As I say every year, one thing that I hate about sports prognosticators is that there's no accountability. You can make whatever claim you want at the start of the season, safe in the knowledge that by the end no one will remember how wrong you were. So, in what has become a yearly tradition, I have once again put put my money where my mouth is and gone back through some of the predictions I made in the Hoops Lab earlier in the season to see how well I did.
This group of predictions all came from the first in-season Hoops Lab of the year.
Westbrook "projects out to a top-10 roto producer from here on out": Coming into the season, Russell Westbrook was supposed to miss the first month with a knee injury, but he returned early. In this article, I projected him to be a top-10 producer from then on. Unfortunately, I whiffed on that one, as Westbrook continued to have injury issues all season and ended the year healthy but sitting out half of back-to-backs. Health is the hardest thing to predict.
Heat's 3-peat coast: I predicted the main players on the Heat would have a down season this year because of the physical strain of making the Finals three straight years. This one had mixed results. Dwyane Wade did indeed have a down year, missing a good chunk of the season and entering the last Sunday of the season with a Yahoo! Rank of 102 in the league by totals (against an expected ranking of 22 entering the year). Chris Bosh, on the other hand, outperformed his expected ranking of 31 to finish 15. The media has ascribed Lebron James as having a down year, but according to Yahoo's ranking system he is exactly where he was expected to be (2 overall by total, behind only Kevin Durant).
Disturbing trend - liberal resting/sitting of vets on any given night: I noted in the first Hoops Lab article that teams were already starting to sit/rest their players at the start of the year to a disturbing degree. This turned out to be one of the themes of the season, as even in last week's Fantasy Championship finale article I was still talking about great players sitting to get extra rest. As the NBA gets more savvy about how rest is more important than maximizing regular season contributions, this trend of vets missing time will likely continue to get more pronounced moving forward. For this season, it was a successful prediction.
Should have taken Davis: I don't know whether this one is a hit or a miss. On the one hand, I knew by the first Hoops Lab of the year that Anthony Davis was going to be special this year and should have been taken higher in fantasy drafts. On the other hand, the entire comment was based on the fact that I missed out on taking Davis in any of my leagues, which was a huge miss. On the balance, I was more right than wrong as my initial preseason ranking of Davis had him 6 overall (he's currently 5 by totals in Yahoo!), and this line from the article was prophetic: "In fact, I predict that this is the last time for the next five years that Davis isn't a consensus top-5 pick in fantasy drafts." Next year, he just might challenge Durant for that 1 overall pick.
Loving Love: In the SiriusXM experts league, I had gone off the board a bit with the fourth overall pick. While Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving were the consensus 4, 5, and 6 picks in average Yahoo! drafts, I instead went with Kevin Love (ADP 7.5) in that slot. As it turned out, Love was in fact a good pick in that slot as he entered last Sunday with a Yahoo ranking of 4 by totals…just behind Curry (3 overall by totals), but ahead of Paul (10), Irving (25) and even consensus 3 pick James Harden (8). Love was also the only big man from this grouping, leaving him as the highest rated center in the game this year.
Griffin now complete: I got Blake Griffin in the third round of several drafts this year and projected him as a top-25 player while his Yahoo! O-rank and ADP were both well into the 40s. In that article I said that Griffin's production should go up across the board, that his minutes should go up, and that he should be a more complete player than his reputation of points/rebounds only or his rep as being dependent on Chris Paul. Griffin totally validated my thought process, averaging career highs in scoring, assists, free throw percentage, and even three-pointers on his way to a 20 overall ranking. He also exploded when Paul was injured, making Griffin a legitimate top-5 MVP candidate this season.
Take a chance on Cousins: In last year's accountability article I had to give a "mea culpa" on Cousins, as I had predicted him to have a big season and he had come up short. In the first article this year I pointed out that Cousins had ridiculous talent/upside but that his volatility made him a risk. I included that he was worth the risk and that he could break out. Cousins is currently sporting the 31 ranking in Yahoo and is enjoying the end of what many consider to be his breakout season. Like I've done with others before, it looks like last season I was just a year early on Cousins.
At the bottom of every Hoops Lab I give some suggestions on players that aren't owned in many leagues for you to pick up or at least pay attention to. Through the course of a full season, a lot of the suggestions are for players that don't turn out to be that special. Sometimes the players turn out to be downright flashes in the pan. The good thing, though, is that pretty much every team has a roster spot or two that could be dedicated to adding/dropping borderline players with no risk. So if a pickup doesn't pan out, it doesn't really hurt. But if it does pan out, and if you were able to get in early before the rest of your league, then the right pickup can be a game changer for you. Here were a few that worked out pretty well this year.
Jared Sullinger (8% owned, Lab 1): Sully was on my radar because he was one of my favorite rookie players last season before a back injury forced him out. This year, my expectations were low for him coming off of the injury, but I had an eye on him, and at the first sign that he'd get some playing time, I snatched him up. That's been a solid decision for me, as he's outperformed expectation and given me quite a few 20/10 games sprinkled through the season.
Terrence Jones (12% owned, Lab 2): When I first suggested picking up Jones in the second Lab, he was hardly owned in any league. Since then, he's had several long stretches as arguably the best roto big man on the Rockets, which has catapulted him to the 70 overall ranking in Yahoo!.
DeMarre Carroll (9% owned, Lab 3): Carroll has put together a solid, consistently strong season as the starting wing in Atlanta. He is a bit of a garbageman, contributing in several categories with nothing earth shattering in any single category, and this has been good enough to get him ranked 57 overall in Yahoo this year.
Randy Foye (34% owned, lab 5): Foye was always someone that would be on and off of this list over the course of a given season because of his ability to knock down three-pointers. He maintained and increased his long-range value this year (2.4 treys made per game), and also showed that he can step up with explosive outings when the Nuggets feature him (like the 30 point, 15 assist, six trey, five rebound effort that he had last week against the Rockets during a well-timed fantasy playoff game.
Game Changers In My Basketball Life
Moving to more of a year-in-review theme as opposed to accountability, there were some pretty big happenings in my basketball life this year. Here are a few of the biggest ones.
Daily Fantasy Sports: As I wrote back on January 5, I developed a new fantasy sports addiction this year with daily fantasy sports leagues. This was huge, because it has changed the entire way I approach fantasy sports in-season. Since getting married and having kids over the last decade, I've scaled back my in-season fantasy leagues to be more weekly based and FAAB-based. But the daily approach keeps things so fresh that I find myself more personally immersed in day-to-day player production than I've been in years. This not only makes the seasons more fun for me again, but I think it translates to better basketball writing because I'm more fresh on the most recent events on a personal level. I've also had some good success in these leagues, which helped sponsor the next bullet point and also gained me some fantasy credit with my wife.
MIT Sloan Analytics Conference: I'm a basketball nerd. I freely admit it. So for YEARS I've been wanting to head to MIT for the annual Sloan Analytics Conference. This year, I finally got the spousal and financial approval to make the trip, so my wife and I made our way to Boston. The conference was everything that I hoped it would be, as I laid out in the March 9 Lab. There were outstanding academic studies but also great panels with input from luminaries ranging from NBA commissioner Adam Silver to Phil Jackson to Stan Van Gundy (who was the star of the show with his "drunk uncle at a barbecue" style). I live-tweeted much of the conference (@ProfessorDrz), and I really hope my attendance can become an annual event.
Celtics Beat on CLNS Radio: At the bottom of several recent Labs, you may have seen a new section called "Professor's Podcast." This section reflects work I've been doing on the Celtics Beat show, hosted on CLNS radio. I've been co-hosting the show, where we've interviewed some great NBA guests. In the show from Saturday of this week we interviewed NBA writers Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com and Brian Mahoney from the Associated Press, and got some great stuff about the status of the league entering the playoffs and what we might expect in the offseason.
It's been a great season. I hope you all won your leagues, and enjoy the upcoming NBA playoffs and draft as we get ready to do this all again next year.
Keeping up with the Professor
If you're interested in my takes throughout the week, you can follow me on Twitter @ProfessorDrz. Also, don't forget that you can catch me on the radio on RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today with Chris Liss and Jeff Erickson on XM 87, Sirius 210.