Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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2021-22 Fantasy Basketball early 2022-23 rankings: How to handle first-round values

The regular season comes to a close Sunday, and many Fantasy leagues concluded a week or more ago. So, with things wrapped up, it’s time to look ahead to next season, which will hopefully be free of COVID-19-related absences and the general chaos of the past two years.

Below is a list of players who were either viewed as first-round values or returned first-round value this season. That includes the top-12 per-game performers, the top-12 total performers, and those who had an Average Draft Position within the Top 12. From there, we’ll look at whether those players should be drafted above or below their current per-game ranking next season.

Players who finished top 12 in per-game value

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Rank: 1

In 2022-23: Draft No. 1 again

Jokic is miles ahead of Kevin Durant, the No. 2 player in Fantasy this season per game. The likely back-to-back MVP is putting up some of the best offensive numbers in NBA history, with 27.0 points on 17.6 shots, 13.7 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.3 combined steals-plus-blocks. He’s also doing it from a position of scarcity, as reliable Fantasy centers, especially ones who can hit 3s and/or shoot efficiently from the charity stripe, are rare. The returns of Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray next season could cut into Jokic’s obscene usage, but it could also seemingly lead to better efficiency and more assists. Ultimately, there’s not a safer bet on the board.

Kevin Durant, Nets

Rank: 2

In 2022-23: Draft lower

Durant has been incredible and would be a part of the proverbial MVP “conversation” if the Nets weren’t floundering and his games played (52) were higher. He’s posted an excellent 29.9 points on 20.3 shots, 7.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.8 combined steals-plus-blocks in 37.0 minutes. Despite the fantastic performances, it’s tough to justify drafting Durant as high as No. 2 next season. He’s appeared in just 87 regular-season games in two years since recovering from his torn Achilles, and his 37.0 minutes per game isn’t sustainable for next season. Plus, a presumably-full-time Kyrie Irving plus Ben Simmons will keep Durant’s usage a bit lower than it was during this tumultuous campaign.

Joel Embiid, 76ers

Rank: 3

In 2022-23: Draft lower

This is Embiid’s best season, especially when factoring in his health. His 66 games played marks a career high, and his per-game rank is two spots higher than his previous high. Still, I’m not ready to declare Embiid free of significant injury risk, and it may also be fair to wonder if he’s reached his statistical ceiling. Maybe not, but with James Harden and a more-developed Tyrese Maxey around next season, Embiid’s usage may not need to be as high in 2022-23 compared to what he was dealing with for most of this season.

LeBron James, Lakers

Rank: 4

In 2022-23: Draft lower

James defied logic to post his best per-game Fantasy season since his final year in Miami despite being 37 years old. As much as I believe in his ability to age gracefully, I will not bet on James to post an equal or better season as a 38-year-old, especially when there have been more cracks in the armor – max of 67 games played as a member of the Lakers. New roster construction will also play a role, but I can’t imagine it truly elevating James’ numbers.

James Harden, 76ers

Rank: 5

In 2022-23: Draft higher

Maybe this is a hot take – the discourse around Harden has become turbulent – but I expect a better season out of him in 2022-23. It matters that he had a bad year by his standards, but consider how high those standards are, and consider that he still finished fifth despite shooting only 41.2 percent from the field. Is he genuinely declining, or was he unhappy in a situation he didn’t expect and then traded to a team with a completely different structure, making it difficult for him to play up to expectations? I’m banking on the latter.

Kyrie Irving, Nets

Rank: 6

In 2022-23: Draft lower

If things hold, this will be Irving’s third consecutive year finishing sixth in per-game value. However, during this stretch, he’s appeared in only 100 games. Yes, much of that was due to COVID-19-related personal absences, but he’s not been an exceptionally healthy player anyway. His tendency to miss games has resulted in the point guard never ranking higher than 10th in total value. If that’s his realistic ceiling, I’m not drafting him sixth.

Stephen Curry, Warriors

Rank: 7

In 2022-23: Draft higher

Curry has finished at or above this rank per game in all but two seasons in his career. After his hot start, he cooled off after breaking the 3-point record and never really recovered. Still, I have a hard time believing this is the beginning of the end of Curry’s run of dominance, so I’ll gladly take him higher than seventh. His missed games over the past handful of seasons are becoming a concern, but I don’t think there are many higher-upside options around this range.

Trae Young, Hawks

Rank: 8

In 2022-23: Draft higher

After a slight dip in stats last season, Young is back to returning first-round value as he did as a sophomore. He’s practically a walking 30-and-10, specifically averaging 28.2 points and 9.7 assists in 34.9 minutes. Given that he’s just 23 years old, the sky seems to be the limit for Young. Maybe a better-performing team around him could cut into his numbers again, but his floor is quite high even if that’s the case.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

Rank: 9

In 2022-23: Draft higher

This will be Towns’ sixth straight season finishing in the Top 10 in Fantasy. The team around him is improving, resulting in lower box-score stats for Towns, but he improved his shooting efficiency to keep his Fantasy value elevated. Given that center is also a scarce position, it’s an extra-valuable pick to make. There haven’t been many steadier sources of Fantasy value across the past half-decade.

Dejounte Murray, Spurs

Rank: 10

In 2022-23: Draft lower

The numbers suggest Murray should be drafted higher than this given the Spurs will presumably still be rebuilding and he’s still improving at 25 years old. It will just be difficult come draft day to draft him above proven All-NBA-caliber players and multi-year Top-10 Fantasy values. I’m sure he’ll be a popular selection at the turn and into the early second round, which is where I’d be comfortable taking him.

Paul George, Clippers

Rank: 11

In 2022-23: Draft lower

It’s tough to gauge how real George’s per-game value is. He’s shot just 41.9 percent from the field – 44.6 FG% over the prior five seasons – but has racked up 2.1 steals per game, representing a career high. The better indication of George’s potential for next season may be looking at his first two years with the Clippers, when he ranked 27th and 19th in per-game value. I’d instead go off those numbers than this season’s numbers, especially presuming Kawhi Leonard will be healthy and stealing usage.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

Rank: 12

In 2022-23: Draft higher

Antetokounmpo has finished as a top-13 value over the past six seasons, topping out at No. 3 in 2018-19 when his passing numbers spiked, he wasn’t shooting as many 3s, and his free-throw percentage was respectable (72.9%). His free-throw percentage has gotten back over 70% (72%), and he’s reached a career-high in scoring (29.9 PPG). There’s not much more to say, as the two-time MVP is one of the best players in the NBA in his prime.

Players who finished top 12 in total value but not per-game value

Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Per-game rank: 14

In 2022-23: Draft higher

Tatum is finishing as a top-15 player for the second straight year, and his production this season has been on a steady incline the whole time. This most recent spike should give Fantasy managers a taste of what could be possible if he truly takes another leap. Since March, he’s averaged 32.0 points on 21.1 shots, 6.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36.4 minutes. The efficiency is probably unsustainable, but it appears he’s on the verge of becoming a legitimate superstar.

Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers

Per-game rank: 22

In 2022-23: Draft higher

Haliburton’s stat profile was seemingly made for Fantasy. He’s an efficient shooter, great passer and a defender who racks up steals. Between his time in Sacramento and Indiana, he’s ranked 22nd, but he’s been much better since joining the Pacers, averaging 17.4 points on 12.5 shots, 9.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 combined steals-plus-blocks. The Pacers are presumably looking to rebuild next season, and Haliburton should be the main focus.

LaMelo Ball, Hornets

Per-game rank: 15

In 2022-23: Draft higher

There are still real flaws in Ball’s game – poor field-goal percentage (42.6%) and lack of free throws (3.3 attempts) – but it hasn’t stopped him from being a fantastic Fantasy option as a 20-year-old. He’s also still seeing only 32.3 minutes per game for his 19.9 points, 7.6 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Overall improvements could increase both his workload, usage and production. It’s nearly impossible to justify taking him lower than he finished this season.

DeMar DeRozan, Bulls

Per-game rank: 24

In 2022-23: Draft lower

This season has been a revelation for DeRozan, and it’s his best Fantasy season by far – his previous high being rank 39. However, I’m not going to assume he’ll improve upon it next year, especially assuming better health for the Bulls. He’s still a clear third-round pick, but I’m not sure I’d go much higher.

Round 1 players who but didn’t yield first-round value

Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Per-game rank: 13

In 2022-23: Draft higher

Doncic has ranked 13th, but he started the season slow and has really taken off since late January, suggesting his upside is much higher for next season. Over his past 28 games, he’s averaged 32.1 points on 22.9 shots, 9.5 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 1.8 steals-plus-blocks in 36.4 minutes. It might be impossible for the Mavericks to add another high-usage player to the mix, so there should be no worries about someone taking Doncic’s stats.

Bradley Beal, Wizards

Per-game rank: 47

In 2022-23: Draft higher

It was a challenging year for Beal. His shots took a significant turn downward from 23.0 to 19.3, and his free-throw attempts dropped from 7.7 to 5.1. His efficiency also fell across the board, leading to an average of just 23.2 points per game compared to his previous two seasons of 30.9 points. While his assists increased from 4.4 to 6.6, it wasn’t enough to offset the decreased volume and efficiency of his shots. I don’t think he’ll continue a slide, so I’m willing to draft him higher in hopes of a bounce-back season partially fueled by the addition of Kristaps Porzingis.

Anthony Davis, Lakers

Per-game rank: 17

In 2022-23: Draft lower

This is a tough call for me, and I ultimately decided on lower since I typically avoid drafting AD, like Embiid, due to injury concerns. Davis’ numbers have taken a significant downturn over the past two seasons – he only averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 rebounds last year – and I’m not sure what to expect from him anymore even when he’s healthy. Make sure he doesn’t fall out of the second round, but I’d rather take other chances with my first-round selection.

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