Fantasy Basketball Industry Hot Takes
Fantasy Basketball season continues to edge closer with industry professionals ramping up their preseason work. The Fantrax Fantasy Basketball draft guide is up and running, with new content being added daily. With minds locked in on draft preparation, I thought to take a break from rankings and sleepers was certainly warranted. I have gathered the best minds in the business, compiling their hot takes for the upcoming season. Analysts love providing hot takes as it gives them an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Whether relating specifically to fantasy or simply to the NBA in general, this piece is sure to raise questions across the board. What better way to kick off the working week than with this industry-first compilation. Come inside the best minds Fantasy Basketball has to offer and journey down a rarely ventured path.
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Fantasy Basketball Hot Takes
34-year-old LeBron James and 34-year-old Chris Paul finish the season 1 and 2 in assists per game:
Maybe this isn’t such a hot take when you consider they ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in APG a year ago. Things are aligning for both players to go on an assists binge. James has functioned as the primary ball-handler on every team he’s played on since the start of his career. However, he is now rumored to be the Lakers’ official starting point guard. That should position him to be even more involved in the halfcourt, where he prepares to team with the best big man teammate of his 17-year career.
Paul, meanwhile, is back to having his own team. He’s shown significant signs of decline in recent seasons. Even in what we now know was an untenable situation last season, Paul managed to hand out more than eight assists per game. With the reins of an offense back under his control, Paul could make one last run at double-digit assists. Last season’s leader, Russell Westbrook (10.7 APG), projects to take a step back in Houston, as does last year’s No. 2, Kyle Lowry.
The Spurs finish the regular season ahead of both Los Angeles teams in the standings:
No teams will be watched, and scrutinized, more closely than the Lakers and Clippers, and rightfully so. However, the Spurs are quietly poised to field easily their best team of the post-Kawhi era. Eight of the top nine win-shares leaders from last season’s 48-win team return, as does Dejounte Murray, who missed all of 2018-19 with a torn ACL. If Murray is even 80% of the player San Antonio expected him to be, they’ll easily eclipse 50 wins. They possess a nasty defensive backcourt of Murray and Derrick White That is paired with two of the league’s most reliable veteran scorers in LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs may not have the postseason upside of the Clippers or the Lakers or even the Rockets. However, I think they’ll push for a top-three seed in the West.
Matt Smith (@smansports) – Basketball Monster
Trae Young will be a top 10 fantasy player (8-cat) this season:
Year Three Is Key:
Craig Bozic (@storytelling41) – Razzball
Miles Bridges finishes the season inside the top 50:
Ja Morant is not a top 100 redraft player:
Josh Lloyd (@redrock_bball) – Basketball Monster
Derrick White will be a better fantasy player, and real-life player, than the much more highly touted teammate, Dejounte Murray:
I’m not even sure that by September it will be considered all that hot. Tepid, in fact. At this point, the assumption is that Murray will just take back his starting spot that he had before his ACL tear. However, with how White played after returning from his heel issue last season, and especially in the playoffs, I think he will have the more productive season. The Spurs-Nuggets first-round series didn’t get too much attention. Although, when a player drops 36-5-5-3-1 on 71 percent shooting, you have to pay attention. He can pass and shoot a little, Murray can’t. He is a dynamo defensive player, which Murray also is. Murray’s presence could limit White from achieving the top 50, but I would not be stunned if he came out and posted a breakout campaign and even came away with the Most Improved Player award.
Mitchell Robinson will put up top-30 all-time blocks-per-game numbers (top-3 this century):
Due to rule changes and stylistic shifts, the great shot blockers just don’t get as many blocks as they used to. This century, averaging three blocks a game all but guarantees leading the league. In the ’90s, three blocks a game sometimes didn’t get you into that season’s top five. Since Y2K, only three players have topped 3.65 blocks per game – Serge Ibaka’s league-leading average in 2011-12, the 30th best figure all-time. Mitchell Robinson is about to make it four.
Rui Hachimura is the top rookie target of 2019-20:
Alex Barutha (@Alex_NBArutha) – Rotowire
Miles Bridges should be drafted in the 5th Round:
Kent Bazemore should be drafted in the 5th Round:
Kevin So (@kevinso) – Fantasy Unicorns
Joel Embiid will be in the mix for a top 3 fantasy ranking:
Embiid showed what he could do post-all-star break last season, tying Giannis as the #2 fantasy contributor on a per-game basis. He managed to be 16th overall in total fantasy production last season even after missing over 20% of his games. So far in mock drafts, he’s been falling to the late 1st and 2nd rounds. The slide is understandable as he’s heading into the season with new teammates and injury/condition questions/concerns. However, I think he’ll be in the mix with the top 3 fantasy players this season.
