August 24, 2017, 2:22 am
In this ongoing weekly peek into my preparations for the 2017-18 fantasy basketball season we’ve studied players’ games played histories, assessed aging ones on how much they can be trusted, as well as a look at some sophomores to watch out for.
In this week’s Daily Dish, I chose to delve into one of the areas where we can find value in drafts. You basically have your reliable studs, your “sleepers”, and then there are players who bounce back after a disappointing season, either due to injuries, not jelling with a new team, or simply just poor overall performance.
The good thing about bounce-back candidates is that the general drafting public tends to peg their value based on last season’s production. From a pure numbers standpoint, assessments such those are viable, albeit lacking in context. Make the right choice, at the right time, on a player who finds a way to redeem himself then you’ve got value at a discount.
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One of the most memorable and sweetest wins I’ve ever had in fantasy came when I was playing in a readers’ league of a blog I used to write for. It was early in the morning in my part of the world during the live, online draft and I was pretty buzzed with probably my third can of Mountain Dew while waiting for the draft room to fill up. It came to my pick somewhere in the fourth or fifth round and I saw that Yao Ming was still on the board. It was 2008 and everyone was avoiding him like the plague due to his penchant for missing so many games over the last three seasons. Yao did, however, average 81.5 games played in his first three years in the league. I took a gamble. It paid off and the big man managed to give me 77 solid games that season, enough to carry my fantasy team to the top of the podium. While the saying “Timing is everything” cannot strictly apply to fantasy basketball, timing does play a big role. In a lot of players’ careers, there are peaks and valleys. The key is to draft them in seasons when they are at their best, obviously.
I’ve listed down some players who CAN (not necessarily will), bounce back this 2017-18. These are players whose 2016-17 season, or previous two seasons, have been not up to par given what they have shown to be capable of bringing to the table. For some, even if they do improve on last season’s production, it may not likely take them back to the level they once were able to claim in fantasy.
Derrick Favors, F/C Utah Jazz
Favors’ 2016-17 was plagued by nagging knee issues and limited to playing just 50 games. In 2015-16 Derrick managed just 62 games. When healthy, he’s been able to deliver 16 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.7 BPG. The Jazz are now without Gordon Hayward and the big man has had some time to rest his aching knees. Does he have enough left in him to return to his former mid-round glory?
Knee issues and big men are a bad combination. Kind of like swiss cheese and marshmallow as a sandwich spread. His upside is limited with the Jazz focusing its attention on the younger talent like Rudy Gobert. Favors does have a shot of bringing some late-round value and that’s about the “safe” zone where he should be targeted in most drafts.
Reggie Jackson, PG Detroit Pistons
Jackson was never really great. But there was a time when you could count on him for some points, assists, and the occasional trey. 2016-17 was arguably his worst season in recent memory, with him at times being benched in favor of the more consistent Ish Smith. It was a rude awakening for him and his owners in fantasy as well. Jackson will get a shot at redemption this 2017-18, ready to be “pushed” to greatness by recently added Avery Bradley. Which Jackson will get, or at least should expect? More likely than not, we should get a midpoint between his forgettable 2016-17 self and his better days with the Pistons in 2014 and 2015. That said, his lack of defense and relatively high turnover rate does cap his upside. He should be available late in drafts and is worth considering should your team need a booster shot of points and dimes.
Khris Middleton, G/F Milwaukee Bucks
K-Mid had a sweet breakout year in 2015-16 but arrived late to the party in 2016-17, playing just 29 games after recovering from surgery to repair a torn hamstring. His 29 games were a small sample size and his numbers were not close to his breakout averages of 18.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 1.8 3PG, and 1.7 SPG from the prior season. Middleton is a prime candidate to return to his old form this 2017-18, especially now that he’s had an extended rest period to get back to 100 percent. Sniping him at just the right time in the draft will be a juggling act, affected greatly by how well informed and hardcore your competition is in the league. Somewhere in the fourth round would be good. If he somehow falls to you in the fifth, then that’s already almost a guaranteed return on value for sure.
Thaddeus Young SF/PF, Indiana Pacers
While the nine-year league veteran is no spring chicken, Thad is in an interesting spot where he can rise from the ashes of an underwhelming 2016-17 campaign. It was his first year with the Pacers and he was coming off a solid run with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015-16. Young’s numbers slid across the board, with the exception of his 1.5 steals per game and slightly improved shooting from the field.
The Pacers traded away Paul George and are now a younger, faster team. There will be more opportunities for Thaddeus to shine but he will be more of a role-player on a team focusing on talent development. That said, he should handle the power forward duties quite well and be in for some reliable minutes on the floor. He’s a guy who can provide mid-round value, despite being selected later in drafts.
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Nerlens Noel C, Dallas Mavericks
Negotiations with the Mavericks have slowed to crawl because Noel believes he’s a max-deal player. While his self-confidence is admirable his injury-plagued recent history puts to question whether or not he’s worth it. In the end, the same applies in fantasy. When he was healthy, Noel was a great steals-blocks defender who also was a solid rebounder. Is he done? Or can he be the big man Dallas needs in the paint this season? While he won’t likely be in the discussion when it comes to top or even high-tier centers in fantasy, Noel can be a sneaky target late in drafts. If he does bounce back, Noel is capable bringing a cool eight rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks to your fantasy team.
Paul Millsap, F/C Denver Nuggets
Millsap didn’t do too well in 2016-17, shooting a career-low 44.2 percent from the field, while slipping in the steals, blocks, and rebounding categories. The once-reliable second-round stud fell with a thud. He was a victim, you can say of the “Dwight Howard Effect”, where big men who play alongside D12 fall into a quagmire of fantasy mediocrity. Remember how Howard snuffed out Pau Gasol‘s value when they shared the paint in LA?
At 32 year old, Millsap is now mentoring a young Nuggets team. He should bounce back this season but not likely to the level of his prime years in Atlanta. Taking him in the third round is acceptable. In the fourth, if you’re lucky.
Victor Oladipo, SG Indiana Pacers
He shined in his sophomore and junior seasons in the Orlando Magic but Oladipo was easily overshadowed by reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook when he played for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016-17. High hopes were quashed and owners were sorely disappointed.
Dipo was recently sent to Indiana as a part of a package in exchange for Paul George. He and Myles Turner are now the new faces of the Indiana franchise. Victor finished 2016-17 ranked 86th in 9-CAT value. He should easily eclipse that now that he has a chance to truly come into his own. His upside this season can land him in the Top 50, with a ceiling of somewhere in the 30s. Sniping him in the middle rounds of your draft could pay off heavily. That said, he’s a marginal sleeper at best, with smart drafters also keeping their eyes on him. Still, it’s almost a certainty that Dipo will outperform his 2016-17 self in his new team.
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