Here are a few thoughts from the Hoops Lab, as we prepare for Week 11 of the fantasy basketball season. Keep in mind, the rest-of-season rankings also update today, so check those out as you prepare for this week’s games. Between the rankings and this article, we’ll also help you identify some good trade candidates. So, without further ado, let’s dig into it.
Nets win nine in a row
The Nets have been in the sixth slot in this five-part article for the past two weeks, the last story I’ve had to cut before turning it in. This week, it’s past time that we paid attention to what’s going on in Brooklyn, and decide what we, as fantasy basketball managers, want to do about it.
What’s that sound? Oh yeah, that’s what silence sounds like. The Nets have been a megaphone for extraneous noise for the past few seasons, with off-court actions and consequences drowning out the awesome potential of the team. Well, now we’re seeing what happens when they close out the unnecessary clamor and focus on the hoops. They’ve quietly won nine straight games, 13 of their past 14 and 18 of their past 23. The team that once seemed as though it was one more scandal or losing streak away from blowing up the experiment is now only 2½ games out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference and has blown out the past two NBA champions by a combined 48 points.
On the fantasy hoops front, the stability is yielding some of the best fantasy outcomes we’ve seen for this Nets team. Kevin Durant has turned in a month worthy of both the NBA and the fantasy hoops MVP. In his past 13 games, he has averaged 31.5 PPG (60.2 FG%, 94.5 FT%, 39.1 3P%), 6.6 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.1 3PG, 1.2 BPG and 1.0 SPG while missing only one game.
Kyrie has missed only two of his past 17 games, and has averaged 26.0 PPG (50.6 FG%, 91.1 FT%, 38.0 3P%), 4.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.9 3PG and 0.9 BPG.
Even Ben Simmons is rounding into form. While he has missed five games during this span, in the past 14 he has played, all of Simmons’ big three stats round to 10, as he has averaged 10.5 PPG (70 FG%), 7.2 RPG, 6.5 APG, 1.5 SPG and 0.5 BPG. He turned in 12 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals against the Bucks on Friday, and is looking more and more like his old self as the season has progressed.
And yet, if I’m a manager of a fantasy hoops squad with any of these guys on my roster, I’m looking to trade them immediately.
Your mileage might vary, but there’s just no way I want to pin my squad’s hopes on this amazing renaissance lasting for another four full months. Remember, all three of these players have averaged between 37 and 45 missed games over the past three NBA seasons. For a variety of reasons — for a creative, sometimes innovative variety of reasons — these players have established a shocking lack of availability for three full seasons. And while the off-the-court reasons might be most memorable, a bunch of those missed games were due to simple injury, and two of the three are 30-somethings now who will have a higher risk of injury for the rest of their careers.
Yes, I’m enjoying this glimpse into what this team could be if silence reigned and the Nets just focused on basketball, but we’re not even halfway through the season yet. We have enough of the marathon left that it’d make sense for you to actually redraft another hoops league this week and get another full experience of fantasy hoops action. There’s just no way I’m depending on this Nets squad to hold it together for the rest of the season.
If I were you, I’d take those extremely impressive stat lines I laid out above and figure out the most effective way to start offering those players around your fantasy hoops leagues. Work your mouthpiece to get MVP value for Durant, first-round value for Irving and/or top-50 value for Ben Simmons in deals, and it could really set up your squad for long-term success with a much lower risk of potential heartache over the rest of the season.
76ers win eight in a row
There’s another Atlantic Division squad that has won eight straight games and is moving up the Eastern Conference standings. The 76ers lost to the Rockets in James Harden’s first game back after his lengthy injury absence, but they haven’t lost since. But, my take-home message is much different for the 76ers than it is for the Nets.
Yes, Joel Embiid has a daunting history of injury, enough so that I factor a likelihood of missed games into his season-long projections. But, for the past five seasons, he has settled out around 15-20 missed games per season without many season-ending issues. That’s something to definitely keep in mind, but not necessarily something that would make me feel as a fantasy hoops manager that I absolutely had to trade him immediately before the wheels fell off. Teammates Harden and Tyrese Maxey are getting healthier, with the team looking like it has a chance to put together a long-term run toward excellence now that it’s learning how to play together.
