I have zero actual evidence to back this up, but it seems like more than in recent years there have been some major surprises in and around the top 25 of the fantasy hoops leaderboard.
Yes, a lot of the names in the top 25 are ones we’d expect, but who among us had Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic (before injury) flying into the top 15? Who had Andre Drummond knocking on the door of the top 20? And what about the recent surge from Lou Williams?!?!
Anyhow, all of this – along with the midway point of the regular season – got me thinking about exactly how my leaderboard looks right now. So now, after a series of careful calculations and wildly arbitrary decisions, I present to you an updated Roundball Stew Top 25:
(Skewed heavily toward 9-category leagues, because that’s the majority of the leagues I play in)
1. Anthony Davis – A stunner right at the top! (Is it actually a stunner?!) Honestly, if I was drafting today, I would have a real tough choice between Davis, James Harden and Stephen Curry. But with Curry dealing with his own durability issues, and Harden’s FG percentage and turnovers both presenting problems at times, I turn to the player who has no known weaknesses (other than his inability to stay on the court).
In fairness to Davis, though, for all his injury scares, he has missed just six (basically seven) games this season after playing in 75 last year. Yes, seven missed games is kind of a lot, but there’s also a lot to be said for his recent numbers, which are flat-out obscene. Over his last 10 games, he has put up 30.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.4 bpg and 0.9 3s, shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 86.0 from the line with just 1.5 turnovers a game. When you consider that a number of the players below have durability issues of their own, I’ll gladly take my chances on the Brow with the first overall pick.
2. James Harden – As I said above, this is tough. I originally had Harden first before Brow made a late surge. I can completely understand going either direction. Or…
3. Stephen Curry – … you could take Curry. Yes, there is a legitimate concern here with the ankle issues and random missed games as Golden State continues to rest guys aggressively. But the fact of the matter is, Steph can still make a monster impact even if he sits out a game here and there. On a per-game basis, he has been the No. 1 player in 9-category leagues this season. And the only reason he’s as low as third is that it’s hard to see a scenario where he doesn’t keep sitting out some games going forward.
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4. Karl-Anthony Towns – He’s No. 8 for the season, but trending upward vigorously. Last 22 games: 20.6 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.0 bpg and 1.7 3s (55.8 FG / 80.2 FT / 2.0 TOs). And in an era of rampant rest and injury, he still hasn’t missed a game in his career.
5. Jimmy Butler – A tad aggressive? Maybe, but here are the facts: For the season, he’s up to No. 9 overall. The last two months, he’s at No. 7. The last month: No. 6. And over his last 25 games, he has posted 25.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 2.2 spg, 0.6 bpg and 1.2 3s, shooting 50.1 from the field and 90.0 from the line with just 1.8 turnovers per game. He also hasn’t missed a game since October. If you’re searching for the ideal blend of safe and exciting – here you go.
6. Kevin Durant – Only falls this far because of the missed games (eight so far), and the high probability that he’ll miss many more.
7. Victor Oladipo – Is this crazy? I certainly don’t think so. He’s all the way up to 10th overall in the season-long rankings, and over the last two months, he’s been No. 5, behind averages of 25.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.0 bpg and 2.7 3s (50.4 FG / 78.5 FT).
8. Giannis Antetokounmpo – I know many people would take Giannis higher than this, but the fact is he just isn’t playing at a top-five level right now. The last two months, he has been the No. 10 overall player. The last month, he’s been No. 22. And yes, I would be thrilled to get him at No. 8 in any draft.
9. DeMarcus Cousins – The shooting and TOs have been a major problem lately (last seven games: 39.5 percent from the field, 73.0 from the line, 5.6 TOs), but even while in a slump he’s putting up 21.3 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.9 spg, 2.0 bpg and 1.9 3s during the same stretch.
10. LeBron James – Someone has to fall this far. LeBron is having a monster season, and I could convince myself to take him as high as No. 6. But at some point it starts to become almost scary that he hasn’t missed a game yet. He has to rest some time, right? That possibility, combined with his shaky FT shooting / turnovers (75.4 / 4.4) are the only reasons I can justify having him 10th.
11. Damian Lillard – Not a lot of thought required here. Injury issues are behind him and he’s been the No. 12 player on the season.
12. Chris Paul – A surefire bet to put up top-10 numbers when healthy (last seven games: 24.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 9.1 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.6 bpg, 3.3 treys), but the looming injury concern knocks him down several spots – and makes him a phenomenal value in this completely hypothetical draft.
13. Kristaps Porzingis – Still not shooting well, but overall he’s back on the upswing big time. Last six games: 23.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.7 spg, 3.0 bpg and 2.7 3s (on 41.6 percent from the field).
14. Nikola Jokic – No. 15 on the season so far, and his 29-18-7 line the other night was a loud reminder of how explosive a second half he could have.
15. Russell Westbrook – This is a little high if you’re looking at season-long rankings (he’s No. 36 due to bad percentages and turnovers), but I’m betting on the last month being a sign that he’s headed for another monster second half. His last 30 days / 15 games: 27.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 10.0 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.7 3s – and most importantly, 51.2 percent from the field. Shooting less 3s has been huge for Westbrook’s FG percentage. Now if he could just fix the FTs …
16. Kyrie Irving – Not a lot of intrigue here, just a solid top-15 option (Kyrie has been the No. 14 player for the season).
17. Paul George – He’s been hovering around (mostly inside) the top-20 all season.
18. LaMarcus Aldridge – With Kawhi hurt again, he’s showing no signs of slowing down (24.8 ppg in his last 12 games).
19. Jrue Holiday – This may seem aggressive, but if anything, it’s probably too low. The last two months, Holiday has been the No. 12 overall player, putting up 21.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.9 bpg and 2.2 3s while shooting 51.4 percent from the floor.
20. Andre Drummond – One of the season’s most pleasant surprises is apparently getting better as we go (No. 11 overall the last 30 days).
21. Lou Williams – Did this one get your attention? Yes, you could potentially get him later than this in a draft, but if we’re talking about current value and projected value, this is about the right spot in my opinion. The last two months he has been the No. 14 player in 9-category leagues, behind averages of 26.1 ppg, 5.7 apg, 0.9 spg and 3.5 3s, shooting 91.4 percent from the line on more than seven attempts a game. Also, as I said last week, I just don’t really buy the notion that Lou is suddenly gonna have a dramatic dropoff once the Clippers get back Austin Rivers and Danilo Gallinari (who is no safe bet to stay healthy once he’s back anyway).
22. Joel Embiid – I personally won’t be drafting him in any real or fake midseason drafts – I just don’t trust him to stay healthy – but at some point someone has to gamble on the No. 20 overall player.
23. Hassan Whiteside – After a maddening stretch, he is decisively trending upward. Averaging 3.7 bpg in his last six games after a season-high six blocks on Wednesday.
24. Draymond Green – I would put him inside the top-20 if he didn’t have the same rest/durability concerns as Curry and Durant.
25. Kyle Lowry – Whether fair or not, I downgrade him a little bit because of the two-game week looming in Week 24.
Also Receiving Top-25 Votes: Gary Harris (probably should have made the top-25, but some players are going to get left out here – and let’s face it, at some point things get a little bit arbitrary). … Donovan Mitchell (No. 23 the last two months, shooting 48.4 percent from the field) … Nikola Vucevic (the No. 13 player on the season is a powerhouse stash if you can afford to wait) … Kevin Love (putting up top-20 numbers, but the lack of excitement / intrigue / defensive stats hurt his cause) … Klay Thompson (similar story to Love) … DeMar DeRozan (same two-game-week issue as Lowry) … Rudy Gobert is about to return and could easily make a run at the top 20. … As for Robert Covington, a brutal slump has knocked him out of top-25 consideration (8.2 ppg in his last 10 games). I would still try to buy low. ... For what it’s worth, every player on the top 25 list above is on a team with a record better than .500 – except for Kristaps Porzingis. The Unicorn strikes again…