• Hey Hoop-Ballers! Welcome back to another edition 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.

    We are now officially in the swing of the young NBA season, and that means that overreaction season is upon us. Every year it is the same story.  A relatively unheralded player turns in a few massive early performances, becomes a waiver wire darling, and hot takes start flying from all corners. The real money gets made when fantasy managers can cut through the noise and differentiate a player whose fast start is doomed to come to a grinding halt from the real-deal waiver wire breakout candidates.

    This can be especially challenging in deep leagues given that the early season risers are generally doing it all in 15-20 minutes or less. A few early outlier performances in 10-15 minutes of garbage time can make even a back-end player in 30-team formats look like a standard-league waiver wire steal. Compound that with the added competition on the wire and a diminished talent pool in deep leagues, and you get the perfect storm for tough decisions.

    I won’t belabor the early season rankings from years past, but it is worth remembering that early season shooting stars often burn out just as quickly. However, there are also examples of players on the wire early, even in 20 and 30-team formats, who end the year ranked comfortably inside the top-150. With that in mind, join me as we put on our hazmat suits and dig through the dumpster fire that is early season rankings to sort out the rising studs from inevitable duds.

    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-roster player in larger leagues. Generally, we will be highlighting players available in at least 90-percent of leagues, but early season numbers can swing wildly from a few good performances, so we will be zooming out a bit further in this article.

    Troy Brown Jr., F, WAS (21% Rostered) – There is a good chance that Brown is already rostered in most deep leagues, but he is still around in over 90 percent of leagues on ESPN and 80 percent in Yahoo, so take a look. His minutes could fluctuate a bit if the Wizards look to ride the hot hand, but his stat set is versatile enough to hold value if his role is minimized on a given night. As the season progresses, I would expect his minutes to creep up. He won’t likely continue to shoot 50 percent from the field, but I think that Brown is the real deal and should hold close to top-100 season-long value.

    Damion Lee, G, Warriors (9% rostered) – Prior to dropping a surprise 23 and 11 double-double in an even more surprising Warriors victory over the Pelicans, Lee was probably best known as Steph Curry’s brother in law. However, given the state of the injury riddled Warriors, Lee was thrust into a larger role and has largely excelled, posting near top-150 value to start the season.

    However, his fantasy utility may have a shelf-life as he is only signed on a two-way deal, limiting the amount of action that he can see at the NBA level to 45 days unless signed to a guaranteed contract. To add complexity, the Warriors’ other two-way player, Ky Bowman, is also performing well enough to warrant a guaranteed deal given the state of this team. Feel free to take a flier on Lee, but don’t drop anyone with season-long value as a lot will have to go right for Lee to stay in the Warriors’ rotation moving forward.

    Mario Hezonja, F, Blazers (7% rostered) – We pretty much know what to expect from Hezonja at this point. Some big games and some stinkers from the field and a relatively steady stream of steals coming in. However, with Zach Collins set to miss a majority of the season while recovering from a shoulder injury, the Blazers will need Hezonja to fill a significant portion of those frontcourt minutes left open. Make sure that he is not on any wires in all deep leagues.

    Patty Mills, G, Spurs (6% rostered) – Similar to Temple, Mills is another mainstay of the early season “is he doing this for real?” type of articles. However, There are a few red flags that we need to consider before jumping on the Mills bandwagon. For starters, he is shooting 48 percent from the field and dropping in 2.4 triples per game with 1.1 steals. The counting stat production is all fairly well above what we have seen from Mills in recent years on a per-minute basis, and the efficiency is destined for some regression.

    He also may stand to lose minutes as the season progresses and Dejounte Murray is worked back into a larger role. He is fine to deploy as a 3-point streamer with some assist upside, but probably isn’t worth holding at the end of your bench in 16-team leagues.

    Robert Williams, F/C, BOS (5% rostered) – An early season injury to Enes Kanter expedited Williams’ timeline a bit as he moved into the reserve center role behind Daniel Theis. Thanks to a sky high block rate, he is a fantastic per minute producer. However, his game has shown some signs of progression as he is now racking up 1.2 steals per game in addition to the 1.2 blocks we would expect and even showing some promise as a facilitator out of the post with 2.2 assists in 15.1 minutes per game. Kanter appears ready to return soon, so his ceiling could be capped, but on upside alone Williams should probably be rostered in all 16-team leagues and deeper.

