January 10, 2019, 1:03 pm
Hey Hoop-Ballers! Welcome back to a very special dynasty edition of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners.
This week we will be mixing things up a bit and not be looking at short-term or rest-of-season value, but dusting off our crystal balls and looking a year into the future. If you will quickly indulge me in a moment of shameless self-promotion… Some of you probably already know, but I put out dynasty rankings (big update to those incoming) and associated dynasty focused content here Hoop-Ball.
It truly is a passion of mine, and participating in a number of 30-team and 20-team dynasty leagues is actually what got me into deep league redraft fantasy leagues to begin with. I love looking beyond the fantasy hoops stalwarts to see who is sneaking by under the radar, and trying to peg who has the talent to outperform their current situation given the minutes. Constantly scouring the wire for future talent is a must in competitive dynasty leagues, so with that in mind, time for us to get out our lucky quarters and see what Zoltar the Fortune Telling Machine has to say about dynasty hoops in the mysterioussss futureeeee.
The Big Names
Since this is still Deep League Digging, I’m going to keep the focus on players that aren’t household fantasy names. That means that players that were likely drafted in early-to-mid rounds in standard leagues, or are on the fringe of standard-league relevance, won’t be covered. That doesn’t mean there aren’t major free agency implications for those standard-league players (I will cover those in subsequent dynasty articles later this year), but for now we are looking for those truly deep stashes that you can get for next to nothing and may pay off big in years to come.
The Buzz in Charlotte
If you are looking for a literal representation of NBA mediocrity, look no further than the 2017-2018 Charlotte Hornets. It is no secret that they have not lived up to expectations lately, and the growing sentiment seems to be that a shakeup is needed to escape the dreaded no man’s land of 6th-11th seed regular season finishes they seem to be stuck in.
Looking at the current slew of 2019 free agents including Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (has a player option), it is not hard to fathom a 2019-2020 NBA season where Kemba and Lamb are both donning colors other than teal and purple.
In a vacuum, a Walker and Lamb-less Charlotte team natural makes Devonte’ Graham and Malik Monk start to look significantly more appealing. We can’t predict or control what offseason moves the Hornets may make, but there is at least a higher than average chance that Graham and/or Monk could be seeing a larger role next year with some development and roster turnover.
Let’s look first at Devonte’ Graham, the 23-year old rookie selected in the second round by the Hornets this season. We haven’t seen much of a sample size yet from Graham yet in his young NBA career (only 263 minutes total), but the bits we have seen are tantalizing. In 20 minutes per game over his last seven games, Graham is averaging 7.4 points on 35.0 percent shooting (oof) with 1.4 triples, 2.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals and a perfect mark from the line on 1.4 attempts per game. That may not be the stuff of legends, but extrapolated out into per-36 numbers those counting stat averages jump to 13.0 points, 2.5 threes, 6.0 assist and 2.2 steals. If Kemba leaves I doubt the he becomes an immediate starter. It will probably take some time for Graham to blossom into a starting caliber point guard, but even in an expanded reserve role Graham could hold some value next season in most dynasty leagues.
Simply looking at per-36 stats as an indication of fantasy production potential paints an incomplete picture (otherwise Boban would be a perennial first-rounder), but I’ll save the statistical deep dive for another time since we are trying to cover a lot of ground here. He is probably already rostered in deeper dynasty formats, but you could be able to buy-low depending on the severity of the ankle injury he suffered on January 8th.
He is a must to have on your watch list in 12-team dynasty formats, and is a fine luxury stash if he fits your build and timeline, but there are probably stronger options out there if you competing this season. In 16-team leagues, unless your roster is very shallow, Graham shouldn’t be on the wire due to speculative rest-of-season production and on his long-term upside in a larger role.
Monk came out of the gates on fire this season with a big 18-point, four-triple performance on opening night. Since then he has settled into roughly 19-20 minute per night role and put up fairly pedestrian fringe top-200 fantasy production.
To be clear – I still believe in Monk and have bought super low on him in a few leagues this season. So far, he hasn’t expanded his stat set like I had hoped this season, but beyond the box score stats some of his advanced metrics do show improvement (vastly improved steal percentage, increased effective field goal percentage and increased points per shot attempt).
With all of that said, I do not want to seem biased and cherry pick stats to confirm my beliefs. He is still deficient as a facilitator, and even with the leap in his steal percentage, it is barely making a dent in his still negative contribution in that category. His efficiency is up, but it is still a borderline punt-worthy 40 percent on 9.3 attempts per game.
