The Mystery Men: Yes, No, Maybe So?

  • There are certain basketball legends whose proper place in fantasy drafts is becoming increasingly difficult to determine, you know? Many of these players are what my SportsEthos colleague, Dan Besbris, likes to refer to as “the Old Men,” all of whom he has a certain fondness for – as do I, on some level. Whenever I think of the Old Men, I think of one of my all-time favorite scenes from one of my all-time favorite movies:

    “Okay, like, the way I feel about the Rolling Stones is the way my kids are gonna feel about Nine Inch Nails, so I really shouldn’t torment my mom anymore, huh?”

    This is a quote from Travis Birkenstock, the Sk8er Boi played by Breckin Meyer, in Clueless. But it’s seriously so true – everything is cyclical, and some things are just timeless. And what’s freaky is…guys like Al Horford are my age and are still killing it in the league (relatively speaking). I’ve legit been watching that man play basketball since I was a freshman in college. I’m not entirely sure what’s behind Dan’s fondness for these old heads – I’m assuming it has at least something to do with perceived value versus real value, which certainly makes sense. And I get that – and that appeals to me, too, duh – but for me, it has even more to do with the fact that I find it to be so amazing and admirable that they can still do what they do at our shared age, when, some days, it hurts my skinny, arthritic ass just to walk around the streets of Los Angeles.

    Anyway, it’s not just old men who are questionable targets; frankly, it’s anyone who is unpredictable in some way, to some degree. Many of these are obvious, but I’d like to help guide you on whether or not you should draft them, and if so, at what stage of the draft. I have selected 25 guys from Basketball Monster’s Top 100 of the 2022-23 season, and I’ve provided a brief analysis of the if, when, why, and where for each of them.

    Anthony Davis (4th in Per-Game/17th in Totals)

    Should you draft him? Subjectively, no; objectively, probably. AD is clearly one of the best two-way players of the past decade or two, but he is so corny that it’s impossible for me to roster him. But more relevant to you and your team(s) is that every season, he seems to slip in the shower or clip one of his toenails in such a way that it gets infected or simply just falls on his ass while pretending to box someone out. Translation: You’ll be lucky if you get 55 games out of him. What complicates things, though, is that, in those 55 games, you can expect him to average 25 PPG, 12 RPG, and 2.5 BPG. He’s the poster child of FML. If I was someone else, I’d feel okay about grabbing him in the second round. But I wouldn’t burn a first on him, as me or as you. But as those who are not me like to say, “You do you.”

    Kevin Durant (5th in Per-Game/35th in Totals)

    Should you draft him? Subjectively, yes; objectively, probably. KD is clearly one of the best players ever, period. And he’s so earnest and complicated and fragile and badass that I can’t help but love him. He’s one of the few players who actually puts himself out there and lets his impulses take over, both on and off the court, just like the rest of us normies do on a daily basis. Again, I love it. And again, more relevant to you and your team(s) is that every season, he’s just, like, so awesome. I mean, case in point – last season, he averaged 29.4 PPG, 2.0 3PG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 1.4 BPG, and he shot 56% from the field and 92% from the line. That is just truly outrageous stuff. Sure, he only played 47 games, and this year, he might only play 48. But that’s the risk you gotta take with Easy Money Sniper.

    Kyrie Irving (9th in Per-Game/13th in Totals)

    Oh, Jesus Christ…three guys in, and we’re already at Third-Eye Kai?! Okay, so…I know I’m telling you he was the ninth-ranked player last season, and he was! And despite what you might think, and what the media might tell you, he actually played 60 games last year! However, every year is a new year, and next year, he might decide to sit out to produce a documentary film about the radicality of inchworms. He is the ultimate case of buyer beware, but if you can get him late in the second round or early in the third, he will be one of the steals of the draft, especially if you are an especially patient and tolerant person. The guy’s stats are nearly perfect, and when you tune in to watch him, it’s like watching Pistol Pete impersonate the Harlem Globetrotters, which is like the most fun version of basketball imaginable, in my opinion.

    Jimmy Butler (10th in Per-Game/8th in Totals)

    Truth be told, Himmy is one of my all-time favorite hoopers. When the Internet talks about dudes having that dawg in them, they’re mostly talking about bros who wanna be like Jim. The stories about him are legendary – his escape from homelessness, his ascent from end-of-bench guy to two-way stud to playoff superstar, his on-camera abuse of the Timberwolves starters, his boutique coffee company he started in the Bubble, his maybe sorta not-so-secret dates with the likes of Selena Gomez and Shakira…the list goes on! Who else but Jimmy could make singing to Hootie and the Blowfish while drinking Mich Ultra on a private jet full of actors pretending to be his teammates look semi-cool? The answer is…nobody! Okay, so I’ve appropriately built him up – he’s awesome! But for a long time, it seemed like the real-life basketball community mostly saw him as a second-class superstar, which (I feel like) led many fantasy managers to believe that was true. But for those who were hip to what was actually happening…we realized he was always a (potential) top-15 player, and he keeps proving us right, year after year. This is particularly confounding/impressive, given the fact that he barely ever takes any threes in the regular season. You might be asking why I have him on this list, after that excessive amount of praise, right? Well, like the three before him, he tends to miss a decent number of games, and despite being in peak “Heat Culture” shape, he definitely rests on random nights. This can, and likely will, be frustrating to/for most managers. Also, if DAME D.O.L.L.A. does, in fact, eventually hit South Beach, Jimmy’s value could take a bit of a hit. This is why you should not draft him in the first round, even though he often finishes seasons in the first round. However, if he falls to the 25-and-beyond range and he makes sense with your first two selections, don’t be an idiot; just get him!

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