To put together a great fantasy basketball roster, you’ll need to get the most out of your draft.
So which players will exceed their average draft position this season?. Who will take their game to another level? And which players are most at risk of backtracking?
Sleeper: A player who will far exceed his average draft position (ADP) in standard ESPN leagues.
Andre’ Snellings — Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets: Sengun started jumping on the fantasy radar after flashing in the Las Vegas Summer League right after being picked. He’s a do-it-all center on offense, and his numbers per 36 minutes in his rookie season reflect that: 16.7 PP36, 9.5 RP36, 4.5 AP36, 1.6 BP36, 1.4 SP36 and 0, 7 3P36. The biggest problem, on the fantasy front, was that as a rookie, he only played 20.7 MPG behind Christian Wood. Well, Wood was traded to the Mavericks in the offseason, paving the way for Sengun to start getting starting minutes. His game should be better in the second year, and with the extra minutes he has the potential to put up some good numbers this season.
Eric Moody — Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic: Suggs had a rookie season for the Orlando Magic full of ups and downs, including injuries and roster inconsistencies. A rookie trying to acclimate to the NBA, he averaged 11.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 4.4 APG, but his 36.1% field goal percentage needs improvement. Suggs isn’t the first highly drafted NBA player to struggle early in his career, and he won’t be the last. Suggs is a better role player than a star, and with the Magic selecting No. 1 overall Paolo Banchero, he’ll have the opportunity to really shine while doing just that. Suggs will see heavy use with Franz Wagner and will continue to play an important role for Orlando.
Eric Karabell — Tre Jones, San Antonio Spurs: Now entering his third Duke season, Jones didn’t see many minutes for Gregg Popovich the first two years. Now star Dejounte Murray is gone to the Hawks, and Jones should start and see some big minutes. Jones started 11 times last season and averaged 13.5 PPG and 7.5 APG, and he shot well from the field and the line. Jones can’t do what Murray does, but he deserves a top-100 pick for minutes and assist potential.
Jim McCormick – Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs: Only Jokic, James Harden and Luka Doncic touched the ball more than Dejounte Murray 87.5 times per game for Spurs last season. Murray paced all players under 6’7 in rebound chance per game while finishing in the top 10 assists and drives per game. Found deep in the drafts, Vassell is a young two-way winger ready to capitalize on the sea of opportunity available following Murray’s departure. In just over 400 minutes with Murray and Derrick White on the floor last season, the 21-year-old Vassell posted 17.1 points, 2.8 3-pointers, 5.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2, 4 blocks and interceptions combined (per 36 mins. Even amid the Spurs’ pursuit of lottery odds, there’s a lot to like about Vassell’s trajectory.
Breakout: A player who will jump into or near the top echelon of players in his position for the first time due to a dramatic increase in production from his previous seasons.
Andre’ Snellings — Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks: Brunson showed he could produce next season while playing alongside empty-handed Luka Doncic, but it was when Doncic was out that Brunson really showed his potential. During a 10-game absence from Doncic in December, Brunson averaged 21.0 PPG (51.3 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 77.5 FT%), 7.4 APG, 3 .5 RPG and 1.5 3PG in 34.7 MPG. But, the most tantalizing stretch came when Doncic missed the first three games of the playoffs. Brunson averaged 32.0 PPG (50.7 FG%, 41.2 3P%, 85.0 FT%), 5.3 APG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.3 3PG in 39.4 MPG during this period. This offseason, Brunson signed to be the Knicks’ new point guard, which means he now gets the high-use keys to a franchise. He has the achievable advantage of jumping into the fantasy top flight this season.
Eric Moody – Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder: I’m a huge Giddey fan, as those who read my columns last year know. The Rookie of the Month Award was presented to him four times last year due to his outstanding performances. No other player in the Class of 2021 has won the award more than twice. Giddey averaged 12.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.4 APG and 1.0 SPG with a usage rate of 22.2%. In all of these statistical areas, he is well positioned to see an increase. The statistical leap Giddey could make in his second season could be similar to that of LaMelo Ball. Other than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey, the Thunder don’t have many point guards.
Eric Karabell — Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets: The Rockets were eager to part ways with Wood and it opens up big minutes for Sengun, who averaged 12.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG over 13 starts as a rookie. Those might not be remarkable stats for many centers, but the 20-year-old Sengun is also a sneaky assist provider, averaging 3.6 APG on his starts. He can also block shots. Give Sengun enough minutes and he could easily become one of the top 50 fantasy options.
Jim McCormick — Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic: Impressive lowkey as a rookie for the Magic, Wagner finished 50th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater at age 20 on a team plagued by brutal backcourt injuries and a general lack of regular point guard play. With the casting skills of Markelle Fultz and the passing prowess of Paolo Banchero joining the roster, Wagner could finally get an “easy” catch-and-shoot job this season. The Michigan product, meanwhile, was a total boss for Germany at EuroBasket this summer, posting a series of effective 3-point pull-ups and drop-offs from a live dribble. Given what should be a big role as a building block next to Banchero, Wagner becoming a fantastic starting force at both forward points could be in the works.
Bust: A player who should be a solid starter in standard ESPN leagues but won’t live up to those expectations this season.
Andre’ Snellings – Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns: Over the three seasons from 2016-17 to 2018-19, Paul missed an average of 23 games per season due to injury. He was relatively healthy for the next two seasons, both of which were shortened due to COVID, but he missed 18 games again last season, in his 17th in the NBA. He was still strong when he played during the season, but in the playoffs, immediately after his 37th birthday, he immediately played many of the worst games of his career. Over the last five games of his playoffs, Paul averaged just 9.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.6 TO/G in 32.3 MPG. His poor performance played a big part in angering the Suns in the playoffs. This season, injury risk and age-related decline risk overlap in such a way that Paul has too high a likelihood of underperforming his usual level and/or being out for key parts of the season. .
Eric Moody – Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings: Barnes was superb for the Sacramento Kings last season with 16.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, and an 18.2 percent utilization rate. Fantasy managers will expect him to replicate those numbers. Given the influx of talent the Kings have had this offseason, including Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk and Keegan Murray, Barnes will struggle to do that.
Eric Karabell — Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans: Zion was also my pick last season because it was easy to wonder how soon he would be back from foot surgery. He missed the whole season. In addition to major durability issues, Williamson’s stats are a bit misleading and may not justify his high ADP. After all, while the unstoppable Williamson can score at will, he’s only a modest rebounder, not a factor on the 3-point shot and he can cause major damage to a fantasy team’s free throw percentage. . Oh, and did we mention it’s far from durable?
Jim McCormick — Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks: Onyeka Okongwu is the center of the future for the Hawks. The third-year center boasts impressive forward metrics that often align with team success, and his contract and age line up much better with the team’s superstar backcourt. When it comes to Capela’s fantasy value, last season’s 11.1 points and 11.9 draws to go with 1.3 blocks in 27.6 minutes per night represents the likely ceiling for this season, a season where the Okongwu’s competition for opportunities will increase. Which is to say, he could be very good, but there’s really no chance of being special. One of the only viable avenues to reset Atlanta’s position as a fiscal team (before a huge new commitment to Murray) is to move Capela, adding more uncertainty to an old-school center with a position of relatively expensive project.