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Real or Not? Legitimate Stats from Forwards- 2021-22 NBA Season Review: Pascal Siakam, Brandon Ingram, Kristaps Porzingis

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We're still weeks away from the regular-season tip-off, and while there is a ton of hype about the incoming rookies, we still need to reflect on the 2021-2022 campaign and what happened just a few weeks and months ago. Things have finally settled when it comes to the NBA offseason timeline so it's time to do some evaluation of the first (nearly) COVID-free year as we prepare for the 2023 season.

When it comes down to facing a fantasy draft, two numbers are often the most sought after by fantasy GMs: current ADP and overall rank from the prior season. No matter how experienced fantasy players are, those two numbers are thought of as the ultimate all-encompassing representations of every fantasy player's value. Knowing what he did in the league the last year and where he is getting drafted this season should be more than enough to make a reasonably good projection going forward, isn't it?

Turns out, those two numbers can be way misleading. Today, I'm here to focus on last season's stats from players labeled as Forwards (SF/PF) in order to assess whether those numbers should be seen as real and solid going forward, or just as outliers with slim chances to be there when all is said and done by the end of the 2022-23 season. I'll be focusing on the former group, which is comprised of players whose statistics from last season should be trusted when it comes to drafting them ahead of next year. Let's get to it!

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Forwards with legitimate fantasy stats worth chasing in 2022-23

Pascal Siakam, SF/PF - Toronto Raptors

I'd be lying or at least hiding valuable information if I didn't mention that Siakam, of course, benefited from a larger role and health bill last season in order to improve his OVR fantasy rank from a top-40 player to a higher-level top-15 overall and a borderline top-five player at the F position. Everything went right for Siakam, who played more games (68) than he'd done since 2019, averaging a career-high 37.9 MPG and thus playing his most total minutes (2568) ever as a pro.

Don't let the volume fool you nor cloud your assessment of Siakam, though. The Raptors franchise player also posted a career-high FPPG mark at 44.4 FP per game topping his prior best (in back-to-back years) of 40.9 points a pop. Even playing more minutes than ever, Siakam raised the efficiency bar getting to another all-time best in his resume when it came to FP/min with an average of 1.17.

Siakam isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The minutes will stay there and he will also keep benefiting from the Raptors' idea of playing every and any forward as a center, a mold Siakam fits perfectly. If turnovers hurt your fantasy scores, though, you might double-think drafting Siakam as the uptick in playmaking (5.3 APG) also came attached to a rise in turnovers (2.7 TOPG). That is not a deal breaker, but keep it in mind.

Three years in a row hitting 21+ PPG prove Siakam is no slouch when it comes to scoring, which he's also doing at a rather efficient level. He shot fewer three-point shots than in the past couple of seasons but he hit them well enough along with 5.6 FTA to get his second-highest TS% career-wise at 56.5%, so you can surely trust this man hitting 20+ pops daily. And he should just be entering his prime with his age-28 season ahead of him.

Cameron Johnson, SF/PF - Phoenix Suns

While Jae Crowder has been a staple in Phoenix's starting lineups since arriving in the desert back in 2020, a change might be coming as soon as next Fall after the very own forward dropped the tweet-bomb to kick the month of August, cryptically writing "it's time for a change." We don't have an idea what that means, of course, but there might be something brewing in Arizona.

Johnson could easily step in that starting role if you look at his yearly improvements and getting into his fourth season in the NBA. Cam has improved his game on all fronts while Phoenix has been giving him more and more volume and importance each passing year. He's gone from fewer than 1,000 FP to nearly 1,100, and lastly, 1,500+ last season. He closed 2022 averaging 23 FPPG and a league-average 0.88 FP/min. Those numbers are definitely nothing to call home about, but the role he was stuck into wasn't either and the minute that changes Johnson could be looking at a sudden fantasy blossoming.

Don't believe it? The underlying numbers speak for themselves. Cam is coming off having one of only 140 player-seasons in the history of the NBA (that is, 23,491 total player-seasons since the NBA became a thing) with 46/42/86 shooting splits. Focus on players with 5+ 3PA per game (Johnson hoisted 5.9 of them last year) and that group goes down to just 28 (!!!) entries. The members? Ray Allen, Peja Stojakovic, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, and Stephen Curry just to name a few. Uh oh.

If the Suns opt to keep the current core in play--there aren't many appealing options when it comes to trading Deandre Ayton away, truth be told--then Johnson might turn into a supernova if he gets a slightly larger role. He already posted a nice 12-4-1-1 line in only 26 MPG last year and the only department in which his statline suffered was blocks per game, which we don't really care about given the type of player we're talking about.

Kristaps Porzingis, PF - Washington Wizards

The original Unicorn got his ass moved from Dallas to Washington after the Mavs finally got convinced KP is not what folks wanted him to be and advertised him as back in the day. Tons of mockery around the Knicks, but at the end of the day, everybody has to accept that New York didn't ultimately botch the KP draft pick and much less the Tim Hardaway Jr. trade, am I right?

Maybe, but one thing is surely looking legit and that is Porzingis having wildly benefitted from the trade to D.C. Porzingis went from averaging a 19-7-2 line to a much richer 22-9-3 in the Capital along with 1.5 BPG and only 1.6 TOPG. Porzingis being Porzingis, he will keep that scoring outing up and hit the 20+ PPG mark easily no matter who's playing next to him (it was Luka for the last few seasons, it will be Beal going on).

People hate Porzingis to a large extent because of the impossibly high (fakely unfulfilled) expectations rather than his actual production, which is more than solid. In fact, the major knock on KP's numbers is availability, as he's not played more than 57 games in four years and counting. Other than that, though, he's been as good as one can ask for.

Porzingis has hit 1.21+ FP/min in four consecutive seasons and is actually coming off his most efficient/best year on a per-minute basis with 1.32 FP/min. He posted a per-game average of 38.3 FPPG, splitting time between Dallas and Washington last year, and was a top-30 F even though he only played 51 games (29 MPG) and didn't even crack the 1,500-minute barrier over the full season. Also encouraging: he stopped shooting bad three-pointers and flipped those for tons of freebies hit at an 86.7% clip--it's now been back-to-back seasons with a 57+ TS% and also a 15+ RBD%.

Brandon Ingram, SF - New Orleans Pelicans

Somehow Brandon Ingram will be 25-years-old when the next season tips off even though he's been around since 2003 at the very least. Anyway, BI can't stop growing--doesn't actually know how not to do it. A bona fide prospect from the get-go, Ingram has always played 33+ MPG with the exception of his rookie season so nothing has changed for him on that front. But even on that massive playing time and a larger-than-life once he got traded to the Pelicans, he's kept raising the bar steadily.

Ingram has put up three consecutive campaigns as a top-10 F in the fantasy realm. That wasn't entirely true last year as he could only play 55 games, but he was on that pace for real. He's also a perennial top-25 OVR player in the league. He averages 40 FPPG easily. And the statline has been rock solid forever--you can count on some 22-5-5 daily line and he won't let you down.

Even if Zion comes back next season (he should), nothing should really change in terms of who'll be the honcho man of the franchise. Ingram already lowered his FGA and 3PA last year with the arrival of CJ McCollum but that didn't really hurt his numbers that much.

Ingram focused on peripheral tasks and that helped him lower his turnover rate while raising his AST% to a career-high 27.8% (prior best at just 22.4%) while keeping his RBD% close enough to a 10% rate. With Zion around, the usage rate will probably go down a bit from his most-recent 29.3% but he shouldn't drop from 27%/28% so you can feel good about BI having another top-tier campaign.

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