August 30, 2023, 11:49 pm
It’s hard to believe we are two months away from NBA basketball! As sites start to open up, people are starting to draft and get those fantasy basketball juices flowing. With all the excitement, it can be very easy to join in the fun and hop on any of the numerous hype trains. But I am here to tell you why you should hold off purchasing some of these tickets and board these hype trains later in the season (or even not at all!). This isn’t to say that the below list of players can’t be productive or encouraging during the season. Rather, it’s hype trains I’d rather avoid punching my ticket for and instead let others go off the rails on the crazy train. Maybe I will be riding these trains later – but I’ll let others fall for those inflated ticket prices first.
It would be simple for me to put every rookie down for this article and call it a day. But one rookie I want to make sure I highlight is Victor Wembanyama. Maintain expectations here. Victor should have a promising year, but I expect his minutes and games played to be managed. In addition, I expect the Spurs to protect Wembanyama early on from other bruising centers. I wouldn’t expect that great of FG% or rebounds due to this line-up configuration. Let your league mates ride the Wembanyama Wagon – you’re going to find better value where he will be drafted.
Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma
I’m lumping Poole and Kuzma together for similar reasons. People are clamoring to get their shares of the Washington Bullet Trains due to the perceived usage increase on a tanking team. This conveniently ignores that both their usage rates were already high! Even in Golden State, Poole carried a 29.4% usage in 30 minutes per game; Kuzma a 27.9% usage in 35 minutes per game with the Wizards. Those are already higher-echelon numbers; there’s little room for improvement. So unless you’re telling me that Poole and Kuzma are going to dramatically improve their skills (there’s some argument for Poole here), let others reach for these tickets.
I loved what I saw from Thompson in Summer League. As a Rockets fan, I am all aboard the Amen Train…but not on day one in redraft leagues. The Rockets made a flurry of moves in free agency, handing out two large contracts to Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. In no way am I projecting significant minutes for Amen in the early parts of the season. If you buy an Amen ticket right away, you are going to be praying for the train to be rolling out of the station for a good period of time. I do expect Amen to earn more minutes and a larger role as the season progresses – as those other managers debark the train, be ready to pounce right on!
Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson
Damian Lillard has not left PDX Station yet (I know that’s the airport, just roll with it). Now I fully believe Lillard has that PDX -> MIA queued up in Trip Advisor, but it may take some time for Miami to cough up enough trade assets to purchase that trip for him. Sharpe and Scoot are very promising prospects, but that’s what they are – prospects. The Sharpe Speedway has left the station, but it was in the downhill stretch of the year we call Silly Season. Sharpe will have growing pains as he is developing his overall game and thus his fantasy appeal. Scoot will have those same growing pains, along with Anfernee Simons potentially still in town. I highly rate both of these players long-term, and they could definitely improve enough to be positive fantasy contributors towards the end of the year. But the track will be quite wobbly and unstable until that point.
The John Collins Carriage already got derailed last year, but plenty are starting to build it back together in Utah. But this ignores the reasons why Collins’s fantasy game started dropping in the first place. First, Collins has never seemed to recover his shot from three after injuring his ring finger on his shooting hand back in March 2022. Second, there’s a crammed track in Utah all of a sudden. Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, and Kelly Olynyk all will be getting quality minutes along with Collins. Thirdly, Collins’ best fantasy performance has been when he is allowed to operate as a roll-man in the pick-and-roll game. Without any great passer in Utah and other strong pick-and-roll candidates in Kessler and Olynyk, Collins could be relegated to a lower usage role on the perimeter once again. Others may be rushing to rebuild the foundation of Collins’ track, but I’m willing to wait and see how it comes together before I feel safe riding that train.
The facade of the Paolo Express sure looks nice and pretty when it averages 20 points per game and wins a shiny Rookie of the Year trophy. Going under the hood of the train reveals countless faults and flaws within its design. This train seems to be running on inefficient engines, with poor FG% and FT% to blame. Constant fuel leakage in the form of turnovers is yet another ding for the Paolo Express. And while this train can chug along in some aspects, it still lacks the flash and pizzazz of the three ball. Paolo can improve these aspects of his game. But I expect him to still be a drain in three or four categories this season, making for a painful ride until he displays upgrades on the structural designs.
There you have it – a list of major railways I won’t expect to be purchasing tickets for until later in the season. I don’t hate these players – I just hate them for the beginning of the season. I am more than willing to see how the ride develops and hop on later if needed. Until then, I’m waving at all the passengers going right on by me.