We’re now over a month into the season and things are starting to gel. We were able to assemble 5 of the best Unicorn contributors, to truly offer a cornucopia of elite fantasy basketball opinions. Happy holidays and enjoy your mashed potatoes with a side of spicy fantasy basketball takes!
Now that we are roughly one month in, what would a redraft of the first 10 picks look like?
A redraft of the top 10 picks after one month of play would look like this in my opinion:
- James Harden
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Anthony Davis
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Damian Lillard
- Luka Doncic
- Kyrie Irving
- Lebron James
- Kawhi Leonard
- Andre Drummond
While this isn’t the exact order of the top 10 in category-league fantasy production, it might be more in-line with expectations through the rest of the season. Maybe the most surprising name in here is Luka Doncic. I think most people expected him to eventually break the plain on first-round value – just not this soon.
If not for Steph’s injury, I would still have him inside the top 10 but probably not in the top 5, where he was drafted. Kawhi although very nice to have on a per-game basis, falls off my top 10 because of his occasional time off due to load management. Luka who can be had in late 2nd to early 3rd rounds is a top 3 pick having the best per-game value after James Harden. Jokic falls off big time as he’s having another slow start to the season. Drummond takes his place in my top 10 as he continues his torrid start to the season. So here’s my top 10 if we are to do a redraft, a month into the season:
1. James Harden
2. Karl Anthony Towns
3. Luka Doncic
4. Anthony Davis
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
6. Damian Lillard
7. Andre Drummond
8. Lebron James
9. Kyrie Irving
10. Jimmy Butler
- James Harden
- Karl Anthony-Towns
- Luka Doncic
- Anthony Davis
- Kyrie Irving
- Jimmy Butler
- Paul George
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- LeBron James
- Kawhi Leonard
- Giannis (Questionable? Maybe, but if you punt FT% Giannis is still the #1, and he gives you everything else)
- James Harden
- Luka Doncic
- Jimmy Butler
- Kawhi (I know this is 11, but because of how many games Kawhi will miss, and staggering minutes with PG, gotta give it to Drummond for his positional dominance.
What are some teams to keep an eye on for mining sneaky fantasy value moving forward?
There are tons of names that come to mind as far as potential sleepers moving forward, but to keep this one relatively short, I’ll simply pick most young Hawks players. Head coach Lloyd Pierce pushed the pace of his young team hard in the 2018-19 season, finishing first-overall in pace. This year, his Hawks are currently 11th in pace. I expect that to come up going forward. You likely won’t be able to trade for rising star Trae Young, but maybe your league mate isn’t keen to hold onto a suspended John Collins or an injured Kevin Huerter. In addition, names like Cam Reddish, Alex Len, DeAndre Bembry, and De’Andre Hunter are worth adding to your watch list.
The Portland Trailblazers, Washington Wizards, and the Toronto Raptors. The Blazers frontcourt is still a mess with no clear-cut must-own player aside from Hassan Whiteside. The timeshare between Carmelo Anthony and Nassir Little I think will go Nassir’s way starting the second half of the season as the Blazers will look to develop its young guys after a lost season. The Wizards meanwhile continue to impress me, with Moe Wagner and Davis Bertans also having sneaky value even if coming off the bench. An injury to Thomas Bryant or Rui Hachimura would unleash either or both Moe and Davis. The Raptors also have players that could have sneaky value in Terence Davis and Chris Boucher. I can see a scenario wherein the Raptors would ease up on the loads of their regulars and giving more minutes to the two above mentioned will provide great value as we head to fantasy playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors and the Orlando Magic are good targets for waiver wire value moving forward. The Warriors are essentially a G-League team sans D’Angelo Russell and Draymond Green right now and everything is up for grabs in this team. Eric Paschall and Alec Burks are the two solid contributors for the Warriors right now posting close to top-100 statlines in head-to-head formats. Ky Bowmann, Jordan Poole, and Marquese Chriss are all deep sleepers who have not shown their impact yet but can explode for your team at anytime. The minutes are there, the Warriors just need more production from everywhere which is perfect for a fantasy goldmine.
The Orlando Magic are fighting for playoff contention in the Eastern Conference right now but many things might change for them. Center Nikola Vucevic and forward Aaron Gordon are out with sprained ankles and we really do not know the direction of this franchise right now. The point guard spot competition has been competitive with both Markelle Fultz and D.J. Augustin sharing the ball-handling duties and occasionally putting up numbers in fantasy. Mo Bamba and Khem Birch meanwhile will be fighting for center minutes while the franchise’s cornerstones are out. Expect Jonathan Isaac’s minutes to rise as well as he might have to slide to PF due to their injuries. If all these moving parts continue, expect the Orlando Magic to run with their young guys especially if they continue to slide in the standings.
New Orleans Pelicans have about 10-12 guys on their roster that have some sort of value if given the opportunity. The reason I chose this team as the sneaky fantasy value is I believe they will try to trade some of that depth. They have guys that are more or less guaranteed to get minutes (Jrue, Lonzo, Ingram, Zion, Favors), so many young guys that probably should get consistent minutes to develop (Hart, NAW, Hayes, Jackson), and then they have solid vets that deserve minutes as well (Reddick, Okafor, and Moore). Having 12 NBA level players is great for depth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a move to get some of those young wings more playing time.
For me, it’s clearly been Miami. They’ve turned nothing into something with some unknown assets, Kendrick Nunn, Chris Silva, Duncan Robinson have all had their opportunities and moments to shine. I think it’s a testament to Spoelstra and the fact that there aren’t “too many mouths to feed” on this squad. I’d be paying attention to Miami moving forward as injuries and changes in strategy take place.
The Lakers have the makings of a team that will have some diamonds in the rough. When AD and LeBron inevitably start missing time, some of these secondary pieces will become more and more valuable. The Lakers bench was supremely underrated coming into this season, but Avery Bradley, Javale McGee, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma, and Danny Green have several opportunities to step up with any time missed from the players ahead of them on the depth chart.
Toronto has 11 players in the top 200 in fantasy value, filtering out players who have played less than 8 games. Thus far, Toronto can attribute their success to the bench mob mentality that has defined their development attitude under Masai Ujiri. While Pascal Siakam and Fred Van Vleet are the fantasy world’s worst-kept secrets at this point, O.G. Anunoby, Norman Powell, and Serge Ibaka and putting up decent value and could be the end of roster depth your roster needs to weather through the winter. Keep an eye on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, he’s slowly been creeping up in minutes, and has shown some deft passing and defense.
What type of impact do you think Zion’s eventual return will have on the fantasy values of the noteworthy Pelican players?
I’ll start off with the players I think are safe from Zion’s return negatively impacting the values of – at least to a significant degree. Although Brandon Ingram has played some power forward lately, I don’t think his value will plummet a whole lot. He’s been the engine behind this Pelicans offense thus far. In addition to Ingram, I believe Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball (once he returns from injury) could be the only other players who are largely safe from a downward trend directly due to Zion’s return. Ingram will slide up to small forward more often, forcing other wings to either lose playing time or also slide up, which could affect several wings and guards, like Josh Hart, JJ Redick, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kenrich Williams, and Frank Jackson. At least a few of those players will see their minutes fall. Plus, the frontcourt players could see a dip in playing time as well – Jahlil Okafor, Nicolo Melli, and evening Derrick Favors might see their roles lessened a bit. Overall, Williamson’s return could potentially impact nearly the entire Pelicans roster.
I think that Brandon Ingram will likely be hit the most by Zion’s eventual return. The Pelicans are currently 3rd in the league in pace, and for the Pelicans to be successful and turn their season around, they need to play faster. Inserting Zion into the lineup will likely achieve this but on the other hand, Ingram’s post play and isolation, where he is getting most of his points from, will be decreased. Thus, his usage and scoring will likely fall a notch or two.
We already see a glimpse of the production of the frontcourt players with Brandon Ingram and Derrick Favors out. Jaxson Hayes is slowly showing why the Pelicans drafting him and Nicolo Melli is a speculative add for threes and rebounds at times. Jahlil Okafor seems to be out of the rotation now especially with his injury and if Zion Williamson comes back, expect Hayes to be limited to 10-15 minutes a game and Favors to start alongside the Duke phenomenon.
At first glance you probably see Ingram as possibly the biggest loser just because he has had such a high usage, and he’s been playing some 4 to make room for the other wings. On the other hand, if I’m the Pelicans, I want Ingram on the floor as much as possible considering what he’s been doing. Because of that, they’ll likely move Ingram between the 3 and 4, which hurts all the other guys like NAW, Hart, Moore, and Reddick.
The Pelicans have been a huge question mark to this point in the season. Flashes of brilliance, for sure, but also long stretches of confusion and inconsistency. Their troubles have come in their scoring on the road, where their offensive rating drops to 106.4, down from 111.3 at home. Some of that is because this is a young team, and it looks like it’ll be tough for them to find a groove this season, especially with the injury issues that have plagued Favors thus far. They are going to ease Zion back in, so it’s likely he won’t see many minutes right off the bat. That said, I could see his return have a negative impact on Favors (21 MPG), Jahlil Okafor (17 MPG), and Jaxson Hayes (17 MPG), who likely have been the reason for the stagnant offense that we’ve seen from NOP, as well as several of the defensive problems. For reference, Jahlil Okafor is the Center in 2 of the Pelicans 3 worst lineups by net rating. Highly likely that they’ll want to give Zion most of his minutes.
