There is a list. A list of some of the best players in the NBA after 3+ months of the season, and over half the games played. This list has 21 players on it. Here’s that list, along with the players’ age and their ESPN ownership percentages:
- LeBron James, 35 years old, 100% owned
- Chris Paul, 34 years old, 99% owned
- Danilo Gallinari, 31, 96%
- Kevin Love, 31, 99%
- James Harden, 30, 100%
- Marcus Morris, 30, 79%
- Gordon Hayward, 29, 97%
- Nikola Vucevic, 29, 99%
- Will Barton, 29, 87%
- Kawhi Leonard, 28, 100%
- Kyrie Irving, 27, 99%
- Tobias Harris, 27, 99%
- Pascal Siakam, 25, 100%
- Karl-Anthony Towns, 24, 100%
- Jaylen Brown, 23, 98%
- Brandon Ingram, 22, 99%
- John Collins, 22, 99%
- Jayson Tatum, 21, 99%
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 21, 98%
- Miles Bridges, 21, 55%
- PJ Washington, 21, 37%
All of those players (save Kyrie due to games lost to injury) are top 125 players on the season.
All of the players on that list average at least 30 minutes per game, take at least 9 shots, shoot at least 43% from the floor, grab at least 5 boards, take 3+ three point attempts, and make those threes at a 34+% rate. In other words, they play a lot and they use their playing time well.
This brings me to the two young Charlotte Hornets: PJ Washington and Miles Bridges. They are the only two players on that list of 21 who are under 80% owned. And, 70% owned. And, 60% owned. Jeremy Lamb is owned more than PJ Washington and Miles Bridges. Lamb is averaging 13 and 4, but he’s also probably due to lose minutes because VICTOR OLADIPO is back, so his ownership will probably go down with his minutes and shots. Meanwhile, both Washington and Bridges are playing over 30 minutes a game and are scoring 12+ PPG and grabbing 5+ RPG. They’re both 21 years old, one is a rookie and one is a sophomore, and they’re both producing at rates that are floor-level-similar to some of the most elite fantasy players. Just imagine what they’ll be doing when they’ve played in at least three seasons.
They also have busy hands. Washington has 38 total steals this year, along with 36 blocks, with 59 total three-pointers made shooting 40%. Miles has 27 steals, 35 blocks, and 67 3PM shooting 34%. Only 10 players in the NBA have at least 20 steals, 35 blocks, 50 3PM, and shooting at least 34% from three.
Now, of course, you could counter and say that hey, totals are dependent on games played, and not everyone has played the same amount of games, so these numbers are skewed. That’s fair, but in my defense: we’re over 3 months into the season, and over halfway through the games. Totals are indicative at this point, at least for players who’ve been in a majority of games.
Washington and Bridges aren’t giving you sexy scoring stats, but what they are doing is showcasing their sky high floors. If the youngest/worst version of yourself is already on those lists of great fantasy players, then you’re doing it right. Even if you want to be conservative, and say that neither Washington or Bridges is wow-ing you in true shooting percentage, they’re still just 21 years old! Why in the world wouldn’t they improve with more reps and more experience?
Do yourself a favor and watch a Charlotte game or two. They’re fun! Devonte’ Graham is delightful, Terry Rozier is no longer scary (in the bad way), Cody Zeller is hysterical, and god damn, watching PJ and Miles together is a treat. I think about their future together in the same way I used to think of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum: they could be a special duo.
With just a little bit of improvement in Bridges’ outside shooting, and PJ’s drives, and their court vision, these two young guns could turn into lethal basketball players. Almost all players improve with age and reps. These two are starting from a good foundation already. Who knows how much better they can get.