We're one month into the 2018-19 campaign. After a bumpy statistical start, Golden State has reverted to their 2017-18 ways, rambling to the top of the charts in multiple offensive categories.
The Warriors lead the league in offensive efficiency (118.9), field goal percentage (50.9%), 3-point percentage (41.8%), true shooting percentage (61.5%) and assists (29.9 APG). They're second in points per game (120.7).
It's easy to proclaim the Warriors the NBA's best offensive team. But are the Warriors fantasy's best team?
When you're judging team-wide fantasy quality, we have to go a little deeper. It's simple to extrapolate a team's fantasy prospects by examining team-wide statistics ... but team stats only delineate the outlines of an NBA squad's true fantasy potential.
For fantasy purposes, we're looking for how a team's production is distributed amongst individual players. What we're looking for is segmented fantasy opportunity: how fantasy production is divided amongst a team's regular rotation.
If a team's production is distributed in a way that's too top heavy? Amongst only a top two to three players? That means fantasy opportunities are few and far between.
Fantasy-wise, the Warriors are paced by two top-five players.
Kevin Durant sits atop the Player Rater with 17.37 points. Stephen Curry is fifth with 14.09 points. Beyond Durant and Curry? You've got a mildly disappointing Klay Thompson (39th in Joe Kaiser's rest-of-season roto rankings) Draymond Green (46th) ... and shelved DeMarcus Cousins way down at 149th.
Golden State's team-wide numbers are elite. But Golden State's boffo offensive opportunities have become too concentrated to proclaim them fantasy's best team. Curry and Durant are simply doing too much: great for their managers, but it's diluting the chances for other players to contribute.
The Warriors boast one of the great offensive armadas in NBA annals. But they're barely a top-five fantasy team.
Fine, then. Let's examine what happens when a team runs 9-10 rotation players deep.
If a team's production is disseminated too widely? Sprinkled throughout a rotation that features too many players averaging 20-30 minutes per game? Fantasy production becomes too watered down to offer value beyond the deepest of leagues.
Look at the Celtics. A deep, championship-level team. They offer elite team defense (second in points allowed per game, first in opponent's 3-point percentage). Eight players worthy of deep league fantasy consideration (Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier). One of the NBA's most resourceful, inventive head coaches in Brad Stevens.
Fantasy-wise? Relative to their team-wide quality, the Celtics are a train wreck.
Five of those eight deep-league Celtics are in the 20-30 MPG range. And while great team defense can help win a real-life title, it can be a stumbling block in terms of fantasy production. The Celtics are only 24th in scoring, 24th in offensive efficiency, and 18thin pace.
The Celtics are a great example of a team that does the little things to win in reality, but don't have the right makeup to be productive in fantasy. Boston's team-wide offensive metrics are too middle-of-the-road to support such a deep rotation. In the end, the Celtics are too watered down to offer fantasy managers more than average production.
But while Milwaukee's team-wide metrics are impressive, Toronto's rotational production gives the Raptors the edge for fantasy's best team to date.
The Raptors entered the season believing they'd be powered by blue-chip addition Kawhi Leonard. Instead, the 12-3 Raptors find their fantasy prospects dictated by a deep (but not too deep) rotation.
Kyle Lowry, PG
16.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 10.7 APG, 2.2 3PG, 1.3 SPG, 0.4 BPG
It's early, but Lowry is enjoying a career-best campaign in his age-32 season. Despite a loss in shot volume and minutes, Lowry has improbably accelerated his efficiency (21.53 PER) to career-best levels. He's leading the league in assists with 10.7 per game ... more than three dimes better than his previous career high. Lowry also remains one of fantasy's best rebounding and shot-blocking point guards.
Kawhi Leonard, SF
24.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.5 3PG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Coming into the season, I wrote that a healthy Leonard was a top-12 player with top-five upside. Across somewhat limited action (11 games played), Leonard's done little to upset those expectations. He's meshed perfectly with Lowry and will continue to ramp up his MVP candidacy as the season progresses.
Health will remain paramount when it comes to Leonard's overall production. He's still lugging the baggage of last season's bizarre campaign. But when in doubt, just keep telling yourself: contract year.
At his NBA peak, Leonard will continue to pick up steam as the season progresses (and as he starts to log more back-to-backs).
Pascal Siakam, PF
14.1 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.0 APG, 0.6 3PG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Siakam posted a promising sophomore line in 2017-18, but he has taken full opportunity of the frontcourt minutes opened up by the Leonard trade (with Jakob Poeltl going to the Spurs). A month into 2018-19, Siakam has become one of fantasy's biggest surprises. He's doubling his career-best PPG, and his 69.4 TS% is amongst the league's elite.
Siakam's rebounding totals are a little light for a PF, but he's been consistent, scoring 16 PPG or better during his past six contests. Over his past three games, he's flashed some stretch-4 potential, sinking 2.0 3PG.
Serge Ibaka, PF/C
17.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 3PG, 0.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG
He's not blocking shots or sinking 3s at his 2014-15 peak. But Ibaka has picked up his production in 2018-19, averaging a career-high 17.4 PPG across just 26.6 MPG. His TS% notches in at an impressive 62.6%, and his rebounding is the best it's been since 2013-14.
Danny Green, SG/SF
9.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.5 3PG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG
The other piece in the Kawhi trade. Green continues to be one of fantasy's sneakiest contributors. His 3-point production remains elite, and his blocks+steals average still notches at 2.0 per game.
Jonas Valanciunas, C
13.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.4 3PG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG
It's mighty hard to offer top-60 production over 19 MPG. But that's what Valanciunas has managed so far this season, manufacturing Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson-like numbers across extremely limited minutes.