• Hey Hoop Ballers! Welcome to a special super-duper-deep 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.

    Nearly every season it seems that a relatively unknown player emerges from the G-League and ends up being an absolute steal off the wire. From more established examples like Hassan Whiteside, to late season league-winners like Quinn Cook or Yogi Ferrell the year before, the list of names that rise from the depths of G-League obscurity to fantasy hero status continues to grow. It may be months from now – if ever – when these guys get their moment on the big stage, but it is never too early to do some scouting in hopes of finding the next big G-League sensation.

    The G-League season is still fairly young, but we have enough of a sample size on most of these guys to see who is worth keeping an eye on should their moment come.

    Chris Boucher

    Background

    Boucher was a late comer to the game of basketball, playing on an organized team for the first time at the age of 19. He is a physical specimen – an explosive athlete standing 6’11” with a 7’4” wingspan. However, his raw skill set needed serious refining through years at a number of junior colleges before he eventually transferred to the play at the University of Oregon.

    Boucher’s senior year with the Ducks was unfortunately cut short after only 12 games when he tore his ACL, effectively ending the possibility that an NBA team would roll the dice on the intriguing, but still raw prospect. After going undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, Boucher secured a two-way deal with the Warriors but only logged one minute on the floor in his tenure with the eventual NBA Champions.

    G-League Performance

    He was far from dominant in the G-League last year as well, averaging a solid but not NBA-ready 11.8 points on 47 percent shooting with 7.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. The mediocre play in the G-League contributed to the Warriors decision to waive Boucher this summer, though he went on to earn another chance at proving he can make it in the Association by receiving a two-way contract with the Raptors.

    It would seem that Boucher realizes that this may be his last shot at making it, and is responding accordingly. Over his ten games this season with the Raptors 905, Boucher is absolutely dominating the G-League averaging a ludicrous 29.5 points on 53 percent shooting with 12.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 4.0 blocks.

    NBA Prospects 

    While it is encouraging to see Boucher so thoroughly dominating the competition in the G-League, the Raptors frontcourt rotation is jam-packed with the likes of Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Pascal Siakam (who, I hear, is also having a pretty good season), OG Anunoby and Greg Monroe. There would probably have to be an injury or two for Boucher to realistically have a shot at consistent rotation minutes, and even then he would likely play in a limited role.

    Beyond the crowded rotation, the Raptors are one of the premier teams this season out East. This could go both ways, giving garbage time opportunities on nights where Boucher joins the big league Raptors, but it will more likely be a limiting factor as there is less incentive to regularly call up two-way players for a look at what they can offer.

    There is also the possibility that his extremely wiry frame may always limit his ceiling as an NBA prospect. He has added roughly 20 pounds according to his measurements reported on the Raptors 905 roster

    Demetrius Jackson

    Background

    After a three year college career at Notre Dame, Demetrius Jackson was picked by the Celtics with the 45th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. He never was able to garner significant rotation minutes, playing only minor garbage time minutes in only five games over his rookie season. After being released by the Celtics, Jackson signed a two-way deal with the Rockets for the 2017 season and played consistent, albeit limited, minutes early in the season.

    As the season went on and the Rockets returned to full strength, Jackson fell entirely out of the rotation and was ultimately released shortly before the All-Star Break. The Sixers signed Jackson to another two-way deal shortly after he was released by the Rockets and renewed his two-way status for the 2018 season.

    G-League Performance

    In a small four-game sample size this season, Jackson has significantly improved his play compared to his stats in the G-League last season. He is currently scoring 27 points on 49 percent shooting with 2.8 threes, 4.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 36 minutes.

    While he is playing roughly nine minutes more per game this season compared to last year with the Delaware Blue Coats, we can see through his per 36 numbers that the uptick in production is more than just a result of additional time on the floor. His per-36 scoring output is up by 8.7 points, he is draining an extra triple and he is dishing out an extra 2.6 assists.

