Fantasy basketball: Look to these teams and players for a playoff boost
Do you ever feel like this might not be your year?
Did you pick Rudy Gobert in the second round thinking that Minnesota would double Gobert’s usage rate while keeping his block count?
Did you beat Kyrie Irving in the third round, forgetting he had a year on his contract?
Did you go all-in on the deadline and trade for LaMelo Ball, instantly get rewarded with triple-doubles in a row, and then turn on the League Pass just in time to see Ball break his ankle?
Did you sleepily get off your exercise bike recently to open your front door last week, just in time to see you break your ankle?
Then maybe this is not your year.
Oh, good. Great.
It was not the year of this writer. It’s only March 7th and I already have a title for my final fantasy video: Reality Bite Back.
In 2022-23, reality took a bite, growled, drooled, ripped off a huge chunk of my fantasy managerial bandwidth, buried it in my backyard, ran back and ripped off some more.
So, if you were in a league with me this year? You can anticipate what I’m about to do: apologize. I apologize for not being the most practical manager in the last few months.
And yet… the bandwidth of that column remained unscathed. How? Why?
Because analyzing basketball statistics, extrapolating fantasy strategies and typing about it – that’s how I relax! And so, with the help and support of the all-wise World Leader and the editorial vision of Joe Kaiser… we’ve come to the end.
And what’s it like at the end of a bad year?
Well, this is similar to what it will look like in the player rankings on April 10th. Then see that Kyrie Irving made the top 20. Maybe even in the top 10. After all, player ratings don’t care about storytelling. . Only numbers.
And there is always hope… that comes as we look forward to next season.
I have always seen my job here as adjusting the narrative and then finding new ways to reformulate the numbers. With one operational goal: to help you get the hidden value.
So. One last time… before we bury this year in our backyard?
Let’s dig up some value.
What the heck. It’s almost playoff time.
Let’s talk about the best way to spot the players who can show up out of nowhere to help win the league. Players who might even become… the next Tarence Kinsey.
Excuse me… do you have a question? “Who is Tarence Kinsey?”
In the 2006-07 season, Kinsey was another Grizzlies rookie sitting on the bench in a significant shadow of rookie Rudy Gay.
Played at trash time or didn’t play at all until Grizzlies center Pau Gasol got injured. And the Grizzlies decided to tank. And Tarence Kinsey started cracking double-digit minutes.
And then (neatly enough) on March 7, 2007, Kinsey hit double-digit scores for the first time. And even I noticed. Because Kinsey was the perfect endgame rookie for the tank team.
So I added Kinsey.
In short? If you browse the annals of NBA Rookie of the Month winners from November to February, you’ll find many famous future stars (LeBron, Donovan Mitchell) and future famous stalwarts (Marcus Smart, Tyreke Evans).
But March and April? You will find more mysterious names. Tyler Ulis. Shelden Williams. And Tarence Kinsey.
Starting with a 24-point Look at Me score against the Jazz on March 24, 2007, and ending on April 18 with a now-career best of 22 points, seven assists, nine rebounds and three steals. Kinsey had a month. Rookie month of the month. The month that led many fantasy teams to victory in the roto championship.
But today? Is it March 7th? There’s another Kinsey in there.
But it’s not 2007 now. At this point in the season, big tank teams don’t mean as much to fantasy as they used to.
Because of Play-In. But even more, because the draft lottery has been re-weighted.
The chances of the worst teams getting the best pick are drastically reduced. So evenly that the bottom four teams – Detroit, Houston, San Antonio and Charlotte – have almost the same chance of hitting Victor Wembanyama.
So there is no incentive for any of these teams to lower the level. As such, they have less incentive to include any future Tarence Kinseys in their lineups.
In today’s Fantasyland final? We want to identify teams that are in the glorious middle of the NBA. The foggy middle of the NBA standings. Where just an extra win or loss could mean a dream date with the Play-In Tournament… or a chance to win over second-choice consensus Scoot Henderson.
As these mid-range teams start to break through to the Play-In or high lottery, their rotation shifts accordingly. And teams that say “Dilute for Scoot” will start prioritizing 2023’s Tarence Kinsey.
Real average teams: Orlando, Indiana, Washington, Oklahoma City, Utah, New Orleans and Portland. (Toronto is all-in in the Play-In and will get there.)
