The NBA season is only a week away, which means that we're deep in the heart of the fantasy basketball preparation period. These next few days are when the vast majority of drafts take place or when managers put the finishing touches on their rosters through trades and waiver wire pickups.
If you're a fantasy hoopster and a Toronto Raptors fan, you should be aware of the risks associated with mixing fandom and fake sports. If you're not careful, you could very well end up falling victim to one of the biggest pitfalls in the game this draft season:
Having a rooting interest in sports can often be someone's downfall in fantasy. We tend to overvalue guys from our favourite teams and draft them earlier than we should.
To help ease the internal struggle that comes with deciding when it's safe to make your "homer" pick without looking like a fool, we're here to analyze the draft stock of your most fantasy-friendly Raps and to help identify the ceiling of their fantasy value.
PG Kyle Lowry
Yahoo O-Rank: 23
ESPN Projection: 21
Safe "Homer" Pick: 13-15
Kyle Lowry is coming off a fantastic fantasy season, in which he finished as the 17th-ranked player in nine-category leagues (all rankings per basketballmonster.com). His current average draft position (ADP) has him going near the end of the second round, but you can secure him at the beginning of it if you have the pick to do so.
Lowry flirted with first-round value in three different months last season (all after the Rudy Gay trade) and should be in for a similar role this season. He's an elite fantasy asset in threes (2.4), assists (7.4), and steals (1.5), while giving you solid production in points (17.9) and free throw percentage (81.3%). He also throws in high rebounding (4.7) and low turnovers (2.5) for a point guard and should be an entrenched fantasy starter this season.
SG/SF DeMar DeRozan
Yahoo O-Rank: 43
ESPN Projection: 52
Safe "Homer" Pick: 35-40
DeMar DeRozan made the leap last year to become an All-Star and his fantasy stock followed suit. He averaged career highs in points (22.7), threes (0.8), rebounds (4.3), assists (4.0), and steals (1.1), while shooting a very valuable 82.4% from the line on a robust eight attempts per contest. His fantasy owners certainly reaped the benefits of his 56th-ranked finish after taking him just around the 100 mark in drafts.
This year, his price is understandably higher, but he's still affordable if you think last year's ceiling can be the norm. He had three straight months from January to March where he was in the 30 to 40 range in terms of overall value. Throw in what is likely to be continued growth at only 25 years of age and DeRozan is a solid middle-round pick.
C Jonas Valanciunas
Yahoo O-Rank: 68
ESPN Projection: 71
Safe "Homer" Pick: 45-50
If this is the year that Jonas Valanciunas puts it all together and has the breakout we've all been waiting for, he'll be well worth reaching for in the middle rounds. Over the last two months of last season, JV averaged 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game, while shooting 59.3% from the field and 80.6% from the line. That was good enough to be the 45th-ranked fantasy player over that period.
After a great playoffs and an impressive showing at the FIBA World Cup this summer, the Raptors might be ready to feed the ball to the big guy a lot more this year. He gives you the usual big-man stats like points, rebounds, blocks, and a good field goal percentage, but also keeps your free throw percentage in a good place. He has the potential to crush his ADP and become a top fantasy center this year, so don't sleep on him.
PF/C Amir Johnson
Yahoo O-Rank: 103
ESPN Projection: 123
Safe "Homer" Pick: 75-80
If you swing and miss on the Raptors' "Big Three" of fantasy assets in your draft, Amir Johnson makes for a solid late-round pick to satisfy your homerism. If he remains healthy and continues to stave off Patrick Patterson for the role of starting power forward, a repeat of last season's 10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and mere 1.6 turnovers per contest should be well within reach.
That baseline would make Amir a value combo in the 100-plus range and one that you could easily justify taking a little sooner, if you so desire. He's a career 57.3% shooter from the floor as well and that has helped him crack top-100 value in three of the last four seasons, including a 46th-ranked finish in 2012-13.
Terrence Ross is an interesting final-round flier if you get to the end of your draft and still don't have a Raptor. He could be in for a breakout at age 23 and does have a 51-point game on his résumé. That said, with so much of the offensive focus being on Lowry, DeRozan, and Valanciunas, Ross will probably end up being nothing more than a three-point specialist in fantasy again this year. Temper expectations.
Remaining rotation guys like Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams, and James Johnson will likely fall outside of standard-league value and can safely be left undrafted for now. They are interesting players in deep leagues and are worth following in case a starter suffers an injury, but nothing more.
Everyone else on the roster can be left alone outside of the deepest of fantasy leagues and probably won't even warrant an add to your watch list in standard formats anytime soon.
Yes, even Bruno Caboclo (unless you're in a deep keeper league and thinking about two years from two years from now).
If you have any further questions about fantasy basketball - such as how your league's unique settings might affect the draft stock of the various Raptors or what constitutes a fair trade package for one - hit me up in the comment section.