Which small forwards and power forwards are fantasy metronomes can you count on every single game? And which forwards are mercurial, boom-or-bust players with whom you'll need to tread carefully based on matchups, rest days and other factors? In other words, which forwards are the most and least consistent? This week's column answers those questions, extending an analysis begun last week with guards.
For a breakdown of my methodology and a look at how guards compare, click here. The key concept is the 'Consistency Index', which measures how likely a player is to hover around their fantasy-point average (based on points-league scoring from NBA.com, FanDuel & Yahoo). The 'floor' and 'ceiling' values give added context to the analysis -- the higher a player's consistency, the less relative variance you'll find between floor and ceiling. If you have any questions or insights, you can always find me on Twitter @Knaus_RW.
My final note is one I'll repeat whenever I discuss consistency: "The most consistent players aren't necessarily better, and the most volatile players aren't worse. If you're swinging for the fences in a DFS league, you might even prefer a player whose volatility will scare away other owners, in the hopes that he 'hits' that night. On the other hand, you might desire more consistent players if you're looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs in H2H and don't want to risk an off-week from your one mercurial superstar. You can't make those decisions, though, until you know which player is which."
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Giannis Antetokounmpo leads forwards in consistency, which is no surprise, and the only guard with a higher rate was LeBron James -- not exactly a traditional point guard. This is a good time to reiterate that I'm using fantasy-point values to determine consistency. I'm not even sure how I'd go about measuring consistency in 9-cat, for instance, though maybe that's a project I'll take up soon. The most critical difference when looking at these numbers is that percentages don't matter -- both Giannis and Zion Williamson would assuredly look worse if you factored in their FT% impacts.
I included Zion out of curiosity, even though he's only played in nine games this season. It's a tiny sample-size but suggests that he's already an every-night fantasy producer. His fantasy-point output has ranged from a low of 26.3 (in a blowout vs. the Cavs on Jan. 28) to a high of 50.3 (in a blowout vs. Portland on Tuesday). It's worth mentioning that his low game, vs. Cleveland, also featured his lowest usage rate (18.5%) of any game this season. Minutes and usage rate remain the ultimate predictors of fantasy success.
If you're not scared away by injury concerns, Zion looks like a fantastic points-league target next season -- in most points formats you wouldn't have to worry about his FT%. The same thing goes for punt-FT% builds in category leagues, where pairing Giannis and Zion, followed by aggressive PG/C picks in Rounds 3-6, could be a winning strategy. For the most part, though, I'm not eager to add Zion in 8-cat/9-cat based on his current 63.1% FT shooting on a whopping 7.2 attempts per game. He's not exactly lighting up the defensive categories either, at 0.8 steals and 0.3 blocks, despite that initially looking like a strength.
Some pleasant surprises emerge near the top of the consistency index. Danilo Gallinari has missed a relatively modest eight games this season, and he’s been a key factor in OKC’s march to the No. 6 seed (3.5 games behind the No. 4 seed Jazz). I have trust issues with Gallo, so it’s nice to see objective proof that he’s been really consistent – and given OKC’s lack of moves at the deadline, and current playoff trajectory, there’s no reason to think he’ll fall off after the All-Star break. And I never would have guessed that Evan Fournier or Marvin Bagley would emerge so high on this list. In the case of Fournier, he’s soldiering along as a mid-tier value (top-75 in 9-cat) without many standout performances or glaring duds. The absence of Jonathan Isaac has given him a slight boost, too. Marvin Bagley’s injuries have been the major storyline this season, so it’s hard to blame him too much, but he was pretty disappointing even when healthy, and coach Luke Walton didn’t even deign to start him. Khris Middleton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Bojan Bogdanovic and Davis Bertans have also been impressively consistent, and I’d grab Bertans if he’s still on your waiver wire. He’s ridiculously good for 3-pointers but also has higher usage and more supporting stats than your average specialist.
The most inconsistent guys are those whose roles have fluctuated throughout the season (specifically, Nov. 26 through Feb. 10). Michael Porter Jr. was barely in the rotation early but settled into an excellent groove in mid-to-late January. I'd have no compunction about grabbing him despite the seemingly wild inconsistency. Christian Wood's low placement in this analysis is irrelevant, since his role changed massively when Andre Drummond was traded at the deadline for spare parts and salary-cap relief. The same can't be said for guys like Dario Saric, Matisse Thybulle and Ersan Ilyasova, all of whom benefit sporadically from teammate injuries but have no clear-cut path to reliable rest-of-season value.
If you've been disappointed by the play of guys like OG Anunoby, Trevor Ariza, Jae Crowder, Danny Green, Harrison Barnes, Danuel House and Miles Bridges, this list should give you some solace -- they have indeed been wildly inconsistent. Of that group, the best odds for improvement go to Bridges (newly entrenched as a starting PF) and House (a versatile starter who doesn't need high usage to produce). I'm worried what happens to Anunoby once Norman Powell returns, and even without Powell this season (and Pascal Siakam for a long stretch), Anunoby failed to impress. Jae Crowder has been shockingly good in two games with Miami, too, and you might as well roll with him in the hopes that it's not a mirage.
Viewing this consistency data from the perspective of potential trades and late-season fantasy value, I'm basically avoiding anyone in the bottom half who is over 30 years old. For instance, Joe Ingles has been annoying to own and he's scored double-digit points once in the past nine games. Ingles' assists aren't compelling enough for me to target him, and he's another example of how important usage (minimal, in this case) can be for fantasy value. Marcus Morris was volatile even before he was traded to the Clippers, where I'm not convinced he can help owners on an every-night basis -- just expect random flare-ups when Kawhi Leonard or Paul George are rested.
That concludes today's column, but I'll return with the third and final installment of my consistency index next week -- we'll look at centers, plus an overview of 200+ players for every position. That's roughly 10,000 individual boxscores distilled into one analysis, so be sure to keep an eye out for my next 'Numbers Game' column. Good luck this week.