This week we're talking about rankings. James Harden leads the NBA in 8-category value by a wide margin. Damian Lillard has been second, and he's first if you include turnovers for 9-cat value (and exclude Deandre Ayton, who only played one game). We know this because fantasy sports are, as my column propounds each week, simply a numbers game. There's so much subjectivity about who might be shut down after the All-Star break, or which rookie has the most breakout potential. Sometimes it's nice to look at cold, hard statistics. We can say with certainty that no player has scored more DFS points (based on FanDuel and NBA.com) than Giannis Antetokounmpo.
To determine these rankings, I take league-wide data and assign values for each category with standard scores for 8-cat and 9-cat. As usual, I've weighted FG% and FT% by volume of attempts. It's great that Kendrick Nunn is shooting 84% at the line, but he's taking 1.9 attempts per game. Meanwhile, Luka Doncic is shooting 84% on 7.7 attempts, which is top-10 in the league. Doncic is having a far bigger impact on your FT%, so I've baked that into the rankings. Steve Alexander drafted Doncic in basically every league, partly because he was confident his FT% would improve and the counting stats would come in bunches, so he's looking smart right now. Averages of 28.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 2.8 triples, 1.1 steals and 48.5% FGs, 84.4% FTs? Wild.
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Because we're so early in the season, I haven't disqualified anyone based on games played -- that's why Deandre Ayton appears, even though he only played one (magnificent) game prior to his suspension. There's also no minute cutoff, which lets us see that Robert Williams is top-100 for 9-cat value in a mere 16 minutes per game. Williams already looks like one of those per-minute monsters that I fall for in fantasy. We saw, for instance, a guy like Kyle O'Quinn close out the 2017-18 season with top-50 value in 20 minutes per game. The question now is whether Williams can get enough playing time to take the next leap into early-round territory. He's the TimeLord, so that shouldn't be hard even in a busy frontcourt, right? I'm holding onto him in the hopes that Enes Kanter doesn't completely ruin the fun.
Let's get to the rankings. After this list, which I limited to the top-200 players based on 8-cat value, I'll talk about some of the innumerable fantasy implications.
We have specific buy-low, sell-high columns each week, and rankings like this are another convenient way to seek out trade targets. Aaron Gordon may never reach the heights we assumed he might a few years ago, but he's better than top-120 and just 26.7 fantasy points per game. Maybe his owner is frustrated? Buddy Hield is shooting a career-low 41.2% from the field (down from 45.8% last year) and his rebounds, assists and steals have all slipped. He's only playing one fewer minute, though, and without De'Aaron Fox he should have the ball in his hands more often, so when I see him outside of the top-100 I'm instantly floating some reasonable trade offers. If I can get Hield for T.J. Warren or something comparable, it's a coup. That might not happen, but you don't know until you try.
Caris LeVert was barely top-200 for 9-cat value. I mean that literally, he was No. 199 thanks to deficits in percentages (42.1% FGs, 64.5% FTs), too many turnovers (3.4) and meager defensive stats. For the entire season he has six steals and one block. Kris Dunn has 25 steals. You don't draft LeVert for blocks, but even Damian Lillard has six swats this year. LeVert will likely remain a liability in percentages, and it's bizarre to me that every single year in the NBA he's been worse in both FG% and FT%. I don't expect him to finish at his current career lows, but it's a troubling trend. If the percentages don't scare you off, this could be a buy-low moment. My fear is that anyone who drafted him loves him, and probably reached for him in the 4th/5th round, so you can't get him at a discount. It never hurts to try.
Players who didn't make the top-200 cut for 8-cat include Dwight Powell, Coby White, Bruce Brown, Steven Adams, Terrence Ross, De'Andre Hunter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Dennis Smith Jr. A unifying theme with those guys is brutal percentages. Dwight Powell, a typically solid free throw shooter, is at 52.6% on 2.7 attempts per game. I'd happily bet on a course-correction for him and view him as an under-owned center. Coby White went bonkers with 23 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday, and couldn't miss from downtown, so he's worth a speculative add if you need scoring and 3-pointers. I'm still not sold on his overall value, though, and don't want to deal with the FG% problem.
Bruce Brown is dropping dimes in a starting PG role, with 11 more on Tuesday, but the ride is about to end. Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin have both been out, but their returns will take the ball out of Brown's hands more often than not -- he's not exactly a per-minute monster, so that's a huge problem. As a side note, the Pistons' broadcast quoted coach Dwane Casey as saying that Reggie Jackson could be out until "December or January," which is the first we've heard of R-Jax's back injury potentially keeping him out past Christmas. If you haven't cut him already, this is your cue.
Seeing rankings like this, side by side, is also interesting to me as an owner in many leagues with different formats. DeMar DeRozan has been great in points leagues but is struggling in 9-cat, where a career-high 3.3 turnovers are compounded by high-volume 77.2% free throw shooting. That's the lowest since his rookie season in 2009-10 and he's another buy-low option. Players like Danuel House, Brook Lopez, Taurean Prince, Marcus Smart, P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington are glaringly better in 8-cat and 9-cat leagues, but don't get the raw counting stats that are required for most points formats. The inverse has been true for Julius Randle, Justise Winslow, RJ Barrett (with bizarrely bad FT%), Ja Morant and others. That's all the time I have today but let me know if you have any questions or insights! Next week we'll be talking all about usage rates.