Top 10 Fantasy Old Guys

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Matt Stroup
·9 min read
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I read a phenomenal story about Jamal Crawford a few years ago, written by Chris Ballard, entitled Last of the Ballers. In it, Ballard detailed one of Crawford’s go-to phrases, which is this:

“Shape has no age.”

I’ve spent about three years pondering that one, and I thought about it again on Friday morning, when I awakened to find the following players on the NBA home page of the NBC Sports Edge site:

LeBron James, Chris Paul, Steph Curry.

Granted, the CP3 image was from something I wrote, but you get the idea: As much as some of us fear players in their early/mid-30s when it comes to fantasy, it’s a great time to be old in the NBA.

Today, a look at the top-10 fantasy old guys.

(Note: To qualify for this list, you must be 32 years of age or older. Arbitrary? Somewhat, but James Harden, Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan are all 31, and I still don’t think of them as all that old, so that’s the guideline I’m going with.)

1. Steph Curry

Age: 32 (turns 33 in March) / 9-category ranking (per BasketballMonster.com): 5th overall

There’s no way to prove what only playing five games last season may have done for Steph’s longevity, but he sure as hell looks rejuvenated this year. Currently averaging 30.0 ppg, second only to Bradley Beal — and just one decimal behind his career high of 30.1 ppg — Curry has been his typical dominant self with 5.3 rpg, 6.0 apg, 1.2 spg and 5.0 3s. He’s also averaging an obscene 35.0 ppg and 6.2 3s through his first nine games of February. Barring something unforeseen, it’s all over at the top old-guy spot.

2. Kevin Durant

Age: 32 / 9-category ranking: 9th overall (currently OUT with a hamstring injury)

It’s a little bit worrisome that KD is injured, and the latest reports indicate that Brooklyn is (understandably) going to be quite cautious with this hammy issue. However, there is absolutely zero doubt that Durant still has the juice when his legs are underneath him. For the season, he’s averaging 29.0 ppg, which would be his highest number since 2013-14 with OKC, and he’s kicking in 7.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 0.7 spg, 1.4 bpg and 2.6 3s, shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 86.9 from the line. One more absurd fact before we move on: Durant hasn’t shot below 50 percent from the field since 2012. That is all.

3. Chris Paul

Age: 35 / 9-category ranking: 25th overall

I’ve done this before, but not yet this season, so let’s dial it up again. Here are Chris Paul’s finishes in 9-category leagues since he came into the NBA in 1978:

17th, 20th, 1st, 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 21st, 14th, 25th (this year)

For the season, he’s putting up a flawless all-around stat line of 17.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 8.2 apg, 1.2 spg and 1.5 3s, shooting 48.9 percent from the field and a league-leading/career-best 97.2 from the line (69-for-71). He’s also been getting better as the season goes on. First 14 games: 13.3 ppg. Last 12 games: 21.8 ppg.

4. LeBron James

Age: 36 / 9-category ranking: 33rd

Not surprisingly, LeBron began this season putting up something slightly less than vintage numbers: 23.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.5 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.3 bpg and 2.4 3s in his first 15 games. The defensive stats in particular were lagging, and that area of the switchboard has come to life recently, with LBJ (who passed 35k points on Thursday) averaging 1.2 spg and 0.7 bpg in his last 15 games, including 28.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 8.3 apg and 2.5 3s. He’s been 18th overall during that 18-game stretch, and appears to have a very real shot at returning top-20 value before it’s all said and done this year.

5. Kyle Lowry

Age: 34 (turns 35 in March) / 9-category ranking: 50th (currently OUT with a thumb injury)

Aside from injuries — and he’s currently injured again — there’s been very little to slow down Lowry in recent seasons, as he’s averaging 17.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 6.4 apg, 1.2 spg and 2.8 3s, while also shooting 45.2 percent from the floor — the second-best of his career.

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6. Mike Conley

Age: 33 / 9-category ranking: 56th (OUT with a hamstring / was questionable for Friday as of this writing)

Conley was really frustrating in his first season with the Jazz last year, posting just 14.4 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.2 3s and a career-worst 0.8 spg while shooting 40.9 percent from the field. He also missed 25 games.

