Fantasy Forecast: End of Season Winners and Losers
Now that the fantasy basketball season is officially over, we can take a look back and see who was a winner, who was a loser, who was undervalued and who was overvalued in those pre-draft rankings that the big-box websites are so proud of.
In here you will see studs, duds, and injury bombs that fantasy owners held on to for far too long, thus causing many of them to miss the fantasy playoffs all together. They say hindsight is 20-20, and that statement is as true for fantasy sports as with any other problem in the world. It is easy to pick apart the back picks and wrong predictions after the season. But, the reason you come back to my articles week in and week out is because I beat those big-box websites every single year!
Isaiah Thomas – PG Kings: Before the season started there was no guarantee that Thomas would even be the Kings starting PG, and because of that he dropped in the pre-draft rankings. On average he was selected in the 12th round, making him little more than bench depth in standard 12-team leagues. What ended up happening was Thomas took over the starting job and never looked back as he averaged 20.7 points, 6.4 assists, and 1.3 steals a night as of the end of the 23rd week in the NBA. Thomas does have Ray McCallum to deal with heading into next season, but I think he has done enough to hold onto the starting PG job for the Kings. He finished this fantasy season with a top 30 overall ranking, which is impressive for a back-end draft guy.
* Ricky Rubio – PG Timberwolves: Rubio finished this fantasy season with 9.2 points, 8.6 assists and 2.4 steals a night, which is exactly what we want from a fantasy PG. The thing that hurts his fantasy value is the 37.9 percent shooting from the field though. I won’t lie and tell you the shooting is something you can just overlook because I hit on it heavily later on with Josh Smith. But, even with the FG problems, Rubio still finished with top 50 overall value and somewhere in the 12-13 range for PG rankings. That makes him either a low-end starting PG, or a top-tier back-up PG/G flex starter. If he can just work on the shooting this off-season, he could end up holding solid top 7-10 PG value next season without a doubt.
Jodie Meeks – SG Lakers: Fantasy owners smart enough to grab Meeks off the waiver wire after Kobe Bryant went down were no doubt pleased with what they got for free. Meeks has averaged 15.4 points, 2.1 3-pointers per-game, and 1.5 steals for the Lakers in his 71 games of action this season. While this season gave the Lakers a chance to see just what Meeks could do, fantasy owners need to take it with a grain of salt as Bryant is due to return next season and start at SG, pushing Meeks back to a bench role since he isn’t big enough (6’4” and 210 LBS) to play SF. Either way, it is never a bad thing when you get a top 40 overall player (total stats) off the waiver wire for free!
* Kevin Martin – SG Timberwolves: Martin came in and solved a lot of problems at the SG spot for the Wolves this season, and fantasy owners reaped the rewards of it as well as he averaged 19.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per-game. I will be the first to admit that I gave up on Martin after he was injured back in February due to his injury history, and boy was I wrong. Martin ends the fantasy season with solid 4th round value in standard 9-cat leagues.
Trevor Ariza – SF Wizards: Before the season started all you heard about at the SF position for the Wizards was rookie Otto Porter. Maybe that lit a fire in Ariza because he came out firing this season and ends week 23 with averages of 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 3-pointers, and 1.7 steals a night. It’s hard to imagine the Wizards turning to Porter next season and letting Ariza walk via free agency after what he did this season, but they didn’t draft Porter to play a bench role either. If Ariza leaves the Wizards, his value for next fantasy season will depend on where he goes. If he goes to a solid team and can fulfill a role, then his value will remain much the same as it was this season. But, if he goes to a team like Philadelphia or Milwaukee and tries to breathe life back into their team, I fear he will revert back to his career average of 9.7 points and 4.6 rebounds a night.
Channing Frye – PF Suns: Power Forward is a little harder to find a diamond in the rough for fantasy purposes because the good guys are typically the ones we expected to be good. But, if you take the whole season into account, and average in the good games and the bad games, Frye is someone who actually paid dividends to owners who picked him up off the waiver wire (undrafted in standard formats). While he only averaged 11.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.0 3-pointers a night, you have to remember that he cost you nothing off the waiver wire and PF is a feast or famine position just like Center. Frye started the season off better than he ended it, which tells you a lot about his fantasy value heading into next season with Markieff Morris stepping his game up in the second half of the season. Take what you got from Frye this season, but forget about him next season.
* Kevin Love – PF Timberwolves: Love is the #1 PF in the NBA, hands down and without discussion. There isn’t a PF in the NBA that does better than Love with his 26.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists a night average (Anthony Davis averaged 20.9/10.1/1.6 in 6 fewer games). Love is easily a top 3-5 pick heading into next season behind Kevin Durant and Lebron James.
