ATTENTION: The opinions shared in this article are not necessarily shared by the writer or The Fantasy Unicorns. We cannot be held liable for any misgivings provided henceforth.
Just kidding… well, kind of. Before we get started here, I wanted to stress that the following thoughts really aren’t 100% my opinions. They’re common takes that I thought would be worth a second look because of the analysis I’ve provided. You can read on and put together your own opinions on each topic. Be sure to let me know if you have any rebuttals or agreements on Twitter @FantasyNBALayup.
Without further ado, let’s jump in.
Darius Garland will get assists.
I’m not buying the idea that Darius Garland will hurt his fantasy owners in the assist category. The reasoning for concern is apparent: he averaged only 3.2 assists in the 34 minutes per game he played through his first four collegiate contests (excluding the fifth game in which he played only 2 minutes due to injury). In those games, he was the engine behind the offense, attempting over 13 shots. Garland was the best scoring option on his team.
His high school time was a little better, although not by a wide margin. As the Player of the Year, the 6’2 Guard averaged 4.3 assists in those earlier days.
Over the course of basically his entire life, Garland has been the focal point of his team’s offense because of his elite scoring capabilities. It’s not that he’s a bad passer; he was just never asked to be a big-time distributor because he was the option.
I’m not saying he’ll suddenly look like a top-tier, pass-first floor general; but I do believe in the Vanderbilt product’s abilities to be a fine facilitator. His basketball IQ is solid, and he has a nice court awareness, usually keeping track of all players on the court. Maybe the most encouraging sign of Garland’s potential development is his court vision. More often than not, he seemed to be looking in the right place for the correct pass but was thwarted for one reason or another.
In the NBA, he won’t always be the best scoring option on his team. He’ll be best served developing a balanced pass+shoot skill set. New Cavaliers head coach John Beilein will likely encourage Garland to bomb away from deep – to an extent. Beilein surely appreciates a good three-point shot; Darius Garland can appease him there. But Garland won’t get to take all the shots. Even on this cringeworthy Cavs roster, Kevin Love and Collin Sexton will want to get theirs. I have confidence that Garland has enough IQ and passing chops to make the right play in those moments.
Clint Capela might be alright.
There seems to be a common thought floating around the fantasy basketball community that Clint Capela could take a step back now that Russell Westbrook is donning Rockets red. Look, I get it. Westbrook is a beast on the boards for his position. But there are some things to consider here that might alter your perspective a bit on this topic.
Firstly, Billy Donovan encouraged Westbrook to grab the boards in order to run in transition. It was a significant part of OKC’s game plan. The Thunder were a top 5 team in fastbreak frequency (19.7%) by design. Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets were in the middle of the pack (15.4%) in terms of fastbreak frequency. D’Antoni didn’t have a speedy, explosive weapon like Westbrook. It could be that the Rockets head coach alters his system to resemble OKC’s a little more closely. This is something we’ll have to learn over time.
Secondly, Steven Adams, being the team player that he is, ceded rebounds to Westbrook whenever possible to help contribute to a winning cause. He did his job of boxing out, knowing that if his Point Guard was the first to touch the ball, their transition offense would be quicker and more successful.
Another tidbit you may be surprised to learn is that all of Westbrook’s Thunder teammates – including Adams – had a better Net Rating with him on the court than without (other than Nerlens Noel who played alongside fellow backup Dennis Schröder more). The negative stigma that follows Russell Westbrook makes this fact a bit difficult to fathom. On the other hand, Clint Capela had a much worse Net Rating while sharing the court with Chris Paul (4.03). Capela’s Net Rating skyrocketed when he was playing without Paul (6.38). Both his Offensive and Defensive ratings took a tumble while on court with the “Point God.” I’m not saying this will directly translate to a situation where Capela finds much more success with Russ as opposed to CP3, but the numbers at least appear to trend in that direction.
My final point is as simple as player development. I’m not sure Capela’s ceiling is a great deal higher than what we’ve seen recently. However, he’s just entering his age 25 season, so at least a hint more progression in terms of offensive and defensive maturity can be expected: like his FT% improving each year up to this point.
Even considering all of this, I’m not saying Capela is a lock to maintain his 23rd overall rank he established through the 2018-19 season. I’m just not sold that he’ll fall outside of the top 30.
Bruno Fernando’s best fantasy seasons will be his first few in Atlanta.
Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not praising Bruno Fernando as a good fantasy option who will start hot. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The 6’10, 240lb rookie brings amazing physical tools, possessing an alpha-male, Adonis physique second to none. Unfortunately, that’s about the extent of his upside. The Maryland product is not a particularly skilled big man; he enters the league with possibly one of the worst basketball IQ’s of the 2019 draft class. His decision-making and on-court presence of mind were questionable at best (and dreadful at worst) over his two-year tenure in college. Luckily, Big Bull Bruno has landed with a team that might have a need to utilize him as a backup paint presence. The Hawks’ young players will be a blast to own for the foreseeable future. The system he will play in should lend a bit of help to covering up Fernando’s holes, pushing him up the fantasy rankings. Plus, Trae Young has the capacity to assist any rim-runner in looking a little better than they actually are.
If Fernando gets the proper coaching and puts in the work necessary to raise his floor, he could become a decent backup Center in the future. I’m not doubting the Hawks’ coaching staff in this scenario. In fact, I’ve been a fan of this team’s work over the last couple of years – and it helps his case that the team actually moved up in the draft to snag him. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it with Fernando. At this point, he’ll be lucky to maintain a rotational role once Atlanta excavates some better options. As long as he remains a Hawk with little depth chart competition, Bruno will be a fine deep league grab. However, when Atlanta brings in another big man – whether it be by draft, trade, or free agency – it’s feasible that he never finds a role quite as large as he may have early in his career. He possesses the physical tools of a high-caliber NBA player; the question that lingers is regarding the amount of improvement Fernando can muster up in the mental and psychological portions of his game.
Thomas Bryant is not on the same level as other young, blossoming big men.
In a similar vein as Bruno Fernando, Thomas Bryant’s best fantasy seasons might be his next couple in Washington, on a roster with slim pickings in terms of depth chart competition.
This is not to say that he lacks NBA-level skill… on the offensive end. Bryant is one of the promising Centers who actually have somewhat reliable range in their stroke. On top of that, he’s a solid pick and roll partner.
The primary aspect that could force the 6’11 22-year old to struggle to find playing time against better roster options is on the defensive end. While his wingspan is promising, he needs to bulk up to avoid getting pushed around against stronger Centers. Additionally, Bryant seems to have trouble knowing where to be and what to do at times. He put up a Defensive PIPM value of just 0.1 last season. Comparatively, John Collins posted 1.0 and Bam Adebayo had 1.2.
If there’s one positive thing to say about Thomas Bryant, it’s that all his coaches agree that he’s one of the hardest workers they’ve ever come across. He’s the typical “first one in, last one out” kind of player, always working to improve himself physically and mentally. Something like that should not go overlooked. If Bryant continues to show the willingness to do everything it takes to better himself, coaches will continue playing him. Again, I’m not saying he’s a Fernando-like, little-to-no-hope kind of player. I’m saying he has a lot of work to do on the defensive end – particularly in the paint – if he expects to be the starting Center of a competitive team one day.
Pascal Siakam might not live up to this year’s expectations.
Currently ranked 25th overall on ESPN’s expert rankings and 18th on Yahoo’s, Pascal Siakam might have some aggressive expectations on his shoulders this season – with good reason.
Siakam exploded onto the fantasy scene in the 2018-19 season, cracking open his career highs by a mile and becoming a pivotal piece to Toronto’s championship puzzle. After never finishing in the top 175 through his first two pro seasons, Spicy P took a mighty leap all the way up to rank #41 in 9-cat leagues last season. Common logic would argue that he must climb even higher in the rankings with another offseason of development under his belt, right? I’m not sold.
Siakam really surprised other teams last year. No one was expecting to have to game plan for a guy they expected to be a marginally rotational player with a low usage. This coming season will be a brand-new experience for the Cameroon native. Not only will the other 29 teams be putting specific anti-Siakam game plans in play, but Kawhi Leonard is no longer there to draw the opposing team’s best defender.
On one hand, I expect some of Pascal’s counting stats to be on the rise: his points, assists, and threes are all in for a nice boost. On the other hand, I can surely foresee a scenario in which his efficiency drops off a bit; better defenders guarding him means tougher shots and a possible uptick in turnovers.
Another aspect to consider is that when players take on a bigger offensive role, it can correlate to slacking off a bit on defense. We know how hard of a worker Siakam is, but is it unreasonable to think he might get a few less steals, blocks, and/or boards because of the bigger strain on offense?
While my projected stat lines for him might look very different from what he produced in 2018-19, I actually expect Siakam to finish the season in a similar tier: somewhere between late-3rd and mid-4th-round value.
Jayson Tatum has a path to 1st-round value.
Here’s a graph comparing Jayson Tatum’s sophomore season per 36-minute stats to Paul George’s and Kawhi Leonard’s:
I’m not using these per 36-minute stats as an argument because these three players had different roles in different systems. Plus, George and Leonard entered the league as defense-first kind of players with the potential to develop into an offensive weapon. Tatum came out of the draft viewed a bit differently. I just thought it was interesting to see the similarities (and some differences) between these players’ sophomore year stat lines.
Tatum may never become the dominant point-of-attack defensive anchor that George and Kawhi are now. He probably won’t ever get to the level of Steals that these other two guys produce either. But if Tatum can continue down this path of efficient percentages while taking even more shots, a huge future lies ahead. I also believe the Duke product can improve his facilitating game even more – maybe to the point of averaging over 4 assists per game, topping Kawhi’s career high and possibly besting PG’s 4.1 as well.
A lot will be learned in Tatum’s third year as a pro. His efficiency and development as a playmaker will be key. On a very different team with a revamped locker room, now is the time for #TatumTakeover SZN.
There you have it, folks. As I previously stated, these are not necessarily my full-fledged opinions and projections of things to come. I’m simply providing arguments to help consider why certain popular ideas might be worth a second thought. Tatum might not be a lock for future 1st-round value. There’s certainly a chance Siakam could vault into the 2nd to early-3rd round of the fantasy ranks. Nothing in fantasy basketball is ever a surefire, cemented guarantee. I just thought it would be fun to provide you with analysis to the contrary of these beliefs.
Good luck with your drafts, fantasy fiends!