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NBA Waiver Wire: A Look Back

Charlie Zegers

Charlie has covered the NBA, NFL and MLB for RotoWire for the better part of 15 years. His work has also appeared on,, the New York Times, ESPN, Fox Sports and Yahoo. He embraces his East Coast bias and is Smush Parker's last remaining fan.

A dismal, rainy April Friday, with mere days remaining in the NBA season, seems a perfect time to look back on this year's fantasy NBA drafts to see where things went well . . .

And where things went horribly awry.

The formula for winning a fantasy NBA league is fairly simple: you need early-round picks that play to expectations; you need a couple of mid-to-late round picks that exceed expectations; and you need to avoid catastrophic injuries. The trick, of course, is knowing which players will meet and exceed expectations ahead of time. So let's take a look at the expectations that were set at the start of the 2012-13 season, those that were met, those that weren't, and what we could have done differently.

I'm using a really simple method for isolating the most surprising and disappointing players. I'm starting with each player's preseason rank in a standard Yahoo! 9-category rotisserie league and comparing it with his rank based on season totals as of April 12.

Based on that admittedly-simplistic formula, here are the 20 most disappointing players in fantasy NBA for 2012-13:

Player Preseason Rank 4/12 Rank Difference
Danny Granger 27 595 -568
Andrew Bynum 15 446 -431
Derrick Rose 95 480 -385
Royce White 193 571 -378
Hedo Turkoglu 113 435 -322
Kevin Love 16 335 -319
Brandon Rush 125 432 -307
Al Harrington 103 398 -295
Brandon Roy 153 423 -270
Austin Rivers 165 422 -257
Marcus Camby 144 399 -255
Dwight Howard 11 262 -251
Drew Gooden 162 412 -250
Jan Vesely 163 382 -219
Grant Hill 190 409 -219
Thomas Robinson 140 336 -196
Amar'e Stoudemire 51 244 -193
Andrea Bargnani 77 266 -189
Andrew Bogut 67 251 -184
Eric Gordon 50 226 -176

Kevin Love's injury was just bad luck, though I suspect it has made knuckle pushups a whole lot less popular in NBA circles. But look at some of those other names.

Granger. Bynum. Rose. Harrington. Howard. Gordon. Bogut. Notice a common theme? All of them entered the preseason coming off injuries and had uncertain timetables for their season debuts. And every one of them either failed to return when expected, struggled to play through their injuries, re-injured themselves, or a combination of all three.

Lesson learned. If a player isn't going to start the season with a regular role, he's someone you draft as an "upside" pick. It doesn't matter if the player is coming off an injury, mounting an unlikely comeback (Brandon Roy), or an unproven youngster (White, Rivers, Vesely). And you don't draft for upside in the early rounds.

Let someone else take the risk on next year's version of Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose. (Frankly, I'm not certain that Rose will be a great investment in 2013-14 drafts, but that's a column for next September.)

And now the flip side of that list, this season's most pleasant surprises:

Player Preseason Rank 4/12 Rank Difference
Chandler Parsons 182 38 144
Metta World Peace 186 64 122
Kyle Korver 154 36 118
Nikola Vucevic 133 28 105
Danny Green 146 41 105
Vince Carter 149 54 95
Nate Robinson 179 91 88
DeMar DeRozan 172 88 84
Gerald Henderson 189 105 84
Kemba Walker 104 21 83
George Hill 115 35 80
Kawhi Leonard 139 61 78
Jarrett Jack 169 92 77
Jose Calderon 111 43 68
J.J. Hickson 135 67 68
Jason Thompson 188 120 68
Damian Lillard 96 29 67
Jamal Crawford 138 71 67
Brook Lopez 81 23 58
Shawn Marion 126 69 57

Most of the players on this list were available on the wire at one point or another. Back in October and November, nobody really expected Chandler Parsons to emerge as a do-everything wing in Houston, or Nikola Vucevic to be the most productive big fantasy big man in the Dwight Howard trade, or J.J. Hickson unceremoniously dumped by both Cleveland and Sacramento to become a reliable double-double guy in Portland.

Meanwhile, Metta World Peace's productivity jumped thanks in part to a coaching change, Jose Calderon's value changed after a trade, and Nate Robinson's value was greater than expected due to Derrick Rose's longer-than-anticipated absence. And who anticipated Vince Carter's return to relevance as a three-point specialist?

Another lesson learned. Some of the factors that define who will and won't be successful in a given NBA season are not and cannot be known on draft day. Always leave yourself some flexibility, so you can take advantage of these situations as they emerge.

Of course, if you're reading this column, you're probably doing that already.

Enjoy the playoffs.
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