Hello and welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! I’ve been getting a lot of questions about which superstars will have the biggest impact down the stretch, so I asked the Rotoworld hoops crew to rank their top-5 players moving forward. However, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard would be too obvious and everyone knows that they are the best three players, so they will be excluded from this list.
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Again, those three players will be excluded from this conversation.
4.) Chris Paul- We keep hearing that Blake Griffin (hand) is making progress, but he still has no timetable for a return which means CP3 will continue to put the team on his back. CP3 might get one or two games off down the stretch judging by Doc Rivers’ comments, but that shouldn’t matter too much because the Clippers have an excellent fantasy playoff schedule.
5.) James Harden- It’s the perfect storm. The Rockets are in shambles, and Harden can’t rely on any of his teammates to consistently produce on offense. Harden won’t have the luxury of taking games off down the stretch with the Rockets sitting in eighth place in the West with a 30-31 record, so the Beard is going to be very busy. He’s averaging 36.0 points per game over his last five, enough said.
6.) Russell Westbrook- He’s a PG, yet he averages more rebounds (7.5) then most bigs in the NBA, including Serge Ibaka (7.0). He’s also pulling in 24.3 points and 10.3 assists per game, and I can’t even imagine what his numbers would look like next season if Kevin Durant decided to bolt OKC. Westy is a freak of nature.
7.) Damian Lillard- Yes this is bold, but the Blazers might be one of the hottest teams in the league right now and have won 14 out of their last 17 games. Most of that has to do with Damian Lillard (and C.J. McCollum of course), as the All-Star snub has dropped 30 or more points in eight out of his last 10 games. The Blazers are on their way to the playoffs and Lillard will make sure they make it there.
Davis as a rookie- 13.5 points, 8.2 boards, 1.0 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.2 steals
Towns- 17.3 points, 10.3 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.8 blocks, 0.7 steals
Add in the fact that Towns’ field goal and free throw percentages are both better, and it’s easy to see why he’s well on his way to becoming a superstar. The Wolves have no depth up front, so expect his minutes and production to keep rising. He’s already in my top-5 overall for next season. As for Davis, he could easily make my list, but the shut-down risk scares me way too much.
I also could have included Kyle Lowry on my list, but I am a little worried about him taking some games off.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
No. 4 - Chris Paul - Yes, Blake Griffin's eventual return to the court will hurt CP3 a bit, but Paul has just been so good this season and Griffin remains without an official return date. I doubt Blake makes it back to the court before March 15, so that gives Paul at least another couple weeks of being a top-3 option in 9-cat leagues. CP3 is the only point guard in the league that can win you the assist category while still having you be competitive in turnovers, and when you partner that with his solid percentages (46.5 percent from the field and 89.5 percent from the line) and elite steals numbers (2.1), you’ve got yourself a fantasy goldmine.
No. 5 - Kyle Lowry - I think you could argue a number of players to go here, but I'm going go ahead and go bold with Skinny K. Low. Lowry has been nothing short of amazing this season, and he's been rolling over the past two months owning averages of 22.7 points, 5.0 boards, 6.7 assists, 2.8 treys, 2.1 steals and 2.4 turnovers per game on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 81.9 percent shooting from the charity stripe. That's been good enough for top-4 value in 9-cat leagues, and when you take into account the fact that the Raptors have one of the more favorable playoff schedules out there (5-3-4-4), it makes owning Lowry all that more alluring. I also put him above James Harden and Russell Westbrook because I'm not a fan of tanking turnovers.
No. 6 - Russell Westbrook - If I'm forced to choose between punting away the turnover category with Westbrook or James Harden, I'd prefer to own Westbrook. Both are equally capable of putting up video game-like numbers on any given night, but because Westbrook is shooting 46.3 percent from the field this season (compared to Harden's 43.4 field goal percentage), I'm given the edge to Russell.
No. 7 - James Harden - Fear The Beard. Few people can obliterate a box score like Harden can, and I honestly think his best lines of the season have yet to come. I don't think anyone will be complaining about owning Harden down the stretch.
No. 8 - Hassan Whiteside - Yup, I went with Whiteside > Anthony Davis. I just don't see the Pelicans making the playoffs over the Rockets or the Jazz this season, and I think once New Orleans is mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt, Davis will be in serious danger of having his various nicks and bruises force him to the sidelines. So, instead of Davis, I'm going with Whiteside at No. 8. There is not another player out there that can be a legit threat to put up a triple-double with blocks on any given night, and with Whiteside in a contract year and Miami a playoff-bound team, I don't see Whiteside taking much time off to close out the year. Oh yeah, he's also shot 63.1 percent from the field and 77.3 percent from the line over the past month to go with averages of 16.4 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.1 swats and just 1.2 turnovers per game. Beastmode.
Ethan Norof (@Ethan_Norof)
4. CP3-Even with Blake Griffin's pending return, CP3 is poised for a monster finish as evidenced by his last five games: 23.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 12.4 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.0 3PM on a ridiculous 53.2% from the field.
5. Harden-The Rockets are scrapping for a postseason spot, and Harden is going to do all of the heavy lifting. After averaging 31.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 3.1 3PM in February, Chef Harden started March cooking with 39 points, 12 boards, seven dimes and four steals on Wednesday.
6. Westbrook-The only other reliable fantasy option in OKC outside of Kevin Durant, Westbrook is a walking double-double with triple-double upside every night he's out there.
7. Whiteside-As a starter, Whiteside is averaging 12.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.9 blocks, 0.6 steals and 0.6 TO on 61.4% shooting. Pretty good, right? As a sub, those numbers improve to 15.8 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.0 blocks, 0.6 steals and 1.5 turnovers on 63.0% shooting. Whiteside is a stud the rest of the way no matter how his playing time comes, and the bench role actually allows for Whiteside to be featured more consistently than he was with the first five.
8. Towns-The runaway Rookie of the Year promises to play big minutes down the stretch, and that means he's going to put up big numbers in the process. Checking in with 20.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.0 blocks over his last five games alone, The Big KAT is going to keep eating with the Timberwolves playing for nothing except their future, and Towns has already proven to be a first-round asset before his inaugural season is up. He'll be on lots of fantasy teams that go on to win a title.
Matt Stroup (@MattStroup)
4. Chris Paul - He's the No. 3-ranked player in 9-category leagues the past month (24.0 ppg, 10.1 apg, 2.3 spg, 2.2 3s).
5. Russell Westbrook - Since Jan. 10 (24 games): 22.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 11.9 apg.
7. James Harden - An easy choice, assuming you can tolerate the turnovers (4.5 per game on the season, 5.0 the last month).
8. Kyle Lowry - The potential he gets rested is the only reason he's this low. Averaging 25.8 ppg the last month (along with his normal excellent production), and still has a 5-game week left on the schedule.
Mike Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
4. James Harden - Yeah, there’s the scoring, but Harden is really filling it up right now. In his last 13, he’s averaged 32.8 points, 7.0 boards, 7.2 dimes, 2.6 steals, 0.5 blocks and 3.1 treys on 46.4 percent from the field and 86.2 percent from the line with 11.7 attempts per game, too. The Rockets are third in pace in that span while Harden posted a 62.3 TS% and a 32.9 usage rate. He’s ballin’ and the Rockets are in the hunt for a playoff spot.
5. Chris Paul - Blake Griffin (hand) is going to come back and that might hurt CP3 a bit. However, he’s been amazing and he had some shooting woes back in December to throw off his fantasy output. His efficiency is flying high thanks to being awesome on two-pointers. CP3 should still be awesome down the stretch and there is no talk of him being rested. He has such an easy style of play thanks to his mid-range game.
Michael Beasley - Just kidding.
6. Russell Westbrook - You have to love how he’s turned around his efficiency up until Thursday night. Westbrook should be above CP3 in eight-cat leagues. OKC is probably not going to rest guys until the finale, assuming they’re not playing for anything.
7. Karl-Anthony Towns - There is no concern with rest here and coach Sam Mitchell has finally unleashed him with 35 minutes per night. His blocks have dropped and he’s had a brief hiccup on free throws, but expect Towns to crush almost every night.
8. Damian Lillard - He hates missing games, so Dame being unlikely to be rested puts him above the others here. Lillard is playing a lot smarter on top of the scoring output. Plus, the Blazers might really make a push for the five seed.
Jonas Nader- It's interesting that some of you are this high on Hassan Whiteside. You can't deny his recent success from the foul line and he's posting some scary numbers, but I think with HW you have to worry about the injury risk and we all know that he's a hot head. If he stays healthy and out of trouble, there's no reason why he can't keep it going.
And it looks like everyone else is just as scared of the Anthony Davis shut-down risk, and he would obviously be near the top of all of these list if the Pelicans were still in the playoff picture.