The NBA preseason has begun, and so too have fantasy drafts. The real season is still a few weeks away, though, and, given what we have already seen (more on that to come), things can change in a hurry. I covered the first half of my top-hundred on Tuesday and Friday of last week. Today I’ll be covering players 50 through 26.
And we’re off:
50. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol missed 23 games with a knee injury in 2014, and 30 games with a foot injury last season. He has always been a bit better in real life than fantasy, and the concerns about his durability cannot be ignored.
49. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were cautious with Parker last season, easing him back into action on the heels of a torn ACL - and he was clearly rusty. He improved as the season wore on, though, averaging 18.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists after the All-Star game, and shooting 49.7%/32.1%/76.7% along the way. With Khris Middleton out, he’ll shoulder a heavier load this season.
48. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
The questions regarding Jackson’s ability to be a starting PG have been all but forgotten, as the 26-year-old is coming off of a strong all-around season. His FG% and 3P% may leave a bit to be desired, but he won’t outright hurt you in any category.
47. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wiggins may not be the franchise savior that some expected, but he is an incredibly valuable player in both the real world and fantasy. And it’s worth noting that he shot 41.3% from deep after the All-Star game - it was only 116 attempts, but holding onto some of that improvement would make him a stud.
46. Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings
Fantasy is the only place where Gay may be a smidge better than Wiggins, if only because he has a firmly established baseline. He’s unhappy with the Kings (who isn’t?), and that may be a situation worth watching.
45. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Valanciunas has established himself as a 12 and 9 center, with strong percentages from the field and the line. It feels like he could be so much more, though, if Raptors coach Dwane Casey were to ever scale back his usage of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
44. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
2016 was Conley’s worst shooting season since his rookie year, and he struggled with injuries - but it’s difficult to look past his consistency otherwise. He may not be a stud, but you can bank on 14-plus points, 5-plus assists, a steal, and strong percentages.
43. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
I feel as though I may end up regretting not pushing Kanter a bit higher, as I could see him playing a huge role with the Thunder this season - especially if he continues to demonstrate the ability to hit threes. His awful defense may hinder his fantasy ceiling, though, as he may not be able to log enough minutes to produce big numbers.
42. Pau Gasol, San Antonio Spurs
Pau Gasol averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 4.1 assists last season, and he’s going to the black magic purveyors on the Spurs’ coaching staff. I may be underrating him a bit, but he has to fall off at some point - right?
41. Jeff Teague, Indiana Pacers
In 2016, Teague saw his minutes and role reduced a bit as he split time with the Hawks’ point guard of the future - that won’t be the case this year, as he’s the undisputed man for the Pacers.
40. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Jokic had a rock solid rookie year, and he stands to play a larger role for the Nuggets this season. The team’s frontcourt is a bit crowded, with Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, and Danilo Gallinari (he’ll play some PF), so he may not play more than 28 minutes - but he’ll make the most of it.
39. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
I expect Porzingis to improve his shooting this year, as teams will have to pay more attention to his supporting cast. However, he may get fewer touches with Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, and Joakim Noah around, so those improvements may end up being a wash in fantasy terms.
38. Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets
Batum is an interesting fantasy player, as he has a strange skill-set. His shooting percentages haven’t been great the last two years, but he puts up good rebound and assist totals (particularly for a small forward).
37. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
I know that this placement makes it seem like I’m taking crazy pills - and I can’t justify it beyond saying that there is tremendous talent here, and it can’t stay dormant forever. Can it?
36. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Butler has missed at least 15 games three years in a row, and is going to see his touches go down with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo around. If he can’t rediscover his three point stroke, he could end up being a massive disappointment for fantasy owners.
35. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Favors has been eerily consistent over the last three years, with all of his numbers (save for points in 2014) staying within a couple of percentage points or fractions of a counting stat. That dependability is worth at least a little bit more.
34. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge was more efficient in his first year with the Spurs, but his counting stats took a hit as he moved into a more free-flowing system. He remains a fantasy asset, but he slipped a few rungs due to the decrease in touches and minutes.
33. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
If DeRozan hit threes at an average rate, he would be in the conversation for a first round pick. As it stands, he could be your second or third best player on the strength of ... well ... everything else.
32. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Thompson’s last two seasons justify a higher ranking, but I suspect that he will end up as a bystander more often this year due to the acquisition of Kevin Durant. He’ll still be quite good - but I expect him to lose five or so PPG as a result.
31. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
McCollum is the rare player that saw his efficiency increase markedly as his role became more and more prominent, and he ranks among the most dynamic players in the game. A repeat of last season would justify this placement.
30. Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC is a team in transition, and Oladipo is going to serve as the secondary ballhandler next to Russell Westbrook on a team that is going to score a lot of points. And I think he’s going to have a breakout season as a result.
29. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Walker was perpetually one of my breakout players, and he finally rewarded that faith last season. He has to prove that it wasn’t a fluke, but I have confidence that the Hornets system will give him every opportunity (and advantage) to do so.
28. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
Dragic is at his best when he is running the show, and he hasn’t been able to do that with the Heat. With Wade in Chicago and Chris Bosh in limbo, he’ll be the man in Miami, and Erik Spoelstra will tailor the system to his strengths - and his numbers will trend up accordingly.
27. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
This could be Anthony’s last hurrah as a fantasy stalwart, as he will be 33 by season’s end. He remains a fairly efficient volume scorer, though, and he posts strong rebounding and assist numbers for the position.
26. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
The 26-year-old Hayward is the old man on the Jazz roster, and he’s also a legitimate star. This team has a great deal of talent, and Hayward will benefit greatly from the reduced pressure from opposing defenses that that entails.