• Brad Berreman

5 Players Set for a Fantasy Decline in 2017-18

Fantasy basketball is approaching, with Yahoo opening things up for sign ups recently, and then we’ll see how offseason player movement impacts things. With that in mind, here are five players who are in line for a drop-off in fantasy value this coming season.

5. Jrue Holiday, G, New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are now paying Holiday like a max-level player, but it’s hard to see him delivering anywhere close to that kind of production this season.

With the signing of Rajon Rondo, Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry suggested starting Holiday alongside him in the same backcourt. Rondo is a pretty ball dominant point guard when he’s going well, to go along with high usage big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in New Orleans’ starting five.

As I suggested in my fantasy breakdown of a potential Rondo-Holiday starting backcourt, Holiday had nearly 58 percent of his field goal attempts off three of more dribbles last season, with just over nine percent of his shots coming off a catch-and-shoot. His ball handling volume is sure to drop, with Cousins around for a full season and Rondo in the fold.

Holiday should be solid across the board as a fantasy contributor. But he has a transition ahead of him, with the ball sure to be in his hands less and in areas of the floor where he may not be comfortable right away. Add in past durability concerns, and Holiday is a fairly risky, limited-upside fantasy option this year.

4. Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

Porter finally broke through some last season, setting career highs in points (13.4) and rebounds (6.4) per game while starting 80 games. Being left to pick up whatever scraps John Wall and Bradley Beal leave behind offensively isn’t easy, but Porter seemed to find his niche as a third wheel.

Landing elsewhere as a restricted free agent this summer would have been the best thing for Porter’s fantasy value, as he surely would have been the No. 1 scorer for a team like the Brooklyn Nets. But the Wizards matched the Nets’ offer sheet, and thus Porter remains the No. 3 option in Washington.

Porter was top-10 in the league in three-point percentage (43.4 percent; fourth), Effective Field Goal Percentage (60.8 percent; fifth) and True Shooting Percentage (62.8 percent; seventh) last season. That’s great, and ultimately unrepeatable, efficiency with a usage rate (15.1 percent) basically half what Wall’s was (30.6 percent).

Porter could be a much more confident player this year, and thus offset any drop in his shooting percentages as he asserts himself more offensively. But a decline is looming, there’s no doubt about it.

3. Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs

Gay has long delivered nice scoring output for fantasy owners, with solid numbers in other categories and shooting percentages that have been pretty helpful.

But he has signed with the San Antonio Spurs, where he is in line for a bench role with the possibility of time at both forward spots. With a career average of 35.6 minutes per game, and only 38 games coming off the bench in his career thus far (35 as a rookie) that role will be a serious adjustment. To be frank, 25 minutes per game as a combo forward off the bench feels like Gay’s playing time ceiling in San Antonio if everyone’s healthy. On that note, Gay is coming off an Achilles’ injury and has played less than 75 games in four straight seasons.

Gay can still be useful to fantasy owners with the Spurs. He just won’t have his typical all-around volume to drive solid value, and name recognition may cause Gay to be drafted sooner than he should be.

2. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

Wiggins continued his ascension as one of the best young wing scorers in the NBA last season, averaging 23.6 points per game while boosting his three-point percentage to 35.6 percent.

But his fantasy rest almost entirely on his scoring, with averages of 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and one steal per game last year that defy what his physical skills should deliver.

In trading for Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves have added a wing player with a 26.5 percent usage rate with 16.5 field goal attempts per game last season. For a volume-driven player like Wiggins, with the second-most field goal attempts in the league last year (1570; 19.1 per game), Butler’s presence is bad news. Along with the upgrade shooting-wise at the point, with Jeff Teague replacing Ricky Rubio, Wiggins will not be jacking up shots in the same fashion he did in 2016-17.

Wiggins could still average on the high side of 20-25 points per game this season. But he’ll have to do it more efficiently, and if his scoring drops at all his fantasy value will have to be buoyed by an increase in other areas.

To this point, albeit without Butler’s influence and presence, Wiggins has shown little willingness to facilitate for his teammates, hit the boards or play much defense. Without that boost as a multi-category contributor, Wiggins will be just shy of stardom in real and fantasy terms.

1.Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics

Hayward signed with the Celtics, and joined the player with the fourth-highest usage rate in the league last year (Isaiah Thomas-34.0 percent). Then came this week, with Thomas heading to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving, who had the ninth-highest usage rate in the NBA (30.8 percent) last season.

Hayward has improved his numbers each year, with career highs of 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while making 39.8 percent of three-pointers. He was just outside the top-20 in the league in usage rate last year (26.5 percent), and it’s safe to say that won’t increase much with the Celtics and may actually decline with Irving playing point guard.

After toiling in Utah, Hayward will have to handle the extra pressure of playing in Boston for a team with legit title aspirations. He’s my favorite fantasy bust candidate this year, with anticipated declines across the board. And don’t forget he has yet to play every game of a full 82-game schedule during his career.

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