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Category Strategy: Getting Freaky

James Anderson

James Anderson

James "Thunder" Anderson is an editor, radio host and scribe at Rotowire, primarily focused on basketball and baseball. In 2013 he was a FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year. He is a proud University of Minnesota alum, with allegiances to the Packers, Brewers, Bucks (sigh) and Gophers (double sigh).

I went to my fair share of fraternity parties during my freshman year of college, but I never considered pledging. Other than enjoying a wild party on a Friday or Saturday night, I just didn't have that much in common with most of the guys who were in fraternities at my college. However, if I were a freshman this year and there was fraternity dedicated to watching Giannis Antetokounmpo highlights while eating gyros and yogurt and then attempting to recreate his moves on a nerf basketball hoop, while co-eds in togas looked on in awe, I'd be the president, the treasurer and the secretary. In fact, I've even come up with a name for this fictional Greek house: PHLI SLAMMA DUNKA.

Last week on the Fantasy Basketball Podcast, my co-host, Kyle McKeown, went off on a similarly dreamy tangent about Giannis, and I decided to be the voice of reason, and argued that we were overhyping the 19-year-old, and that he hadn't really done enough on the court to warrant a hard sell that he needed to be owned in most leagues. However, I was wrong, and when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong.

Here are his highlights from Friday's game against the Nets.

Here is his nasty no-look behind the back pass that didn't make the first highlight reel.

At no point does Giannis look like anything other than the best player on the court in that game. That's just a fact. The drive where he blows by Kevin Garnett and reaches around the backboard as his entire body has already flown past the hoop to throw down a dunk, is the Greek Freak in a nutshell. There is nothing he can't do.

While Simmons may be prone to hyperbole, he's also very plugged in around the league, and if he's saying this, you know there are those in front offices who would echo that sentiment. (I would still take Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid over him, but the Jabari Parker vs. Giannis argument would be a fascinating one.)

So here's my question: If the 2014 draft is going to be the best draft since 2003 (which it will be), and the case can be made that Giannis has a higher ceiling than any player in said draft class (which it can be), then how in the world did the Bucks get Giannis with the No. 15 pick in the 2013 draft, which by all accounts is the worst draft class in recent memory?

Do other team's not have international scouts?

What were the concerns that those 14 teams picking ahead of Milwaukee had about Giannis?

Was he too tall? Too long? Too athletic? Too versatile? Too young? Oh wait, those are all things that NBA teams typically fall all over themselves trying to acquire in the draft!

The Cavs drafted poor Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 pick, in essence, because they didn't like any of the players in the draft, and wanted to roll the dice on Bennett's potential. How laughable is it now that Bennett could have more potential than kid Greek? How crazy is it that the Wizards took Otto Porter ahead of Giannis? How absurd is it that the T-Wolves drafted Shabazz Muhammad ahead of him? And those are just the three worst examples. If that draft happened again today, the only question would be how fast Cleveland would submit Giannis' name to the commissioner.

He's a 6-foot-11 shooting guard. He is so much body, yet he's very skinny. He just looks weird out there. I think that's why he slipped to 15. He looks like nothing we've ever seen before, and that's what confounded talent evaluators. How could someone with that body, also be extremely skilled? It's a fair question, especially without seeing him up against American college players. Alex Len looks like a center. Otto Porter looks like a small forward. There's nothing about Giannis that remotely resembles a shooting guard, yet that's what he is, a damn good one, and he's only going to get better.

With spirit-crushing injuries to Al Horford and Russell Westbrook, Antetokounmpo's availability in more than 75 percent of leagues is a nice silver lining.


Each week, this article highlights players who are widely available in standard leagues that can help in specific roto categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a specific category, there's no guarantee for production in other areas.


Tony Wroten, SG, Sixers
In three games since Michael Carter-Williams returned from injury, Wroten has still managed to average 16.3 points in just under 25 minutes per game. It's pretty clear that he's one of the Sixers' five best players, so I'd expect him to start seeing even more run, whether in a super sixth man role, or as the starting shooting guard. He is available in more than 75 percent of leagues. Reggie Jackson, Nick Young and Khris Middleton are solid options in shallower leagues.


Reggie Evans, PF, Nets
Coach Jason Kidd hasn't fully unleashed Evans yet, and I'm not sure that he will, but he should be on watch lists in all category leagues, as he might be the best pound-for-pound rebounder in the league. He had back-to-back 13-rebound games last week without seeing 21 minutes in either game. Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee are also guys I like if they receive significant run, but Kevin Garnett looks completely washed up, and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets to a point where he's not playing for Brooklyn in the second half of the season for one reason or another. Jordan Hill is another solid option here.


Josh McRoberts, PF, Bobcats
This is an outside-the-box option, but the Bobcats' starting power forward has averaged five assists in 31.2 minutes per game over his last 10 games. That's ridiculous production in this category from a power forward, and makes him ownable in all standard category leagues. Yet, because of his track record as a below-average fantasy option among starting players, he's only owned in 19 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 3.3. percent of ESPN leagues. I still like Jordan Farmar a lot here as well, as he's the lone healthy point guard on the Lakers, and has seen 30-plus minutes in each of his first two games back from injury, dishing seven assists in his last game.


Jodie Meeks, SG, Lakers
I don't know what's going on here, but the stats don't lie. He has 11 steals in his last four games, and is averaging 37.8 minutes per game over that stretch. If we expand the sample size, he only has one game in December without a theft, yet remains available in more than 65 percent of leagues.


Taj Gibson, PF, Bulls
Gibson has 10 blocks in his last six games, and despite going on a mini offensive tear a couple weeks ago, he's still available in more than 60 percent of leagues. Elton Brand would've been my choice here if it seemed like the Hawks were going to give him starter's minutes the rest of the way, but they have four big men who are apparently going to share time in the frontcourt alongside Paul Millsap, making none of them ownable in standard leagues at this point. Brandan Wright is another option here.


Khris Middleton, SF, Bucks
It could be too late to grab Middleton in mid-sized or deeper leagues, but he's still available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, and has averaged 2.5 three-pointers per game over the past two weeks, which is very valuable, especially coming from a guy who is power forward-eligible in many leagues. Terrence Ross, Gerald Green and Mirza Teletovic are guys to look for in deeper leagues.