• Hey Hoop Ballers! This is the first installment of my weekly feature covering deep leagues and dynasty formats. Fantasy draft season is upon us, so for my first article it only seems fitting to talk draft strategy and highlight the value of some deep league relevant players. I’ll primarily be focusing on players that should be relevant in 18-team, 20-team and 30-team formats. So, for those fantasy degenerates out there that are still with me, let’s put on our scuba gear as we prepare to dive deep into the abyss of the NBA talent pool.

    Those of you who are dedicated enough (crazy enough?) to play in 20 or 30-team leagues know that the draft has an outsized influence on your season when compared to a standard 12-team league. I’m sure you have heard the old adage “you may not win your league in the draft, but you can certainly lose it.” This is doubly true in deep leagues as the players sitting on the waiver wire following a draft are far less likely to make a meaningful contribution to your team.

    A few quick thoughts on draft strategy. I generally try to stay away from risky and injury prone players early in the draft (Joel Embiid is the poster child). If your first round pick goes down in a 12-team league, it can be a challenge to stay competitive. In a 30-team league, it can absolutely annihilate your team. So when is the right time to make some bold picks and swing on upside?

    In standard league drafts, most will recommend that the last three-to-six rounds be primarily upside picks. That makes a lot of sense when the player pool is 150-deep and there are guaranteed to be some useful guys sitting around on the wire. In deep league drafts, I prefer to go for upside in the middle rounds. In a 30-team league that would roughly be between picks 120-240.

    The logic there is pretty simple. Those are going to be late round fliers in standard leagues that have a far greater chance of winding up in the top-100 than a guy selected with pick 390 in the last round of a 30-team draft. Hitting on a few picks in the middle of your draft is essential since the comparative value of a player outperforming their ADP by “X” amount of spots begins to diminish the deeper you go. The table below pulled from Basketball Monster’s projections illustrates this point.

    Now that we have established the importance of nailing your draft, let’s highlight a few players that I think will outperform their current rankings on Yahoo and ESPN in leagues of various sizes. Value in deep leagues is all about opportunity – in fact, give me a minute to pull out a thesaurus to avoid overusing that word in my analysis of potential value picks.

    Everyone in the NBA is an elite talent, and some are more elite than others, but players don’t end up in the league by accident. Past a certain point in a deep league draft nearly all of the players you are looking at are backups. However, some have a more defined role on their team with a clearer path to minutes. Talent is important, but in deep formats I’ll take the guy in a good situation over the high-potential guy that is buried on the depth chart nine times out of 10.

    Delon Wright

    Pre-Draft Ranking: 200/551 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 234/242 (8/9 cat)

    If loving Delon’s situation this year is wrong, I don’t want to be Wright. He was able to put up back-end value last year in 20-team leagues in only 16 minutes per game behind the guard duo of Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph. Joseph has since moved on to the Pacers, leaving extra minutes available for Wright as the clear-cut backup point guard. His offensive game leaves a bit to be desired, but his ability to rack up steals and provide out of position blocks is extremely valuable. Given the extra minutes that are likely to come his way, Wright at 200 could be a steal. I think this is his absolute floor this year, especially if his offensive skillset takes even the slightest step forward.

    Sam Dekker

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 225/548 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 270/251 (8/9 cat)

    Many in the mainstream NBA media regarded Dekker as a throw-in to get the Chris Paul trade across the finish line. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, he was a useful back-end player in 20-team leagues last year in Houston. This year he suits up for the Clippers behind Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin. When you consider the injury history of both Griffin and Gallinari, Dekker has a solid path to a considerable boost in minutes should one of them go down. I wouldn’t take him too much higher than where Yahoo has him, but Dekker has some considerable upside at that value given the injury plagued players he is behind.

    Ron Baker

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 377/643 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 344/376 (8/9 cat)

    The contract handed to Baker was lost in the hysteria surrounding the Tim Hardaway Jr. signing, but it does seem to indicate that the Knicks are invested in developing Baker as an asset going forward. Predicting the point guard rotation for the Knicks is tricky given the recent signings of Ramon Sessions, Trey Burke and Jarrett Jack, but Baker is worth a look in deep leagues for the exact reason that rookie Frank Ntilikina is getting hyped in standard league drafts. If the Knicks are going to be as bad as we think, there is little incentive for them to leave Baker out of the rotation in favor of veteran stopgaps in Sessions and Jack. If he can get 20-25 minutes, he has a top-300 floor with top-200 upside. The beginning of the season may be ugly if he is out of the rotation but if you can ride that out I like him to end the year far ahead of where he is currently ranked.

    DeAndre’ Bembry

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 431/602 (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 438/441 (8/9 cat)

    Beyond the tantalizing stat set potential, Bembry is another guy that gets a considerable boost simply due to situation. Hawks players are getting pumped up left and right this season, be it Taurean Prince, Dennis Schroder, Dewayne Dedmon or even John Collins, but Bembry largely seems to be an afterthought. At worst, he will likely be a primary ball distributor in the second unit who can also provide some defensive stats. If, however, the Hawks are sliding and Kent Bazemore or Taurean Prince struggle, he may be able to find himself in a more solidified role providing the aforementioned stats in greater abundance. He won’t give you much in the way of scoring, but he should be a reliable source of assists late in deep-league drafts. He should maintain a solid top-300 floor, with top-200 upside, so his current ranking is almost criminal.

