March 28, 2022, 4:50 pm
Aloha, freaks! Welcome to this special edition of the Circus of Fantasy Foretelling and Statistical Anomalies! As you may have guessed from the title, this week’s divinations will be poured out for those many among us who’ve excited their playoffs early.
In my home league, someone’s team outright lost or lost games to: Steph Curry, Jimmy Butler, John Collins, Jerami Grant, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith all within the semi-final round. BRUTAL. Even worse—that team was mine. Perhaps I have danced too much with the spirits of the abyss? Perhaps it was just dumb luck—but it only goes to show there simply is not a crystal ball when it comes to predicting injuries.
Rather than spending too much time crying (but definitely a little), I’ve decided to use whatever powers I have left to do a bit of season-long recapping and peering into the future—something I will continue to do moving forward.
The Crystal Ball Report
This week’s report looks different as I am eschewing the standard format in lieu of a basic rundown of players who’ve had a hand in making or breaking their GMs’ seasons—a (partial) list that includes draft busts, waiver wire All-Stars, over and underperformers, plus a few players that I think are on the verge of breaking out next year. This is all fairly broad strokes for the moment since I will likely delve much deeper into these players over the coming weeks and months. Plus, to be honest, after the beating my team took last week I’m a little checked out—already on vacation, if you will. Say it with me now: One, two, three, Cancun!
*In no particular order, these are some the players who’ve made or slayed our fantasy seasons (all rankings are 9-cat per game unless otherwise noted)
Michael Porter Jr. was a hype-train beast heading into the season after helping win a ton of leagues last season and was probably over-drafted by many (myself included). Would I draft him again next year—absolutely! But NOT in the third round.
Kyrie Irving killed you in head-to-head (although drafting him there was a form of fantasy suicide in itself) but he was pretty amazing in games cap formats. Personally, I see why people like his stat set but the totality of everything else makes him a perpetual do-not-draft for me.
Ben Simmons is another fantasy suicide draft selection. Don’t draft injured players even if that injury is thought to be perceived. Just. Don’t. Do. It. I realize it’s unlikely that if you’re reading this (wise SE subs that you are) you’re not the type to have drafted Simmons anyway, but, at this time of the year, we can all do with a little pat on the back. So, job well done, everyone, for avoiding that circus (while also enjoying this one).
Damian Lillard/Paul George/Bradley Beal: This year was really weird.
Miles Bridges. Some of us saw this breakout season coming and laughed (almost) all the way to the bank. He’s long had a stat-set that I like to refer to as Roast Chicken Dinner. No, he’s not Prime Rib, but his combination of flavors and textures have been as satisfying a fantasy meal as you could hope for given his late-round ADP. The epitome of ballin’ on a budget. Let this be a reminder that when the combination of young talent, late-season production and an ensuing contract year come together, really, really cool things can happen fantasy-wise. Can he be a fourth-round talent moving forward? I think so.
Dejounte Murray had a massive breakout season as the best player on a bad team and he looks more than capable of keeping that up next year and beyond. It’s hard to imagine him having a better season than this one as there just aren’t too many places he could improve. Yeah, maybe he could add the 3-point shot to his arsenal and score a bit more but that would probably come with a corresponding drop in efficiency. I like him at the end of the first round in either case. He’d likely have been on a ton more championship teams this year were in not for a poor playoff schedule.
Kevin Love. Cool story, bro, but I’m not taking him next year at any point before of the last round.
Desmond Bane may very well be the waiver wire add of the season as he has haunted everyone who passed on him in fantasy and real-life (looking at you Dallas Mavericks). He’s really good but probably not worth reaching for next season as he’s unlikely to be much of a value at an ADP that I imagine will be somewhere near the fourth round. That said, I’d happily take him anywhere around pick 40 or later because of his consistency.
LeBron James is still tough to bet against. I’m doing it though. I don’t buy that he’ll shoot free throws at his best rate in 10 years again next season and I don’t think the Lakers will be nearly the same kind of horror show either. He’s going to be over-drafted which is cool because it means somebody else will slide to those of us who’ve opted to fade the King. Dude is old. This is not ageist talk—this is realist talk. It will catch up to him.
Joel Embiid has been a top-5 player with or without adjusting for totals and that is pretty cool to see. He’s in his prime and should be able to keep that up next season although he’s still going to be a gamble in head-to-head settings because persistent lower-leg injuries to big men aren’t a thing that ever disappears. He’s been boom or bust every year for a minute and that’s not going away just because he went boom in a big way this season.
Nikola Jokic very well may be the best player in the universe for fantasy and real-life purposes. Don’t overthink it. Draft him with confidence in all settings as the gap in value from him to the No.2 slot is about the same as it is from the end of the first round to the middle of the third.
Ja Morant is a magician. He’s also barely a top-50 player this year—his first time being inside the top-125. I’d take him on my real-life team 100 times out of 100 but you’re highly unlikely to see him on any of my fantasy squads next year as the illusory nature of his game has the casual fan inflating his draft value relative to the numerous holes in his game.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is awesome (okay, maybe not his FG%) but I’m not sure how many people know exactly how awesome he is because he gets over shadowed by Ja and isn’t elite at anything besides blocks. People will surely start to catch up, as there’s no shortage of analysts getting all slobbery about him, but he’s still probably going to be drafted a round or so behind what his value is.
DeMar DeRozan has been crushing this year as the No.28 player after never having been ranked higher than No. 37 in his career. Do I think this will stick? No I do not. Am I bitter that he’s done this on my opponents’ teams this year and not mine? Yes I am.
Donovan Mitchell. Every single thing that I just said about DeRozan applies to Mitchell here except that it’s No. 21 instead of No. 28 and No. 46 instead of No. 37.
Russell Westbrook has set a new standard for being bad at both fantasy and real life basketball this year. I might have lost sleep over how over-rostered he is (98%!) if it didn’t mean that there was one team in virtually every one of my leagues that doesn’t need to need taken seriously. Starting in 2015-16 Westbrook’s rankings have gone like this: 8, 9, 24, 32, 43, 77, and (this year) outside the top-200. Prime bounce back candidate? Hmm… on second thought, I may have had one to many piña coladas at this point.
Scott Wayne Barnes Jr (with Wayne being the No.1 middle name amongst serial killers) has been murdering the competition all year long. Drafting him any time after the early second round will be a pretty cool litmus test as the only people laughing will likely be the same ones that your team kills all next season.
Jarret Allen. How many teams lived and died by the big fella this year? I’m guessing a ton. I think he’s got the potential to do this again even if some might be scared off by the Evan Mobley factor. I say let them be scared, as it might spell a potential value pick for the rest of us.
Tyrese Haliburton is another player who’s likely been a key part in many of the better teams in all leagues this year. I know I tried in vain to trade for him all year long. Next season though, I’m slightly less bullish. I still want him but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the likely second-round price tag given the uncertain nature of the Pacers’ lineup next year. But, you know, it’s not quite April yet, so I may feel differently given time.
Richuan Holmes. I’m not crying, you’re crying. Some of the sand from the beach must have gotten in my eye or something.
Onyeka Okongwu. Guess who wants the Hawks to trade Clint Capela as soon as they can and fully commit to the King Okongwu more than me? If you said no one, congratulations! If you can find me on the beach, the next one’s on me!
1 – What could be more anomalous than a statistics list with no statistics on it?
2 – Give me a break, I’m on the beach!