    NBA Prospects

    Despite the fact that he has logged NBA miles with both the Celtics and now the Sixers, he is still extremely unproven and has never had an opportunity to play meaningful minutes. Up in the big leagues, rookie Landry Shamet has proven capable of handling regular rotation minutes with the Sixers, and Jackson has to contend with fellow two-way player Shake Milton for minutes at the one if an opportunity were to arise through injury. Given all of that, it is not likely that Jackson sees the opportunity to play meaningful minutes this season without some significant injury trouble ahead of him on the depth chart. However, I am including him in this list to keep an eye on that as he provides the closest analogue to a Ben Simmons-style facilitator should the need to fill that gap arise – Milton and Shamet are capable scorers, but lack a traditional lead guard skill set that Jackson possesses.

    Yante Maten

    Background

    Maten played four years at the University of Georgia, averaging 19.3 points per game with 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in his senior year before winning SEC Player of the Year and making the All-SEC First Team. Despite his accolades in college, Maten never heard his name called on draft night in 2018 and subsequently signed a two-way deal with the Miami Heat in late July.

    G-League Performance

    Unlike his Heat two-way counterpart, Duncan Robinson, Maten has yet to log a single minute with the big league club, playing in all of the Sioux Falls Skyforce’s 13 games so far this season. As many are wont to do in the G-League, he is posting some gaudy numbers. So far this season, he is averaging 27 points per game on 60 percent shooting with 1.2 triples, 10.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 32 minutes per game.

    As you can see in his highlights below from a 42-point, 14-rebound and 5-block performance against the Stockton Kings, Maten makes his living at the rim. Despite most of his looks coming on lobs, put-backs and a limited array of post moves, Maten has the ability to stretch out beyond the arc for the occasional three.

    NBA Prospects

    NBA front offices ultimately passed on selecting Maten in the draft due to concerns over his size (standing at only 6’8” while exhibiting the skillset of a traditional big) and his limited athleticism. Despite his limited physical profile, the tools are there for Maten to carve out a role as a high-motor rim runner off the bench with the ability to catch fire here and there.

    As with all of these players, the path to meaningful NBA minutes is long, arduous and filled with superior players ahead of them. However, if the Heat decide to shake things up as the trade deadline approaches and look to move Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk or Justise Winslow, Maten could see limited action. In super deep leagues, both Maten and his fellow Heat two-way player Duncan Robinson (a sharpshooting big) should be on your watch list.

    Jaylen Adams

    Background

    Adams had a standout college career at St. Bonaventure punctuated by a 2018 NCAA Tournament berth and an Honorable Mention award in the 2018 AP All-American list. He was ultimately not selected in 2018 NBA Draft, but promptly signed a two-way deal with the Atlanta Hawks following the draft night disappointment. His physical profile is not exceptional, though adequate for an NBA point guard, and he is far from an elite athlete. Despite his physical limitations, he profiles as a crafty offensive-minded lead guard with an extensive scoring arsenal and solid vision as a passer.

    G-League Performance

    Adams has played four games so far this season with the Hawks, though he was limited to under five minutes of garbage time clean-up duty in each outing. The majority of his playing time has come in the G-League with the Erie Bayhawks where is currently averaging 17.2 points per game on 39 percent shooting with 3.2 triples, 4.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals in 32 minutes.

    As his G-League numbers and 43 percent conversion rate in college would suggest, scoring efficiency is an issue for Adams. However, If you look past his high-volume, low-percentage scoring numbers, the potential for fantasy production is there given his high steal rate, solid assist numbers and strong out-of-position rebounding. With that solid baseline of production, that makes the nights when his shot falls all the sweeter. Check out Adams catching fire in a 44-point performance against the Westchester Knicks below.

    NBA Prospects

    Adams may have the clearest path to minutes of all of the players covered so far as the Hawks are clearly in no position to contend and have limited depth at the one behind the inexperience Trae Young and the veteran, yet injury prone, Jeremy Lin.

    Adams may continue to toil away in the G-League for the time being, but keep an eye on Adams after the All-Star Break as he may play himself into a consistent role with the Hawks down the stretch. If he proves a capable cavalryman in the Hawks’ tank unit, Adams could provide solid back end value in 16-team leagues if you can stomach the damage he may do to your field goal percentage on any given night.

    Terrence Jones

    Background

    Yep, that Terrence Jones. It wasn’t long ago that that Jones was a legitimate standard-league fantasy option and a key piece of the rotation in the Rockets’ 2015 Western Conference Finals appearance. From that point on, everything spiraled downhill for Jones as he battled significant injury troubles over the next season and was let go by the Rockets.

