Here are a few Monday thoughts from the Hoops Lab, as we prepare for Week 21 of the fantasy basketball season, and the upcoming fantasy hoops playoffs. Keep in mind, the Fantasy Basketball Rest of Season Rankings also update on Mondays, so check those out as your prepare for this week's games. Between the rankings and this article, we'll also help you identify some good Buy Low/Sell high candidates. So, without further ado, let's dig into it.
Minimizing the "likely to miss games" tax
Last week, after I submitted my FBA Points update, one of my Twitter followers (follow me @ProfessorDrz) sent me a DM that pointed out that I might have ranked Kawhi Leonard too low. Their argument was that Kawhi had been playing full minutes, and the Clippers didn't have very many back-to-back sets left, so Kawhi's ranking should be closer to his recent stretch of games. Upon review, I decided that argument was exactly right. In my projections, I typically tax Leonard about 25% of his value, because he has typically only played in about 75% of his teams' games over the last several seasons. But, we're at the end of the season, the Clippers are desperately trying to earn a good seed for the playoffs, and there really aren't many back-to-back sets left. So, for this week's FBA points rankings update, which may be the last of the season since the FBA playoffs are starting soon, I removed the "likely to miss games" tax from Kawhi and he jumped up the rankings into the top-10.
I performed a similar tax reduction for players like Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, who also jump into the top-10 in this week's rankings. This marks a high-water mark in the rankings this season for all players involved. And keep in mind, they still have more risk for missing a given game than most players in the league. But, we're at the finish line of the regular season, and all three play on teams that are fighting for postseason position. It's nice to have some justification for ranking them nearer to their actual value, and really, if you have them on your teams at this point you know the risk and are just hoping for the best.
Long term injuries equal a big drop in rankings
On the opposite side of the coin, with the FBA playoffs on the very near horizon, I dropped players with long-term injuries that may not return in the next week or two well down the list, if not out of the rankings entirely. This includes players like LeBron James, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zion Williamson. All still have a chance of returning in the regular season, but if they don't return until after your FBA season is over...at this point, what would be the point of keeping them near the top of the rankings?
Morant...doesn't look good
The last week has not been kind to Ja Morant's image and reputation around the league, and it could very well cost the young superstar most or all of the rest of this season. This weekend, it was announced that Morant would miss at least two games after reports of multiple incidents involving firearms came to light. The most recent event, Morant allegedly flashing a gun on IG Live from a nightclub in Denver, may be the most serious in terms of his availability this season. It has since been announced that Morant is out indefinitely; his coach has stated that there is no timetable for Morant's return. I don't know anything official, but, this doesn't look good. If you are in one of the 86.4% of FBA leagues where backup point guard Tyus Jones isn't rostered, it could be highly advisable for you to pick him up immediately.
KD + Booker = fun
The first three games of the Kevin Durant era seem to be playing out largely as I expected from a fantasy hoops POV, and maybe even better for Durant and Devin Booker. The two high-volume scorers are still getting their looks playing next to each other, and because opposing defenses tend to warp toward whichever has the ball, it allows the other to get open looks on almost every possession. In three games next to Durant, Booker has averaged 36.0 PPG and 7.7 APG, with at least 35 points and 6 assists in all three outings. Durant's scoring has ticked upward with more minutes, up to 37 points on Sunday against the Mavericks. From watching the game, it appears that this level of combined production is very maintainable for this dynamic duo.
Chris Paul and the other wings don't require many shots, and center Deandre Ayton is the one that has to sacrifice his own scoring opportunities for the sake of the club. But, Durant and Booker have combined 65-point/11-assist on excellent shooting percentage expected value on a nightly basis at this point. This is extremely fun for anyone with either/both on their fantasy hoops squads, and you should lock them in for DFS and daily prop bet overs in the short term until the books catch up to these new expected values.
Contending vets and lottery youngsters
On Sunday, 36-year-old Al Horford (available in 51.3% of leagues) dropped 20 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 3-pointers, 2 blocks and 1 steal in 46 minutes against the Knicks, two games after notching 23 points, 11 rebounds, 6 3-pointers, 3 assists and a blocked shot against the Cavaliers. On Saturday, veteran Kyle Anderson (available in 80.5% of leagues) dropped 18 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 2 blocks and 1 steal for the Timberwolves, two games after consecutive outings averaging 12.0 PPG, 9.5 RPB, 4.0 APG and 1.0 SPG.
Meanwhile, among teams currently in the lottery, we have recent games of 32 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 3-pointers, 2 steals and 2 blocks from 21 year-old Jalen Williams (available in 50.9% of leagues) and three games of 20+ points and 12+ rebounds in the last four outings from 23-year-old Marvin Bagley III (available in 79.0% of leagues).
Moral to the story: if you're looking for fantasy streaming options and/or roster pick-ups that can produce in your FBA playoffs, target veterans on teams fighting for playoff positioning and young players on teams headed for the lottery. In many cases, these are the players most likely to outplay expectation down the stretch.