Sit down. Relax.
First of all? I’m glad you’re here. I’m happy for you. Happy for me. Because we’re all playing Fantasy Basketball: The Timesuck Of Pale Royalty.
But I’m looking at these ADPs. And it’s time you and I had a fantasy intervention.
For those of you in roto leagues: We agreed to not chase empty points. To instead carefully consider positional and categorical scarcity. To build via efficiency and dependable volume. To responsibly leverage true shooting percentage and usage rate.
Points leaguers: We discussed taking some risks. But calculated risks. To seize upon the new opportunities created by this summer’s player movement. But no chasing big names. No falling in rookie love. Look for undervalued sources of production to pragmatically pursue upside.
But here’s the good news for all of us: We can still turn this around.
These missteps in the valuation market have created bubbles and statistical opportunities.
Remember: In fantasy, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. For every player who is wildly overvalued, there’s a player who is equally undervalued.
To illustrate this dynamic, I’m going to compare players in pairs — nearly matched sets that will come off the board in the same range. Let’s peruse.
LeBron James, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (ADP: 5.5) Overvalued
Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors (ADP: 6.1)Undervalued
Two super-producers. A pair of legends managers will consider in the middle of first rounds everywhere.
Rostering either one will yank the rest of your draft in a different strategic direction.
First, the red flags. Both are going to be presented with some course of load management. While LeBron should succumb to some degree, Curry is going to have to play his heart out due to the absences of some charter members of the Hamptons Five.
What is driving these two in opposite directions? Hype.
Fantasyland is gooned on the Lakers’ championship offseason. Golden State is going to have to scrap to make it out of April. LeBron is everywhere. Curry is comparatively flying under the radar.
It’s not like LeBron is a bust at 5.5. He’s a serious threat to average a triple-double. But there are seven players I’d take ahead of him, regardless of format.
Because LeBron is embarking on an age-35 campaign, he’ll want to be fresh and pressed for April. Result: some time in street clothes. Also, if you’re in a league that tabulates free throw percentage and turnovers, LeBron slides two to three more slots.
Cut to Curry. If he plays 70-75 games, Curry has top-three upside. He presents the perfect blend of volume, efficiency and opportunity.
This is a 100% Hero Ball Situation. Curry’s going to lug his team to the playoffs by getting more touches than he has had in years. The volume will be positively profligate. Curry boosts your imaginary squad across the board. He won’t hurt you in a single category. He’ll all but guarantee a win in 3s while pushing your team’s true shooting percentage through the roof.
Better yet, snagging Curry early will set you up for the rest of your draft.
Look at the tiers of point guards. There are two with top-five pedigrees: Harden and Curry. Get past them, you hit Westbrook and Irving, two tried and true names. But both carry questionable second-round upside. Both are in new, somewhat unpredictable situations. Westbrook could be second-round roto Kryptonite. Irving is on double-secret fantasy probation due to all the acting out.
The tight opening hook? Curry at six to lock down PG. Then look to shore up other positions flashing more second-round upside (SG or SF). And by the way, LeBron is fine anytime after eight.
Pascal Siakam, PF, Toronto Raptors (ADP: 14.1)Overvalued
Kawhi Leonard, SF, LA Clippers (ADP: 18.6)Undervalued
Siakam is being drafted at his absolute ceiling, and to me, it just doesn’t compute. Everyone’s counting on him to fill the statistical void left by Leonard’s defection. But even if Siakam maxes out his projections (22.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 3s, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks), he’s an early third-rounder, a top-25 producer. This is a round too high.
Leonard should be ahead of Siakam. But Leonard’s load management history is driving his price down. To go by the preseason quotes? Managers don’t have to worry too much. With Paul George being eased back into action, Leonard should lock down his production from the jump. If Leonard logs 70 games, he’ll push his way into the Player Rater top 10.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards (ADP 15.0)Undervalued
Luka Doncic, SG, Dallas Mavericks (ADP: 18.8)Overvalued
Check out these ADPs. It’s as if last season never happened.
Beal essayed a career campaign: clocked in at nine on the Player Rater, was top-five down the stretch, played all 82 games, led the league in minutes.
This season, the Wizards are an expansion team. With all due respect to Ish Smith, Beal is the Washington Wizards. His usage should eclipse 30.0. Beal’s going to average close to 30.0 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 3s and 3.0 steals and blocks while posting great percentages. Beal is getting underdrafted by half a round easily.
Doncic is being overdrafted by at least half a round. Look at last season’s final Player Rater. For all of Doncic’s volume-based, ROY-worthy accomplishments, he finished 64th.
Do you believe Doncic is going to jump five full rounds in value?
What’s holding him back? Efficiency and his documented issues shooting from the field (42.7 FG%) and the line (71.3 FT%). And hold on the talk about him refining his stroke. So far this preseason, we’ve seen no evidence of an efficiency boost in any way, shape or form.
