At this late juncture in our fantasy campaign, players have roughly established their final range of Player Rater value. A late surge, collapse or injury can nudge a player up or down a few spots, but narratives for their 2016-17 seasons are reaching the baked-in phase. It's a good time to take a look at where we've appeared to screw up.
Which players did we overrate? Not you. Me. The royal we. The fake basketball brain trust. Where did we lead you astray?
What leads to NBA players becoming overrated for fantasy purposes? The No. 1 culprit: prizing volume over efficiency.
Averaging 25 points per game doesn't mean as much when a player is toting a 44 percent field goal percentage or 50 percent true shooting percentage.
Or turning over the ball 2.0-plus times per game. Or shooting 65 percent from the free throw line. Or failing to deliver with supportive defensive stats that are expected to arrive due to their given position (steals for guards, blocks for big men).
What are the criteria required for calling a player "overrated" for fantasy purposes? It's not so much about a player we expected to be top 40 falling into the top 80. That's more "disappointing."
To me, "overrated" is a finer term. For a player to be overrated, he needs to have entered draft season tabbed as highly rated. I'm talking an ADP of 30 or higher. Overvaluing a first-round pick by five slots is more impactful than overvaluing a fifth-rounder by 10-15 slots.
If we overshot the mark on a first-, second- or third-rounder? We should call ourselves out.
Here are my finalists for the three most overrated players of 2016-17:
Player I most overrated
2016-17 Player Rater ranking (based on average): 36th
2015-16 Player Rater score: 12.75
2016-17 Player Rater average Score: 8.20
I was mega-bullish on Whiteside coming into the season. I touted him as a second-rounder with late-first-round upside.
I bought into the narrative that he'd continue his upward trajectory after getting his four-year, $98 million dollar max deal. That deal and Chris Bosh's departure pointed toward Whiteside getting more of the one number his 2015-16 stat line lacked: minutes.
It wasn't difficult to project. Whiteside averaged 29.1 minutes per game in 2015-16. An expanded role, mandated by max money, would bump his MPG into the low-to-mid 30s. If Whiteside could stay healthy, a 10 percent to 15 percent bump in his main volume categories -- points, rebounds and blocks -- just had to follow.
We projected Whiteside out at 16.2 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game.
Whiteside is averaging 16.6 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
His production in points and rebounds actually exceeded our projections. But instead of doling out top-15 value, Whiteside is hanging out in the mid-30s. Why?
Whiteside dropped from otherworldly to elite. Suffering a near 50 percent drop in fantasy's scarcest category is going to leave a mark. Whiteside dropped from 7.58 to 4.14 for Player Rater points in blocks.
A deeper look at Whiteside's numbers depicts a player whose efficiency suffered in key areas as a result of expanded responsibilities.
Whiteside's minutes are up from 29.1 to 32.8 per game. His usage rate jumped from 18.8 to 20.9. But his PER dropped from 25.69 to its current 21.70. Aside from the crash in blocks, Whiteside has disappointed in two efficiency-driving categories: field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
A mediocre-to-frightening free throw shooter early in his career, Whiteside made strides at the stripe in 2015-16. He jumped from 50 percent to 65 percent. Even a hold in free throw percentage would have solidified Whiteside's overall expansion in fantasy value. But instead, Whiteside regressed to 58 percent.
And while his field goal attempts have risen (from 9.3 to 12.6 per game), Whiteside's free throw attempts per game have basically stayed the same (4.5 to 4.6). Whiteside is leaving a lot of Player Rater points on the table because he's not looking to draw fouls ... because he's having a lousy year at the line.
Why isn't Whiteside drawing more fouls? Because his expanded shot attempts are coming further out form the basket. According to Basketball Reference, last season more than 50 percent of Whiteside's attempts were from within three feet. This year, it's dropped to 42 percent. The extra attempts (and remember at a higher volume) have been diverted to the range of 3 to10 feet.
Whiteside shoots 75 percent from three feet in. He shoots 44 percent from 3 to 10 feet. Result: a drop in field goal percentage (from 61 percent to 56 percent). No additional free throw attempts. A drop in true shooting percentage. A drop in PER.
And a big drop on the Player Rater.
Whiteside is improving at the free throw line (70 percent in February). But the blocks have stayed around two per game. Unless Whiteside doles out a late boom in blocks, it's hard to see how he doesn't end up as our most overrated player of 2016-17.
Player all of us most subtly overrated
2016-17 Player Rater ranking (based on average): 18th
2015-16 Player Rater score: 11.86
2016-17 Player Rater average Score: 10.47
Lillard is having a fine season. He's the 18th-best player in fantasy basketball. But that still means he's under-performing by six picks -- a big drop for a late-first to early-second rounder.
Lillard is averaging a career high 26.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He's posting a career high 43.8 field goal percentage. A career high 89.8 free throw percentage.
But instead of vaulting into top-10 value, Lillard has regressed towards the end of the second round. Why?
Significant drops in three categories that drive point guard production: assists, steals and 3-pointers.
Per the Player Rater, Lillard has dropped from fantasy's fourth-best producer in 3-pointers to 13th; from tenth in assists to 22nd; from 98th in steals (never a strong suit) to 158th (power forward territory).
It would be natural to examine these drops and think "C.J. McCollum." But you'd be wrong. McCollum has also risen in points per game while dropping in assists, steals and 3-pointers. McCollum has risen a couple of spots on the Player Rater this season, but not by enough to drop Lillard to 18th.
Meanwhile, Portland's team-wide offensive numbers are holding relatively steady in corresponding categories. Pace? About a possession per game better than 2015-16.
The Trail Blazers' drop in the standings seems to be more the victim of a drop in team defense.
Plumlee's exploits, coupled with the ascension of Maurice Harkless (10.7 points, 1.1 3-pointers, 1.2 steals per game) have led to a subtle redistribution of production.
Want to know how Plumlee's presence might have siphoned off some of Lillard's production? Look at his averages for the last three games: 31.7 points, 3.7 3-pointers, 6.3 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals.
Putting it on Plumlee isn't quite right. Overall, over the past month, Portland has pushed to get back to a 2015-16 dynamic, and Lillard is reasserting himself. There's still time for him to pass injured players like Kyle Lowry and close out in the top 15.
Player you most overrated
2016-17 Player Rater ranking (based on average): 83rd
2015-16 Player Rater score: 3.19
2016-17 Player Rater average Score: 4.17
If Whiteside was my most overrated player of 2016-17, Drummond has a lock on Fantasyland's most overrated player.
For Drummond to justify a 26.6 ADP, he has to produce -- minimum -- 9.00 Player Rater points. How is Drummond going to suddenly manufacture six extra Player Rater points when he doesn't block shots at an elite rate,and is possibly the worst free throw shooter in the league?
The answer: He doesn't.
To be in the top-30 discussion, a center needs to do one of two things: produce elite blocks or not eviscerate you at the line.
It doesn't matter if he averages a double-double. Or an inflated double-double. The inflated double-double is a smokescreen. Fantasy pyrite. (And if you roster Drummond, you know he's regressed in those areas as well ... not to mention his being shopped at the deadline.)
It is an absolute existential and metaphysical impossibility that Drummond will ever be a top-30 player. If you took Drummond that high and your league counts free throws?
It's probably time to start thinking about fantasy baseball.