I will begin this week’s column with a not-shocking statement: Points are awesome.
I assume we’re all in agreement there. In fact, I would argue that the above statement is so true that we are sometimes blinded by the singular brilliance of the category. An example from this year is Andrew Wiggins, who at first glance can look like a very exciting fantasy player because our eyes always hover to the scoring average (22.1 ppg, which ranks 10th in the NBA). But in reality, because of a lack of rebounds (3.7) and assists (1.9), and subpar percentages (43.8 / 74.3), Wiggins is currently just the No. 133-ranked player in 9-category leagues (according to basketballmonster.com).
But we’re not here for an in-depth discussion on the value of Andrew Wiggins. We are here, if you hadn’t guessed, to highlight a handful of fantasy players who are dynamic and exciting despite relatively low scoring averages. Here now is the starting five for the low-scoring fantasy All-Stars – all at, around or below 10 ppg…
Recommended listening: The Pearl Jam album Ten, in its entirety. (And yes, I know that the album is way longer than it will take to read this column. Just figure out a way to make it work.)
Elfrid Payton, PG, ORL
Numbers: 10.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.4 3s, 38.1% FG / 71.4% FT on the season
Analysis: A small issue here – we don’t really have an ideal facilitator for this low-scoring team. Marcus Smart would have been a consideration, but he’s hurt. T.J. McConnell was a strong choice for a minute there, but now he’s too inconsistent coming off the bench. And I considered Ricky Rubio, but I'm annoyed that he's already looking flimsy and broken down and it’s only December, and therefore he is OUT.
So, we land on Payton, who has actually been pretty good lately, so much so that he may be on the brink of graduating from the 10 ppg range for good. In his last 13 games, Payton has posted 12.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.7 apg and 1.5 spg (with a very Elfrid-esque 40.5 FG / 70.2 FT / 0.3 3s). And in five games since Victor Oladipo started coming off the bench – all Orlando wins, by the way – Payton has been even better: 13.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 7.6 apg and 0.8 spg on 47.6% from the field. And given how he closed out last season (12.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 8.7 apg, 2.4 spg and 0.5 bpg in his final 21 games), there’s potential for Elfrid to do even more going forward.
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Thabo Sefolosha, SG/SF, ATL
Numbers: 9.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 0.8 3s on 56.5% FG in his last six games
Analysis: Sefolosha will probably continue to be a bit fragile (he’s already sat four games this season), but he’s quietly posting impact stats right now and is absolutely worth starting for as long as it can last. And if I had to guess, as someone who watches a ton of Hawks games (for whatever that's worth), Sefolosha probably won't be trustworthy a month from now. But he’s very startable at the moment, and owned in just 16 percent of Yahoo leagues, so drop him into your lineup immediately before the hot streak expires.
Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, GSW
Numbers: 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 3s on 60.2% FG in his last 14 games
Analysis: Iguodala certainly doesn’t bring it every night off the bench (he went scoreless with two boards and two assists in 27 minutes on Monday), but overall the Finals MVP has been pretty useful all year. In fact, he’s better than the aforementioned Wiggins in rebounds (4.4 -> 3.7), assists (3.8 -> 1.9), steals (1.2 -> 0.7) and 3s (1.3 -> 0.8). That’s not to say I would actually trade Iguodala for Wiggins – I still can’t resist high-scoring players myself, plus Wiggins obviously has much more upside – but it does help give you a sense that Iguodala’s stat line is pretty valuable (No. 62 ranking on the year). Also, I said this wasn't going to be a discussion of Wiggins, and then I mentioned him again. Several times. I promise I will now stop.
Jerami Grant, SF/PF, PHI
Numbers: 10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.9 bpg, 0.5 3s on the season (20 games)
Analysis: The son of Harvey Grant, nephew of Horace Grant and brother of Jerian Grant (got all that?) has actually been very steady as a shot-blocker all season – only three games without a single block, and two or more blocks in 13 of 20 games so far. Granted*, he only has one game of 10-plus rebounds on the season, and his percentages (41.9 / 72.2) are not pretty. But amid the mess that is Sixers hoops these days, he looks likely to remain an intriguing fantasy option all season – and a legitimate waiver wire find for owners desperate for a boost in blocks.
Mason Plumlee, PF/C, POR
Numbers: 9.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg on the season
Analysis: DeAndre Jordan (10.4 ppg) was too obvious a choice, and Rudy Gobert (9.2 ppg) is an obvious and injured choice, so we give the starting center nod to Plumlee, who aside from free throws – and points, of course – has been really useful in Portland this year (most recently 12 points, 10 boards, two assists and a block on 5-of-6 FG / 2-of-5 FT Thursday night). In fact, he’s been so useful, and relatively steady, that I really don’t have anything else to say about him and his pleasantly uneventful season.
Other Random Thoughts: It’s been a frustrating stretch for fantasy owners of Otto Porter, who was probably on a lot of benches during two consecutive two-game weeks (a stretch that saw him average 14.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.8 spg and 1.0 3s in those four games). Then he promptly got into a lot of lineups for four games last week, only to go into an immediate slump: 7.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.8 spg and 0.8 3s on 29.2 percent from the field in his last six games. In the spirit of today’s column, we won’t hold a simple scoring slump against him, and I expect Otto to break out of this slump before long. … And in a departure from this week’s theme, I’d like to take a moment to talk about T.J. Warren. His minutes off the bench remain frustratingly inconsistent, but Warren looks explosive and ready to put up some dynamic scoring stats whenever he gets an extended chance. Unfortunately, that whenever is hard to predict right now (minute totals, last five games: 27-35-30-19-21), but if a P.J. Tucker or a Mirza Teletovic gets hurt, watch out.