Week 15 Matchup Rankings
This weekly ranking is based on opponents’ points given up per possession based on pace.
Why Usage Matters
Last year during the finals, Lebron James put the whole Cavaliers franchise on his back and willed his way to two wins over a historically great team. His averages over those six games were 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks. Few players in league history can boast such an accomplishment. So why is Lebron the 11th best player in fantasy this year? During those finals, Lebron hit historic usage rates at 40.8% and 45.7 MPG. This season Lebron is back to slightly below his average at 31.5% at 35.7 MPG. Why has Westbrook gone from great to amazing? He leads the league in usage last and this year.
So you are saying, “Yeah. More playing time, more possessions, and greater usage rates mean more fantasy value, thanks genius.” Well I’d say, “Back off, this is a free column.” Also, there is a reason I’m bringing this up. Because we are now entering Trade Season!
More often than not, the trade deadline is anti-climactic, but this is a strange year. Teams looking to off-load bad contracts, other teams needing to add salary to escape penalties from salary floor, multiple teams barreling towards the repeater tax, and most importantly almost the entire league looking at their roster and saying, “Well, we can’t beat the Warriors, so what needs to happen to blow this team up?”
When looking at trades, understanding playing time and usage rate are incredibly important. The way I analyze usage rate is to consider usage rate as a player’s full potential. For instance, CJ McCollum has the 23rdhighest usage rate at 26.6%. His usage rate goes up when Dame is out, but this is theoretically near the highest percentile for McCollum if you were to insert him into any other situation. If he suddenly ended up on the Suns, he probably resumes his current role. If you insert him on to the Cavs, you might think, “Holy crap, CJ is going to get wild out on such a great team.” Well, there is no chance with Lebron (31.5%), Kyrie (29.9%) and Love (23.1), that CJ will continue to keep his level of productivity similar to his role as duel ball-handler and scorer on the Blazers. His usage rate, and possession will decrease which normally speaks to a decline in fantasy value.
But usage rate doesn’t live in a vacuum. Efficiency is also a key factor. In the case of CJ to the Cavs, his scoring and assists would go down due to a decrease in usage, but Kyrie and Lebron would allow a lesser defender to guard CJ, and he would be more open on the perimeter, so a jump in FG% and 3-pointers would be impressive (as he is already at 2.4/game).
Every decent to major trade rumor should be considered, especially if your team is crapping about at the bottom of your league. Usage is a great gage of a player’s maximum productivity. Use it as a gage on whether you need to buy low or sell high, but don’t limit each player to just usage. Every season, random guys appear out of nowhere to swing leagues, so don’t stop paying attention.
What to Watch This Week
Cleveland vs Indiana
The Cavs have played at a higher place since Lebron got Blatt fired. Hilariously, Blatt is the one who wanted to run a higher tempo offense. Love has seen a bump in production with this new tempo but Kyrie is still playing his way back into shape. The Pacers’ ability to play small ball and history versus Lebron should lead to an interesting game. Myles Turner was hindered by the return of Mahinmi, but not to the extent that no longer makes him fantasy relevant. Even with limited minutes, Turner is a standard league value.
Miami vs Houston
I’m not sure the return of Dragic has anyone excited. Expecting less production from other players to allow Dragic to continue his mediocre run is not ideal, but owners of Dragic (if there are any) can only hope that a decent run from him will get him traded to a team that doesn’t have another ball-dominant guard and lane-clogging center (PHX would work…) Houston has seen an explosion from Ariza and Beverley over the last few weeks, not sure they can continue this run, but worth taking a run at Beverley if he is still available.
Orlando vs OKC
Orlando has really fallen off recently. Maybe due to a lack of a consistent rotation or playing some of their best players off the bench. Maybe that’s a horrible idea to gain team cohesiveness half way through the season! All this says to me is any trades, injuries or changes to Orlando could suddenly boost a few players into standard league value. Keep an eye out on this team, this is a prime buy-low time.
New York vs Detroit
Langston Galloway is putting a decent string of games in, but don’t expect him to turn your season around. Keep riding the Melo/Zingis train, but without a playoff push rotations might change. Speaking of guys to watch, Aron Baynes is very intriguing at a per/36 pace, but not sure his usage or minutes will ever bump high enough to warrant owning this year.
Chicago vs Denver
Injuries unclog Chicago’s front court. Now that Niko and Noah are out, Taj, Gasol and even Portis are seeing decent minutes. I doubt Portis gets the minutes to break out, but one more injury could mean an instant pickup for the sneaky stretch four. Stop banking on Rose, forever. Denver is doing surprisingly good things with Gary Harris in the lineup. This is killing Will Barton’s value. Owners should just pray for a trade so they can move on. Jokic is a must own if percentages are important to you.
Washington vs Charlotte
Beal is back in Washington but for how long? I’m moving him the second he puts together a 6 game hot stretch. A return that I’m actually interest in is on the Charlotte side. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has returned and has looked surprisingly good. Pick him in all leagues in case he pans out. Hopefully his value increase with the return of Batum, but they could also negate each other.
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