The primary differences between a gold mine and a snake pit are as follows:
GOLD MINE —
1) Contains gold;
2) Coveted destination;
SNAKE PIT —
1) Contains snakes;
2) Generally considered dangerous.
The one thing, of course, that a gold mine and snake pit have in common, is that both can potentially be concealed from plain view.
With our fantasy teams right now (are you buying this?), some of us are standing atop a virtual pile of gold, while others have set up a roster that basically is a trap. You think it’s all good and you’re merrily cruising along looking for a spot to eat your steel cut oats by the side of the trail, but then you step on that one suspicious-looking pile of leaves and next thing you know — boom. Snake pit.
Are the great stat lines that we see on our rosters destined to hold up? Or are they going to fall out from under us? Here’s a look at eight players who are drastically outperforming their ADPs — and whether or not they’re likely to maintain it:
Can he keep it up? Personally, I think so. Yes, we’ve seen a big spike in assists (4.8) that may appear unsustainable, but watch a Magic game and you’ll hear a ton of talk about how much Steve Clifford values Vooch as a passer. The offense is running through him a ton, and he’s responding with a stellar all-around stat line: 19.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.4 3s. Another reason I’m optimistic is that Vucevic has performed near this level for a prolonged stretch before. Last year, in his first 33 games before breaking his hand, he was the No. 12 player in 9-category leagues (per Basketball Monster), behind averages of 17.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.2 bpg and 1.5 3s. I’m treating him as a top 12ish player going forward, and think we should all adjust accordingly — if you weren’t already there.
Yahoo ADP: 42.9
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 9
Here’s one where I’m a little bit skeptical. The reasons are as follows:
1) As Jared Johnson pointed out on the Rotoworld basketball podcast this week, Griffin started hot very early last year (he was No. 14 after three games) and ended up finishing 58th in 9-category leagues.
2) His track record of injuries. Griffin has missed 15, 47, 22 and 24 games the last four seasons.
3) He really hasn’t come close to a top-10 finish before. The last five seasons, he has been No. 24, No. 28, No. 40, No. 44 and the aforementioned No. 58 overall.
4) His stat line is being propped up by a couple of lopsided numbers. I’m referring, specifically, to the points and 3s: 33.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.8 bpg and 3.8 3s. Would I buy Griffin putting up 11.0 rpg and 5.0 apg? Sure, absolutely. But he’s headed for an inevitable dropoff in scoring and 3s, even if he does end up being really good in both areas. (He’s shooting 61.1 percent on 3s so far.) The bottom line is I can absolutely see him crushing last year’s No. 58 ranking and taking aim at the top 30, but I would trade him right now if you’ve got anyone out there treating him like a top-15 fantasy player.
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Yahoo ADP: 53.2
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 16
Can he keep it up? The answer is as simple as the answer to another question: Can he keep hitting his free throws? Jordan is dropping freebies at an 82.4 percent clip this year, up from 44.6 percent in his career. Other than that, his numbers (15.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg) are mostly in line with what we’d expect, though the scoring would be a career-best.
Whether Jordan will continue to hit his free throws is a hard question to answer, but I tend to fall on the side of believing in the improvement, even if 82 percent seems pretty unlikely to hold. Andre Drummond made the leap from 38.6 percent to 60.5 last year (and 64.3 percent so far this year), so it doesn’t seem crazy to me that Jordan could make a jump from 58.0 percent last season to something in the upper 60’s this year.
Yahoo ADP: 59.5
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 18
I really like Ingles as a fantasy player, and took him in as many leagues as I could after seeing him put up a No. 61 season last year. But it’s hard to look at last year’s stat line versus this year’s and not immediately think of rattlesnakes:
Ingles 2017-18: 11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 2.5 3s
Ingles 2018-19: 17.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.3 spg, 3.8 3s
I’m buying this stat line to some extent — yes on the assists, sure on the boards — but probably not on the points, steals and 3s. Remember, Ingles is 31. I was on board with the possibility that he’d improve this year in his second season as a full-time starter, but a leap like this seems almost a little far to buy. The good news is Ingles is being more aggressive (FG attempts are up from 8.8 to 12.0 per game), but he’s also not likely to keep shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 50.0 on 3s. Much like Griffin I do think Ingles will remain really valuable all season — maybe even top-30 valuable — but my hunch is we’re headed for at least a little bit of a dropoff.
Yahoo ADP: 63.3
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 20
Can he keep it up? As much as I love LaVine and want to get caught up in this, I have to be realistic and say no. To be clear, I think LaVine is going to be a beast in fantasy leagues this season, but he’s shooting 57.1 percent from the floor, averaging 32.3 ppg and blocking 1.0 shots per game. For reference, his career-best in those three categories is 45.9 percent, 18.9 ppg and 0.2 bpg. So while I absolutely buy that he can make a run at 25 points per game — which would far and away be a career-best — and stick in the top 40/top 50 range, this certainly does feel like an unsustainable high water mark.
Yahoo ADP: 132.1
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 26
As you may know, I’m a Hawks fan, and have always appreciated the spirit and energy Baze brings to the court, even if he does occasionally look like he’s never dribbled a basketball before. With that said, I think there are two ways to look at this scalding hot start (18.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg and 2.3 3s):
1) SELL HIGH (and I wouldn’t blame you if this was your reaction);
2) But what if after four years under Mike Budenholzer, Bazemore is reenergized under new coach Lloyd Pierce? What if a guy who has already been a pretty good fantasy player in the past (No. 74 in 2015-16, No. 84 last year) is now becoming a really good one? Sounds a little bit overly optimistic, I know. And I really don’t think Bazemore is going to average close to 18 per game. He is coming off two outstanding games in a row, and I saw his 32-point game in person on Wednesday. He was electric.
But again, these may all be arguments in favor of trying to trade him in fantasy leagues. Ultimately, I’ll say you should probably just ignore me being a sentimental ATL fan and deal him if anyone is buying into his hot start and giving you a player you’re excited about. At the same time, I don't think I’m completely delirious when I say there’s a potential top-50/top-60 season in play here if you wait it out.
Yahoo ADP: 131.5
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 30
It’s a trap!
I’m sure you know this, though. We all know this. Here are Gallinari’s games missed, year-by-year over the last four seasons: 23, 29, 19 and 61.
And here are Gallinari’s numbers this season: 21.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 2.5 3s (0.3 spg, 0.5 bpg) through his first four games.
Gallinari has never topped 20 ppg, but the bigger issue is everyone in your league knows he can’t stay healthy. So what do you do?
I think you have to wait.
I’ll explain: If you start sending out trade offers with Gallinari now, you start setting off red flags that you’re desperate to get rid of him. Right now is too soon. If you haven’t said a word about him to anyone else in your league, keep it that way. Don’t try to talk him up; that probably sounds desperate too. Just wait and hope he can stay healthy enough to make you start to think he’s going to be reliable all year. That's the time to trade him. I really don’t doubt that he can be a borderline top-40ish producer — in his best seasons he’s landed right around the 45 mark — but I truly have zero faith that he can stay on the court for even 70 games, a number he last hit in 2012-13.
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Yahoo ADP: 119.5
Current 9-Category Rank: No. 56
I’ve questioned whether Payton could produce at something around the 60-70 range a couple times already this season, so I thought it’s only fair to consider this more directly. Let’s take a look at Elfrid’s stat line (the numbers marked in bold would be a career-best):
Stats: 13.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 3s, 54.8 FG, 55.6 FT, 1.7 TOs
My concern here is that the turnovers are bound to come up (he had 2.8 a game last year), and the boards are bound to come down (career average: 4.3). And 55.6 percent free throws from a PG is a bit scary, though he doesn't get to the line that often. It’s only been three games, but overall I am impressed, no question. And maybe Payton is about to put up a career-best season. But I think I’ll take the over on 56th overall from a player who was No. 194, No. 94 and No. 129 the last three years.
Other Random Thoughts: Make that three out of five good games for Nemanja Bjelica, who is only owned in 30 percent of Yahoo leagues and is averaging 11.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.2 3s. … I’m not sure that Zach Collins is definitely going to get more minutes, but I do know that if he somehow does, he’s likely to be a beast. Collins is averaging 10.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.8 spg, 2.3 bpg and 1.0 3s in 20 minutes a game this season. Per-36 minutes, that's 18.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.4 spg, 4.1 bpg and 1.8 3s. … If you were at all a fan of the Clippers during the Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, Lamar Odom era, this Players Tribune story from Miles (and Richardson) is riveting. I couldn’t have said it better than the story did. Paraphrasing: If you just looked at the stat sheet, you wouldn’t know how wild people went for those Clippers teams.