November 6, 2019, 10:42 am
I just finished watching an extremely fun NBA game. Friday night’s LeBron vs. Luka OT triple-double-fest. There’s simply nothing like watching the greatest athletes in the world perform highlight-worthy plays on repeat, night after night. Even beyond the deep shots, dunks, rejections and passes, it’s the crossovers, step-backs and the kind of wing defense that gets a Morris twin to thwomp a guy on the forehead with the ball that leave us in awe. And while I’d never suggest passing on an opportunity to catch every second of NBA action that you can, watching the games can certainly be a detriment to fantasy success if we don’t recognize our biases.
Flashy talent, accolades and hype jack up the perceived value of many players well beyond their actual fantasy value. I’m here to repeatedly remind you that these players are little more than a set of numbers when it comes to fantasy.
Welcome to Name Brand vs. Off-Brand. Here, we’ll have fun comparing and contrasting numbers. We’ll take a weekly look at popular, or name brand players, and we’ll compare them to some underrated fantasy stat-stuffers (the off-brand players) that you should be able to get at a discount. The objective would then be to swap this guy for that guy and get a little something extra. In some cases, you might only be able to get the alternative straight up, but it would be (perhaps surprisingly) worth it.
Okay, if all that matters is numbers, can’t we just beat our casual and/or biased competition by looking at player raters or projected stats, then? Well, some of it, yes! But while I’m preaching that we should focus more on numbers than talent (since NBA numbers are more predictable than in other sports), there’s obviously context that we must study, too.
So, we’ll take a look at the scenarios that these stats–excuse me–players find themselves in. And though the guys in our exercises won’t often be the exact players on your team or those available to you in trade, I think the overall concepts will help you think about fantasy in a way that leads to more success.
To put it another way, we’ll take a look at a lot of players that are overrated for any number of reasons, but moreso players that are underrated and get overlooked. Sometimes this means we need to be in early on a player. Sometimes it means we need to realize that other people are too excited too early about a player.
Let’s jump into an example from last season to illustrate. Take a look at these three sets of statistics:
Yep. We’ve got some highly ranked big men. Who do you like from that group? They’re incredibly close, with each player having some slight advantages and disadvantages.
These averages are from October and November of 2018. Each player had played between 22 and 24 games. The stats belonged to our favorite pair of head-locking centers, Karl-Anthony Towns (A) and Joel Embiid (B), as well as… Nikola Vucevic (C).
While it’s not much of a surprise to see Vucevic in that company now that we watched him keep it up all season, it was certainly a shock around December 1st of last year. I’d been keenly aware of this jump in production, as I’d taken Vucevic 40th in an experts league (though I’d also passed on him at 43 in my other snake draft).
For a quick look at each player’s production and expectations, I just averaged the ADP of those two leagues and mixed in each player’s 2017-18 and 2018-19 final 9-cat per-game rankings according to Basketball Monster’s Historical Rankings (something we’ll play with here from time to time).
It’s very rare that a player will break into the top-12 from beyond the third round, especially one that’s been around for many years. So while I probably won’t be able to identify too many situations like this, getting in early on a sustainable increase in value is one type of assistance I’m hoping to provide. Vucevic was the off-brand version of Towns or Embiid. So, say you had drafted Embiid. If you’d believed in Vucevic’s hot start, you could’ve traded Embiid for him plus at least one other helpful starter. Or more likely, you could’ve done a 2-for-2 swap with a big upgrade regarding the secondary players involved.
That’s our goal: To sneak in actual value while shipping off perceived value.
Here are just a few types of comparison I’ll be highlighting throughout the season:
Young vs. Old (shout out to Dan Besbris): This one can go either way, as a former star might still have too much name brand recognition and be valued too highly. But more often, old players are undervalued in fantasy due to the constant yearning for young players with upside.
Hyped vs. Boring: The cousin of the previous comparison. Think overrated second-year and third-year players that are likely to fall short of lofty expectations and simply equal the value of the guy that went two rounds later and has been doing it for five years.
Empty Stat All-Stars vs. Defensive Stat-Grabbers: Ask a casual fan whether Harrison Barnes or Robert Covington is better. Rather, don’t ask. Just go get Covington, this decade’s most pristine example of an NBA role player that’s a fantasy superstar.
Hot Starts vs. Cold Starts: Your classic buy low, sell high. Similar to Vucevic and Towns in the example above. And speaking of Covington, who’s off to a slow start, do you think he continues to put up stats that are worse than Kendrick Nunn? I’ll try to identify if situations like this are a “changing of the guard” kind of thing with one player on the way up and one on the way down or just Nunnsanity vs. a streaky player that will once again end up in the top-40.
Punt-Category Fun: Many of us are category punters whether we planned to be or not. I’ll find some comps where players are nearly the same in all but one or two categories. Think big men that don’t block shots in a punt-block scenario. A guy like Lauri Markkanen could be the off-brand version of John Collins if you’re punting blocks and field goal percentage. You could make that swap, which would be very even for your team and at the same time, upgrade your team elsewhere.
And there are many more ways to identify players whose true values don’t match the prices in the marketplace. But that’s enough for now. And I leave you once again with a reminder: When you hear a player’s name, try not to let your mind drift to highlight packages and average draft position. Resist dreams of upside.
Instead, force yourself to see the cold, hard numbers. Because flawlessly converted alley-oops aren’t a fantasy category.
June 4, 2020, 2:00 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
The Board of Governors has approved the NBA's 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season.
