The Fantasy playoffs are only weeks away, and the time has come to start being more selective regarding squad composition. With that in mind, it's fun to look at a few players based on season rank, projecting who my preference is for the rest of the season (ROS). To keep it interesting, I will pair players who fill similar roles for their respective teams. I'll work with their per-game, nine-category rank for this activity.
Let's dive in.
13. Luka Doncic (Mavericks) vs. 14. James Harden (76ers)
Despite my love for Doncic, I lean slightly toward Harden in this instance. Doncic will be fantastic down the stretch, but his struggles at the free-throw line remain a concern. With Kyrie Irving now residing in Dallas, we could also see a downtick in assist numbers for Doncic. Harden is not the scorer he once was but typically offers upwards of 20 points per night and double-digit assists. Both teams will be pushing hard for a high seed, meaning Harden and Doncic should see a lot of minutes throughout the Fantasy playoffs. That said, Doncic has been dealing with a couple of minor injuries throughout the season, which could afford him a few days of rest at some point. You really can't go wrong with either player, though. Let's face it; they are two of the best players in the world right now. Unless you need the points production, Harden may be a slightly safer option ROS.
39. Devin Booker (Suns) vs. 40. Darius Garland (Cavaliers)
Using a similar thought process, I would sit on the Garland side of the fence here. Having recently acquired Kevin Durant from the Nets, the Suns are looking to make a title run sooner rather than later. With Durant coming into the starting lineup to replace someone like Torrey Craig or Josh Okogie, it's safe to assume fewer shots will be available for Booker and Chris Paul. While Paul relies primarily on assists and steals to buoy his value, Booker needs to be scoring the basketball. Garland, much like Paul, is the primary ballhandler for the Cavaliers, providing him with a safe Fantasy floor. Donovan Mitchell would be the direct comparison to Booker if we are comparing rosters. Garland, therefore, doesn't need to rely on points as much, not unlike Paul. Fifteen weekly assists can make a huge difference, whereas 20 points are not as much of a difference maker.
52. Rudy Gobert (Timberwolves) vs. 53. Deandre Ayton (Suns)
Gobert and Ayton have been disappointing this season, although we can all agree that Gobert has been far more frustrating to roster. Drafted in at the back end of the second round in many leagues, Gobert has been a disaster in Minnesota. To open the season, many put it down to the fact he was learning to play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. However, even after Towns suffered a major injury, causing him to miss multiple months, Gobert has been unable to turn things around. That said, his numbers haven't been terrible outside of blocks. Typically seen as an elite shot blocker, Gobert is currently swatting 1.3 shots per game, basically a career low. While Ayton is certainly not a defensive stopper, he at least has some versatility on the offensive end. Kevin Durant's arrival will also cut into his opportunities, although there is a case to be made for him getting a ton of easy looks. Despite Gobert's defensive upside, I might prefer Ayton in this situation, assuming blocks aren't high on your list of priorities.
74. Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets) vs. 75. Cam Johnson (Nets)
Porter and Johnson profile as very similar players, making this a tough decision. For Johnson, it's been a disrupted season due to both injury and trade. Having missed most of the season, Johnson returned to action only to be sent to Brooklyn as part of the Kevin Durant trade. The Nets were able to acquire a number of wing players, raising a few questions when it came to Johnson's role. While it has only been a handful of games, it appears as though the Nets view Johnson as a key piece moving forward, affording him upwards of 30 minutes per game. Managers should probably view him as a top 70 player ROS. As for Porter, although he has been relatively healthy, he has not been able to take the next step in terms of career development. He, too, is a crucial piece on a team looking to win now, although his night-to-night role can be somewhat unpredictable. Their skill sets are very comparable, but based on what we have seen thus far, Johnson has a little more upside on the defensive end, with potential for growth. That alone has me landing on his side in a two-player battle.
106. Jalen Williams (Thunder) vs. 108. Franz Wagner (Magic)
Two young guys with bright futures, their respective paths have been very different this season. Wagner started the season strongly, not unlike his rookie campaign, only to trail off leading up to the All-Star break. On the other hand, Williams overcame an indifferent start, churning out top-40 value over the past two months. Despite playing in similar positions, this is a scenario where the skills they bring to the table differ substantially. Wagner is more of an offensive-driven player who can be a facilitator when required. Unfortunately, the Magic also have Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs, all of whom can play that role. His lack of defensive consistency means his overall value is often reliant on the performance of others. Williams can score the basketball and has a double-digit assist game this season. However, he already profiles as an elite wing defender with a knack for grabbing out-of-position rebounds. The Thunder aren't afraid to change their rotation based on the matchup, although Williams' role appears to be set in stone. Given they could be pushing for a play-in berth, Williams would be the safer option here despite being the more unproven of the two.