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Fantasy Basketball: The best players still available

Some “safe” players (and some none safe guys) to add to your fantasy team.

NBA: Utah Jazz at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s look at which fantasy players aren’t hurting you in the stat cats. Below are the players who do NOT have any negative values in ESPN basic league stat categories.

Players Without Negative Value on ESPN’s Player Rater

  • LeBron (#1 overall, 20.13 Player Rating)
  • Boogie “One of the 5 Best Players in the NBA” Cousins (#2, 19.68)
  • The Brow (#5, 16.90)
  • Nikola Jokic (#10, 12.30)
  • Victor Oladipo (#13, 11.21)
  • Draymond Green (#20, 9.92)
  • Nikola Vucevic (#23, 9.52)
  • Klay Thompson (#24, 9.49)
  • Bradley Kind of a Big Beal (#25, 9.39)
  • Al Horford (#29, 8.84)
  • Jayson Tatum (#47, 7.04)
  • James Johnson (#60, 5.82)
  • Rudy Gay (#76, 4.57)

Only 13 players have ONLY positive value (as of 11/16/17). Let’s look at last season, too. Here are the players who ended the season without negative value in 2016-17 (James Harden & Sergeant Westbrook were the top 2 players, but each had a negative FG%):

  • Karl-Anthony Towns (#4 overall, 17.19 Player Rating)
  • Kawhi Leonard (#7, 14.55)
  • Kevin Durant (#8, 14.45)
  • Paul George (#14, 12.85)
  • CJ McCollum (#17, 11.75)
  • Kyrie Irving (#19, 11.72)
  • Marc Gasol (#25, 10.44)
  • Klay Thompson (#28, 9.98)
  • Otto Porter, Jr. (#31 overall in 2016-17, 9.51 player rating)
  • Al Horford (#42, 7.62)
  • Tobias Harris (#48, 6.78)

“Safe” players are those who don’t hurt you in the stats; they are the solid foundation to any fantasy team, and allow you flexibility to pursue other players who do have negatives in their fantasy stats because you have a buffer to protect yourself, like the gutter balloons in kids’ bowling (Gutter Balloons is a good band name). Having players who don’t hurt you is a good way to have a team that doesn’t lose. It’s a good idea to have at least one safe player on your roster, especially one of the less expensive options, like Horford, or Oladipo, or Rudy Gay (until and unless Kawhi comes back, and maybe even after). Their consistency and good ratios may be the difference between winning the week or losing the season.

With that in mind, let’s look at who’s available in fantasy (sub-50% ownership) and see if they can help you, even if they’re just a “safe” option:

Taj Gibson (40% owned)

I know, I know, we’ve all made the jokes and we’ve all scoffed at the old man. But, he’s currently only 40% owned despite the fact that he’s ranked 71st on ESPN’s player rater (4.80), right before Jimmy Butler. He’s basically averaged a double-double in November. Ancient Taj is playing 30 minutes a game, which is the most minutes he’s ever averaged (Thibodeau, smh). He’s shooting 53% from the field, which is a career best, and he’s averaging the most rebounds and steals of his career (again, he’s playing more). His plus-minus of 2.9 is tied with Boogie Cousins and Evan Fournier, which means that plus-minus is sometimes absolutely hysterical. (If you care, Ancient Taj’s Real Plus-Minus is 0.30, the same as Gorgiu Dieng. Basketball analytics are not yet infallible.) His TS% is 58.9, and his offensive rating is the highest of his career at 110.6. Ancient Taj is only 32 years old, which is the same age as LeBron. Maybe I should stop teasing the grey beard for being a senior citizen? No.

Kyle Anderson (17.5% owned)

Anderson’s the 80th ranked player, right in between Rudy Gay (74.9%) and Gary Harris (56.4%). He’s averaging 27 minutes a game and we still don’t know when Kawhi Leonard will return from injury. Slow Kyle doesn’t get you a lot, but he doesn’t hurt you, either. He’s shooting 49.5% from the field. That probably won’t last, but why not ride it while it does? He’s totally available and so will cost you nothing other than a waiver claim. Plus, who doesn’t like Kris Kristofferson, the singer and songwriter who Slow Kyle bases his game on?

Dewayne Dedmon (40% owned)

Dedmon’s a traditional big man: he gets you points, he gets you rebounds, he gets you a block a game, and he has good ratios (61 FG%). He’s even shooting threes! Right now he’s ranked 52nd (!!!) by ESPN, in between Goran Dragic and Joe Ingles. You know who ended last season as the 52nd ranked player? Trevor Ariza. In my league, which has slightly different stat cats, he’s been as valuable as Enes Kanter and Aaron Gordon over the past two weeks. If Dedmon is available on your waiver, I’d scoop him up.

