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Roundball Stew

Stew: New Top-150, Part 1

by Matt Stroup


I can pinpoint it to the exact minute — the instant that I did the dumbest thing I will do in any of my fantasy leagues this season. There’s no way I can top it.

All I had to do was hit accept.

It was 6:34pm ET on Saturday, Oct. 13 — three days before the start of the season. In my hometown league, I got a trade offer: I would give up Kris Dunn and Karl-Anthony Towns

…for Damian Lillard and Clint Capela.

Let me set the stage a little further here: This offer came from an owner who almost never offers trades, and certainly not any this big. The simple fact that he was offering it made me question everything I knew. Also, I was at a corporate anniversary party and live yacht rock was blasting very loudly. The smell of whiskey was in the air. I couldn’t think.

Remember, this was before Kris Dunn got hurt — and I was (and still am) very high on him. Also, it was before Capela truly took off — but I was also really high on him coming into the season, which is part of why I’m a moron.

My response at the time, via a rapid series of text messages, was:

I’m frozen

Can’t accept or decline it

My body is shutting down

After 45 minutes of panic, I rejected it at 7:19pm, writing “I just can’t deal KAT yet,” which is something that idiots say after they do something idiotic.

Obviously I’m bashing myself a little extra aggressively here, because I have the benefit (and curse) of being able to see what this looks like about 25 games into the regular season.

That got me thinking about all the things that have changed in seven-plus weeks since the season began. And that helped give me an idea for this week’s column.

So, here we are — with a revised Roundball Stew Top-150, just past the quarter mark of the 2018-19 season. Due to word constraints, today I will be posting the top 50. Next week, I’ll be back with 51-150.

After every 10 players, I’ll stop for some analysis and reflection. Also — after each player there are two numbers. The first is their Yahoo ADP. The second is their current 9-category rank on Basketball Monster.

Lastly — my approach here isn’t outrageously scientific or overly wrought. I’m looking at their season numbers, what they’ve done lately, what their injury risk is and then throwing them about where I think they should go. The fact of the matter is, it is possible to overthink things, though in some cases you should think about it more before you just hit decline. Let’s go:

1. Anthony Davis (Yahoo ADP: 2.2 / Basketball Monster 9-category rank: 1)
2. James Harden (1.8 / 5)
3. Steph Curry (4.9 / 2)
4. Kevin Durant (6.1 / 3)
5. Karl-Anthony Towns (5.9 / 8)
6. Paul George (13.5 / 6)
7. Kawhi Leonard (12.1 / 4)
8. Damian Lillard (10.2 / 10)
9. Nikola Vucevic (56.8 / 7)
10. Giannis Antetokounmpo (3.3 / 12)

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Thoughts: I’ll start with the decision to put Harden over Curry and Durant. Harden’s turnovers (5.8) make me feel like vomiting, but the prospect of more missed games for Curry and some missed games period for Durant (who has yet to miss one) made me lower the top two Warriors… by one spot. In the heat of the moment, if I was re-drafting, there’s a decent chance I’d take Curry or KD over Harden. On paper it can be a different story.

As for Towns, there’s a case to be made against ranking him this high. Ever since Jimmy Butler was traded (12 games), Towns has posted 22.8 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.3 bpg and 1.8 3s (on 52.3 percent from the field and 83.6 from the line). The problem? Because of his 3.8 turnovers, he ranks 12th in 9-category leagues during that span. Still, for the season he’s eighth overall, and has the role/skill set to spend most of the second half in the top five (which he'd better, because Lillard and Capela).

Paul George, the last month or so? 25.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.9 bpg and 3.5 3s in 13 games. He’s fifth in 9-category leagues during that run, and I don’t really see why he can’t keep it going. Remember, he averaged 3.1 treys a game last year — so he’s hardly even overachieving there. And for the season, his points (24.3), boards (8.1), assists (4.3), steals (2.1) and blocks (0.8) are all career-highs. 

As for Kawhi Leonard, I’d have him top-five if not for the lingering back-to-back thing. As for Vucevic, there are truly no signs that he’s going to slow down, and he was close to first-round caliber last year before getting hurt. As for Lillard — well, there’s not a lot to say, and that’s a good thing.