    Moritz Wagner, F, Wizards (4% rostered) – After failing to even crack the top-400 as a rookie, Wagner has come out of the gates on fire and is dropping 11.1 points on 59 percent shooting (going 87 percent at the line) per game with 1.0 triples, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 1.0 blocks in 18 minutes. There is very little chance that he continues to shoot around the 60 percent mark, but I could see the block and rebound rate holding steady. His role appears pretty consistent, and he given his relatively unknown status as a fantasy asset, I don’t mind a flier in all deep leagues on the hope that this he settles as a top-150-ish player.

    Duncan Robinson, F, Heat (4% rostered) – Duncan Robinson has been one of the most maddening players to roster from a consistency standpoint. One game he explodes for 23 points with seven triples in 36 minutes (that game was a total blowout) and follows that up with a two-point clunker on 16 percent shooting in 11 minutes (also a blowout game). Given his limited stat set, that will probably continue to be the case with Robinson. When his shot is falling, he can give you elite 3-point production off the wire, but if he cools off he offers next to nothing else to salvage value. He should be rostered in 18-team leagues and deeper, but in anything shallower he should probably be deployed only as a streamer unless you are in desperate need of threes at the end of your bench.

    Gorgui Dieng, C, MIN (3% rostered) – Gorgui Dieng is hovering around the top-100, what year is it, 2016??? Congratulations if you picked him up for the two games that Karl-Anthony Towns was suspended, but now he will slide back to an extremely limited bench role. Outside of injury insurance for KAT in super deep leagues, Dieng probably shouldn’t be on any rosters.

    Donte DiVincenzo, G, Bucks (2% rostered) – DiVincenzo is somewhat of an unknown after losing most of his rookie season to injury. However, he has come on strong to start the season and is making a strong case for a regular spot in the Bucks rotation. In five games season, DiVincenzo is averaging 7.8 points on 43.8 percent shooting with 1.8 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks in 15 minutes per game. Outside of threes, he doesn’t pop much in anyone category, but has been providing solid “Tobias Harris light” type production across the board. He’s played well so far in the minutes given, and nothing about his production jumps out as totally unsustainable, so a flier is warranted in all deep leagues where he is available.

    C.J. Miles, F, Wizards (1% Rostered) – With two games under his belt this season, Miles is a top-50 player in 9-cat leagues. He is currently averaging two triples on 47 percent shooting with 1.5 blocks in 21.3 minutes per game. A couple of things jump out as unsustainable. His career-best shooting efficiency for a season is 47 percent, and he has hovered more around the 36-37 percent in recent years.

    The efficiency isn’t likely to stick, but even more absurd is his block rate considering he averages 0.3 blocks per game over his career. The production is awesome if you streamed him in, but he can probably stay on the wire in 16-team leagues outside of 3-point streaming scenarios.

    Garrett Temple, G/F, Nets (1% rostered) – At the start of every year, I’ve started to notice that the same names tend to pop up season-after-season in these articles as surprise performers given their lack of draft stock and general fantasy appeal. Garrett Temple seems to be one of those guys.

    It is not flashy, but 1.3 triples on 47 percent efficiency with 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game is fantastic value from an end-of-bench type contributor in 16-team leagues. The eventual return of Wilson Chandler may push him down in the pecking order slightly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Temple finished the year inside of the top-200. If you’d rather swing for the fences on upside with the end of your bench that is totally understandable, but Temple should not be available in 99 percent of leagues.

    Frank Jackson, G, Pelicans (1% rostered) – The Pelicans rotation has been difficult to get a read on to start the season, but it does appear that for the time being Frank Jackson has jumped Nickeil Alexander-Walker on the depth chart. He is a rare source of points off the wire in deep leagues, which in itself can prove valuable, but know that his 46 percent shooting efficiency to start the season will not continue, and when his shot doesn’t fall, he offers absolutely nothing else from a fantasy perspective. He should probably be rostered in leagues deeper than 16-teams, but is more of a speculative, albeit limited-upside flier in 16-teamers.

    Chris Silva, F, Heat (<1% rostered) – If you need blocks off the wire in a 20-team, or even 30-team, league Chris Silva is your guy. In only 8.6 minutes per game this season, Silva is averaging 1.1 blocks and has registered a block in five of the seven games that he has appeared in. Similar to Lee, he is on a two-way deal so his shelf life is limited, but when he plays there are few better options for blocks streaming in super deep leagues.

    Skal Labissiere, F, Blazers (<1% rostered) – Similar to Hezonja, Labissiere is likely going to be forced into a larger role this season given how barren the Blazers’ frontcourt is. He probably is who he is at this point, but if you need steady blocks in 20-team leagues and deeper there are certainly worse options than Labisseire.

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