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Player Rankings: Way-Too-Early 2017-18 Ranks

Alex Rikleen

Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living in Delaware.

The playoffs are over, the draft is almost here, and it is time to update our rankings for next season.

In addition to the playoffs, we’ve had the NBA Draft Lottery, trades, and two months worth of headlines and rumors. We didn’t learn much from lottery night, but it launched a trading spree with wide-ranging ripple effects. Rumors about dismantling the Pistons seem true and would hurt any player who leaves. The Hawks are tanking, while the Nets are making strides towards being not terrible. The head coach hiring and firing season has come and gone without a single change, and at this point, it looks unlikely that any moves will be made this offseason.

Many changes in the fantasy stock market are due to on--court performance. After his performance in Round 1 of the playoffs, Giannis Antetokounmpo moved up a lot of boards (though I already had him at first). Other players seeing their values jump are Rajon Rondo and Dejounte Murray (though he’s still outside the top 100). Most of the players whose values dropped were already outside the top 100, but a few, like Jonas Valanciunas, took a hit.

Rookies are still excluded here, though the probability of Markelle Fultz on the 76ers, as well as several other top prospects, will undoubtedly attract fantasy attention. While the lottery makes some things more clear, it’s still impossible to predict performance without knowing on which teams players will land.

As a general rule, I advise against drafting rookies. Over the past five years, only one season saw more than two rookies who were worth owning the over entire season. Their failure rate is much higher than for experienced players. If six owners draft rookies, you probably start with an advantage over five of them. Realistically, both Fultz and Ben Simmons will have average draft positions inside the top 100, as will one or two other rookies – but the research clearly advises against taking that the risk, and it’s something we’ll assess after the draft.

Rankings assume nine--category settings

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo – The playoffs confirmed what I already believed about his future.
2. James Harden -- The safest choice.
3. Stephen Curry – Durability is the only reason he’s still above Durant.
4. Kevin Durant -- The best per-minute fantasy player. Highest upside besides the Greek Freak.
5. Anthony Davis -- Boogie helps him miss fewer games.
6. Russell Westbrook -- The top is so loaded; he can't repeat 2016--17, right?
7. Karl-Anthony Towns -- Top 5 post-All-Star break and still just 22 years old.
8. Kawhi Leonard -- Stays behind Towns and Westbrook due to late-season rests. Top-3 upside.
9. Damian Lillard
10. John Wall – Playoff excellence not enough to bump him up a tier.
11. Nikola Jokic -- Top-12 per-36 after the All-Star break; 22 years old.
12. Jimmy Butler – This is his ceiling. Can’t imagine a change that closes the gap between him and Jokic
13. Paul George
14. Chris Paul – Falls if he leaves the Clippers for a better team. Rises if Clippers blow up but he stays.
15. Kyle Lowry -- Injury history is my only justification for having him this low.
16. DeMarcus Cousins
17. LeBron James -- He fell outside the top-50 in per-36 post-All-Star break.
18. Kristaps Porzingis -- There is no statistical basis for listing him higher, but I'd take him at 12.
19. Isaiah Thomas -- His value is closely tied to Celtics' moves, and most possibilities hurt him.
20. Gordon Hayward
21. Rudy Gobert
22. Draymond Green
23. Kyrie Irving – Injury risk hurts his stock. So does the likelihood of the Cavs adding better support.
24. Myles TurnerPaul George leaving would make Turner primary option.
25. Hassan Whiteside
26. C.J. McCollum -- If you think this is too low, tell me what category he improves in from 2016-17.
27. Klay Thompson – Just so consistently good.
28. DeAndre Jordan -- Forces you to punt FT%, but too good to pass up.
29. Otto Porter – Playoff struggles coincided with Kelly Oubre showing he can handle a bigger role.
30. Kemba Walker
31. Kevin Love – Giant health risk; top-15 if you think he stays healthy.
32. Joel Embiid -- Top-10 player if healthy. Trust the Process.
33. Mike Conley -- Always underrated, even here. My algorithm told me to rank him higher.
34. Marc Gasol -- Never had two healthy seasons in a row; slowed down the stretch, less reward than Embiid, Love.
35. Brook Lopez -- Moving his game outside the paint extends his career.
36. Paul Millsap -- Temporarily the only star on the Hawks; will fall back to ~40 if he joins a better team.
37. Bradley Beal
38. Al Horford -- Still only 30, last time he was outside the top-40 was 2008-09.
39. Eric Bledsoe -- Only 27, but entering eighth season with a history of knee injuries.
40. Jeff Teague -- If George is gone, he becomes best scorer on the Pacers.
41. Robert Covington -- Could lead the league in stocks (steals + blocks). Fultz diminishes his offensive load.
42. DeMar DeRozan – Stepped up without Lowry in the playoffs – a preview of next season?
43. Jrue Holiday -- Falls if he signs outside of New Orleans.
44. Khris Middleton – Rises due to good playoff performance; I was too low on him in the first place.
45. Nikola Vucevic -- Back as a full-time starting center from the jump, he should improve upon 2016-17's numbers.
46. Goran Dragic
47. Gary Harris -- Denver's wing logjam bumped him down from low 40s.
48. Trevor Ariza -- Every important member of the Rockets is under contract to return in 2017-18.
49. LaMarcus Aldridge -- Only one season removed from the top-25, but the playoffs were not encouraging.
50. Nicolas Batum -- Still only 28, fantasy rank has been similar three straight seasons
51. Blake Griffin -- Injury history; unclear what team he will play for; three consecutive seasons of decline
52. Jusuf Nurkic
53. Serge Ibaka -- No longer an elite shot-blocker, his best days are behind him.
54. Avery Bradley -- Another Celtic likely to be harmed by the offseason.
55. Jae Crowder -- There are more Celtics’ offseason scenarios that hurt him than help him. Playoffs made him seem less valuable.
56. Zach LaVine -- Hopefully the ACL injury doesn't permanently change him.
57. Gorgui Dieng -- Quietly, has posted three straight seasons ranked between 45 and 55 in 9-cat.
58. Ricky Rubio -- Been a top--0 player three of the last four seasons.
59. Tobias Harris -- The only Piston whose value is insulated from surrounding chaos (for now).
60. Carmelo Anthony -- This ranking assumes he remains a Knick.
61. Nerlens Noel -- Noel was the steal of the 2017 trade deadline, and he'll prove it.
62. Patrick Beverley -- Ranking stays where it was for now; if he goes to a worse team, his ranking gets better, and vice-versa.
63. Danilo Gallinari -- Major health risk lowers his standing.
64. Harrison Barnes -- 2016--17 ended on a rough stretch, but few players drafted this late can average 20 points.
65. Jabari Parker -- Officially an injury risk. Rises only because of Gasol and Oladipo drops.
66. Victor Oladipo -- The playoffs were a depressingly bad look on him.
67. Pau Gasol -- Still productive, but old, and Spurs tend to ease burden on the elderly.
68. T.J. Warren
69. Markieff Morris
70. Devin Booker -- High turnovers kill him in 9--cat; top-50 in 8-cat.
71. D'Angelo Russell -- The trade to the Nets provides a huge boost to his value.
72. Jeremy Lin -- Not clear yet whether D’Angelo Russell trade helps or hurts Lin.
73. George Hill -- 2016-17 was the third time he missed at least 15 games.
74. Andre Drummond -- The late season collapse is concerning. A likely trade hurts him. Stock still falling.
75. Dwyane Wade -- Rises if the Bulls trade Butler for spare parts.
76. Clint Capela
77. Andrew Wiggins -- His post-All-Star surge gives reason for confidence.
78. Elfrid Payton -- Five triple-doubles since the All-Star break highlight his upside. Magic falling on lottery night decreases the chance of them drafting an elite PG to steal Payton’s minutes.
79. Dwight Howard -- Trade to the Hornets helps, but only a little.
80. Eric Gordon
81. Jonas Valanciunas -- Several stretches below 25 minutes per game, including most of playoffs, was a concerning development.
82. Dirk Nowitzki
83. Buddy Hield -- Expect the Kings to choose their point guard specifically to complement Hield.
84. Julius Randle -- A picture is worth all the words.
85. Marvin Williams -- Poor Hornets' health propelled his renaissance season, not safe to bank on a repeat; addition of Howard hurts, but only a little.
86. Josh Richardson -- If he gets the opportunity, can be a 1--1--1 threes/steals/blocks guy
87. Evan Fournier -- Presumably the Magic add some offensive talent to distract defenses.
88. Rajon Rondo -- Which version of Rondo will 2017-18 bring? Playoff Rondo looked great.
89. James Johnson -- There is not a lot of precedent for a 30-year-old, 8-year vet having a career year.
90. Dennis Schroder -- Rises as the Hawks collapse.
91. Thaddeus Young
92. Malcolm Brogdon
93. Aaron Gordon
94. Marcin Gortat -- Did not look great in the playoffs
95. Richaun Holmes -- A healthy Embiid hurts him, but he could pass Jahlil Okafor on the depth chart.
96. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
97. Taurean Prince -- Tanking begets production for promising young players thrust into oversized roles.
98. Seth Curry -- J.J. Barea and the offseason remain as obstacles to Curry's full--time role as starting point guard.
99. Frank Kaminsky
100. Dario Saric

Narrowly missed the cut: Willie Cauley--Stein, Marcus Smart, Tyler Johnson, Nuggets wings (Will Barton, Jamal Murray, Wilson Chandler), Lou Williams

Notable exclusions: Rudy Gay, out until January 2018; Whoever becomes the Kings’ starting point guard; Rookies

Biggest risers: Dennis Schroder (+10), D’Angelo Russell (+9)

Biggest fallers: Andre Drummond (--6), Jonas Valanciunas