When I’m not here at Liberty Ballers getting way, way too into every Furkan Korkmaz three-pointer, I’m living my other life as a fantasy sports analyst, so I thought it would be a good idea to marry those two things together for once and talk about the fantasy basketball values of the players on this Sixers team.
There are obviously a lot of different forms that fantasy basketball can take — category leagues and points leagues, roto leagues and head-to-head leagues — and running through all of those various possibilities is going to take a lot of effort, so let’s just focus on what these players can provide you in my favorite kind of league — nine-category, head-to-head.
The Top Tier Guys: Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
Who you view as more important for fantasy purposes between Embiid and Simmons depends a lot on what you want to do with your fantasy team. Most rankings place the two players fairly close together, so a lot it comes down to how you’re building your squad.
One thing about head-to-head category leagues is that you have to determine how many categories you think you can win on a consistent basis. If, for example, you realize early on in your draft that you’ve got a weakness in assists, you can decide to punt that category, ignoring it the rest of the way and drafting players whose average draft position (ADP) is lowered by their own struggles in that category.
Here’s a Sixers-related example. Ben Simmons is ranked around 15th in most site’s fantasy rankings, because he’s one of the few guys capable of giving you big numbers in points, rebounds, and assists, and his field goal percentage is great because he isn’t taking low-percentage shots. But what doesn’t Simmons give you? Three pointers! If you’re trying to win in that category, Simmons doesn’t help you, and drafting him means you have to chase those threes later. But if you punt on threes, Simmons is instantly more valuable, becoming a borderline top 10 pick. Same thing if you punt on his other bad category, free throw percentage. (And what if you double-punt on both? Well, Simmons is likely a top five player in that build, but double-punts are also a difficult thing that I’ve never purposefully attempted.)
Embiid, on the other hand, works better in my opinion for fantasy owners looking for across the board production. Assists aren’t a great category for Embiid, but because they aren’t a great category for a lot of NBA bigs, his value isn’t radically affected. Most sites have Embiid in the 10 to 15 range, which feels appropriate based on what he contributes when he’s on the floor. Another advantage of picking him early is that you don’t end up pigeonholing yourself into certain strategies — you can still decide to punt on something later, but choosing Simmons early means you’ve had to make that punting decision right off the bat.
The Middle Round Values: Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and JJ Redick
Covington, Saric, and Redick represent the three Sixers that I feel comfortable taking in the middle rounds of the draft to varying degrees, and Covington and Saric in particular have ended up a lot of my fantasy rosters this year — I actually don’t think I have a single league where I don’t have one of those two players.
Covington is the highest ranked of these players, with him going off the board inside the top 50 in almost every draft. His three-and-D skill set fits in with a lot of fantasy builds, as he’ll give you production in blocks, decent rebounding numbers for someone who you can play at the three in your lineups, good percentages, and a couple of three-pointers made per game. Covington doesn’t put up huge assist totals, making him more valuable if you ignore production in that area.
Saric is farther down draft boards, hovering in the 80s and 90s in a lot of rankings, but I’ve found a lot of value picking him in the leagues where I’ve punted on points. If the leaps he took in all his shooting percentages keeps up this season, Saric is going to be a really good draft value if you get him at or near his ADP.
With Redick, his value is all over the place, especially now that Brett Brown has decided to bring him off the bench. But his shooting ability makes him an elite option in three pointers made and free throw percentage, and I still have him down as a top 100 fantasy player because of these things. If you’re trying to beef up on those categories and don’t mind that he gives you low assist and steal numbers at the guard position, he can be a big help.
The Sleepers: Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, and T.J. McConnell
Rounding out the players who could/should be drafted are Fultz, Chandler, and McConnell.
Fultz is obviously the one with the most potential value, especially now that he’s a starter. I haven’t done a fantasy draft since last week, but he went 107th in that one. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him going top 100 today or tomorrow in late drafts now that it’s been confirmed that he’s starting.
Should he go there? Like many things, it depends on the build. Fultz’s fantasy profile looks a lot like a miniature version of Ben Simmons in the sense that they both are likely to struggle to provide value in free throw percentage and three pointers, though Fultz could also be a risk in the points category as well. But as long as he isn’t taking many jumpers, he’ll have a high field goal percentage and will provide good assist, rebound, and steal numbers for where he’s being picked.
Chandler and McConnell aren’t guys who I’d draft in a 12-team league right now, but both players are capable of contributing should injuries occur. Chandler isn’t nearly as good in that three-and-D role as Covington or Saric, but should either player miss time he could give fantasy owners an approximation of what they do off of the waiver wire. Of course, his present value is lowered since he’ll be missing the start of the year. Meanwhile, McConnell’s playing time is a mystery at this point as he operates as the fourth guard to open the year, but he can give you a high field goal percentage if he winds up seeing more playing time and his per 36 numbers suggest upside in steals, rebounds, and assists.
Outside of these players, no one currently looks worth fantasy consideration. I have high hopes for both Landry Shamet and Zhaire Smith down the line, but it would take being in much deeper leagues than I’m in now to grab them at this point.