    Jones got a second chance with the Pelicans, but was ultimately waived following the blockbuster deal to land DeMarcus Cousins. From there he had a short stint with the Bucks and an even stranger nine-game career with the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles of the Chinese Basketball Association before he was kicked off the team for fighting with the coach.

    Jones’ NBA career is on life support, and he knows it, spending all of last season with the Warriors G-League affiliate and this year moving to play with the Erie Bayhawks following a trade. Seriously, do yourself a favor and look up G-League trades. It is an awesome rabbit hole to go down as a hoops nerd.

    G-League Performance

    Last season with the Santa Cruz Warriors, Jones posted some fairly uninspiring numbers by the G-League standards of a player of his pedigree. However, so far this year with the Bayhawks, he looks focused, renewed and ready to prove that he deserves another shot in the Association. In eight games so far this season, Jones is averaging 27.4 points per game on 57 percent shooting with 1.4 triples, 10.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.0 block in 34 minutes and, perhaps most impressively given his history, converting 75 percent of his shots at the line on nine attempts per game.

    NBA Prospects

    There is a lot to like in Jones’ game from a fantasy perspective. He is an efficient scorer who can provide a diverse array of threes, rebounds, steals, blocks. He never managed to shoot over 66 percent at the line during his NBA tenure, so the improved free throw percentage is a welcome sign of him taking his comeback seriously.

    There are any number of teams that could use the versatility that Jones can provide, contributing on both ends of the floor. If he keeps up this level of play in the G-League and stay healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an NBA team take a chance on Jones and sign him for a 10-day tryout down the stretch. Keep his name on your watch list and feel free to take a flier in all deep leagues should the opportunity arise.

    Wrapping it Up

    The list of players posting gaudy lines in the G-League is legion, so instead of providing an in-depth profile on the following list of players, I’ll switch to a quick synopsis of some additional guys that all deep-leaguers should have on their watch list.

    John Jenkins, G – Jenkins is not signed on a two-way deal, making him available to be signed by any NBA team in need. He played a few lackluster years in the NBA, never quite living up to his first-round draft pedigree, but is posting some huge scoring numbers with the Westchester Knicks. His improvements as a 3-point shooter (averaging 3.8 per game on 49 percent efficiency) could serve as his ticket to a second chance.

    Devin Robinson, F & Jordan McRae, G – Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae are both signed on two-way deals with the Wizards and are both impressing so far in the G-League in their own regards. The dysfunction in the Wizards locker room has been kept anything but quiet, and should the front office opt to blow things up and reset, both McRae and Robinson could be looking at decent minutes.

    Chasson Randle – Like Jenkins, Randle is not signed to a two-way deal, making him available for any team to pick up. His production is way up across the board compared to last year’s numbers in the G-League, and should he keep this torrid pace he has a good chance at a 10-day tryout in the NBA.

    Johnathan Motley Motely played on a two-way deal with the Mavericks last season and posted some solid late-season numbers. This year he is playing on another two-way deal with the Clippers and is managing to improve upon his already impressive production in the G-League last season.

    P.J. Dozier – Dozier is playing on a two-way deal with the Celtics currently and is absolutely demolishing the G-League. His improvement compared to last year’s production is impressive, but the Celtics are not exactly thin on guards so his path to meaningful minutes this year is complicated at best.

Fantasy News

  • Dennis Smith Jr.
    PG, New York Knicks

    Marc Berman of the New York Post is reporting that with new leadership in place for the Knicks, the team is likely to shop Dennis Smith Jr. this offseason.

    Knicks President Leon Rose has no attachment to Smith, and with head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart no longer around to justify his retention, there is little reason for the Knicks to continue relying upon DSJ's services. He struggled all season, from a back injury, to the loss of his stepmother, to an obscure oblique injury, and a concussion in February. Smith will be worth a flyer for another team to roll the dice on, but it is unlikely he gets a real chance to be the Knicks point guard of the future again. It will be difficult for Smith to become a standard league option no matter where he is playing next season. He is simply too lousy a shooter from the field and free-throw line. His turnover rate also remains an issue in 9-CAT formats.

