plus 1.8 steals and 0.8 treys were a nice addition to any team.

Sam: Michael Carter-Williams – It really says something for the lack of rookie talent this season that the best fantasy rookie shot 41% from the field, 26% from deep and just 70% at the line. Shooting splits aside – as hard as that may be to get out of your mind – MCW’s rookie year was extremely surprising in both reality and fantasy and what a debut he had! While most saw a negative value to his game, with the certainty of 35 minutes every night and the only competition for minutes being…ummm…a D leaguer…MCW had no other option but to put stats up. He produced valuable counting stats of 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals while being eligible at both guard spots in most leagues. It remains to be seen how successful he’ll be next year and whether the bad habits he may have picked up this season will affect him next year, but he’s worth taking a flyer on late as the talent around him matures.

Zack’s Fantasy All NBA Starting Five

team zach

 PG: John Wall – Gets the edge over CP3 for me because he played all 82 games. His addition of over a trey a night was a huge step for his game. He’s going to be a top 10 fantasy player for a long time. (Honorable mention: Chris Paul)

SG: Stephen Curry – Just a straight up stud all around and best shooter in the league. Curry has really solidified his spot amongst fantasy’s elite. He’s a top 5 player no question. (Honorable mention: James Harden)

SF: Kevin Durant – Nothing more to say that wasn’t stated earlier. He was #1 this season and will be drafted #1 in every league next season as well. (Honorable mention: Carmelo Anthony)

PF: LeBron James – The King came through with another outstanding season for his owners. Possibly his best stat is averaging over 27 points on over 17 shots a night and at an absolutely silly 57% from the field. (Honorable mention: Kevin Love)

C: Anthony Davis – What a giant step forward Davis took in his second season in the league. Nobody even notices the unibrow anymore because you can’t make fun of a beast like this. He’ll likely be #2 on my ranks for next season, yes, he’s that good. (Honorable mention: DeMarcus Cousins)

6th Man: Jamal Crawford – Despite starting 24 of 69 games due to CP3 and JJ Redick being injured, I still give this award to JamCraw over the likes of Manu Ginobili, Nick Young, Taj Gibson and Markieff Morris. I thought maybe the stats were inflated due to his starts but his off the bench numbers really weren’t all that much different. You talk about a vet going to any team and just knowing and owning his role to perfection, this is it. Jamal comes off the bench even at 34 years old and gets it done on the offensive end. Even on a loaded with depth Clippers team Jam managed to average 18.6 points, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.3 treys a game, along with a nice boost with 87% from the line on over four free throw attempts a night. (Honorable mentions Ginobili, Young, Gibson, MMorris)

Sam’s Fantasy All NBA Starting Five

PG: Stephen Curry – Don’t look now but this guy is assaulting the all-time annals for three point shooting. He’s already knocked down more threes over his career than scoring machines Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, despite playing 200 games less than KD and 400 less than Melo! His special season last year was topped by his improvement across the board in 2013-14, with career highs in points, assists and free throws attempted. (Honorable mention: Chris Paul)

SG: James Harden – Harden’s season this year showed that 2012-13 wasn’t an aberration. His immense production in the scoring department was paired with a slight uptick in field goal percentage as well as a career high free throw percentage mark. Harden will continue be a top 6 guy next season if he can play 75 games and he may even improve his TO rate and shooting percentages if the Rockets upgrade their PG spot so he doesn’t have so much of a workload. (Honorable mention: Goran Dragic)

SF: Kevin Durant – The first player off 98% of draft boards and rightfully so. I won’t write as much for KD as both Zack and myself have covered his ridiculous production – so I’ll leave you with this. Durant led the entire NBA in minutes played, field goals made, free throws made, total points, points per game and player efficiency rating. To show he wasn’t just a scorer he was also top 30 in threes, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game and tied with Steph Curry for the lead in ‘put the TV on now’ Twitter moments (aka Bill Simmons’ Heat check guys). (Honorable mention: Paul George)

PF: Lebron James – Kevin Love put up a ridiculous season of unmatched scoring, rebounding, passing and three point shooting. But he isn’t Lebron. Nobody dominates scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and field goal percentage like Lebron. His eligibility at SF and PF also can’t be overlooked when you look at the across the board stats he’s putting up. SEVEN straight seasons averaging at least 6.5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.5 steals, 48% from the field and 20 points a night. Michael Jordan has two of those seasons. Larry Bird has five, Magic Johnson has two. They just don’t come this consistent and he’s still only 29 years old. Another thing to remember – imagine his chagrin if he doesn’t win the championship this year…I feel he may lay waste to the NBA if he doesn’t win the title after getting killed in the MVP vote by KD. (Honorable mention: Kevin Love)

C: Anthony Davis – Is he Hakeem 2.0? Is he Duncan 2.0? I feel he could be a combination of both, with the ball handling of Kevin Garnett. This is a very scary matchup for NBA big men and an absolute feast of fantasy fun for his owners. Alliteration aside, Davis may be the one true threat to dismantling Kevin Durant’s mortgage on the fantasy NBA throne. His scoring went from 13.5 per game in his rookie year to 20.8 this season and his blocks went from 1.8 to a league leading 2.8 per game. As Zack said in his Davis bit – this guy is who you want behind Durant next season – don’t brows, take Davis at #2. (Honorable mention: LaMarcus Aldridge)

6th Man: Markieff Morris – As a player much maligned since my Suns drafted him, the transition from borderline NBA rotation player to key contributor on a 48 win team has been thoroughly enjoyable. He was drafted on average in the 10th round – usually when you’re taking a flyer and hoping said player can become a starter, at best. Kieff never became a starter at any point this season, but he never dropped below 11 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in any month. His overall line isn’t awe inspiring, but you can’t complain about healthy 49/79 splits along with 6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and nearly 14 points per night. (Honorable mention: Taj Gibson)