DeMarre Carroll (47% owned)

Carroll’s scoring 13 points and getting 7 rebounds per game, but you’d like it if his ratios were a bit better, especially on threes. Having said that, he’s basically similar to Jonathon Simmons, and people are raving about him. (In fantasy, Simmons is criminally under owned at 30%. C’mon, people!) If DeMarre’s shots start falling, then he’ll jump in value. Might be worth your time, just as trade bait.

Taurean Prince (29% owned)

In my league, he has the same player ranking value as Baron Markkonen and Herr Schroder, both of whom are owned in a majority of leagues. He’s been the 55th best player in ESPN basic, better than Hoodie Melo, Kyle Kuzma, AND THE BARON HISSELF! I mean, his defensive stats are not impressive, but the dude is legit! He’s averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists WITH TWO STEALS per game! Who doesn’t need a player who does that? His ratios aren’t as good, but who cares? When in doubt, ALWAYS target the volume. Prince averages the 2nd most minutes on the Hawks (behind Herr Schroder) and shoots the second most (12 attempts a game). The ATL is DREADFUL this year, and Prince is a young, somewhat-brightly futured wing player that the Hawks will try to build around. It may take him awhile, but it’s only his second season. And, again: HE’S RANKED HIGHER THAN HOODIE MELO IN FANTASY. PLEASE ACQUIRE HIM FOR NEXT TO NOTHING.

Ryan Anderson and Joe Ingles

They are different people, I promise you, are both available. I mean, pick them up if you can, but I wouldn’t trade much for them. What’s going to happen to Anderson’s shot attempts now that CP3 is back? What’s going to happen to Joe Ingles once he gets traded because Utah sucks and they should start trading players away?

By the way, Jazz fans: I know you know this, but it seems like the sports/media doesn’t, but anyway, losing star players usually means you suck afterwards. All savvy basketball fans know this. Losing Hayward didn’t mean the Jazz would “rebuild,” but c’mon, you lost a damn good player and OF COURSE it would hurt. The Cavs lost Kyrie, how are they doing? The Clippers lost Chris Paul, how are they doing? The Knicks lost Carmelo, how are they doing? (Haaaahahahaha! Sorry, Thunder & Melo fans, I couldn’t resist. Did you know that the Knicks are 8-6 and the Thunder are 7-7? The Thunder have the second best defense in the NBA, but they’d still miss the playoffs if the season ended today. I love the Western Conference and I love the idea of the Knicks being a 5 seed while the Thunder don’t make it. That’s what I said in my Bold Predictions column! I mean, I was joking, but get real, it’s right there on the unchangeable internet, I mean The Net! I’m SO happy about this. Not that I hate on Melo or the Thunder, I absotively posilutely do not, but get real, this is funny! What if the Knicks make a big trade and end up with the 4 seed while the Thunder get blown out by the Warriors in the first round or don’t even make the playoffs? Hahaha! That would be AMAZING. But, it’ll probably be the other way around. Hard to believe that Sergeant Westbrook would allow his team to miss the dance.)

Anyway, chill out, Utah. Gobert will be back and your future lies with him. Seriously, who cares about the rest of the guys on your team, anyway? You honestly care whether Derrick Favors is a, um, Jazz? No, you don’t, stop lying. The Jazz are filled with Christian Laetners, by which I mean, you don’t really give a damn that he’s on the Dream Team, but you are sorta pissed that someone else isn’t. I really wanted Utah to make it this year (in fact, I boldly predicted it) but they seriously don’t look good. They have a bottom 5 offensive efficiency. That’s, like, Dallas Mavericks bad. Yuck, don’t watch those two teams play each other, it’s probably really bad for you.

Kelly Oubre, Jr. (23.6% owned)

Oubre is someone I would gamble on. He’s only 21 years old, he’s playing almost 30 minutes a game, his true shooting percentage is 58% (good), and he has the same offensive rating as Anthony Davis (this will change, but still: good!). It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing for a 3rd year wing to find his shot and begin to enter his prime. Why shouldn’t it be Oubre? The Wizards have done an unheralded good job of developing young talent. They make REALLY stupid moves, sometimes (see: Ian Mahinmi), but I think you have to tip your cap to the front office: Wall, Beal, Porter, Jr., and Oubre, Jr. all look like legit players. That’s damn good in this day and age.

Tony “GET REAL” Snell (3.1% owned)

Snell still has the best true shooting percentage in the NBA. He played 39 minutes the other night, so the Bledsoe trade didn’t hurt him, at all. He only takes 6 shots a night, but he makes over half of them (53 FG%). He also gives you 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal a game. I know these numbers don’t blow your face up, aside from the ratios, but there will be some nights when Giannis doesn’t have it, when Bledsoe’s shot won’t sink, when Middleton can’t save you, and when everything seemingly goes wrong; those are the nights when Tony Snell can step in, if only to sink a bucket to stop a scoring drought. Milwaukee should find ways to get him the ball more, and fantasy owners should pick him up. If Snell keeps sharpshooting, then he may be the safest player available.