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Roundball Stew

Stew: Ingles Fever

by Matt Stroup


Over the summer I re-watched the movie I Love You, Man for the first time in a while. One slightly troublesome byproduct of this is that I end most interactions now by saying either aloud or in my head: You got it, Joben.

But that’s not why I bring up the movie. The point I want to make is about Paul Rudd’s character of Peter Klaven. At the start of the story, he’s not the most exciting version of himself. Yes, he’s likable, but Pete seems to be lacking a certain something. You might even say he’s a bit boring. Then he meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), a free spirit who doesn’t clean up after his dog, sees Peter’s true potential and helps make him a much more dynamic human being.

It’s a similar story in Swingers with Trent (Vince Vaughn) and Mike (Jon Favreau).

Or in Beverly Hills Cop with Axel (Eddie Murphy) leading the way for Taggart (John Ashton) and Rosewood (Judge Reinhold). One of the most satisfying parts of watching that movie is seeing Axel basically will those two into having more fun. (“I don’t know what you teach these fellows, but they’re not just regular cops, okay … they’re super cops.”)

It’s actually a shorter walk back to fantasy basketball from here than you might think. Basically, this all started because I was thinking about Joe Ingles — a useful fantasy player who by many accounts is considered kind of boring to have on your roster. But is he boring, or is he actually a dynamo in a boring disguise? This is a Roundball Stew investigation of some of the most useful (and maybe even exciting) boring fantasy players in the NBA:

Joe Ingles — He’s never scored 30 points in a game. He doesn’t frequently fly above the rim. He was mostly a role player off the bench before last year, when his coach saw some potential and he finally got a chance to start full time. Basically, Quin Snyder is his Axel F. Coming into this season though, Ingles wasn’t carrying over an especially exciting stat line. It was certainly good — 11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.1 spg and 2.5 3s — but nothing about 11 and 5 really jumps off the page at you.

However, Ingles for a while now has been producing at an even better clip than that. Over basically the last three months of last season (37 games), he put up 13.9 ppg, 5.4 apg, 1.2 spg and 2.8 3s. In the playoffs, he averaged 14.5 ppg and 3.2 3s. And so far this year, he’s at 14.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.7 spg and 2.7 3s through seven games. His scoring this season is certainly heavily boosted by 27 and 22 points in his first two games, but I still state my case that this is in fact not a boring fantasy option any more. Ingles is currently No. 51 in 9-category leagues, one spot behind Victor Oladipo (buy low!) and one ahead of Andre Drummond.

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P.J. Tucker — This one is simple: Tucker is bland on the surface because he doesn’t score that many points. He has never averaged 10 in a game, and if his current scoring clip (9.0) holds up, it would be his best mark since 2014-15. What Tucker can do well is pile up steals and 3s, and so far this year he’s averaging 2.3 spg and 2.2 treys, putting him on a pretty short list of players averaging two or more of both: Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Robert Covington, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Marc Gasol (what?) — and that’s it.

Tucker is also averaging 0.8 bpg, which seems like a mirage given that he has never averaged better than 0.3 per game in his career. However, this is not a Terrence Ross situation where he had a random four blocks in the first game of the season and nothing since. Tucker has exactly one block in five of six games this year, so maybe there’s a little something there. I also haven’t mentioned maybe the best news of all: P.J. is averaging 36 minutes a game. He’s currently No. 38 in 9-category leagues, one of two players in the top 50 (along with No. 36 Draymond Green) averaging under 10 ppg. Ultimately, all of this feels pretty unsustainable, but the low scoring average is not going to be what scares me away from finding out if Tucker can maintain some value all season.

Al Horford — No single number in his stat line is enough to satisfy: 12.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.4 bpg and 1.6 3s. Stack it all together though, and you have a pretty robust sandwich. Horford was drafted right next to Myles Turner (Yahoo ADP: Turner 43.9, Horford 44.9), but the distance between the two of them is pretty vast right now. Horford is 55th in 9-category leagues; Turner (11.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.1 bpg) is No. 98.

Serge Ibaka — He generated essentially no excitement when he went off the board in my leagues, because let’s face it: Ibaka had actually become boring. Last year’s stat line (12.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.4 3s) is pretty much the epitome of tedious but useful, and a very far cry from Serge’s shot-swatting heyday in OKC (including 3.1 bpg during a three-year stretch).

In late 2018, the thrill is back. Quite simply, Ibaka is scoring like he never has before under new coach Nick Nurse. His 16.6 ppg would be a career-high — and that’s not all. His rebounding, which had taken a hit in recent years (6.6 the last three seasons) is up to 7.8 this year. Yes, he’s attempting and making less 3s (0.5 on 2.4 attempts per game), but the points, rebounds and blocks have helped vault Serge to No. 69 in the rankings so far this year.

Kent Bazemore — I don’t know if people find Bazemore boring or are just kind of generally uninspired by him as a player (which is another way of saying boring). Either way, I don’t get it. Yes, Bazemore was kind of bad a couple years ago (146th overall in 2016-17), but the year before that he was No. 74, and last year he was 84th. So far this season, he’s sitting 74th, behind averages of 14.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg and 1.8 3s. You know how many players are averaging at least one steal, one block and one trey per game? By my count, it’s 11: Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Jokic, John Wall, Brandon Ingram, Josh Richardson, Nikola Vucevic, Paul George, Danny Green and there’s that man again Robert Covington (who by the way is posting an absurd 2.2 spg, 1.9 bpg and 2.9 3s so far). Those are by most accounts pretty exciting fantasy players (except for maybe Danny Green). Let’s invite Kent Bazemore to the party.

Marcus Morris — I’ll be honest: He really does bore me. But this is my effort to talk all of us into why he’s useful. What Marcus Morris can offer is a five-pronged combo of points (14.8), 3s (2.5), percentages (50.0 / 85.7) and low turnovers (1.8). The sixth prong is consistency: Morris has hit for 15 or more points in six of eight games this season, and he has two or more treys in seven out of eight. Other than that, Morris (52 percent owned in Yahoo, No. 72 in 9-category leagues) truly does almost nothing else. He’s averaging 1.0 apg, 0.5 spg and 0.3 bpg, and I need to move on to the next player before I actually do get bored.

Otto Porter — It’s almost like a magic trick. Porter has been a top-25 9-category player the last two seasons despite not topping 15 ppg. Or 7.0 rpg. Or 2.0 spg. Or 2.0 3s. He has done it with a formula of a little bit of everything, plus great percentages and very low turnovers. Here are his combined stats the last two seasons:

14.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.8 spg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 1.8 3s (50.9 FG / 83.0 FT / 0.8 TOs)

So far this season though, Otto is veering dangerously close to putting fantasy owners directly to sleep. He’s down to 10.6 ppg and 5.3 rpg, with 1.1 spg, 0.7 bpg and 1.1 3s. The simplest explanation for the dropoff is a shooting slump — Porter is shooting just 41.4 percent from the field and 27.6 percent on 3s. Those treys account for 40 percent of his overall attempts, so once they start falling, everything should normalize (boring word), and his last outing on Tuesday (15 points, 3-of-6 on 3s) was a very positive sign. Prior to that, Otto had shot 5-of-23 from beyond the arc this year.

Malcolm Brogdon — Brogdon is right on the line for me between exciting and legitimately boring. On the one hand, he gets ample minutes on a dynamic team. However, his numbers this year look way too similar to (and in one area, notably worse than) what he did last year. Let’s compare:

2017-18: 13.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.3 3s (48.5 FG / 88.2 FT / 1.4 TOs) — Verdict: boring

2018-19: 13.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.6 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.3 bpg, 1.5 3s (51.3 FG / 1.000 FT / 2.0 TOs)

A slight increase in rebounds and assists is fine, but I was expecting something closer to 15 or 16 ppg under Mike Budenholzer this year. Add in the drought in steals (none in his last five games), and I’m not pleased. The one reason I’m staying patient: Brogdon has upped his scoring lately, going for 16, 17 and 16 his last three games. Also, even as he’s underachieving a bit in steals, he’s No. 94 overall. So while things could certainly be more exciting, they could also be a lot worse.

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Other Notably Boring / Not Boring Players: Taj Gibson and Thaddeus Young actually are really boring. They have one game of 15 or more points between them and two double-digit rebound games so far combined. But they truly are useful fantasy options, thanks in large part to defensive stats. Taj averages 0.9 spg / 1.0 bpg, while Thaddeus sits at 1.6 spg / 0.6 bpg. They’re directly next to each other at No. 99 and 100 in the 9-category rankings right now. … Brook Lopez continues to thrill and delight with his strange combo of 3s (2.1), blocks (1.6) and rebounds (3.0!) He’s 83rd overall in 9-category leagues. … Willie Cauley-Stein’s stat line was seriously not exciting last year (12.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.9 bpg), underscored by the fact that it generated an ADP of 111.0 on Yahoo. This year he has turned up the wattage significantly, posting 16.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.3 apg and 1.2 spg. It’s also only a matter of time before he starts blocking more shots — WCS averaged 0.8 bpg heading into this season. … The word “boring” appeared 15 times in this column, not including this final sentence.