Fantasy Basketball Offseason Analysis: NBA Playoff Performers to Watch
Every offseason, Fantasy Basketball owners are on the lookout for potential breakout players. Like clockwork, a few players each season play themselves into Fantasy relevance. Whether it is by individual development, injury woes, or new rotations, these budding players are given the opportunity to make a significant impact on their teams. As these guys climb their way up the depth charts, owners must decide whether or not these players are ready to produce over the long haul. Let’s take a look at some notable performers on playoff teams that are poised to increase their Fantasy stock for next season.
Butler was able to crack Tom Thibodeau’s rotation in mid-January, and has been able to impress Thibs and the coaching staff enough to earn a starting spot during the playoffs. Initially, Butler served as the replacement off the bench for Chicago when the likes of Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, and Taj Gibson went down with injuries. But Jimmy has been able to step into these roles without a hitch, proving that he can hit the three-pointer, pass well from all areas of the floor, and consistently finish at the rim. Most importantly for Thibodeau, however, is that Butler has become another Bulls lockdown defender, averaging 1.7 steals in April. With added playing time and an expanded role, Butler has been able to improve his scoring, rebounding, and assist averages from January to April. A player like Blazers guard Wesley Matthews had similar season averages to Butler’s strong April finish. Butler ended April averaging 14.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 1.4 three-pointers per game. Matthews’ season averages of 14.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.4 three-pointers garnered him an Average Draft Position of 74.3 in ESPN leagues. As the Bulls’ roster continues to age, Butler should see plenty of run in the coming season. With the potential for averaging 1 steal/1 block/1 three-pointer, a versatile player like Butler can put your Fantasy squad over the hump.
While Bledsoe’s 2012-2013 production did not warrant much attention in standard 10-team leagues, he has been a main catalyst for a Clippers second unit that has given opponents fits all season long. After all, there must be a good reason why multiple teams were jockeying for position to snag him at the trade deadline. When Chris Paul went down with a knee injury from late January to early February, Bledsoe took over point guard duties and averaged 15 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.4 SPG. Shooting just 40% from the floor during that stretch. His biggest issue seems to be finding consistency in shot location. His average from the charity stripe of 80.5% shows that he possesses the mechanics to shoot well. Largely regarded as one of the most athletic players in the league, even Bledsoe’s current teammates know he won’t be carrying a second unit for much longer. While he is still under contract for next season, Chris Paul believes he deserves a starting job, stating “He should be a starting point guard in this league next year.” Given his limited sample size in a starting role, it will not be easy to anticipate a season-long impact. But when comparing his starting averages to those of Raymond Felton’s season averages, Fantasy owners should push Bledsoe up their draft boards for the next season. Felton’s averages of 13.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.5 APG, and 1.4 SPG are all sub-par compared to those of Bledsoe. His ability to block shots and rebound well as a point guard should have owners considering him in the mid-to-late rounds.
Green’s Fantasy production for the upcoming 2013-2014 season hinges solely on the futures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Expectedly, both aging veterans have high usage rates, allowing Green fewer opportunities to take advantage of his athleticism with the ball in his hands. Given Green’s new contract with the Celtics, it is easy to see that both Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers feel Green and Rajon Rondo are the cornerstone pieces for years to come. The potential retirements of Garnett and Pierce leave the door open for a Rondo-Green one-two punch. Just one year removed from open-heart surgery, Green had been working his way back into game shape to begin the season. Now, Green has been able to find his own niche. During a 13-game stretch from March to early April, he averaged 20.7 PPG while shooting close to 50% from the field including a 43-point performance against the Miami Heat. At 6 feet , 9 inches tall, Green has shown the ability to rebound and block some shots. Over the last month and a half of the regular season, he hit the five-rebound mark 14 times. Great shooting percentages, coupled with the potential as a 1 steal/1 three-pointer player, should cause Green’s Average Draft Position to skyrocket next season. It would not be surprising for him to be taken as a Top 5 small forward.
Teague was pegged as a breakout candidate prior to the 2012-2013 season. After proving he can shoulder the load of season-long point guard duties, he is ready to be taken off the board as a top playmaker for years to come. After being drafted at 83 overall, Teague finished this season 32nd overall on ESPN’s Player Rater. He has increased his scoring average to 14.6 PPG, up two whole points from last year’s average. His number of assists has also risen from 4.9 to 7.2 APG, granting him a spot in the top-12 for assist average. While his offensive production has steadily increased, he has proven that he is a lock for 1 steal/1 three-pointer per game. His raw offensive numbers are sure to increase as Atlanta steadies their roster over the coming years. The one question mark remains Josh Smith and where he may land next season. If Smith does in fact leave Atlanta, the Hawks will surely be in the market for another playmaker to help boost the league’s 17th most efficient offense. If Atlanta can add a few more offensive weapons, Teague will play himself into the top echelon of point guards. With percentages of 45.1% from the floor and 88.1% from the line, the sky is the limit for the Hawks rising star.
Parsons will never find himself on top plays on a regular basis. While he likely won’t be the player to get fans jumping out of their seats, he gladly accepts the role as Houston’s ultimate glue guy. As one of the many young players on the Rockets roster, Parsons possesses a skill set that fits very well with Coach Kevin McHale’s style of play, and his growing numbers should prove that he will continue to thrive in the system. Parsons was left on the waiver wire of virtually every standard 10-team league, but was quickly picked up after showing glimpses of his potential. The Rockets are a very young team at an average age of around 24 years old. Consequently, McHale employs a run-and-gun style of offense that suits his athletic roster. Houston attempted the most three-point field goals during this season at about 29 per game. Parsons contributed two three-pointers per game this year on 38.5% shooting from beyond the arc. While LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Paul George are seen as the ultimate stat-stuffers, Parsons can be viewed as a second or third tier stat-stuffer. His averages of 15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 1 steal per game are as good, if not better than those of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, a glue-guy in his own right, had created some buzz prior to this past season. He was being drafted at an average slot of 105 in ESPN standard leagues and finished the year at 45 overall. Parsons, last season’s waiver wire gold chip, finished two spots ahead of him.