Why Giannis Antetokounmpo has been 2022-23's most disappointing fantasy basketball player
It's been a long and wild fantasy basketball season, filled with surprise breakouts, painful injuries and more than a few rookie disappointments. With the end of the fantasy basketball season in sight, it's time to look at who made an impact — for better or worse.
The two players I'm about to discuss were expected to be key contributors even though their ADPs couldn't have been more different. Yet, they've both fallen short of pre-draft expectations due to a variety of reasons. So buckle up and let's dive into what went wrong as we examine two of the most disappointing performers in fantasy hoops this year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Most fantasy managers instantly think of high draft picks who got hurt when it comes to designating disappointments, but injuries don't tell the full story. It's why players like Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson don't fit the bill here.
The case for Giannis Antetokounmpo's disappointing fantasy season
Can you really hate on the great Giannis Antetokounmpo?
He's put together yet another phenomenal season for the Milwaukee Bucks, propelling them to the best team in the Eastern Conference through Tuesday while also being mentioned as part of the MVP conversation (though he's unlikely to get into Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid territory).
However, when it comes to H2H fantasy value, that's where his game takes an unexpected dip. Despite having his usual physicality and skill set at play, he's delivered far from first-round production, losing his confidence at the charity stripe and failing to consistently generate steals and blocks like fantasy managers were accustomed to.
Antetokounmpo leads the league in free-throw attempts, but such prolific volume had drawbacks; he clocked four games of missing 10 or more free throws, a feat only seen once this season. Going back even further, Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan were some of only a few players to achieve this unfortunate milestone consistently over the past decade.
To top things off, Antetokounmpo's defensive stats also saw a marked decline from years before; though still formidable on D, he averaged less than 2.0 stocks per game for the first time since his second NBA season.
It's not all bad, of course — he's averaging a career-best 31.4 points per game and is still largely impactful for rebounds and FG percentage categories. But the turnovers, along with the decline in FT% and lack of stocks, have him ranked 99th in per-game value and 137th in total value because he's only played in 56 of 71 games this season — load management wins again.
BONUS: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets were one of the most frustrating teams in fantasy this season, only hosting one player in the top 100 (Alperen Sengun). I was higher than the consensus on Jalen Green in the preseason (64 versus 71, respectively). Still, Green's current standing definitely falls into the disappointing category, ranking 190th in per-game value through Tuesday. He hovered outside of the top 200 in H2H formats for most of the season, but his core numbers weren't that bad. He leads the Rockets in scoring at 21.4 points per game and improved his rebounding (3.9/g) and assists (3.5/g) from his rookie year. Where he faltered from a fantasy perspective, however, were his lack of defense stats, his turnovers and poor efficiency from the field.
The Rockets are in the bottom three in Defensive Rating this year; fittingly, Green was bottom-three on his team in Defensive Rating. He averages under a steal per game and ranks eighth on the team in deflections at 1.2 per game. Accumulating more steals is an area where fantasy managers would love to see growth heading into next season.
Going back to offense a bit, his 27.8% usage rate is an area I'm encouraged about; however, with the ball in his hands so much, he has to take better care of it. He has the second-lowest assist-to-turnover ratio as a starter this year (1.28:1), committing nearly three turnovers per night. Also, he only operates in ISO situations 11.7% of the time, often settling for inefficient jumpers or making ill-advised passes.
Some of these faults could result from Stephen Silas' maddening offensive scheme, but fantasy managers would've benefited if Green could offset those turnover woes by generating more assists. He performed better than Kevin Porter Jr. and Sengun as the pick-and-roll ball handler, so we'll see more emphasis on giving him an opportunity as a playmaker in the future.
Another concerning deficiency that gravely impacted his fantasy performance was his inefficiency from the field. Basketball Reference says 65% of his field-goal attempts come from jump shots. That'd be fine if he weren't hitting them at only a 36% clip. With Green's athleticism and above-average handle, he should be making a concerted effort to get to the rim more which results in more opportunities to score from the charity stripe, another area he's matured from his rookie year (making and attempting over 2 FTs/g more this season and at 79% rate).
There is more room for growth, but there are elements to Green's skill set that could blossom into a solid fantasy player; if he's able to cut down on the turnovers, play more aggressively on defense, take higher percentage shots and adapt into more of a playmaker than a pure scorer. We could see him live up to the lofty expectations of being a top 70 fantasy player if he can make those adjustments heading into next season.
But, between the rumors around the bad habits being formed in the locker room, the constant chatter around HC Stephen Silas not resonating with the team, the upcoming draft and the potential reunion with James Harden in the offseason, a lot can change over the next several months. But one thing is true: Green did not live up to the hype in 9-cat leagues this season.