The NBA preseason begins on October 1, a mere four days from this first installment of my top-hundred. It may seem strange to reference the preseason as anything more than a sample of what is to come - but on the heels of a particularly tumultuous off-season, it offers us a chance to see what roles rookies and new acquisitions will play for their new organization. It is not a perfect gauge of what is to come, to be sure, but the most difficult part of creating any sort of rankings prior to opening night is the guesswork involved. Fantasy drafts have already begun, but a great deal can change over the next four weeks as we wait for the opening tip-off of the 2016-17.
Before diving in, I should clarify a few things, and bullet points feel like the way to go:
- These rankings are based on the eight-category format that most leagues tend to utilize - points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, FG%, FT%, and either 3P% or three-pointers made (this is not a minor distinction, so draft accordingly);
- I tend to avoid players that can torpedo one category, so if a player is ranked far worse than the consensus seems to indicate, that is probably why;
- I did not rank Chris Bosh (failed physical, career with Miami likely over), Khris Middleton (out six months with a torn hamstring), or Jrue Holiday (out indefinitely as his wife undergoes surgery).
Today's post will be comprised of numbers 100 through 76. The remaining three installments will be on Friday, September 30, Tuesday, October 4, and Friday, October 7. Without further ado:
100. Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
With Dwight Howard now plying his trade in Atlanta, Capela is the unquestioned starter at center for the Rockets. The 22-year-old averaged 7 points, 6.4 boards, and 1.2 blocks in 19.1 MPG last year, and shot 58.2% from the field - and he stands to play 10-plus additional minutes a game this year. He's an abominable free throw shooter, which hinders his overall value, but that is an issue with many of the top fantasy centers.
99. Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets
Williams' value depends upon how much weight you put in his 40.2% 3P% last year. If he can maintain that, or something close, he chips in a bit in every category, with no real liabilities. If he falls back into the 35% range (his career norm), he becomes a bit less desirable. I think he has what it takes to maintain it, though.
98. Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
Ingram was my favorite player in the draft, and for that he gains this placement - despite the fact that he may not even start to open the season. He can score from anywhere on the floor, create for others, and rebound. He just needs the opportunity to do so.
97. DeMarre Carroll, Toronto Raptors
Don't let last year's injury-riddled campaign scare you off. Carroll is a very good to great shooter that can help you out in rebounds and steals, as well.
96. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
Randle's solid fantasy season was lost in the Kobe Bryant retirement tour, as the power forward averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly 2 assists in just over 29 MPG. His FG% was too low for a big (42.9%), but that should improve in a more structured system.
95. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
I had Rubio off of the list on my first draft, due to his dreadful FG% and 3P%, but he contributes so much elsewhere and shoots so infrequently that he can be hidden on a deep team. He was 3rd in steals and 5th in assists last year, and is one of the better rebounders at his position.
94. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Turner averaged 11.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1.6 blocks per game as a starter last year, shooting 46.2% from the field and 75.5% from the line. And that came in just over 26 MPG, in a conservative offense. He's one of my sleepers this year, as he should have more playing time and a larger role in a more uptempo offense.
93. Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
If last year was a fluke, then this ranking is pessimistic. If it was a sign of things to come, it is way too optimistic. I split the difference.
92. Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards
Last year was a third-year breakout for Porter, as he improved across the board in both raw and rate statistics. I see no reason why last year's numbers wouldn't be a reasonable baseline for 2016-17.
91. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
Vucevic has long been a better fantasy asset than real world player, and the Magic seemed to have recognized that (which is reflected in their moves for Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo). He averaged roughly 19 points, 10 boards, a block, and a steal per game over the last two years on rock-solid percentages - but I'm not sure what his role will be this year. If he's starting and playing 30-plus MPG, I'd move him up a few rungs.
90. Robin Lopez, Chicago Bulls
It feels strange having Lopez over Vucevic, but his more secure role, slightly better percentages, and extra blocks give him the slight edge for now. And the fact that the Bulls may be hoisting up too many ill-advised threes affording plenty of putbacks and offensive boards helps, too.
89. Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz
Based on last year's numbers, Hood is probably ranked a bit too favorably, as he doesn't stand out in any particular way. However, I buy into what the Jazz are doing, and I think he will have the opportunity to be a big part of their versatile offense.
88. Alex Len, Phoenix Suns
Len's FG% tumbled as he ventured further from the rim last year, but he has the sweet stroke to bounce-back in a big way. I expect him to shoot closer to 48% this season, and the points and rebounds will come with ease. And he can hit his free throws, too.
87. Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
Clarkson is a volume scorer that can chip in a bit of everything when he's right. He's not a star, but he offers balance across the box score.
86. Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks
It seems strange that a player that averaged 13.7 PPG, 11.8 REB, and 1.6 BLK could be viewed as a serious disappointment, but here we are. Howard's FT% is an eyesore, but he's still a high-end option at center.
85. Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
This ranking is based solely on Gordon's potential. With a bit of refinement, he can be peak Gerald Wallace, helping out significantly in every category. I think that starts this year.
84. Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets
We are now far enough removed from Linsanity that we can appreciate what Lin actually is - an average-ish across the board PG. He'll play big minutes for the Nets this year, and the pick 'n roll with Brook Lopez should be a thing of beauty.
83. Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks
Bazemore was essentially what we expected of Carroll last year (albeit with lesser numbers from deep). His numbers were right in-line with his what he did off of the bench in 2014-15 on a per-minute basis, and he should be able to keep it up this year.
82. Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
This is a bit aggressive, given that Bradley hasn't offered much outside of points and steals the last couple of years. With a new offense built around Al Horford, however, I think he'll have more open looks to bolster his 3P%, which would justify this placement.
81. George Hill, Utah Jazz
Hill isn't too different from the aforementioned Williams, though his baseline is a bit higher. His greatest issue may be playing time, as Dante Exum returns from injury.
80. Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dieng averaged right around 10 PPG, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, and a steal on great percentages last year, and performed similarly the year before. He won't win any categories for you, but he helps everywhere that you could reasonably expect a big man to.
79. Thaddeus Young, Indiana Pacers
Young abandoned the 3-point line last year, but it's tough to be upset when he averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. And, to be fair, he was never really a good shooter from deep.
78. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Nobody quite knows what the 76ers are doing, but Noel is a higher-upside version of Dieng. Playing time is a genuine concern right now, though, so this situation bears watching.
77. Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets
Ariza is another player that chips in a bit of everything, and won't really hurt your fantasy team in any one category. There's a chance that his role will be reduced with Eric Gordon on-board, but I wouldn't worry about that too much (if at all).
76. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons