We’re nearly halfway through the fantasy basketball season, and peeps are now familiar with the player landscape. We all have our opinions on who’s a keeper, who’s rosterable for this season, who’s a streamer, who’s a flier, who’s a DL stash, and who’s a rookie you just don’t want to drop (Hi, Elie Okobo! Please become amazing so I can look like a genius!).
The standings in the NBA are...well, they’re not actually becoming clearer, so much as getting less muddy. We know who sucks: Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, both NYC teams, Cleveland, AND THE PISTONS FOR PISSING THAT GAME AGAINST CHARLOTTE AWAY. LOUD, LOUD SIGH! FOLLOWED BY EVEN LOUDER GROWN-MAN-WEEPING!
Anyway, the population of players who are useful in fantasy basketball has been identified...or so we thought, dun-dun-DUNNNN! Let’s take a look around the league and see if we can discover useful players based on their recent production. We’ll restrict ourselves to players who are owned in less than 60% of leagues. The object of the exercise is to find unheralded and under-owned players, so we’ll pay attention only to the top 50 in each stat cat, and we’ll start with Minutes Per Game, since minutes in fantasy basketball are like water: they let everything else grow.
There are 12 players who have been Top 50 in at least three different categories over the past 30 days (including on the Player Rater). Some of these names may surprise you, but others have been frequent names on lists of valuable/available players in fantasy basketball. I’ll list them from most to least owned.
(All stats are as of 12/11/18, courtesy of ESPN.com, NBA.com, and Basketball-Reference.com)
1. Derrick Rose (59.5% owned)
DRose has been Top 50 in Assists per game, Field Goal Attempts per game, and 3 Pointers Made (total) over the past 30 days. If you need help at the point, look no further. He’s averaging 18 PPG over the past 30 with a 53 FG%. Fantasy owners might be skittish because of DRose’s injury past, and the consistent weirdness of the Minnesota TimberKATs, but you can’t argue with the maths: he’s top 50 in shot attempts per game, and he’s hitting shots at better than 50%. If that isn’t helpful to you, then you’re not playing fantasy basketball, you’re playing some strange fantasy game that doesn’t care about usage or efficiency or volume.
2. Jeremy Lamb (58.9% owned)
Lamb is averaging 17 PPG and 6 RPG over the past 30 days, along with 1+ 3PM and 1+ SPG. On the season, only 9 players can meet that line: Durant, LeBron, Kawhi, Paul George, Sergeant Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic. Lamb isn’t at the level of those elite players, but he’s been daaaaaamn good in fantasy, and he comes much, much cheaper than those 9 guys. Lamb is just 26 years old, though, and he’s improved in his four years in Charlotte. If he can keep this up for the rest of the season, then Lamb’s ADP of 119+ this season will look way, way, way too late. He’s currently got the best true shooting percentage of his career: could we be watching a, quote-unquote, breakout year from Lamb? For Charlotte fans, a trio of Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, and Miles Bridges seems like a fairly solid foundation to build upon. Over the past 30 days, Lamb is top 50 in points per game, steals per game (niiiiice), and he’s been a top 50 player. His ownership has actually decreased lately, so maybe zig while the rest of the fantasy world is zagging, and get yourself a valuable (and, young) asset.
3. Josh Richardson (56.7%)
JRich is top 50 in MPG, FGA, and total 3PM over the past 30 days. I know, I know: the Heat are irritating. Who’s playing when? Who do they actually want to keep on the team? What the hell is going on with Dwyane Wade who’s been more Flash than Flashes recently? But, again, don’t argue with the maths: JRich gets minutes and he gets shots. He’s been injured recently, but who cares, he’s still been good in fantasy despite some poor shooting games. He’s also 25 years old and is eligible at both SG and SF.
4. Malcolm Brogdon (55%)
Brogdon’s been top 50 in total 3PM over the past month, and he’s been a Top 50 overall player on the season, AND over the past 30 days. He doesn’t get as much press as some of the other players on Milwaukee, but that doesn’t mean he ain’t good: he’s the only Buck who’s shooting over 40% from long range (and, the Bucks are one of only two teams, along with the overrated Houston Rockets, who average more than 40 3PA per game).
5. Collin Sexton (52.8%)
So, this is a good fantasy player on a bad real life team. Sexton is Cleveland’s rookie and he’s playing like a rookie. But! Because the Cavs suck, their rook is getting lots of minutes and lots of shots. He’s top 50 in MPG, FGA per game, and PPG over the past 30 days. There have been discussions on Sexton vs Trae Young in fantasy circles (also, IRL), and I’d have to lean towards Sexton so far. Sexton’s basically averaging 16-3-3 on the year, which is similar to Jamal Murray’s line last year. Not a bad way to begin one’s NBA career. Sexton’s ownership is out of the top 100, and he’s followed by JRich (hi again!) and, lol, Kevin Knox. Knicks fans, you are absolutely adorable! More people own Kevin Knox than own Robert Covington. Maybe they think that Fort Knox actually belongs to Kevin’s family?
6. Joe Ingles (45%)
Ingles is top 50 in APG and SPG, something only 22 players can say. He’s also been top 50 in total 3PM, and he’s been a top 50 player overall over the past month. His line of 10+ PPG, 3+ RPG, 4+ APG, and 1.5+ SPG can only be matched by 10 other players in the NBA on the season. That’s a helluva high floor for fantasy. While he doesn’t get you as many points as those other elite players, he provides a solid foundation for success in fantasy, AND he’s eligible at both SG and SF. His ADP was 120+, meaning that he’s been giving you elite production from a 10th round pick. It seems like Kyle Korver’s arrival in Utah has benefited Ingles, and he might just end the year as a top 50 player if he can get his points up (his 3PT% is down six points from his average the past two years), then his ownership will follow suit. Grab him while you can.
7. Robert Covington (44%)
We mention Big Bob Covington a lot in this space. Simply put, he’s one of the best players in fantasy basketball. He’s a top 50 fantasy player and is owned in less than 50% of leagues. Over the past 30 days, he’s been top 50 in minutes, steals, blocks, and total 3PM. He’s averaged 14+ PPG, 6+ RPG, and 2+ 3PM per game over the past 30 days, which puts him in elite company: only 9 players in the NBA can say the same, and only PG13 posts similar defensive numbers. NO ONE ELSE IN THE NBA is averaging 2+ SPG and 1+ BPG. NO ONE.
8. JJ Redick (37.6%)
Redick’s ownership is baffling. He shoots a lot, he scores a lot, and he makes a ton of threes (all top 50 over the past month). Like, what else do you need as a fantasy owner? Do points not count in your league? I understand that Embiid, Simmons, and Butler are the bigger names in Philly, but we’re playing FANTASY basketball, and the only thing that matters to us are the numbers. JJ’s situation is almost perfect for him: hardly anyone on Philadelphia can shoot, so his attempts (along with his minutes and PPG) are all career highs, or near enough to make no nevermind. You could argue that he’s having his best season (and, that his 3PT% is low for his standards). The shooting on Philly isn’t going to improve anytime soon, even if they make a trade (Butler, Simmons, and Embiid aren’t getting traded), so JJ’s position as a high volume shooter should maintain. His ownership is down, which makes me think that a bunch of owners are streaming him, rather than keeping him on their rosters. Let me make this crystal clear: HE IS A GUY YOU WANT ON YOUR FANTASY ROSTER. DON’T OVERTHINK IT. VOLUME IS VOLUME.
9. JaVale McGee (26.1%)
Ah, JaVale. He’s a top 50 player on the year, a top 50 player over the past month, and his ownership continues to decline. Why? Because people don’t want to roster a Blocks specialist. (He’s top 50 in BPG, duh.) I savvy, but...the dude’s a top player in fantasy, and I don’t think we should discriminate against good players just because they don’t score as many points as we’d like them to. JaVale does his job, and he does it damn well. Tyson Chandler’s arrival bit into his minutes, but perhaps not his opportunities (Chandler doesn’t score AT ALL). Regardless, if someone drops JaVale in your league, you should scoop him and enjoy the elite-elite production.
10. Bojan Bogdanovic (22.6%)
Hell yeah, I love Bojan! This guy’s been useful everywhere he’s played, and he’s currently top 50 in MPG, PPG, and total 3PM over the past month (as well as being a top 50 player overall). He’s helped keep the Pacers afloat as they did without ‘Dipo’s presence (Oladipo missed 11 games), and he’s looking like the scorer that this space hoped would Indiana would acquire earlier in the season (I still think they could take a shot on Melo, but whatever). Bojan’s averaging 19+ PPG over the past 30: that’s more than Collin Sexton, more than Danilo Cincinnatus Gallinari, more than Buddy Hield, Eric Bledsoe, JJ REDICK!, DRose, Lamb, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Ben Simmons, Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, etc., etc., etc. Dude’s a scorer, and nobody owns him. Please do your part to solve that, and pick Bojan up.
11. Justin Holiday (10.7%)
We now arrive at the SUPREMELY AVAILABLE AND VALUABLE portion. Justin Holiday has been completely dismissed by fantasy players, and I don’t really blame them. He wasn’t considered good, and people assumed he’d fade into the background of this Bulls team as soon as players came back from injury. Well, wrong.
Holiday’s been a top 50 player on the season, and he’s maintained it over the past month. He’s top 50 in MPG, SPG, and total 3PM, and he’s owned less than Zach Randolph, who no longer plays basketball. Justin Holiday is owned less than CARMELO ANTHONY.
Holiday may see his minutes go down now that Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis are healthy, but that just demonstrates Chicago’s lack of brainpower. Holiday, who’s having his best shooting season ever, has been great on the wing, and would totally be useful to other NBA teams. If Chicago cuts his minutes or, Jesus wept, actually benches him in favor of other players, then the Bulls are exactly who we thought they were: morons who don’t understand what they’re doing. They draft well, but goddamn, that team is dumber than people who think that Putin is a good person. (Doesn’t anyone remember the KGB?)
If Holiday starts seeing less minutes, it’ll be a real shame, and yet totally predictable. Regardless, he still holds immense value as a guy who can play SG/SF, and get you elite counting stats. He costs nothing. So, what’s holding you back from picking him up and at least rolling with him until the foolish Bulls Trifecta of Stupid decide to bench a tradeable asset in favor of bad players who aren’t going anywhere, anyway?
Speaking of not going anywhere: Houston needs a wing who can shoot the ball better than my dead grandmother. Enter Justin Holiday’s extremely affordable one-year contract, and his 38 3PT% on 7+ 3PA per game, which would make him Houston’s, huh, second best three point shooter. By the way: a trade of Melo and Brandon Knight for Robin Lopez (one year deal) and Holiday (one year deal) works, salary-wise. Houston gets a competent backup Center and a wing who can actually shoot threes, while Chicago gets a reclamation project in Knight, and probably a first round draft pick. Chicago needs assets, and Houston needs a wing. Who says no?
12. Juancho Hernangomez (1.9%)
And, here’s the gold! Less than 2% owned! Did you know that Juancho has been top 50 in MPG over the past month? Did you know that he’s also been top 50 in Rebounds per game AND in total 3 pointers made??
Juancho is trynna pull up the slack while Denver goes through an excruciating run of bad luck with injuries: Will Barton, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, all injured! Damn! If this keeps up, then the Nuggets may have to proclaim a mulligan on the season, and try again next year when everyone no longer has scurvy. And, yet, somehow, SOME WAY, the Nuggies are in first place in the Western Conference. Mulligan, please meet my ass.
So long as this kid (he’s 23, he’s 6’9”, he’s shooting 49% from the field and 44% from three; I, for one, welcome our new Spanish overlord!) keeps up this impressive run, then Denver will be just fine. How do I know this? Because Juancho’s line over the past month of 12+ PPG, 7+ RPG, and 2+ 3PM per game is only matched on the season by LeBron, Blake Griffin, PG13, and Mirotic, and Juancho’s got a better 3PT% than any of them. That suggests that he won’t maintain his elite ratios, but WHO CARES, HE’S UNDER 5% OWNED, HE COSTS YOU NOTHING, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE GO GET HIM!
Here are 7 players who have all been in the top 50 in TWO stat cats over the past 30 days and should be avails:
- Jaren Jackson, Jr.: top 50 player over the past month, top 50 BPG (41.2% ownership)
- Kent Bazemore: top 50 in SPG and top 50 in BPG (hello, useful player on a bad team, calling all fantasy owners!) (6.3% ownership)
- Kyle “SloMo” Anderson: top 50 MPG, top 50 BPG (38.1% ownership)
- Montrezl “Why is my ownership going down?” Harrell: top 50 RPG, top 50 BPG (51.7%)
- Spencer “INCREDIBLY TRADEABLE CONTRACT” Dinwiddie: top 50 APG, top 50 PPG
- Trevor Ariza: top 50 MPG, top 50 SPG (30.8%)
- Wayne Ellington: top 50 SPG, top 50 total 3PM (0.1%)