by Simon Harrex
Believe it or not, we’re less than forty days away from the newest NBA season. While the days of the Golden State Warriors’ epic collapse at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are now in the rear-view mirror, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead. Naturally, the Brooklyn Nets will not be competing for a ring this season, so for most of us, it’s time for the one thing that brings us joy every fall: fantasy basketball.
There’s no way you want to be stuck scrambling on October 23rd to get your notes together before a draft. Of course, the key is preparation and, without it, you may find yourself drafting Richard Jefferson in the 6th round or even convincing yourself that Shane Larkin will flourish as the backup point guard.
The best NBA teams go deep and usually have about 5-7 players worth holding roster spots — but what about the Nets? There’s been much discussion about how the Nets are going to fare this year and while an educated guess says it’ll be a long season at the Barclays Center, fantasy basketball can be a different beast. Thanks to the arrival of new head coach Kenny Atkinson and departure of Thaddeus Young, almost everything will look different in Brooklyn this year.
Depending on how Atkinson decides to run the ship, the Nets could be more fantasy friendly than in the past, but who is worth drafting?
Aside from his set of serious injuries, Brook Lopez has been the franchise’s most consistent asset since he was drafted in 2008. In all likelihood, he’s the one and only bankable fantasy option for the Nets in 2016-2017, which makes this list quite small.
To many, the Lopez-as-a-fantasy-option seems to be a closed book for outsiders. By all accounts, Lopez is great offensively, boasting a reliable jumper, but is hailed as a poor rebounder for his height, as well as a slow and average rim protector. The thing with Lopez is that what he does well, he does at an elite level and his 20.6 points per game from last season isn’t something you’d expect to dip with the Nets’ reliance on him. If 7.8 rebounds per game is what you rate as poor for a top choice center, he makes up for it with his 1.7 blocks per game. A cheeky 2.0 assists per game was a nice bump last season, despite his abilities as a passer when the opportunity arrives.
Lastly, and for what feels like the fourth-straight offseason, there are whispers that Lopez is working to expand his range. If Al Horford and Paul Millsap’s successes with Atkinson are any indication, this is good news for roto players, but, admittedly, can be hit-and-miss for the head-to-head (H2H) competitions.
Draft Position: 23-27
Lopez is a bonafide fantasy star anyway you cut it and we’d advise looking at him as a 3rd round pick. If he slips past here, feel free to pat yourself on the back — you were biased and benefited from the draft day drop, which is a win-win. After Karl-Anthony Towns, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, and DeMarcus Cousins, there’s a drop-off at the center position. Look to draft Lopez around the same range as Dwight Howard and slightly before Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert, and the aforementioned Horford.
THE DEFINITELY DRAFTED
Breakdown: Linsanity comes to Brooklyn and is the only true point guard, currently, on the entire roster. For fantasy newbies, starting point guards are worth looking at in almost all scenarios, particularly so if the only players behind them are rookies. Lin really has no real competition for his spot, so, regardless of how it works out, he’ll likely see a boost across the board in most categories.
Lin’s career high of 14.6 points per game came, of course, during his manic stint with the New York Knicks in 2011-2012 and anyone drafting him this year will want him to push this. For fantasy heads, Lin has a knack for finishing at the rim, shooting 60% from 0-2 feet over his six-year career. While his three-point shooting was a major weapon last year with the Charlotte Hornets, there’s room for improvement based on his 33.6% mark. Interestingly enough, 81% of his three-point makes with the Hornets were assisted, a large percentage of those coming off-ball alongside Kemba Walker.
Simply put, Lin may not have that advantage in Brooklyn.
At this point, don’t draft Lin in hopes of him becoming a breakout player — choose him with the educated notion that he will be a better fantasy player in Brooklyn purely based on the opportunity.
Draft Position: 92-96
The NBA is stacked with great fantasy point guards — Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, the list goes on. Don’t get silly and draft him before proven fantasy winners in this position, but know that he could be a really solid option during the middle rounds. Target Lin once Derrick Rose and Deron Williams start moving off the board and be happy once he outperforms both.
Breakdown: That’s the Rio Olympics’ leading scorer to you! Clear the runway, it’s finally time to see how Bojan Bogdanovic performs with a consistent role in the Nets’ rotation. With Joe Johnson hanging around the three-point line for much of 2015-2016, Bogdanovic had double-digit shot attempts in just 16 of those 57 games played last season. In the 22 games after Johnson moved to the Miami Heat, he had 18. Ultimately, it isn’t that his minutes will necessarily skyrocket, but his role in the offense will.
A career high in points is nearly assured, but optimists will want something closer to 15 points per game before drafting or snagging him off the waiver wire. He does little outside scoring and the occasional barrage from beyond the arc, but just an increased role should see a slight uptick in other counting stats. It’s important not to get too excited as he hasn’t proved himself reliable in the NBA quite yet, but as we saw in his 44-point outburst last season, he’s got the talent.
Draft Position: 101-105
The shooting guard position is shallow this year, so keep an eye on him as your draft progresses. Don’t reach on somebody like the injury-riddled Bradley Beal in the 2nd or 3rd round when Bogdanovic may provide similar outputs with a much cheaper tag.
There’s certainly some risk, but you may be rewarded for going with Bogdanovic over somebody like Monta Ellis this season. Of course, there’s huge expectations for players like Justise Winslow and Devin Booker, who will probably get taken earlier than they deserve, but the fantasy indicators are lining up well for Bogdanovic. Take him over fantasy re-treads like Brandon Jennings and Eric Gordon and you’ll be sitting pretty in April.
Breakdown: The buzz is real.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has featured heavily in sophomore rankings thus far and he’s the last of member of Brooklyn that should 100% be drafted in your leagues. Built in the fantasy mold of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he is the perfect fantasy filler and should slot into the Nets’ starting lineup this year, growing after his injury-interrupted rookie season.
It’s a small sample space to go off, but what we know is that, purely based on his defensive prowess, he’ll be able to play a high amount of minutes, plugged into a range of lineups at either the shooting guard or small forward position.
As always, Hollis-Jefferson’s jumper is his biggest knock and although his 45.7% from the field needs to improve, it’s his paltry 4.3 attempts per game that needs to trend up. If Hollis-Jefferson can become a willing shooter, he doesn’t necessarily need to be a high volume shooter to find success. Anybody rolling the dice here would want his scoring to come from transition play and second-chance opportunities, as Hollis-Jefferson had hauled in an impressive 14.1% of rebounds when he was on the court.
However, that’s not how Hollis-Jefferson became waiver-wire fodder before the injury. At times, Hollis-Jefferson be an absolute defensive menace, so it doesn’t seem like 2.0 steals and a block per game is out of the picture in 2016-2017 — which would make him a true fantasy commodity.
Draft Position: 98-102
Hollis-Jefferson has the highest odds to rise up the rankings this season, but he has the makings for a real solid flier for your bench, especially with Atkinson at the helm. There will still be growing pains, but don’t sleep on RHJ. You probably shouldn’t grab Hollis-Jefferson until the likes of Otto Porter Jr. and Thaddeus Young are off the board, but he could be worthwhile selecting over Luol Deng, DeMarre Carroll, and Marvin Williams.
IF YOU DRAFT DEEP
Breakdown: Starting power forwards have fared well in fantasy next to Brook Lopez, just ask Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche, or anybody else that’s filled the role over the years.
Thaddeus Young averaged 9.0 rebounds in his first full season for Brooklyn — his previous high was 7.5 for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012-2013. Even Kris Humphries, who has a career rebounding average of 5.5 per game, had two double-digit rebounding seasons next to Lopez.
Can Trevor Booker follow suit? To be worth rostering, it may be largely based on this rebounding effect as the season progresses. In all likelihood, Booker is probably one just to keep an eye on rather than drafting.
Draft Position: 140-145
Unless your league goes way deep he’ll probably goes undrafted, but as stated keep tabs on him over the first month. If you’re choosing between Booker and, say, John Henson or Cody Zeller, he could be an option. Just don’t forget that Anthony Bennett and Chris McCullough will be given plenty of chances to succeed throughout the season, so Booker’s ceiling may be quickly tapped.
Breakdown: Rookies are a risky play for the most part in drafts, especially ones than may enter the season injured or on a minutes restriction. LeVert shouldn’t be on your board unless you’re in it for the long haul.
Draft Position: Undrafted
Brooklyn will be bringing the former Michigan guard along slowly, so temper your expectations for him in 2016-2017. There’s a real chance that he becomes one of the better players from this draft down the line, but it won’t be this year. With options like Denzel Valentine, Wade Baldwin, Dejounte Murray available, there’s no reason to pick LeVert as of now. If your keeper team is looking towards 2017-2018, grab him on the cheap and off the waiver wire.
Overall, try to find solace in fantasy basketball. If you’re a long-time Nets fan, you’ve likely already mastered this practice. Use this list and you’ll find fantasy nirvana during next month’s drafts. That way, when Nets are losing but you have Brook Lopez on your squad, you can take the loss on the chin. There’s still some form of satisfaction to be found as he gallops his way up the court and pointing at his teammate responsible for the assist.
Just pretend that player is you and point back.
Thanks to Basketball Reference for the data and statistics!