    Source: NY Post

  • Ashton Hagans
    PG, College

    Sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans announced his intention to leave Kentucky and enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

    Hagans is projected to be a late second-round target for the draft and is unlikely to make noise as a rookie in the NBA. One has to hope he lands on a team devoid of point guard options to let Hagans emerge with much fantasy value as a rookie. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game while serving as the starting point guard throughout this season with the Wildcats.

    Source: UK Athletics

  • Theo Maledon
    PG, International

    French point guard Theo Maledon has completed all of the required paperwork to make himself eligible to be selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.

    Maledon is an up-and-coming prospect who will be only 18 years young on draft day. He was a contender to take home the Rising Star award based upon his play in the Euroleague this season before the action was cut short due to the coronavirus. He's been in the French system since he was 14 and is considered a pick just outside the NBA lottery on many draft boards. He was averaging 7.1 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes of action.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Pacers GM Chad Buchanan declined to interview for the Bulls' top basketball operations position.

    Buchanan said he and his family are happy in Indianapolis and he is not interested in leaving. The Bulls are clearly moving fast with building their new front office after the announcement that GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson are expected to move to different roles in the organization. A change in the front office and coaching staff could only be positive for fantasy purposes as the Bulls rank 29th in offensive rating this season. Hopefully a change would bring a more fantasy-friendly system with an emphasis on developing the younger talent on the roster.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The NBA and ESPN are working together to televise a H-O-R-S-E competition with several high-profile players.

    Woj reported that the details of this competition are still being finalized, but it sounds like players will shoot in isolation, most likely in their home gyms. This would be a much needed source of entertainment for everyone who loves the NBA and, with bragging rights on the line, we would likely see some stellar performances from the NBA's best players.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Lauri Markkanen had been unhappy with the direction of the Bulls organization even before the league went on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Markkanen was so displeased, in fact, that he went on to state that if the situation were to remain unchanged, he'd prefer to be elsewhere. The Bulls power forward was a fantasy mess in 2019-20 and some of that could be attributed to the coach and some of it, to his injuries. Still, his statements put the team in a rough spot. considering Markkanen has been widely regarded as a core piece of their future plans. The Bulls are already shaking things up though, making moves towards freshening things up in the front office. The Markkanen-Bulls relationship is a must-watch storyline, especially given his potential in fantasy hoops.

    Source: Chicago Sun-Times.

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Speaking on ESPN on Friday, Brian Windhorst said that there has been increasing pessimism about the NBA season resuming.

    Windhorst noted that the league has begun to discuss the financial ramifications of shutting the league down, and we've seen reports about the league looking for players to take paycuts as a result of the season's uncertain future. The fact that the CBA in China was set to resume and then delayed again is an ominous sign with NBA markets nowhere near the apex of COVID-19.

    Source: ESPN

  • Kobe Bryant
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be inducted into the 2020 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Formal announcements will be made on Saturday, but it appears to be a done deal. The three aforementioned players helped define and then redefine the sport during their primes, making the 2020 class one of the most star-studded since Michael Jordan was inducted. Bryant, especially, who was often compared to his "Airness" will be a bittersweet entrant as the NBA and the world is still dealing with his sudden passing.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Bulls have begun their search for a top executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions.

    Interviews will begin next week, with Toronto GM Bobby Webster and Denver GM Arturas Karnisovas on Chicago's wish list. Ownership will have discussions with current GM Gar Forman about his place in the organization moving forward, whlie VP of Basketball Ops John Paxson is expected to move to an advisory role with the franchise. The Bulls have been lost in the wilderness for some time now, and it's mildly surprising that it's taken them this long to hunt for someone to take the power out of GarPax's collective hands.

    Source: ESPN

  • Michael Porter Jr.
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Michael Porter Jr. said that his right ankle is now properly healed.

    Porter missed six games with a right ankle injury, and though he was able to play in nine of Denver's last 10 games (the absence was a DNP-CD) before the hiatus, he admitted that his ankle was still bothering him and he was playing through pain. MPJ flashed tremendous potential when given the appropriate minutes but it's going to be hard for him to hold fantasy value outside of deeper formats when the Nuggets are fully healthy — he topped 15 minutes just three times in those nine games. The silver lining of the league's suspension is that hurt and injured players are getting the chance to heal up, Porter included.

    Source: Denver Post