2016-17 NBA Fantasy Preview – Part 2

When Jerry Maguire put himself out there 20 years ago with his “mission statement,” it was because he believed in something, as you will need to on draft day.

In Part 1, we looked at breakout candidates, those players who are overhyped, ones not to forget about on draft day, those you can let go of and the guys who have one last chance to prove their worth.

Jerry took a big risk with that move, so we kick off part two of Downtown’s 2016-17 NBA fantasy preview with players who are worth taking a risk on.

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 “Hang Your Balls Out There” Worth the Risk Players

Jesus of CopyMat: “That’s how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there!”

There’s no question that Jerry put himself out there with his writing on the sports agency business. He took a massive risk and while there was short-term pain, he did it for long-term gain. There are several players who are risky given their history with injury (say that three times fast…), but their talent makes them worth the risk on draft day.

Danilo Gallinari – SF, Denver Nuggets (ADP 77, 71): This one is pretty simple. Gallo was having a career year last season before going down with that ankle injury that cost him the final 23 games of the season. His numbers were producing top 40 value, and with Gallinari now entering his eighth season, he should be able to get close to that again. Health is a perennial issue for the Rooster, but luck changes, and as a middle round pick, he could make you look like a genius down the track. Target him from the sixth round on.

Gordon Hayward – SG/SF, Utah Jazz (ADP 39, 48): Where to draft someone who is not going to play for the first month of the season is never easy to calculate and this obviously differs greatly between roto and head to head leagues. However, someone of Gordo’s talent should not be overlooked. You just need to plan around it in the short-term. The Jazz can cover for him, but there’s no doubt Hayward is still going to be Utah’s main man when he returns and his ADP has not really changed as a result, although that will start falling a little. Don’t let him slip out of the fifth round.

Jrue Holiday – PG, New Orleans Pelicans (ADP 143, 89): This one is a lot tougher as we honestly have no idea when Holiday will be back. The talent returned last year as did the health, but that is irrelevant right now as he supports his wife, Lauren, through her own medical issues. Her surgery has to wait until six weeks after the birth of their child. The good news is their daughter arrived safely earlier this month, so Lauren’s surgery will be sometime around mid-November. Jrue will likely spend at least several weeks post-surgery caring for her and their daughter and meanwhile he’s probably not going to be working out consistently, so best estimates would put his return around mid-December at the earliest. His ADP reflects the two-month absence you can expect, but he could be a game-changer to your roster when he returns, so if you’re feeling “strategic,” spending a ninth or 10th round pick could prove a solid move.

Reggie Jackson – PG, Detroit Pistons (ADP 59, 60): Starting the season off recovering from a knee injury is never a good thing, but with a perfectly safe starting role and productive numbers since moving to Motown, Jackson is someone who will provide value when he returns. It may take until January some time for him to get his groove back, but when he does, you’ll be happy you hung your balls out there. He fell to the 10th round in one league I’m in, but feel safe grabbing him from the eighth onwards.


The “Hated My Place” Stay Away Players

Jerry Maguire: “I couldn’t escape the simple thought that I hated myself, no that’s not it, I hated my place in the world.”

You might hate yourself too if you burn a pick on one of these players. Whether through injury, change in role, or just not being as good as you thought, here are the guys you should let be somebody else’s problem on draft night.

Joel Embiid – C, Philadelphia 76ers (ADP 105, 129): Let’s get one thing straight right away. I love this kid’s talent and I think he could end up being a very special player, if not one of the greats. But if you’re talking re-draft leagues, then it’s tough to count on a guy who you know will not play in back-to-backs, may be on a minutes cap to start the season and hasn’t gotten through a full season of basketball since he was in high school. I don’t want that constant headache on my roster. In that draft range, I’d rather grab someone like Jusuf Nurkic who I know will play and has upside, or even Robin Lopez, who we just know will play.

Tyreke Evans – SG/SF, New Orleans Pelicans (ADP 107, 112): Holiday’s teammate Evans will also miss the start of the season as he recovers from knee surgery as well as a small complication from the surgery. There have been some reports of him targeting a December return, but others saying no timetable, so it’s really hard to gauge how to play that. My advice is to avoid him or only burn a final round flyer pick on him, unless you have an IR spot in your league. If you do, any time after the 11th round makes sense, but don’t expect him to come back and be productive right away.

Kyle Korver – SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks (ADP 112, 121): I almost feel bad typing this, but after a great run the past few years, Korver’s age and the Hawks’ team direction are going to catch up with him. He already slowed down last year­—he ranked outside the top 100 for the first time in years, hit less than 40 percent from three for the first time since 2009 and his free throw attempts and percentage were both down too. Add to that the Hawks in pseudo rebuilding status with young wings like Taurean Prince, DeAndre Bembry and Tim Hardaway Jr. all needing more minutes and this looks like it’s only trending in one direction for the former fant-favourite. Korver is fine for a late round flyer, but don’t expect more than about 8.5 points, 1.6 triples, 2.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists from him this year. The value’s just not there anymore.


The “Better Life” No Idea What to Expect Players

Dorothy Boyd: “First class, that’s what’s wrong. It used to be a better meal, now it’s a better life.”

When Dorothy was aboard that flight and exasperated by those sitting in first class, the truth is she had a vision in her mind of what it was like to fly up there, but wasn’t really sure. While these players are certainly not first class options, the same can be said about them in that we’re hopeful they’ll have value, but we’re really not sure what to expect. In other words, take a flyer and hope for the best.

Seth Curry – G, Dallas Mavericks (ADP 97, 139): The younger brother of the two-time MVP gave us a glimmer of why he shares the same name, late last season with Sacramento. Like his big bro, he can fill it up in a hurry and could prove a valuable heat-check option for the Mavs this season behind Wes Matthews, as he’s shown in the preseason. However, at just 6-foot-2 he could also be competing with the likes of J.J. Barea and Devin Harris for backup shooting guard minutes and with the others much more proven, Coach Carlisle may opt for the veterans ahead of the fourth-year pro with just 48 games of experience under his belt. Don’t reach for him before the 10th round.

Jerryd Bayless – PG, Philadelphia 76ers (ADP 193, 144): He was signed to be the starting point guard for the young Sixers and will play that role this season, but exactly what that means is still a mystery. He may have a little more value (and responsibility) with Ben Simmons out, but Bayless is an inefficient player to begin with, so pairing him with a team of inexperienced bigs is not a recipe for definitive value. Bayless is out for preseason with a wrist injury and Sergio Rodriguez is in many ways a better pure point—hello timeshare, so don’t reach for Bayless on draft night.

Will Barton – SG/SF, Denver Nuggets (ADP 116, 134): The People’s Champ had a career year last year, playing all 82 games and producing numbers that nobody expected (14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 triples), which equated to top 80 value in standard formats. This year however, his role is far from clear. He’s listed as a shooting guard on most depth charts, but is behind Gary Harris with lottery pick Jamal Murray also needing minutes. At the three spot, Gallinari is back, as is Wilson Chandler, who will likely be showcased for a trade, which means he’ll play early and often. So where does that leave Barton? He could produce anywhere from top 90 to top 200 value and your guess is as good as mine. Let him be someone else’s problem.

The “Had Me at Hello” Most Reliable Players

Dorothy Boyd: “Just shut up. You had me at ‘Hello.’”

This signature line is cheesy as hell, but has meaning in many applications. For fantasy purposes, there are players that you just know are going to produce and you can draft them comfortably. They may not win you your league, but they’ll contribute to the cause, so draft with confidence.

Paul Millsap – PF, Atlanta Hawks (ADP 21, 17): Al Horford and Jeff Teague may be gone but Millsap remains. This is officially his team now as the only All-Star-calibre player left on the roster (be quiet, Dwight) and he continues to get better still at age 31. Millsap posted career highs in rebounding, blocks and assists, tying his best in steals too. He is one of the safest picks there ever was, playing no less than 73 games each of the past four years. If he’s still on the board after two rounds, find yourself a new league to play in.

Brook Lopez – C, Brooklyn Nets (ADP 34, 32): There isn’t much talent left in Brooklyn with Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young gone, so Lopez is going to continue to have a very healthy usage percentage (27.3 percent last season) for new coach Kenny Atkinson. By now you know what you’re getting with the more offensively talented twin. Around 20 points, seven to eight rebounds, just shy of two blocks and solid percentages from the field and the line. Durability is less of a concern than it was a few years ago, so feel free to say hello to him in the late third to early fourth round.

