Big Men Becoming More Prevalent in Fantasy Basketball
Big Men Returning to the Top of the Rankings
“Small ball” has been trending in the NBA and Fantasy Basketball ever since the Golden State Warriors made it famous in their historical run in 2015-2016 season. The Warriors, led by Steph Curry, won 73 games with lineups smaller than the league has ever seen execute all the way to an NBA Championship. In that year, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Curry finished in the Top 3 in Fantasy points with Lebron James finishing fourth by a wide margin. The following year the same three guards would finish as the three-best players in Fantasy Basketball, but Karl Anthony-Towns, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, and James all finished within 300 points of Curry for third in Fantasy points (4,030) for the 2016-17 season.
James is currently the leader in Fantasy points in Yahoo standard leagues. Harden and Westbrook are two and three in that category respectively. But, the rest of the Top 10 players are 6’9” and above. This statistic matches up with the influx of talented big men that have emerged as All-Stars like the ones listed above, and NBA teams are starting to deviate towards more traditional lineups.
This trend is only going to continue now that guys like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Nikola Jokic are becoming focal points of their teams and, subsequently, changing the landscape of Fantasy Basketball. While Big Men are climbing the Fantasy leaderboards, they become more valuable to Fantasy lineups, but also more common. With centers like Clint Capela and Steven Adams able to provide Fantasy owners with 30/35-plus point efforts on a nightly basis, the big man is back in Fantasy Basketball.
The game has not seen a big man put up as dominant a month as Anthony Davis’s month of February since Shaquille O’Neal. Davis is averaging 35 points and 13 rebounds per game to go along with 2.2 Blocks and 2.2 Steals per contest. In 1999-00 Shaq averaged 35 and 13 in the month of April during his MVP Season when he led the Lakers to 67 Wins and the NBA Championship. Since then no player has been able to achieve those numbers. In February, Davis averaged 64.5 Fantasy Points Per Game which led all players in the category. However, Davis’s shot selection does not end 15-feet away from the basketball hoop like the bruising O’Neal. AD is 41 of 119 from beyond the arc which translates to an impressive 34.5 percent. Davis is also using his mid-range game as a source for buckets, as he has made 103 of 270 shots from outside the paint. He has the ability to score off the dribble as well, which makes him even more valuable to Fantasy teams. If Davis continues this kind of effort for the rest of the season, he will finish in the Top 3 in Fantasy points, which should raise the eyebrows of Fantasy owners in redraft leagues for next season.
Nemanja Bjelica just pulled down his shorts -- DURING A GAME. 😂 pic.twitter.com/cPdFzY8aga
— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) March 3, 2018
The way Davis is playing, Daily Fantasy players cannot afford to not have him in lineups regardless of his cost. That being said, he costs you a pretty penny on FanDuel at $12,500. His $11,700 on DraftKings is more reasonable and should not scare DFS players away. Russell Westbrook is $11,800 on DraftKings and he has the same “boom” potential as a DFS play but is averaging 51.9 FPPG over the last 30 days. While Westbrook fills up the stat sheet, he is averaging just 22 PPG, which is down from his season average of 25. Davis’s scoring efficiency combined with his otherworldly rebounding numbers in recent weeks make him a must-play.
The “Greek Freak” is actually third thus far in the 2017-2018 campaign, besting AD slightly with 2,983.9 Fantasy points. While Davis is setting the new standard for bigs in the NBA and in Fantasy, Giannis enters a realm that only Lebron James has displayed in recent history. Like James, Antetokounmpo is a triple double threat every night as he is averaging 27.2 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 4.9 APG. He is working on his mid-range game, shooting 40 percent from outside the paint, but he makes his money taking it to the basket as his ball-handling is superior to most players that are listed at 6’11.” Giannis has 543 two-point field goals which is the most in the league this season.
Consider his $10,100 price point a value on DraftKings. While Davis cannot be passed up, if Antetokounmpo plays while coming off an eye injury and a poor performance against Detroit (only 13.6 Fantasy points in only 30 minutes after exiting the game), he will likely be less-owned than usual. His numbers have been down over the past two weeks; he’s averaged 45.7 FPPG while his season average is 52.3. If he does play through the eye injury, Antetokounmpo's cost and low ownership (he is currently listed as probable) should be taken advantage of depending on the nightly landscape in DFS.
Another triple-double threat, Jokic had four in February, including three games in a row. Currently 19th on the season in Fantasy points, “The Joker” has averaged 51.7 FPPG in the last 30 days, good enough for fifth in the league during that stretch. The third-year forward/center is now coming into his own and averaging 31 minutes per game, 17 PPG, 10 RPG, and six APG this season. Jokic possesses Top-15 talent in Fantasy and should be on Fantasy Basketball owners’ radar going into next season as a first round pick.
Jokic’s DFS price on FanDuel is $9,600, making him a value at that price point. His schedule for the beginning of March is promising as he plays the Grizzlies, the Cavs (twice), Mavericks, Lakers, and Kings in the next two weeks. Jokic’s price point can be combined with another splash play on a nightly basis making Jokic an enticing choice for Daily Fantasy players.
Embiid leads all bigs in Usage Rate at 33.2 percent. While he has only played a total of 49 games (while some players have played as most as 65 so far), the seven-footer from Cameroon is 20th in Fantasy points. In recent weeks, Embiid has been playing more often, including in back-to-back scenarios. Embiid is averaging 45.7 FPPG, ninth-best in the league and about two points ahead of Karl Anthony-Towns who is sixth in total Fantasy points. Embiid has made his mid-range game a patent part of his execution on offense. The 76ers have played to the big man’s strength and run a lot of offense from the high-post through Embiid, which speaks to his high UR. Embiid has made 97 of 215 shots from outside the paint (40.1 percent) and 52 of 165 (.315 percent) from three-point land. The volume of shots when he does play along with his rebounding (11 per contest) and defensive presence (ninth in total blocks with 87) make him a polarizing figure in Fantasy. If he continues to show this kind of production while logging more games played, Embiid will undoubtedly have Top 10 potential next season.
The Rise of the Big Man Cont.
With players like Embiid, AD, KAT, and others who can fill up the stat sheet, knock down three-pointers, and play a ball-handling role for their respective offenses, the big man is becoming more prevalent than in years past. Guys like Nikola Jokic and Clint Capela are working their way up to this tier, which could potentially see up to 15 players over 6’8” among the Top-20 in Fantasy points by the end of next season. While the point guard is still an asset, more teams are running their offense in a more traditional style, and big men continue to produce huge outputs in a variety of statistical categories, the forward and center position could be more prevalent than ever in Fantasy Basketball very soon.
Anthony Davis Photo Credit: AP Photo/Veronica Dominach
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