This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.
Welcome to the Week 21 edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. Each week, our NBA staff gets together to answer questions about the biggest topics of the week, both in fantasy basketball and the league overall.
This week, we talk best values of the season, the deep rookie class, Brad Beal's future and more.
Who is most to blame for the Lakers' shortcomings this season: The front office, LeBron James or LA's other rotation players?
Nick Whalen: The front office, by a wide margin. Other than what little convincing it took to get LeBron to LA, Magic Johnson has been a complete disaster as a roster-builder, and there's been little-to-no accountability from management or ownership. LeBron does deserve some blame for his lack of effort on both ends – as well as his bizarre behavior – but playing meaningful minutes alongside Alex Caruso, Reggie Bullock, Mo Wagner and Johnathan Williams is not what he left Cleveland for.
Ken Crites: I go 40/30/30 for Front Office, LeBron and the other players. One must wonder how much the front office just does what LeBron tells them. It's criminal that LA didn't sign some shooters this past summer. I've never been a fan of Ingram and Ball.
Mike Barner: The front office. They needed to add more shooting around LeBron to make this work. I know LeBron probably had a lot to say about who they brought in, but it's ultimately the front office's job to make sure they put the team in a spot to succeed.
Alex Barutha: The front office. Even though LeBron's defensive effort has been suspect, it's still difficult to blame him for the way the season has gone considering he's 34 years old and coming off a season where he played almost 4,000 minutes if you include the playoffs. Everyone understands the importance of putting floor spacing around LeBron, but the front office has given him a supporting cast that's responsible for the second-to-worst three-point percentage.
Alex Rikleen: The front office, though James is a not-too-distant second. Signing a slew of redundant free-agents and eschewing three-point shooters seemed like a terrible idea at the time, and the Lakers' deadline moves to acquire Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala amounts to an open admission of guilt. Letting Brook Lopez walk last summer is one of the worst non-deals in recent memory. While LeBron James deserves blame for (once again) throwing his coach under the bus, Pat Riley showed that strong management can stop the LeBron-trying-to-get-his-coach-fired train dead in its tracks. The Rob Pelinka-Magic Johnson regime has had an excellent draft record, but pretty much every non-draft action they've taken has been somewhere between "terrible" and "fine".
Jeff Edgerton: The Lakers play about 12 seconds of decent defense, and then they simply give up on the play. That's their Achilles heel, and any number of factors could contribute to that issue.
James Anderson: The front office and the expectations. The fact that LeBron James missed a month and they are going to miss the Western Conference playoffs should come as a surprise to exactly nobody. Of course, they probably would be in line for the playoffs if their front office: A) knew what they were doing and B) made signings with the intention of maximizing their 2019 wins.
Shannon McKeown: Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. There's a blueprint to winning with LeBron James on your roster. All Magic and Pelinka needed to do was surround The King and the Lakers young core with shooters and competent role players. That would have been enough for the team to be in the mix for a playoff spot. Instead, they made numerous questionable signings, including Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley. Injuries to LeBron and Lonzo Ball played a huge part, too, but I place most the blame on the front office.
As the regular season comes to a close in many fantasy leagues, which players ended up being the biggest values for you this season, based on draft position or acquisition cost?
Whalen: Caris LeVert was one of my better picks before the injury, and strangely enough I got a lot of defensive value out Justin Holiday for the first couple months of the season before he fell off a cliff.
Crites: Danilo Gallinari was a fantastic and surprisingly healthy player on a few of my squads. And Jusuf Nurkic's across-the-board improvement should not have surprised us, but it did. He's only 24. The guy improved his free throws by 14 percentage points. Awesome.
Barner: De'Aaron Fox and Danilo Gallinari. I didn't see the breakout coming with Fox, but I still snatched him up in the later rounds to help with assists. Gallinari was still available late because of his injury history, but his ability to stay mostly healthy has helped him significantly outproduce his ADP.
Barutha: De'Aaron Fox stands out. He had an ADP of 118 on Yahoo and is currently the 48th-ranked played by average production.
Rikleen: Pascal Siakam and Steph Curry, with an honorable mention to Larry Nance. Siakam should be a cinch for Most Improved Player, and he's an easy runaway for best waiver wire pickup of the season. Curry has been incredible once again. Somewhat quietly, his numbers are pretty close to the season when he was the NBA's first ever unanimous MVP , and he was available pretty late in the first round in most drafts with an ADP of eight according to FantasyPros. Nance is the one I'm most proud of. Only two of the experts who submit preseason rankings to FantasyPros had Nance inside their top-90. In my preseason Beer Sheet, I had him at 69.
McKeown: I don't own any shares, but Pascal Siakam likely won a lot of fantasy leagues this season. His ADP was outside of the top 200, but he's provided near top-50 value in 8-category leagues. For my squads, Jerami Grant has been an unsung hero with his steady production far exceeding his low cost on draft day.
Outside of the obvious candidates, which rookie(s) from the 2018 class do you expect to be targeting in drafts next fall?
Whalen: Kevin Huerter and Landry Shamet already look like they'll have long NBA careers, and there are a few lottery guys – Jaren Jackson, Wendell Carter, Mikal Bridges – who should make significant leaps. I'm also very interested to see how much the Nuggets throw Michael Porter out there next season.
Crites: I'm expecting a nice Year 2 jump for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And let's not forget that Josh Okogie scored 18 points per game his sophomore year at Georgia Tech. Just because his defense is excellent, we should assume he'll never score. His shooting will improve, and he's had 2.0 stocks per game since February 2.
