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Hoops Lab: Ready to Rumble

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Let’s get ready to ruuuuumble!

On Sunday night I watched the Seahawks-Cardinals game because I had fantasy and DFS reasons to be interested, so I kept it on in the background while I was also live blogging a fantasy basketball draft. At the end of regulation, more than three hours of real time, the game was tied 3-3. At the end of overtime, spanning four hours, the game was still tied 6-6. No touchdowns were scored, and both teams missed chip-shot field goals in the last three minutes that could have won it. Watching the incredulous reactions of both teams was actually hilarious to me, prompting this tweet:

But the Twitterverse went crazy from folks whose eyes were bleeding due to the rather un-entertaining quality of the game. Memes were going wild, but to me the most apt Tweet was sent to me by @BrettForHire:

Brett has a heck of a point. On Tuesday, the REAL season begins. And as always, I CAN’T WAIT!

Here are some of the huge storylines that I want to watch this season as an NBA fan:

LeBron James and the Cavaliers are the kings of the NBA, but of course there’s a 73-win former champion that just added a still-peaking MVP player that plans to be the biggest challenge to a Cavs repeat.

Several future Hall of Famers hung it up this offseason, and the game will never be the same. One of those legends, Tim Duncan, played on a 67-win team that entered the playoffs appearing to be the Warriors’ biggest rivals. And while Duncan is one of the greatest of all-time for his career, replacing a 40-year old Duncan with a 30-something Pau Gasol likely upgrades those Spurs and keeps them in the championship mix.

Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are now it Chicago. Derrick Rose has joined Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis in New York. The Timberwolves are just stacking young talent that will now be coached by Tom Thibodeau. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are going to give it one more shot to get to the upper-elite level. James Harden is now a point guard, playing for Mike D’Antoni. Russell Westbrook might literally turn into the Hulk on the court now that the Thunder are his team. The storylines of interest this season just…don’t…stop. And I can’t wait to see them all play out.

To that end, another change of interest for me and (hopefully) you is that this summer I started an NBA blog that helps cover these stories and much more. The Hoops Lab is no longer “just” a weekly article, it’s now its own blog. The Hoops Lab blog has several sections, including player evaluations that’s more scouting based, an analytics section that’s more about advanced quantitative/APBR-metric analysis, a historical comparisons section that looks at how what we’re seeing on the court fits into NBA history, a fantasy section that touches on season-long and DFS information and finally a miscellaneous section where I can talk about whatever else might interest me (and hopefully you).

So…yeah. This NBA season stacks up to be ridiculous, I can’t wait to spend another season with you guys every week in this space, and if you come over to the Hoops Lab blog on the off days we’ll be able to share this monster NBA season on a much richer level this year. Let’s do this.

Around the NBA

James Harden in Mike D’Antoni System: Harden has been one of the biggest stat-stuffers in the NBA over the last few seasons since he joined the Rockets. However, this season could be even better because suddenly he is the starting point guard in a Mike D’Antoni offense. It always seems like the point guard in D’Antoni’s systems put up big numbers, but it turns out that talking about what this means for the Warriors as a real team, but of course in this space we talk about what it should mean to their fantasy prospects.

On Saturday I was on the RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today show on SiriusXM, and host Nick Whalen asked me which of the big four in Golden State (Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) will have their fantasy output most negatively affected by the move, and which might actually be helped. I said that Durant himself is the one that is most negatively impacted because three of his biggest strengths (scoring volume, FG%, FT%) will be less impactful if he has to sacrifice some scoring volume. There’s a very solid chance that Durant’s actual shooting percentage goes up, but if it’s on fewer shots it might not have as much impact as it has in the past. If all four are getting more open shots, it could lead to improvements in the volume/percentage of threes made, but that mostly helps Curry and Thompson as very arguably the two best 3-point shooters in history. But the Warrior that I think is helped most (potentially) is Green, because he will also benefit from more wide-open threes but will also likely be the one to have to help make up for the rebounds/dirty work stats that the Warriors lost in Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezili. Since his game was already the least predicated on volume scoring, Green is the one most likely to be helped by the new situation in Golden State.

