We all love the Raptors and I wanted to spend some time in the upcoming weeks to look at the team and how they are doing this season from a fantasy perspective. If you’re like me, then you spend some time everyday on a fantasy site, tinkering with your daily lineup or searching for that inside story that can give you some insight on who’s hurt, who’s hot and who’s not. By now, you are wrapped up in the hunt for first place and more than halfway through your regular season, so you know your team’s strengths and weaknesses. If you weren’t lucky enough to get LeBron or KD, then you’ve spent most of the season using the end of your bench as a revolving door between your team’s lineup and the waiver wire to make up stats against those elite players.
Playing the waiver wire is what separates the men from the boys. When injuries hit or when players fall into a slump and lose their starters minutes, this is when true fantasy junkies reign supreme. This is also where some choose with their hearts instead of their heads and often take a player from their favourite team instead of the best option available. To prove this theory, back in the day I once grabbed Jamario Moon and his newly acquired three point shot, to try and help me win the three pointers made category! Since then I have learned my lesson, but I still look at the Raptors as a source to draw from. So as far as the Raptors are concerned, who’s a must have and who’s gonna be left on the waivers for another week.
Before I continue, I just want to say that there is a real difference between a player playing well for an actual team and a player playing well in a fantasy perspective. Most would agree that John Salmons (projected as the 206th fantasy pick before this season) has been a quality player for us, showing a combination of poise and veteran presence. Yet those intangibles and the numbers he generates are not currently relevant in a fantasy perspective. So, despite him helping our team to victory, his 6.5 shots per game isn’t enough to offset, let’s say having Kyrie Irving (projected 7th, current rating of 26th) and his 8.7 shots made on 21.7 attempts per game over the last 7 games (.400%). Meaning you’re likely to lose FG% if you had Uncle Drew on your team last week (or most weeks) as your team’s average FG% is going to gravitate towards how the players who take the most shots on your team does. My point is, just because I may say someone isn’t good in a fantasy perspective, doesn’t mean I feel they aren’t a benefit to their team. This swings both ways, where some impactful fantasy players can’t help their actual team win games. This is the real danger fantasy sports has on warping the perspective we may have on players and their actual effectiveness in the league.
Gotta Have ‘Em!
DeMar DeRozan – Current player rating of 63rd, projected to go 118th (how disrespectful!) and owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. To be honest, his projected ranking was understandable, because before this year DD was not known for stuffing the stats sheet as his only consistent fantasy contribution was in points. However, over the last 15 games he has averaged 23.7 PTS, 5.0 REB, 3.1 AST, 1.3 STL, with .786%FT and .443 FG% off 18.7 shots per game. His 36 points to go with 12 assists last night shows the type of presents he’s been giving his owners throughout the year. His dedication to his craft and work ethic has not only been seen all season long by fantasy owners and fans alike, but it also helped make him a worthy pick for this year’s All Star Game as well.
Kyle Lowry – Current player rating of 11th, projected to go 87th and owned by 100% of the leagues at ESPN. Kyle has put all of his doubters in their place this season, even if he was snubbed from this year’s All Star Game. Speaking of disrespectful, ESPN’s preview rankings had this to say about him before the season began.
Lowry has had his moments as a fantasy option, but he’s really just a mediocre point guard, whose negatives (mediocre scoring, assist numbers, awful FG percentage) outweigh his positives (some 3-point and steals production). He also could be trade bait, since he’s in the final year of his contract and will share duties at the one with another mediocre option in D.J. Augustin.
Whoever wrote that couldn’t have been more wrong, as he’s blown all his projections out of the water this season. Maybe it’s the result of a contract push, maybe it’s a result of a healthy strong body working hard in a system that fits him and a team that believes in him. Over the last 15 games Lowry has averaged 19.4 PTS, 4.9 RBS, 8.1 AST, 1.2 STL, 3.2 3PT/M, while shooting .450 FG% off 14.6 attempts per game. Regardless of the reasons, all that matters to fantasy owners is that the man stuffs the stats sheet and is in full out beast mode every night he steps on the court.