Josh Richardson and Al Horford should have a positive effect on Embiid’s overall fantasy production. Both free agents are not high usage players and can spread the floor offensively. They also typically pick up more slack on the defensive end than their predecessors. This should help Embiid micro rest and expend just a little less on the defensive end. This, in turn, should help him stay fresh, and free him up to thrive offensively.
The injury worries are justifiable but may be more due to a lack of conditioning. This isn’t a great excuse for a professional athlete, but it’s definitely fixable. As evidenced by his emotional reaction to the end of his season, the desire is there. It should be obvious to him that conditioning is the true hole in his game. Hopefully, he’ll join the annual muscle-watch news, show off some sweat-drenched jerseys pointing to his conditioning work, and hear about a new personal chef that will get his diet in line. Once he’s there, he’ll be running with the elite picks.
Troy Brown Jr will have moments of standard league relevance:
2nd-year player Troy Brown Jr finds himself as one of the few quality young players on a team going nowhere this season. The Wizards also waved goodbye to much of its wing depth. Combine this opportunity with big question marks at the point and you have a recipe for something interesting for the play-making wing. Just recently 20 years old, Brown clearly has work to do on his efficiency from the field and line. However, the other aspects of his game (assists, boards, potentially steals and 3s) look fantasy-friendly.
He played big minutes at the end of last season and managed 12.7/4.8/2.3 with 0.8 steals, 1.8 3PM on 47.6 FG% and 83.3 FT% over his last 6. In two summer league games, he put up lines of 18/15/2 with a block and 16/9/2 with a steal and a 3 while shooting 40% from the field and 75% from the line. If he is given the opportunity, he should be able to continue his improvements. Brown could project into the starting frontcourt of the future alongside Rui and Thomas Bryant. In standard leagues, he’s a last round flier at best for now. As the season heads into March, he should be unleashed and offer some sneaky production.
Steve Toroni (@FFProfessorST3) – The Hot Take Podcast
Bam Adebayo is a Top 10 Center in Fantasy Basketball:
Bam is a beast – simply put. He is improving his game every day this Summer working with the USA team and has been spotted developing a very smooth fade-away from 12-15 feet. Adebayo had five of his 11 double-doubles in the last 20 games of the season when he saw his minutes increased. Believe it or not – he was ranked 17th in the NBA in true shooting percentage. He averaged almost nine points, eight rebounds and a block in 2018-19 in 23.3 minutes per game. Now Hassan Whiteside is gone. Bam is the clear starter and should see his minutes increase to around 30 per contest. This is big for Fantasy because Adebayo averaged 1.05 Fantasy Points per minute last year. In 2018 Bam made the most of his minutes with a 17.9 PER off the bench and in a starting role. In 2019-20 his efficiency and ability to fill up the stat sheet will be on full display. He will be an All-Star candidate in February and a Fantasy darling for the 2019 season.
Trae Young will outscore Kyrie Iriving in Total Fantasy Points:
In 81 games last season Trae Young had 156 made three-pointers. That is the same amount as Tobias Harris, 31 LESS than Brook Lopez, and 18 less than Kyrie Irving (174 in 67 games). The NBA can be unpredictable but here is something I do know: Brook Lopez and Kyrie Irving will NOT have more 3PM than Trae Young next season. The Celtics offense was built on spreading the ball. A lot of the open looks Kyrie got were set up by Al Horford by offensive rebounds and pick and roll situations. Irving will still get his and it will be his show in Brooklyn. However, the offense just won’t be as efficient as the 2018 Celtics. Young’s usage, three-point attempts, and points will all increase in his sophomore season. The First Team All-Rookie already has Irving bested in assists (653 compared to 464 last year). On the season Kyrie was 23rd in total Fantasy Points- but Trae was right there at 27th in the NBA. Trae will be a full round cheaper (maybe more) than Kyrie – if you are thinking “draft Irving”- I would get a stud at another position and make out like a bandit with Trae Young.
Al Hunter (@Hunta512) – The Sports Geek
Bam Adebayo will win most improved player of the year and is the steal of fantasy drafts:
It’s been a long time coming, but the door is finally open for Adebayo to flourish as The Heat’s starting center with Hassan Whiteside dealt to Portland. In the 10 games that Whiteside missed this past season, Adebayo started in each and produced 30.7 DraftKings PPG. The Heat recorded a 21-17 record in all the games that he logged 25 minutes or more. With Whiteside and his lackadaisical tendencies finally out of town, Adebayo should play 30+ minutes on a nightly basis.
He has been working hard on his game this summer and from the various Team USA practice clips that have surfaced online, it seems that Adebayo’s inside and outside game have expanded from last season. On top of an improved offense game, Bam is an up and coming defender in this league, that ranked 28th in real defensive plus-minus last season out of 514 qualifying players. While it’s inevitable that Heat nation will miss Dwayne Wade this season, Adebayo should make things easier in a breakout campaign.
Isaiah Thomas will be fantasy relevant again in Washington:
His tenure in Denver was a fail, but Thomas essentially had this whole past season off, with HC Mike Malone only using him in 12 total games. He should now be in the best health since his hip injury in 2017, which occurred during his storied playoff run with the Celtics. In that season, Thomas averaged 28.9 PPG, 5.9 APG and finished fifth in MVP voting, ahead of the likes of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Anthony Davis.
Thomas was obviously younger then and in a better situation. With John Wall still on the shelf for the foreseeable future and Tomas Satoransky leaving in free agency to Chicago, IT couldn’t ask for a better spot to show the league that he can still compete at a high level. Ish Smith also joined The Wizards this offseason and may get the starting nod to start the year. After Bradley Beal, Thomas is the next best scoring option on this roster. Starter or not, he should garner a strong usage rate. Perhaps the next chapter of the Isaiah Thomas underdog story could be a positive one in Washington.
Greg Ehrenberg (@gehrenbergdfs) – Basketball Monster
Brandon Clarke finishes as the second highest-ranked rookie in standard leagues:
Of course, I am assuming Zion as the runaway top-ranked rookie. The only real concern I have with Clarke is playing time. It’s possible that a lack of run could limit his fantasy upside. If he gets enough playing time, he profiles as an excellent fantasy player. In college, he was hyper-efficient, shooting 68.7% from the field and produced well-rounded stat lines. The biggest boon to his potential value comes from his defensive stats. Clarke averaged 3.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
Chris Paul returns first round per game value:
If Paul doesn’t get hurt then a monster fantasy season is coming. The public perception is extremely negative towards CP3, opening up the likely scenario of him sliding in drafts. It shouldn’t be overlooked that he was the 19th ranked player by the Basketball Monster Z-Scores last season and he’s going to see a bump in ball handling playing without James Harden. Even though he’s no longer in his prime, Paul had impressive numbers without Harden on the court last season. Per 36 minutes, he scored 22.6 points and notched 12.5 assists. OKC is going to be his team and the lack of playmakers on the roster figures to force the ball in Paul’s hands much more than we saw from his time in Houston.
Mike Apotria (@mikeapotria) – Hoop-Ball
Steven Adams averages 13.5 rebounds per game:
Everyone loves a good hot take. Not the ones scorching like the surface of the sun, but ones that are so far from the norm, yet in the realm of possibility. I’ve had one lined up since free agency and I am at the point where I need convincing that Steven Adams won’t average 13.5 rebounds per game. So what keeps this feeling hotter than a car with leather seats in August, but makes it still possible? Adams is entering his seventh season with the Thunder and last season he obtained a career-high with 9.5 rebounds per game. He finished the season with an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.9 percent and a defensive rebounding percentage of 13.3 percent. It is quite unusual for a center’s defensive rebounding percentage to be so low. Adams had one of the leagues worst for centers who have played at least 65 games.
Russell Westbrook going to the Rockets was one of, if not the biggest, headlines during free agency. The move will likely pay dividends for Adam’s fantasy owners. Westbrook averaged 11.1 rebounds per game last season. He did so with a defensive rebounding percentage of 25.5 percent and an offensive rebounding percentage of 3.6 percent. Westbrook’s DR% is nearly double the percentage that Adams finished the season with on the defensive glass and only 6.5 percent lower than Andre Drummonds. If you’ve watched the Thunder play over the past few years you would see Adams box out his opponents. This allowed Westbrook to come down with the defensive rebound and push the pace.
Adams was tied for sixth-best when it came to deferred rebounds (1.2) and was second in the league in team rebounds off of box-outs (4.5). I fully expect both numbers to drop off, thus increasing Adam’s total rebounds. Adams finished last season ranked 16th in rebounds per game. I think he has a realistic chance to be in the top five by seasons end. Adams had an ADP of 70th overall heading into drafts last season and should be at least 20 picks earlier this season.
Jonathan Isaac will average 1.5 steals, blocks and 3-pointers:
We are always looking for the fantasy unicorns that could average one block, one steal and one 3-pointer per game. The only players last season to do this were Nikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol, and Dewayne Dedmon. Isaac fell 0.2 steals shy of the mark, but during his rookie season, he averaged 1.2 steals in only 19.9 minutes per game. We saw his minutes and numbers rise during his sophomore season. I expect the trend to continue heading into his third year. The 6-10, 210 pound forward has a reputation of being injury-prone, but while he only started in 64 games last season he played in 75 of the 82 games.
Isaac said putting on weight would be a priority over the summer and that he has already gained 15 pounds. The added size should contribute to Isaac playing more minutes. His length, athleticism, and ability to shoot will not only get him over the hump to average one steal, block, and three but accomplish even more to solidify himself as a fantasy stud.
Jay Taaffe (@Fantasy NBALayup) – Fantasy Unicorns
Zach Collins will finish the season as the most improved fantasy player:
The Pelicans will have four top 50 players:
It was only three years ago that Derrick Favors was a top 30 fantasy asset for 9-cat leagues. Favors got put on the back burner after the breakout of Rudy Gobert. Now on a new team that plays at an extreme pace – a team that traded for him – Favors should have the starting gig locked up. It might be tough for Favors to reach that top-30 pinnacle again. However, a finish in the top 50 should be obtainable, if not expected.
Zion Williamson should find himself in a role so massive it would be difficult for him to not finish in the top 50. Especially when you consider the aforementioned pace that Alvin Gentry likes to play at. Add in the fact that Gentry likes to put the ball in his big man’s hands in unique ways.
In addition to Favors and Zion, it shouldn’t be hard to envision Jrue Holiday as a top 50 fantasy asset. Especially considering he has finished as a second-round value in each of his last two seasons. But I’ll go one step further with a bonus hot take: Jrue Holiday will finish as a top 12, first-round value in the coming season. David Griffin already stated (fluff or not) that this is Jrue’s team and he will be “unleashed.”
Lastly, the fourth top-50 player on the Pelicans will be none other than starting Point Guard Lonzo Ball. Without the pressure of a must-win-now Lebron James breathing down his neck, comfortability might come a little easier for the eldest Ball brother. Already a nightly triple-double threat, it has been his Free Throw percentage that has held Lonzo back. While I may not expect him to suddenly become an ace at the charity stripe, a modest 65% at the line would work wonders for his fantasy value.
Kyle McKeown (@RotoKyleNBA) – Basketball Monster
Derrick White will start at shooting guard over Bryn Forbes:
D’Angelo Russell will have a better fantasy season than 2018-19:
Mike Catron (@WatchTheBoxes) – Hashtag Basketball: Watching The Boxes
Ja Morant will be the best rookie this season:
There will be more new players in the top 50 than any year in the last 8 seasons:
Dan Besbris (@DanBesbris) – Hoop-Ball
The Lakers will have 3 centers inside the top-100, and five players overall (9-cat, per-game ranks):
Maybe this is a lukewarm take, but it’s at least above room temperature. Anthony Davis will obviously be a top-tier pick. DeMarcus Cousins will sit inside the top-40. Even JaVale McGee, in limited minutes, will register just inside the top-100, thanks almost exclusively to a FG% near 65 and 1.5 blocks per game. It won’t be eyepopping, but it’s just the type of specialist-build top-100 value that can help both roto and head-to-head teams. Whether by helping in difficult categories to add a couple of points when your roto opponents slack off or by going big for a week here and there to add head-to-head wins and improve your chances at a top-2 seed, McGee is the forgotten big man who will likely come cheap on draft night.
After the Lakers could barely register two top-100 players in recent seasons, the team overall will have five this year. The above three, plus LeBron James (duh) and, yes, the mighty Danny Green. Like JaVale, it’ll be by the skin of his teeth, but it counts. He’s going to be critically important to this team and he’s going to be on the floor an awful lot. Just a handful of threes on offense is enough to buoy what is surely going to be defensive-stat-based value.
The Nuggets will miss the playoffs:
Jordan Schultz (@dynoNBA) – Hashtag Basketball
Luka Doncic finishes inside the top-25 and joins KAT and Giannis as a top-3 dynasty start-up pick in 20/21:
Dennis Smith Jr. seizes the starting point guard job and finishes inside the top-125:
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader) – Rotoworld
Jaren Jackson Jr. finishes inside the top 12 this year:
Adam King (@adamking91) – Fantrax
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be a top-50 player this season:
Gordon Hayward also rebounds to finish as a top-50 player:
Adam King joined FantraxHQ in 2018. He also currently writes for Rotowire and has previously written for Locked on Fantasy Basketball and Locked on Timberwolves. He has played sports his entire life with fantasy basketball becoming a passion over the past six years. By day, Adam is the service coordinator at the Autism Centre in Canberra, Australia. Adam was born and raised in Queanbeyan, Australia and currently resides in Bungendore, Australia with his wife and two children.
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