    Isaiah Taylor

    Pre-Draft Rankings: 470/N.A. (Yahoo/ESPN), 2016 Ranking: 473/471 (8/9 cat)

    In February, the Rockets signed Taylor to a three-year, non-guaranteed deal after an impressive stint in the G-League. He only played four uninspiring games with the team last season, but he had a solid outing in Summer League and appears to have a legitimate chance of making the final roster. Take into account the glaring lack of guard depth in Houston and Taylor becomes worth a look this year as a last round pick in super deep leagues if we take into account his… wait for it… opportunity. If Chris Paul misses time this year, Taylor seems slated to be a primary beneficiary. Leaving him on the wire even in 30-team leagues would be completely justified, but there are few guys available that late that have the as much ability to rocket (that was bad, sorry) up the rankings if a few things go his way.

    Those are just a few guys that I will be targeting based on the current Yahoo and ESPN pre-draft rankings. If those rankings are updated, I will update my analysis accordingly. If you have an unhealthy addiction to using the word “upside,” or just want to chat about dynasty leagues and all things fantasy hoops, you can reach me on Twitter: @z_bodhane. Until next time Hoop Ballers!

Fantasy News

  • Enes Kanter - C - Trail Blazers

    The Blazers, Lakers and Celtics are among the teams that will be interested in free agent Enes Kanter, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

    Portland knows Kanter well and would surely like to have him back after his admirable work filling in for an injured Jusuf Nurkic, while playing through his own serious ailments, in the playoffs. The Celtics could use a ferocious rebounder to replace Aron Baynes and are barren at the center spot with Al Horford's departure, while the Lakers are lining up cost-effective depth with their roster almost completely empty. Kanter might not replicate his Knicks numbers, but he'll be a standard-league asset no matter where he lands.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Cheick Diallo - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    Cheick Diallo will be an unrestricted free agent after the Pelicans decided not to extend him a qualifying offer.

    Diallo has solid per-minute output but the playing time has never been there for him in New Orleans. He's got talent and good work ethic, but the league is flooded with available big men at the moment. Hopefully Diallo lands in a spot where he can continue his development.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Nikola Mirotic - PF - Milwaukee Bucks

    Nikola Mirotic is another player on the Mavs' list of free agent targets, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas News.

    Mirotic is not as high on the list as Patrick Beverley, but the Mavs see the stretch forward as a potential fit. While Mirotic ended the postseason out of the rotation for Milwaukee, he's going to be a hot commodity given his floor-spacing and should hold solid standard-league value no matter where he ends up.

    Source: Dallas News

  • Tobias Harris - SF - Philadelphia Sixers

    The Clippers, Mavs, Nets, Nuggets, Wolves, Kings, Grizzlies and Pelicans are expected to be interested in Tobias Harris once free agency opens.

    The Clippers are the most surprising team on the list, but only because they dealt Harris unexpectedly last season. Even so, the team and player had success together and the relationship wasn't necessarily damaged by the deal. Harris is one of the top second-tier free agents available and should have his pick of competitive offers. The Sixers are said to be confident about re-signing him, but they won't be able to do so without a fight.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Julius Randle - PF - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Bulls are expected to indicate "early interest" in Julius Randle, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

    Randle is coming off a career year and is looking to cash in. The Bulls have plenty of space available and won't be in the mix for max players, so there's definitely a fit salary-wise if Chicago can get in on Randle before other teams pivot off the top players. It would be a pain for fantasy players however, as Randle joining a frontcourt that already features Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. would put a cap on each player. The Knicks and Nets are also interested in Randle, and we'll hear about more suitors in the coming days.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - SF - Brooklyn Nets

    Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that the Wolves, Rockets and Suns are among the teams that are interested in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

    Hollis-Jefferson had a brutal season, injuring his groin in a charity game last summer and never catching up. He fell out of the rotation at times, just one year after emerging as a potential long-term solution at power forward. RHJ is a worthwhile reclamation project for any team and is not that far removed from top-100 fantasy output. He's not someone to forget on draft day, depending on where he lands.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Cory Joseph - PG - Indiana Pacers

    The Suns, Wizards, Kings and Bulls are among the teams that have shown interest in Cory Joseph, per Shams Charania.

    Point-guard-needy teams should be all over Joseph, as he can be a cost-effective backup and acceptable fill-in starter to help any young players learn the ropes. CoJo figures to get more interest as the top guards on the market sign on, as his game fits with just about any team — from rebuilds to contenders.

    Source: The Athletic

  • D'Angelo Russell - PG - Brooklyn Nets

    Shams Charania is reporting that the Lakers' interest in D'Angelo Russell is "real," and that the team likes that he is familiar to the organization.

    Reports of L.A.'s interest in Russell continue to roll in, and if they do pursue him it would mean that they're passing up on adding a third superstar. The Nets have the right to match any offers coming Russell's way, and with the Lakers likely to have between $24 and $28 million available, Brooklyn would have quite a decision to make if they don't get Kyrie Irving as rumored.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Terry Rozier - PG - Boston Celtics

    The Knicks are expected to be one of Terry Rozier's suitors in free agency, per Shams Charania.

    Rozier will be an understandable option if the Knicks miss out on their top point guard acquisitions, which seems likely to happen based on current speculation. New York would rather give short-term deals to players like Rozier than lavish huge contracts on second or third-tier free agents. A starting spot would put Rozier on the standard-league map, though his fantasy stat set is not without serious holes.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Marc Gasol - C - Toronto Raptors

    Marc Gasol has exercised his $25.6 million player option for next season and will remain with the Raptors.

    Gasol seemed unlikely to test the open market at his age, and given the success of the core of Toronto's roster it's a good fit for him to stay with a competitive team as well. It's been speculated that Toronto's other players will decide to stay or go based on Kawhi Leonard's decision, so if you really want to read into this then you can take that angle — though between his age and the number of available centers, this seemed like a safe bet either way. Gasol made a lot of sacrifices upon joining the Raptors and finished the year with a top-100 stretch, but we'll need to wait on Kawhi before declaring Gasol a late-middle round option or an early-round guy once again.

    Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter