Aaron Bruski

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The Bruski 150

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I wish I could tap Isiah Thomas to pop up out of this article and say 'Welcome to Draft Week.'  And perhaps we could add the loud drums from Spaceballs to build up the anticipation.  Yes, the Bruski 150 is here and yes, it's bigger and bolder than ever.  You want sleepers?  They're everywhere.  As in, people are sleeping on enough guys for you to draft one in each round.  You want things to be able to laugh at me over?  I got you covered.  I ranked a pair of consensus Round 1-2 values right around No. 60. 


Yes, this is a fearless list.  It's also the same list I've taken into big money leagues for years, so if you decide to live and die with this list we'll be living and dying together all year.  For your piece of mind the same research took me to the unofficial NFBCK title during the lockout year, and last year I placed No. 6 overall at the National Fantasy Basketball Championship in what I thought was a down year. 


I've spent the last two months locked up in my war room watching film and running statistical analysis.  Every stat for every guy in the top 250 has been done by hand as its own mini-project.  The idea is to find the patterns and trends that reach some level of statistical significance, while running everything through a reality check of sorts -- including but not limited to coaching tendencies, development of new skills, erosion of old skills or physicality, regressions and the like.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Basketball league on October, 30th. It's $10 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts October 30th at 7pm ET. Here's the link.

The list reads primarily as 8-cat Roto rankings, though I do add the 9-cat ranks in parenthesis for each player.  For head-to-head players that want to consider punting, you will need to take the impacted category and make educated guesses about how a player would be ranked in that scenario.  In addition, owners in playoff formats should look at the schedule and count games during fantasy playoff weeks and use the information as a tie-breaker, or adjust guys up and down to their liking.  This list does take into account 'games played' predictions on my part, so it may be easiest to say that aside from positional considerations I would be drafting for best player available in the order of this list.  Finally, I've included Average Draft Positions (ADP) as well, which as you know is a loose estimate of how long owners can wait to draft a guy. 


Be sure to check back often as news changes and I will note the date/time that the document has been updated.  



Last thing…enjoy.  Follow me on Twitter and good luck in your drafts!


Editor's Note 2: To get access to a boatload of articles, projections, and strategy discussion, click here to check out our award winning draft guide.


***ADPs COMPILED ON: Wednesday, October 23 at 1:00 AM.

1.    Kevin Durant – (ADP: 1, 9-cat: 1) - Not since ‘less filling’ and ‘tastes great’ has there been such an important debate. LeBron vs. Durant went largely down the middle over the past few years, but the torch has officially been passed to KD now that the aging Heat have all but booked vacation plans for April.  LeBron says he’s focusing on free throws, his Achilles’ heel in this clash of the titans, but even if he does get on the right track he isn’t going to be relied upon like Durant will be in OKC.  

2.    LeBron James – (ADP: 2, 9-cat: 2) - As alluded to, in past years it was theoretically better to get the No. 2 pick in a snake draft (and a higher second round pick) because James and Durant were so closely matched.  For planning purposes, owners should know that Durant holds a notable edge over LeBron compared to prior seasons.

3.    James Harden – (ADP: 4, 9-cat: 5) - I’ve backed off a bit on Chris Paul’s minute outlook – nominally would be the right word – and the value lead Paul had over Harden in the early Draft Guide release of the 150 been has whittled down to practically nothing.  As I said then, I’m willing to tap Harden here for his durability and probable advantage late in the year.  Harden's projected 3.6 turnovers per game is enough to put him behind Paul and Stephen Curry in 9-cat.

4.    Chris Paul – (ADP: 4, 9-cat: 3) - It’s becoming clear that Doc Rivers wants Paul to assert himself, which may have been the impetus for his 40-point outing the other day, and seeing just a hint of that causes me to wonder if we’re getting ready for a throwback season from CP3.  That wonder is enough for me to move him ahead of Curry, who has a famous ankle lingering in the back of our minds.  Again, I won’t argue with anybody switching the order of picks 3-5.  In 9-cat, Paul is a cut above the James Harden and Steph Curry so he gets the nod at No. 3. 

5.    Stephen Curry - (ADP: 5, 9-cat: 4) - There are few players in the league as entertaining to watch as Curry, whose assortment of stops and starts, smooth dribbling and in-the-gym range make for an explosive fantasy package.  He's the last player on this list with the 'stat set' to have even an outside shot of threatening the top-2, but then again nobody in the sub-elite tier truly has a shot at LeBrant.

6.    Serge Ibaka - (ADP: 15, 9-cat: 6) - Let's get weird right off the bat and bring into the fold a guy that inexplicably dropped to 23 in our 30 DEEP draft, aso needless to say it won't be surprising to hear some of your report that you stole Ibaka in Round 2. With the ability to go way over three blocks per game, it's actually his offensive contributions that will steal the show this year as Scott Brooks will finally get the memo about Ibaka's feathery jump shot.  Don't be worried about Brooks screwing this up -- the Thunder will be without Russell Westbrook and the departures of Harden and Kevin Martin will force his hand.  A high percentage shot maker and plus rebounder, the days of being a one trick pony are over. 