What it is? “You missed Chicago and the Lakers!” No. Their draft statuses are so nebulous that it is currently impossible to identify them.
(Chicago’s pick is top-four protected, so there’s a chance he’ll go to the Magic right now. And New Orleans is eligible to swap picks with the Lakers because of the Anthony Davis trade. But how is the standings tracked? ?50-50 Pelicans change this choice.)
Let’s take a look at the remaining average teams and find out who buried some of Kinsey’s magic!
In addition to his average NBA status, Orlando has been dealing with late-season injuries. And they recovered… quite a long time. This means that some winning lottery spades may increase play time and usage.
In this dynamic, veterans like Gary Harris should be getting less playing time. So, as painful as it is to type, the insanely inconsistent Cole Anthony deserves a second (third?) look. Jalen Suggs – moving up. He started recently and is coming off in a row many points of multi-category excellence. And if Wendell Carter Jr. continues to fight, Moritz Wagner will get the support.
Benedict Maturin ended last season with a little Kinsey-style lunge. It gets north of 25 mpg, so there’s potential for a small production spike. Jalen Smith could explode if Miles Turner is partially shut down.
Less obvious name: Jordan Nwora. Over the past week, his mpg has been close to 25 mpg. During that time, he averaged 13.0 points per game, 1.8 3-pointers and roughly one combined block + steal.
My wizards may not have to decide whether they should dive in or reach for the Play-In. They are already 8th in the Draft Lottery (5.3% chance on Wembanyama) and 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, which will also qualify them for the Play-In!
(If you can smell a victory cigar? It’s Wizards owner Ted Leonsis celebrating taking part in what I bet he calls “pole position.”)
I feel bad about the last joke. Because that means you had to wait a whole bracket for me to whisper: GET DELON WRIGHT RIGHT NOW.
PG Monte Morris is out for at least a few games. This means that the solid defender Wright will get not only more minutes, but also more use.
Minutes and touches aside, Wright is the fantasy Swiss Army knife of the late season. He can do almost anything for your team. He is efficient. Produces everywhere.
Not to mention Wright takes on the rare fantasy SG/PG/PF unicorn stance. It can be connected to almost every slot in your lineup. So what are you waiting for?
(PS: Watch Deni Avdija. If Washington disappears, he will start shooting many, many more. If children are watching: close your eyes.)
Oklahoma City Thunder
As always… Lugenz Dort is available. The question you should be asking is: will OKC slip and close SGA? At OKC, the closing of the Shai-Gilgeous Alexander Lottery has become an annual spring celebration. If it happens again… take Isaiah Joe, and quickly.
Portland Trail Blazers
I have to admit that I was typing Portland, but all the time I was thinking about the Blazing Former New Orleans Jazz Mavericks of Greater Los Angeles. Oh, and I once thought that “a viscous, unidentified sludge is currently coagulating around the 10th seed.”
What is unfair. Because the race for 10th place in the Western Conference promises to be as epic as a race for 10th place can be!
At the time of this writing, Portland is ranked 10th. Utah 9th place. And somehow, by the grace of the gods of basketball, the Pelicans and Lakers are tied for 11th! (That means the Anthony Davis trade could come down to who gets Grady Dick and who gets Jett Howard! I love this game!)
All four teams are only polygames behind the Thunder. And just two games behind the Mavericks and Clippers! The race for 10th place becomes the basketball equivalent of the first Gangs of New York brawl.
So what’s the best way to close this? How to sum up and quantify these dumb offshoots for Fantasyland? Doing what these leaderboards do… mixing everything and everyone together, not knowing how it will be, turning a blind eye and hoping for the best.
(For example, how I cook dinner for my children.)
Blazing former New Orleans Jazz Mavericks from Greater Los Angeles
Others to look out for: Cam Reddish, Dennis Schroeder, Josh Richardson, Jarred Vanderbilt, Talen Horton-Tucker, Matisse Tibull, Malik Beasley, Trey Murphy III, Kelly Olynyk, Drew Eubanks, Austin Reeves, Rui Hachimura, Herbert Jones, Naji. Marshall, Troy Brown Jr., Walker Kessler… and, as always, heaven.