How soon should you draft Kyrie Irving next season? Just how good has he been?
Compared to the last few seasons, this year's rookie class was widely expected to be weaker from a fantasy perspective. The one known commodity was the first rookie drafted in almost every format, the No. 1 overall NBA pick, Irving. While the Cavaliers are not expected to make a run at the playoffs this season, they are 17-29 (.370), already only two wins off last season's 19-63 (.232) record. Irving has a lot to do with the team's improvement.
From a fantasy perspective, Irving has made a nice return for those who invested in him. Here's where his average stats rank among point guards:
87.2 FT% - 3rd
.43 blocks - 5th
18.8 points - 5th
47.2 FG% - 5th
5.6 assists - 16th
1.3 threes made - 16th
1.02 steals - 16th
The steals and three-pointers made categories are a little skewed against Irving because they include Gary Neal, Jordan Farmar, Brandon Knight and Earl Watson, all ahead of Irving in those categories. Irving has also improved, and despite getting 3.4 fewer minutes in March than February, he's posting his best monthly averages per game: 19.9 points, 6.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Not surprisingly, this shows he's improved as the season progressed and should continue to do so next season, especially as the Cavaliers build around their franchise player. That improvement, of course, in addition to the Ramon Sessions trade, has improved Irving's numbers. I'm not sure he'll ever compete for the league-lead in assists, but he should finish yearly in the top-8. I think he will compete each season for the scoring lead among point guards, and his three-point shot (40.1 percent) will continue to be an asset. If I had to rank him among the elite point guards next season, here's how I'd list them:
1. Chris Paul
2. Russell Westbrook
3. Derrick Rose
4. Deron Williams
5. Kyrie Irving
What do you think? Am I too optimistic about Irving? Not enough? Hit up the comments.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but it at least offers some players to put on the radar.
Chandler Parsons, F, HOU - You'd be hard-pressed to find a player on the waiver wire who has been more effective than Parsons the last week. The first Florida Gator to win SEC Player of the Year (in 2011), Parsons has averaged 42.3 minutes, 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists over his last three games. For March, he's shooting 54.5 percent from the field, which is impressive since he attempts almost three shots behind the arc each game. While his ability to shoot free throws is a work in progress, he's worth a pickup if you're looking for big-man help.
Gerald Henderson, G, CHA - I'm a little surprised to find Henderson out on the waiver wire in most leagues considering his stellar play as of late. Henderson has played at least 30 minutes in three of his last four games and has attempted at least 10 shots per game in 14 of his last 15 games since returning from a hamstring injury. The former Duke star has averaged 16.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists over his last eight contests and has emerged as the primary backcourt scoring threat for the Bobcats. Now over the injury, he should continue to log heavy minutes for the league's worst team.
Carl Landry, F, NO - Landry has made a successful return from a knee injury scoring 14 and 15 points in the two games since returning. The Hornets are using Landry more than they would like with their big men banged up, playing him 28 and 29 minutes in the two games. Landry's knee appears to be fully healed, and he should play as many minutes as he can handle. He's always been a decent source of points and rebounds with 30-plus minutes and shoots solid percentages from the field.
Each week we'll look at players who can help your fantasy team in the standard nine categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee he will contribute in other areas.
Charles Jenkins, G, GS - Too often the last few years we've found fantasy gold off the Golden State bench, and Jenkins might be the latest player to do so. The rookie out of Hofstra exploded for 27 points and six assists in place of starter Nate Robinson on Sunday night. The severity of Robinson's injury is unknown, but with the Warriors playing for draft position it wouldn't be surprising to see them give him time to heal. While it's wise to preach caution on a player who has a single big game out of nowhere, it's tough to come by assists coupled with points on the waiver wire. He's a player to gamble on if you're looking for a boost in assists for the stretch run.
Kawhi Leonard, F, SA - While it's tough for Spurs fans to realize, Tim Duncan isn't getting younger as he turns 36 in April. The silver lining is that the Spurs may have found a nice player at the three spot in Leonard, who can help ease the transition to the next wave of Spurs players. What's been most impressive about Leonard is his steady improvement throughout the season. Look at the steady improvement in averages by month:
January - 25.8 minutes, 7.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 46.6% FG, 73.3% FT
February - 21.3 minutes, 6.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 50.0% FG, 76.5% FT
March - 27.8 minutes, 10.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 54.2% FG, 87.5% FT
The 1.7 steals is the number that should stick out, and he's gotten to the point where he's producing enough with the other numbers that he's usable if you're desperate for steals. At the very least he's a name to remember in the later rounds of drafts next season.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.
Tristan Thompson, CLE - Now eligible at center
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