What can we learn from this fantasy basketball season? Which players were the biggest surprises? Who are the players to have your sights on for next season?
Here are André Snellings, Eric Karabell, Eric Moody and Steve Alexander to offer their insights on these pressing questions and more.
Who was the biggest surprise to you this season?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s obviously been a good player for a while, but a) he’s had an injury history and b) he was playing for a Thunder squad I thought would be more in tank mode this season. Instead, he made the leap to full-on fantasy basketball megastar and certified top-10 player, and looks to be a first round pick moving forward. — Snellings
Nobody viewed Gilgeous-Alexander as a first-round pick back in October. He was a good player in recent seasons, perhaps an ascending one, but he also missed myriad games. This year? He may end up a top-5 scorer in both points and roto formats, scoring more than 31 PPG, with tons of steals and blocks, and fantastic shooting percentages. What an amazing breakout campaign! — Karabell
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander exceeded fantasy managers’ expectations. As training camp approached, he was diagnosed with a Grade-2 left MCL sprain. Also, managers were worried about the Thunder tanking for Victor Wembanyama. Instead, Gilgeous-Alexander rewarded those who drafted him and averaged an impressive 31.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game. — Moody
Lauri Markkanen. Yes, he had a big summer and then had a big preseason but I still didn’t really believe it was happening. And then it happened. Brook Lopez‘s ability to stay relevant, not miss games and play at such a high level was also fairly surprising to me. — Alexander
Who is one player you cut during the season that you wish you held on to?
In one league I cut Immanuel Quickley early in the season, particularly because Jalen Brunson was playing so well I didn’t see the upside. Of course, he was one of the best impact players over the last six weeks when Brunson was in-and-out of the lineup. — Snellings
I felt confident that Hornets rookie C Mark Williams would be a double-double machine with blocks, but the team handled him oddly, rarely giving him the proper minutes until the February trade of Mason Plumlee. I just couldn’t wait that long in one key league to see it happen. Williams was always NBA-ready, and then he got hurt and missed half of March. Still, he’s an emerging player. — Karabell
I never cut Jalen Williams but I sure thought about it a few times early in the season. He turned out to be a really fun player to roster and was a Top 20 player over the last two months. The fact the Thunder didn’t actually tank was also a bit of a shock. — Alexander
Who is one player you want to make sure you draft next season?
Anthony Edwards is on a trajectory that could make him not just the best player on the Timberwolves, but could get him into that upper echelon/face of the NBA category if everything breaks right. His draft stock tends to be hindered due to the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns, but I believe that as soon as next season he could snatch the role as “the guy” in Minnesota and potentially have a Gilgeous-Alexander-like explosion. — Snellings
Philadelphia guard Tyrese Maxey just continues to improve his game and I see more points, assists and other important stats in his future, especially if James Harden leaves the team. People underestimate Maxey because he was not a lottery pick, but he learned how to make 3-pointers, learned how to defend competently, and better times are ahead. He will not cost a top-30 pick, but I’ll target him soon after. — Karabell
Josh Giddey was someone I prioritized heading into fantasy drafts last season and will do the same next season. He has had eight triple doubles in his career, surpassing Magic Johnson for the second most by a player at age 20 or younger. The only player with more is Luka Doncic. If Giddey keeps up his upward trajectory, he could become the Thunder’s fourth player ever to earn a maximum rookie contract extension. He won’t turn 21 until October. — Moody
Victor Wembanyama. I’m all in on the kid and while I historically ignore rookies in fantasy leagues, he’s not going to be a normal rookie. I think he’s going to go bonkers out of the gate and I can’t wait to see how high we have to take him in drafts. Something tells me he’s going to be going in the second or third round in a lot of drafts. — Alexander
What is one key takeaway you learned playing fantasy basketball this season?
That the Play-in tournament and flattening of lottery odds has almost completely eradicated tanking culture, which has impacted the way the lottery-bound, rebuilding franchises play. The Thunder and Jazz were expected to be deep in Victor Wembanyama mode this season, but they’ve competed all season to try to get into the Play-in. Almost every NBA team still had something to play for even in the last few weeks of the season, and those that didn’t no longer got dramatically increased lottery odds by losing more. It means there was a larger pool of productive veteran players this season than in years past, and it’s something to keep in mind when strategizing fantasy basketball teams moving forward. — Snellings
I faded certain players in drafts because I was worried about them missing games, and it turned out to be a good call in some cases (LeBron James, Zion Williamson) and not wise in a few others (Kristaps Porzingis, Kawhi Leonard). The fact is so many stars miss so many games now, often sans warning or reason, it almost evens things up. I’ll still target durability, but perhaps more willing to take a few more chances, too. — Karabell
Prioritize players with multiple position eligibility when constructing rosters, especially bigs with eligibility at PF and C. Depending on their fantasy value, multi-positional eligibility can even be used as a tiebreaker when deciding between multiple players. No matter what format you are using, it gives you so much flexibility when managing a team if you prioritize such players. — Moody