It was nearly three months ago that I highlighted a few bold fantasy basketball projections for 2015-16. Well, there are now some new names to add to the list of players who are poised for a fantasy explosion.
It happens every year. There are always a handful of players who convincingly surpass their expectations and become fantasy studs. Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green and Hassan Whiteside are examples of such weapons last year. Who could strike fantasy gold this season?
Five players will be examined here, and included are both their ESPN projection as well as my bold prediction (you can access ESPN’s complete list of projections here).
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
ESPN Projection: 13.2 PPG, 43.0 FG%, 72.9 FT%, 1.7 3PM, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Bold Projection: 19.2 PPG, 43.1 FG%, 80.5 FT%, 2.5 3PM, 3.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
McCollum raised eyebrows in the postseason last year (17.0 PPG on 47.8 FG%), and he’s continued to do the same throughout the preseason (18.3 PPG, 4.4 APG and 2.4 3PM in 30.9 MPG). With departures to Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum on Portland’s perimeter, there’s a clear opportunity for McCollum to gobble up some usage. It looks promising that he’ll receive significant minutes, and this should mean he’s on the verge of a breakout campaign. It’s reasonable to anticipate a scoring average that could approach 20, while he also chips in superb threes and respectable assists and steals. He should even see his free throw mark improve greatly from ESPN’s projection, as he shot over 80 percent every year of college. McCollum will have his inefficient outings, but those will totally be offset by the games he goes off for 30. Owners should have very high hopes for the youngster from Lehigh.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
ESPN Projection: 12.8 PPG, 48.2 FG%, 62.7 FT%, 8.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, 2.2 BPG
Bold Projection: 15.5 PPG, 51.5 FG%, 65.8FT%, 11.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.0 SPG, 2.4 BPG
Noel showcased fantasy wonders during the second half of last season. Amidst March, he tallied 14.3 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 11.2 RPG, 2.1 SPG and 2.4 BPG. That’s gold, and I’m anticipating that production wasn’t just a hot stretch but a sign of things to come. No matter what, Noel has unique value in the defensive categories with his ability to hover around two SPG and BPG. This alone makes him valuable, but it also seems probable that he becomes a consistent double-double threat. Consider a recent preseason game in which he compiled 15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals, and two blocks. He’s going to absolutely delight his owners with nights like this throughout the season. With the lowly 76ers having every reason to play him heavy minutes, you can confidently expect elite value from the 21-year-old.
Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
ESPN Projection: 13.9 PPG, 43.4 FG%, 81.6 FT%, 1.7 3PM, 5.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Bold Projection: 17.2 PPG, 44.5FG%, 81.3 FT%, 2.0 3PM, 7.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Mirotic is a perfect fit for coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense that features a healthy amount of threes. He’s a capable long-range threat, and he also has a crafty ability to attack the rim and get to the charity stripe. It’s likely he’ll receive more than the 23.2 minutes per game that ESPN projected, especially because he’ll likely be in the starting lineup. His scoring, rebounding and three-point ability from the power-forward slot provide him with quality worth. Plus, when you factor in his potential to generate a steal and block per game as well as an exceptional free throw percentage, it becomes evident that Threekola has sneaky value across the board. He should become an integral component to Chicago’s offense and fantasy rosters.
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans
ESPN Projection: 15.5 PPG, 42.1 FG%, 86.1 FT%, 2.8 3PM, 5.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Bold Projection: 19.5 PPG, 44.6 FG%, 90.3 FT%, 3.1 3PM, 6.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Anderson should thrive in new coach Alvin Gentry’s fast-paced offense. He should log stellar minutes playing alongside Anthony Davis, providing spacing for The Brow to operate. It’s realistic to forecast Anderson earning over 30 MPG, which means he could produce the best season of his career. His fantasy upside is limited because he’s not going to supply much, if anything, in terms of assists, steals and blocks. But you have to love his three-point mastery from the power-forward position, and he’s also a source of points, boards and a sensational free throw clip.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
ESPN Projection: 14.4 PPG, 55.9 FG%, 78.2 FT%, 9.6 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG
Bold Projection: 17.5 PPG, 54.6 FG%, 78.3 FT%, 10.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Valanciunas’s value has been capped throughout his career because his MPG has never been more than 28.2. He’s still been an asset, but it’s been easy to wonder how much more of a threat he’d be if he received 30-35 MPG. Well, it looks like we’ll get to see that this year, as it appears he’ll finish games this season. This coupled with the fact that he’s entering his prime could mean big things for the Lithuanian. He’s consistently a source of outstanding percentages, but you could also see his points and rebounds approach Nikola Vucevic territory. Valanciunas should have his best season yet, and it could be so good that he elevates himself into the top-tier of centers.