7 Bold Predictions (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)
Death, taxes, and Russell Westbrook shooting sub-30 percent from three – these three things are guaranteed in life. While conservative analysis and obvious takes certainly have their place in the world of fantasy sports, you’ve got to go out on a limb every once in a while and swing for the fences. We asked our experts to do just that by naming one bold take for the upcoming fantasy basketball season. Here’s what Brad Camara, Adam Koffler, Alex Burns, Aaron Larson, Michael Waterloo, Dave Kluge, and Zak Hanshew had to say.
Kevin Durant will be the scoring champ and finish top-10 in points leagues
Kevin Durant will be the scoring champ and finish top-10 in points leagues. Durant spent his last three seasons with one of the most dominant teams of all-time but the Warriors focused on spreading the ball out and playing team defense. Durant still managed to rack up 25.8 points per game over that three-year stretch while sharing the court with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, top-tier scorers. Now, he goes to Brooklyn where he will assuredly be the No. 1 scoring option again. In Kyrie Irving‘s last fully healthy season (2018-19) he set a career-high with 6.9 assists per game while marking a three-year-low in the scoring department. He and Durant should make a dominant scoring duo with Irving more likely to facilitate The Nets averaged 111.8 points per game in 2019-20, a little below the league’s average. The addition of a healthy Durant and Irving should bump the Nets offense into the top-10. Compared to last year’s top-scoring duo of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, Durant and Irving should generate a stronger offense. Because of this, there’s no reason that Durant couldn’t lead the league in scoring this year.
KD WITH THE SLAM!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 13, 2020
Last season, 14 different players saw at least a 30.4-percent usage rate, a mark that Durant has surpassed in three of the last six years. That usage rate and a bold estimate of a 115-point average would equate to approximately 35 points per game for Durant. Because he is coming off an injury and his toughness is in doubt, Durant is likely to avoid rest days and will aim to play a full season, making his chances to be the scoring champ even higher. There’s certainly risk to drafting a 32-year-old on a new team coming off of an Achilles injury. But his ceiling is as high as anyone’s this year and drafting him in the second round can pay off immensely. -Kluge
DeMarcus Cousins plays 60+ games and finishes as a top-10 center
Obviously, this hinges on the veteran center’s health, but let’s not forget that we last saw him on the court in the same playoff season as Kevin Durant (ECR 15) who happens to be two years older than Cousins. It’s easy to forget how dominant he’s been over his career and while he may no longer be capable of putting up his career-average of 21.2 points/game, he can easily put up a nightly double-double with John Wall running the point. He also fills up his stat sheet with enough assists, steals, and blocks to bolster his fantasy production. Christian Wood is another new addition in Houston but the two should be able to coexist in the Stephen Silas coached frontcourt. Cousins is well worth the shot at his current draft price. -Larson
Zion Williamson takes the next step to superstardom and finishes as a top-10 overall player.
