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As the fantasy basketball regular season nears completion, with owners now facing off in fantasy playoffs, it’s time to reflect on the 2015-16 campaign.
For people who drafted Marc Gasol (who sputtered before being shut down for the season following foot surgery) or lost Eric Bledsoe to injury or held strong with potential upstarts who started the season strong only to flame out, it was likely a season to forget.
Of course, injuries aren’t the only variable that could flip a fantasy basketball season on its ear. To that end, the PointAfter team pegged three of the NBA’s biggest overachievers (and underachievers) relative to their preseason Yahoo fantasy rankings, focusing on those who didn’t miss substantial time.
With help from PointAfter’s interactive data visualizations, we’ll break down an overachiever and underachiever at guard, forward and center.
Note: “Current” rankings are accurate as of March 6, 2016.
Stud Guard: Rajon Rondo, Kings
Preseason Ranking: 104
Current Ranking: 53
Though many pundits and fans were skeptical about Sacramento’s decision to sign Rondo to a one-year, $9.5 million deal prior to the season, the enigmatic floor general delivered for the Kings this season (despite a lackluster win-loss record).
Though the 30-year-old veteran continued to struggle at the free throw line (56.7 percent) and wasn’t extremely efficient as a scorer, he’s cruised to be the NBA leader in assists.
Rondo’s fantasy value has primarily been tied to his ability to dish out more dimes than any other player in the league. Of course, his averages of 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals (the latter of which ranks him No. 8 in the league) provide plenty of value.
Honorable Mentions: Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker
Dud Guard: Danny Green, Spurs
Preseason Ranking: 54
Current Ranking: 132
The season has not been kind to Green. Usually a reliable sharpshooter (he converted at least 41 percent of his three-pointers in each of the last four seasons), Green’s made just 35 percent of his attempts this year — the lowest since his rookie year.
Provided that Green hasn’t added much in terms of rebounds, assists or steals, the dips in his shooting percentages have really hindered his fantasy value. San Antonio has still been one of the strongest teams in the NBA despite Green’s struggles, but it would be ideal if he could shake this shooting slump in time for the playoffs.
Dishonorable Mentions: Derrick Rose, Ty Lawson
Stud Forward: Jae Crowder, Celtics
Preseason Ranking: 132
Current Ranking: 23
The maturation of Crowder not only pegs him as one of fantasy basketball’s biggest surprises, but also puts him in the conversation to win the league’s Most Improved Player award.
Even though he wasn’t playing as many minutes as he would in each following month of the regular season, Crowder averaged 2.3 steals per contest through November. That stat alone was enough for fantasy owners to give him a look, and he’s since blossomed into a complete two-way player.
As of March 6, the former second-round pick is averaging career highs via 14.5 points and 5.2 rebounds (all while sinking a career-best 35.1 percent of his threes). In addition to acting a glue guy on a number of fantasy teams, Crowder has been a catalyst for coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics — who currently sit No. 3 in the Eastern Conference standings.
Honorable Mentions: Marvin Williams, Will Barton
Dud Forward: Markieff Morris
Preseason Ranking: 97
Current Ranking: 228
After the Phoenix Suns took a risk by trading a package including Marcus Morris to the Detroit Pistons to free up cap space in the pursuit of free-agent big man LaMarcus Aldridge — a transaction that didn’t come to fruition — Markieff Morris did not hide his displeasure.
“Keef” took to Twitter back in September to say his future would not be in Phoenix. From there, he played the worst basketball of his career, shooting a career-low 39.7 percent from the field and career-worst 28.9 percent from beyond the arc while in the desert.
As the visualization above shows, Morris hasn’t converted at a league-average clip from anywhere on the court this season. He was mercifully traded to the Washington Wizards at the deadline, but the change of scenery hasn’t yet helped his fortunes. In 10 games played for the Wizards, Morris has sunk just 3-of-17 three-pointers and averages fewer points per contest than he did with Phoenix.
He chose not to fit in with the Suns by being a malcontent all season, and those frustrations carried over to his fantasy owners — well, those who opted not to drop him for better options.
Dishonorable Mention: Serge Ibaka, Kobe Bryant
Stud Center: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Preseason Ranking: 220
Current Ranking: 79
Karl-Anthony Towns has positioned himself as the heavy favorite to take home Rookie of the Year honors at season’s end. Kristaps Porzingis has also gained plenty of notoriety while winning over the New York Knicks’ rabid fan base. But while those two rookies have led their peers by racking up double-doubles (they rank first and second, respectively, in that category among rookies), another first-year player has shattered expectations: Nikola Jokic.
Though Jokic hasn’t been handed quite as a big a role from the get-go compared to Towns and Porzingis, his player efficiency rating (PER) ranks No. 22 in the entire league. That’s ahead of All-Stars like Jimmy Butler, John Wall and Draymond Green.
Honorable Mentions: Kristaps Porzingis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zaza Pachulia
Dud Center: Tyson Chandler, Suns
Preseason Ranking: 73
Current Ranking: 208
During the offseason, the Suns’ front office inked Tyson Chandler to a four-year, $52 million deal with hopes he could provide a veteran presence and anchor the team’s defense. Fast-forward to March, and the signing is really difficult to defend.
Chandler has looked like a sieve defensively for the Suns. He’s averaging just 0.6 blocks per game (the first time he’s averaged less than a block per contest in his career). Additionally, Suns opponents score more points per 100 possessions at a more efficient clip when Chandler plays.
Considering the 7-foot-1 skyscraper has held the team back in a big way on offense as well, that’s not a good precursor to the rest of his contract.
Alex Len (averaging 20.3 points and 13.3 rebounds in March) proved to be a much better fantasy option throughout the season. Drafting Chandler with hopes of him at least grabbing double-digit rebounds and blocking plenty of shots backfired on fantasy owners.
Dishonorable Mentions: Meyers Leonard, Dwight Howard
Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that's part of the Graphiq network. PointAfter is a platform for shot charts, scatterplots and other data visualizations about NBA players, NFL teams and dozens of other topics.