The 2021 NBA offseason saw more movement of key role players in the league in recent memory. With many teams, such as the Lakers and Nets, having near new rosters, certain players can see either more or less playing time and therefore have an affect on their stats. We saw this especially in players like Russell Westbrook, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle. Westbrook’s stats, especially his scoring output, changes when he moved from OKC to Houston. In OKC, he was the primary ball handler, scorer, and rebounder, but in Houston, he had James Harden and Clint Capela. This leaves Westbrook to primarily focus on being the point guard. Ingram saw his stats blowup when he was traded from the Lakers to the Pelicans. In the Lakers, he was under Lebron James and also among other growing young talent. So when he moved to the Pelicans, he was able to fill the void Anthony Davis left and become a star. In the case of Julius Randle, a slight change in a roster and a change in coaching staff, he instantly became an All-Star. But not all teams in the league made any big moves during the offseason. So, you can expect already establish stars like Nikola Jokic’s, Stephen Curry’s, and Damian Lillard’s stats to stay the same. But to win in fantasy, we have to find those low-key players/teams who have the potential to improve and blowup to become the next Most Improve Player or dark horse team to make it to the playoffs.
Last year, I got lucky drafting certain players in late rounds among an 18 man league. I drafted Julius Randle in the 5th round, Dejounte Murray in the 4th round, Kyle Kuzma in the 10th round, Delon Wright in the 8th round, and Jaylen Brown in the 3rd. Julius went on the become and All-Star and earned the Most Improved Player of the Year. Both Murray’s, Wright’s, and Brown’s went up and produced numbers almost worthy of a 2nd round late pick. And Kuzma put up more 3 pointers than Trae Young last year. I also got Ja Morant in the 2nd round but he struggled last year.
Players/Teams I Have My Eyes On And Avoiding This Year
This year, I’m looking at teams with no big star players, who made major changes in their rosters.
If I could, I would want to get back Dejounte Murray. Every year, his numbers get better and better. Last year he averaged 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.5 steals on 45.3% shooting. The Spurs’ primary scorer last year was DeMar DeRozan and they also had Patty Mills as a back up point guard. With both players going to the Bulls and Nets, respectively, this year with no other big signing/trades, I expect Murray’s numbers to grow at a faster rate. I would like to see him average 20 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and improve his free throw shooting from 79% to about 85%.
The Chicago Bulls had a big overhaul on their roster, giving Zach LaVine much needed support to make the team a playoff contender. Even with 2 high volume scorer on the team in DeRozan and LaVine, I believe Vucevic can maintain or even refine his numbers this year. Most people believe his numbers should drop, thus making his projected rank being a bit lower. But, I believe his numbers should stay about the same, if anything his field goal should improve. So if he some how escapes being a low 1st round or even early 2nd round pick, I would highly suggest picking him up.
The Lakers is a tough situation since there are so many role players on the team. However, the Lakers is a championship contending team, so somebody on the team has to have a high output. With Lebron’s stats being on a slight decline, it doesn’t help having Westbrook and Rajon Rondo, who has the same job a Lebron, on the same team. With the signing of Rondo, the Lakers are less likely to stagger Westbrook and Lebron into 2 units, similar to the Westbrook and Harden strategy. However, Westbrook is the type of player to adjust to what his team needs from him, and is a consistent source of any stat. With Anthony Davis always being at constant risk of injury, Westbrook would be the safest pick on the Lakers between the 3 stars, however Davis would be the most likely to produce the most numbers. So if you want to risk picking an MVP caliber player who can get hurt at any moment, pick Anthony Davis, otherwise pick Westbrook.
Personally, I’m going to avoid picking LaMelo Ball and Ben Simmons early. In the case of LaMelo, most sophomore goes through some kind of slump. Even though their numbers usually do improve, they don’t improve as much as people would like or as expected. In most cases, they will have very sporadic games where they will score in high volume, then drop back down and struggle to output their averages. So I can see LaMelo going through this kind of sophomore slump since players now know how he plays and coaches will adjust to his game. So I wouldn’t pick LaMelo anywhere near the late first round or early 2nd round. I would like to pick him near the early 3rd round. In the case of Ben Simmons, the 76ers’ attempts to trade away Simmons shows that most teams aren’t looking for or believe in having a player like Simmons. He is a 7′ point guard who cannot and would not shoot the ball and is only good for passing and defense. There are rumors of him not wanting to come to the 76ers’ training camp, so his future with the team is very unclear. We can have another Harden and Rockets situation again, where he is not likely to play until he is traded. Even if he is traded, I doubt his numbers can improve since his playing style only fits in specific style of play. So if I have to pick Simmons, I would like to get him in the late 3rd round or early 4th round, but personally, I am going to skip him.
Hopefully this year is as exciting and unexpecting as last year. So let’s see who improves and who drops the ball.
We appreciate y’all for letting us be a part of your Break Time.
Signing off, JT