4 Bounce Back Candidates to Target in Fantasy Basketball Drafts
Before every season when gathering your research for fantasy NBA Drafts, it is easy to look at what players did from a year ago and decide your draft strategy for the upcoming season based on those numbers alone.
If you allow a down season from 2014-15 to keep you from considering certain players for this season, you could be missing out on some key pieces for your run at a championship.
Obviously, superstars and perennial stat sheet fillers like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are likely to have bounce back seasons. There are others who entered the 2014-15 season which much hype, and their disappointing performances will cause them to be overlooked or under-valued going into this year's fantasy drafts.
DeMar DeRozan, G/F, Toronto Raptors
For those who had DeMar DeRozan for the 2013-14 season, there was probably not a better player in terms of value against draft position. He went on to average 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game (all career bests for a season average).
Like many others, I built my 2014-15 roster anticipating that DeRozan, an inexpensive auction pick in a keeper league the year before, would repeat or even improve upon his prior year performance, particularly given the improved talent on the Raptors' roster. But injuries caused him not only to miss 22 games last season, but they also limited his performance when he was on the court. DeRozan's final season averages from last season, though down from 2013-14, were on par with his prior career averages.
So which DeRozan can we expect for this coming season: the career average guy or the star from 2013-14?
DeRozan is an All-Star caliber scorer in this league. He has the potential to light it up from anywhere on the floor and the roster he has around him in Toronto once again sets him up for success. The Raptors added DeMarre Carroll from the Hawks, who will be a huge upgrade after posting an impressive 5.8 nERD last season. Carroll’s ability to shoot from the opposite wing will need to be respected, providing DeRozan with more opportunities for open looks and open lanes. While the addition of Carroll could hurt the fantasy stock of a player like Terrence Ross, DeRozan is a player that could benefit from the addition of Carroll.
Absent of injury, the best forecast for this coming season may be how he finished the 2014-15 season. In March, 2015, DeRozan averaged 23.0 points per game, shot 43.8% from the floor, and 45.5% from beyond the arc. In April, he improved to 24.1 points per game, shooting 49.2% from the floor.
Bottom line: DeMar DeRozen should be on your "buy" list for 2015-16.
Kevin Love, F/C, Cleveland Cavaliers
Entering the 2014-15 season, Kevin Love looked like the perfect complement to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs. He could spread things out when James and Irving get into the paint and be a presence in the post, both in scoring and on the glass for rebounds. However, as the Cavs began what was to be a magical season, Love was having issues finding his place on the court. He was able to put up some good stat lines but the consistency was not there. As a result, he was often seen planted near the three point line, waiting for the game to come to him. It was not long before he was seen to be a shadow of the player we saw during his tenure in Minnesota.
There was speculation within and outside Cavs' Nation that Love was unhappy and that there was a strain in his relationship with LeBron. Many believed that he would be one and done in Cleveland after a season where he suffered statistical drops from the prior season in almost every aspect of his game, averaging 10 fewer points, almost three fewer rebounds and two fewer assists per game. This was a monumental decline from being the overall fourth ranked player in all of fantasy basketball for 2013-14, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Love surprised many when he elected to forego free agency and re-signed with the Cavs. It appears that watching the Cavs playoff run from the bench due to injuries sparked in him a recognition of what could be with this LeBron-led squad.
From a fantasy perspective, Love's shooting percentages are as good as you’ll see at his position and potential to wrack up rebound and assist numbers make him extremely valuable in head-to-head leagues. As part of a team where his is not the number one guy, will he return to be a top-five fantasy player? Probably not. But his overall skill set in many facets is too valuable not to pursue him with the expectation that his numbers will rise, across the board. Love is our 22nd-ranked fantasy player this season.
Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Ricky Rubio was supposed to be the next great point guard in this league after coming over from Spain. He was supposed to be the next Steve Nash. But to this point in his career, he has spent about as much time on the floor as Steve Nash did with the Los Angeles Lakers. In four seasons and out of a possible 328 regular season games, Rubio has missed 126 of them due to injury. So, the question of the day is whether this will be the year of Ricky? Then again, why take a flyer on a player like Rubio when he has proven that he cannot be trusted?
In the past, fantasy owners overpaid or over-valued Rubio, believing he could be their number one point guard. In the end, he was their second or third best option, or was even cut from a team and sent to the waiver wire.
Those who stuck it out with Rubio last season eventually saw a glimmer of hope as to what Rubio could offer. Playing in just 22 games last season, Rubio averaged 10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 8.8 assists. A player who could average almost a double-double a night provides fantastic versatility. In his four years battling injuries, he still managed to average 10.2 points, 8.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals for his career.
His less-than-desirable three point shooting and his propensity to commit turnovers are problems in fantasy terms, but his ability to accumulate assists, rebounds and steals for his position, plus double-digit scoring, show great promise for him to become a top-tier fantasy point guard. To protect against an excessive number of missed games due to injury, pair him with another good point guard and you will be set.
In the end, the numbers don’t lie. When on the court, Rubio is an asset. The Timberwolves are going to be a fun team to watch this season, with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine running up and down the floor and attacking the basket. If Rubio remains healthy enough to quarterback their attack, it could mean career best numbers for the Spaniard.
Kenneth Faried, F/C, Denver Nuggets
I love the Manimal. I’ve been on the Kenneth Faried bandwagon since he carried Morehead State into the NCAA Tournament. Though he was good as a rookie, his second season in Denver during the 2012-13 season was incredibly impressive. The Nuggets were the 3-seed in the West in a year that saw Faried leading the way with a nF efficiency of 2.4 and 7.1 nERD (ahead of players at his position like Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Zach Randolph that season). He averaged 11.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and a block a game while shooting 55.2% from the floor.
During the 2013-14 season, his rebounds and field goal percentage for the season took a small dip. Despite that, Faried proved over an entire season that he can score, boosting his scoring average to 13.7 per game. With his ability to rebound and score, he was close to becoming an integral part of any fantasy player's dream team.
Last season, however, there was a marked drop-off in almost every facet of his game. This was largely due to an incredibly slow start following his impressive 22-point, 17-rebound performance to open the season. After that initial success, he struggled to find his rhythm, and fantasy owners either quit on him or were frustrated while waiting for him to meet his potential. He fought nagging injuries and missed some time in February. His numbers for that month dropped to 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, while shooting around 40% from the floor.
But before the season ended, Faried got healthy and looked like his old self on the court. He had 12 double-doubles in his last 22 games, had one 30-point performance and two 17-rebound performances during that span. These were signs that Faried was back on track.
There is a new coaching staff in Denver and, with that, high hopes in the Mile High City for what Faried and company can accomplish. Unlike the start of last season when he was coming off of a summer playing with USA Basketball, Faried is rested and healthy. Fantasy owners love to brag about having grabbed the next big thing just before he became the next big thing and, in my opinion, Kenneth Faried is poised to be "that guy." Grab him and let the bragging begin.