Which players are most likely to maintain their current overperforming of ADP?
Isaac (Borderline 1st)
FVV (2nd round)
Sabonis (3rd Round)
Anunoby (4th Round)
Marcus Morris (5th Round)
Tristan Thompson (5th Round)
It’s difficult to expect any of these players to maintain their current levels of value.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Domantas Sabonis hold onto production at or around what he’s displayed so far, but he might be the only one.
Jonathan Isaac has been a favorite of true fantasy fiends since he was drafted, but borderline first-round value? That’s tough to anticipate.
Fred VanVleet has been sensational for the Raptors. And the fact that most people saw him as a nobody coming out of his draft puts the cherry on top. But with the number of contributors Toronto possesses, it won’t be easy for VanVleet to maintain his current level of value.
OG Anunoby was one of my top sleepers going into the season. I love his Isaac-like skill set and upside. I didn’t foresee him producing early-round value though. I see him as more of a top 90-ish player this season. That’s not to say he won’t achieve a consistent top 50 demeanor eventually. I just don’t expect it to hold up this year.
Marcus Morris’ current level of production is a product of the Knicks’ team trotting out a whole bunch of marginally-rotational players, and not knowing exactly how to produce with them. He looks like the shining star of this New York roster. It won’t stay that way – especially down the stretch when they’re out of playoff contention and (hopefully) want to give their youngsters as big of a role as possible.
Tristan Thompson really started this season off hot. Was it his talent? Was it the opportunity? Was it new head coach John Beilein’s system? Or was it dumb luck? It could have been a combination of the four. Regardless, I think he’ll stay on the standard-league radar this season – but not to this degree. Similar to the Knicks, the Cavs will give their young guys tons of usage down the stretch. Luckily for Thompson, there aren’t any promising young guns looking to man the paint on this team. He’ll be fine this season – but maybe not quite fifth-round fine.
A lot marquee players are on the sidelines that is why most of the players mentioned are well above their ADPs. When those players eventually come back, a lot of these players outperforming their ADPs will likely fall a bit. But the player whom I see likely to maintain his current ADP is Tristan Thompson. TT’s role as a starter is unchallenged, his minutes are up, his other stats are basically the same as last year’s but the outlier here is his scoring is up from 10.9 to 14.9 this year. He can likely maintain that scoring and retain his current ranking.
- Ingram (Late 2nd round)
- Wiggins (3rd round)
- Sabonis (3rd Round)
- Anunoby (4th Round)
I’m sure no one is surprised by my pick as a Pacer fan, but I believe Sabonis is the one most likely to maintain just because his game isn’t predicated on any one category being outstanding. He simply produces across the board with points, boards, assists, and decent percentages and I don’t see that going away ROS, even when Oladipo comes back. TT and OG would be my second choices, since TT has been rejuvenated and OG has finally started putting the pieces together on offense to compliment his ridiculous defense.
I have ranked the below players from most-likely to least-likely to maintain their current spot
FVV (2nd round) – Yes, some of this is because Lowry has been sitting, but 2 of the Raptors’ 5 best lineups have featured both FVV and Lowry together, so I’m leaning towards this keeping up.
Anunoby (4th Round) – Ironically, Anunoby is a similar situation, he is featured in 4 of the top 6 best lineups for the Raptors. Anunoby’s versatility, and defensive ability, keep him on the floor, and it’s not much to ask on this team to expect him to keep the 4th round value.
Marcus Morris (5th Round) – As sad as it is…. I’ve watched too many Knicks games this year, and in pretty much every game, I’m impressed by Marcus Morris Sr.’s role as the offensive playmaker and leader down the stretch. I think there’s a good chance he keeps his value, especially in a FG% punt.
Tristan Thompson (5th Round) – I think Tristan keeps his value if and only if he doesn’t get traded. If he gets traded, his value will tank, because he will no longer be getting starter minutes/attention. However, for as long as he’s on the Cavs, his value will stay where it is.
Isaac (Borderline 1st) – Isaac is such an enigma… the reason why his value is so high is because he’s giving you elite steals and blocks out of position, as well as 1.2 3PT a game. His role is going to continue to expand, but I’m not sure if he’s going to get much better than what we’re seeing right now this season. Due to his age, and the volatility of some of his core stats, I’m wary of seeing this value maintain through the season.
Sabonis (3rd Round) – Sabonis’ value frankly could be even higher, since he’s basically been the only healthy Pacer on the roster this season. Oladipo, Brogdon, Lamb, & Turner have all missed time or have not played a game (Dipo) this season. Sabonis has been able to capitalize, but once that core is playing consistent minutes, his value will drop.