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Our team of fantasy experts — Eric Karabell, Andre Snelllings, Eric Moody, John Cregan and Jim McCormick — got together to go over some of the biggest talking points in the world of fantasy basketball.
Here’s what they had to say about their biggest draft hits and misses, favorite rookies and more.
Which draft pick has worked out best for you this season?
Snellings: My best draft pick this season has probably been Dejounte Murray. I got him with the 45th pick (ninth pick of fourth round, 12-team league) in one league and the 35th pick in another, but so far this season he’s played like a clear first rounder that’s edging toward the top-5. He’s always been an all-around, defensive-minded guard but this season he’s added shooting and scoring to become the complete package.
Karabell: I knew Philadelphia would have to go with Tyrese Maxey at the point, because last year’s pouty, veteran, non-shooting point guard would refuse to play, and that Maxey would step up and become a better scorer and distributor than we saw his rookie season. I was able to procure Maxey in Round 8, outside the top 75 of one league, and even later than that in another. No complaints so far and things should only improve.
Moody: In my fantasy basketball drafts, my go-to player has been Chris Paul, who had been readily available between 35 and 40 overall in the third or fourth round. This season Paul has averaged 14.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 10.2 APG and 2.0 SPG. This season, he has posted 20 double-doubles and has exceeded expectations for fantasy managers, especially in category formats during his age 36 season.
McCormick: Mid-round selections of Tyrese Haliburton have been quite rewarding this season. In my home rotisserie league, I selected him in the sixth round at pick 67 overall and he’s currently 18th overall on the Player Rater thanks to an incredible leap in assist production while also retaining scoring efficiency amid a larger workload. I feel like even if Halliburton is dealt to Philly, for example, he’ll continue to produce a rare blend of offensive and defensive pop for a second-year guard.
Cregan: In terms of my most-rostered players across my various teams, it’s been nice to see my long-term roto ardor for Jaren Jackson Jr. finally pay off. He was a sixth rounder in one league, and a seventh rounder in another.
What was your biggest miss?
McCormick: I was fairly bullish on Zion Williamson and selected him in the fourth round in one league with the 44th pick. Now facing a lost season, that level of wasted draft equity (and retaining the roster spot or injured reserve slot) proves burdensome in a competitive fantasy league. Outside of injury, I expected more production, even if driven by volume, for Caris LeVert.
Karabell: Not sure why I thought Pacers PG Malcolm Brogdon would suddenly turn into a durable player after years of missing games, but I did not expect him to miss this many games. Brogdon broke out as a scorer and 3-point option last season and since I love the point guards, I was willing to go get him in Round 5 and in the top 50 of a few leagues. I certainly regret it now.
Snellings: My biggest miss, across various leagues, was likely Williamson. From what we were told as the season was approaching, he had a broken foot that shouldn’t keep him out much beyond a couple of weeks into the season. Thus, I thought him a steal when I was able to get him in the fourth round (43rd pick overall) or sign him in a salary cap league for only $54 (less than Julius Randle). But, of course, he hasn’t played at all and I’m not fully convinced we’ll see him on the court this season.
Cregan: It’s been mainly due to injury, but I went all in on Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard in the first round whenever possible. In the leagues where I roster Curry, it’s been great. Lillard, not so much. It’s not fair to downgrade due to injury. But it’s clear there was an intel failure in terms of the incoming implications of his abdominal issue.
Moody: LeBron James immediately comes to mind. In most formats, he was selected 12th overall. As a result of James’ age, Russell Westbrook’s offseason arrival, and the fact that he didn’t come close to his ADP on a per game basis, I avoided drafting him in fantasy basketball drafts. Considering James averaged 29 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG and is currently ranked as the No. 2 overall player in fantasy, it was a mistake not taking a chance on him in drafts.
Which player should be getting more attention but still tends to float under the radar?
Karabell: Only one Kings player is among the top 50 on the Player Rater and it sure is not the ballyhooed De’Aaron Fox. It is Haliburton, aiding fantasy managers in assists, steals, 3-pointers and solid shooting. Just wait until he adds more usage and starts scoring 20 points per game. It is coming. Haliburton is a future star while we may have already seen the best of Fox.
Snellings: I’d say Miles Bridges deserves more attention, but still seems to float under the radar. I wrote an article about him earlier in the season, and he’s just maintained that pace. I have him among the top-30 players in my points rankings, but I don’t know that he gets the visceral attention of the players around him in the rankings (e.g. Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, etc.). Honorable mention to Haliburton, who I’ve got at number 31, ahead of more heralded teammate Fox.
Cregan: I feel like Fantasyland doesn’t give Jarrett Allen the love he deserves. In a season jammed with disappointing center production, Allen has been a rare overperformer. And he’s doing it with a stat line I appreciate, with a sky-high true shooting percentage and strong rebounding.
Moody: It’s Kelly Oubre Jr. for me. Since the Hornets are his fourth team since 2018, he wasn’t on the radar of many fantasy managers heading into the season. In spite of this, Oubre has been tremendous this season, averaging 16.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, and shooting 45% from the field. Oubre’s ability to play multiple positions allows him to play in place of any injured or protocoled Hornets player. He’s still available in 38.5% of ESPN leagues.
McCormick: I’m not sure the basketball public or fantasy fans are discussing Darius Garland’s leap quite enough. Maybe it’s because Evan Mobley has (rightfully) earned so much praise for being a winning force on the floor from the first tip, but Garland has become a truly elite passing force; he’s sixth in total assists and seventh in potential assists per game. Found at 20th on the Player Rater, Garland, like Haliburton, has joined the upper-tier of fantasy points guards.
Who is your favorite rookie and why?
Cregan: Evan Mobley. Because he has the most long-term first-round fantasy upside. In the end, I like to build teams on a strong multicategorical producer. And Mobley is already showing he’s going to do it all. Even his current free throw malaise underscores the height of his ceiling. But Cade Cunningham is making this tougher every night. I roster Mobley and Cunningham in multiple leagues, including some keeper situations, and I’m turning down all trade offers within 5-to-10 seconds. I also have a soft spot for Herbert Jones and Franz Wagner. If it weren’t for the societal difficulties of getting through this season, this could be the greatest rookie class ever.
Karabell: For a while it may have been undrafted Heat C Omer Yurtseven, since everyone had a shot at him in December, but clearly that did not last! Hard to go against Mobley. Just watch him play and one can see a building block fantasy option capable of scoring 20 PPG with 10 RPG, while blocking shots and hitting 3-pointers. He is only 20 years old!
Moody: Josh Giddey is my favorite. Every month of his rookie season has seen him improve, especially as a shooter. For the month of January, Giddey has averaged 13.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.3 APG and 33 MPG. The fact that he was readily available in the early double-digit rounds has made him a solid value for fantasy managers. For the 14-33 Thunder, Giddey may have more opportunities to develop in the second half of the season.
Snellings: My favorite rookie is Mobley, because he plays like a throw-back to the Tim Duncan/Kevin Garnett style of do-everything, defensive-minded, high-impact power forward that dominated the 2000s but had become more rare in recent years. I like that he’s come in and changed the fortunes of the Cavaliers, and I like that he’s already putting up consistent numbers on a nightly basis to benefit fantasy squads as well.
McCormick: Mobley is some wild blend of Chris Bosh, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kevin Garnett. That seems bold, but consider that Bosh’s 2004 rookie season and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 2019-20 effort are two of the closest comparable seasons on his 538 player profile to what Cleveland’s breakout big man has produced. I’ve always loved dynamic defensive forces for fantasy purposes, thus Mobley is my guy.
Who is a player who you feel, based on what you’ve seen this season, is due to break out next season?
McCormick: Saddiq Bey is 50th overall on the Player Rater during the past 30 days. With Jerami Grant’s name floating in trade circles, Bey could serve as the team’s volume frontcourt scorer. Of course, Detroit could create competition for Bey via the draft this offseason, but I simply trust the trajectory of his scoring profile and just how bankable and capable Villanova prospects have proven over the past several seasons.
Snellings: I’ll give you two for the price of one, because it could be argued that either/both have already broken out: Jakob Poeltl and Robert Williams III. I could’ve answered either of these two guys in the “flying under the radar” question, because I have both in my top-50 but I doubt that many people could pick them out of a lineup. But both are walking double-double threats, even now, and the Time Lord (Williams) in particular seems to have plenty of untapped potential… in addition to the really cool nickname.
Karabell: Giddey is not yet a good shooter, but then again, he is 19 years old and sure seems willing to learn! Jason Kidd did! Giddey is a bigger point guard, already a gifted passer, a willing rebounder and a future top-10 fantasy option. Next season he will average 15 PPG, 8 RPG and 8 APG and within two years, we have a fantasy building block.
Cregan: If the Wizards lose Bradley Beal? Kyle Kuzma. I’m biased, but as someone who watches every Wizard game, Kuzma has been an under-the-radar revelation. I had no idea he was so on-point in late-game situations. Clutch factor is an underrated fantasy trait, and Kuzma brims with clutch factor. If Kuzma ends up as a lynchpin in a rebuild, his usage will spike.
Moody: Anfernee Simons could be a breakout player next season, particularly if the Trail Blazers refuse to extend Damian Lillard’s contract and trade him. As Lillard recovers from abdominal surgery, he has averaged just 21.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 7.8 APG this season. Those numbers are below average by his past performance standards. Simons has averaged 25 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7.2 APG and 1.0 SPG per game over his last 10 games.
Which player(s) are you staying away from going forward?
Karabell: Perhaps I should cease piling on Kemba Walker, so let us turn to another beloved but misjudged player who hardly provides the fantasy numbers that people think he does. Klay Thompson missed two years and even when he was in his prime, he was a scorer and 3-point shooter and little else. Root for him, but things will not improve in his 30s.
McCormick: This is always one of the tougher questions, but I think it might be Brandon Ingram for me. Maybe I’m being overactive, but in the context of Williamson’s absence, there hasn’t even been some fun volume-driven bump from his game. In fact, his defensive rats have swooned and he’s scoring fewer points per game than last year despite a higher usage rate. He’s quite talented, but I’m not sure the value of his reputation translates to fantasy success.
Snellings: My answer to the player-to-stay-away-from question has been the same for several years: Kyrie Irving. I heard someone opine recently that, once the Omicron surge dies down completely and we start moving toward spring, it’s possible that New York might relax their COVID rules enough that Kyrie might be able to start playing in the state before the season ends. That’s pure speculation, but if it were to happen Kyrie could actually be acquired for value at this point. But… I don’t care. I’ve never been able to trust that he’d be available when needed, even before this season, and for this season and beyond I’d rather leave that worry to someone else.
Moody: Mo Bamba is in the middle of a career season, averaging 10.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 SPG and 2.1 BPG. His biggest challenge for the rest of the season is inconsistent minutes. Over the last 10 games, Bamba has averaged only 22.4 minutes per game with center Wendell Carter Jr. and guards Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs cutting into his minutes. I’d rather pursue other options with more upside for the rest of the season.
Cregan: I say this every year: Draymond Green. But I keep crawling back. But this year really clinched it. Even when he’s hitting on all cylinders, the injury factor is just too high.
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