Welcome back, fantasy hoopheads!
The 2016-17 NBA season is officially upon us, and that means it’s time for the Rotoworld basketball crew to get their regular season rotation in order.
For anyone who may be unfamiliar with this column, the purpose here is to focus on those players who are going to provide help in a specific area(s). The categories of choice will appear alongside the player’s name and a brief explanation will follow.
Mark your calendars for every Monday—it’s time to get to work on the digital hardwood.
Trevor Ariza, F Houston Rockets: 3-pointers & Steals
Since Ariza returned to Houston, he’s put up consecutive seasons of more than 150 steals and 150 3-pointers. Pretty underrated fact, right? Let’s discuss both sides of the coin: The pessimist says that Ariza suffers a falloff due to the new arrivals in Houston (Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon), but the optimist recognizes Ariza’s value on the floor since he’s one of the few players on this Rockets roster capable of a) defending multiple positions and b) sits comfortably atop the depth chart at small forward. It’s not like EJ or Anderson has served as harbingers of durability, either.
Houston does not have a real answer at the center position, and that combined with Mike D’Antoni’s style of coaching should lead to small-ball lineups featuring Ryno inside. Ariza may not flirt with the 35 minutes per game he’s seen in back-to-back seasons, but even 30-32 minutes should again be enough for the UCLA product to assert himself as a draft-day steal whose ADP will have more people asking why they didn’t invest in his stock.
Jae Crowder, F Boston Celtics: 3-pointers & Steals
A previously undervalued asset in both fantasy and reality, Crowder has become a foundational piece of what Boston is building and a pillar of successful fantasy teams. Although Al Horford’s arrival ensures Clam Crowder is not going to have the same role offensively this time around, he’ll remain a force on the defensive end and should have no problem translating his work on that side of the floor to production on the opposite end.
With 120-plus steals and triples last season, Crowder looked an awful lot like the player described above and came at a fraction of the price. His ability to play multiple positions only aids his case to stay on the court, and that’s especially important given Brad Stevens likes to mix and match with multiple lineups. The Celtics figure to play their fair share of small ball, and Crowder isn’t going to have minutes stolen away by the likes of rookie Jaylen Brown or veteran Jonas Jerebko. Boston may have a lot of options when it comes to their frontcourt depth, but Horford and Crowder are easily the cream that rises to the top with a ton of separation from the rest of the pack.
Ryan Anderson, F/C Houston Rockets: 3-pointers
The Ryno is about to go on a see-food diet, and I’m not talking about raiding his local fish market. The Rockets paid Anderson a whopping $80M to be one of Mike D’Antoni’s new favorite toys, and there are many signs pointing toward Anderson being prepared to launch in order to take off to new heights in Houston. Since the 2010-11 campaign, Ryno has never attempted fewer than 5.3 3-pointers per contest. His new role, team and coach set up beautifully for that pattern to continue.
I haven’t been afraid to tout Anderson since he signed in Houston, and I’m doubling down by reaching for him in just about every draft I’ve done. While there are admittedly some durability concerns here—Ryno has missed 37 regular season contests over the last two seasons—the reward far outweighs the calculated risk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson is looking at averages around 16-18 points, six-to-eight rebounds and two-and-a-half to three triples. He’s not going to help you win the field goal percentage category nor does he bring anything defensively, but Anderson has everything working in his favor in order to have a breakout fantasy season. Full steam ahead.
Mirza Teletovic, F Milwaukee Bucks: 3-pointers
Milwaukee certainly has a lot of potential pieces for its frontcourt, but Jason Kidd’s club didn’t pay Teletovic $30M this offseason to simply be another alternative. Unlike most of the other options, Teletovic has the keen ability to stretch the floor, and that’s going to be especially important for a Bucks team that seemingly always needs more shooting. Khris Middleton’s (hamstring) absence leaves a major hole on this team, and it’s awfully hard to bet on a Michael Beasley resurgence and only more unrealistic to believe that Tony Snell is suddenly going to create a real impact.
It appears as if M.T. Money is set up to get minutes at both forward spots, and that only improves his path to sustainable production. He’s not going to singlehandedly change the ceiling of your team nor is his nightly production likely to jump off the page, but if you’re hurting for triples at the end of your draft or Teletovic was somehow left on your waiver wire, give him a long look instead of being frustrated by the dead weight at the end of your bench.
Robin Lopez, C Chicago Bulls: Blocks & Field Goal Percentage
It still surprises me that the “other” Lopez twin is so regularly overlooked, and there is a lot to like about the situation Sideshow Bob finds himself in with Chicago. No disrespect meant to Cristiano Felicio, but the Bulls don’t have a realistic threat to RoLo’s minutes on the roster nor does the team employ anyone capable of providing what Lopez brings to the table. A much better player that he’s often credited for being, Robin looks more and more like a Discount Batman when the big-name centers fly off the board.
As a high-efficiency player who knows exactly how to play the role that is asked of him, Lopez should post top-60 value but can be regularly had 20-30 picks later. He’s also incredibly durable having played all 82 games in three of the last four seasons, and Lopez has blocked at least 128 shots in each of those three years. Solid not sexy is the mantra here, but there is nothing wrong with uncovering value where others aren’t necessarily looking first.