• Hey Hoop-Ballers! Welcome back to yet another season of Deep League Digging – my weekly column scouring the darkest reaches of the fantasy NBA landscape in search of diamonds in the rough for deep league owners.

    I’m giddy just writing this, but we now officially have two nights of real NBA basketball in the rear view mirror. That means that it is, without a doubt, overreaction season where players are either deemed as a steal or bust off a one-game sample size.

    Wise owners will look past the hot takes and overreactions, but this is also the time of year to be aggressive on the waiver wire and try to find that diamond in the rough that went overlooked during draft season. A few key early waiver wire moves can turn a middling team into a contender, and while the wire in deep leagues will contain far fewer of those “must grab” early season risers, it is still equally important to make sure you aren’t passing value over.

    With that in mind, this article is targeted on some early season fliers owned in 5% of leagues or less that may not pan out, but have the talent to make a difference in leagues ranging from 16-teams to 30-teams and can make an impact.

    NOTE: I am trying to cover everything from 16-team leagues to 30-team leagues. Consider your league size before acting on any analysis presented. If a player is must-own in 30-team leagues, that may only translate to streaming value in 16-team formats. Conversely, if a player is roster-worthy in 16-team formats, it is generally safe to consider them a must-own player in larger leagues. I’ll try to note things like that to limit confusion, but it is an important caveat. Finally, I will list players in order of their relevance in leagues from shallowest (16-team) to deepest (30-team) leagues. Phew, glad that is over – now to the fun stuff.

    Dwight Powell, PF/C, Mavericks (3% owned) – Last season, Powell proved to be a league-winning pickup down the stretch for deep league owners. He provided top-100 value in 25 minutes per game over the final two months of the season as the Mavericks limped their way toward another lottery pick. Despite the standard league production, owners are sleeping on Powell this season as his ownership still sits below the 5 percent mark.

    Before I get ahead of myself in talking up Powell, there are a number of factors that likely explain his low ownership. Dirk Nowitzki is coming back for another season, some guy named DeAndre Jordan will be stepping into the starting center role, and Luka Doncic should see plenty of minutes at the four. All of those factors, compounded with the presence of Maxi Kleber and Salah Mejri, make the odds of Powell seeing 25 minutes per night or more a longshot.

    Those are all legitimate threats to his value this year as a fantasy asset, but my confidence in including Powell on this list comes from the fact that he really doesn’t need much more than 20 minutes per night to be an impactful top-175 player for deep league owners. His per 36 averages have always been impressive, so as long as he can carve out a roughly 20 minute role in the rotation fantasy owners can expect a steady stream of boards and efficient scoring at the rim. Powell should be a back-end ownable player in 16-team leagues and deeper, so take a look to see if he is available pending a few updates on the lingering knee soreness that he was dealing with in the preseason.

    Nemanja Bjelica, SF/PF, Kings (2% owned) – Few players had as turbulent of an offseason as Nemanja Bjelica. The 30 year-old forward went from starting for the Wolves to end the season, to almost signing a one-year deal with the Sixers, to backing out of a deal with Sixers to playing in Europe, to signing a three-year contract with the Kings and throwing his name in the hat for the starting small forward job.

    Taking a gamble on any of the Kings big men with the inherent uncertainty accompanying Dave Joerger’s rotations combined with the sheer number of players vying for minutes is just that – a gamble. However, we have seen what Bjelica can do when he earns 28-30 minutes per night. He was a top-150 player over the final two months of last season based on solid contributions in threes, rebounds and steals without killing your percentages.

    Owning Bjelica could prove frustrating at times if the minutes are as inconsistent as they have the potential to be under Joerger, but there is enough there to warrant a speculative add in 16-team leagues and deeper on the hope that he is able to carve out a steady role in the rotation.

    Gorgui Dieng, PF/C, Wolves (3% owned) – Remember this guy? Dieng’s spot on this list is largely based on speculation surrounding the Jimmy Butler situation in Minnesota. If the Wolves are able to move Dieng in a deal centered around Butler (or Thibs is fired), it is hard to imagine him landing in a worse position than he is in right now. We may never see a return of the top-50 version of Dieng, but even in a slightly expanded role he would be a safe bet for top-150 value.

    Even if Dieng isn’t traded, there is still at least the potential for back-end value in 16-team leagues. There are few players sitting around on deep league waiver wires that have the upside of Dieng, so owners should consider a speculative add if he ended up going undrafted. With all of that said, if the situation for Dieng appears to be more of the same, owners can probably move on and open up a streaming spot or player with a more clearly defined path to minutes.

    Alec Burks, G, Jazz (1% owned) –  Last year Burks was largely forgettable on a Jazz team headlined by rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell. He started the season with a fairly solidified mid-20 minute role in the rotation, but was eventually phased out as Donovan Mitchell, and to a far lesser extent, Royce O’Neale solidified their spot in the pecking order.

