One more fantasy hoops season is in the books. It was a pretty crazy ride too – injuries aplenty, crazy out of nowhere players, and a lot of general fantasy weirdness. For some managers it’s time to go into hoops hibernation until October when redraft leagues start gearing up for next year, but for others, and here we’re talking about managers in keeper and dynasty formats, it’s time for the fantasy hoops off-season. Those managers will be glued to the NBA draft and avidly dissecting every player movement while mulling over their keeper lists for next or bidding for fantasy free agents. In the spirit of this second fantasy season I thought I’d take a look at the final player standings and some of the questions that raises for extended-format fantasy managers.
Just to keep things simple I’m going to limit the commentary here to leagues keeping roughly 5 keepers (top 60 players in a 12 man format), and salary leagues that use NBA style contracts and salary cap levels. I’m not going to look much past the first round this time out, but I’ll dig deeper into the keeper ranks in another article.
First Round Surprises
According to Basketball Monster’s final nine-category rankings three very much unforeseen players had top ten impact this year. Slightly less surprising were Paul Millsap (at 8) and Serge Ibaka (at 12), but the real shocker is Ryan Anderson ranked ninth overall for nine category play. Yikes. I liked Anderson as a sleeper, but I don’t think anyone saw quite that level of success coming down the pipe. So where do we slot these hard court heroes for next year?
Ryan Anderson is the guy I like the least here. His value is boosted mainly by his three ball and low turnovers, buffed by reasonable rebounding and free throw shooting. Threes can be had in later rounds of most drafts though, and don’t exactly qualify as a scarce category. I also think that Anderson’s success is directly tied to Dwight Howard’s presence on the team, and since that seems like a limited engagement at this point I don’t like Anderson’s value long term. I don’t think I’d draft him before the 5th round, and ideally later than that, which makes him a borderline keeper at best, although he probably retains great trade value if you decide to go that route. There’s still some hope for Anderson’s dynasty owners though – none of his advanced metrics suggest that this was an outlier season, production-wise, so he should be able to maintain some reasonable level of success even in Howard’s absence. As far as salary goes, I don’t think I’d go much past an MLE level contract for Anderson (5-6M max) – anything more than that is asking for trouble. Now on to two guys I do like.
Serge Ibaka blocks out the sun. That’s why we love him and that’s why he’s going to be a second round pick next year. Obviously his value is primarily floated by his ridiculous 3.7 blocks per game. That’s a block and a half better than the next best pair in Howard and McGee though, and twice that of anyone else who matters. That’s category dominance folks and GMs aren’t going to be able to help themselves come draft day. Obviously Ibaka is being kept in a keeper league, and in salary leagues you may have to bid more than you’d like, probably in excess of 10M a year, and easily more than that if your league has an Ibaka enthusiast or two running up the bidding. The trouble with Ibaka is that he’s a one trick pony: blocks and not much else. Now, that one trick is effing fantasic, but it’s still just one trick. I’d start thinking about Ibaka in the back half of the second round next year, preferably as close to the turn as possible, and would like to get him the third. Mostly I think he’ll get over-drafted by about a round.
Hands up – who slept on Paul Millsap this year? Uh-huh, just like I thought, pretty much everyone. Millsap has been a fantasy darling for a while now, but this season he really put his shizz together and made us all look silly for letting him slip into the 50’s or later on draft day. Millsap is one of those players who does just about everything well. His blocks are a touch light for a big, but that’s peanuts next to his elite (and out of position) steal numbers, assists, and free throw shooting. The steals were a career best this year, so expect some regression, but that should be balanced out by a rise in blocks as those rebound to Millsap’s career numbers. Everything else about his year looks repeatable, so the future is bright. The fly in the ointment is playing time, since Utah has Favours and Kanter on the bench, but I’m not that worried. The Jazz still seem willing to spot play Millsap at SF, and Kanter really isn’t ready to seriously push real NBA starters for minutes. Millsap also posted this gem of a season playing just 32.8mpg, so it’s not like he needs to repeat an unsustainable amount of PT to maintain his value. I think that Millsap is a legitimate second round guy next year, and could reasonably fetch salary in the 12-14M range.
Next time out I’ll move though rounds 2 through 5 and cover the bumper crop of young PGs and bigs that are going to dominate keeper ranks for a long time.
Adam Laforet is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Adam in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Fenris-77.
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