Russell Westbrook as The Hulk: The other half of the Durant equation is in Oklahoma City, where for the first time they enter a season with Westbrook as the undisputed MAN for the Thunder. Westbrook showed two seasons ago that he could explode cartoonishly when Durant was injured, and last season Westbrook legitimately may have overshadowed Durant even when KD was healthy. So the prospect of a full season with Westbrook in full-on Hulk mode is almost enough to get me to boost him past Harden at the top of my cheat sheet. I also really like the rest of the Thunder lineup, as their twin bigs of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter plus his new running mate Victor Oladipo seem to be great fits for Westbrook to be able to maximize his own impact while helping the team succeed beyond expectation as well. While I have Harden as my preseason MVP pick, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Westbrook edges him out to win the scoring crown.

Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Anthony Davis: About a month ago I took (what I thought was) a provocative stance that Towns might be better this season, his second in the NBA, than Anthony Davis in his fourth. I argued that Towns as a rookie played more like Davis as a sophomore, and that he was ready to produce in year-two the way that Davis did in his third season when he had the best year of his career. Combine that with questions about Davis’ durability and a Timberwolves team that seems better poised for success than the Pelicans, and I thought a reasonable case could be made that KAT would be better than the Brow.

Fast forward to the present, and apparently my stance wasn’t as much in the minority as I expected. In fact, while Davis is still just ahead of Towns on the RotoWire cheat sheet (Davis at no. 5 vs. Towns at 6), in the Yahoo! draft rankings KAT is no. 6 while Davis is outside of the top-10. Pretty much all of this seems to be based on Davis’ injury concerns, and the fact that he had issues in the preseason just exacerbates that. I should point out that I wouldn’t be surprised if Davis ends up having a breakout season of his own, as he is still so young and starting to come into his own physically. But the fact that KAT is predicted to be either right there, or even ahead of him, just emphasizes how much of an outlier he projects to be on his path to superstardom.

Worst Team, but Linsanity tho: I’m predicting that the Brooklyn Nets will be worst team in the NBA this season. Even so, there are some fantasy storylines of interest that will go through Brooklyn. If nothing else, I’m curious to see what Jeremy Lin will do. Lin exploded for the famous Linsanity stretch with the Knicks several years back and has never come close to replicating it in subsequent stops where he has generally been asked to fit into a system. But since the Nets seem destined to be absolutely awful, there’s no real reason not to let Lin do whatever he wants out there. He had some great stat lines in the preseason, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have the best full-season of his NBA career.

End of an Era: This offseason saw the end of an era with Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and (to a much lesser extent) Amar'e Stoudemire calling it quits for their NBA careers. While I’m ultra-excited for the upcoming NBA season, I’ve got a take a moment to acknowledge NBA history. If all three of Duncan, Bryant and Garnett stay retired, then 2021 is a shoe-in for the greatest NBA Hall-of-Fame class in history.

I wrote a bunch of articles about these legends this offseason to really reflect on their careers. I did scouting-based reviews for all four and wrote two analytics-based comparisons on their career impacts that ran on Nylon Calculus. Check here for a central location for all of these articles, through the Hoops Lab blog. If you’re a fan of the NBA, not just fantasy basketball, there’s some interesting reading on some of the best that the NBA has ever produced.

New Additions and DFS Values

While this space will generally be for free agent/waiver wire suggestions and/or budget value plays in DFS, since we’re still in the pre-season let’s look at a couple of mock draft running diaries that I published over on the blog.

Draft Running Diary 1
This was me drafting 10th in a 10-team Roto H2H league on Yahoo. Final team:

Anthony Davis
DeMarcus Cousins
Kemba Walker
Isaiah Thomas
Derrick Favors
Ricky Rubio
Devin Booker
Zach LaVine
Darren Collison
Steven Adams
Deron Williams
Kris Dunn
Danny Green
Al-Farouq Aminu
Jamal Murray

Draft Running Diary 2
This was me with the 2nd pick in a 10-team Roto H2H league on Yahoo. Final team:

James Harden
Draymond Green
John Wall
Eric Bledsoe
DeAndre Jordan
Devin Booker
Dwight Howard
Bradley Beal
Robin Lopez
Joel Embiid
Reggie Jackson
Kris Dunn
Brandon Ingram
Will Barton
Marcus Morris
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