Barner: Mitchell Robinson is someone I'll be targeting. He's a shot-blocking machine and could take over as the starting center next year if the Knicks load up at guard and forward in free agency. Wendell Carter Jr. will also be appealing as well. He might be somewhat forgotten after missing most of this year due to injury.
Barutha: Wendell Carter, Jr. had a stretch of eight games where he averaged 15.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a combined 3.4 combined blocks/steals in 28.0 minutes – that's hard to forget. I also anticipate maintaining irrational confidence about Miles Bridges, who I'll probably snag with the final picks in most of my drafts.
Rikleen: I'm going to have a ton of exposure to Mitchell Robinson and Jaren Jackson, Jr. Defensive stats can be the hardest to add after draft day, and those two could be two of fantasy's best defenders next season. Robinson has the ability to single-handedly win head-to-head blocks matchups in a way that fantasy hasn't seen since Hassan Whiteside in 2015-16 or Serge Ibaka in 2011-12. The next rookies I'm watching are Kevin Huerter and Allonzo Trier, but their stocks will be heavily influenced by closing stretch and offseason moves
Edgerton: I will gladly go back to the well with Bagley. It also appears that Landry Shamet could be a key component for the Clippers moving forward, and if Wendell Carter is 100% I'd be willing to take a chance on him as well.
McKeown: The 2018 draft class is stacked. Other than the obvious top three, I'll be targeting the following long list of young studs: Jaren Jackson Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Mitchell Robinson, SGA, Collin Sexton, Mo Bamba (if Vuc leaves), both Bridges, Michael Porter, Kevin Huerter, Landry Shamet and Rodions Kurucs.
Given what he's done since John Wall went down, plus the fact that Wall will miss most if not all of next season, are you comfortable projecting Brad Beal as a first-round value next season?
Whalen: Absolutely. I wouldn't say I doubted Beal's ability to lead a team, but he's been more consistent in a really bad situation than I would've expected. Given the Wizards' cap sheet, they won't have a ton of room to improve – that's not great for Wizards fans, but it's great for Beal's fantasy owners.
Crites: Over the last 30 days, Beal has shot 51.3% from the field and 93.2% from the charity stripe. One would assume the added defensive pressure from being the No. 1 option would force Beal to shoot worse, not better. That assumption has been proven wrong. And his defense has improved, too (2.6 stocks/game). Big stars on bad team are fantasy dreams. I'm all in.
Barner: Yes. The Wizards are in cost-cutting mode, so they likely won't make any significant additions over the summer. With Beal's high usage rate and ability to contribute in multiple areas, he's a viable option towards the end of the first round.
Barutha: Yes. Beal has vaulted up to the 12th-ranked fantasy player for the season, and he's been the second-best player over the past month. He'll probably end up closer to No. 12 than No. 2 next season, but that's still first-round value.
Rikleen: Yes, as long as we're talking about a late first. According to most ranking systems, he's technically outproduced players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic over the past few months, but there is no scenario in which I'm drafting Beal ahead of either of those two next season. Beal is stuck at the end of the round for two reasons: reproducibility and his strategic strengths. All of the other players at the top of the first round either provide more defensive stats or have a unique skill. We're still several months away from draft season, but right now the players in my top eight for 2019-20 are unchanged from who I had there this year: James Harden, Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Jokic (not necessarily in that order). I'm not sure there is anything Beal can do over the next six months that would have me put him in that group.
Edgerton: The value with Beal is that he will fall into the second round in most drafts. If I went 11th or 12th in a 12-team league I would certainly grab him due to the reliable floor he can provide.
Anderson: Yeah, borderline-first for sure. Certainly a top-18 pick or so in all formats.
McKeown: Since Wall went down, Beal has averaged 28.6 points, 6.4 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 treys and 1.9 steals with a 48/87/36 line. He's in his prime and will be the unquestioned focal point for the Wizards next season. He's absolutely a first-round value for next season.
One bold prediction for the final month of the regular season:
Whalen: The Raptors won't lose, but they'll continue the tradition of having some trouble in the first round. The upgrade from DeRozan to Kawhi is massive, but they'll need more than just Kawhi to breeze through Brooklyn or a suddenly red-hot Pistons team.
Crites: This is a shameless homer move, but I still think Boston figures it out and wins the East. I love the Bucks' depth and Coach Budenholzer, but I'm old school enough to still believe teams have to pay their dues. The Bucks are short on playoff experience. Ask Kyle Lowry – the playoffs are different.
Barner: The Bulls will have a winning record from here on out. They've already won six of their last nine games and are a completely different team after adding Otto Porter, Jr. and locking in Robin Lopez to extended playing time. With the Hawks being the only team they could possibly catch in terms of the overall standings and the Suns, Cavaliers and Knicks all far worse teams, I don't think their lottery chances could change all that much even if they lose a ton of game down the stretch. Therefore, they won't go crazy resting players.
Barutha: The Jazz finish the season as the third seed in the West.
Rikleen: One of the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics or 76ers will not make the second round of the playoffs; the Rudy Gobert snubs continue, as he does not win DPOY or make an All-NBA team; the Suns and/or the Knicks go on a four-game winning streak.
Edgerton: The Sixers win it all.
Anderson: There will be at least a modicum of Warriors drama related to DeMarcus Cousins. Bonus prediction: LeBron throws Luke Walton AND the front office under the bus, either on the record or a "LeBron's camp thinks..." report.
McKeown: The Pistons will advance further than the Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs.