2016-17 NBA Fantasy Preview – Part 1

It can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there. Going out on a limb, making bold statements and saying something that no one else is saying can make you feel like you’re on an island.

Tom Cruise’s character, Jerry Maguire, did just that in the 1996 movie of the same name, with his “mission statement” about the sports agency business. He wanted to differentiate himself from other agents and while it got him fired, it eventually led to him finding what was really important.

He showed Rod Tidwell the money, he found Dorothy who completed him, and eventually managed to demonstrate exactly why his approach could provide something that was far from cookie-cutter in that industry. But it started with him putting himself out there. He believed in something and while he had some moments of regret, he ultimately was unafraid to show it.

On the 20th anniversary of Jerry Maguire, we’re about to head into another NBA fantasy season. This is the time for us, as fantasy managers, to form our views, differentiate ourselves from our competitors and ultimately put ourselves out there by acting on those views on draft night.

If you need help finding your voice and figuring out how to show yourself the money in your league this season, you’ve come to the right place.

With the help of Jerry Maguire, here’s Downtown’s 2016-17 NBA fantasy preview.

NB: Average Draft Positions (ADPs) are provided for ESPN and Yahoo formats (as at October 13) and will be referenced in that order. For example, (ADP 43, 54) would mean an ADP of 43 in ESPN and an ADP of 54 in Yahoo.

References to draft rounds are based on 12-team leagues.

All statistics referenced are from basketball-reference.com unless otherwise indicated.


The “Man He Almost Is” Breakout Players

Dorothy Boyd: “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.”

Dorothy knew there was something different, almost untapped about Jerry that no one else had seen yet. He was on the verge of something and she was going to help him get there. With that in mind, here are five players ready for a breakout fantasy season.

Dennis Schroder – PG, Atlanta Hawks (ADP 61, 71): The young German point guard showed flashes as Jeff Teague’s back-up the past three seasons, averaging 17.4 points, 7.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals on a per 36 minutes basis. Now it’s his time to run the show and while Al Horford may be gone, he’ll still be able to drop dimes to Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore and now Dwight Howard. Schroder and his blond patch are in the final year of their rookie deal, so with free agency looming, you can expect him to perform to his current ADP of sixth to seventh round value.

Myles Turner – F/C, Indiana Pacers (ADP 65, 77): It was an interrupted rookie season for the former Texas Longhorn. Having proved that his running gait is just fine, he then set about proving he can be a game-changing player for the Pacers as he averaged 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and a whopping 3.3 blocks against Toronto in the first round of the playoffs. Big things are expected from @Original_Turner this season now that he’s all but been anointed the starting centre for Indiana, and I could see him putting up 13, eight and two blocks with the odd three-ball quite easily. The buzz is real and he’s one of the highest climbers on draft boards right now. I’ve seen him go as high as the fourth round, but realistically I think you’ll have to reach into the sixth or seventh round to land him.

Jabari Parker – SF/PF, Milwaukee Bucks (ADP 71, 65): Last year was always going to be a transition year for the former second overall pick, coming off that ACL tear. With a full year under his belt and a healthy offseason to work on his game, he’s a popular breakout candidate. Parker averaged an impressive 18.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals post-All-Star break last season, a sign of him finally realising how to be effective at this level. To me, that is a sign of things to come as he easily has 20 points per game potential, especially now with Khris Middleton out. His fantasy kryptonite is his lack of three-point shooting as he barely attempted one per game over that stretch, but word is he’s worked on the long ball over summer. The rest of his game is looking pretty super these days though, so much so that Giannis Antetokounmpo thinks Parker will be an All-Star this year. Don’t be afraid to reach for him in the fifth to sixth round.

