SB Nation’s Tom Ziller recently called the Nets “the most hopeless franchise in the NBA.” He added, “There is essentially nothing to cheer for in Brooklyn. These next few years are going to be ugly.”
But while Nets fans might not get a championship anytime soon, they can still sneak some of their guys onto fantasy rosters to make things fun.
We’ve put together some tips for Brooklyn fans on how to handle Nets players in fantasy basketball without repeating the mistakes of the franchise’s ownership.
All data tables are courtesy of fasketball.com.
Know the context
The Nets are getting younger, and that’s a good thing for fantasy: it solidifies roles for veterans and starters. The Nets 2014-15 opening night roster had an average age of 28, with six players over 30; the current roster boasts an average age of 25, with just two players over 30.
More importantly, by moving several key rotation players, Brooklyn freed up a total of ~100 minutes per game (injuries notwithstanding), which now need to be redistributed to mostly veterans and starters.
- Mirza Teletovic – 22.3 mpg
- Mason Plumlee – 21.3 mpg
- Deron Williams – 31.1 mpg
- Alan Anderson – 23.6 mpg
The additions to the team aren’t good enough or ready enough to fill the chasm left by the exodus:
- Andrea Bargnani
- Shane Larkin
- Wayne Ellington
- Thomas Robinson
- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (draft)
- Chris McCullough (draft, injured)
Finally, a team that was 24th in pace and 25th in assist percentage will hopefully improve in those areas. Any improvements should bump everyone’s per-minute fantasy production.
Killer head-to-head playoff schedule
Although the Nets fantasy regular season contains the league’s third-fewest quality games*, their playoff schedule (weeks 22, 23, 24/25) is outstanding. The first round of the playoffs includes three Brooklyn games but two of those are quality games, making up for a little of that disadvantage. The second week is murderous with five games! Targeting Nets players in the draft and late in the season on the waiver wire is highly recommended in head-to-head leagues.
*-Quality games are games on days with five or less total games. They are useful because they allow all your available players to be active, as not all roster slots are filled. On days with lots of games, not all of your players can be active because of limited space in lineups.
Target Thaddeus Young in drafts
Consider Young’s last two full seasons with the 76ers:
Hyper-efficient and under a heavy load, Young ranked 27th and 31st in an offense where he was the only focus of opposing defenses. This matters because he is only 27 years old, in his prime, and 2014-15 was an outlier down year.
- He has a career free throw percentage of 69.3%. Last season, he shot 65.5%.
- He has a career field goal percentage of 49.5%. Last season, he shot 46.6%.
- He has a career rebound rate of 6.6 per 36 minutes. Last year, it was 6.1.
With all of those categories set to bounce back and no competition for his spot in the lineup, Young should be on your hit list in every format. He could reasonably return 50+ ranking spots on his draft position. Someone tell the new Sleeping Beauty to walk into Disney and ask for royalties.
Look for a bargain on Brook Lopez
After playing 82 games in each of his first 3 seasons, Lopez played 5, 74, 17, and 72 in his next four. By now most believe Lopez is injury-prone, and his perceived value is significantly deflated.
It’s true that drafting Lopez is a risk, and no one will call you Nostradamus for successfully predicting another injury-shortened season. However, this creates an opportunity for risk-takers, as ESPN currently has him ranked 46th — even though he finished 24th overall in 2014-15.
Lopez provides solid big man stats, with the unusual bonus of 80%+ free throw shooting. He is in his prime and has room for maybe two more minutes per game. With a little good luck, he may even finish in the top 20 this season — so look to draft him in the 35-45 range and hope for a big reward.
Avoid Joe Johnson
In young players, a decline in production can often be dismissed as a fluke; in older players it’s natural regression.
On a related note, Joe Johnson is 34 years old, and in 2014-15, his:
- Minutes went up, from 32.6 to 34.9 per game.
- Points per game declined, from 15.8 to 14.4.
- Field goal percentage declined, from 45.4% to 43.5%.
- Three point percentage declined, from 40.1% to 35.9%.
35 minutes is not a sustainable number at his age, and the drop in shooting is unlikely to bounce back, especially inside the arc. This all points to Johnson taking another step back in the fantasy rankings, sliding outside the top 100 and perhaps further. Unless you play in a deep league, you should let Johnson slip to someone else.
Pick up Jarrett Jack late
In 27 starts last season, Jarrett Jack posted averages of 15.9 points, 6.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. The starting spot is all his this season, thanks to Deron Williams’s departure. Consequently, his minutes will likely increase by up to 15 percent, to around 33 per game.
In 2014-15, Jack finished 154th in just 28 minutes per game. Even worse, he shot a horrible 26.7% from downtown, a full eight percent worse than his career mark. He has to bounce back there. Given that, there’s no way he won’t crush ESPN’s projected rank of 134th. Look for Jack late in drafts to give you those rare assist and scoring boosts.
Watch Andrea Bargnani on the wire
Bargnani recently told the New York Daily News, “I intend in coming years to be an important player within the structure of the Nets and a player on whom my teammates can count on in any situation.” That’s a good sign for the former first overall pick, who has disappointed throughout his NBA career.
His role will be limited behind Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, but if Lopez goes down, Bargnani should be snapped up instantly. He isn’t in any danger of being drafted given his ESPN rank (171), but he should be on all watch lists. Be aware that you will have to complement him with guys who get steals, because he provides none.
Watch Shane Larkin on the wire
Shane Larkin is an intriguing 22-year-old combo guard. Although he will be behind both Jack and Bojan Bogdanovic in the rotation, he will still have plenty of time on court to produce and improve on his 2014-15 performance.
471 is a wildly low ranking.
Forget about the rest
It’s not that the rest of the roster doesn’t have any potential, it’s that there’s just no evidence it will be fantasy-relevant this season. The 2014-15 per-36 minute numbers tell the story; while Jerome Jordan’s stats look impressive, his numbers are based on a very small sample, and he’s currently a free agent.
Good luck on the virtual hardwood!