NBA Roundtable: Fantasy Lessons Learned, Best and Worst Values + Finals and MVP Picks

NBA Roundtable: Fantasy Lessons Learned, Best and Worst Values + Finals and MVP Picks

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

Welcome to the latest edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. With less than a month remaining in the regular season, and with the benefit of hindsight, our panel of experts takes a look back at the players ho've most helped -- or hurt -- their fantasy teams this season. The guys also weigh in on fantasy lessons learned, as well as the MVP and NBA title races.

Which players ended up being your best value picks or waiver wire additions of the season?

James Anderson: Desmond Bane, Cameron Johnson, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Seth Curry

Alex Barutha: I didn't have any amazing waiver wire pickups, but I was able to get DeMar DeRozan in two salary cap drafts for a bargain, and I spent $0 to get Jalen Brunson in the RotoWire Keeper League during the overflow draft.

Nick Whalen: Dejounte Murray emerging as a first-round value paid huge dividends for me in the RotoWire Staff Keeper League, where I have him as just an $8 player. Elsewhere, Pascal Siakam proved to be worth the wait after the entered the season sidelined by an injury. Over the last three months (roughly 35 games), he's been a top-15 player in 8-cat total value.

In one league (10-team, H2H roto), I was able to land Siakam (54th pick), Darius Garland (74th) and Tyler Herro (87th) in the sixth round or later before grabbing Miles Bridges off waivers in Week 1.

Mike Barner: One of my best waiver wire adds was Ayo Dosunmu. Over 25 games since becoming a full-time starter, he's averaged 11.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 three-pointers, while shooting 53.4 percent from the field. I never thought he'd even be on my radar at any point this season, but he's proven to be a valuable addition. In terms of late-round picks, I've been very happy with Reggie Jackson. His shooting percentage stinks, but he's averaged 17.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.3 three-pointers, while also not killing me in turnovers.

Jeff Edgerton: Kyle Kuzma, without question. I got him for $5 in my primary league ($200 cap), and all he did was out up monster lines nightly. I also picked up Jakob Poeltl in the same league for $2.

Henry Weinberg: Jalen Brunson. He's averaged 19.9 points, 7.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 16 games without Luka Doncic this season. Advanced metrics love him and he's going to earn a big contract this offseason. He still sees a ton of usage even when Doncic is healthy, so his fantasy floor is awesome. Snagging him from the wire as one of my first moves this season is memorable. 

Tyrese Maxey also has to be mentioned. He's vastly outperformed his ADP and is rising faster than most anticipated. Not too long ago he was the "temporary" fill-in for Ben Simmons, splitting some work with Shake Milton. His stock has surged.

Gabe Allen: My best value picks were Jrue Holiday (as always), Bobby Portis, Tyrese Maxey and Seth Curry. My best pickups: Desmond Bane, Josh Hart, Anfernee Simons and Herbert Jones.

Paul Martinez: I grabbed Kevin Love at the end of many fantasy drafts despite substantial red flags, and he's provided good value throughout the campaign thanks to a surprisingly competitive Cavs team and (even more surprisingly) mostly good health. I'm also proud of having jumped on the Tyrese Maxey train early. He's been a stud all season long and appears capable of continuing to put up solid numbers even with Philadelphia's acquisition of James Harden.

Which players ended up being your biggest disappointments?

James Anderson: It has to be Jaden McDaniels and Jalen Green, just given how bullish I was on them preseason. I was also WAY too high on Richaun Holmes and Isaiah Stewart.

Alex Barutha: Devonte' Graham didn't live up to my expectations, and he's down bad right now with the Pelicans -- though I suppose the Pels are the one in trouble since they gave him $47 million to average 13 points and 4 assists on 36% FG. Chuma Okeke and Thaddeus Young also burned me in a couple leagues, but it's not like I had much invested into them.

Nick Whalen: Immediately after making the pick, I regretted taking Shai Gilgeous-Alexander over LeBron James in my NFBKC league. SGA has had himself a fine season, but missing out on LeBron's fantasy renaissance at age 37 will haunt me all offseason. Had I taken LeBron -- and had Myles Turner stayed healthy -- I would've liked my chances to win the league. Instead, I've been fighting to claw my way into the top-three all season. 

