On the first day of the NBA 2018-19 season, let’s see who’s up in fantasy ownership.
1. Taurean Prince, SF, Atlanta Hawks
+15.3%, ESPN ownership now at 40.2%
Last season, Taurean Prince’s sophomore NBA campaign, he averaged 30 minutes, 14 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, shot 42.6% from the floor on 12 field goal attempts per game (2nd on the Hawks behind Herr Dennis Schroder), and shot 38.5% from deep 5+ times a game. (He was 21st in total 3PA last year.) In fantasy, he was the 68th most valuable player overall in my league (we have more/different stat cats than ESPN basic, including minutes), and he ended last season with an ESPN ownership of 51.6%.
One year later, Prince is entering his third season, and the player who shot the most on Atlanta, Schroder, is now gone. I know people are assuming that Trae Young, Atlanta’s 1st round pick, will come in and shoot 20 times a game, but that probably won’t happen. This team still has real players who also want to do well and get paid, like Prince, John Collins, Kent Bazemore, and Jeremy Lin. Even though Atlanta’s trying to tank, there’s a world wherein all the pieces click and this team is better than Detroit, Cleveland, and Charlotte. One team surprises us in the NBA every year: why not the Hawks this year?
Regardless, odds are that Taurean, at least, will increase his shot attempts, and will improve as a shooter as young players do. People are drafting him like he’s a top 150 player, instead though, his overall ESPN ADP right now is 132nd. He’s being drafted after Dwight Powell, who is not a starter. Whoever drafts Prince is going to be very pleased with the return.
2. Caris LeVert, SF/SG, Brooklyn Nets
+14.9%, ESPN ownership now at 36%
LeVert (Go Blue) was a top 150 player in my league last year, returning similar value as Brandon Ingram, Dejounte Murray, and Montrezl Harrell. He ended the season with a 34.7% ownership, around the same as Kent Bazemore. LeVert is getting a lot of praise because A) he’s good, and B) people want to believe in Brooklyn. They admire the (possible) depth of the roster, and they overemphasize the talent because the team’s assembled these players after their infamous trade with the Celtics a half-decade ago. The Nets are getting extra credit for tough homework, basically (even though they’re the ones who screwed up the assignment in the first place, necessitating the extra homework).
LeVert isn’t a starter right now, though he may be soon enough, and it may not matter, anyway: in the New NBA, minutes are minutes, whether you start or not. Look at Lou Williams on the Clippers; technically, he’s a 6th man, but the amount of minutes he plays suggests he’s a starter. Ditto LeVert. He was 5th in minutes on the Nets last season, and he’ll probably be top 5 again this season. His line was 12 PPG, 3+ RPG, 4+ APG, and 35% on his threes. He’ll need to improve that, which should increase his points per game; if he ends the year with that improvement, and gets closer to 15 PPG with the rest being equal, then his numbers could be akin to Dennis Smith, Jr. last year (and, DSJ is being drafted top 75 this year).
3. Josh Richardson, SF, Miami Heat
+12.6%, ESPN ownership now 57.1%
JRich is similar to the others on this list in that he’s a wing who isn’t as well known as he should be. He’s young, he plays for a great coach, a great franchise, and he’s improved each of the three years he’s been in the NBA. I mean, he’s the guy who Minnesota wants for Jimmy Butler, y’know? He’s damn good and will only get better.
He was the 52nd best player in my league last year, but he ended the year with only a 47% ESPN ownership rate. Again, this is a dude that nobody knows outside of Miami, kind of like Joe Ingles in Utah, Taurean Prince in Atlanta, or me in my neighborhood.
If he actually gets traded to the Timberwolves, then watch out. He’d instantly become Minny’s second or third best outside shooter (the Big KAT is the best 3-point shooter on Minnesota; he is their Center). Honestly, the drop off from Jimmy Butler to Josh Richardson is not as vast as some would have you think (it’s big, but it’s not, like, astronomical units). I think that’s a pretty nice return for Minnesota, so long as you get another player and pick(s). Jimmy wants out, and he wants a ton of money. So, trade him for a younger, cheaper, 75% version of him, no?
Regardless, if JRich is on waivers in your league, snatch him the hell up.
4. Bobby Portis, PF, Chicago Bulls
+11.9%, ESPN ownership now 29.7%
Portis was a top 150 player last year, but get real, this is all about playing time: Baron Markkanen, the Finnisher, is finished, at least for a little while. While he’s out injured, Bobby Portis will be the starting power forward. That’s all this is. As soon as Markkanen returns, Portis’s minutes will drop, as will his ownership. Portis isn’t a bad player, by any means, but he’s just not nearly as good as the Finnisher. I’d ride with him as a cheap pickup or a handcuff, but be aware, he probably won’t be as valuable later in the season as he is now. If you get trade offers for him, you should consider them, especially if you get a pick out of it.
5. Malcolm Brogdon, SG/PG, Milwaukee Bucks
+11.1%, ESPN ownership now 33.3%
This caught me by surprise because I thought Brogdon was much more owned than this. Last season, he ended the year with 47% ESPN ownership, returning top 200 value (he was 187th in my league). Mediocre, at best, though better than a Void Rider (players who return you zero value), but he missed a bunch of games. Brogdon got better overall, though barely in some cases, in his sophomore campaign and his new coach is promising a faster pace for the team with more possessions. Also, Jabari Parker is gone, so Brogdon should be getting at least a few more shots per game.
Brogdon dealt with a torn quad last season, and he was out for around 30 games. If he’s fully healthy, and the Bucks have more shots available for him, and his shots are more open because Giannis is constantly driving into the paint, then Brogdon could be an absolute steal. Why can’t he get you 15 PPG, 3+ RPG, 3+ APG? His line last year was 13-3-3. Small improvements in volume can reap tremendous rewards in player rankings. If he’s avails in your league, I’d pick him up. The PG eligibility is nice, too.
6. Robert “Bob” Covington, SF, Philadelphia 76ers
+10.3%, ESPN ownership now 35.1% (?)
Hey, look: another underappreciated wing! Bob was the 40th overall player in my league last year. He ended the season 83.5% owned! What the hell!
As far as I can see, nothing’s changed in Philly, other than Fultz starting in place of JJ Redick (which may not last). Covington’s been steady as a heartbeat over the last few years: 12+ PPG the last 4 seasons, 4+ RPG, 1+ APG, 1+ steal per game (he was 6th in total steals last year), and, oh yeah, 6+ 3PA per game. He was tied for 8th, with Donovan Mitchell, in total three point attempts last year and, he had the fourth best 3PT% of those 9 players! The dude’s a 6’9” wing on a team with Eastern Conference Finals aspirations. When Fultz is on the floor, Covington and Dario Saric will be the best outside shooters on Philly (no offense, Joel Embiid), and Ben Simmons can’t shoot, so Bob and Dario should get plenty of shots from downtown.
I mean, goddamn, yall, you’re drafting Covington after ZBo! You know I love ZBo, you MFing KNOW I DO. Zach Randolph is 37 years old, you guys! He probably won’t end up starting for the Sad Sacs for long, because, hello, the #2 overall pick, Marvin Bagley III, plays ZBo’s position. He wasn’t even a top 150 player in my league last year. He only played in 59 games. He looks high AS HELL on his NBA.com player page photo, which doesn’t mean, anything, other than Good for him, but Bob Covington’s a better fantasy basketball player right now!
7. JJ Redick, SG, Philadelphia 76ers
+9.7, ESPN ownership now 47.2%
Soooo, I mainly listed Redick as a point of emphasis for what I wrote about Covington. JJ Redick is not starting for Philly this season (unless Fultz goes terribly wrong, in which case JJ’s probably back in the starting five). He’s the best floor spacer for the 76ers, but Philly got exposed in the playoffs last year when defenses realized that they could just smother Redick outside and force him from the 3-point line, which hurt Philly’s spacing mucho. In fantasy, JJ was a top 75 player, and ended the year 52.8% owned.
He’s currently being drafted in the top 150, which is totally fine. Except he’s getting drafted before Bob Covington! Redick’s more owned than Covington, too! I don’t get it! One of these dudes starts, and the other one doesn’t! They both give you value, but Covington is 27 and JJ is 34!
Just do me a favor, okay? Think about it this way: minutes in the NBA are like water, they make the other stats grow. Without minutes, you can’t accumulate counting stats. Last season, Robert Covington played the 30th most minutes in the NBA. He played 20 fewer minutes than James Harden. JJ Redick played 400 fewer minutes than Covington. (Redick played 10 fewer games.)
Listen, man, I love Redick, he’s on my fantasy team, I support him despite his lack of a soul (Go Blue Forever). But, get real: Bob Covington’s a better fantasy player.