With Lamb out of town, Monk could find himself as the starting two next season, assuming Charlotte does not bring in additional help at the position this offseason. If Kemba and Lamb are gone; however, I think Monk gets the biggest opportunity to improve as a ball handler and facilitator. He will probably never be a viable NBA lead guard option, but he has shown flashes of being a better passer than his stats would suggest.
Assuming some shakeup to the roster in Charlotte benefits Monk, he should be rostered in most dynasty formats outside of 10-team leagues and very shallow 12-team formats – you simply don’t cut bait with lottery talent that quickly.
Trouble in Paradise by the Bay?
Usually, talking about the Warriors is the fantasy equivalent of watching paint dry. Death, taxes and the Warriors’ top guys producing are few of certain things in life. Looking forward to this offseason though… oh baby do things get interesting. Kevin Durant has a $31.5 million player option for next season, a price that would certainly be beaten on the open market, Klay Thompson is an unrestricted free agent coming off a team-friendly deal and DeMarcus Cousins’ one-year rental is up. On top of that, Quinn Cook and Kevon Looney are unrestricted free agents, while Damion Lee and Jordan Bell enter restricted free agency. Oh yeah… Draymond is also up in 2020.
Being the perennial thorn in the rest of the league’s side, I’m sure the Warriors will somehow manage to retain all of that talent on team friendly deals and land Kawhi Leonard on a veteran minimum deal (I know you’re bitter, but what am I?). On the other hand, if they can’t miraculously pull that off, it is probably safe to assume that there will necessarily need to be cost shavings here and there to have a chance at retaining the level of talent they have become accustomed to. That leaves the door open for young talent to opt for a higher paycheck and a larger role elsewhere.
It is well documented at this point. Steph Curry goes down; you drop everything and run to the wire to grab Quinn Cook. In 26 games as a starter over the 2017 and 2018 season, Cook averages 14 points per game on 45 percent shooting with 2.0 triples, 3.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 turnovers. That is borderline starter-level production from a player that struggles to see more than 10 minutes per night when the team is healthy.
The Warriors will likely try to retain Cook on a bargain deal, and there is always the chance that he accepts. However, Cook may have shown enough in his stop-gap starts to warrant another franchise rolling the dice on the 25-year old and shelling over more cash than the Warriors can match.
He is likely around on plenty of dynasty waiver wires given his sporadic playing time. Contending teams in shallow 16-team leagues may struggle to find room for Cook, but he should be rostered in anything larger. In 12 and 14-team leagues, it is entirely dependent on your timeline. If you aren’t competing and have some dead weight to drop, Cook is a player that has a legitimate chance of flourishing in a new situation next season should the money talk.
Looney has been a victim to some extent of the Warriors merry-go-round approach to Center, though lately he has found some consistency since Damian Jones went down with a season-ending pectoral tear. In the past month, Looney is averaging 7.4 points per game on 66 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 0.7 blocks.
It is nothing earth-shattering, but that production has been good enough for near top-130 numbers over that month-long stretch (take that with a grain of salt given inflated efficiency). Of course, that will all go to hell in handbasket as soon as DeMarcus Cousins is back in action.
Looney may never be a starting-caliber center option, but he is still young with plenty of room to grow, and has made a strong case that he deserves a shot at least 20-25 minutes per night somewhere – he won’t see that in Golden State once Boogie is back. He has zero gravity from deep, and is undersized for a center at 6’9”, so teams may not be backing up the Brinks truck to get Looney on their squad. Similar to Cook though, he may have shown enough to warrant an offer he can’t refuse, and one that the Warriors can’t match.
He is likely already rostered in most 16-team dynasty leagues and deeper on his current production. He isn’t on the wire in any of my 12-team leagues either. There may not be an opportunity to speculatively grab Looney off the wire right now the hope of a larger role elsewhere, but he could end up being dropped once Cousins is back, so keep him on your watch list.
Deep Deep Stashes in Dallas
The Mavericks are facing some interesting free agent decisions this offseason. Harrison Barnes will probably exercise his player option, but DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Salah Mejri, Devin Harris and Dirk Nowitzki are all on expiring deals. Additionally, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber are restricted free agents… wow.
That amount of cap space opening up may prove enough to lure a superstar or two to Dallas to team up with Luka Doncic. Assuming that is the Mavericks’ strategy to this offseason, that won’t leave much money to go around to plug all of the holes in the rotation left by the bevy of unrestricted free agents. They will need contributions from players currently rostered on team-friendly rookie deals, two-way and minimum contracts.
Of course, they could re-sign many of the above players and continue on, but the Mavs are not a franchise that likes to play the bottom feeder role for long, so I’m willing to try to make a splash in the big free agent class of 2019.
Kleber is a restricted free agent, but should the Mavericks bring him back it could potentially be in a larger role without Dirk, Finney-Smith and/or DeAndre Jordan in the picture. We know that Kleber can put up big numbers in limited minutes (as evidenced by his top-75 per 36 value in 18 minutes per game this season), but has been limited by inconsistent utilization behind Dirk, Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell.
Assuming Kleber were to find himself in a consistent role of 25-plus minutes on the Mavericks, or potentially elsewhere if another team decides to offer Kleber a contract that the Mavs don’t wish to match, he could flirt with standard-league fantasy value.
According to Basketball Reference, when he plays at least 25 minutes, Kleber averages eight points on 45 percent shooting from the field and 83 percent efficiency at the line with one triple, 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, one steal, 2.0 blocks. I’m not sure about you, but I could sure find a spot on my team for a guy averaging a triple-one money counter line.
Kleber is only rostered in one percent of leagues, so he is probably around on a few 12-team dynasty wires. Depending on the quality of your team and your timeline, you may not be able to make room for Kleber in 12-team leagues. In anything deeper, he should probably be rostered on the potential that he steps into a larger role in the next year or two. At nearly 27 years old in only his second NBA season, he is perceived as being a bit younger than he is. That may make it tougher to acquire Kleber in a trade, but with a bit of patience a buy-low period could open up as his role in the rotation fluctuates rapidly.
We’ve covered Powell a few times here on Deep League Digging. His efficiency contributions and rebounding are primary what he brings to the table from a fantasy perspective in limited minutes, but his per-36 numbers have always been impressive.
Assuming that the Mavs lose some combination of DeAndre Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki and/or Maxi Kleber (restricted free agent), he could be looking at a modest bump in playing time. Considering he is flirting with top-175 value on the season in only 16.5 minutes per game, even approaching 20-25 minutes per game could do big things for his fantasy value.
Powell should already be rostered in all 16-team dynasty leagues and deeper, and is situationally back-end roster-worthy in deeper 12-team formats if you can afford to stash him without dropping an established top-150 player. That said, I would prefer both Monk and Graham as stash options if they are available.
Assuming that the Mavericks lose some combination of Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea and/or Devin Harris, rookie guard Jalen Brunson could be looking at a larger role next year. What he may do with that role is far from certain.
In 33 games this season, Brunson is posting a meager 6.1 points per game with 2.1 assists and 0.6 steals in 16 minutes per game. There have been some decently impressive lines buried within those averages, but they don’t necessarily feel like anything more than outlier performances.
You can probably leave him on the wire in shallower 16-team leagues, but keep him on your watch list in case the Mavs move on from their stable of reserve guards ahead of him on the depth chart. In deeper 16-team formats and larger leagues, Brunson should probably be rostered as a lottery ticket stash in the event he breaks through and earns a larger role.
Considering the fact that Spalding has played a whopping one total minute this season, this one is targeted at those fantasy degenerates in 30-team dynasty leagues. Everything said above for Powell applies to Spalding as well. He may already be rostered in some 30-team formats, but take a look to see if he is around and consider a speculative add or buying-low given the likely shakeups to occur in Dallas this offseason.
Delon’s Raptors Rapture
I’m not sure how many articles it has been since I’ve mentioned Delon Wright, but I know for an absolute fact that it has been too many. He hasn’t enjoyed quite the season that he did last year due to some nagging injuries, inconsistent play and more competition for minutes with Fred VanVleet. While all of those factors are contributing to a down year, that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t still be on dynasty managers’ radars.
Wright will find himself a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and I have a hunch that he may fetch a price a bit too steep for the Raptors to match. The Raptors have been blessed with the “problem” of having two quality backup point guards behind Kyle Lowry in Wright and VanVleet. Both deserving of minutes, and both potentially good enough to start on another team with some development.
Assuming Wright gets a generous offer to play elsewhere and follows the money, what can fantasy managers expect? According to Basketball Reference, in games where Wright has played more than 25 minutes, he averages 12 points per game on 50 percent shooting with one triple, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks with 1.4 turnovers.
