Paul George: 29.7 minutes, 12.1 points, 1.36 threes, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.64 steals, 0.58 blocks, 44.0% FGs, 80.2% FTs, 1.8 TOs
I can sit here and pick apart George’s game – he lacks confidence in his shot despite striking at a nice clip from beyond the arc, he still makes rookie mistakes, and he’s nowhere near polished. But this kid is a poor man’s Kevin Durant and he has game-changing abilities already on defense. When the offense catches up and the veterans in Indy slowly get phased out, George will see bumps across the board – and it would be a shock if his minutes didn’t head toward the 35-minute range.
Jrue Holiday: 13.5 points, 1.00 threes, 3.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.58 steals, 0.28 blocks, 43.2% FGs, 78.3% FTs, 2.1 TOs
Assuming Andre Iguodala stays in town, the Sixers could look very similar offensively next season. This, of course, would put a damper on Holiday’s party but the outlook is still bright. Yes, he was overdrafted last season due to breakout expectations – but on the whole he has all the physical tools and he appears to ‘get it.’ In other words, it’s unlikely that he disappears anytime soon. He may need Iguodala to leave before he shoots for the stars, but settling for the moon on a kid that should only improve is a nice bet. This is especially true for a post-hype guy that might not have the inflated ADP that others will have.
Goran Dragic: 26.5 minutes, 11.7 points, 1.03 threes, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.29 steals, 0.15 blocks, 46.2% FGs, 80.5% FTs, 2.4 TOs
Those numbers shot up to 36.2 minutes, 19.3 points, 1.7 threes, 3.5 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.2 blocks, 47.6% FGs, 84% FTs, and 3.3 TOs over the season’s last 15 games, and were very similar over the season’s last two months, too. Right now it looks like the Rockets want to keep Dragic and find a home for Kyle Lowry, and without making any statement about Lowry – the Rockets would be wise to do so. Dragic has sneaky athleticism behind his wiry frame, and along with Isaiah Thomas of the Kings he joined my top-15 reality PG list late last year. His playmaking will translate wherever he plays, and it’s doubtful a team will spend what it will take to sign Dragic only to see him play less than starter’s minutes. A good solid look will need to be taken at the situation that Dragic will be playing in, but ruling out the second round value he posted over the season’s last month would be overly pessimistic. He’s an efficiency monster.
JaVale McGee: 25.2 minutes, 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.57 steals, 2.16 blocks, 55.6% FGs, 46.1% FTs, 1.4 TOs
You almost have to throw the stats out of the window when dealing with McGee, whose only impediments to greatness on the NBA stage will be of his own doing. And as we saw during the Nuggets-Lakers series, the raw ability he has might be able to overcome anything going on in-between the ears, anyway. It would be good news if the restricted free agent stays in Denver under George Karl, who has managed some pretty hellacious personalities in his day. The cerebral approach Karl takes to coaching might actually get through to the big man, not to mention his solid group of teammates in Denver, and indeed it appeared as if the arrow was pointing in the right direction after the trade. With a full boat of minutes, 15 and 10 with three blocks per game is certainly doable. Just watch out for the free throw shooting.
Gordon Hayward: 30.5 minutes, 11.8 points, 0.83 threes, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.80 steals, 0.62 blocks, 45.6% FGs, 83.2% FTs, 1.7 TOs
Built for the NBA with his length and skills, Hayward has managed to keep his average athleticism from hindering his playmaking ability. With two years under his belt, it’s pretty clear that when he’s getting touches that the numbers will follow – and because of his length he manages to give small doses of stats across the board. The only question for the swingman has been his utilization in a double-post offense led by Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Ty Corbin finally stopped giving minutes to Raja Bell midway through the year and let Hayward loose, relatively speaking, and he responded with early mid-round value over the last month. Even if the Jazz somehow enter next season with both Millsap and Jefferson in the frontcourt, which seems unlikely at this early stage, a bump in production across the board is likely as Hayward should be playing 35 mpg or more.
Isaiah Thomas: 25.5 minutes, 11.5 points, 1.28 threes, 2.6 points, 4.1 assists, 0.82 steals, 0.12 blocks, 44.9% FGs, 83.2% FTs, 1.6 TOs
Let’s be real, the NBA establishment simply missed because the guy is short. And watching the way Thomas came out and stuck it to established, star players on a nightly basis – it became a pastime of mine to break down tape to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. He defends, his size is only a liability against the Deron Williams-type PGs in the league, he proved immediately he could run a team, and he shoots well. Thomas posted fifth round value over the season’s last month despite Keith Smart’s Stephen Curry reprisal in Sacto, which unfortunately must be a concern until Smart proves he can get out of his own way with Thomas. The good news is that what we saw last year is Thomas’ floor, and if Smart wants to keep his job he’ll play Thomas at a full-time clip – as the Kings won’t win very many games if he isn’t the featured penetrator and ball-handler.
Kenneth Faried: 22.5 minutes, 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.74 steals, 1.02 blocks, 58.6% FGs, 66.5% FTs, 1.2 TOs
The Manimal has been a favorite of mine since he was tearing up summer leagues during the lockout, and he’s going to enjoy the motor he has for at least the next 3-4 seasons. Would he see a straight-line bump in numbers if suddenly sporting starter’s minutes? For most players the answer is no, because they simply can’t give the same effort over a longer span, but this kid’s athleticism is off the charts and his game is tailored around that. His raw offensive skills will keep him from being a ‘lock’ for heavy minutes next season, but everything else is pointed in the right direction.
Kawhi Leonard: 24.0 minutes, 7.9 points, 0.64 threes, 5.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.33 steals, 0.36 blocks, 49.3% FGs, 77.3% FTs, 0.7 TOs
Leonard burnt me in fantasy leagues after he first showed up on the scene last season, but hopefully readers can see what I was shooting for watching him play impressively in the playoffs. He has elite-level athleticism and the Spurs have already sunk their teeth into developing him. Fantasy owners will want to be careful as they would be with any San Antonio asset, but eventually the leash will be loosened and there’s enough versatility here to get excited about.
Iman Shumpert: 28.9 minutes, 9.5 points, 0.81 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.71 steals, 0.14 blocks, 40.2% FGs, 79.8% FTs, 1.9 TOs
Like Leonard, Shumpert boasts supreme athleticism – though we’ll have to see how he looks following his ACL tear. The blemishes are his shooting and the fact he plays in Mike Woodson’s Melo-centric offense. But the steals capabilities and chance to improve in other areas is the draw here, and again, Shump’s value will come down to how he looks in his rehab during draft season.
Klay Thompson: 24.4 minutes, 12.5 points, 1.68 threes, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.74 steals, 0.30 blocks, 44.3% FGs, 86.8% FTs, 1.6 TOs.
The Warriors are a complex bunch, and as you know I’m a lifelong fan/punching bag, but all you need to know is that they are dead set on making Thompson a rising star in this league. Once the team started tanking, they gave him the car keys and then some – allowing the rookie to play some of the worst defense seen on this side of Jose Calderon. Fortunately, blow-bys and ‘men lost in traffic’ aren’t negative stats in fantasy leagues, and Thompson’s offensive game is impressive to watch. He will have a neon green light and has plenty of upside, especially if the Warriors decide to ditch the halfcourt offense and run with their turnstile unit.
Brandon Knight: 32.2 minutes, 12.8 points, 1.59 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.74 steals, 0.15 blocks, 41.5% FGs, 75.9% FTs, 2.6 TOs
Knight barely made it on this list, but because of his youth and pedigree he has a fighting shot at making an impact in fantasy leagues. Truth be told, there are a lot more negatives than positives to come out of his rookie season – the most notable of which is the fact he disappeared for stretches in a pseudo PG/shooting guard role. Yes, the Pistons’ veterans are a proud bunch and put him in the corner, but I was left with the impression that Knight didn’t do enough to earn their trust. Can he improve? Yeah, that’s why he’s on this list. And unless the Pistons add a point guard this offseason, he’ll be locked into a big-time role and have a year of development under his belt. But right now he still fits as a mid-to-late round flier type more than anything else.
Jordan Crawford: 27.4 minutes, 14.7 points, 1.23 threes, 2.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.92 steals, 0.08 blocks, 40.1% FGs, 79.3% FTs, 2.2 TOs
Similarly to Knight, I could have excluded Crawford from the list in order to keep it pristine, but he is coming off his second season in which he has mattered down the stretch in fantasy leagues. This will also be the first season that the Wizards aren’t a total madhouse after sending Nick “Swaggy P” Young and JaVale McGee out of town. I worry that Crawford is all sizzle and no steak, as the shooting numbers and tepid defensive stats show a player racking up stats on a bad team. But if we’re talking about the potential for improvement and upside, then the third-year Crawford needs to be included unless the Wizards add a shooting guard.
Derrick Favors: 21.2 minutes, 8.8 points, 6.5 boards, 0.7 assists, 0.58 steals, 1.00 blocks, 49.9% FGs, 64.9% FTs, 1.6 TOs
Favors is a beast of a man, and while the results haven’t always been pretty we’ve seen enough productivity out of him in bursts to be optimistic about his prospects in a starting role. Of course, the Jazz will need to deal Paul Millsap in order for that to happen, but even if they don’t an argument can be made for stashing Favors on the roster. He provided late round value over the season’s last month despite playing just 24 minutes per game.