Sometimes average to slightly above-average fantasy players blossom into respectable fantasy weapons. There are even occasions in which such a player develops into an absolute fantasy monster.
The 2015-16 campaign has a handful of fantasy assets who have made a significant leap in fantasy value. Their ranking on ESPN’s Player Rater has ascended greatly, so much so that they’re currently a top-25 fantasy force in 2015-16.
This article will highlight the most improved fantasy basketball players for this season. Owners of these individuals are beyond thrilled at their production.
It should be noted that rookies or players who were injured last season (i.e. Paul George) are not listed here.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
2014-15 ranking: 24
2015-16 ranking: 6
The Claw has been a reliable multi-category producer for numerous seasons, but he’s transcended into one of the game’s most well-rounded threats during 2015-16. The biggest reason for this ascension is his shooting stroke, which has increased in efficiency across the board. He’s shooting 50.7 % from the field, compared to 47.9 % last season. He’s also canning 1.8 threes per game after only connecting on 1.0 during 2014-15. He has even watched his free-throw clip rise from 80.2 % to a fantastic 87.4 %. His improved shooting has resulted in his scoring average increasing from 16.5 PPG to 20.0 PPG. To go along with these improvements, Leonard has maintained his usual production on the boards and in the defensive categories. He has emerged as more than just a suffocating defender, but a truly gifted all-around player who has become a top-tier statistical beast.
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
2014-15 ranking: 62
2015-16 ranking: 16
Thomas has become the go-to guy on the rising Celtics, and the 5-9 Pizza Guy has solidified himself as one of the league’s best scoring point guards. He’s averaging a career-high 21.3 PPG, including 2.0 3PM. He also contributes at a blistering rate from the free-throw line, shooting 89.6 % and earning trips there over six times per game. What’s more, his value goes beyond scoring, as he’s registering a career-high in assists per game at 6.6. He’s also swiping 1.2 steals per game, stamping his place as a stat-stuffing guard who now ranks in the top 20. Once the last pick of the 2011 draft, it seems that Thomas continues to defy projections and elevate his game further and further. His fantasy owners are surely delighted.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
2014-15 ranking: 82
2015-16 ranking: 15
Kemba Walker has had fantasy value throughout his career, but he’s also been known to be a shooting-percentage killer. During 2014-15, he shot 38.5 %, and he wasn’t much better during 2013-14 at 39.3 %. So far in 2015-16, he has raised his shooting mark to 42.1 %, which still isn’t great but it’s bearable. Even more so when considering his scoring (20.4 PPG), three-point shooting (1.9 3PM), and steals (1.8 SPG) are all up from a season ago, and his assist tally is exactly the same (5.1 APG). Walker has always had the potential to become a fantasy stud, but his low efficiency has held him back. But he’s turning a corner during 2015-16, and it has resulted in him making a giant jump up from No. 82 to No. 15. Owners who decided to stomach his poor shooting at the beginning of the season have to be pleasantly surprised at his current output. He has been so stellar this season that he ranks near noteworthy point guard sensations including Damian Lillard and Chris Paul.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
2014-15 ranking: 34
2015-16 ranking: 5
Lowry has established himself as an elite fantasy floor general in recent seasons with Toronto. But his value has climbed even higher during 2015-16. Similar to Leonard and Walker, much of this has to do with his shooting. His shooting percentage is up from last season (although it still only rests at 42.8 %), but his improvement is largely tied to his proficiency from long-range as well as an improved free-throw mark. He’s splashing 2.8 3PM, compared to 1.9 a year ago. He has also witnessed his steals rise to a career-high 2.3 SPG, while he continues to supply quality contributions in rebounds (4.9 RPG) and assists (6.2 APG). Lowry did endure a second-half shooting slump last season (37.3 % after the All-Star Break), so we will see if he can maintain his production for the whole season. As of now, he’s still situated amongst the league’s best with a lofty No. 5 ranking.
Rajon Rondo, Sacramento Kings
2014-15 ranking: 133
2015-16 ranking: 25
Rondo owners in recent years have been extremely disappointed, as injuries and failed expectations have caused him to not emulate the value he once had in his best years with Boston. But he has been revived during 2015-16 with Sacramento. He’s actually having one of the best statistical seasons of his career, averaging a career-high 11.9 APG to go along with 11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.9 SPG. He’s even hitting 0.8 3PM, which is great for him considering his career 0.3 3PM tally. Rondo’s bulky contributions in assists, steals, and rebounds from the guard position make him a unique backcourt weapon, and he could rank higher on Player Rater in leagues that utilize the double-double and assist/turnover ratio categories (these are not featured in ESPN’s standard Player Rater metric). The fact that Rondo has launched himself over 100 spots on Player Rater is quite impressive. Owners who took a flier on him or even gambled a bit have certainly been rewarded. This is Rajon Rondo as we remember him.