Ringing In 2016 With Bold Fantasy Basketball Predictions
Author’s Note: Even if I win the $450 million Powerball, I intend to keep writing here. As for what I’d do with the money, I’m guessing that a KISS concert at Scott Engel’s home for his birthday would go a long way. It would also mean one hell of a Fantasy Football draft party in Vegas for the staff along with fulfilling my dreams of going to the Grey Cup this November. BCW
Weee! Congrats, everyone. We made it through the holidays, which means a full-blown ban on turkey, stuffing and copious amounts of champagne until mid-November. In my neck of the woods, it also means a temporary hold on my brother-in-law’s belief that Kobe Bryant is one of the top five players in NBA history, and my youngest nephew going bombs away with Rockets on NBA 2K16.
We are also deluged with the New Year’s Day promises our friends pronounce on social media: “I’m going to run more.”
“This is the year I get the raise I deserve.”
“My dream partner will arrive.”
“Why the hell did I reach for Marcus Morris in the sixth round?”
(the latter was my ill-fated decision)
After consulting my brain trust (a Magic 8-ball, a cortisone shot in the shoulder and a bottle of lime Perrier), there are a handful of scenarios that I envision between now and the end of Fantasy Basketball season, each of which will greatly impact the landscape, so don’t hold your breath expecting me to proclaim that the recent spurt of good play from Jeff Withey will lead the Jazz to put Rudy Gobert on the trading block once Gobert returns later this month.
*Dwight Howard will not end the season with The Rockets
[caption id="attachment_102941" align="alignright" width="500"] Dwight Howard will be the odd man out because his numbers aren't worth his salary. Photo Credit: Sports Rageous[/caption]
D12 snatches rebounds (11.7 per game) and redirects shots (1.6 per night) at an All-Star level, yet Howard hasn’t accepted the fact he’s the sidekick to James Harden. The Rockets are 17-19 entering Wednesday; as last year’s Western Conference finalists have cratered defensively. Houston is 28th in opponents’ field goal percentage and turnovers, while also ranking 26th in scoring defense and total rebounds allowed. Howard averages just 8.4 field goal attempts per game, his lowest total since his 2004-05 rookie season, and his 13.9 points per game is also the least Howard has tallied since breaking into the Association.
Howard holds a $22.2 million player option for next season, and while his 19.3 PER is solid, the Rockets have Clint Capela waiting to break out. Capela’s 19.2 PER, combined with the fact he’s nine years younger and more than $20 million cheaper than Howard, is a sign that the Rockets could hitch their wagon to Capela if they continue to underachieve as the trade deadline approaches. The Knicks have been linked as a possible landing point, and if Howard does go to MSG, he would see an uptick in shots, as Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis would also thrive with Howard doing the dirty work in the paint. Capela is ranked among my Top 250, and while he’s currently more valuable in deeper leagues, a trade of Howard would vault him higher. Capela averages 17.9 points, 16.3 rebounds and three blocks per 100 possessions, numbers that would make him a stat-stuffing beast if he became a full-time starter.
*Devin Booker will become the best Fantasy player on the Suns
The loss of Eric Bledsoe (knee) for the season swung the door wide open for the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft to become more than just a three-point specialist. Booker has played at least 24 minutes in four of his last six games, while scoring in double figures in five of the last six. His ownership has surged over the past week, as Booker is possessed in 27 percent of standard leagues.
Booker is an ideal fit for the Suns’ up-tempo attack, as his shooting is complimented by flashes of his ability to both dish and swipe the ball. Currently mired in a nine-game losing streak that made them 12-24 entering Wednesday, the Suns are on the fast track toward another mid-May date in New Jersey with Heather Cox, and with Bledsoe’s team-best 20.8 PER wearing street clothes, the void is there for Booker (currently with a 12.1 PER) to seize the opportunity many didn’t expect would arrive this season. If there’s room on your roster, Booker is a pickup currently on the ground floor toward a huge second half. I think Booker could be a Top 100 pick next season and will become a high-end Fantasy producer.
*Enes Kanter could be the Sixth Man of the Year
Yes, that Enes Kanter, the one we’ve filleted on this site more than once this season. Kanter’s lack of defense was supposed to make him a liability, yet Kanter is 12th in PER with a mark of 24.0. He’s yet to start a game and averages just over 20 minutes a night, but Kanter racks up 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per night for a Thunder team that lurks behind the Warriors and Spurs in the Western Conference. A tepid start to the new year has curtailed a strong December in which Kanter had four double-doubles in a six-game stretch and followed with 21 and 23-point outings. However, even with his lack of defensive presence (0.1 steals, 0.5 blocks per game), Kanter’s PER is better than the likes of fellow centers Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins and the ageless Pau Gasol.
If you can live with the fact Kanter plays defense the way Donald Trump avoids Twitter, he’s a good player to go after, as the Thunder have learned how to use Kanter and Stephen Adams effectively. There’s a sense of sell-high with him as well, but his value would rise if Kanter remembers he’s a seven-footer on the defensive end.
*It is what it is with Jabari Parker (at least for now)
I’m not going to bash Parker too much. After all, he’s coming off a serious knee injury and has just 57 games under his belt. That said, a separation from what we once hoped for Parker and what he currently provides is in order. Parker is averaging just 10.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, and his other numbers (1.2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks) aren’t a harbinger of better things to come.
The Bucks’ roster is the Island of Misfit Talents. Between Parker, Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, John Henson, etc., the level of agony that comes with owning a Bucks player on your Fantasy roster is almost as bad as it was trying to choose whether Gio Bernard or Jeremy Hill was the better Bengals RB play during this past Fantasy Football season. Heaven forbid if Milwaukee’s roster puts it together in a year or two, a la the Warriors, but for now, Parker is nothing more than a modest scoring option.
*Change has come
Don’t buy it? Look at the Top 25 Fantasy players, where the likes of Kemba Walker (14th overall), Whiteside (17th), the currently injured Derrick Favors (22nd) and Isaiah Thomas (23rd) have overplayed their average draft value en route to becoming must-start assets. Bledsoe was 19th before his knee checked out last week. Look closer to the top, where Draymond Green is now 10th, due in part to the barrage of triple-doubles he’s delivered. Did anyone back in late October have Kyle Lowry as the seventh-best player in Fantasy hoops? How about Pau Gasol, who we considered a bust in our Fantasy Basketball preview, ranked 11th?
I like the chances of each of the aforementioned players being able to maintain their status the rest of the year, with Green being the most intriguing. He can ease his way inside the Top 10, most likely in the 6-10 range, as the Top 5 (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis) appear locked, with Harden another stretch of being Houston’s One Man Gang (underrated 80s wrestler. Loved him in the Mid-South area before Vince McMahon killed his career with the Akeem the African Dream storyline. Seriously, I could write a column on the number of talents Vinny Mac busted a slug into) from cracking into the Top 5.
*The iPad Air 2 rocks
If you own one, you know what I’m talking about. Between that and an iPhone, I didn’t sell out. I just bought in. And it feels good.
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