February 19, 2020, 5:57 pm
Thought we’d have a little fun this week since it’s been the All-Star break. It’s all name brand players this time around. In fact, we’re only going to check out the namiest of name brand guys here. Let’s compare some of the greatest fantasy players of all time.
I love going back in fantasy basketball history to see how the rankings shook out (or would have shaken out had people been playing fantasy in the sixties, seventies and eighties). Everything I’m using today comes from Basketball Monster’s awesome Historical Rankings section. It’s a player rater for every single NBA season back to George Mikan and Bob Cousy finishing just behind Paul Arizin for the top spot in the 1951-52 season.
Can we definitively determine the fantasy GOAT? Probably not without some gray area, but let’s see what we can do. I decided to focus on the relatively modern NBA, mainly because steals and blocks weren’t officially tracked until the season after Wilt Chamberlain retired in 1972-73. Then the turnover stat showed up in 1977-78. And 3-pointers weren’t a part of the NBA game until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rookie season of 1979-80. So I’ve selected a handful of huge names in reality and fantasy from the last four decades as potential candidates for best fantasy career. But I couldn’t leave some of the early greats out, so you’ll see three of them with their incomplete fantasy values.
The rating method I’m using is the 9-category total player rater value by season, so games played have a big impact. I normally make most of my decisions based on per-game values and rankings, but totals will tell us more about how much fantasy value was actually produced during these careers.
I’m adding up each season’s total values, so longevity helps here. That means that even though he played for four seasons before he got credit for his great steals and elite blocks, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be near the top. And poor Wilt will be without some of the craziest blocks and steals numbers ever seen (there are some unofficial defensive stats out there for him that are mind-boggling).
Aside from the missing stats, GOAT debates are often derailed by issues with comparing eras. That’s not much of a problem with this method, since a player rater value shows how great a player was relative to the rest of the league in that season. One issue, though, is that when players missed the majority of a season, their total player rater value was negative. And since players get a score of zero when they sit out a whole year, be it for Kevin Durant’s injury this season or Michael Jordan playing some minor league baseball, I thought it would make more sense to remove the negative values when adding up total career fantasy value. In doing that, of course, I am rescuing a couple of these guys (like Kobe and Jordan) from bad, relatively complete seasons when their careers were winding down in which they produced negative fantasy value while healthy.
One last issue is that when I use this season’s values (in italics), they’re inflated since they’re scored as though it’s already been a full season. These numbers assume that these four guys will continue on a similar games-played pace. The method isn’t without it’s flaws, but it’s still fun to line up and add up the numbers.
Just one more thing before I get to the 12 players I selected for this exercise. Here are some honorable mentions, players that have had (or nearly had) multiple seasons atop the 9-cat total fantasy value rankings:
Back in the fifties, Neil Johnston finished first three times and Dolph Schayes did it twice. Dr. J, Julius Erving, was the best player twice in the seventies. The nineties saw David Robinson do it twice and Hakeem Olajuwon nearly completed that feat, topping the list once with some second place finishes. Kevin Garnett did the same shortly after that. Shawn Marion had a three-peat, and now Anthony Davis has one title with a chance at plenty more.
And back to the old days, there are certainly many more players that would make this leader board, like Elgin Bayor and Jerry West, but I decided to keep it to just three of the most well-known stat-producing old-timers. I’ve included the number of first place finishes for each of these 12 players, as well:
So here are all the fantasy value season totals sorted by age for the best of the best. I’m considering the modern era to start at Bird, for our purposes at least, since his career and those after it had the same set of recorded stat categories. But check out those greens in the old-timers’ rows. What does this mean? Why does Oscar have a 3.19 when Jordan peaked at 1.54? That means that even though Jordan finished first in many of his seasons, Oscar and Wit and Kareem weren’t just better than the rest of the league in their time. They were significant outliers.
For the next table, I kept a running total of the player rater values for each career so we could see who had gathered the most value by each age. I like being able to see the current players’ pace so we have an idea of where they might end up before they retire. Final/current career value is also next to the players’ names.
Of the modern players, Jordan definitely did the most damage per-season. LeBron could catch him, but he’s already played far more games. Then again, it’s not his fault MJ retired twice for a total of four and a half seasons. Depending on how Kevin Durant looks when he returns next season, he still has a chance to be the modern champion as well. And then there’s Oscar Robertson…
We’ll keep doing our best here to help you identify the next contender for fantasy GOAT. Maybe we’ll see Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson on the list someday. They’re certainly starting young enough to compile a ton of stats. Enjoy the resumption of the season, friends.
April 4, 2020, 9:49 pmZach LaVinePG, Chicago Bulls
Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.
Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
April 4, 2020, 9:09 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.
Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
April 4, 2020, 8:51 pmLauri MarkkanenPF, Chicago Bulls
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times.
April 4, 2020, 4:45 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.
Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.
April 3, 2020, 7:57 pmKobe BryantSG, Los Angeles Lakers
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Formal announcements will be made on Saturday, but it appears to be a done deal. The three aforementioned players helped define and then redefine the sport during their primes, making the 2020 class one of the most star-studded since Michael Jordan was inducted. Bryant, especially, who was often compared to his "Airness" will be a bittersweet entrant as the NBA and the world is still dealing with his sudden passing.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
April 3, 2020, 1:44 pmZach LaVinePG, Chicago Bulls
Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Bulls have begun their search for a top executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions.
Interviews will begin next week, with Toronto GM Bobby Webster and Denver GM Arturas Karnisovas on Chicago's wish list. Ownership will have discussions with current GM Gar Forman about his place in the organization moving forward, whlie VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson is expected to move to an advisory role with the franchise. The Bulls have been lost in the wilderness for some time now, and it's mildly surprising that it's taken them this long to hunt for someone to take the power out of GarPax's collective hands.
April 3, 2020, 12:57 pmMichael Porter Jr.PF, Denver Nuggets
Michael Porter Jr. said that his right ankle is now properly healed.
Porter missed six games with a right ankle injury, and though he was able to play in nine of Denver's last 10 games (the absence was a DNP-CD) before the hiatus, he admitted that his ankle was still bothering him and he was playing through pain. MPJ flashed tremendous potential when given the appropriate minutes but it's going to be hard for him to hold fantasy value outside of deeper formats when the Nuggets are fully healthy — he topped 15 minutes just three times in those nine games. The silver lining of the league's suspension is that hurt and injured players are getting the chance to heal up, Porter included.
Source: Denver Post
April 2, 2020, 2:40 pmKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker has been rehabbing his left knee while in quarantine, and says that it's "doing well."
Walker actually played in the Celtics' last three games before the season was shut down but has missed a total of eight games this season (plus one in preseason) due to left knee soreness. It's clearly a chronic issue at this point, and fantasy GMs just have to hope that this lengthy layoff will help Walker get back to full strength if and when the season resumes.
April 2, 2020, 2:32 pmMeyers LeonardC, Miami Heat
Meyers Leonard is still rehabbing his sprained left ankle and estimates that his recovery is at about 90%.
Leonard shed his walking boot at the end of February but it's been slow going, as he's still not recovered despite getting hurt on February 3. The NBA hiatus might've saved Leonard's season, but even when healthy there won't be any fantasy appeal here despite some strong runs earlier in the campaign.
Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter
April 2, 2020, 2:28 pmNikola JokicC, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have announced that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 is now symptom-free.
The team never said who tested positive, only that it was a member of the organization. The Nuggets have completed their 14-day quarantine, so hopefully all involved are able to remain healthy moving forward.
Source: Mark Medina on Twitter