Fantasy basketball is full of surprises. It never fails that a handful of players surpass their projections, sometimes doing so in convincing fashion.
A case in point from last year was Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Buckets went from a serviceable wing in only deep leagues during 2013-14 to an arguably top 25 threat in 2014-15. Did anybody see that coming?
I firmly believe the answer to that question is no, at least not to the extent that Butler progressed. Consider the difference between these two seasons:
It’s amazing how players show remarkable improvements from one season to the next and in turn exceed expectations. Butler is one such example from recent years, but these developments happen on a yearly basis. We just often aren’t bold enough to predict them. Prior to last season, it would’ve been incredibly audacious to suggest Butler would put up 20 points per game. You would’ve been laughed at on Twitter.
Let’s be so bold right now and highlight projections for three players who could notch monstrous numbers during 2015-16.
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Wiggins tallied 16.9 points per game as a rookie, so is it reasonable to forecast an increase to nearly 25 points per game in his sophomore campaign?
I believe so, for numerous reasons.
For one, Wiggins poured in 20 points per game after the All-Star break last year. He also saw his usage rate increase from 21.7 before the All-Star break to 24.5 after it, per Basketball-Reference. He made the most of increased opportunities late in the season. He should carry that confidence into 2015-16, and he may even see a further uptick in usage.
Secondly, a look at history favors this possibility. Let’s consider Kevin Durant, who poured in slightly over 20 points per game as a rookie. Come his second season, he raised his scoring average by five points, while also seeing increases in field goal percentage, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game and three-pointers made per outing. How about LeBron James? During James’s second year, he increased his points per game by over six, while also witnessing improvements in field-goal percentage, RPG, APG, SPG and 3PM.
It’s premature to say Wiggins is going to be a player of Durant or James’s caliber, but there’s no denying that Wiggins is an athletic freak whose potential has never been questioned. The No. 1 overall pick from 2014 has every reason to become an elite superstar, and perhaps this will happen sooner rather than later.
Wiggins’s offense improved so rapidly as a rookie that I’m confident he’ll mold into a dynamic scorer and polished all-around player. And I’m anticipating this to happen this coming season, as a 20-year-old.
I also foresee Wiggins’s value extending far beyond scoring. His versatility enables him to generate rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. There’s so much upside here across the board.
Wiggins could have such a banner year that he vaults himself into the top 10 fantasy players conversation. Don’t be afraid to nab him early with extremely high hopes.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
During the month of November, Gobert averaged a mere 4.5 points and 4.9 rebounds, having little relevance in the fantasy spectrum. Yet, after the All-Star break, Gobert notched these figures: 11.1 PPG, 13.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG and 2.6 BPG. He became the legend known as The Stifle Tower, and I predict his legacy to continue its growth this season with further statistical improvements.
Gobert was so dominant post-All-Star break that he boasted an Offensive Rating of 120 and a Defensive Rating of 93, per Basketball-Reference. By comparison, other notable centers didn’t post nearly the same efficiency during 2014-15. Joakim Noah had an Offensive Rating of 108 and a Defensive Rating of 104. Dwight Howard had an Offensive Rating of 106 and a Defensive Rating of 101. This magnifies what a special young player Gobert is. He should receive heavy minutes and has serious promise as a beastly center.
Looking at 2015-16, Gobert projects very similarly to Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan. However, Gobert is significantly better at the charity stripe. This gives him the edge over Drummond and Jordan. Still, come draft day, you’ll likely witness owners go for Drummond or Jordan first, but I’d recommend sitting back and targeting Gobert.
The man also nicknamed the French Rejection contributes in bulk to your rebound and block tallies. He’s also going to provide quality steals from the center position, as well as decent points and percentages. There are really no major gripes concerning Gobzilla.
Nicolas Batum, Charlotte Hornets
Batum was a major disappointment last year after stellar campaigns during 2012-13 and 2013-14. Despite the regression, I have no worries about him not only regaining his old form during 2015-16, but also compiling his best all-around season yet.
Much of Batum’s struggles last season with the Portland Trail Blazers were related to a lingering wrist injury, which likely impacted his shooting ability. Not only that, but he also possessed limited usage (14.6 percent, per Basketball Reference) while playing alongside usage monsters LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
Now with the Charlotte Hornets, Batum is healthy and figures to regain his long-range shooting. He’s also inheriting an expanded role, according to The Charlotte Observer, which has promising fantasy implications for his scoring and assist figures.
What’s more, he’s entering a contract year so there’s every motivation for him to showcase his skill set.
The table is set perfectly for Batum to reach his full potential as a quality scorer, excellent wing distributor, solid rebounder and superb defensive threat. He epitomizes a sneaky value player.
If you drafted him last year and were disappointed, give him another shot this year and you’ll fall in love.