    However, the news out of the Jazz’s camp is that Burks has had a standout training camp, and he certainly looked the part in the preseason as well. Coming off a stellar first game of the season where he dropped 13 points on 57 percent shooting with three triples, three rebounds, four assists and a steal, Burks is worth at least watching in 16-team leagues, and should be owned in deeper formats.

    He won’t continue to produce numbers like that in only 18 minutes, but he is one of the higher upside options that should be available in deep leagues. However, keep an eye on his minutes and don’t be afraid to move on if he becomes limited as Quin Snyder may turn more to Thabo Sefolosha and Royce O’Neale depending on the matchup.

    Quinn Cook, PG, Warriors (1% owned) – *30 for 30 voice* What if I told you a player came straight from the G-League to the best team in the NBA and averaged 16.9 points, 2.5 threes, 4.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 0.8 steals on 52 percent shooting over the last month of the season? Well, you’d probably tell me that those stats came on unsustainably high shooting, in a small sample size, and against a number of tanking teams or playoff teams resting their starters.

    All of that is true, but given all of those factors that should make fantasy owners think twice before buying into Cook, his play was at least strong enough to warrant a guaranteed contract from the Warriors. He now enters the season the presumably entrenched as the third string point guard behind Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston.

    There is serious appeal in Cook as a streamer in 16-team leagues when news breaks that Curry or Klay Thompson will be rested, but he should have a solid enough night-to-night role in the rotation to warrant a flier in 20-team leagues and deeper. There will be plenty of duds, but the potential for him to catch fire and drop a 15-point performance in 20 minutes alone is enough to deem him worth owning in super deep leagues.

    Juan Hernangomez, SF/PF, Nuggets (1% owned) – If you follow the dynasty side of things here at Hoop-Ball, you will already know that I am high on Hernangomez. He showed some impressive flashes in his rookie season, but had his sophomore campaign derailed entirely by injury and illness. There are plenty of bodies in the Nuggets frontcourt, but Hernangomez has the kind of pop to his game that can distinguish him from the likes of Torrey Craig and Trey Lyles, or at the least, earn him a consistent 15-20 minute role alongside Lyles off the bench.

    He isn’t a must-own player in 16-team leagues, but should be owned in 20-team leagues and larger. My concerns lie more in how Michael Malone will deploy his bench unit with defensive stopper Torrey Craig waiting in the wings. There may be some frustrating nights where Hernangomez is frozen out for the defensive energy that Craig brings, but I’m optimistic that talent will win out in the end.

    Glenn Robinson III, SG/SF, Pistons (<1% owned) – Similar to players listed above, Robinson is facing an uphill battle to earning consistent rotation minutes given the bevy of wing players in Detroit. Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson are solidly ahead of Robinson, and Langston Galloway, Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas could all emerge ahead of Robinson as well.

    While his per-36 numbers aren’t spectacular, there is a chance that Robinson can outplay the often inconsistent Stanley Johnson and assume a larger role on the wing given his defensive prowess. He doesn’t give you much outside of threes and steals, so taking a flier on Robinson will be highly team dependent, but he is one of a few players that may be sitting on the wire in 20-team leagues and larger that has a feasible chance at cracking the top-175 if everything pans out for him.

    16-team owners can stick with keeping him on their watch list, but he should be owned in 20-team leagues and larger. As with all of the players on this list, keep him on a short leash and don’t be afraid to move on quickly if a must-own option emerges on the wire.

    Watch List

    Ante Zizic, C, Cavaliers (1% owned) – Zizic could be a dominant player in another era, but the game has largely left lumbering low post centers like Zizic behind. Still the opportunity is there for Zizic to carve out a decent role in the rotation on a nightly basis as the Cavaliers don’t have much in the way of capable big men beyond Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. He will probably draw quite a few DNPs based on matchups, so he is more of a watch list player in any league smaller than 20 teams. However, the opportunity is there for production if Love or Nance (two relatively injury prone players) go down with an injury at any point this season.

    Justin Anderson, SF, Hawks (<1% owned) – It seems that I was year early on DeAndre Bembry, as he couldn’t put it together last season but showed out in preseason and started the year off with a strong performance in 23 minutes off the bench (add him in 16-team leagues). So, it is time to hitch my wagon to another relatively unknown Hawks player I suppose.

    Anderson is recovering from a stress fracture in his leg – an injury which can derail entire seasons – so hold off on adding him outside of a speculative add in 30-team leagues. However, put him on your watch list in all deep leagues as the opportunity is there in the second half of the season for Anderson to emerge as the Hawks are likely engaged in another race to the bottom and sit Kent Bazemore and Vince Carter.

    That’s it for this week! As always, if you want to talk deep league or dynasty hoops you can connect with me on Twitter: @z_bodhane

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