Ryan Knaus

The Numbers Game

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Winners & Losers: East

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


If your fantasy teams are still active heading into April, you're either playing in a roto league or battling for a championship, and congratulations are in order. As my colleague Steve Alexander pointed out in the Dose, this has been a brutal year due to a stream of major injuries, plus unpredictable DNPs from tanking teams. It's not easy to build a roster that can withstand the rigors of the regular season without collapsing in the final weeks.

 

There have been plenty good stories throughout the season, of course, and today's column will discuss both extremes – players whose fantasy stock either improved or declined in 2017-18. This isn't a comprehensive list and there aren’t any one-size-fits-all criteria for success or failure, but the players below jumped out at me. We'll begin with half of Eastern Conference, with more players to follow in the coming weeks.

 

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Winners

 

Dwight Howard - The 32-year-old Howard has missed one game all season, and that was due to a mandatory suspension for getting 16 technical fouls. His ability to stay healthy is reason enough to consider the 2017-18 campaign a success, but Howard has also been stuffing the stat-sheet on a nightly basis. He has the fourth-most double-doubles in the NBA (more than Anthony Davis, LeBron James or DeAndre Jordan), and is averaging his highest scoring (16.7 points per game) and blocks (1.6) since the 2013-14 season. Not bad for a center you drafted in the middle rounds.

 

Taurean Prince - This isn't an unqualified success story, as Taurean's inconsistency and brutal FG% really dragged down his value for most of the season. He's peaked as a go-to option heading into the fantasy playoffs, though, and has carried plenty of teams whose owners remained patient. I still have him in two leagues, but sadly I let impatience get the better of me in two other leagues -- in one of which, he was picked up by the owner who is now crushing me in the semi-finals. Thanks to his torrid finish to the season, he won't come cheap next season.

 

Spencer Dinwiddie - The fourth-year guard was a prime candidate for waiver-wire pickup of the year, posting career-high numbers across the board -- 12.8 points, 1.7 threes, 3.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 0.9 steals. He doesn't turn the ball over much for a PG and has strong FT% (82.1%) to compensate for rocky FG% (38.8%). The Nets were adamant that he would maintain a featured role even when D'Angelo Russell (knee) got back, which bodes well for his value next season -- the Nets can guarantee his contract for $1.7 million.

 

DeMarre Carroll - The veteran had knee surgery in Jan. 2016, and simply never got back to his previous level of play while with Toronto. The Raptors wound up dumping his salary onto the Nets, and most fantasy owners assumed he would fade into the background as a 31-year-old journeyman on a young, rebuilding team. Instead, Carroll averaged career-highs with 13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 triples and 2.0 assists, resulting in his best fantasy campaign since he was with the Hawks. I won't be eager to draft him next season, but he's at least made himself a viable late-round option.

 

Kris Dunn - The turf toe injury that threatens to end Dunn's season has been a major buzzkill, and the season wasn't an unqualified success. Nevertheless, when healthy he's been a difference-maker for both the Bulls and fantasy owners, which is more than most anticipated on draft day -- I guarantee he went undrafted, or was taken as a final-round flier, in the majority of leagues. That won't be the case next season thanks to enticing per-36-minute averages of 16.5 points (42.9% FGs, 73.0% FTs), 1.0 triples, 5.2 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 0.6 blocks.

 

Andre Drummond - The Pistons suffered through another disappointing season under coach Stan Van Gundy, but fantasy owners have no complaints about Drummond. Offseason surgery to correct a deviated septum may have improved his conditioning, and with more playmaking responsibilities he added 3.1 assists per game to his bread-and-butter stats -- 14.8 points on 52.4% FGs, 15.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.6 steals. He continues to be an iron-man for games played, too, and perhaps most importantly, he shot a relatively phenomenal 61.3% from the FT line -- after never being above 41.8% previously in his career.

 

Victor Oladipo - This one doesn't even require justification. He's the obvious Most Improved Player and blew away his Average Draft Position this season. He's a scoring machine with no glaring injury concerns, solid statistical versatility, and the ability to carry you in multiple categories in a given week -- for instance, he has a steal in 57 consecutive games. He's likely to be gone at the turn of the 1st/2nd rounds next season.

  

 

Losers

 

George Hill, Jordan Clarkson & Rodney Hood - This trio of West-to-East converts were doubly disappointing this season. None of them were impressive with their original teams, and none of them have been consistently valuable since joining the Cavs. Hill was an awkward fit with the Kings and has struggled with low usage as a primarily off-ball guard next to LeBron. Clarkson continues to offer almost nothing beyond points and a handful of 3-pointers. And Hood's career-long arc of inconsistency and injuries followed him yet again in 2017-18. Nothing about their current play bodes well for next year -- Hill and Clarkson are under contract (a combined $31.5 million) while Hood is a restricted free agent.

 

Nicolas Batum - Heading into his age-29 season, there was cause for optimism surrounding Batum. He was coming off a career-high 15.1 points per game in 2016-17, with solid all-around stats and just five DNPs. Unfortunately, injuries have been the dominant theme for his current season. He missed the first dozen games, struggled badly with his shot for most of the season, and even his post-All-Star-break run of dominance was cut short by an Achilles injury. He returned on Monday with a minute-limit, but that's too little, too late for most owners -- the FG% woes and frequent injuries will inevitably depress his value on draft day.

 

Kyrie Irving - Having escaped the shadow of LeBron James, as the go-to option for Boston, expectations were sky-high for Irving. He thrived for most of the season but was limited by a nagging knee injury, with a mid-season report suggesting that he would eventually require surgery to correct the problem. It turns out the surgery would be needed sooner than later, as he was knocked out in March for the remainder of the regular season -- and with that, so many fantasy owners' hopes of a championship also went down.

 

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - As a 24-year-old with defensive upside, strong rebounding, and anemic turnover totals, MKG was ideally situated as a late-round option in 9-cat leagues. Unfortunately, his fantasy value collapsed due largely to the presence of Dwight Howard -- MKG's lack of shooting range means the Hornets have trouble stretching out defenses when they're both on the court, and Dwight's presence sent MKG's rebound rate into freefall. His 9.1% rebound rate is far below his previous career-low (12.0%). Jeremy Lamb continues to demand playing time and MKG's combination of reduced minutes, reduced rebounding, reduced defensive stats, combined with a complete lack of 3-point shooting, means he was a liability in most fantasy leagues.

 

Robin Lopez - We can't blame RoLo for being shut down as a 29-year-old on a tanking team. Nevertheless, he wasn't particularly good even when playing big minutes as a starter. In addition to poor defensive stats (0.8 blocks, 0.2 steals), he caught his brother's allergy to rebounds (4.5 per game, his lowest since 2011-12). He's under contract with Chicago next season, and it's hard to imagine his role improving if he's not traded.

 

Myles Turner & Hassan Whiteside - I'm lumping these guys together because they're both Eastern centers who were drafted in a similar range (2nd/3rd round) and have burned owners due to missed games. The glaring difference for me is that Turner is 22 years old and currently has Domantas Sabonis, Trevor Booker and Al Jefferson behind him in the rotation. Meanwhile, Whiteside is nearly 29 years old, and he has Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk behind him. I expect both centers to slide next year because they've burned so many owners, and I'll happily grab Turner if I see him in the third round -- Whiteside, I'm not so sure.

 

That's all the time I have for today's column, but head back next week for a discussion of players from the Raptors, Magic, Sixers, Knicks, Bucks, and other guys I haven't mentioned throughout the Eastern Conference!



Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
Email :Ryan Knaus



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