In 9-cat, Ibaka has serious juice with a low 2.0 turnovers per game projection, which puts him in the discussion with the sub-elite guys but as a yet-to-be established player at that level he needs to prove himself to get into that club.


7.    Anthony Davis - (ADP: 20, 9-cat: 7) - Want to hear the scary part?  I have him this high and projected for just 34.5 minutes per game, as Monty Williams is a bit of a card when it comes to putting his best players on the floor.  That of course is a reference to not using Davis (enought) alongside Ryan Anderson, who was inexplicably signed to a big money deal two summers ago to force a timeshare last season.  Aside from the Brow's ability to change the complexion of a game, Williams is going to have a hard time not playing these guys together with just injury prone Jason Smith and foul prone Greg Stiemsma as depth in the frontcourt.  Davis is already showing off an ever-improving offensive game during exhibition season, and we know what he's capable of in the dirty work categories.  Paul George is right on his heels in terms of projected value, but unlike Davis I have George maxed out in terms of usage and expected improvements.  For Davis, anything he can do on top of 34.5 mpg is all gravy. 

8.    Paul George - (ADP: 12, 9-cat: 11) - Some might find this rank disappointing for George, but it's worth pointing out how much he's going to be asked to do lately.  Until he gets helps in the shot creator and lockdown defender departments, expect categories such as his defensive numbers to remain near their current plateau.  To that end, Danny Granger isn't going to carry any gravity in the Pacers offense and as alluded to the rest of the team struggles to get their own shot.  George's expected increase in field goal attempts is going to make him a high volume, low percentage shooter and that's just about the only thing for owners to complain about.  A projected 2.9 turnovers per game is a drag to his 9-cat value.

9.    Kevin Love - (ADP: 6, 9-cat: 8) - Love kicks off the next tier of players and he also presents owners with the safest upside play at this stage of the draft.  That said, I have Love maxed in plenty of projections with numbers of 26 points, 1.9 threes, and 13.1 rebounds to go with a 44.6 percent mark from the line.  If you're looking to spend big in an auction draft, with all due respect to Love and what he brings to the table, I'd stick with the aforementioned eight.  Being so tightly bunched with the guys you see directly below, I'm sure some of you have thought about taking Kyrie instead, and for me it came down to Irving's injury history being more sordid than Love's.

10.    Kawhi Leonard - (ADP: 39, 9-cat: 10) - Now for my next departure from what you're likely seeing elsewhere, Leonard could very well be a season-long project for the Spurs this year, and not in the way that the word 'project' usually entails.  Gregg Popovich has been laying down heavy pressure on Leonard to shoot the ball more, and though Leonard is not a shy player, when playing with three future Hall of Famers it's usually wise to defer.  Not anymore.  The old guys know that they're not getting any more competitive than they were last season, and they need the uber-talented and supremely athletic Leonard to be a difference-maker in the playoffs.  In what could be an 82-game exercise in making him the team's No. 2 scoring option, the mpg and usage jump has skyrocketed Leonard to the first round in my list and he can currently be found available in the second and third rounds. 

11.    Kyrie Irving - (ADP: 8, 9-cat: 14) - Irving, styled similarly to Stephen Curry, is one of the few players in the league whose stat set gives them a shot at an elite ranking.  While his scoring number (23.2 ppg projected) jumps off the screen, it's the strong and steady contributions across all categories that make him a no brainer first round pick, and the next step for him will be to bring his dimes up to an elite level (6.2 projected).  With newfound talent surrounding him, perhaps he can improve on his already solid efficiency and turn hard shots into easy helpers.  The elephant in the room is his propensity for getting hurt, which is why I'm targeting this super stud later in the first round. 

12.    Mike Conley - (ADP: 33, 9-cat: 12) - Part of the all-boring fantasy studs squad, Conley is one of the most consistent year-to-year fantasy plays in the NBA.  While there has been talk of Memphis trying to get out and run this season, and there is almost always talk about getting Conley to shoot more, I don't see much changing there except for another year's worth of incremental improvement.  Unlike Irving, however, he does not have the stat set to vault himself into the penthouse suite.  But with an ADP like the one he was sporting as of Tuesday, owners are going to be able to turn a tidy profit taking him in Round 2.

13.    John Wall - (ADP: 20, 9-cat: 20) - Wall has in many ways become the forgotten treasure of the NBA.  Knee issues slowed down his ascent to super stardom and in this day and age of short-term memory loss folks have forgotten how explosive he is.  Paired in perhaps the league's most dynamic backcourt and with a year under his belt following that injury, he will have space to operate and there will be few defenders that will be able to stop him from getting to the rack.  His dirty work numbers are excellent for a point guard (projected 4.7 rebounds, 1.56 steals, 0.94 blocks).  Once he can add a 3-point element to his game, folks will say Wall's name with the reverence they had when he was a consensus No. 1 draft pick a full year before he came out of school.  I don't think this is the year for that however, which is the difference between Round 1 and Round 2 value in this 8-cat list. 

