The abbreviated NBA season is now under way, so with two week of games in the books, let’s take a look at the top players so far for an 8-category league:
The RotoValue prices are for a 10 team league, using a $200 salary cap for 11 players per team (start 3 guards, 3 forwards, and 2 centers, with a 3 man bench). The 8 scoring categories are points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, 3 pointers, FG%, and FT%.
LeBron James heads the list, which doesn’t seem surprising, but on further reflection is more notable than it appears. The table is based on cumulative totals, and James has played just 8 games so far, 2 fewer than Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant. James sat out one game last week with an ankle injury, but returned to play 37 minutes against the Nets. Not only has James played less than many other stars, he’s also surprisingly not shooting from long range yet. James has not made a single 3 pointer all year! Indeed despite averaging over 3.5 3 point attempts per game last season, and 5 the previous year, James has taken just 2 three point shots in 8 games. Still, despite contributing nothing in one category, King James is still easily the most valuable fantasy player this year. He’s leading the league in scoring average, is tied for 4th in steals per game, and is 9th in assists per game. But the biggest change is that he’s shooting an amazing 60.1% from the floor, higher even than Dwight Howard. Some of this is because he’s not shooting 3s: last season he hit 55.2% of 2 point shots, and made 56% the year before. But James’s 2 point shooting is still about 5% better than it has been in recent years. Also, his current FT% is the highest of his professional career.
Kevin Durant is next, posting numbers similar to his recent career past. His free throw shooting and scoring are down a little, but he still fills the stat sheet across the board.
Kevin Love is #3, and has improved 5 points per game in scoring, and he’s now averaging over a steal per game, and is also blocking shots more often than last year, while continuing to grab 15 rebounds a game.
Dwight Howard continues to struggle at the free throw line, which holds back his value, and for the first time in several years he’s not the best player in field goal percentage, as LeBron James is shooting higher, and has far more attempts.
Kobe Bryant’s wrist injury is certainly a concern, but he’s not missed a game yet. The wrist might be affecting his shooting a bit: he’s made just 20% of 3 point attempts, down from 32.3%, and his FG% and FT% are down slightly from recent seasons, but he’s producing a bit more in the cumulative categories (except for 3 pointers made and steals).
Pau Gasol nearly matches Bryant’s overall value because of his strong FG%, much better rebound and block numbers balance Bryant’s edges in points and assists.
Derrick Rose’s scoring is down from last year, but he’s still a top producer.
Rounding out the current top 10 are two mild surprises, Marc Gasol and James Harden. Gasol cracks the top 10 on the strength of his block and steal numbers, as well as rebounding. He gets an additional boost for qualifying at center, a position where his 12.5 points per game actually looks quite good.
Harden has improved markedly across the board, averaging nearly 18 points and 5 rebounds per game.
This top 10 is using cumulative totals, so players who have played more games (such as Lakers or Thunder) rank higher than those who, either due to schedule or injury, have played less.
When I rank players by per-game production, the new top 10 is (in order): James, Love, Kyle Lowry, Howard, Anthony, Durant, Chris Paul, Marc Gasol, Manu Ginobili, and Spencer Hawes.
Lowry has missed 2 games with a bruised right foot (plus his Rockets have only played 8 so far), but he’s averaging 10 assists, 2 steals and 6 rebounds per game. Chris Paul’s Clippers have simply only played 6 games, which kept him out of the cumulative top 10. Spencer Hawes’s per-game numbers are almost as good as Marc Gasol’s, and he’s posting career bests averages in everything except FT%. His 64.6% FG accuracy leads the league among players with at least 40 attempts, which further boosts his value (although LeBron James’s 60.2 helps a fantasy team more, because he takes so many more shots).
Manu Ginobili’s broken hand derailed an excellent start, as he was shooting 59.2% from the floor, and 93.8% from the line with 14 3s in just 5 games. Ginobili is expected to miss another 6 weeks.
RotoValue prices are customized to the categories, positional eligibility, and roster sizes of a league. What categories you count affects who is most valuable, so as a point for comparison here’s the cumulative top 10 for a 9 category league (same roster sizes as above, but adding turnovers as a category, where lower is better):
Compared to the 8 category format, Ryan Anderson (!) now ranks 3rd, and Danilo Gallinari comes in 9th, replacing Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose.
Bryant’s 41 turnovers lead the league, and drop him to 17th overall, while Rose’s 33 tie for the 5th most, and he falls to 14th in that format.
Anderson, off to a career best start, is hitting a lot of 3s, rebounding, and has an amazingly low 2 turnovers in 9 games. Plus he’s shooting 88% from the line. Gallinari is also a strong free throw shooter, and is averaging almost 2 steals per game, with only 14 turnovers.
Computing per-game RotoValue for a 9 category league, the ranking in order is James, Love, Lowry, Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Anderson, Paul, Anthony, and Hawes. As before, switching to per-game ranking brings Lowry, Ginobili, Paul, and Hawes into the top 10. This makes Durant, Pau Gasol, and Gallinari drop out of the top 10, while James Harden now doesn’t even make the top 20.
It’s still early. Two weeks of live games are a small sample size, especially coming after a truncated preseason, which seems to have affected some players much more than others. I wouldn’t count on James Harden remaining a top 10 player, but barring injury Kevin Durant will be, no matter what format you use. But it’s good to take an early snapshot to see who is playing well, and indeed surprisingly well.
LeBron has stopped shooting 3s, but with that has come his best ever field goal percentage. Most owners should be quite happy with that trade. Ryan Anderson is playing quite well, and is especially valuable in 9 category leagues because he’s almost never turning the ball over. Kyle Lowry has played as well or better than any other point guard in the league. And keep an eye on under-the radar production at center from Marc Gasol and Spencer Hawes.