Evan Fournier – G/F, Orlando Magic (ADP 52, 87): If you think that ADP disparity is odd, you’re not alone, but it’s a product of those sites’ pre-ranks, which are wildly out of sync. The truth is Fournier should be ranked much closer to that ESPN rank given all that’s happened this offseason. He had a mini breakout last season and now with Victor Oladipo gone, the French Olympic snub is going to be the main wing option in Frank Vogel’s offence in Orlando. Fournier averaged 17 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.2 triples per 36 minutes last season and I’m guessing he matches or betters those numbers on a per game basis this year. Draft with confidence in the sixth round.

Devin Booker – SG, Phoenix Suns (ADP 55, 90): The All-Rookie selection took full advantage of injuries to Suns teammates last season and shocked the world when he poured in 19.2 points, 4.1 assists, three rebounds and 1.5 triples post-All-Star break. He’ll start alongside Eric Bledsoe this season with Brandon Knight moving to a sixth man role and that can only mean that those post-All-Star splits could become reality for Booker on a nightly basis. That means fourth to fifth round value potential, so you may need to reach into the late 50s or early 60s to grab him on draft night.


The “15 Minutes to Call Me Back” Over-Hyped Players

Jerry Maguire: “I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game ‘featuring you,’ while singing your own song in a new commercial, ‘starring you,’ broadcast during the Super Bowl, in a game that you are winning, and I will not ‘sleep’ until that happens. I’ll give you 15 minutes to call me back.”

It’s likely Jerry never really believed he could get all those things for Rod Tidwell, but he hyped up what he could deliver in a bid to sell his services. There are several players being hyped up by coaches, fans and analysts alike and all that is doing is driving up their ADP. Here are a few players who I think the hype train is out of control on.

Nikola Jokic – F/C, Denver Nuggets (ADP 51, 39): I may be on an island on this one and it’s not because I don’t think the young Serbian big man is talented. I actually love the versatility of his game and think he has a really bright future in this league. I’m just not buying him as a fourth to fifth round target this season. I think his rookie production was slightly overinflated by the absence of Jusuf Nurkic and the disappearing act of Kenneth Faried, plus the late injury to Danilo Gallinari which further boosted Jokic’s production in March and April. Jokic averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and 2.4 assists with great efficiency (21.5 PER), and while I can see a slight uptick to maybe 12, 7.5 and 2.8 assists, I think the return of a healthy (and productive) Nurkic, plus Gallinari, will somewhat limit what Jokic can deliver. I wouldn’t draft him before the seventh round, but he’ll likely be long gone by then.

Steven Adams – C, Oklahoma City Thunder (ADP 115, 66): If you read my latest Dynasty Ranks introduction, then you know how I feel about Adams as a fantasy prospect. I think Yahoo is out of its mind with a pre-rank of 59, while ESPN is probably around the right mark at 112. Adams’ profile took a major boost given his playoff run. What people fail to (or don’t want to) realise is that playoff rotations are shorter, meaning minutes and touches go up from the regular season (30.7 minutes in the playoffs vs. 25.2 minutes in the regular season). It is also very matchup based and he faced some opponents where his youth was an asset for him. That won’t be the case on a nightly basis over the 82-game grind. Adams has never ranked near the top 100 on a per game average basis and I don’t know why everyone is so keen to assume he’ll not only do so now, but smash that mark. I’m staying away until the 10th round.

Rajon Rondo – PG, Chicago Bulls (ADP 44, 64): Talk about a “show me the money” mentality. Rondo was on his best behaviour in Sacramento last season, knowing it was his last chance at a decent payday. His career was all but over when he was effectively booted from Dallas, but he did his assist-gathering best for the Kings and now has over 27 million reasons to revert to his lazy ways. Am I overly sceptical he’ll succeed in Chicago alongside two other players who need the ball in their hands in Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade? You betcha. I just don’t see the fit and I could easily see it ending badly, so there’s no way I’m drafting him in the fourth or fifth round ahead of guys like Mike Conley, Goran Dragic, Teague and Schroder. My advice: stay away until the eighth or ninth round and hope he shows you the money this season.


The “Oldest 26-Year-Old in the World” Don’t Forget About Me Players

Dorothy Boyd: “Look at me Laurel, I’m the oldest 26-year-old in the world.”

