Hello and welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! This week's topic can go in a lot of directions, as the Rotoworld hoops crew will be making BOLD predictions for the new year. Predictions can relate to almost anything, whether it be trades, playing time, player rankings, stats, young players emerging, players shutting down etc. I’ll start things off this week…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
1.) Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the top fantasy player down the stretch, leaving Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis in the dust. He was the top player in December, so I’m not sure if this qualifies as “bold.” Regardless, he put up 24.8 points per game in December with 9.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.9 steals and 0.9 triples, shooting a blistering 54.7 percent from the field. For context, no other player in NBA history has ever averaged 24+ points, 9+ rebounds, 5+ assists, 1.8+ blocks and 1.9+ steals in a season, while only four players in NBA history have averaged 24+ points, 9+ rebounds, 1.8+ blocks, 1.9+ steals in Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Elvin Hayes and of course, Giannis. He has the potential to become the greatest fantasy asset of all time.
2.) I have a feeling that the 76ers will trade Jahlil Okafor instead of Nerlens Noel. Prior to the season it looked like Noel was going to be the odd man out, but Joel Embiid has been talking up Noel and he has looked great in limited minutes. The Okafor-Embiid combo hasn't worked, and the 76ers could likely get more in return for Okafor since he’s not going to hit the open market any time soon unlike Noel.
The 76ers are building around Embiid as their franchise player, so it makes sense for them to keep the better fit next to him. The Embiid-Okafor lineup combo has a net rating of -21.5, while the Embiid-Noel combo has a 30.7 net rating, although the sample size is very small.
3.) I’m going to speculate that the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside will be shut down around March. The big man’s injury history before he made a name for himself in the NBA is alarming, and Whiteside has already battled through hip, elbow and knee injuries this season, not to mention his latest eye injury. The Heat are 13th in the East with a 11-26 and are only going to get worse with Justise Winslow (shoulder) out for the season, so Whiteside will be sitting a lot down the stretch and it doesn’t help that he already got PAID last summer.
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
Alex Len will finish the season in a flurry. Tyson Chandler will finally take a seat at some point for the lowly Suns, and Len will finally be turned loose. I just don't know when it's going to happen, but the All-Star break seems to make sense.
Ditto for Seth Curry. The Mavericks are terrible and there's no reason that Curry shouldn't be getting 30 minutes a game and if it happens, he's going to tear it up.
Tobias Harris will come off the bench the rest of the way and top Eric Gordon for Sixth Man of the Year. This one is bold, as it appears that Gordon is nearly a lock at this point. But he has an injury history to worry about and Harris has been better off the bench than as a starter.
Chandler Parsons will never return to form and this will be known as a lost season for Parsons and his surgically repaired knee. Derrick Favors is miles ahead of Parsons right now, but I kind of feel the same way about him. It's going to be a long second half for Favors owners.
Darren Collison is finally ready to roll for the Kings and Ty Lawson will be an afterthought in a couple weeks.
Matt Stroup (@MattStroup)
First of all, Jonas, I agree with you on Giannis, though I couldn't tell if you were being 100 percent serious with your "greatest fantasy asset of all time" comment. As good as Giannis has been this year, I give you, as just one example, David Robinson (first seven years of his career: 25.6 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg and 3.6 bpg). In any case, I agree with the overall point, and it is pretty fun to consider what Giannis (still just 22) could become in the next few years.
One other prediction I'll throw out there: Regardless of whether or not you're punting free throws, Dwight Howard will be a top-25 fantasy player the rest of the way. For the season, Howard is the No. 62-ranked player in 9-category leagues, but he's gotten a notable spike in value lately, thanks to -- that's right -- improved free throw shooting. The last 30 days (covering 10 games for Howard), he's at 15.5 ppg, 14.6 rpg, 0.7 spg and 1.0 bpg, shooting 74.4 percent from the field and 68.8 from the line. He hasn't missed more than three free throws in a game since late November, and for the last 30 days he's the No. 15 player in 9-category leagues. If he can simply continue to shoot not too terribly from the line, top-25 value is a relatively easy bar for him to clear. And of course, if you're punting free throws, Howard has already been a top-20 value to you all season long.
Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer)
1.) Kyle Lowry joins Steph Curry as just the second player in NBA history to shoot better than 45 percent from the floor, 45 percent from downtown and 85 percent from the free-throw line over an entire season - while attempting at least six 3-pointers per game.
(Lowry is currently slashing: 47.4 percent / 44.4 percent / 85.4 percent)
2.) Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes the fifth player in league history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. The only players to have done this are Dave Cowens, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Scottie Pippen.
[Giannis currently leads the Bucks in points (23.8), rebounds (9.0), assists (5.9), steals (2.0) and
3.) DeMarcus Cousins joins Shaquille O'Neal just the second player over the last 40 years to average at least 40 points and 15 rebounds per 100 possessions. (Per BasketBall Reference, Boogie is currently averaging 41.9 points and 14.5 rebounds per 100 possessions… Shaq averaged 40.1 points and 16.1 boards in 1997-98.)
4.) The Houston Rockets shatter the all-time record for most three-pointers made in one season. The Warriors just set a new record in 2015-16, when they knocked down 1,077 treys.
To answer Matt's question, I was dead serious. I've got the Giannis fever and I did say BOLD! Thanks guys!