Fantasy Basketball Greatest Hits: What we got right in the 2022-2023 NBA season
As a fantasy basketball analyst, the end of the regular season presents an opportunity to evaluate preseason predictions. Attempting to predict what will happen throughout the long and arduous NBA season can be daunting, especially when it's filled with so much variance. From the uncertainties around player injuries to the unexpected absences thanks to load management — and, can't forget the midseason trades that shake up the basketball landscape along the way.
The moral of the story is that fantasy basketball is a grind. However, it's worth revisiting where I found success — or, you know, completely whiffed on my projections from earlier this year.
This two-part series dives into my process of evaluating players based on per-game value — which takes into account a range of outcomes across a whole season when deciding where to rank players before drafts get underway.
While looking at history and factoring in health, roles and minutes played, my approach puts on-court productivity above all else. Here are the predictions I got right for '22-23 season fantasy basketball season — go here for the greatest misses.
De'Aaron Fox and Jalen Brunson's breakout campaigns
Starting with Fox, he never finished higher than 70th coming into the '22-23 season, and it was hardly a guarantee he'd improve on last year's numbers. However, the chemistry between him and Domantas Sabonis couldn't be ignored, as Fox averaged 28/4/7 in 13 games after the deadline last season. It's a small sample size, but it was more than enough to see that Fox would thrive when the Kings played through their big man.
I projected Fox would become a first-time All-Star and a top-35 player this season. He came close to 35th, finishing 39th while earning his first All-Star nod and becoming the NBA's first Clutch Award recipient. It was an all-around great season for Fox, who helped the Kings achieve one of their best seasons in nearly two decades and is blossoming into one of the best young guards in the NBA.
Similarly, much of the Knicks' success this season can be attributed to Jalen Brunson. He showcased his upside in the 2022 NBA Playoffs and brought that (and then some) to NYC. I was mainly excited about Brunson's growth this season because his role would be vastly different in New York than in Dallas.
Going from a Luka Doncic-led, heliocentric offense to taking over point guard duties for Tom Thibodeau, I knew Brunson was in for a significant upgrade in usage, minutes and opportunity. I expected him to outperform his 5th/6th round preseason ADP and he did, finishing 46th overall this season — a 50+ improvement from a year ago. He dropped career-highs in points, assists, steals, 3PM, 3PT percentage and minutes per game and was rightfully a candidate for Most Improved Player.
Both guards excelled for fantasy managers, so it was great to see both breakouts occur.
Warriors legend Stephen Curry finishes as the 6th-best player in fantasy basketball
I came into the '22-23 season expecting that Curry's production would mirror the '21-22 season, and it did for the most part.
The Warriors kept their core rotation the same, and why would they switch it up after coming off another championship? Adding Donte DiVincenzo and giving more minutes to Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody throughout the season was necessary to build off last year's success but not enough to impact Curry's overall production.
In the preseason, the top-3 slots in fantasy basketball were reserved for Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant, with Curry slotting between picks 4-7. I expected Giannis Antetokounmpo and Doncic to ascend this year as picks 4 and 5, but — spoiler alert — they didn't.
Curry's production in '22-23 would've placed him in the top-5 in per-game value in '21-22. He increased his PPG from a year ago by nearly 5 PPG and was way more efficient, shooting 49% this season, up by almost 6 percent from the previous season.
He just missed 50/40/90 and posted a career-best 6.1 rebounds per game, averaging over six dimes and nearly five threes per night. He only played in 56 games, but the on-court production remains worthy of a top-5 selection because he's still firmly in his prime. Curry's historical 50-point, Game 7 performance in the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs proved just that.
Paul George finishes as the 20th-best player in fantasy basketball
PG had a career-high 32.9 usage rate, but he shot the lowest true-shooting percentage of his career (.538) with 4.2 turnovers per contest in '21-22. And yet, somehow, I projected George to finish as a top-20 player, and that's where he finished: Twentieth.
Well, it wasn't all luck, I promise.
When factoring in the return of Kawhi Leonard ahead of the '22-23 season, I had to decide how much, if at all, George would be downgraded since he would seemingly become 1B playing alongside Leonard.
My projections for George were based on his last couple of seasons with the Clippers: 24 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, which was right on par with how he finished in '22-23. He proved to be a second-round value when he was healthy and it's a safe expectation with Leonard's load management, given he'll have spike games or weeks whenever Leonard is out of the lineup.
Desmond Bane's production
I plan to post my player projections ahead of the next fantasy basketball season, but I was spot-on for Desmond Bane this year. Here is my forecast compared to his actual performance in 2022-2023:
'22-23 projections: 21.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.7 threes, 1.4 steals with 48/43/89 shooting splits
Bane's '22-23 production: 21.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.9 threes, 1.0 steals with 48/41/88 shooting splits
He came into the season with a fifth-round ADP and given that he closed out the year very close to my initial projections, it's no surprise that he exceeded market expectations, ranking 35th in per-game value this season.
Dejounte Murray outperforms Trae Young
Murray > Young could've been considered a reckless take since Murray's preseason ADP was 21.1 compared to Young's at 10.7. Both players ended up underwhelming relative to their draft capital, but in the end, my presumption was correct: Murray finished 36th, and Ice Trae came in at 49th.
In my early '22-23 bold predictions video, I noted how, with Murray in town, Young would play more off-ball and how that adjustment could negatively impact his high assist rate. The decrease in assists didn't hold, as Young was one of only three players to average at least 20 points and 10 assists this season. However, he was not nearly as efficient as he was without Murray on the roster, shooting 43% from the field with four turnovers per game and a slight decline in scoring and rebounding.
Young was still an excellent fantasy player, just not a first-round pick (this past season, at least). Predictably, Murray's rebounding and assists numbers decreased from his All-Star campaign in '21-22, but he at least sustained the same efficiency level, reduced his turnovers and shot a career-best from the charity stripe while finishing top-10 in steals per game.
A lot can change in Atlanta in the offseason, but pump the brakes a bit if you're immediately expecting Young's numbers to rise under Quin Snyder. In the 17 games where Young played with Snyder at the helm, his production was worse than in the 52 games with Nate McMillan this season.
But, who knows — Trae could demand a trade, or the Hawks could decide to deal some of their longstanding assets like John Collins (please, Atlanta, put us out of our misery) or Clint Capela. Either way, Murray and Young will be second-round picks at best heading into the '23-24 season.