He was good in the playoffs though (19.8 ppg), and it has carried over to this season, as Conley is posting 16.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.4 spg and 2.8 3s. In a recurring theme with some of the players on this list, he has been injured lately, but it wouldn’t be a top 10 list of old guys if we didn’t have a bunch of missed games.

7. Al Horford

Age: 52 34 / 9-category ranking: 53rd

Al missed six games in January due to the birth of a child (classic old guy move), and he hasn’t been playing in back-to-backs for OKC (also vintage old guy material). However, he has been on quite the heater when on the hardwood lately, averaging 17.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.9 bpg and 2.5 3s in his last 10 games. I will say he has gone three consecutive games without a steal or a block, so it’s feeling a little bit like his hot streak is starting to fade. Either way, when on the court, he should be at worst a solid mid-round player moving forward.

8. Brook Lopez

Age: 32 (turns 33 in April) / 9-category ranking: 90th

Having Lopez on a roster has been terribly frustrating on a game-to-game basis — he had 23 points and two points in back-to-back games last weekend, as just one example — but there’s no denying his net production in two areas: blocks (1.3) and 3s (1.6). He will likely be contributing in both categories until the age of 48.

9. Nicolas Batum

Age: 32 / 9-category ranking: 57th (questionable for Friday as of this writing due to a concussion)

I’ll be honest, I don’t really like Batum that much as a fantasy option. Yes, he’s averaging 1.4 spg and 2.1 3s, which is useful, but there’s very little value in the rest of his stat line. Outside of those numbers I mentioned, he’s posting 9.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.3 apg and 0.4 bpg. None of those stands out. His percentages are good (49.2 / 86.7), but he only shoots about seven times a game and rarely ever gets to the line. His relatively high ranking seems to be partially a product of the fact that he doesn’t miss a lot of shots and rarely turns it over, so he’s more a fantasy player who doesn’t hurt you than one who actively does a lot to help you. Since it’s actually pretty easy to find guys who average 2.0+ 3s these days, I consider Batum mostly a steals specialist. Basically, this was all a long-winded way of saying that he’s fine if he’s on your roster, but you won’t find him on any of my teams because he — unlike the rest of the old guys listed above — bores me beyond belief.

It was inevitable that we’d get here: The list of old guys has gotten boring. Honestly, I’m surprised it took this long.

10. Thaddeus Young

Age: 32 / 9-category ranking: 87th

The Bulls have been without injury-prone young guys Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. (who has since returned) for a span of 13 games. During that time, durable old guy Thaddeus Young has averaged 11.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.8 spg and 0.5 bpg. The only reason I don’t have him above the impossibly boring Batum is that he’s only likely to maintain value for as long as Markkanen (shoulder) remains out.

11. Eric Gordon

(I was supposed to do just 10 names but I lost count. Also, the theme here is longevity so we might as well add one more than we expected.)

Age: 32 / 9-category ranking: 109th

How’s this for a renaissance? Gordon (18.7 ppg) is putting up his highest scoring average in a decade, while adding in 2.7 3s. We know at this point that he’s not going to do much of anything outside of those areas, as he’s posting just 2.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.5 spg and 0.5 bpg. But that’s fine. At this point, I’d take Gordon’s difference-making numbers in points over the marginal upgrade Batum provides in steals. And I didn’t really intend for this column to turn into a sustained barrage against Nicolas Batum’s fantasy value, but here we are.

OMITTED: LaMarcus Aldridge

Age: 35 / 9-category ranking: 127th (currently out with a hip injury)

This one hurts. Alridge looked pretty ageless last season while averaging a career-best 1.6 bpg and 1.2 3s, but he has shown major signs of fading this year with a career-low 4.3 rpg, along with 14.1 ppg, the second-worst mark of his career. He has still gotten 0.9 bpg and 1.3 3s, so there’s a little glimmer of hope for a run once he’s healthy, but I think it’s fair to wonder if the end is near for Aldridge. And for this column.

If you want to hear more about some recent fantasy hoops trends, including Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Edwards and Kyle Anderson, check out the latest episode of the podcast below: