It hurts me to say this, but the 2016-17 NBA season is drawing to a close.
If you sit down and try to reflect on all that has transpired, I guarantee your thoughts will jumble into a flipbook of Russell Westbrook triple-doubles, triangle offense headlines, superstars taking the night off, Giannis “how is that humanly possible” highlights, and triangle offense headlines (Did I say that already?). So much has happened in such a short span that it all just blends together.
In terms of fantasy basketball, this has been a particularly remarkable season. High-octane, fast paced offenses have paved the way for absurd statistical performances, like Devin Booker’s 70-point masterpiece or The Beard’s 53 point, 17 assist, 16 rebound game. Because those things tend to get blurry, I felt a thorough review would be helpful.
Thus, I present to you the first segment of Fake Team’s 2016-17 NBA Fantasy Recap: On the map.
This segment will look at guys who were scarcely talked about to begin the year, but have proven their value throughout the season. To be clear, it will not look at superstar caliber players who have taken big leaps, like a Giannis or a Westbrook. Though those guys have exceeded expectations, they didn’t provoke the question, “Where the heck did this dude come from?” We knew The Greek Freak was bound for greatness. Maybe we underestimated the depths of that greatness, but we knew it was coming.
This is much more about the names you may not have known. The names you either took a swing on and happened to knock out of the park, or picked up off the waiver wire. The names that were previously off the map, and now are on.
Three major criteria: 1) No one who was selected (or should have been selected) in the first two rounds of your fantasy draft, 2) No one who was considered a serious candidate to win the Most Improved Player award before the season started (like Booker, Dennis Schroder, or Myles Turner), 3) No rookies – there will be a separate segment of the fantasy recap that focuses exclusively on them.
Let’s get it.
An obvious choice. Yes, one could argue that Nikola Jokic falls under the “superstar caliber” umbrella; and many even predicted that the versatile power forward would breakout this season. But unlike Giannis and Russ, there were definitely fantasy owners out there who did not have the Joker on their map. They do now.
2015-16 numbers: 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists, shooting 51% from the field and 81% from the line
Current numbers: 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, shooting 58% from the field and 83% from the line
Analysis: Jokic contributes significantly in multiple categories (points, rebounds, and assists) and is one of the most efficient players in the league. Only three PF/C are averaging more assists per game than Jokic: Draymond, Al Horford, and Blake Griffin. That’s good company.
Otto Porter has gradually improved every single season, and he took the biggest jump of his career in 2016-17. With the Wizards making noise in the east, his rise has been impossible to ignore.
2015-16 numbers: 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 3PM, shooting 47% from the field and 75% from the line
Current numbers: 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.9 3PM, shooting 52% from the field and 82% from the line
Analysis: The revelation has been Otto’s proficiency from behind the arc. Playing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal will get you open looks, and Porter has delivered. Through 74 games, he’s hit a total of 143 threes, compared to just 98 in 75 appearances last year.
It hasn’t always been pretty for the Mavericks, but Seth Curry’s play has given fans something to be excited about.
2015-16 numbers: 6.8 points, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 1.1 3PM, shooting 46% from the field and 83% from the line
Current numbers: 12.8 points, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.9 3PM, shooting 48% from the field and 84% from the line
Analysis: Not surprisingly, Curry’s primary value lies in his three-point prowess. Still, the guy gives you a boost in percentages, points, and even has the occasional 3-steals outing. Seth gonna Seth.
Some anticipated Clint Capela would have an explosive year, but I don’t think he qualified as a “serious candidate” to win most improved; and if you weren’t a hardcore follower of the NBA, the name probably didn’t mean much to you before the Rockets started balling.
2015-16 numbers: 7.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks, shooting 58% from the field and 38% from the line
Current numbers: 12.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks, shooting 65% from the field and 54% from the line
Analysis: Classic big man production. Capela gives you points, boards, and blocks, and is 3rd in the NBA in field goal percentage. Word of caution: even with the 16% boost, the free throws could hurt you. Hack-a-Capela is kind of a thing.
The move from Denver to Portland seemed to revitalize the Bosnian beast. Jusuf Nurkic has been a double-double machine since coming to Rip City, bolstering their playoff push.
2015-16 numbers: 8.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks, shooting 42% from the field and 62% from the line.
In 19 games with Portland: 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.9 blocks, shooting 51% from the field and 66% from the line.
Analysis: In flashes, we saw Nurkic’s talent as a finisher and a rebounder in Denver. I’m more interested in how he’s been as a rim protector and a facilitator in Portland. Three games with 5+ rejections. Six games with 5+ assists. Keep an eye on that.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
In his second season with the Hawks, Tim Hardaway Jr. has really thrived. These are heights we haven’t seen him soar to before.
2015-16 numbers: 6.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 0.9 3PM, shooting 43% from the field and 89% from the line
Current numbers: 14.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.9 3PM, shooting 45% from the field and 77% from the line
Analysis: Tim is a bucket getter. Plain and simple. He’s not going to help you in a diversity of categories, but the man will deliver in points and three-point field goals. Take that to the bank.
Hear me out. I had to throw one wildcard in here.
At the deadline, Philly traded Nerlens Noel to Dallas, which created space for Richaun Holmes to receive more consistent playing time. The athletic power forward has taken full advantage of the opportunity. In the month of March, he is averaging 13.1 points and 6.7 rebounds in just 25 minutes. I bet he wasn’t on your map.
2015-16 numbers: 5.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks, shooting 51% from the field and 69% from the line.
Current numbers: 8.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks, shooting 56% from the field and 67% from the line.
Analysis: The per-36 numbers are what really intrigue me: 16.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. That’s legit.