We are in Week 15 of the fantasy basketball season. We’re more than halfway through the NBA season, and so we have enough games to give our player rankings some actual solidity. We can now see who’s been good (fantasy-wise) and who’s been less than.
There are 71 players who are owned in at least 90% of ESPN leagues (as of January 21, 2019). 26 of those 71 players have returned value that is outside the top 5. Only 9 of them have returned value that’s outside the top 100 players. But, does that mean those 9 players are bad or busts or disappointments?
For instance, John Collins is one of those nine. He has a 97.8% ownership, but he has a 2.84 Player Rating on the season, which is outside the top 100. Collins isn’t bad or a disappointment; he just wasn’t getting as much playing time early in the season. Now, he’s established as a good player, and his ownership reflects that.
On the other hand, Hassan Whiteside and Andrew Wiggins are owned like they’re top 75 talents, but they’ve returned value outside of even the top 150! The 150th ranked player this season, E’Twaun Moore, has a PR of 1.98. Whiteside (1.93 PR) and Wiggins (1.75 PR) can’t even match that, damn. If you drafted Whiteside or Wiggins, you’re probably not that happy with your decision.
Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram, 91.5% ownership, has a PR outside of the top 200. He has a negative rating on the year, -0.54. Shelvin Mack is a Void Rider and has a PR of 0.01. Ingram has been worse. Does that mean he’s bad? No, he’s a young player who’s still finding his way, especially now that LeBron James is on his team. Ditto Lonzo Ball (who’s also now injured). Ingram’s high ownership is a reflection of his potential (again, ditto Ball), rather than the actual production. But, Ingram’s production may never match his ownership so long as he’s on the same team as Bron. We’ll see if they can mesh better when the King returns to his court from injury.
Gordon Hayward is also owned in the low 90s, and his value has been sub-par, outside of the top 100. But, that’s to be expected as he works his way back from injury. I don’t think you can call his first few months disappointing, unless you were expecting him to be an All Star upon his return (which is just silly; did you see what happened to him last year??).
There’s a corollary to these highly owned players producing stats beneath their ownership: there are lesser owned players outperforming their ownerships! Quite a few of them, too.
There are 28 players with ownership rates beneath 80% who are delivering top 100 production. Brook Lopez is the 41st best player in ESPN basic this year, and his ownership is 62.2% (111th highest). 3J—Jaren Jackson, Jr.—is currently the 50th best player on the year and he’s owned in less than 80% of leagues; JJ Redick, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Robert Covington are all top 65 players owned in less than 80% of leagues (Glovington’s ownership is 42.8%; he’s been the 65th best player this season in fantasy).
There are ten players who are owned in less than 50% of leagues and are top 100 players on the season. They are they opposite of Wiggins and Whiteside: unheralded players who provide mucho value. If these players are available in your league, you should pick them up. They perform like stars, but cost less; they can be the difference between winning your fantasy playoffs, and coming thiiiiiiiiiiis close. If only you’d had a difference maker!
Robert Covington, 42.8% owned (65th best player on the season in ESPN Basic), SF, MIN
Glovington’s been injured and who knows when he’ll be back. When he was healthy and on the court, though, he was one of the best fantasy players in the game. His line of 13+ points per game, 5+ rebounds per game, 2+ 3PM, 2+ steals per game, and 1+ block per game is unique. Only six players total are averaging 2 or more SPG. RoCo’s been an underappreciated fantasy star for two years now. He doesn’t score like a star, but he fills the stat sheet like one.
Nemanja Bjelica, 40.7% owned (74th), PF/SF, SAC
Bjelica has lost playing time recently, which is understandable for a team with so many young players. Unclear what Sacramento’s plan is going forward, but Bjelica is a useful player, and he’s only 30 years old. He hasn’t played 30 minutes for the past 8 games, but when he gets the PT, he gets the stats. Amazingly, only 14 other players can match Bjelica’s production of 10+ PPG, 5+ RPG, 2+ APG, 1+ 3PM, and 48+ FG%. That’s nice efficiency.
Danny Green, 22.9% (76th), SG/SF, TOR
Green’s got the 5th best plus-minus on the season, trailing Steph Curry (#1), Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Danny Green doesn’t score very much (10 PPG), but he makes up for it with production in the other stat cats. Along with Glovington, Bradley Definitely a Big Beal, and Uncle Marvin Williams, Danny Green is one of four players to average 10+ PPG, 4+ RPG, 1+ APG, 2+ 3PM, 0.9 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. Only 15 players in the NBA have as many total steals and blocks as Danny Green. He has the 2nd most total 3PM of those 15, behind only Brad Beal.
Joe Harris, 23.4% (81st), SG, BK
Joe Harris averaging 13+ PPG, 3+ RPG, 2+ APG this year on 50% shooting. Only 28 players in the entire NBA shoot as much as Brooklyn Joe, and as well. Joe Harris is also averaging 5+ 3-point attempts per game. Do you know who else averages 5+ 3PA and shoots 50% or better from the field? Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving. God. Damn.
Brooklyn Joe is the ONLY person in the NBA who averages 5+ 3PA per game and has a 47 3PT% or better. THE ONLY ONE. He’s been a Top 100 player on the season, he’s shooting with a superstar’s efficiency, if not a superstar’s volume of shots, and he’s 27 goddamn years old. He’s top 50 in the league in offensive rating for players who average at least 29 minutes per game this season. He’s a stud.
Al-Farouq Aminu, 36.9% (82nd), PF, POR
The Chief has arrived! I love Aminu. He and Ed Davis are my favorite rebound specialists (more so for how they play, lo siento for not being more analytic about it) because rebounds are their job, and they are daaaaamn good at their jobs. They don’t score in double digits, and Ed Davis doesn’t even average 20 minutes per game, but only 12 players average 8+ RPG and get you 1+ 3PM per game, and Al-Farouq is one of them. If your fantasy team needs boards, pick up Aminu and stream Ed Davis. Their rebounds are about as guaranteed as you can get in fantasy hoops. Aminu has more total rebounds than Marc Gasol, and Davis has more total rebounds than his teammate Jarrett Allen (and Allen’s played 400 more minutes). Both Davis and Aminu are top 25 in total rebounds on the season.
Marcus Smart, 20.6% (87th), SG/PG, BOS
Smart has the 5th most steals in the NBA. That alone is worthy of a roster spot, but consider this: out of all the NBA players who average at least 4 APG, 2 RPG, and 1 3PM, only 10 also average more than 1.5 steals per game - Smart, Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, Victor Oladipo, Kyrie Irving, De’Aaron Fox, James Harden, CP3, PG-13, and Sergeant Westbrook. Marcus Smart isn’t asked to score, but he does everything else you’d expect from an elite point guard. He’s only 24, he’s having his best shooting year ever (both from the field and from three), there’s no reason to think his shooting won’t continue to improve, and he’s on a super affordable contract. What an absolute, ahem, steal for Boston (I’m sorry).
Trevor Ariza, 44.7% (91st), SF, WAS
Ariza’s line of 11/5/3 with a steal and two 3PM per game is, how you say, pretty gosh darn frakking valuable. That line can only be matched by 8 other players in the NBA. Eight. He’s averaging nearly 8 3PA per game with Washington. The Wizards are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and they’re only 2 games out the 8 seed. This is not looking bueno for our beloved Dr. John Wall. If the Wizards make the playoffs without him (they’re definitely playing better without him), then what do you do?
Terrence Ross, 22.4% (94th), SF/SG, ORL
TRoss should be one of the players moved at the deadline, along with Wayne Ellington (they both average 6 3PA per game), except it seems like both the Florida teams are maybe gonna keep their shooters for playoff runs? Anyway, Ross is tied with Klay Thompson for 12th in 3PT% for volume three-point shooters. If you need 3PM, Ross is your man.
Larry Nance, Jr., 29.8% (95th), PF/C, CLE
Nance has an injured MCL, so he’ll be out for awhile (who knows how long, since the Cavs are tanking). If he comes back and plays healthy, he’s a good/young front court player for your fantasy team. As we’ve mentioned in this space before, only around 50 NBA players average 7+ RPG. Of those, only 5 average fewer than 10 PPG: Aminu, Nance, Noah Vonleh (below), Draymond Green, and Ed Davis. Nance, like Draymond, also provides some assists (3 APG vs. 7 APG, but still, more assists than the others).
Noah Vonleh, 43.1% (98th), PF/C, NYK
Vonleh is also averaging nearly a block and a steal per game. The Knicks are a tough team to predict right now with their rotation and minutes, but Vonleh has been playing well and should be given a long leash after the trade deadline. Like Nance and Aminu, Vonleh has been a great fantasy player to have: solid totals and he probably didn’t cost you too much.