Friday, January 28 2022

Special to Yahoo Sports

Who doesn’t like a good ol’ game of Would You Rather? We’re going to give it a go this week, but with a distinct fantasy basketball spin, discussing some similarly ranked players and choosing which one might be more appealing to roster for the remainder of the season. All rankings are based on per-game averages in nine-category leagues, so turnovers are a factor.

Let’s dive in:

VanVleet has seen his scoring average increase in every season of his career, finishing last season with 19.6 points per game. The bad news is he shot a career-worst 38.9 percent from the field. He’s rebounded in that department this season, using his 44.1 percent shooting from the field to post 19.9 points per game.

VanVleet also helps out in a lot of other key areas, adding 5.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 3.1 three-pointers per game. With Kyle Lowry no longer in town, VanVleet will have a good chance to surpass his previous career-high average of 6.6 assists per game.

As good as VanVleet has been, Murray has been right there with him. With career-highs in both minutes per game (35.0) and usage rate (26.5%), he’s averaged a career-best 19.1 points per game. As a bonus, his efficiency hasn’t suffered much from his increased usage rate (44.6% FG). Like VanVleet, Murray also stuffs the stat sheet in multiple areas, averaging 8.5 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.2 three-pointers.

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This one almost feels like being forced to pick a favorite between your children. They are both excellent options and shouldn’t see their roles change with their respective teams anytime soon. For the sake of this exercise, though, I’ll give the slight edge to VanVleet. Murray is only shooting 70.0 percent from the free-throw line and he still has a lot of work to do on his three-point shooting. There is also the potential for the rebuilding Spurs to give him some days off as the season wears on.

Harrell seems to have put last season’s disastrous campaign with the Lakers in his rearview mirror. He’s bounced back to average 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game with the Wizards while shooting 64.1 percent from the field.

As good as Harrell has been, he has benefited from some injuries to the Wizards’ frontcourt. Thomas Bryant (knee) has yet to play in a game this season, but he could make his return sometime in the next month or two. Plus, Rui Hachimura (personal) has yet to play in a game and remains without a firm timetable.

Allen, on the other hand, is locked into a huge workload with the Cavaliers. Across 33 minutes per game, he’s averaged 16.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks while shooting 69.8 percent from the field. Despite their similar rankings, Allen stands out between these two.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Rank: 92) vs. Jrue Holiday (Rank: 99)

Gilgeous-Alexander started out last season playing very well, but a combination of injuries and an aggressive tanking mandate led to him appearing in only 35 games. When he was on the floor, he thrived with averages of 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.0 three-pointers, while shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 80.8 percent from the charity stripe.

Gilgeous-Alexander is still the top scoring option on the Thunder, but he’s averaged “only” 20.2 points per game because he’s shooting a measly 40.6 percent from the field. He’s never shot worse than 47.1 percent for his career, so he should rebound in that department as the season wears on. The problem with Gilgeous-Alexander is that the Thunder could again sit him frequently down the stretch as they tank for better draft picks.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

The Thunder’s continued tanking effort has hurt Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Meanwhile, an ankle injury that forced him to miss time earlier in the season has Holiday off to a slow start. When he did finally return, he went on a nine-game stretch in which he shot 34.1 percent from the field. That’s highly unusual for him given that he shot at least 45.4 percent from the field in each of the last five seasons.

Holiday may be coming out of his slump, averaging 19.8 points and shooting 55.7 percent from the field over his last four games. He can also help out in multiple areas like Gilgeous-Alexander, providing 4.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.7 three-pointers per game. Although Gilgeous-Alexander has the higher upside, the potential for him to be missing games during the fantasy playoffs might make Holiday the better option, as crazy as that might sound.

Will Barton (Rank: 73) vs. Andrew Wiggins (Rank: 101)

Wiggins has quietly averaged 18.6 points and 1.9 three-pointers per game on the strength of 49.0 percent shooting from the field. He shot 47.7 percent last season, so he’s unsurprisingly become a notably more efficient player since leaving Minnesota for Golden State.

As good as Wiggins has been offensively, he’s lacking in other areas, posting just 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. The impending return of Klay Thompson (Achilles) could mean fewer shot attempts are on the horizon for Wiggins, which would deal a significant blow to his value.

Bad news on the injury front for the Nuggets could have the opposite effect on Barton. Michael Porter Jr. will have surgery on his back that will keep him out for the rest of the season. Across the nine games that Barton has played without Porter, he averaged 17.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.2 three-pointers per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field.

Jamal Murray (knee) doesn’t seem to be anywhere near making his return — and the Nuggets lost another rotation piece in PJ Dozier to a torn ACL last week — so Barton should be the Nuggets’ de facto No. 2 scoring option behind Nikola Jokic. This one is a hands-down victory for Barton.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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