That is solid well-rounded production that – assuming he sees closer to 30 minutes – would likely only improve. He is only three percent rostered, so there is a slim chance that he is around on the wire in a few 16-team dynasty leagues. If that is the case, be sure to make sure that he lands on your roster despite the current down year. Given his down season following some lofty expectations set last year, now is the perfect time to float a buy-low offer on the hope that Wright finds himself in a new situation next season with more room to grown as a starting caliber lead guard option (sorry Panda).
(Editor’s Note: Apology not accepted.)
Wrapping it Up
As is the norm in the NBA, there are any number of other players and teams facing interesting free agency situations this offseason that will inevitably give rise to some surprise performers next season and beyond. We don’t have time here to cover all of them – nor should we with the trade deadline still looming – but keep an eye out for a dynasty deep dive into free agent situations around the league after the All-Star break. Until then, feel free to connect with me on twitter at: @z_bodhane for a veritable all you can eat buffer of lukewarm dynasty takes.
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.
After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.
May 26, 2019, 12:48 amMarc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors
Marc Gasol scored six points, all from behind the arc, in Saturday's Game 6 win, adding three rebounds, two assists and a block/steal in 26 minutes.
Gasol continues to do what the Raptors ask of him though the years of grinding in the paint for Memphis are long gone. He has adjusted his game play and now acts as a facilitator for the rest of the team. Gasol continues to split time in the post with Serge Ibaka (25 minutes, nine points) and will see his minutes fluctuate based on the Raptor's offensive scheme heading into the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 12:24 amFred VanVleet - G - Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet was a difference maker for the Raptors' series clinching Game 6, scoring 14 points off the bench on 5-for-6 shooting while adding two assists.
VanVleet played 34 minutes off the bench and continues to be a menace from behind the 3-point line (4-for-5 today). In the past three games he has gone an unbelievable 14-for-17 from behind the arc. The Raptors will continue to rely on his ability to stretch the floor as they head into their first NBA Finals and will square off against the Warriors and their own formidable shooters.
May 26, 2019, 12:08 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in Saturday's Game 6 loss while contributing 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, three blocks and two turnovers.
Antetokounmpo did all that was asked of him on both sides of the ball but could not get past the Raptors this series. Giannis continues to operate at an MVP-level but his freethrow woes continue to plague him. He was "Shaq-esque" this series (55%) and shot 5-for-10 in tonight's loss. This is a tough break for Antetokounmpo and the Bucks as they head into the offseason with four of their five starters entering free agency.
May 25, 2019, 11:46 pmKhris Middleton - F - Milwaukee Bucks
Khris Middleton scored 14 points in Saturday's Eastern Conference Finals loss adding just four 3-pointers, four rebounds and two turnovers.
All-Star Middleton struggled this entire series as he was tasked with the unenviable task of guarding Kawhi Leonard. He was poised to continue his fabulous playoff success following strong performances against the Pistons and Celtics but failed to deliver this series, with the exception of a 30-point Game 4 loss. Middleton will be a free agent this summer and will be one of the Bucks' top priorities heading into the offseason.
May 25, 2019, 11:29 pmEric Bledsoe - G - Milwaukee Bucks
Eric Bledsoe scored an inefficient eight points (3-for-9 FGs, 1-for-3 3-pointers, 1-for-2 FTs) in Saturday's loss while adding five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and two turnovers.
Bledsoe seemed to ebb and flow all series and just could not find the consistency that the Bucks needed during the Eastern Conference Finals. He has always been able to produce outside of scoring but his team really needed him to put the ball in the hoop this game.
May 25, 2019, 11:19 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
Brook Lopez scored 18 points on Saturday's Game 6 loss, adding nine rebounds, one assist, four blocks and zero 3-pointers.
Lopez had a productive 4th quarter for the Bucks scoring six points in the paint against the Raptors frontcourt. Unfortunately, he could not get it going throughout the rest of the game and caused most of his damage at the freethrow line, going 8-for-9. Lopez provided a great boost for the Bucks this season and will be a free agent this offseason.
May 25, 2019, 7:58 pmPatrick McCaw - G - Toronto Raptors
Patrick McCaw, who has been dealing with a personal issue for the last few games, is active for Game 6 on Saturday vs. the Bucks.
It looks like McCaw got things sorted out. With him active now, the Raptros will get a bit more depth at the guard spot. That said, Fred VanVleet has been playing well, so McCaw will not likely see a lot of burn tonight outside of potential garbage minutes (if any).
Source: Blake Murphy on Twitter