14.    Al Horford - (ADP: 20, 9-cat: 9) - If Mike Conley is the starting point guard for the all-boring fantasy studs squad, then Al Horford is the CEO and president.  Constantly overlooked for that fact, he is finally unteathered from ball-and-chain Josh Smith which shouldn't have as much of a direct impact on Horford as it will on the entire team.  With willing passers at all five starting positions and a lineup that can get out and run a little bit, look for the quality and quantity of Horford's touches to increase as he builds off of last year's No. 18 rank. 

15.    Nicolas Batum - (ADP: 21, 9-cat: 15) - Beware the shooting wrist is something I say a lot around here, and that was the story of Batum's second half last year as he stopped shooting the ball to the tune of about 2-3 attempts per game.  The good news is that he didn't have the type of fantasy sizzle that would find him flying off the shelves this season.  Sitting with a late second round ADP, Batum is poised to turn a nice little profit for owners. 

16.    Derrick Rose - (ADP: 13, 9-cat: 22) - So many folks want to push Rose into the first round based on his high-flying preseason, but owners have to remember that in his MVP year when he played 37.3 minutes per game he was still only the No. 6 player on a per-game basis in 8-cat formats.  Coming off an injury plagued year two seasons ago that concluded with his torn ACL, and a full year off after that, asking him to meet those lofty numbers is asking too much.  I have him slated at about 36 mpg, a high number for anybody returning from that type of injury regardless of all that time off.  Factoring in the likely precautionary days off he will get, this is the year to let somebody else get all worked up about the additional five inches of vertical leap he's talking about.

17.    Ricky Rubio - (ADP: 29, 9-cat: 28) - Like John Wall's lack of threes and Kyrie Irving's low assist totals, Rubio's poor shooting and sparse scoring are the only thing from keeping him out of elite territory.  He boasts an absurd 2.91 steals per game projection from me, which would be the best mark the NBA has seen since the 2.89 steals per game campaign Larry Hughes put together in 2004-05.  Think he can't do it?  He was guilty of stealing the ball 2.2 times per game (34.2 mpg) in his rookie campaign and 2.4 times per game (29.7 mpg) last year -- again, coming off knee surgery.  Above average basketball players in their third NBA season are typically still improving, and in the case of a cerebral player like Rubio the game is going to continue to slow down.  I know this is a bold list but I don't hand out outliers like this, well, I can't remember the last time I pegged a guy to put up a decade-best type number.  Owners shouldn't pick up Rubio thinking that he's going to get the shooting figured out, but everything else is in place for a top-20 season.

18.    Paul Millsap - (ADP: 37, 9-cat: 13) - In one of the most underrated signings of the offseason, the Hawks got rid of their albatross in Josh Smith and added Millsap for a cool two years at just $19 million -- a steal for a big man of his caliber.  Aside from improving the cohesion on the floor, this will mark the first time in Millsap's career that he will truly be free to do his thing.  In shades of the Blazers last year, the Hawks starters are a talented bunch but they lack depth in the rotation -- which means you want all of them on your fantasy squad, of course.  Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford are all willing to pass the ball, and given the lack of overall firepower Millsap is going to be relied upon to score.  Just two years removed from a top 4-6 fantasy campaign (in just 32.8 mpg), he's a near lock to beat his third round ADP.

19.    Jeff Teague - (ADP: 57, 9-cat: 34) - How Teague is sliding this far is beyond me.  Even if we don't look at his expected improvements, he's the Hawks' only reliable playmaker off the dribble right now and that's a recipe for big time usage.  With modest productivity goals to acheive this lofty ranking and a big workload ahead of him, this is the type of player that owners can do damage with if they're scooping him up in Rounds 3-5. 


20.    Kemba Walker - (ADP: 37, 9-cat: 19) - Last year's top 16-17 play is getting no respect in fantasy leagues, probably because most folks think the gravitational pull of Al Jefferson is going to cause every basketball in Charlotte to simultaneously go flat (more on that later). The reality is that while Jefferson is going to get significant touches, they won't come at the expense of the team's young, promising point guard.  Yes, there is a good chance that Jefferson bogs down the offense like he did in Utah, but we'll see how never passing and not playing defense plays in a new city in which Big Al isn't already entrenched as the team leader. 


Walker is going to be the antithesis to Jefferson's plodding ways, and it would be logical for new coach Steve Clifford to use more discretion than Ty Corbin did when distributing the touches.  At a minimum, Walker is the last guy in line to lose touches as the team's second best player and above all he's still improving in his third season.  A projected 2.5 turnovers per game translates to the 9-cat game very well.


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. In 2015 he was named FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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