Mike Barner: I was very high on Larry Nance Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Even when he was healthy, Nance wasn't productive. Alexander-Walker ended up being relegated to the bench with the Pelicans, and now he barely plays with the Jazz. Cue the sad trombone.

Jeff Edgerton:  I allowed Giannis and other stars to go by me, so I made a panic buy for LeBron and overspent on James Harden. Although my roster got me to the playoffs, I wish I had been a bit smarter with my spend-up picks.

Henry Weinberg: I liked Nickeil Alexander-Walker preseason, especially assuming that Zion Williamson's timeline would be delayed. Zion missing the whole fantasy season is extreme, but Alexander-Walker didn't pan out regardless. Efficiency has been a major issue and his three-point shot has never developed. I hope he gets a chance to develop in Utah. 

Gabe Allen: Draymond Green, OG Anunoby and Richaun Holmes. Green and Anunoby mostly due to injuries. Holmes was easily the biggest disappointment.

Paul Martinez:  I mentioned here and elsewhere my enthusiasm for Devonte' Graham entering the season. I deserve to eat my words. Graham has been given plenty of opportunity in New Orleans but has been a disaster. Since the start of February, he's made less than a third of his shot attempts and is dishing less than four assists per game despite continuing to get minutes in the mid-20s. I dropped him everywhere when he lost his starting job, and I've had no regrets aside from the realization that I shouldn't have waited that long.

What is one lesson you learned this year that you'll apply to the 2022-23 fantasy season?

James Anderson: Paying big at center is probably the way to go. I learn this every year, but I'm way better at finding discount guards than discount forwards, so really targeting big men early will be my plan next year.

Alex Barutha: At least for salary cap leagues, I'll continue avoiding stars and try to put together a complete team of very good players. That's led to success in recent years. I also think being aggressive in FAAB is important, since most people end up with money left over at the end of the season. Don't be afraid to overpay 50% compared to what you want to pay.

Nick Whalen: In salary cap leagues, it's usually worth it to pay up for the super-elite talent. Only a handful of players fit that bill, but this is now the third straight year in which I look back and wish I would've just shelled out the extra $3-to-$5 to make a run at Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns or even Giannis Antetokounmpo

Mike Barner: I want to continue to target forwards that I like early in drafts. I started doing that more this season, but want to make sure I focus on that again. I can generally find significantly more guards that I am comfortable drafting, but quality forward depth can be difficult to accumulate, especially on some platforms that are more strict in handing out position eligibility to players.

Jeff Edgerton: It's the same lesson I re-teach myself every year: always look at your DFS lineups before lock.

Henry Weinberg: It's still a player's world. Ben Simmons was going to get what he wanted. All shareholders had him available at a discounted rate throughout the season. Likely right up until the deadline. He would have been worth any buy-low cost — never got a deal. Simmons' payoff down the stretch looks tantalizing.

Gabe Allen: As far as salary cap drafts go, this year convinced me that if you're confident in your ability to identify under-the-radar breakout players and long-term waiver wire pickups, dedicating a substantial portion of your draft budget to established stars is a wise move.

Paul Martinez: Don't hang onto marginal players too long hoping they'll bounce back from a rough patch. I've passed on chances to pick up a hot waiver-wire add multiple times because I didn't want to drop a struggling-but-previously-productive player. In almost every instance, it proved to be a bad choice.

With less than one month remaining in the regular season, which player would get your MVP vote?

James Anderson: Nikola Jokic. Giannis and Embiid are having MVP-caliber seasons, but Jokic is carrying a really rough cast of characters to playoff relevance, and the advanced stats all point to Jokic having the most valuable season.

Alex Barutha: Nikola Jokic. I do think it's neck-and-neck between him and Embiid, but the lack of help Jokic has around him matters, and the 76ers and Nuggets have the same number of wins. The advanced stats also play in Jokic's favor, but Embiid is clearly the better defender. A lot of it for voters will come down to voter fatigue, passing vs. defense, and how much teammates should factor in.

Nick Whalen: It's really close. I can't remember the last time I haven't felt like I knew who was going to win the MVP with less than a month left in the regular season. It feels like the momentum has swung in Joel Embiid's favor, but it's hard to say why. Philadelphia and Denver have the same number of wins, but Embiid has had a significantly better supporting cast than Nikola Jokic -- especially since the addition of James Harden. If I'm casting a vote, it would be for Jokic. But I wouldn't view it as an injustice if Embiid ends up taking home the award.

Mike Barner: As a Bulls fan, I want to say DeMar DeRozan. However, I won't be a homer and I'll go with Joel Embiid. The Sixers were in rough shape for most of the season with Ben Simmons out, and he stepped up to carry the team. He hasn't slowed down with James Harden in the picture, either. To me, it's Embiid or Nikola Jokic, but I'll give the edge to Embiid.

Jeff Edgerton: It all depends on  how one defines "valuable." Considering Embiid is warranted, because the Sixers would be exponentially worse without him, especially this season.

If that's how you choose to define valuable, he's the obvious choice. If you're just looking at nightly stat lines, you would also have to consider Jokic and Giannis.

Henry Weinberg: Crown Jokic! Voter fatigue and recency bias are the only reasons Jokic isn't the consensus favorite. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid have both been great, but there is no more valuable player than Jokic. Every facet of his team's success is made possible by him.

Gabe Allen: While Embiid, Jokic and Giannis have all been exceptional, I'm not sure any of them are exceeding my lofty expectations. I can't fault anyone for picking one of those three guys. But my vote goes to Ja Morant. No one (that I know of) was expecting the Grizzlies to be title contenders, but here they are knocking on the door, way ahead of schedule.

Paul Martinez:  It has to be Nikola Jokic, right? All respect to Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ja Morant, DeMar DeRozan and a few others stars putting up tremendous seasons, but Jokic just seems to be in another class right now.

Taking value into account, which team would you bet $100 on to win the title right now?

Odds via the DraftKings Sportsbook

James Anderson: The Bucks at +750. Homer alert, but even so, they've been arguably the best team in the league when they've had their preferred rotation players on the court. They also have three proven playoff performers in their big three, all of whom can get a late-game bucket or make a big play on defense to swing the game. 

Alex Barutha: The 76ers at +650. Harden and Embiid have looked amazing (small sample against questionable competition, but +29.4 net rating in 262 possessions). Even if they were surrounded by nobodies, they'd be a shot to win the title since the pair has the upside to be the best pick-and-roll/pop combo of all time. But they're surrounded by nice role players like Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris (who is great as a 4th option), plus Matisse Thybulle, Danny Green and Georges Niang are quality depth pieces as well.

Harden's playoff struggles matter, and I'm not dismissing them, but having Embiid's post game as a secondary offensive option is an unbelievable luxury.

Nick Whalen: On paper at least, the Suns have the clearest path to the Finals, and you're still getting decent value at +380. Milwaukee at +750 is also a steal, depending on how the seeding in the East ends up shaking out. But if I'm swinging for the fences, I'd consider tossing $100 on Denver at +3000. It's a high-risk/high-reward proposition, but with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. reportedly on their way back soon, Denver could be significantly more dangerous. 

Mike Barner: I'll go with the favorites in the Suns (+380). Let's face it, the Eastern Conference is going to be a slugfest. I wouldn't be shocked if the Nets, Sixers, Bucks, Celtics or Bulls (assuming a healthy Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams) made it to The Finals. The path through the Western Conference looks easier, and the Suns have built up incredible depth at just about every position. They are going to be tough to beat.

Jeff Edgerton: Over the next month, the Sixers (+650) are going to perfect the new scheme with Harden, and they'll be incredibly tough to beat. I plan on locking them in, with offsetting bets for the Suns and Heat. If Paul George returns, the Clippers will be on my radar.

Henry Weinberg: The Suns -- because they are going to win the title. I guess now would be wise to consider Golden State (+450) because Draymond Green is an annually underrated difference-maker. Although Phoenix at +380 isn't anything to write home about, there's value in confidence. The Suns have been the league's best team all year and injury woes haven't stopped them yet.

Gabe Allen: I like Milwaukee at +800. Saturday night's loss at Golden State was a setback, but prior to that they'd won six straight games and seemed to be hitting their stride. Milwaukee has flown under the radar this season, but if they get Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton back in time for the playoffs I think they have both the depth and top-end talent to repeat.

Paul Martinez: It pains me to say this as a Lakers fan, but at those odds, give me the Celtics (+2200). Momentum means a lot, and Boston has been the hottest team in the league for well over a month. They're playing great defense and have plenty of star power in the 1-2 punch of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

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Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A two-time FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM alongside Jeff Erickson. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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