Hello everyone, this week we will be talking about which players took us by surprise this season (in a good way). In other words, who has greatly exceeded our offseason expectations? I’ll start us off…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
Jae Crowder- The guy wasn’t even drafted in some leagues, yet he has been returning top-30 value on the season. One of the reasons I wasn’t excited about him prior to the season was because the Celtics are one of the deepest teams in the league, yet Crowder is averaging 32.0 minutes per game along with 14.3 points, 5.1 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.7 3-pointers on 45.0 percent shooting from the field and 82.2 percent from the line. He is by far the biggest surprise in my opinion.
Rajon Rondo- The Mavericks thought they would have a better chance of winning by shutting down Rondo last season with a mysterious “back injury,” so he has obviously come a long way. Part of the reason why he struggled so much was because Monta Ellis was in his way, but nowadays he has the Kings in the playoff hunt and is playing some of the best ball of his career with averages of 11.9 points, 11.6 assists, 6.3 boards, 1.8 steals, 0.8 3-pointers and 4.0 turnovers per game. He has shattered his ADP.
Kent Bazemore- The Hawks turned DeMarre Carroll into a lethal weapon with their free-flowing offense last season, and while a lot of us pegged Bazemore as a sleeper, it’s safe to say that he has exceeded our expectations. He has slowed down a bit lately, but he still has averages of 12.5 points, 4.8 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 3-pointers per game, returning top-65 value on the season.
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
Will Barton had a great first half for Denver. He's cooled off considerably, but at one point, he was performing as the waiver wire pickup of the year and may still finish there.
Marvin Williams was left for dead but is still putting up solid numbers, making him another nice waivers addition for many owners.
I did not see such a comeback season coming for Rajon Rondo, who has basically played at an All-Star level. And based on where he was being drafted (pretty late), he's possibly the best value pick of the season.
Zaza Pachulia has been rock solid all season and might be the best value center pick of the year. He's still playing well for Dallas and is showing no signs of slowing down. I wish he blocked more shots, but he's offered plenty of value with his points and boards.
Khris Middleton has been awesome and is putting up solid numbers in most categories. Sure, we thought he'd be decent, but I don't think anyone saw a guy who would flirt with being an all-star coming.
Ethan Norof (@Ethan_Norof)
Karl-Anthony Towns: We all knew the rookie was a step ahead of the rest of his rookie class, but nobody had The Big KAT to flirt with top-10 value in his inaugural season as a 20-year-old big man. I'm more excited about Towns' potential & growth than I was about Anthony Davis at the same stage of his career.
Kyle Lowry: The summer of weight loss has paid off in a major way for the pint-sized Pit Bull, who has beasted his way into first-round value and is showing no signs of slowing down. That's what happens when a talented player takes his commitment to the next level and stops going on fast food runs in the middle of the night.
Draymond Green: Green was getting plucked off the board earlier than some expected in fantasy drafts, but no GM who rostered DG-Money expected him to be so cash. With nine triple-doubles to his credit already, Green is a multi-cat contributor who is anchoring fantasy rosters as the Dubs prepare to challenge Chicago's all-time wins record.
Will Barton: Remember this guy? For good reason, Barton was being nominated for waiver wire pickup of the season, and he's still going to contend for that title when it's all said and done.
Jae Crowder: For a guy who wasn't even drafted in some fantasy formats, Jae Crowder has been well inside the top 50 all season. Capable of contributing in a number of (desired) categories across the stat sheet, Crowder hasn't just been a bargain—he's been an outright steal.
Marvin Williams: Most have been waiting for Marvin Williams to simply fall off, but it hasn't happened yet and I don't believe it's going to happen this season. Steve Clifford values his experience, leadership on the floor and versatility along the frontline, something Charlotte has needed with Al Jefferson out for most of this season.
Nikola Jokic: You know my list wouldn't be complete without The Joker AKA Big Honey AKA Nikola Jokic. He's the most talented center on Denver's roster, the Nuggets are entrusting him to be a playmaker as a 20-year-old rookie and he looks capable of becoming a truly special talent as the Nuggets move forward into the next era of Denver basketball.
Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Jae Crowder - I wanted to be a little different, but he’s been too good. The Celtics are known for ripping teams off in trades. Yeah, they have the Nets’ first-round pick, but picking up Jae Crowder in the Rajon Rondo deal has been awesome for them. Crowder did show some flashes in preseason and in Summer League, but he couldn’t score consistently in his Dallas days. Now? Crowder is among the leaders in steals with 14 points per game.
I definitely agree with Jonas’ surprises, but here are some others:
Will Barton - Another guy who showed off at Summer League at times and was also a “throw in” guy in a trade. Needless to say, the Nuggets probably didn’t think he’d be the best part of the Arron Afflalo deal. Barton has emerged as a terrific combo wing to add some versatility to coach Mike Malone’s bench. He has seen his output take a downward turn, though. Not surprisingly, Barton only has a 16.0 usage rate when he’s next to Danilo Gallinari and Emmanuel Mudiay. When he’s not with them, it’s all the way up to 29.6. Plus, Nikola Jokic getting big minutes at the five means less run for the other players — the Nuggets go small a lot. Whatever the case, Barton should still be a mid-round player while the team is healthy.
Allen Crabbe - I’m not surprised by C.J. McCollum at all, so I’m going to go with another Blazer as they make a playoff run. Crabbe had a really ugly ankle injury in July, but he’s come on strong. Crabbe gets a good chunk of minutes at small forward and he’s become a fairly efficient scorer, too. In his last 15 games, he put up a very solid 58.2 true shooting percentage.
Crabbe is hanging around top 120 value on the season, but he’s put up top-75 value in his last 15. The Blazers have a tough decision on their hands with Crabbe in the free agent pool.
Marvin Williams - He’s always been that inefficient shooter who couldn’t put it together in fantasy. After a brief slump last month, Williams is thriving in the new system in Charlotte. It’ll be interesting to see how he meshes with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with Frank Kaminsky behind him. For now, Marvin looks like he’s set for mid-round value.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
Kemba Walker, who is this guy? After shooting below 40 percent from the field in three of his four previous seasons, Walker has been knocking down a much more respectable 42.3 percent of his shot attempts this year to go with averages of 20.2 points (career-high), 4.3 rebounds (career-high), 1.8 three-pointers (career-high), 5.0 assists and an elite 1.8 steals per game. If you asked me pre-season if I thought Kemba was setup to turn in a top-20 campaign, I probably would have mocked you.
Of course I need to pay tribute to No. 9 out in Sacramento, as Rajon Rondo is having one of the more impressive comeback campaigns in recent memory. I mean, when Rondo was exiled from Dallas last season I really thought he was done. His attitude became too big of an obstacle for point-guard-whisperer Rick Carlisle to overcome, and it looked like the ACL tear from 2013 had robbed him of most his athleticism. But rather than burry his head deeper in the sand, I think Rondo took that horrid stint in Dallas to heart, and he’s made a better effort on all ends of the spectrum this season. Rajon has climbed out of the fantasy cellar and has been producing top-50 value on the year, while leading the league in assists and being a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court. Pre-season, I wasn’t willing to even spend $1 (or a late-round pick) on No. 9; I now regret that mistake.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised with Rodney Hood, who has gone from good to great as the season progressed. When Alec Burks went down with the ankle injury it forced Hood to not only be more aggressive with his shot selection, but also to take a more proactive role in Utah’s offense, and over the past month he’s been putting up top-50 value behind averages of 17.7 points, 2.9 assists, 2.8 three-pointers and 0.6 steals per game on 45.1 percent shooting. That’s quite the return for a player that had a draft day ADP of 145.8.
And how about them rookies? When we look back at some of the names that came into the league during the 2015-16 season, I think the word “legendary” will be a common adjective used when describing the 2015 NBA Draft Class: