Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Andre'. I've got a Ph.D. in hoopsology from the prestigious Hoops Lab, so some people call me @ProfessorDrz. I will be your guide through this wonderful world we call fantasy basketball this season, and we're going to enjoy every minute of it. A couple of things you should keep in mind from the jump:
Fantasy hoops is fun!
If you play in a points league with weekly transactions, fantasy basketball is played almost exactly like fantasy football, except you get the excitement of watching the players dunk on and cross each other up for their SportsCenter moments instead of running down the field and dancing in the end zone.
Oh, and as a bonus, you get seven days of game action instead of three. But the actual fantasy basketball game play is just as simple, straight forward and fun as what you're used to with fantasy football.
Don't believe me? Sign up for free and try it out.
Come on, Cletus! It ain't nothing but a short walk!
I guarantee that just like football, you can set your fantasy basketball squad one day a week (Sunday or Monday), then sit back and do nothing but enjoy the NBA game action for the next seven days until you're ready to set your squad for the next matchup the following week.
If you check out my player ranking updates and weekly Forecaster articles during the season, you'll be set up to maximize your success with very little effort.
Here's another thing to keep in mind: This NBA and fantasy basketball season shapes up to be one of the greatest seasons in memory!
Go ahead and marinate on that for a little bit.
See, not every NBA season is created equal. Some stand out from the pack, full of players and events that change the sport forever. When those historic, all-time seasons come along, they tend to be the ones that we tell our kids about. The ones that cause kids to fall in love with the sport and grow into lifelong fans. The ones that lead to barbershop arguments, as every generation believes that the greatest players and teams of its generation are the greatest of all time.
We're shaping up for that kind of season in the NBA. The kind of season you are going to want to be a part of, to own in some way. And fantasy basketball is a perfect way to do it.
Let's take a quick stroll through NBA history and look at some of those magical seasons when everything changed forever. Then I'll walk you through all of the crazy storylines for this season, so you can really see how this upcoming season stacks up as one of those GOATs.
The 1979-80 season saw Magic Johnson and Larry Bird burst into the league after their epic meeting in the 1979 NCAA title game, on their way to changing the future of the sport. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the defining player of the '70s, would win the last of his record six MVP awards and lead his Los Angeles Lakers team to the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by the other defining player of the 70s: the high-flying Julius "Dr. J" Erving. While Bird would win the Rookie of the Year award, Johnson would get the last laugh with a performance for the ages in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, jumping center and turning in 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists to secure the championship and Finals MVP award.
The 1987-88 season marked the end of a golden era and the start of the Jordan era. The Lakers would win their fifth and final championship of the decade, which, when combined with the three won by the Celtics, represented eight of the nine previous championship teams. In the Finals, the Lakers edged the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons, who had finally gotten by the Celtics in the East and would give the Lakers all they could handle. Johnson and protégé Isiah Thomas would meet in the Finals for the first time, with Johnson's squad coming out on top, though the Pistons would go on to win the next two championships. But the greatness of Johnson, Bird and Thomas would be eclipsed by the rise of Michael Jordan, who won the first of his eventual five MVP awards and became the first player to win the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award in the same season.
The 1995-96 season began with the 1995 draft that saw Kevin Garnett become the first preps-to-pros player in more than two decades, opening the floodgates for the next decade. The season ended with the 1996 draft that represented one of the greatest classes in NBA history, chock-full of future Hall of Famers like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson and Ray Allen. Hakeem Olajuwon had led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships coming into the season, including a victory over an exciting young Orlando Magic team featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. But it would be Jordan who won the season, leading the Chicago Bulls to a historic 72-win season and a championship in his first full campaign back after his first retirement.
The 2007-08 season started with an epic battle for the top pick in the 2007 draft, with expected franchise center-to-be Greg Oden being chosen over actual future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant in one of the most hyped drafts in history. The historic rivalry of the NBA was restored that season, with Garnett and Allen joining Paul Pierce to lead the Celtics against Bryant, newly acquired Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and the Lakers. Bryant would win the only MVP of his career, Garnett the only Defensive Player of the Year of his career, and the Celtics would edge the Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, most agreed that the next King of the NBA was just about ready to be crowned, as LeBron James was storming the league and was only a season away from the first of his four MVP awards.
This season, 2018-19, shapes up to be another history-making campaign. It has all of the elements that made the others so momentous. There is a dynasty team, a GOAT candidate near the end of his superpowers, a "next GOAT" candidate ready to burst onto the scene, multiple championship-caliber teams ready to make the leap, and a deep rookie class with the potential to be the class of the generation. Let's explore.
The Dynasty: The Warriors have won three championships during the past four seasons and added yet another All-NBA player to the roster in DeMarcus Cousins to cement their status as the league's foremost superteam. When Cousins is healthy, he'll join two-time MVP Stephen Curry, two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant, former Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green and 3-point champion Klay Thompson to form one of the most talented starting fives in NBA history. Can they win yet again, cementing a three-peat and their fourth ring in five years?
Fantasywise: Durant and Curry are still borderline top overall picks in roto leagues, as their combinations of high efficiency, volume scoring, playmaking, 3-pointers and peripheral categories are still elite, and if anything, their efficiencies are higher as a result of playing with one another. Green and Thompson are also roto impact players. All four take a slight hit in points-based leagues, because their volumes suffer for having to share the ball with each other. Cousins loses a lot of fantasy value by joining the Dubs, as there just isn't nearly space for the type of volume he normally produces.
The King on the move: James left the Cavaliers to join the Lakers. James is still the consensus best player in the world, coming off eight consecutive Finals appearances with the Heat and Cavaliers. His decision to go to one of the most storied, marquee franchises in history shifts the entire balance of power in the NBA. Plus, James is signing on with a team that belonged to rival Bryant for an entire generation, which creates added buzz and drama. The Lakers haven't been to the playoffs since 2013, and they're full of young but unproven talent. Can James come in and lead them to the promised land?
Fantasywise (Lakers): The Lakers suddenly have a very eclectic mix of talents. Their best young talents -- including Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram -- all play positions and styles that could overlap with James. Veteran Rajon Rondo was also added to the mix, giving the Lakers three table-setting playmakers if you include James. Is James expected to move more off the ball into more of a finishing role? This could improve James' efficiency but would come at the expense of assists. Is there still enough time and opportunity for the young stars to continue to develop without regressing? How often will the Lakers play a traditional center like JaVale McGee or Ivica Zubac, and how often will they instead roll out their version of a small-ball "death" lineup featuring some combination of James, Ingram, Kuzma, Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Josh Hart?
Fantasywise (Cavaliers): Similarly, James leaving Cleveland has created a statistical vacuum the Cavaliers have to fill. This suggests that an All-Star like Kevin Love has the potential to bounce back to the production of his pre-Cavaliers days in Minnesota. Young veterans like Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood could return to being primary scorers, as they were in previous stops. Lottery rookie Collin Sexton has the opportunity to enter the league as a major scorer, and veteran "role players" like George Hill and Tristan Thompson have the potential to solidify themselves into fantasy starters. There are almost as many fantasy storylines in Cleveland as there are in L.A.
The king ... err ... Freak in waiting: Giannis Antetokounmpo has improved dramatically, in a quantifiably trackable way, in each of his four seasons in the NBA. In his third season, he was voted Most Improved Player. In his fourth season, he flirted strongly with challenging James for the title of best player. Now, at age 23 and entering his fifth season, Antetokounmpo looks poised to make that final leap and establish himself as the new king.
Fantasywise: Who should be the top pick? Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are all viable candidates in points leagues, but his only real comp as I see it is Westbrook, though he is coming off of knee surgery. Meanwhile, Curry and Durant are viable additions to that group when looking at top-pick candidates in roto leagues, where their absurd percentages and diverse category contributions are more valuable. Young big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic are unlikely to be the top picks in many leagues, but both are clear top 5-10 fantasy prospects in their very early 20s who could reasonably make a leap to the top of the league as well.
Contender 1 -- Houston Rockets: The Rockets led the Warriors three games to two in the Western Conference finals when Chris Paul injured his hamstring, and they ended up losing the series. Paul enters this season healthy, but the Rockets let a couple of their 3-and-D forwards leave in free agency, brought in former starting point guards Brandon Knight and Michael Carter-Williams to back up Paul, added Carmelo Anthony as a forward who can create his own shot in iso if needed, and traded for Marquese Chriss as a developing young power forward who has shown flashes of ability in his short career. Will these moves be enough to earn that fourth win in the playoffs over the Warriors, or will the new composition of the team cause the Rockets to regress?
Fantasywise: Players like Harden, Paul, Gordon and Clint Capela should remain similarly valuable to last season. Anthony likely turns in the lowest scoring volume of his career, but if his efficiency increases, he could be a worthy exchange in roto leagues. The other Rockets rotation players could be useful in roto leagues for their areas of specialty, but they lack the volume for points-league consideration.
Contender 2 -- Boston Celtics: The Celtics took the Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals despite the nominal two best players on the team, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, missing the entire playoffs (or in Hayward's case, nearly the entire season) due to injury. This allowed youngsters Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier to step up and prove themselves as impact players next to veterans Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris. If Celtics coach Brad Stevens can keep all of the players bought in and moving in the right direction, the Celtics have the talent to challenge even the best teams in the West.
Fantasywise: Can the Celtics feed everyone enough to keep them all happy? This concentration of talent likely leads to great shooting percentages all around from players who can't be keyed on by opposing defenses, but it likely will threaten the volume of each player's production. Thus, like the Dubs, the Celtics make better roto contributors than points-based.
Contender 3 -- Toronto Raptors: The Raptors won 59 games with a scoring margin of plus-7.8 points last season, both elite marks that ranked second in the NBA. Then, this offseason, they traded leading scorer DeMar DeRozan and promising backup big man Jakob Poeltl for two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and strong defensive wing Danny Green. On paper, the Raptors got a lot more potent, including a potential MVP candidate to lead them to the promised land ... if Leonard is healthy and has bought in. That's a big if after all of Leonard's drama in San Antonio last season and this offseason, but if it happens, the Raptors could very well be the favorites to come out of the East.
Fantasywise: Leonard's shot volume in his MVP-caliber 2016-17 campaign was almost exactly the same as DeRozan's from last season. Thus, if healthy and bought in, the space is there for Leonard to return to fantasy MVP contention. Kyle Lowry had been ceding some playmaking responsibility to DeRozan, so if he has the juice in his 33-year-old legs, Lowry has some bounce-back space in his stats. Jonas Valanciunas has outstanding per-minute stats, but his minutes had been dropping in previous seasons; does that pattern continue? The other Raptors are role players but could have value in roto leagues if not points leagues.
Status of The Process? The other Eastern Conference team that appeared on the verge of being scary was the Philadelphia 76ers, led by talented-but-fragile young superstars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (combined 31 games between them in their four combined seasons on an NBA roster entering 2017-18). Both Embiid and Simmons showed that they have future MVP-level talent, completely without hyperbole. Add in last year's No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, who should finally be healthy, as well as talented young vets like defensive-minded Robert Covington and stretch big man Dario Saric, and the 76ers certainly have a championship-caliber nucleus to grow around. Are they ready to win this season? It seems unlikely, but if they stay healthy, it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Fantasywise: Embiid has the best per-game potential, but Simmons seemingly is more robust, which makes him the slightly better fantasy prospect. Both players should go in the first two rounds of almost every league. Fultz is an enigma, as his health, shot and minutes are unclear. He should be drafted, though, as he has great upside. Saric is viable in both roto and fantasy, while Covington is more viable in roto because his volume is too low for points leagues. JJ Redick is another roto candidate because of his 3-point marksmanship.
Stacked draft class: Last year's incoming NBA class was very strong, led by Donovan Mitchell, Tatum, Dennis Smith Jr., De'Aaron Fox and more. This year's class shapes up to be even deeper, with a Rookie of the Year race that viably runs 10 deep. Many talented young bigs are in the class, including top overall pick Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Jaren Jackson Jr. Guards Trae Young and Sexton plus forward Kevin Knox join talent-depleted teams that seem likely to rely upon them as impact players early. Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have the talent to produce early, but it is uncertain how many minutes they'll get early on. But arguably the best rookie, the only one ranked in the ESPN NBARank top 100, is Luka Doncic. Doncic is the most decorated teenage European professional basketball player to ever enter the NBA and is said to be the best player in every scrimmage that he has run in this offseason. He could be special.
Fantasywise: My top 150 points-based fantasy rankings include 10 rookies, with three (Young, Ayton and Doncic) in the top 55, another four (Bagley, Knox, Carter and Sexton) in the 90s and both Jackson (134th) and Miles Bridges (146th) represented as well. This class could make a fantasy impact this season, and that effect should grow moving forward.
All told, this season has the earmarks of one we'll tell our children about when they come of age -- a season that will bring a whole new generation of young fans into the fold.
And there is no better way to become a part of this historic campaign than by signing up to run your own fantasy team. I'll be here all season to help you to enjoy and have success with your squad.
Let's win some leagues together.