And that is my last takeaway, from a betting futures perspective. In the preseason, our Basketball Power Index (BPI) had the Celtics as the No. 1 team in the league, but the 76ers at No. 2. The Sixers had a nightmare start to the year, but now they are only three games out of the top spot in the East and Maxey isn’t even back yet. Caesar’s Sportsbook still has the 76ers as championship long shots (+2200, 11th-longest odds in the NBA). The 76ers are +1000 to win the East, the exact same odds they are to win the Atlantic Division (+1000), and the exact same odds that Joel Embiid has to win the MVP (+1000).
Those are all very interesting to me. We’ve still got plenty of season left, and the 76ers are for real. And as they rise, Embiid’s video game stat outbursts will soon start to remind MVP voters that they’ve voted Embiid second for MVP two seasons in a row. If he stays at his level, and the 76ers finish with a top-three seed, Embiid might be the biggest threat to Tatum taking home his first trophy.
All in all, the 76ers are a team that should absolutely figure prominently into your futures plans soon, before the sportsbooks catch up.
Warriors up for seven games in row at home
The Warriors are in the midst of one of the most … unique … seasons we’ve ever seen. The defending champions are 13-2 at home, tied for the best home record in the NBA, with a +10.6 PPG scoring differential. On the other hand, they are a woeful 3-16 on the road, last in the NBA, with a -10.1 PPG scoring differential. The 20.7 PPG difference between the Dubs at home vs the road is on pace for an NBA record.
The good news? The Warriors’ next seven games, spanning the next two full fantasy hoops weeks plus another game, will be at home, where in their past two games they’ve blown out one of the best teams in the West in the Grizzlies, and the best team by record in the NBA in the Boston Celtics by a combined 30 points.
For both fantasy hoops managers and betters, alike, this is big news and worth watching. For the next two-plus weeks, the Dubs should be playing at championship level from their friendly confines. This means an extended stretch of mega fantasy production from Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins (when he comes back) and even Draymond Green. It means two weeks of great fantasy streamer production from players like Donte DiVincenzo. And, it means the Warriors should be favored to likely cover most spreads over this period unless the Sportsbooks overcompensate. Make sure you check out our fantasy hoops and betting daily notes for feedback into the Warriors’ odds every game.
About six weeks ago, I wrote about how Bane was taking the superstar leap. In the eight games leading up to the article, Bane was averaging 28.5 PPG (53.4 FG%, 89.5 FT%, 53.7 3P%), 5.1 RPG, 4.5 3PG and 4.4 APG. Unfortunately, he got injured shortly thereafter and has spent much of the time since on the shelf.
Well, Bane quietly made his return Friday, and has played two games under a minutes limit as he works himself back. He might not have 30 PPG upside anymore, with Jaren Jackson Jr. back and Dillon Brooks playing well. But, Bane absolutely has fantasy star power ahead of him, and this might just be the end of the window to trade for him while his value is still low. Could be worth making the offer to the manager who has him in your league.
Markkanen was once considered to be the future of the Bulls during a promising rookie season, before things didn’t work out and he ended up becoming a journeyman. This season, in Utah, Markkanen has rediscovered the game that showed such upside and excitement. As far as fantasy hoops goes, he has been wielding the blowtorch all season and doesn’t show any signs of cooling off. In fact, he’s accelerating.
In his past 10 games, Markkanen is averaging 25.1 PPG (56.3 FG%, 86.0 FT%, 55.4 3P%), 7.3 RPG, 4.6 3PG, 1.7 APG and 0.8 SPG. He’s the focal point of the Jazz’s offense, and he’s young enough to be their primary building block for the future, so he shouldn’t have to worry about getting usurped if/when they start playing more young talent to focus on the future. Markkanen is a fantasy hoops difference-maker, and I’m not sure his trade value and name recognition have caught up with his actual value just yet. It could be worth reaching out to the fantasy hoops manager in your league who has Markkanen to see if you can trade for him as “just a guy,” when in reality he looks to be a fantasy hoops star this season.