DeAndre Jordan –C Clippers: Jordan wasn’t ranked high by fantasy websites (somewhere in the 140-150 overall range), and fantasy owners didn’t draft him until the middle or late part of the 11th round on average because of it. But, he proved them all wrong by going out and putting up 10.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks a night for the playoff-bound Clippers. Furthermore, Jordan is currently holding the lead for the rebounding title in the NBA over Andre Drummond by 0.9 rebounds-per-game. Jordan is sure to get more love heading into next season, so be prepared to burn an early/mid round pick on him next year.
* Nikola Pekovic – C Timberwolves: Pekovic is going to be someone you can debate about because his season is truly the tale of two halves. Up to the point where he was injured in January, Pekovic was averaging 16.6 points and 8.7 rebounds a night. The problem a lot of fantasy owners will find is that since January 27th he has played in just 9 total games, causing fantasy owners to struggle with dropping a double-double threat or stashing him and taking up a roster spot. I saw Pekovic is a winner because his near double-double average got many owners out to a solid lead in the first half of the season, and you cannot fault a guy for putting up big numbers for 45 games, then getting hurt.
Derrick Rose – PG Bulls: And the Derrick Rose award for the biggest PG bust goes to… Derrick Rose, for the second time in a row! After sitting out all last season with a torn ACL, fantasy owners took Rose with a top 5 pick on average this season in t he hopes that he would be at 100 percent health and be ready to lead their team to the fantasy championships. What ended up happening was a repeat of last year as Rose tore his knee up again after just 10 games and was lost for the season. Any time your #1 overall pick is lost after just 10 games, the rest of your season is probably going to be an uphill battle unless you were lucky enough to find a diamond in the rough like Thomas in the later rounds. I’ll be honest and say that I am probably going to put Rose on my Do-Not-Draft list next season because the injury prone tag is much more than mere conjecture after back-to-back lost seasons.
Kobe Bryant – SG Lakers: Bryant has been slipping in draft rankings for the past few years now, and this season saw him go on average in the middle of the 3rd round. The problem is he managed just 6 games this season for a total of 83 points, 38 assists, 26 rebounds, 7 steals, 1 block, and 34 turnovers. Think about that, he averaged 5.7 turnovers a night for the Lakers while getting just 1.2 steals and 0.2 blocks. I’m sorry Lakers fans, but at this point in his career, it may be best to just walk away and let him fade into the darkness of NBA retirement. Unless he gets Doc Brown’s time machine and travels back 10 years into the past, Bryant is going to be overdrafted and overvalued heading into next season’s draft.
Josh Smith – SF Pistons: Smith is one of those guys that rookie fantasy owners love because he does average 16.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks a night. But, for those of us who are seasoned veterans, we also look at things like FG percentage (41.9 percent), 3-point percentage (26.4 percent), Free-Throw Percentage (53.2 Percent), and his +/- ratio (-2.5) which is how much more or less a team scores while the player is on the court. Seriously, Antoine Walker thinks Smith needs to take some extra shots before and after practice! Smith is not someone I want to own in formats that count shooting percentages because he has never seen a shot he didn’t like.
Ersan Ilyasova – PF Bucks: I could have filled this whole article up with Bucks players for the losers section and I don’t think there would be many who could appose my points. But, I took it easy on them and just picked the worst of the bunch to talk about, Ersan Ilyasova. Last season he managed to finish with an average of 13.2 points and 7.1 rebounds, while shooting 46.2 percent from the field. Because of that he was pre-ranked by Yahoo #45 overall, and taken on average at the end of the 4th round. He showed his love to his faithful owners by shooting 40.9 percent from the field, 28.2 percent from 3-pointland, and averaging 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a night in his 55 total games. After seeing what the Bucks looked like this season, I can’t think of a single player I would want off their team heading into next season unless some rotational issues are solved before draft time.
Brook Lopez – C Nets: Lopez came into this season with impressive career numbers behind him (18.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per-game), but the injury bug bit him and he lasted just 17 games this season. They were 17 good games as he averaged 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a night, but those stats for just 17 of the NBA’s 82 games don’t help fantasy owners in the long run. Lopez will head into next season with much of the same fantasy value (3rd round) as long as he is healthy, so just keep an eye on him over the summer and hope this season causes him to slip a little in next season’s draft.
Well there you have it fantasy nuts, your winners and losers from the 2013-14 NBA fantasy basketball season. I hope you had as much fun playing and reading as I did this season. I hope you all come back next season and invite me into your fantasy league so I can crush some hopes and dreams as I do every year. And remember, 2nd place is just the first loser!
James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for just over 15 years. Not only does he write the Timberwolves fantasy basketball section, but he crosses over the sports boundary and writes the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals fantasy football sections. Just send him an email and he will reply back the same day with your answer. Or, find him on Twitter (Fantasyguy23) and Facebook to get all your NFL news before it hits the national media. For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.