Tobias Harris – PF, Detroit Pistons (ADP 78, 44): There’s a big disparity between ESPN and Yahoo for Tobias, but there was no disparity in his play between when he left Orlando and arrived in Detroit at the trade deadline. In fact, in many ways, like points, assists, turnovers, triples, three-point percentage, field goal percentage and free throw percentage, he was even better. Harris is a great fit for Stan Van Gundy’s system and has produced top 60 value the past two seasons. He should not slip out of the fifth round, but if he does, then pounce.


The “Show Me the Money” Fantasy MVP Candidates

Rod Tidwell: “It’s a very personal, very important thing. Hell, it’s a family motto. Are you ready, Jerry?”

Jerry Maguire: “I’m ready.”

Tidwell: “Just wanna make sure you’re ready, brother. Here it is: Show me the money. Show! Me! The! Money! Jerry, doesn’t that make you feel good just to say that! Say it with me one time, Jerry.”

Maguire: “Show you the money.”

Tidwell: “Oh, no, no. You can do better than that, Jerry! I want you to say it with meaning, brother! Hey, I got Bob Sugar on the other line, I better hear you say it!”

Maguire: “Yeah, yeah, no, no, no. Show you the money.”

Tidwell: “Not show ‘you’! Show me the money!”

Stephen Curry – PG, Golden State Warriors (ADP 3, 1): The reigning MVP is a fantasy delight. He hits copious amounts of threes, he dimes, he steals, he scores and his percentages are… well… asinine, for lack of a better word. It’s tough to fault the guy, really. However, he welcomed a new teammate this season and that just may impact on Chef Curry’s numbers somewhat. He’ll still be wildly efficient, but may take a backseat at times and he ranks fourth for me as a result.

Kevin Durant – SF/PF, Golden State Warriors (ADP 4, 2): Speaking of new teammates, KD has teamed up with Steph and Co. for a crack at the title. While he’s looked tentative at times in preseason, it’s just a feeling-out process and I actually expect him to emerge as the alpha dog offensively when all is said and done, which pushes him to third on my current list of fantasy MVP candidates.

Russell Westbrook – PG, Oklahoma City Thunder (ADP 1, 3): Durant’s former teammate has shown in the past what he’s capable of when given the keys to Oklahoma City and many expect him to be in full-blown kill mode all season. I see it a little differently as Russ’ assist totals last year were a career high, as was his assist percentage, his true shooting percentage, and his offensive rating. Granted, he had KD back last season, so naturally he was going to pass more, but what that also tells me is that he’s a player entering the prime years of his career and he’s more mature. Victor Oladipo is no Durant, but he can score and he can pass, so Russ will produce gaudy numbers in both points and dimes again. He’s a nightly triple-double threat and in eight-cat formats without turnovers, he’s my undisputed number one this year, but in nine-cat, he falls just short in second.

James Harden – SG/SF, Houston Rockets (ADP 2, 4): The bearded one is going to have an interesting year. He has an offensive-minded coach by his side now in Mike D’Antoni, who should be able to juice up Houston’s offence and Harden’s numbers. But Harden will also be playing a lot more point guard this year, meaning higher assists and likely fewer bad shots, which is especially appreciated in roto formats. If his efficiency goes up as I expect, then he’ll be hard to beat for the number one fantasy ranking when all is said and done this year. Show me the beard!


Draft season is upon us and the season will be here faster than you can say “You complete me.”

Your strategy should be well formed by now including tiered lists of your targets and you should be monitoring any and all updates out of preseason.

Depth charts can also help you plan for what someone’s role may be, so study them, but don’t rely on them. Watching the preseason games will give you a better idea of how they’re looking and what the rotations may be like.

As always, do as much research as possible and adjust your ranks accordingly. Use this preview as a guide but don’t stop there.

Just like Jerry went after what he believed in, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there on draft day and go after the guys you want. Last thing you need is someone stealing your targets like agents were stealing Jerry’s clients.

So if you want to show yourself the prize pool money at season’s end, this preview is my way of saying “Help me help you.”


Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz

Follow Downtown @downtownball

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