5 Biggest Fantasy Disappointments

Zack: 

Deron Williams – When you select a player in the first round (ADP: 12) you expect to get a close to sure thing producer. In this case Deron’s drafters were under the assumption that with a much improved roster around him that he wouldn’t have to shoot as often, thus improving his FG% and a providing a nice increase of his 2012-13 assist numbers. Instead, D-Will had about the same FG%, 1.6 LESS dimes, four less points, less treys a game and he even missed 14 more games than the previous season. There’s no question Deron was a bust this season and likely will find himself going in round five or later next season while also being on a lot of drafters “do not touch” lists.

Derrick Rose – I hate to have a player on a disappointments list because of injury reasons but in this case I felt it was needed. Rose sat out all of 2012-13 to insure that he was 100% ready to go this season and he looked great in his seven preseason appearances, leading fantasy minds to think he was back in full force. With all of that upside and optimism Rose had an ADP of 8 coming in and despite some obvious rust, he looked fine through ten games played. In that tenth game though Rose went down late and his owners feared the worst which was later confirmed when it was announced Rose would miss the rest of the season. This is an absolute killer to those who drafted him after such a build up for #TheReturn, only to be kicked below the belt a couple of weeks later. Regardless of how he looks next preseason I can’t see his ADP being any higher than 25 based on fear of another knee injury occurring. The scariest part of Rose’s two knee injuries is both were non-contact injuries – meaning he was going and then just went down – it wasn’t caused by landing badly or someone landing on him. I personally won’t own Rose in any leagues next season.

Larry Sanders – Siiiigh… What a disaster this guy came to be this past year. I guess we should have all known to stay away after he RECIEVED this tattoo in the off-season that bad things were to come. Sanders had an ADP of 42 and all of his owners expected similar to last season’s double-double with close to three blocks and poor FT% type of return on their investment. Yeah, not so much. Sanders started the season with three awful performances and then was diagnosed with a thumb injury that required surgery and kept him out about six weeks. It later surfaced that this injury happened when Larry was involved in a bar fight. When he returned to the court the mixture of his lackluster play and the Larry Drew effect had him averaging just 7.6 points, 6.8 boards and 1.8 blocks in a lowly 26.5 minutes a night in February. At the end of the month and the first two games of March he started to return to consistently over 30 minutes and produce his last season fantasy stats, and then he was smacked in the face and suffered a fractured orbital bone. This surgery kept him out the remainder of the season. Unlike Rose, who we knew would miss the whole season right away, Sanders’ status was always in question so he remained rostered on a lot of teams which was even more hurtful to his owners. Sanders will be scary to draft next season but if his ADP is low enough, I think he could be a potential steal albeit with a good bit of risk. Also note he’ll be suspended the first five games of next season for failing a drug test.

Roy Hibbert – I wish there was an injury we could blame for Hibbert’s sub-par season. When you draft a seven-footer of this caliber, especially one who is coming off of a dominant playoff performance, you’re expecting to get a lot of boards and blocks. Hibbs had solid blocks (although his 2.2 blocks were 0.4 less than last season) but his rebounds fell from 8.3 to 6.6 this season. With an ADP of 42 you know his owners were hoping for a lot more out of the big Jamaican center especially knowing the likes of Andre Drummond was going over ten picks later. The nightmare has continued into the Playoffs for Hibbert and I’d expect him to fall close to twenty spots in ADP next season.

Andre Iguodala – Was I let down by Iguodala this season? No, because I didn’t like his new situation with the Warriors but many must have been excited by it. I was surprised to be reminded that Iggy’s ADP was 56 this season. He hit his lowest averages in points, rebounds and assists since his rookie season nine years ago. Honestly, Andre was droppable in standard leagues as he wasn’t any better than a lot of players available on the waiver wire. Sure, his 1.5 steals and a trey a night are helpful but overall he was just a bust for his owners. Owners likely never felt like they could drop him, but cringed having to keep putting him in their lineups with such little return. I also hate that the Warriors set back Harrison Barnes’ development by bringing Iggy in. I know his defense in real life was important to their goals but it’s just a shame for a player with the upside of Barnes to be wasted off of the bench.

Sam:

OJ Mayo – Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo couldn’t have crapped the fantasy bed more if he tried in 2013-14. He’d signed this make good contract last year with the Mavs then stupidly opted out, and the Bucks stupidly (key word here) signed him to a three year extension for $8 million a year! I stupidly drafted him in one league – the pick immediately before Goran Dragic went – and I have never been so pleased to cut a player after he destroyed my guard production. Mayo’s career trajectory doesn’t look good, especially considering he played for the worst team in the NBA this season and he couldn’t hold down a starting gig. Next year, pass on the Mayo.

Derrick Rose – So much has been written about Rose’s injury history and I really hope he can regain his health and basically just play basketball again. As unlikely as that is, the only thing less likely is me drafting Rose ever again. He had a red hot preseason which further hyped his fantasy game, as well as the NBA chatter surrounding the Bulls returning to prominence in not just the East, but the entire NBA. I nabbed him at the start of the second round in one league after debating Rose, Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis (ouch) and I’ll never do that again. Fantasy leagues are generally won with nailing your first 4-5 picks, don’t waste one on Rose.

Enes Kanter – I get the feeling nobody was happier about Tyrone Corbin being let go than Kanter. The big Turk just wasn’t able to secure consistent minutes for a team completely lacking of big bodies outside of Derrick Favors. Kanter was a very hot sleeper pick going into this season as he was ranked number 69 in Yahoo’s overall rankings, despite being ranked 298 in 2012-13! Many fantasy pundits expected his floor to be around 15-16 points, 8-9 rebounds and around 1 block per game, with juicy shooting splits. His ceiling was high, like 18-12 high – along with those shooting numbers. Sure, the overall numbers of 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds on 49% from the field are rock solid for a 21 year old. But Kanter was entering the season as a starter on a team needing bulk inside and he failed to deliver fantasy goods for a player often drafted in the top 65 picks – maybe next year?

Tobias Harris – Harris was an absolute stud over the final stretch of the 2012-13 season, as he showed the diverse fantasy game that only a select few players can provide. He started the last 20 games for the Magic that season, averaging 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks and 1 three per night with just 2 turnovers per game. Those stats are fantasy gold. So what did he do this season you ask? Besides get injured and underachieve, he simply couldn’t stay in the starting lineup, managing just 36 starts for the year. He disappointed across the board as his steals and blocks disappeared along with his three point stroke (just 0.5 per game on 25%!). His overall shooting improved – particularly in free throws as he jumped over 80% on four attempts per night. Even though he didn’t deliver the ‘full’ goods we wanted from him this year, he’s a definite sleeper next year if he can start at either forward spot for Orlando.

Josh Smith – Aaah the enigma that is Josh Smith. Why isn’t this guy a top 15 pick every season? He really is a one of a kind player in terms of his fantasy production. Very few players – Lebron, Durant and possibly Anthony Davis – can do what he can on any given night in terms of counting stats across the board, especially defensively. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. This year was more bad than good, as his wretched three point shooting returned with a vengeance, ironically assisting in reducing his shooting percentages to laughable (see: Antoine Walker) levels, as well as nearly single-handedly keeping Andre Drummond in the rebounding crown race. Smith can still block shots and although he had a career low 1.4 last season, he still managed to block at least 4 shots in a game six times. He also managed to record at least 4 steals in a game seven times, while also topping out at 19 rebounds in one game and 8 assists in another. It’s the shooting that is his fantasy value slayer. The Pistons went 8-4 when he shot 55% from the field and just 11-33 when he shot below 45% – surely Smith can see these stats too? Stop shooting Josh, please.

——-

Check back next week as Zack and I give some tips and hints for your fantasy NBA teams next year!

If you have any questions or want some advice or just an unbiased opinion feel free to hit Zack up on twitter @BigZack44 and myself @macetastic. Feel free to ask any NBA related questions, whether fantasy or reality.

Daily Fantasy Basketball: Playoff Edition at DraftStreet

DraftStreet topper

The NBA playoffs are finally here and DraftStreet is starting it off with a bang! They have opened up a chance to play in a two day guaranteed prize pool tournament where the winner takes home $20,000! It’s only $55 to join the action and to have your shot at making $20,000 in just two days. The top 300 finishers get paid out. There are only 2000 spots available and they are sure to fill up fast so don’t hesitate. This is for the games on 4/19 and 4/20 and you have to be registered and have your whole team selected and finalized before tip off of the first game Saturday. This is a salary cap style draft so you have to balance out your team, you can’t just have all superstars of course. Never played at DraftStreet before? It’s your lucky day because DraftStreet is offering first time depositors a 100% bonus on all deposits up to $200. So if you put in $200 or less they will match it so you’re doubled up from day one. Now is the time to join the best daily fantasy sports site on the net.

You can feel it in the air, everything has changed now. The frustrating nights of top players taking nights off and teams being in tank mode are in the past. Now you’ll get every players best effort every minute they’re on the court. This tournament is for the first two days of the NBA playoffs so it includes players from both Saturday and Sunday’s games covering all eight playoff matchups. This just means that the player pool is filled with great options, you just have to pick the right combination.

The best thing about daily fantasy sports is that no matter how much experience or money someone has gained playing, they’re no more likely to win this two day event than a first timer. Don’t be afraid to take some gambles on your team to go along with some top tier ballers. A lot of DFS players like to go with the “studs and scrubs” approach which is using a couple of the top of the top players (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, etc…) and then since a couple of those guys will take up such a big chunk of your salary cap you have no choice but to go with a few lower tier guys who are closer to the salary floor in hopes they can pitch in decently. Others choose to go the totally balanced approach using all middle tier players (DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Chris Bosh, etc..) where they then don’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel types on their roster. There’s no one way to do this so just try out several angles and see what you like the best.

Below are a few players from each position that I like a lot over this opening playoff weekend that I feel could help you cash in. Remember to go ahead and go to DraftStreet.com to sign up for the $100k GPP tournament now before it fills up and you miss out on your chance to cash in big. It adds a whole new level of fun to watching the playoffs and you’ll never want to stop playing.

*Reminder the DraftStreet roster setup isn’t specific to exact position. It requires 3 guards, 3 forwards, 1 center and 1 utility. You get a $100,000 salary cap to spread as you wish making your team.*

DS hoops scoring

Guards

Top Tier: Chris Paul ($19,359) – Most will look to Stephen Curry as the go to guy here but I believe CP3 is the better option. In three games against the Warriors this season he has averaged 28 points, eight assists, four rebounds and over three steals per game. As the Clippers leader, Paul will control the game and always have the ball in the clutch moments of the game to top the night off with some extra buckets and/or free throws. I’d personally go with Paul or James Harden over Curry. I’d be more likely to use Curry when the Warriors are playing at home.

Mid-Level: Monta Ellis ($13,916) – While I think the role players will struggle for the Mavs, I believe their dynamic scoring duo of Ellis and Dirk will get their stats for sure. Monta should come out firing and go right at the Spurs wings aggressively. I’d look for him to put up around 20 points with a handful of boards and dimes plus a couple steals for a fantasy point total in the low to mid 30s. I believe Ellis will really be motivated after having a mediocre playoffs last season while being swept by the Heat.

Sleeper/Value: Tony Parker ($11,657) – When you ask people who the best team in the league is you always hear “the Heat” or “the Thunder” and hardly ever the Spurs. When you ask people who the best point guard in the NBA is you rarely hear Tony Parker mentioned but he’s simply the best at leading his team in the playoffs. He’s the ultimate x-factor as he can kill you with penetrating floaters, jump shots or drive and kicking to the open man for an assist. Parker wont always put up the huge lines that Chris Paul, Steph Curry and other top DFS players do but he’s absolutely capable of it and him being close to $8k cheaper than the top guards is insulting. I believe Parker will come out and punch the Mavericks right in the chops setting the tone for their first round matchup. Don’t let his recent stats deter you from using him as Greg Popovich has used him much less of late resting him up for the playoffs.

Forwards

Top Tier: Blake Griffin ($18,854) – Don’t get me wrong here, Kevin Durant is as sure a thing as it gets and there’s no issue playing him. I don’t have to sell you on reasons to use KD so I wont waste anymore time saying such, but one of my must plays this weekend is Blake Griffin. Not only is he just a dominant force statistically every night but he’s also going up against a weak opposing set of forwards. I love the Florida Gator duo of David Lee and Marreese Speights but neither of them will be able to even dream of containing Griffin on the defensive end. I believe Griffin will put up right around 40 fantasy points for his owners.

Mid-Level: Tim Duncan ($15,516) – Is it apparent yet that I am fine using the not so young, popular and sexy names on the Spurs for my weekend lineups? I absolutely love Duncan against the Mavs bigs. The big fundamental is going to pump fake, bank shot and bounce pass himself to another robotic performance where he’ll deliver at least 18 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. In a big GPP tourney I love to have a few non-max salary “safe” options on my team. Duncan is the epitome of safe when it comes to the playoffs and DFS. Use him and sleep easy knowing he’ll go out there and get it done.

Sleeper/Value: Taj Gibson ($10,253) – I believe over the last month Tom Thibodeau has shown exactly what his players roles will be going forward. Taj is the first big man off of the bench and is good for right about 28 minutes a night where he’ll be super aggressive on the glass and defense (which in the past has earned him extra minutes in the playoffs over not so defensively gifted Carlos Boozer) plus around ten shots. Gibson isn’t going to go off for mega stats but at just over $10k I feel he’s an exceptional value and close to 25 fantasy points at home against the Wizards.

Centers

Top Tier: Al Jefferson ($18,567) – Big Al is another not so popular but always monstrous producer in DFS. I love using AlJeff in GPPs as I feel he’s almost always going to deliever enough statistically to be worth his big price tag. He should have no problem at all man handling the Heat’s center options on both ends of the court. In three games against the Heat this season Al has averaged 25.3 points, 15.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals. Now that is what I like to call grown man stats! If you have room to go big money at center, this is the guy for me no question.

Mid-Level: Jonas Valanciunas ($13,492) – JV has been playing at a varsity level of late (sorry…) and while he’s never been to the playoffs, I think the Raptors could go to their youthful big man a good bit against the Nets. The Nets don’t have anyone who matches up all that great with Jonas. Mason Plumlee will likely try to out energize and intimidate the Lithuanian, but I think JV can slow things down and deliver a quality double-double this weekend for the Raps. There is always risk with a young center like this in the playoffs but personally if you can’t go a big money center, I like JV as a solid option with a more reasonable price tag.

Sleeper/Value: Jermaine O’Neal ($8,067) – I really wanted to go on a limb here and say Roy Hibbert who is just $8,988 but I just can’t with how mentally out of it he has seemed of late. There’s probably more upside with Hibbs but the better option to me in the lower tier is Jermaine. The Warriors haven’t said whether O’Neal or Draymond Green will start yet but when your opponent has DeAndre Jordan starting, it seems like a no brainer call to me. O’Neal isn’t going to do anything amazing BUT in 13 starts this season he did average 10.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just 25 minutes a game. He also normally takes smart shots hence his 57% from the field in those 13 starts. Again, I’d personally go a better option at center but if you go high salary elsewhere and need to go the cheap route at center, I like JO as a decent play.

OK, that’s a few options at each spot that I like and I hope the info helps you make decisions in your lineup and it leads you to some big winnings. Remember to go to DraftStreet.com and sign up for the chance to win $20k in their opening NBA playoff weekend tournament. How else will you ever have this good of a shot at turning $55 into $20k?? I know most will say “I’d never win” but some random guy sitting at home right now is going to enter a lineup and win, WHY NOT YOU?

If $55 is simply too much for you to gamble and you’d rather start off smaller, that’s ok too. DraftStreet also has an $11 and $2 GPP tournament. Personally, I’d consider joining all three of them and make minor tweaks to each team in hopes that one or more hits for a big payday. If you want to join up at DraftStreet to join one of these other tournaments or to be able to choose games at your leisure for hoops, baseball, hockey, etc.. simply click this link to get all signed up. Daily fantasy sports is the newest thing and soon will surpass season long leagues as the most popular form of fantasy play. Get in now and cash in on all that work you put in building your fantasy IQ.

If you have any questions or want some advice or just an unbiased opinion feel free to hit me up on twitter @BigZack44 and I’ll reply to everyone as quickly as I can. Good luck to everybody this weekend.

Fantasy Basketball 2014: Adrieeeeen!!!

Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Adrien

If you’re a movie fan, chances are ‘Adrieeeeen!’ is a well known ‘quote’, whereas Jeff Adrien is not a well known NBA player.

Forgive me for the recurring theme of poking fun of the name of nearly every player who has appeared in this column throughout the year. I hear or see a name and automatically think of where I’ve heard that name before in different media – usually the Simpsons or a movie.

He’s bounced around a fair bit for such a short professional career, yet only when landing on the Bucks after being included in the Neal-Ridnour-Sessions trade has he actually been able to prove his worth in both fantasy and reality, as he’s averaged 10.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 52/75 shooting splits in 22 games for the Bucks.

He’s likely not as available as he was this time last week, as he’s rattled off some strong games for the very un-solid Bucks, taking advantage of their cataclysmically bad season – remember when the experts were talking playoffs for the Bucks? Seems like years ago. Or decades if you’re a Bucks fan.

OJ became Mayoverweight. Ersan’s season was Ilyas-over before it began. The Larry Sanders show was cancelled for any number of self-inflicted reasons.

Brandon Knight is the only legit option on the Bucks roster and despite having a lot of hype and tantalizing fantasy skills, Giannis Antetokounmpo is barely old enough to buy a Penthouse yet.

This Bucks team has been stuffed since – and don’t misconstrue this as a compliment to him – Brandon Jennings was still on the team.

Adrien is a classic blue collar guy with sneaky athleticism and physicality that sees him grab his fair share of rebounds and he has no real competition for minutes, apart from Larry Drew’s insistence on not allowing any player to get comfortable with an established role.

In the 11 games he’s played at least 24 minutes in, Adrien has thrown up rock solid numbers: 13.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, just 1 turnover per game and 50/76 splits.

He’s been even better as a starter for the last 4 games, producing 17.5 points, 9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.3 blocks a night while being given enough minutes to warrant being added over other ‘floaties’ (that term isn’t meant to be as derogatory as it sounds…but the sort of player who’s basically circling/floating around the available player pool…that didn’t get any better but anyway, the comparison fits) such as Chris Kaman or Enes Kanter.

Ray McCallum

The Kings have seemingly been searching for a starting first point guard ever since Mike Bibby was traded to Atlanta in 2008.

I don’t understand their logic personally, Isaiah Thomas has been nothing short of awesome since being made the permanent starter when Grievis Vasquez was traded to Toronto after he failed to show he was better than IT.

Anyway, the reason McCallum deserves a spot on your roster is because they basically have nobody else.

Now that Thomas is hurt (pop quiz, name the Kings’ third string point guard….still guessing…they don’t have one unless you’re counting Jared Cunningham), McCallum is the new driver of the Kings’ tank. Rumblings going around suggest Thomas may be shut down for the remainder of the season as all he’s doing is stepping on the Kings’ ping pong balls whenever he plays.

McCallum is going to play massive minutes from here on out – and don’t let the minor name or poor team performance cloud your judgment on his fantasy NBA value. As I mentioned in a previous column back in January, you can never underestimate a player wanting to make a name for himself on a bad team with no depth.

He’s not going to put up Ramon Sessions’ gaudy numbers because he has ball dominant players alongside him in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. However, assists will be aplenty as he’s the only pass first player on the entire roster and the aforementioned Cousins and Gay are hardly known for passing up open shots.

As the starting PG for the Kings, he’s produced 13.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.5 steals and just 2.1 turnovers over eight starts – averaging a RIDICULOUS 45.4 minutes a game.

He is a rookie point guard and a second rounder at that, so with the good comes the bad – and the bad is very bad in this case.

The shooting percentages are a disaster at 36% from the field and 53% at the line, but before you go ‘nuts to this guy’ – look at Brandon Jennings over his last seven games: 11.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.0 threes, 34% from the field and 63% at the line.

Chances are a guy like Jennings isn’t going to be floating round waivers at this time of year in roto leagues, nor will his price be anywhere near as low as McCallum’s for daily leagues.

Anthony Morrow

Morrow can shoot.

He is 8th all time in three point percentage – ahead of current dead-eye shooters Steve Nash, Kyle Korver and Klay Thompson.

The problem is he has never really had a defined role, never really a starter as a second or third option and never really as a sixth man with the promise of 28-30 minutes every night. He’s like that bail out option who you can plug in at SG or SF when someone gets hurt and the team needs 12-15 points from someone who won’t wreck chemistry. Kind of like how a Simpsons episode will fall back on a secondary character like Moe or Apu and produce a great episode 2-3 times (or 10-12 games if you will) per season.

He first came to fantasy prominence when the crazy genius Don Nelson stuck him next to another crazy in Stephen Jackson. Whatever was said to him, it worked, as his first two career starts were MASSIVE fantasy performances that put him on the map.

Over his last seven games for the Pelicans (including three starts) Morrow has been a real asset, especially for those roto or head to head leagues needing a good source of threes and free throw percentage.

He’s thrown up 19.4 points 2.6 rebounds, 2.3 threes and less than 1 turnover a night, coupled with sexy shooting percentages of 57% from the field and 90% from the line on a very helpful 4.1 attempts per game.

It’s unfortunate the Pelicans are both struggling and saddled with MAX contract of Eric Gordon, as with Anthony Davis’ ever expanding game a player like Morrow could start and threaten the league lead in threes if given the opportunity.

He’s not going to hurt your squad in the remaining games because he doesn’t hurt himself by making bad decisions or turning the ball over like JR Smith can for example.

Follow Sam on Twitter @macetastic and feel free to ask any NBA related questions, whether fantasy or reality.

 

Friday’s DFS NBA 4/4

Friday’s NBA picks could not come at a better time. There are 14 games tonight and this is the time of year when extra research goes a long way. With the amount of DFS MLB that is being played, the talent gets a little thinner in DFS NBA. It’s time to capitalize on this and make big bucks on Draftstreet.

Guards

Reggie Jackson ($10,570) will be starting with Russell Westbrook not playing in tonight’s game against the Rockets. He’s underpriced if you ask me and it’s not because of minutes. He has played 30+ minutes in his last four games and has been great because of it. This is pretty awesome for us as he has averaged 30 fantasy points in his last five games. In those games with 30+ minutes, Westbrook is averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal per game.

Dion Waiters ($11,365) has slid over to the shooting guard position with the return of Kyrie Irving, but it shouldn’t impact his fantasy value too much. Sure, he’ll probably not do much in the assist department, but being a second shooting option might actually be beneficial. With Irving back last game, Waiters still took 15 shots and scored 26 points. He added three assists and as long as he doesn’t shoot for a bad FG% against the Hawks, I can see him doing very well for his price.

John Wall ($17,112) has the advantage of playing at MSG tonight and I think that boosts his stock tonight. It sounds corny, but the better players seem to play better on the bigger stage. When Wall went to MSG earlier this season, he went for 20/6/8/2. The other time Wall played the Knicks, he scored 31 points. This is a great matchup for Wall and I like it more because it’s on the road.

Forwards

Greg Monroe ($14,528) has been a very good player since the coaching change. And more recently, he’s been great against some very good teams. Just last game, Monroe went for 17/16/2/3/1. Those numbers are well worthy of the 14.5k price tag. Tonight he’ll play the Nets who he has averaged 17/10/2/1. While those numbers don’t hit value, Monroe should be able to get a bit more with the recent hot streak he is on. He has 65 points and 40 rebounds in his last three games.

Amar’e Stoudemire ($9,647) played just 21 minutes last game and he still did very well for us. He put up a stat line of 13/6/2/0/2 and only missed two shots. It’s nights like that that make me feel more comfortable about using him especially at this price. His splits against the Wizards aren’t great (8/4/1/0/2), but those are with just 20 minutes per game. He’ll likely need 25-30 minutes to reach value. If you think that’s a strong possibility like me then use him tonight.

Kenneth Faried ($15,734) is probably coming off his best game of the season and there is no better time to use him than tonight. He has a decently tough matchup against the Grizzlies, but he has faired decently with just 24 minutes a game. In those minutes he has averaged 12/5/1/1/1. In his last five games, not only is he averaged 21/11/2/2/1, but he’s also averaging 29 minutes a game. This is a nice increase from the three times Faried has played the Grizzlies.

Centers

DeMarcus Cousins ($20,152) should have a very good game against the Warriors tonight coming off a 20/10 game his last time out, against the Lakers, in just 21 minutes. DMC has had trouble staying on the floor due to some mid-game injuries, so I’m hoping that’s why he has only played 19 minutes per game in his two contests against Golden State. In those games, he’s averaging 16/6/1/3. Those are some pretty sweet stats for just 19 minutes.

Al Jefferson ($18,375) has been great in his last four games averaging 38 minutes per game and 25/11/1/1. During this time, he’s shooting 53% from the field and averaging only one turnover per game. He’s limiting the negatives, which is huge on a site like Draftstreet. He goes up against a group of big men in Orlando that haven’t been able to contain him this year. I really like him and you should to with the way he has played against them averaging 20/12/2/3/1 in three games against them.

2014 Fantasy Basketball: Somewhere I Belong

Fantasy Basketball Aaron Brooks

Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images NA

In honor of Fix legend Sam Macey’s Prague adventure, I will dedicate this week’s column to a pair of guards who just can’t find their way home. Ramon Sessions and Aaron Brooks have been all over the basketball map, but both have capitalized on enhanced opportunities for run in new cities.

Ramon Sessions

Acquired hours before the trade deadline by his old new team, Sessions has been feasting since entering the Bucks starting five. By the way, his travel buddy Jeff Adrien hasn’t been too shabby either, but I digress. With rookie Nate Wolters on the shelf (broken hand), Sessions has averaged 43 minutes of court time over his last four games – 21 PPG, seven assists, five rebounds, five 3-pointers and 25 made free throws.

Despite impressive per 48 minute production throughout his career, the soon to be 28-year old has found respect difficult to come by. His path has been arduous to say the last: from Miami to Milwaukee to Minnesota to Cleveland to LA back to Cleveland to Charlotte and back to Milwaukee. Got it? Sessions has played in 459 NBA games, yet he’s earned the starting nod in just 119 of them.

He’s been branded with the backup, energizer bunny label mostly because of his three-point shooting limitations. While his physical attributes aren’t jaw dropping either, Sessions is a playmaker – and has been since his days at Nevada playing alongside Nick Fazekas (Japan Basketball League) and Marcelus Kemp (Italian League).

Sessions is worth owning in all formats, as he has a firm imprint on every Milwaukee offensive set. Milk him while you can, he’ll likely be back in the 25-minute range in 2015. Typecasting… it’s an unfortunate process. [Read more...]

Wednesday’s DFS NBA 4/2

There are 13 NBA games tonight, so no better day to get back into the NBA season. The regular season is ending soon, so we have to squeeze whatever we can out of these last games. The normal suspects are playing tonight: expect players going against the 76ers and the studs on the west coast. Here are tonight’s Draftstreet plays!