And if you’re wondering why Giannis is 10th, he’s really being held back by high turnovers (a career-worst 4.4), high-volume shaky free throw shooting (69.3 on 9.0 attempts) and just 0.3 treys a game. Obviously he’s still pretty awesome, but there are no imminent signs that he’s headed for the top five in 9-category formats.

11. Joel Embiid (15.7 / 14)
12. Jimmy Butler (23.7 / 9)
13. Nikola Jokic (8.8 / 18)
14. LeBron James (5.3 / 13)
15. Kyrie Irving (17.2 / 11)
16. Kemba Walker (17.0 / 17)
17. Clint Capela (37.2 / 21)
18. Jrue Holiday (23.3 / 23)
19. Kyle Lowry (26.5 / 22)
20. Victor Oladipo (12.5 / 29)

Reactions: Embiid, Butler, Jokic and LeBron  — even Kyrie — sitting here are all reasons why I’d love to redraft right now and pick at the end of the first round. All of these players obviously have easy top-10 upside, though I will say that Jokic has been somewhat of a disappointment. His scoring is down from last year (18.5 —> 16.5), his rebounds are down (10.7 —> 9.6), his 3s are down (1.5 —> 1.1) and his shooting is down (49.9 —> 47.5). These are all subtle differences, but they add up. And though his assists are way up (6.1 —> 7.8), that hasn’t been enough to keep Jokic from landing closer to top-20 than top-five so far.

If this seems high for Capela, I’ll offer this (while wincing): His last 12 games, he has put up 20.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 2.7 bpg on 67.7 percent from the field (and 69.2 from the line). His 9-category rank during that run: sixth. It’s possible that this ranking is too low.

As for Oladipo, I actually am a little worried about his knee, only because as the missed games pile up, the whole thing just gets slightly more mysterious and unnerving. I’ve been considering offering Chris Paul for him in a spot or two (and more on CP3 in a minute). Either way, 20th is about as low as I can put a guy who could still easily finish inside the top-10 on a per-game basis.

21. Bradley Beal (23.5 / 24)
22. Robert Covington (57.7 / 15)
23. Rudy Gobert (25.9 / 32)
24. Marc Gasol (37.8 / 16)
25. Eric Bledsoe (42.1 / 29)
26. Russell Westbrook (9.5 / 33)
27. Chris Paul (17.9 / 27)
28. Nikola Mirotic (68.4 / 20)
29. Tobias Harris (36.4 / 31)
30. Jaren Jackson Jr. (95.3 / 42)

Reflections: Not only is Beal averaging a career-high 1.1 bpg this year, he’s also really starting to crank up his assist game. Last nine games: 5.9 apg. … I understand if you want to rank Westbrook higher, and to be clear, this is a 9-category ranking. I just can’t sign up too early for 63.2 percent from the line and 4.0 turnovers. … Chris Paul has been an enigma this year. Our latest Rotoworld blurb on him says that he “does look to have lost a step,” and I’m not quite sure I agree with that. Had he lost a step when he was averaging 17.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.7 apg, 2.2 spg and 2.3 3s over his first 15 games this year? Some would actually say yes. He has definitely been struggling since he returned from this hamstring injury, but you could also just boil that down to a shooting slump — Paul has gone 5-of-23 on treys his last four games. Bottom line: I think you have an interesting buy-low opportunity on CP3 here. At the same time, I understand the flip side — wanting to get out of the Chris Paul business entirely before things go south. I could truly see this going either way.

Now to address the Grizzlies: Marc Gasol should probably be even higher on the list. He is No. 16 overall on the season and even better than that the last month (No. 14). If he wasn’t 33 years old, I’d have him inside the top-20. Meanwhile, Jaren Jackson Jr. is No. 42 on the season. The last month (14 games), he is 27th in 9-category leagues, running with averages of 15.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 spg, 2.4 bpg and 1.2 3s. More boards would be nice, but I won’t quibble too much with 1.0 / 2.4 / 1.2 from a 19-year-old.

31. Khris Middleton (29.4 / 26)
32. Otto Porter (34.7 / 40)
33. Mike Conley (50.6 / 35)
34. Aaron Gordon (42.1 / 46)
35. Lauri Markkanen (77.7 / 79)
36. DeMar DeRozan (31.9 / 34)
37. Josh Richardson (63.9 / 43)
38. Zach LaVine (62.2 / 45)
39. Jayson Tatum (43.7 / 48)
40. Al Horford (44.9 / 38)

Ruminations: Remember Otto Porter’s terrible start? His last eight games, he has averaged 14.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.5 bpg and 1.5 3s on 52.8 percent from the field with just 0.9 turnovers. That’s more or less vintage Otto. … I wasn’t really trying to draft Mike Conley at age 31 coming off a season where he missed 70 games, but from what I’ve seen, he looks phenomenal. Over his last 13 games, Conley is putting up 24.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 6.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.6 bpg and 2.8 3s, shooting 46.6 percent from the floor. … Putting Markkanen here almost feels like a hedge. Seeing him put up 21 and 10 with five treys, a steal and a block in his second game back — albeit on 8-of-24 shooting — was a reminder for me that he could easily jump toward the top-25 range this season. … Tatum had an uneven start to the season, averaging 14.6 ppg on 39.3 percent shooting his first 11 games. In 13 games since then, he has posted 17.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.5 bpg and 2.2 3s, shooting an even 50.0 percent with just 1.2 turnovers.

41. Donovan Mitchell (17.8 / 58)
42. John Wall (23.8 / 47)
43. Klay Thompson (28.9 / 50)
44. Blake Griffin (42.4 / 49)
45. Danilo Gallinari (130.1 / 25)
46. Pascal Siakam (143.6 / 39)
47. Justin Holiday (132.7 / 30)
48. Deandre Ayton (52.0 / 44)
49. T.J. Warren (134.8 / 37)
50. Malcolm Brogdon (116.0 / 55)

Words: I’ll be honest — this is where things get weird. And by that I mean, here’s where some of the really big surprises land. Just look at those ADPs — including a healthy and very spry Danilo Gallinari, an improved (at age 29) Justin Holiday and Pascal Siakam???!??! The fact is, all of these guys could be ranked higher, but for a number of reasons I couldn’t bring myself to put them higher than this. Those reasons are: Gallinari — injuries… Holiday — increasingly crowded Chicago rotation… and Siakam — some caution with a guy who’s had an out-of-nowhere really good stretch of 20 games. I’m far from worried about Siakam, but I can’t envision myself drafting him (or Holiday) much higher than this if I was in a new league today. And I’d be totally fine with someone else getting them ahead of me. I am a full believer in Gallinari producing big-time numbers as long as he’s healthy. I drop him into the 40’s because of the omnipresent injury concerns.

As for Mitchell, let’s split off for a second and look at his numbers last year vs. this year:

2017-18: 20.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.4 3s, 43.7 percent from the field

2018-19: 20.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.9 3s, 42.7 percent from the field

There’s nothing wrong with close to 21-3-4 with a couple of 3s and steals, but this isn’t exactly the second-year leap we were hoping for, and that’s why Donnie is in the 40s for me right now. Meanwhile, I’m letting someone else take Wall and his high turnovers (3.6) and bad FT shooting (67.8). He’s another player I would like way better in an 8-category format.

I agonized over who to put 50th, and ultimately settled on… Brogdon?? Yes, Brogdon. Over the last month or so (13 games), he has put up 17.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 0.7 spg and 2.2 3s — on 54.6 percent from the floor and 95.7 from the line, with just 1.5 turnovers. His 9-category ranking during that run: 38th.

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Notable Omissions: Ben SimmonsDevin BookerJoe InglesMyles TurnerJusuf NurkicPaul MillsapJeremy LambDraymond GreenJaVale McGee … D’Angelo Russell … Montrezl Harrell — and a bunch of others. I’ll be back to complete the list with 51-150 next week. In the meantime, feel free to hit me up with any thoughts on who you’d put where… and tell me (be honest) if you would’ve hit accept on Dunn/Towns for Lillard/Capela. Actually, on second thought — don't tell me. I think I know the answer.