Dorothy was worried life was going to pass her by. She was a divorced single mother in her mid-twenties and didn’t want to be overlooked any longer when Jerry came along. In a similar fashion, these players may have fallen off your radar due to age, past situation or injury, but they still have a lot left and are in a great spot to contribute for you this season. Don’t forget about them on draft night.

Goran Dragic – PG, Miami Heat (ADP 52, 60): He has struggled to match his production from his Phoenix days since moving to South Beach, but Dragic finds himself in a great spot to get back to near-elite fantasy production this season. Wade is in Chicago, Chris Bosh sadly may never play again, while Luol Deng has gone to the Lakers. That leaves Dragic as the primary ball-handler and Hassan Whiteside as the primary interior presence. The two should work well together in pick-and-roll situations and transition opportunities and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dragic, with his career record of stellar shooting efficiency (career 47.1 field goal percentage) returns to top-45 value. Draft with confidence in the late fourth to early fifth rounds.

Marc Gasol – C, Memphis Grizzlies (ADP 41, 58): If you think Gasol’s productivity took a little dive last year, you’re actually not quite right. His field goal percentage (46.4) certainly did and was a career low, but his other stats were all around, or even above, his career marks. In fact, Gasol’s minutes were his highest in three years, his usage percentage was the second highest of his career and while he may have missed an All-Star nod, he was still producing at an elite level (ranking 41st on averages). Of course it all came crashing down when he injured his foot and missed the final 30 games of the season. The good news is he’s back, fully healthy and playing in preseason already. The better news is he’s slipping outside the top 50 in some drafts, so you could easily land him in the fourth round and get a steal on draft night as I did in one league recently.

DeMarre Carroll – F, Toronto Raptors (ADP 102, 92): We’ve seen it before where players change teams to get a big payday and then struggle to reproduce what they were doing previously. Add an injury to that and Carroll never really got going in his first year north of the border. He finished his final season in Atlanta ranked inside the top 60 and while he likely won’t get there again this year, delivering top-80 value is as plausible as Laurel’s women’s group making any man feel uncomfortable. The Raptors need Carroll to be good if they’re to have a shot at dethroning the Cavs and he looked healthy and sharp in their preseason win over Golden State. Don’t let him get past you in the eighth round.

Andrew Bogut – C, Dallas Mavericks (ADP 114, 122): I swear this is not a homer pick. After three-and-a-half seasons of being a role player (and doing it damn well) in Golden State, Bogut goes to a team that will actually need him to do more than just anchor the defence and move the ball. He had a renaissance of sorts in Rio. He showed he could still be a productive offensive player via cuts, post-ups and his stellar passing ability. He understands angles as well as any big man and working with a high-post player like Dirk is actually an unbelievably good fit for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he produced a low end double-double this season with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks along with three assists per game. He’s actually ranked in the top 100 each of the past two seasons on averages, largely due to his field goal percentage, rebounding, assist and block totals but he’s obviously not for everyone given his poor free throw percentage and injury risk. Still, letting him slip past the 10th round is a mistake.


The “No Real Loyalty” Just Let Go Players

Avery Bishop: “There is no real loyalty, and the first person who taught me that was you.”

Jerry Maguire: “I figure I was trying to sleep with you at the time.”

Bishop: “Well, it worked.”

We all crave loyalty, but everyone has a breaking point. Jerry learnt this the hard way when his fiancée broke off their engagement and he soon realised he had to let go and move on. These players have all had stellar careers and delivered an abundance of fantasy value over the years, but it’s time for your romance (or is that bromance?) to end. Their value is no longer there and they’re being drafted on name value alone. Time to move on…

Paul Pierce – SF/PF, Los Angeles Clippers (ADP 200, 128): The truth about the Truth is that when you spend all summer trying to decide if it’s time to retire, that’s because it’s time to retire. Only the lure of another shot at a title (and another $3.5 million this season) was enough to bring him back to the Clips, but his career-low numbers last year had no fantasy value and he’ll likely have even less this year. He is undraftable.

Tyson Chandler – C, Phoenix Suns (ADP 174, 137): Chandler took a chance on Phoenix last year in the hopes of LaMarcus Aldridge following, but that wasn’t to be. Now he’s stuck there and his days as a productive starting five man seem to be behind him. His minutes were the lowest since 2009-10 and nearly all of his other counting stats were below his career marks, as were his percentages. The point guard situation there (full of injuries) didn’t help, but at age 34, he’s just not as explosive rolling to the rim, or protecting it, as he once was. Alex Len needs minutes and with Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss added this year, Chandler will quickly take on a locker room mentor role. That means drafting him will be as successful as Maguire’s mission statement. In other words, think twice.

Manu Ginobili – SG/SF, San Antonio Spurs: (ADP 185, 132): Refer to Pierce, Paul. In all honesty, Ginobili is probably the one guy on this list who still has some value left, but it’s receding faster than his hairline. Manu got lucky via the Sixers’ restricted free agency offer to him and will now get a nice final payday before riding off into the sunset with his old pal Timmy. His fantasy value, however, already has one foot in the stirrups. Last-round flyer if anything.

David Lee – PF/C, San Antonio Spurs (ADP 199, 134): When you enter the “new team every season” phase of your career, you know it’s in decline and Lee is certainly there. He ranked outside the top 200 each of the past two seasons and while the Spurs lack depth up front this season, he’s just not going to see enough minutes to be productive. Lee’s defence went missing some time ago and his fantasy value has now done the same.


The “Hanging On By a Thread” Last Chance Players

Rod Tidwell: “You are hanging on by a very thin thread and I dig that about you!”

When Rod said this to Jerry, it was because Jerry was literally running out of options… and time to get something done. These players too are hanging onto not only their fantasy value, but also their NBA careers, and this season is make or break for them.

JaVale McGee – C, Golden State Warriors (ADP N/A, 120): Andre Iguodala seems to think McGee has a very high basketball IQ, which is contrary to pretty much everyone else on Earth’s view, however once upon a time he had a promising career in front of him. In Golden State, he has the chance to provide something the other five men on that roster cannot—rim protection. If he can keep his head screwed on the right way, he could eventually work his way into a Festus Ezeli-type role behind Zaza Pachulia and flirt with fantasy value. Watch this space during preseason as he could be worth a stash.

Lance Stephenson – SG/SF, New Orleans Pelicans (ADP 179, 126): It took nearly all summer, but Lance avoided the need to head overseas when the Pelicans came calling. He is a bit of an enigma in terms of fantasy value. His stretch run with Memphis last season (14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 47.4 percent from the field) was like the Lance of old. It’s a level of production we hadn’t seen from Born Ready since he left Naptown, and it gives everyone hope he’s still ready to deliver more. In theory, he’s in a great spot in New Orleans with Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans out to start the season, but through the first couple of preseason games it remains to be seen whether Alvin Gentry agrees. He’ll be a risky pick on draft night, but is worth a late-round flyer.

Ty Lawson – PG, Sacramento Kings (ADP 172, 148): Like Stephenson, Lawson’s career has headed south quickly. His DUI charge was the start of a downward spiral that he’s still trying to recover from. He’s now on his fourth team in just over twenty months and has a chance to prove he still belongs in the league after disastrous stints in Houston and Indiana last season. With Darren Collison suspended to start the season, Lawson will likely be the starter and if he follows the Rondo model of feed Boogie the ball at all costs, he could very easily showcase the skill that made him a near All-Star in Denver. If he tries to do too much offensively, he could find himself strapped to the bench faster than a Marcee Tidwell pregnant outburst. I, for one, hope he gets it together.


Part 2 on Monday will look at players worth the risk, ones to stay away from, players we just don’t know what to expect from, the most reliable guys and the fantasy MVP candidates.

Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz

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Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball