To win your fantasy basketball league, or at least finish “in the money,” you must have a successful draft on a number of levels, including deciding when the right time is to select a particular player. Through the first eight rounds of a draft I tend to go for value picks, players who dropped lower than my projections dictate.
In our 9-CAT league, which includes Assist/Turnover Ratio, point guards are valued at a premium. I projected Kyle Lowry as the #7 overall player. Given the stellar statistics he comprised over the second half of last season, I guessed Lowry would be selected somewhere between late 2nd round and 3rd round of our nine team draft, therefore doubting his availability for me at #26. As it turned out, he was, and I was thrilled. More importantly he has lived up to my pre-draft projection.
I lucked out with drafting Lowry. Luck was not on my side in terms of drafting Jose Calderon, who, given his ridiculously high Assist/Turnover ratio (this season it is 5.40), I had ranked #18 on my big board. I rolled the dice, hoping Calderon would be off the radar of my fellow fantasy competitors. I waited and waited, planning to select the Spaniard in the 8th round. Another team owner drafted him in the 7th round – I texted that person following the draft congratulating him on the pick. Through three weeks, Calderon has been a beast of a fantasy player.
Then there are the players I either projected rather low (Hedo Turkoglu, Ricky Rubio) or excluded altogether from my big board (Spencer Hawes, Ryan Anderson) that have far exceeding expectations.
Here’s a list of my Biggest Fantasy Basketball Surprises after the first three weeks of play, including my pre-draft projected stats and current stats, as well as analysis and prognosis for the rest of 2011-12:
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Projected Stats: 12.0 ppg, 53.0 fg%, 2.9 ftm, 7.5 reb, .9 stl, 1.65 blk
2011-12 Stats: 13.0 ppg, 49.0 fg%, 3.4 ftm, 10.9 reb, 1.5 stl, 2.7 blk
Analysis/ Prognosis: I’ve always been a big Marc Gasol fan, ranking him among quality mid-tier fantasy centers such as Nene. Pau’s little brother has taken his game to an elite level so far this season, averaging 10.9 rebounds and an Andrei Kirilenko-like 1.5 steals and 2.7 blocks. Gasol ranks second only to Dwight Howard in terms of fantasy centers. Even when Zach Randolph returns from injury Gasol could maintain producing as a top 10 player.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Projected Stats: 24.5 ppg, 45.1 fg%, 1.4 3s, 5.6 ftm, 4.9 reb, 4.6 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.1 blk
2011-12 Stats: 31.2 ppg, 46.1 fg%, 1.1 3s, 7.2 ftm, 5.8 reb, 5.5 ast, 1.2 stl, .04 blk
Analysis/ Prognosis: I projected Kobe’s production to begin its decline this season as it typically does with any NBA superstar entering their 15th season of play. When asked for my opinion, I mocked my buddy for selecting Kobe #16 in our 8-CAT draft (he lasted until #34 in our 9-CAT league). Over the past five games, Bryant is averaging a staggering 39 points per game. His points per game average is at its highest since the 2006-07 season, and free throws made since the 2007-08 season. While the Black Mamba is no mere mortal I can’t see him sustaining this level of production over the course of the season: sell high if you can.
Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers
Projected Stats: n/a
2011-12 Stats: 11.1 ppg, 61.8 fg%, 9.2 reb, 2.9 ast, 2.07 ast/to ratio, .8 stl, 2.07 blk
Analysis/ Prognosis: Hawes has done little over the course of his career other than fail to live up to the standards of being a lottery pick. We have heard players proclaim, “I’m in the best shape of my career” a million times. Well, Hawes apparently got himself in peak shape this offseason and has outperformed just about everyone’s wildest expectations. He went undrafted in both of our fantasy leagues. His rebound and blocked shot numbers have been terrific, and he’s even helping fantasy owners in assists and ast/to. Given the 76ers are a team without a superstar, there is no reason to believe Hawes won’t continue producing.
Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets
Projected Stats: 15.0 ppg, 41.5 fg%, 1.7 3s, 6.0 ftm, 5.7 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.0 stl, .5 blk
2011-12 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 45.9 fg%, 1.4 3s, 4.3 ftm, 4.9 reb, 2.8 ast, 1.9 stl, .6 blk
Analysis/ Prognosis: Gallo showed last season in New York and Denver he could shoot threes and earn trips to the free throw line. He was drafted #52 and #65 in our two leagues. His numbers are down in threes and free throws, but up in most others, most notably field goal percentage, assists and steals. I would not be surprised if Gallo’s threes and free throws return to last season’s numbers and for his value to rise to top 30 status.
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected Stats: 7 ppg, 38.8 fg%, 0.0 3s, 2.5 reb, 4.5 ast, 1.55 ast/to ratio, 1.0 stl
2011-12 Stats: 10.4 ppg, 46.0 fg%, .7 3s, 4.1 reb, 8.0 ast, 2.51 ast/to ratio, 1.7 stl
Analysis/ Prognosis: Given Rubio’s well chronicled struggles while playing professionally in Europe the past few seasons not many people anticipated such a quick transition to NBA success. Rubio was drafted in the 13th round in both of our fantasy leagues. He was already putting up quality numbers in field goal percentage, assists and ast/to while coming off the bench in Minnesota. Now that he is starting expect his production to increase in the latter two categories.
Jarrett Jack, New Orleans Hornets
Projected Stats: 12.5 ppg, 51.0 fg%, 2.7 ftm, 3.0 reb, 5.4 ast, 2.4 ast/to ratio, .1 blk.
2011-12 Stats: 14.2 ppg, 40.9 fg%, 2.6 ftm, 4.4 reb, 8.0 ast, 2.76 ast/to ratio, .5 blk
Analysis/ Prognosis: Jack is a journeyman point guard playing for a team that’s been missing its lone star player (Eric Gordon) for most of the season. Someone handling the ball for the Hornets has to put up numbers. Upon Gordon’s return I anticipate Jack’s assists to decrease, but his field goal percentage to increase thus maintaining performing like a top 50 player.
Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic
Projected Stats: 9.0 ppg, 43.5 fg%, 1.5 3s, 2.1 ast, 1.9 ast/to ratio
2011-12 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 48.4 fg%, 2.4 3s, 5.2 ast, 2.28 ast/to ratio
Analysis/ Prognosis: After declining numbers the past five seasons Hedo’s game is unexpectedly rejuvenated. How unexpected? He was drafted in the 13th round of our 17 round 9-CAT league and went undrafted in our 8-CAT league. Given that he shares distribution duties with oft-injured Jameer Nelson Turkoglu’s numbers should maintain.
Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic
Projected Stats: n/a
2011-12 Stats: 17.2 ppg, 45.4 fg%, 3.3 3s, 7.3 reb, 2.0 ast/to ratio
Analysis/ Prognosis: Anderson went undrafted in our 9-CAT league and was the final selection (#135) in our in our 8-CAT league. I expected him to hit three pointers; but not do much else. I excluded him from my draft boards. Anderson has increased his numbers in most categories this season—even threes! His production has been consistent the first three weeks of the season; no reason to expect it to change.
Marc Kravitz, based in Philadelphia, provides Quality Assurance Mystery Shopper services to Restaurants throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. He is a Mixed Martial Arts fanatic and Fantasy Basketball junkie. In Fantasy Hoops, “Krewtime” has finished “in the money” in 85% of the leagues he has participated in. Follow Marc’s fantasy advice on Twitter @Marc_Kravitz