5 Fantasy Basketball Busts for 2015-16
It's a little less than a week to go before the start of the NBA regular season, so now is generally the time when fantasy basketball drafts go down. If you're getting ready for a hoops draft yourself, checking out our fantasy projections is a great place to start your preparation (or light a fire under it).
If you're looking to further that quest for fake-sports knowledge, we're here to offer you a look at five busts to avoid in fantasy hoops for the 2015-16 season.
This week, we've already identified five breakout candidates and five sleepers based on where our projections are higher than average draft position (ADP) statistics and rankings across the industry. For our busts, we're taking the same approach in reverse.
Here are five players that our algorithms project to underperform their ADP this season. Don't draft 'em.
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Hornets
Yahoo O-Rank: 35
ESPN Rank: 55
nF Fantasy Rank: 88
Al Jefferson saw his minutes dip by nearly five per game last year, settling in at 30.6 -- his lowest mark in nine seasons. Injuries not only limited his playing time, but they also kept him to a mere 65 games played. With that, the former 20-point, 10-rebound threat with scattered blocks, steals, and good percentages became more of a 16-point, 8-rebound threat with the lowest field goal percentage (48.1%) of his career, and lowest free throw mark (65.5%) in nine seasons. Simply put, the 30-year-old seems to have started the downturn of his career. Before finishing as the 47th-ranked player in nine-category leagues last season, Big Al was coming off four straight years as a top-16 asset. His ranks on Yahoo and ESPN this year settle in right around where he finished last season, but we're projecting him even lower than that with a continued decline in scoring and efficiency. A bounceback is potentially in the cards, but the rather large risk of Big Al whiffing on his ADP -- where there are many more reliable players still on the board -- makes him someone to avoid in drafts this year.
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Yahoo O-Rank: 67
ESPN Rank: 59
nF Fantasy Rank: 102
Please, please, please remember that calling someone a "bust" in fantasy sports does not mean that they're not good in real life. Andrew Wiggins, the reigning Rookie of the Year, is good at basketball. Very good. And he will likely grow to be one of the best players in the game in a few years. That said, do you want to draft him in fantasy hoops at his current lofty ADP? Heck no. In his rookie season, Wiggins had all the minutes (36.2) and usage (22.6%) he could handle, and still finished the year as the 131st-ranked player in nine-category leagues on a per-game basis. Even after playing in all 82 games, his cumulative ranking was only 88th. That's because he gives you 16.9 points and not a whole lot else. 0.5 threes, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.6 blocks, 2.2 turnovers, 43.7% shooting from the field, and 76.0% from the line are all decent numbers. In fact, there's no clear and obvious hole in that line and slight increases across the board in his age 20 season would make him a great sleeper. That is, of course, if his ranking weren't pumped all the way up into the middle rounds by the industry and sat somewhere closer to the 100 mark instead (where we have him projected). Because of his name, you won't get him at a reasonable price in your draft, so stay clear until the real-life upside translates into fantasy goodness.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Yahoo O-Rank: 84
ESPN Rank: 73
nF Fantasy Rank: 115
Kobe Bryant deserves our respect. 37 years old, 19 years of experience, 55,415 combined regular season and playoff minutes, 38,122 combined regular season and playoff points, 17 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, 12 All-Defensive selections, an MVP award, two Finals MVPs, and five rings. All that, and he continues to come back this late in his career, season in and season out, after a recent string of career-threatening injuries. He is nothing short of awe-inspiring and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. With all that out of the way, it's time to admit something important: Kobe Bryant is no longer someone to own in fantasy basketball. Even after two consecutive seasons of playing only 6 and 35 games, respectively, it remained clear last year that the points (22.3), threes (1.5), rebounds (5.7), assists (5.6), steals (1.3), and free throw percentage (81.3%) are all still there and enough to make any fantasy player drool. The big problem -- the gargantuan one -- is that the field goal inaccuracy (37.3%), the ridiculous volume of attempts (20.4), and the bevvy of turnovers (3.7) are enough to sink any fantasy team in two important categories. Unless you're punting field goal percentage or turnovers, you want no part of Kobe at his industry-wide rank in the middle rounds. Our 115th-ranked projection is not a terrible drop, but there's a lot more upside to grab in that range. Not to mention, with Kobe's recent injury history, that number is starting to look a lot more ceiling than floor. No thanks.
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
Yahoo O-Rank: 81
ESPN Rank: 97
nF Fantasy Rank: 208
We've already told you not to draft Jrue Holiday in fantasy hoops this year, but it bears repeating. Yes, his early-round upside when healthy is tantalizing at his current industry ranking. Yes, he is going into the season with glowing reports about his play and the chances of having an effective season. But unfortunately, there are also minute-limits being thrown out left, right, and center, while we still don't have any indication that he'll play in both games of a back-to-back set ever again. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but the point is that there are a lot of factors at play that stand a chance of limiting his production this season. He's admittedly a fine upside pick if he drops all the way down to the last few selections of the draft, where people are mostly throwing darts anyway, but after two seasons of not being able to top 40 games with borderline chronic leg issues, we're being very conservative with our projection. We'd love to see him beat 41 games, 1,117 minutes, and our 208th-place ranking on a cumulative basis in nine-category leagues, but we're not holding our breath for it.
Rajon Rondo, Sacramento Kings
Yahoo O-Rank: 105
ESPN Rank: 124
nF Fantasy Rank: 195
Stop trying to make Rajon Rondo happen. He used to be a great fantasy asset during the "Big Three" era in Boston -- coming in as a mid-round value every year between the 2008-09 and 2012-13 seasons in nine-category leagues -- but he simply isn't that player anymore. He tore his ACL in early 2013 and the "Big Three" had been dissolved by the time he returned, and Rondo simply hasn't been the same since those two big events. Over the 30 games he played for Boston in 2013-14 after returning from the ACL repair, he finished as the 141st-ranked player in nine-category leagues on a per-game basis. That's fine, seeing as how there is almost always a ramping up period -- a kind of feeling-it-out season -- following said procedure, before a return to form in year two. Unfortunately for Rondo truthers, his post-ACL sequel was much worse. Last season, split between time in Boston and Dallas, Rondo finished as the 187th-ranked player in nine-category leagues. The scoring (8.9), assists (7.9), and steals (1.3) were all down from peak Rondo levels and his efficiency simply went off the deep end. Even at the late-round ADP just over 100, it's incredibly hard to swallow his 42.6% shooting from the field and 39.7% from the line when there's not much outside of decent assists and steals to buoy his value. Anyone looking for a career renaissance in Sacramento should think long and hard about how the Dallas version went, consider the presence of Darren Collison (the 44th-ranked player in nine-category leagues last season) on the Kings' roster, and keep our 195th projection in mind on draft day.