Guards

Kemba Walker ($15,847) has not only been great recently, but has the matchup tonight against Philly to keep it going. He has shot a ridiculous amount of threes lately (22) and has because of it had a tough FG%. He has added some consistently lines in his last three games going for at least 20/5/8/1 in each of them. While I’m not a fan of his high three-point attempt numbers, it might work out against the 76ers who have been against the three all year.

Mike Conley ($13,753) unintentionally seems to be a favorite of this article and mine. It’s hard not to like him tonight against the Timberwolves and his 21/4/6/2 averages against them this season. On March 24th, Conley went for 23/5/6/2 against them and I see no reason why he can’t do something like that again. He’s averaging over 15 shots per game in his last six and has shot at a 52% clip.

Kent Bazemore ($8,975) has seen pretty inconsistent numbers due to minutes, but he has played 30+ minutes in three straight games. In those games, he’s averaging 16/5/3/2/1. Those are great numbers for this price especially since his worst shooting performance during that time was just 3 for 7. In just 20 minutes averaged against the Kings this season, Bazemore is averaging 9/4/0/1/1.

Forwards

Zach Randolph ($15,270) has been red hot in his last four and faces a team that he has had success against this season, the Timberwolves. He’s averaging 21/9/4/1 against them in three games, which is almost identical to what he has done lately. In his last four, Randolph is averaging 21/9/3/1. It doesn’t sound like Nikola Pekovic will play tonight, so this helps Randolph maintain those great averages against the Timberwolves.

Amar’e Stoudemire ($10,095) is an interesting option tonight against the Nets. The Knicks have that rivalry going and this is a big game for the Knicks as they try and push for the playoffs. Stoudemire hasn’t played since March 30th, so he should be rest enough for 30 minutes and earlier this season against the Nets he did well in just 17 minutes. In that game, Stoudemire had 11 points and four rebounds.

Anthony Davis ($22,073) had a minor ankle injury that resulted in a game’s rest, but he came back huge in his next game. In that game, he played 38 minutes and added 22/8/4/2/4. He did a bit of everything and has that kind of potential tonight against the Nuggets. He’s actually done better than that in his two games against Denver this season. It’s not surprising as the Nuggets have been picked on by big men all season, but Davis has averaged 24/12/2/1/5 against them this season.

Centers

DeMarcus Cousins ($21,008) is probably considered a risky play tonight with the way he has been playing lately, but his matchup feels so safe. DMC does have that huge game against the Pelicans his last time out, but he did go for 17/7/5 and 4/4/2 in the two games before that. If you look past those two games though, his game log has been great. You would think that Cousins has owned the Lakers this season, but that’s not the case. While 19/9/5/1/1 is great, it’s not quite what I expected. I like him for 25/12/3 tonight at least with him getting back on a roll.

Gorgui Dieng ($12,832) will likely start tonight against the Grizzlies with the injury to Nikola Pekovic sititing him out for the Grizzlies game and more. We all saw how Dieng can play when getting big minutes and one of those games was against this same Grizzlies team. Amazingly, he brought down 17 rebounds and even scored 11 points in 37 minutes.

2013-14 Fantasy Basketball: In The Bonus – Waiver Targets Week 23 – Championship

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Here we go, the final week of the majority of league’s playoffs. Hopefully if you’re reading this you’re moving on to your league’s finals for a shot at that oh so precious title. As far as the recipe for winning, you already have it. All season long if you read my columns I preached key strategies to use to get yourself an edge or better chance at winning your leagues.

If you are a reader of mine and you made your league’s championship game or already won the ship, I’d love for you to comment on here or tweet me @BigZack44 and tell me how you did it. I don’t care if it is blatant bragging because you dominated or an underdog story of how you shocked your league and stole the crown, I want to hear about it. You deserve to gloat a bit after a long season of hard work that paid off in the end. Also, if you fought for it and came up short, I’d still like to hear about your season and how it came to an end or lessons you may have learned that you can use next season. Comment here and leave your twitter handle if you have one and/or tweet me and I will give you a follow back if I already don’t.

This was my first season of writing for fantasy hoops and I had a lot of fun doing it. I have to thank The Fantasy Fix for the opportunity to take my fantasy experience to the next level. I have always put in more hours than any person should studying stats and coming up with my own opinions or predictions for my fantasy hoops leagues. What can I say, I am a fantasy degenerate and I can’t help it. Like many of you too I am sure, I have gotten in multiple arguments with my wife over how much attention and effort I put into fantasy sports. Luckily, she was very supportive of me taking on this challenge and opportunity so now she sees it as me helping others as well. I wasn’t sure how she’d take it since our lives had just changed four months prior when we had our first baby, but she was very happy for me and here I am.

I look forward to sharing my offseason work and opinions with my readers next season as I came on too late this season to do that. Fantasy draft prep is the best and most important part of this game and I promise to provide a ton of information to have you ready to dominate from the jump next season. Don’t think that I am done all the way until next season though. I will be helping the site put out info on players who will be in the NBA draft and the fantasy values of all the draftees based on where they land. This is one exciting draft class, especially the top part of the first round, but to have close to ten players likely to be in the class who have superstar potential, that’s phenomenal.

Before we get to next season though, let’s finish this one by taking a look at these waiver wire targets to help you this final week strong.

First, let me list some names that I have mentioned in recent weeks that you should also look at who could still be available in your league: Ramon Sessions, Avery Bradley, Gorgui Dieng, Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Tiago Splitter, James Anderson, Jeff Adrien to name a few.

Henry Sims (owned in 11.1% of leagues) – Remember after the Sixers got rid of Spencer Hawes and we knew some big man had to step up and we assumed it’d be Byron Mullens? Yeah, that never went anywhere but now we’ve been welcomed to Sims city. He’s come into his own as of late and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop anytime soon. The Sixers have no other options there and he’s playing well, so it will continue. Over his last four games he’s averaged 15.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks while shooting 58% from the field and 75% from the free-throw line, OH Henry! (Sorry.) Sims is worthy of being owned in all leagues going forward if you need a big man and/or don’t want your opponent adding a big asset like Sims.

Jordan Hill (33.8%) – Hill has had several ups and downs this season and they have went from one extreme to the other. He’s been a must own and a couple of weeks later not even worthy of being owned in deeper leagues. Right now, he’s worth owning in most leagues again as he’s really been effective since returning from injury. In five games since becoming active again, Hill has averaged 16.8 points, 11 rebounds and one block per game. When Hill gets minutes, he delivers and right now he’s been receiving around 25 minutes of playing time and he’s tearing it up out there.

Terrence Ross (26.4%) – Mr. Ross hasn’t been the most consistent player this season, but he at least knows his role on the team now and is hot of late. Ross is a player you mostly target for points, steals and treys. He’s hit 12 trifectas leading the charge for his 16.7 points, while also getting over a steal per game in his last four. Ross is a solid option in 12-teamers and deeper and a great stream play in shallower leagues depending your statistical needs during the week.

Samuel Dalembert (8.9%) – If it is rebounds and/or blocks you’re in need of you should take a look at big Sam in Dallas. I know he lacks the sexiness of some potential waiver targets, but this youth/upside isn’t a category in your league. Rebounds are rebounds no matter who you get them from and Bert is bringing down 11.4 a night over his last five games not to mention 2.5 blocks in those games as well. Sure, seven of those swats came in one game but he has the potential to do that on any given night. You can at least count on him for one block a night to go along with his double digit boards and solid percentages. He’s a perfect stream target if you need help there, but he’s also a fine player to hold in 12-teamers and up if you see you’re going to need him. The Mavericks have four games next week, that’s potential for 40 boards and 5+ blocks. That can make a big impact on a week’s matchup.

All percentages were gathered from ESPN.com

Follow me on Twitter @BigZack44 for more fantasy hoops analysis/tips and to answer any questions you may have. Go win those championships.

Friday’s DFS NBA 3/28

Hopefully we had some readers cash in Draftstreet’s 150K Tournament on Wednesday, but if not let’s get back on the board tonight. We have plenty of games to choose from (12), so jump back on the horse tonight. I took the day off on the four game slate yesterday, but the largeness of tonight excites me. Here are today’s plays!

Guards

Mike Conley ($13,689) is one guard I can’t stop considering this week. The guy has been as consistent as can be lately and has done well for us. His rebounds were down in his last game, but he still managed 19 points and six assists. In his last six games, he has scored 18+ points in five of them. Tonight he faces the Warriors, a team that he has averaged 17/3/4/2 against this season in three games. He’s shooting 50% from the field in those games, which he has also done in his last three regular season games.

Dion Waiters ($13,156) is a guy that takes a ton of shots each game, but is making enough of them right now to hit value. Waiters has played tons of minutes since the Kyrie Irving injury and has also picked up the slack by consistently shooting the rock a ton. In his last six games he has taken 120 shots. Waiters has also made 46% of them. After looking at those numbers, you’re not surprised to see he is averaging 23/4/6/1 during that time. I love his price tonight against the Nets.

Kendall Marshall ($8,839) gets the matchup against the Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio that I love. He is getting no more than 30 minutes lately, but he hasn’t gone under 23 minutes in six straight games. In his last five games, Marshall is averaging 6/2/6/1 in 26 minutes per game. I think he can do better than that with the matchup he has tonight.

Forwards

Tim Duncan ($16,273) should be on everyone’s GPP squad tonight without a doubt. He has put up unbelievable numbers against Denver this season and just recently dominated them. Just last game, Duncan faced the Nuggets and went for 29/13/5/2/2 and shot 60% from the field. You never really know with Popovich coaching, but Duncan could easily go for 30/12/3 tonight.

Jordan Hill ($12,457) has made me feel some type of way lately with the way he has been playing. Hill has seen 27+ minutes in three of his last four games and in each of them he had at least 13 rebounds. In two of those games, he went for 28 real points. The guy is playing great and although he faces the Timberwolves and two big guys who can rebound, he has dominated recently for a reason.

Kevin Love ($21,379) is an obvious pick with the way the Lakers have played against him and every other big man in the NBA. Love had a down game his last time out against the Hawks, but still managed 14/12/4. Tonight against the Lakers, he is going up against a team that has given up an average of 27/14/3/1/1 against him in three games. Love has 60 point potential tonight.

Centers

Marc Gasol ($14,274) has owned the Warriors tonight and that’s why I like combining him with Conley as a solid Grizzlies duo. Gasol is not a huge scorer (14ppg on the season), but against Golden State, he’s averaging 18 a game. He has also added nine rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks per game against them. Gasol has scored at least 14 points per game in four of his last five games.

Gorgui Deng ($14,259) is tough to pass on tonight against the Lakers. If you’re not using Love then you need to be using Deng. This “cheaper” Timberwolves option has been red hot lately and is primed for another huge night. The Hawks have been bad against big men and Deng exploded for 15/15/2. The same could be done tonight against the Lakers. He has 11+ rebounds in five of his last six games, but has also gone for 15+ rebounds in three of his last four.