Fantasy Basketball 2015: Position Rankings and Team Names for 2015-16 NBA Season

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2015

September 28, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) addresses the media in a press conference during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

October means one thing: Basketball returns. I mean, sure, it means other things to well-adjusted humans. Some folks like Halloween or fall foliage or may even prefer the winter sport played on an actual winter surface.

As for basketball fans? Nah. That stuff can all be ignored. It could be 97 degrees outside and raining. As long as there is NBA basketball on the television, the world around us is merely surrounding noise. Once Halloween hits and the regular season kicks into high gear, there's really no excuse to leave the house. (I'm only being partially facetious here; being cold is a real drag.)

And if the games themselves aren't enough, there's always the looming specter of fantasy basketball. Whether daily or season-long, fantasy sports is ingrained in our culture at this point. There is no use in trying to outrun it. We're going to be seeing DFS commercials in our sleep for years to come, so we might as well all bite the bullet and prepare ourselves for our upcoming dive into fantasy the best we can.

With that in mind, here's a look at a few breakout candidates and positional rankings for the 2015-16 season. 

(Note: Player rankings are based on ESPN position eligibility rules. Players eligible for multiple positions are ranked at all available.)

Breakout Candidates

Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics

Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

If he's used similarly to how he was after his arrival in Boston, Thomas could be one of the most underrated fantasy point guards. The offensive spark plug averaged 19.0 points and 5.4 assists per game with the Celtics, knocking down more than two threes per game despite playing just 26 minutes a night.

It was a return to form after a lost half-season in Phoenix, as Thomas was buried as the third guard in a three-headed monster and never looked comfortable. Boston Thomas looked a whole lot like Sacramento Thomas, who was among the better values in fantasy during the 2013-14 season.

“I still feel underrated, no doubt about it,” Thomas said recently, via Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. “I’ve always felt that way, but I’m going to earn my respect no matter what. I work extremely hard and I don’t want to be given anything. I want to earn it and get that respect from people.

While he won't be selected ahead of either, Thomas will wind up ranked ahead of Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving when the season's over. (Mostly due to injuries, but still.)

Victor Oladipo, SG, Orlando Magic

Apr 10, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) drives to the basket against the Toronto Raptors during the second half at Amway Center. Toronto Raptors defeated the Orlando Magic 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Spor
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oladipo appears here because all NBA writers are contractually obligated to mention him in any "breakout" lists. Also, Oladipo's probably going to break out into stardom this season. The third-year guard was one of 16 players to average at least 15 points, four rebounds and four assists per game in 2014-15 and by far the youngest player on the list.

That ability to fill up the stat sheet should only continue, and Oladipo's shown slight improvements in his areas of weakness. He upped his three-point percentage to 33.9 last season, putting him within inches of respectability. Another slight uptick would go a long way toward pushing Oladipo into 20-point territory and making him a better all-around fantasy option.

Another subtle area where Oladipo helps is steals, as he averaged 1.7 per game last season. He shouldn't have a problem being a top-10 shooting guard.

 

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

Jim Mone/Associated Press

Things Andrew Wiggins did well from a fantasy perspective as a rookie: scoring. 

Things Andrew Wiggins did not do well from a fantasy perspective as a rookie: basically everything else.

Wiggins' rebounding and assist numbers were average at best. His shooting percentages were straight-up below average, especially his three-point rate (31 percent). While he added occasional steals and blocks, Wiggins really didn't fill the stat sheet; he was something of a poor man's DeMar DeRozan in fantasy leagues.

Luckily, we're not getting rookie Andrew Wiggins. We're getting the second-year version, who has been taking international play by storm all summer and appears ready to begin realizing his promise as a foundational player in Minnesota.

It'd be a major surprise if Wiggins finished 2015-16 averaging fewer than 20 points per game, and assuming even a standard progression in the other stats, his fantasy value will begin mirroring his real-life ascent.

Expect the first two paragraphs to look quite a bit different a year from now. 

Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors poses for a portrait on September 28, 2015 at the Warriors practice facility in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading an
Noah Graham/Getty Images

A year ago, Draymond Green and the Warriors failed to reach a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline. It wound up backfiring on Golden State, as Green likely doubled his yearly salary after emerging as the heart of a Warriors defense that helped carry the team to a championship.

Barnes may wind up being this year's Green. Once touted as a superstar in the making, Barnes has settled well into a secondary role on both ends for the Warriors. He's developed a consistent three-point shot from the corner, shows a willingness to bang around as a power forward and has shown improvement creating his own shot off the dribble.

Guys playing for contracts are interesting sorts because it could really go one of two ways. Barnes could, like Green, use the lack of an extension as a launching pad and turn himself into a max guy. Or he could flounder, wind up in Steve Kerr's doghouse and lose his starting job to Andre Iguodala. We already saw with Barnes' 2013-14 campaign that he has the potential to nosedive if a situation does not fit his liking.

I'm banking as much on Kerr keeping Barnes' head level as I am Barnes in this case. As a potential late-round sleeper, though, Barnes has upside. 

Point Guard

RNKPlayer
1Stephen Curry
2Russell Westbrook
3Chris Paul
4Damian Lillard
5John Wall
6Eric Bledsoe
7Kyle Lowry
8Victor Oladipo
9Jrue Holiday
10Reggie Jackson
11Ty Lawson
12Jeff Teague
13Isaiah Thomas
14Derrick Rose
15Kyrie Irving
16Mike Conley
17Goran Dragic
18Brandon Knight
19Kemba Walker
20Tyreke Evans

Shooting Guard

RankingPlayer
1Stephen Curry
2James Harden
3Klay Thompson
4Paul George
5Jimmy Butler
6Gordon Hayward
7Eric Bledsoe
8Kyle Lowry
9Victor Oladipo
10Jrue Holiday
11Reggie Jackson
12Bradley Beal
13Kyrie Irving
14Andrew Wiggins
15Goran Dragic
16Dwyane Wade
17Brandon Knight
18Kobe Bryant
19Kemba Walker
20Tyreke Evans

Small Forward 

RNKPlayer
1LeBron James
2Kevin Durant
3Klay Thompson
4Paul George
5Kawhi Leonard
6Carmelo Anthony
7Jimmy Butler
8Gordon Hayward
9Andrew Wiggins
10Draymond Green
11Rudy Gay
12Nicolas Batum
13Tobias Harris
14DeMar DeRozan
15Tyreke Evans
16Danilo Gallinari
17Khris Middleton
18Giannis Antetokounmpo
19Kyle Korver
20Chandler Parsons

Power Forward

RNKPlayer
1Anthony Davis
2LeBron James
3Kevin Durant
4DeMarcus Cousins
5Blake Griffin
6Paul George
7Carmelo Anthony
8Chris Bosh
9Serge Ibaka
10Paul Millsap
11Pau Gasol
12LaMarcus Aldridge
13Kevin Love
14Draymond Green
15Rudy Gay
16Hassan Whiteside
17Derrick Favors
18Al Jefferson
19Al Horford
20Nerlens Noel

Center

RNKPlayer
1Anthony Davis
2DeMarcus Cousins
3Chris Bosh
4Serge Ibaka
5Marc Gasol
6Rudy Gobert
7Nikola Vucevic
8Andre Drummond
9Brook Lopez
10Pau Gasol
11LaMarcus Aldridge
12DeAndre Jordan
13Dwight Howard
14Hassan Whiteside
15Derrick Favors
16Al Jefferson
17Al Horford
18Nerlens Noel
19Jonas Valanciunas
20Tim Duncan

Team Names

  • Bed, Bath and Biyombo
  • Hinrich Maneuver
  • Kyrie on My Wayward Son
  • Home Oladipo
  • Ibaka Flocka Flame
  • Noel Diggity
  • Better Call Gasol
  • Burks and Recreation
  • Harden the Interruption

(OK, some of those are fine. Perhaps even borderline good. But we all know the best team names are the ones not fit to print on a family-friendly website.) 

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