As a fantasy basketball analyst, the end of the regular season presents an opportunity to evaluate pre-season predictions. Trying to predict what will happen in a long and difficult NBA season can be challenging, especially when it's filled with so much variation. From uncertainties surrounding player injuries to unexpected absences thanks to load management — and, let's not forget the midseason trades that shook up the basketball landscape along the way.
The moral of the story is that fantasy basketball is a grind. However, it's worth revisiting where I found success — or, you know, completely whining over my projections from earlier this year.
This two-part series dives into my process of evaluating players based on per-game value—which takes into account a range of results throughout the season when deciding how to rank players before the draft gets underway. .
Looking at history and taking into account health, roles played and schedules, my approach puts on-court productivity above all else. Since I kicked things off last week with my hits, let's dive into the predictions I got wrong for the '22-23 fantasy basketball season.
Grizzlies Frontcourt Forecast
It was all bad – starting with the rankings Jaron Jackson Jr. (You know, 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year) 100th overall.
That decision made some similar moves believing santi aldama And brandon clark Will outperform his ADP and be a steal in the later rounds of the draft. It certainly didn't end there, as Aldama ended the season in 187th and Clarke in 144th.
Here was my reasoning. JJJ suffered a stress fracture in his right leg, and there is limited information as to how or when this happened. Then, at the end of June, grizzlies issued a press release stating that he would miss 4–6 months following surgery, pushing JJJ's timeline back to between October and December. Given his injury profile, I was on the pessimistic side of that recovery window, given that he missed 126 games over his first three seasons (with a 78-game season in '21-22).
The Grizzlies front office was silent on his status until a media day in late September when Grizzlies HC Taylor Jenkins stated that JJ was making good progress in his rehab update but still had no timetable for his return. It's only two weeks before my final draft rankings are done. Much to my surprise, JJJ was cleared to make its debut in mid-November; The rest was history.
Aldama and Clarke share a moment, but it's curtains for them as JJJ returns. Jackson Jr. finished the year 14th in value per game, playing in 63 games and missing only five games from November to April. I will not make the mistake of doubting him again and have already aggressively mocked him in the first round next season.
Nick Klaxon ranking outside the top 150
A colossal, colossal, ungodly blunder marking the 24-year-old Brooklyn center at No. 180 in my final rankings. I ranked him that low thinking the talent around him would typecast Claxton into a low-usage, rebounding rim protector who would only see 20 minutes per night. While this was mostly true, I greatly underestimated how quickly he would master finishing at the rim and blocking shots at a high rate relative to his teammates. It didn't matter that the Nets blew up their squad at midseason because Klaxon performed at a high level (a top-50 player) for much of the '22-23 season.
He accomplished much in his fourth NBA season, leading the league in EFG and 2-point FG percentage, as well as finishing second in the league in blocks per game (2.5). Claxton also shied away from putting up a double-double, and based on this year's numbers, he has improved year-over-year over the past four seasons. He's shaping up to be one of the best young big men in the Eastern Conference, and it's not out of the question for him to put up 15 points and 10 rebounds along with 2+ blocks per night next season.
I admitted to being the lowest on Gilgies-Alexander coming into the season as he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain just before training camp. The injury caused enough concern that it put his availability at the start of the season in doubt. As a result, his ADP fell in the fourth round in most drafts. I'm still mad at myself for not investing at least a small percentage of the stocks in the SGA over the discounted ADP.
The talent was never in question – it was the ambiguity around his durability and load management that I grappled with when compiling my rankings. Between JJJ and SGA, I don't know which one felt worse. But the days of cheaply drafting SGA are long gone, and the numbers he put up this season have him a top-5 pick heading into '23-24.
Brooke Lopez is turning back the clock
while assessing Preseason ranking of my teammates (Shout out to Matt Lawson of Fantasy Basketball International), I was pretty close to a consensus about expectations for a 15-year pro. But whenever I fall below more than 100 places in my ranking it should be flagged. López's resurgence this season was a revelation as he finished 22nd, his highest since 2015–16.
He was one of the most efficient big players shooting the ball, knocking down 53% of his shots from the field, 37% from distance, and 78% from the charity line. He also reminded the NBA that he is not to be played with, averaging more than 2 blocks per game for the fourth time in his career.
One may call him the Tower of Terror, but I would call him one of the best value picks of the '22-23 season. He'll be a free agent this summer, and with Mike Budenholzer gone, let's see if Splash Mountain rides it out with the Bucks or has his sights on a new destination.
Jalen Smith breakout? more like prison
I predicted Smith to be one of three breakout forwards/centers this year. Big Jai. Coming into the season, he did well enough last year and into the preseason to become a fixture of the Pacers' rotation.
It did not happen.
Instead, my man played less than 20 minutes per night and grew to be over 6'5″ “power forward” Aaron Nesmith, No disrespect to Nesmith because clearly, he was a better fit for the Pacers' system than Smith.
Statistically speaking, it wasn't a terrible year for Smith. He averaged 9 points along with 6 rebounds and nearly a block per game. But, because his assignments were so erratic, he could not be relied upon for more than a season of frustration, adding to waivers throughout the season. He finished outside the top 200 (223, to be exact).
I ranked him 71st. That's right, 71.
Looking at my peers, I was most bullish on that and man, do I regret it. I had too many shares of him and even waited longer than I should have miles turner business is to be done. But still, those minutes must have been mainly Isaiah Jackson,
It was all bad, and don't worry; Smith will be nowhere close to my top 100 for 2023-24, barring any wildly unexpected improvements in his game.