Keep an eye on
Amir Johnson – Current player rating of 61st, projected to go 106th and is owned by 49.9% of the leagues at ESPN. His fantasy worth hinges on consistency and minutes. The minutes have dipped for Amir (26.7 MPG), and because of this his averages are pedestrian at best. Tall Money’s 10.7 PTS, 5.9 RBS over the last 15 games isn’t enough to get excited over, and his 0.8 blocks per game is currently down from his season average of 1.2. His .513 FG% is respectable and what we are used to seeing from him. His current FT% of .800 is also nice to see but has fluctuated some throughout the season. Amir went off for a big night recently in Orlando where he went 10/20 for 22 PTS, while adding 12 REB, 2 STL, 3 AST. Unfortunately, as his averages show, he hasn’t found a way to make that his nightly contribution. When he does, he will become a nightly fantasy stud like Kyle and DeMar are becoming now.
Jonas Valanciunas – Current player rating of 94th, projected to go 72nd and owned by 89.4% of the leagues at ESPN. Owners have kept believing in the big fella so far this season as the ownership percentage shows. The beginning of the season didn’t reap much reward for their loyalty, but he has started to develop into a nightly double-double threat with 10.2 PTS, 9.8 REB, but has dipped to 0.3 BLK over the last 15 games. Touches stand in the way of JV from a fantasy perspective on the offensive side. His projected numbers were 16.4 PTS, 8.5 REB, 1.8 BLK. The major factor in the discrepancy is the projected shot attempts (10.9) versus his actual attempts this season at 8.3 (but only 7.7 over the last 15 games). If Jonas can find his way back to the foul line more often, his .780 FT% will certainly help add to his offensive output. With so many other high flyers on the team, Jonas often looks to hold his ground rather than to swing for the block. This has helped him to stay in games, but has hurt his blocks per game production so far this season.
Terrence Ross – Current player rating of 125th, projected to go 244th and owned by 45% of the leagues at ESPN. Generally you need minutes to be fantasy relevant and T.Ross has been averaging 31.4 MPG over the last 15 games. Where he helps you most is in the 3 point category, currently knocking down 2.3 per game and he is enjoying career high averages in points (14.6) and rebounds (4.2) as well. His 0.9 steals and blocks per game are also nice additions to any fantasy box score. Again, consistency is the best friend of any fantasy owner and he just isn’t giving that just yet from a fantasy perspective. If you need help to win the 3PT category he’d be a much better option then back when I reached for (the) Moon. Just be weary of his inconsistent shooting percentages. His 51 point performance boosted his ownership across the board from 12% up to it’s current 45%, yet he followed up that performance with a pedestrian 10 points but at least managed to add 7 REBs in its place for the contest.
Patrick Patterson – Current player rating of 166th, projected to go 238th and owned by 0.7% of the leagues at ESPN. His hustle and fit with the team has been great for the Raptors and their second unit. His 10.5 PTS, 5.6 REB, 1 STL off .500 FG% while adding almost one three pointer per game off of 23.1 minutes is great over the last 15 games. He’s a good option to fill an open spot and get a little extra help rotated into your lineup and almost guaranteed to be available in your league. What owners need to worry about is this good production comes with HanBro just beginning to work his way back into the lineup. I question if 2Pat’s numbers will continue to flourish as Tyler gets into his playing rhythm, since his return they have already taken a 2 PPG drop along with a slight dip in the minutes per game.
They try and try
Greivis Vasquez – Current player rating of 188th, projected to go 78th and currently owned by 36.4% of all leagues at ESPN. Really, no one left unmentioned on the team is currently showing much value in a fantasy perspective. I only point out General Greivis because of his projected ranking before the year started. Last year he had a breakout season with 13.9 PTS, 9 AST and 4.3 REB while shooting .433 FG%. This made expectations very high. This season minutes are a problem for Vasquez, despite them increasing since joining the Raptors from 15.2 MPG earlier in the year, up to 24.8 MPG over the last 15 games, it’s still far off his last year’s average of 34.4 on a poor team without any depth. This goes to show the value of a good player on a bad team in the world of fantasy. Thankfully his numbers have increased as of late from the dreadful 2.8 PTS shooting .243 FG%, 2.9 AST, and 1.8 REB he was getting earlier in run with the team and is currently averaging 8.2 PTS shooting .346 FG%, 5.8 AST and 2.9 REB over the last 15 games. Without more minutes his fantasy relevance isn’t what it used to be. His recent increase in production may soon make him someone to keep your eye on, if his minutes per game can stay up and he can continue to find some consistency in his game.
All numbers extracted from ESPN’s fantasy basketball site.