The vote was 29-1. It was widely expected that the format would get the go-ahead, even though more than one team didn't fully support the proposed plan, and the NBA has at least settled on what the season will look like once it's able to resume. They have also set the draft lottery for August 25 and the draft for October 15. The biggest hurdles remain anything that has to do with COVID-19, and to this point the league has yet to say anything about those challenges, but there is plenty of forward momentum these days.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 3, 2020, 9:23 pmEnes KanterC, Boston Celtics
Sean Deveney reported that "multiple agents say not all players are on board with an NBA return".
One agent said, "Most of the guys are excited, fired up, they want to get back out there. Those are 95 percent of the conversations I have had". There are players that feel the money is not worth putting themselves and their families at risk. Enes Kanter weighed in on the topic, saying "there are some other team's players out there, that they don't want to play. They're like, 'It's just a game. I'm not going to risk my life". It is likely that the high-profile players will still play, but it looks like some role players may not be willing to take the risk to join their team when the NBA season resumes.
June 3, 2020, 4:39 pmDerrick RosePG, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons announced that they plan to reopen team facilities on Thursday, allowing voluntary individual workouts while following all the social-distancing guidelines.
Although the Pistons' season is likely over as they are not one of the 22 teams that will continue to play if the Board of Governors vote to ratify the plan on Thursday, this will allow players to stay in shape for the 2020-21 season which is expected to start in December.
Source: James Edwards III
June 3, 2020, 11:41 amZion WilliamsonPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Pelicans, Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards will be the six non-playoff teams resuming action when the NBA restarts.
This makes complete sense, as they're the only non-playoff teams that can sniff the postseason. Woj backs up an earlier Shams Charania report about a potential play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in each Conference as well. If the ninth seed trails the eighth seed by more than four games when the league's truncated regular season wraps up, the eighth seed makes the playoffs. If the deficit is under four games, however, the two teams will compete in a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for the ninth.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 3, 2020, 11:36 amLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the NBA will have an eight-game regular season for the purposes of playoff seeding upon its return while Shams Charania reports that there will be a play-in tournament for the eighth seed.
This applies to the NBA coming back with 22 teams, as the league's bottom eight are well out of playoff contention and bringing them to Orlando would only negatively affect the league's pursuit for player safety. As for the play-in tournament, Charania describes it as such: "If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth." Expect another announcement about the league's format in the coming days.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 10:02 pmCorey BrewerSF, Sacramento Kings
Corey Brewer, a veteran of eight different NBA teams, is still hoping to sign another contract before he calls it a career.
Brewer, 34, seems to think he has enough in the tank for one final stint in the NBA. “We had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see,” Brewer said. “I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man." Brewer has not suited up for an NBA team this season and, with a waning jump shot and increased age, his chances of securing another pact in the NBA are pretty unlikely.
June 2, 2020, 9:47 pmDeMarcus CousinsC, Los Angeles Lakers
Kings broadcaster Grant Napear stepped down from his position with the Kings on Tuesday after he said 'All Lives Matter..Every Single One!' when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement during a Twitter interaction with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
This is the first domino to fall in American professional sports in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it's a relatively insignificant one. Napear said of himself and the interaction, "I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was. I had no idea that when I said 'All Lives Matter' that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across," he said. "I’m in pain. I’m 60 years old and I still have a lot to learn." The Kings will evidently have to find a new play-by-play man for their radio broadcasts to accompany Doug Christie when games resume.
June 2, 2020, 8:45 pmJohn WallPG, Washington Wizards
John Wall, who has long been rumored to have absolutely zero chance of returning to the court even if the current season is resumed, said in a conference call last week that he feels "110 percent."
Wall and the Wizards both maintain that he will not return to action this season, regardless of the outcome of the vote on Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors. This is good news, obviously, for the team as they set their sights on next season. As of late, trade rumors have been swirling around the franchise's two top assets: Wall and All Star guard Bradley Beal. Moving forward, there is a high possibility that the Wizards will decide between the two, as Beal's contract will expire after next season. Which player will the Wizards keep? Who will they trade, or will they trade them both? They are hoping to have some time to evaluate how the pair plays in tandem early next season, as Wall has missed significant time with a torn left Achilles he suffered during the 2018-19 season. But it may be too late to negotiate an extension with Beal at that point, so they will have to play their cards with extreme care.
Source: The Athletic
June 2, 2020, 8:27 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer and Washington Bullets legend, passed away on Tuesday due to complications with pneumonia and other illnesses. He was 74 years old.
An outstanding rebounder, Unseld is also one of only two players to ever be awarded Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 1968-69. He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals four times, winning once in 1978, a series where Unseld took home MVP honors. Hornets' GM and former teammate Mitch Kupchak said of Unseld, “As a teammate, he was tough, dependable and competitive to no end.” Unseld was a fearless competitor and highly respected across the league during his 13 seasons with the Bullets franchise. Former Knicks center and fellow Hall of Famer Willis Reed recently recalled their battles against one another, "He was most consciously a rebounder — he could shoot, but he didn’t emphasize that part of his game — and felt that if he did his job right, by getting the defensive rebound and making the quick outlet pass, they would score quickly.” Unseld was undoubtedly a pioneer for the game of basketball and means a great deal to the city of Washington D.C.
Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter
June 2, 2020, 7:58 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski is reporting that Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors, who are planning to vote Thursday on how to continue the season, would like the NBA Finals to conclude no later than October 12.
With July 31 being the widely-reported restart date and the league tentatively planning to start 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 season by Christmas Day of this year, it would make sense to crown a league champion as early as possible. The meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday will (finally) bring some clarity to the rest of the NBA season, as they will hold a vote to decide how to proceed. NBA fans have been waiting since the middle of March for some resolutions. This week will provide them.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter