There’s always debate about players and never is that debate greater in fantasy than when discussing rankings. I recently released the first Red Rock 150, and got a bit of feedback about a few of the players and where I had positioned them. So that gave me an idea and The Case For was born.
As is fairly obvious from the title of the series, what I’ll be doing in these pieces is putting forward the case for why a certain player will be able to exceed expectations next season in fantasy.
First off the bat, one of the most talked about players in the NBA at the moment, with talks of contract extensions and offering the max as well as a player I received the most derision on in my rankings — Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There’s little question that Kyrie Irving is one of the most electrifying, young players in the NBA. But there’s also no arguing that he has had trouble staying healthy in his three year NBA career. The most games Irving has managed was this season, when he played 71 out of 82 games. In his rookie season, he played 51 out of 66 (lockout shortened season) and then backed it up for 59 out of 82 in his sophomore campaign.
Missing games kills fantasy teams and that has been Irving’s biggest drawback. He was a consensus first-round pick in the preseason and the fact that at the end of the November, he was ranked 91st, left a really sour taste in people’s’ mouths.
But luckily for Kyrie, the season runs for more than one month and after that disastrous start, Irving finished up as the 24th ranked player. He did regress slightly from his second season, only setting a career high in assists, while regressing in most other categories.
At the end of 2012-13, Irving was the ninth ranked player on a per game basis and lead to the preseason hype of him being a consensus first rounder. A good thing to take from his third season is that he was able to improve his free throw shooting and cut down on his turnovers and increase his assists.
The biggest issues in his performance, apart from the injuries, was the drop in field goal percentage from 45 percent to 43 percent and his drop in scoring from 22.5 to 20.8. If he can get his field goal percentage back to that range and continue to improve his facilitating, Irving has a chance to crack the top 10 again.
I have Irving ranked 15th in the Red Rock 150, one spot ahead of John Wall, which caused a lot of consternation. While Wall did have a break out year and made his first All-Star Game, Irving actually outperformed Wall on a per game basis this season, fantasy-wise.
One of the reasons for my higher than usual ranking on Irving is the way he finished the season. He returned from his injury with seven games to go in the season, and although his only scored over 20 once (a 44 point explosion), his stats ranked him 16th over that time frame. He looked extra locked in on defense, averaging 2.7 steals in those seven games and only turned the ball over 2.1 times.
Another reason for optimism for Irving is the addition of the number one overall pick and the expected improvement from last year’s number one, Anthony Bennett. Having two super talented players will take the pressure off Irving, allow him to increase his assists and hopefully increase his field goal percentage by allowing him to settle for better looks and not forcing things as the only force on the team.
Irving probably has as much potential as anyone in the top 20, except for Anthony Davis and could easily find himself sitting at number eight or nine come April 2015. I’d be very comfortable grabbing Irving anywhere in the second round and if you pair him with the right players, your team will be very hard to beat. Just remember that I was on the bandwagon early.