The 2019 No.1 overall pick was productive in his rookie campaign, averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists across 27.8 minutes. Zion is fully recovered from a torn meniscus he suffered last year and is not expected to have any limitations heading into the 2020-21 season. Williamson had a team-high 29.1 usage rate and was third on the Pelicans (112) in offensive rating across 24 games last year. With no restrictions and a clean bill of health, Zion is ready to be a fantasy force this season. The sky is the limit for the 20-year-old power forward. -Camara
Jusuf Nurkic finishes as a top-20 overall player in category leagues
The Bosnian big man has shown the ability to stuff the stat sheet with reckless abandon throughout his career, and he put that ability on full display in limited action in the Orlando bubble. Recovering from a horrible leg injury suffered the season prior, Nurkic appeared in just eight games all season, but he made the most of his limited opportunities. He averaged 17.6 points, 10.3 boards, 4.0 dimes, and 3.4 combined blocks/steals – all career highs except for the rebounds. Expected to be at full health for the upcoming campaign, he should form a lethal combination with Damian Lillard as the Blazers look to get back to the playoffs again. Still only 26-years-old, the best is likely yet to come from Nurkic, who I expect to shatter his current ECR of 41. -Hanshew
Christian Wood will finish the season as a top-10 PF/C
Wood burst onto the fantasy scene during the second half of last season for the Pistons’, putting up nearly 22.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game game after Andre Drummond was sent to Cleveland at the trade deadline. The 6-10 PF/C is now primed for a breakout season after signing with the Rockets’ in free agency as he is now surrounded by two elite passers in John Wall and James Harden. On top of that, the Rockets’ typically play at a much faster pace than the Pistons’. For example, the Rockets’ ranked second in in PACE factor (offensive possesions per game) last season with 106.3 possessions per game while the Pistons’ ranked 28th with only 99.9 offensive possessions per game. Playing in an up tempo offense should drastically increase Wood’s opportunities to rack up the fantasy points. Clint Capela once averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in this offense during the 2018-19 season but lacked any sort of outside game. That’s not the case with Wood, however, as the he shot 42.2 percent from three on 4.1 attempts per game over the last month-and-a-half of the regular season.
New #Rockets F/C Christian Wood (@Chriswood_5): “I bring my ability to space the floor..I think I finish with the best of them in the league. I think I shoot with the best of them in the league. With James’ ability to knock down shots & score,I think I could be a good 2nd option” pic.twitter.com/rprQysCk66
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) November 25, 2020
If that’s not enough to sell you, take fellow teammate and multiple All-Star DeMarcus Cousins‘ word as he recently described Wood as ‘having some of the same intangibles as Anthony Davis‘ and that he believes Wood ‘can be a First-Team All-NBA defender’. You don’t hear that kind of praise often for a player that’s currently being selected towards the mid to late rounds of drafts according to recent Yahoo and ESPN ADP. All in all, Wood should have no trouble producing an efficient double-double on a nightly basis in Stephen Silas’ system and should offer a great source of blocks, steals and three’s to help bolster his fantasy production. -Burns
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk will lead all fantasy players in three-point percentage
Duncan Robinson really broke out during the bubble, and he’s now going around the top-100 in fantasy drafts. The Pistons need scoring – especially from behind the arc – and as crowded as they are at both forward positions and at center, Mykhailiuk has little competition for big playing time at shooting guard. Right now, Delon Wright is the starter in typical Dwane Casey fashion, but Mykhailiuk should easily play his way into a starter’s role. -Waterloo
Julius Randle has a better fantasy season than Zion Williamson
The Williamson hype is through the roof this season, and rightfully so. He’s an incredible talent and a joy to watch on the basketball court. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into fantasy value. In nine-category leagues, he offers positive production in just three or four categories (points, field goal percentage, rebounds, and maybe steals). He’s below average in every other statistical category that counts. Randle on the other hand, quietly contributes positively in six or seven of the nine categories. Last season, he averaged 19.5 points (46% FG and 73.3% FT), 1.0 3PM, 9.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 0.8 steals in a career-high 32.5 minutes per game.
The upside of Julius Randle on this play. He grabs the rebound, brings it up, takes advantage of the smaller Killian Hayes on him and pounds it in until he finishes over Plumlee at the basket. When he's finding holes in the defense instead of pushing for them Randle is effective. pic.twitter.com/Hzjj8bB36N
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) December 14, 2020
Now enter new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is known for relying heavily on his starters. D’Angelo Russell averaged the most minutes of his entire career (32.5) playing under Thibodeau in 12 games last season. Randle also provides added roster flexibility due to his center eligibility, while Williamson can only be used at PF on most platforms. Given the circumstances, Randle sets up nicely to smash his current 72nd ranking by the ECR and will finish ahead of Williamson this season, who is currently ranked 50th by the ECR. -Koffler
Thanks to all of our experts! Be sure to check out their other work and follow them on Twitter.