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Williamson, now 22, is said to be in “the best shape of his life”. He signed a max rookie extension this offseason. He’s still the marquee player on a Pelicans team that has legitimate playoff buzz this season.
But where would you draft him in your fantasy basketball league?
oh That’s a tough question.
Williamson has the potential to be a better and more productive player this season than he was during his sophomore campaign two years ago. He still has his irreplaceable explosive-perimeter combo, which makes him one of the toughest players to guard in the NBA, but he’s had time to mature physically and emotionally and has another full season around the game to work on his craft.
However, the Pelicans also had a full season to get used to playing without him. That season, Brandon Ingram blossomed into a full-fledged NBA star, averaging 27.0 PPG, 6.2 APG and 6.2 RPG during the playoffs, with a usage percentage of over 29 in the regular and postseason.
They brought in CJ McCollum. It revitalized the team in a late-season trade and led to their postseason run. McCullum averaged 24.3 PPG and 5.8 APG in 26 regular season games with the Bells. McCollum and Ingram averaged 37.1 field goal attempts during the season and 40.5 FGA during the playoffs.
While it could be argued that having talented teammates should make it even easier for Williamson to score goals, talent has never been an issue. He is already shooting over 60% from the field. But it’s hard to imagine him getting the usage he needs to even match the 27 and 4 he averaged two seasons ago, let alone exceed it. His constituency is closed by the need to share the rock.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: health. Williamson suffered a lower-body injury that kept him out of big games in three of the four seasons he played post-high school, including his one season at Duke. The explosiveness he creates with his large size creates incredible amounts of torque and forces in his lower extremities, which can be pathological if his jumping form isn’t good enough.
Stefania Bell has done a fantastic job breaking it down over the past few years, and that holds true this year as well. At this point in his career, fantasy managers have to accept that he’s going to be injury prone.
On a per-game basis, Williamson’s production should put him in the top 25 of fantasy producers, and that’s conservative. But with the risks he faces this season and the cap upside, I’m unlikely to draft him before the fifth round (m) leagues. This means I would miss out on Williamson being in any of my squads (M) as his ATP would be higher than that. With one week left in September, it is currently at 29.6.
But I want to speak my mind. I swung for the fences with Williamson on several of my teams last season, and got out. Mixed baseball metaphor aside, I’m not in danger of getting burned again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool Me Twice… Can’t Fool Me Again! I might miss out on a magical season from Williamson, but I’m content to let someone else risk/reward him.
What if the fifth round means Williamson is still sitting there because everyone else is afraid to draft him? Sign me up! If I can get him with my fifth pick, I’ll beat the offseason first-round pick category. If things go the right way, it’s a potential league-winner.