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Wendell Carter Jr.
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Roundball Stew

Stew: Mr. Wendell

by Matt Stroup
Updated On: November 14, 2018, 9:47 am ET


It recently hit me with the force of Danny McBride blowing up a line of trees that we’ve just flown past the 10-year anniversary of Tropic Thunder (released Aug. 2008). I could easily burn 2,000+ words talking about that movie very quickly, so for the purposes of this column I’ll just say this: It’s a movie where people think one thing is happening — in the case of Ben Stiller’s character, Tugg Speedman, he thinks he’s shooting a film — when in reality it’s something very different. Tuggernuts is actually in trouble.

In fantasy hoops, there’s some deception, miscommunication and misdirection going on right now as well — with the player rankings that we all love to ponder.

Specifically, for a number of players, their season-long ranking so far tells a very different story from what they’ve done the last couple of weeks. So if we’re only looking at the full-season rank, we — much like Tugg — may not be seeing the whole story.

I shall now break down ten of those situations, and try to diagnose what it all means.

Kyrie Irving

Season-long stats: 21.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.7 bpg and 2.8 3s (No. 16 in 9-category leagues)

Last six games: 25.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg and 4.2 3s (No. 1 in 9-category leagues)

How good has Kyrie been lately? I actually included a garbage three-point outing he had while crunching these numbers, and he was still first overall. If you take out that bad game, he’s putting up a wild 29.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.0 bpg and 4.8 3s — on 55.9 percent from the field in his last five games, a stretch where he's also first in overall value.  

This is where I should probably say that I went out of my way to draft Irving in none of my leagues. He's phenomenal to watch, but I didn’t want any part of the injury concerns (games played, last three seasons: 53, 72, 60). I also am not at all emotionally invested in the Celtics, unless you count actively disliking them as emotional investment (which I realize as I write this is exactly what emotional investment is).

With all those words out of the way, and taking everything into consideration, I would trade Kyrie Irving (who's out on Friday for personal reasons) for anyone in the top-12 range and feel good about it if you can pull it off. If you would rather double down, I want you to know I respect that too. 

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Wendell Carter Jr.

Season-long stats: 11.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 2.0 bpg, 0.4 3s (No. 47 in 9-category leagues)

Last seven games: 15.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.1 bpg, 0.6 3s (No. 13 in 9-category leagues)

WCJ started slowly, with single-digit scoring in each of his first five games, while averaging 6.6 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Since that time, however, he’s started to take on the look of a true 9-category contributor, and absolute fantasy dynamo. Do I think he can continue to produce in the top-15 range this season, as a 19-year-old? That feels a bit aggressive. But I wouldn’t bet all my money against it. And top 20/top 25 this year is starting to feel pretty realistic.

DeMar DeRozan

Season-long stats: 26.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.5 3s (No. 11 in 9-category leagues)

Last six games: 26.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.3 3s (No. 2 in 9-category leagues)

Wait, what? Is this really happening? Has DeMar DeRozan, a perennial top-50 guy (he’s been No. 50, No. 42 and No. 47 the last three years) finally emerged as a first-round fantasy force? I’m not 100 percent there yet, but I’ve gotta be honest — I’m starting to believe. Two of the main differences in DeRozan’s stat line this year are increased wattage in rebounds (career-high 6.4) and assists (6.8 — up from 5.2 last year). If he was in the same system, I’d be inclined to think this was unsustainable. But this seems like the product of coaching. And it’s not like he’s slowing down in rebounds and assists either — he went 18-14-8 in the Spurs’ last game. The one part of his stat line I’m not quite sure I buy quite as much is the shooting. A career 44.9 percent shooter, DeRozan is at 50.7 so far this season. I could potentially see that coming down, along with maybe a slight dip in the rebounds and assists. Even so, a top-25/top-30 finish is at this point very believable.

Buddy Hield

Season-long stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.6 bpg, 2.5 3s (No. 45 in 9-category leagues)

Last seven games: 23.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.6 bpg, 2.9 3s (No. 22 in 9-category leagues)

Hield also started relatively slowly — 14.5 ppg in his first four games — but he has since been pretty steadily dropping the hammer. His last seven games, he has only scored less than 22 points one time — a 19-point outing a couple of games ago. He’s also shooting 51.7 percent, which — like DeRozan — is both a good and bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Either way, if we’re talking about a lower end for Hield that’s in the No. 45 range, and a higher end that’s in the No. 22 range, that will work just fine. The No. 6 overall pick from a couple of years ago has officially arrived.

John Wall

Season-long stats: 21.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 7.6 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.4 3s and 4.0 TOs (No. 35 in 9-category leagues)

Last six games: 22.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.7 apg, 3.2 spg, 0.7 bpg, 2.0 3s and 4.2 TOs (No. 11 in 9-category leagues)

I’ll start this writeup by saying that top-shelf fantasy success with high turnovers in 9-category leagues is almost like a magic trick. In fact, of all the players currently in the top 12, only three of them — Steph Curry, LeBron James and James Harden (5.4!) — are averaging 3.0 or more TOs per game.

So that’s what makes what Wall has done lately so impressive. And just to be clear, those turnovers aren’t coming down — Wall has averaged exactly 4.0 the last four seasons combined — so chances are he won’t last in the top 15. Why? Because 3.2 spg and 2.0 3s probably aren’t numbers he can sustain. His career-high in 3s is 1.5, and the closest we’ve come to 3.2 spg in the last 15 years was Larry Hughes (2.9) in 2004-05.

But don’t mistake this for pessimism about Wall. It’s quite the opposite. With some of these players I’m inclined to split the difference between the two 9-category values (in this case No. 35 and No. 11). And along those lines, from 2014-17, Wall was a top-30 player for three consecutive years (No. 27, No. 22 and No. 20). After a No. 59 finish in just 41 games last season, it sure looks to me like he’s back.

Donovan Mitchell

Season-long stats: 22.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 2.3 3s on 43.8 percent from the floor (No. 39 in 9-category leagues)

Last six games: 24.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 2.2 3s on 48.7 percent from the floor (No. 16 in 9-category leagues)

As you can see, the main difference for Mitchell is that he’s simply been shooting better lately. I would ultimately expect his FG percentage to settle somewhere between 43.8 (it was 43.7 last year) and what we’ve been seeing lately, which still gives Donny a very real shot at the top 25.

Lou Williams

Season-long stats: 19.2 ppg, 3.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 1.6 3s on 43.3 percent from the field (No. 96 in 9-category leagues)

Last seven games: 21.6 ppg, 4.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.0 3s on 47.1 percent from the field (No. 51 in 9-category leagues)

His first four games were bad, boring and not at all the Lou we know and love: 15.0 ppg, 2.3 apg and 1.0 3s on 35.8 from the field (and 4-of-19 on 3s). Since then, he has flipped the switch. And the way I look at it, this is only the start of what should be another tremendous season. He’s back putting up top 50 value right now — which all of us can happily live with — and he’ll only surge higher if and when the seemingly inevitable injuries strike Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari. Remember, from late-November onward last year, Lou was the No. 36 overall player (24.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.1 spg and 2.4 3s over his final 61 games).

Marc Gasol

Season-long stats: 14.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.5 3s on 42.0 percent from the field (No. 21 in 9-category leagues)

Last six games: 15.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.7 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.3 3s on 47.0 percent from the field (No. 14 in 9-category leagues)

I’m optimistic on everyone I’ve mentioned so far, but if I knew I could get someone reliable in the top-20/top-25 range for Gasol, I would think very seriously about making that deal. And it’s not that I dislike him as a fantasy player; he obviously does a lot in a wide range of categories and is coming off a dominant stat line on Wednesday (20-12-4 with two steals, three blocks and a trey). But his current steal rate looks like an outlier (he has averaged 0.9 spg for his career), and you certainly could argue that will get balanced out if his blocks pick up closer to his career mark of 1.5. Either way, this is a big man who apparently now shoots in the low-40’s (Gasol hit 42.0 percent of his shots in 73 games last year, and is at that exact same mark this season). So if you're throwing FGs, he might be a perfect fit. Or if you just don’t think you can get a fair return for him, then I’m okay with keeping him. It just seems like we couldn't have asked for much of a better start from a soon-to-be 34-year-old playing on a team that is at least at some risk of falling out of playoff contention later in the year.

Luka Doncic

Season-long stats: 20.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 0.8 spg and 2.6 3s on 47.9 from the field and 76.1 from the line (No. 78 in 9-category leagues)

Last seven games: 20.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 0.7 spg and 2.9 3s on 51.5 from the field and 88.0 from the line (No. 45 in 9-category leagues)

There’s not a lot for me to highlight here other than the free throw shooting. Doncic shot a worrisome 13-of-21 from the line his first four games (61.9 percent), but has clearly corrected things in that department — including 10-of-10 his last two games. He’s still in problematic territory with turnovers (4.3 during this seven-game run), so with that and limited steals, we may not see him climb much higher than top-40 territory. Ultimately, he’s not yet Wendell Carter Jr. in terms of fantasy upside, but for a 19-year-old rookie, this is still pretty exciting.

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Blake Griffin 

Season-long stats: 27.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.5 bpg and 2.4 3s on 48.2 percent from the field with 3.6 TOs (No. 30 in 9-category leagues)

Last six games: 23.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.3 bpg and 1.5 3s on 42.1 percent from the field with 4.7 TOs (No. 91 in 9-category leagues)

I’m certainly not worried that Griffin will stay as low as No. 91, or anywhere close to that — he’s been 28th, 40th, 44th and 58th the last four seasons — but can we all agree that his 50-point game is starting to seem like a long time ago? The bottom line with Griffin is that if you’re stuck with him, that’s fine. He’s still valuable. And if you can trade him based on the season-long value of top-30, I would not hesitate to take that leap.

Other Random Thoughts: Chris Paul is a perplexing 34th in 9-category leagues at the moment, coming off a subpar game on Thursday night. I mentioned him as one of my top buy-lows at the Rotoworld Roundtable on Thursday. I also think he’s a buy low to eventually trade away once he gets hot, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it. … Bradley Beal is averaging a somewhat stunning (and career-high) 1.2 bpg, which may be the launching point for another upcoming Roundball Stew. … Nikola Jokic FG attempts, last five games: 20, 5, 9, 3, 1. I boldly predict he shoots 14 times on Friday night. … Derrick Rose, first seven games: 14.3 ppg. Derrick Rose, last four games: 26.3 ppg. … This article is being brought to you from New Orleans, where I’m planning to attend Pelicans-Suns tomorrow evening, and will attempt to remain disciplined enough to not purchase a Jrue Holiday jersey. My odds are not good.