Fantasy Basketball
ESPN.com staff 16d

Will Porzingis and Jokic finish in the top 10 in fantasy?

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Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.

Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Jim McCormick, Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe, plus ESPN Stats & Info's Matthew Wittyngham.

Three weeks into the season, Kristaps Porzingis is No. 10 on the Player Rater (averages) and Nikola Jokic is No. 16. Do you think both will finish the season in the top 10?


Joe Kaiser: I don't think both will be top 10, but both will probably remain in the top 20, barring injury.

Porzingis is looking like one of the biggest steals of the draft, taking his game to a whole new level in Year 3, while playing like a late-first-round pick despite going in the top of the third round in most leagues this season. Jokic isn't scoring as much as many expected, but it's still early, and his ability to pass, rebound and contribute more than one 3-pointer and steal per game make him stand out among centers.

There are simply too many other great players vying for spots in the top 10 for it to be likely that both will finish the season that high.

Kawhi Leonard is bound to return soon and has the well-rounded game to make his way into the top 10. Cousins is playing out of his mind (he currently ranks second). Russell Westbrook and John Wall could certainly still be a factor -- it's way too early to dismiss them. There's Rudy Gobert and Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving also in the mix. And I didn't even mention LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns.

Could Porzingis or Jokic leapfrog one of them and make the top 10? Sure. But it's doubtful both will.

Kyle Soppe: Both are big men with versatile skill sets that I very much want on my roster, but no, I don't believe either is a top-10 player on our per-game Player Rater when all is said and done.

Both players are flirting with a 47 percent conversion rate from outside of eight feet, something I think will be tough to sustain, and thus, their point totals up to this point are higher than what you can realistically expect them to finish with.

Porzingis' defensive numbers and Jokic's passing are qualities that separate them from most frontcourt players, but there are simply too many versatile swing players in today's game to think either is a top-10 play.

Hot take alert: Give me Jokic for the rest of the season over Porzinigis. He's a top-20 player right now with a fringe top-100 usage rate, while Porzingis is the 10th-best player and has the third-highest usage rate. #TeamJokic

Matthew Wittyngham: I think of the two players, Porzingis has the better chance of finishing in the top 10 of the Player Rater. There are already seven to eight players guaranteed to finish in the top 10, but Porzingis is the clear No. 1 option in New York. He currently has the highest usage percentage in the NBA at 35.7 percent (minimum 25 MPG). And he not only does he have a high usage rate, he also has a high PER (29.0), ranking behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry.

Jokic, while he has the tools to finish top 10, his team is still figuring itself out. Jokic's usage has dropped as well since the start of the season from last season, 23.4 to 20.8. Fortunately, Jokic is in the top 20 of PER as well, so he will still put up the numbers you'd expect him to.

What puts Porzingis over Jokic is the fact Kristaps is in the East and Jokic in the West. Kristaps will have more games against easier competition than Jokic.

Jim McCormick: Even Harden without Chris Paul in the lineup doesn't have a higher usage rate than Porzingis this season, who leads the league with a ridiculous 35.7 percent usage rate. This essentially means he's taking well over a third of the team's possessions to their conclusion with either a shot, assist, turnover or foul shot. With a 21.1 percent defensive rebounding rate, a ridiculous 6.3 percent block rate and at least 30 points scored in all but two games this season, Porzingis has all the makings of an enduring top-10 fantasy asset.

As the sample grows, it will be interesting to see how he holds up to this Westbrookian usage rate, but all the ingredients are present for a first-round return from the huge stretch big.

As for Jokic, the Player Rater adores atypical positional production. Which is to say, a center who averages 4.5 assists will gain a great deal of positive deviation from his competition at the position. It's not just dimes driving the "Joker's" value, as he's surged in rebounding efficiency this season with a career-best 32.3 percent defensive rebounding clip.

If anything, Jokic's offensive rebounding, scoring and block rates should rise, given his production in past seasons and the fact Denver is finally finding top form on offense after a slow start. With increased 3-point volume and efficiency, Jokic will flirt with top-10 status throughout the season.

If we are comparing these players on the fantasy market, I'd prefer Porzingis's ridiculous scoring and usage on my roster, but we are splitting hairs between two of the most unique and valuable big men in the entire league.

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