The volume is solid. Doncic is essentially Dallas’ PG. The raw numbers will come. Doncic’s a budding super-producer. But he’s going to have to share some usage with Porzingis, and the shooting will come back to bite you in roto.
For now? Doncic projects as Westbrook 2.0: a nightly triple-double threat who will kneecap your percentages. Points or roto, he’s a risky gamble at 18.8.
Jayson Tatum, SF/PF Boston Celtics (ADP 33.5)Overvalued
Devin Booker, SG, Phoenix Suns (ADP: 33.8)Undervalued
Many of today’s happenings leave me pondering if we’re existing within the confines of a parallel, bizarro universe. Example 1A: Jayson Tatum is getting drafted ahead of Devin Booker.
Both players have gobs of fantasy potential. Both are on the rise. The big difference? Booker has already posted a definitive body of top-20 work. Tatum’s forecasted leap is based on a theory: Tatum will scoop up the stats Irving and Rozier left behind and realize his potential.
But it’s just a theory. And Kemba Walker will vacuum up a hefty percentage of those vacated touches.
Don’t forget, Tatum regressed from the field in 2018-19. His 45.0 FG% and 37.3 3PT% both slid from his rookie averages. Managers still seem to be drafting off of Tatum’s boffo 2018 playoff performance. This is another Siakam situation. Even if Tatum notches 20.0 PPG, he’ll have a hard time cracking the top 30. Tatum won’t be a bust. There’s just deeper upside available at this stage of the draft.
Yes, Boston had bad mojo last season. I expect Tatum (and Hayward) to bounce back. But I can’t envision a world in which Tatum outproduces Booker.
Booker could max out in the top 15. His comps come close to Beal’s. Phoenix is going to be a cornucopia of fantasy goodness in 2019-20. Booker will lead the way. Fantasy-wise, Booker has a higher floor and a higher ceiling than Tatum.
This is Celtics exceptionalism run amok.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Sacramento Kings (ADP: 34.4)Overvalued
Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks (ADP: 36.3)Undervalued
Fox will probably peak in the 30s on the Player Rater. Young could crash the top 20. Compare what each PG did over the final month of last season:
Fox: 16.5 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 3s, 1.6 steals, 52.7 TS%
Young: 23.7 points, 9.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 3s, 1.2 steals, 57.2 TS%
Can Fox come close to Young’s final month numbers? Absolutely not.
But Young already made the statistical jump post-All-Star Weekend. He has shown that he is capable of sustained, elite production. Purloining Young with a mid-fourth-round pick is the kind of move that wins fake championships.
Terry Rozier, PG, Charlotte Hornets (ADP: 46.0)Overvalued
D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Golden State Warriors (ADP: 50.6)Undervalued
Rozier is cruising up draft boards. A la Tatum, it’s based on a theory: He’s going to kill it as a No. 1 option, draw Kemba Walker-levels of usage, lead his team in everything. But we don’t know how Rozier is going to handle Charlotte’s malformed rebuild.
He could hit our lofty projections (37.7 minutes, 19.7 points, 6.1 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 2.8 3s) and push to justify that ADP via volume. But the percentages give one pause. Look at last year’s final tallies: 38.7 FG% and 35.3 3PT%.
Russell is locked in as the No. 2 option beside Curry. He’ll try his hand at Klay Thompson cosplay.
That’s a tall order. But Russell could be midseason trade bait, meaning he’ll get showcased. His projected line (23.8 points, 3.8 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 3s) falls in line with previous Brooklyn levels of production. His TS% should be five points higher than Rozier’s.
But wait, there’s more: Russell arrives neatly embossed with fantasy’s most coveted position: PG/SG.
Enes Kanter, C, Boston Celtics (ADP: 54.6)Overvalued
Thomas Bryant, C Washington Wizards (ADP: 66.3)Undervalued
These players are neck-and-neck in projected Player Rater value. But Kanter is going more than a round later due to Celtics exceptionalism.
Kanter’s tabbed to deliver managers 15.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and anemic defense (0.9 steals + blocks). Bryant’s supposed to give managers 14.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and passable defense (1.8 steals + blocks).
But Bryant comes with secret sauce: a true shooting percentage that could lead the league. Unlike with Kanter, we haven’t seen Bryant’s ceiling. And don’t forget, Bryant will be playing in a quasi-expansion situation in D.C. Finally, he just signed a new contract, which means the Wizards will give Bryant every opportunity to make them look like they got a steal.
Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies (ADP: 71.7)Undervalued
Kyle Kuzma, SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers (ADP: 74.5)Overvalued
The ADPs are nearly identical. But these two reside in decidedly different fantasy neighborhoods.
JJJ arrives fully stocked with top-25 Player Rater upside. He is a potential across-the-board transformational fantasy producer, and he will be featured prominently in Memphis’ player-development-friendly attack.
Kuzma is a third option on a spotlight team with two round-one alphas and is presently nursing a stress reaction in his leg.
But in fantasyland? This is a coin flip.
The mind boggles.
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