March 7, 2021, 6:10 am
We arrive at the All-Star break after what has been arguably the most unpredictable fantasy season in recent memory. Roto formats were preached hard as the way to go and with multiple teams missing successive games, it’s hard to argue with that. Those in head-to-head leagues have almost certainly felt the impact of COVID-related absences. The Raptors, Wizards, Spurs and Mavericks were just a few of the teams to suffer significantly during the opening 10 weeks of the season.
With an opportunity to reflect on our teams as well as where we currently sit in the standings, we now look ahead to the post-All-Star period. The most common question during this period generally pertains to which players could breakout down the stretch. So, why not dive into a few potential difference-makers who could be floating around on your waiver wire.
Isaiah Roby, C, Oklahoma City Thunder
Roby has already been able to establish himself as a fringe 12-team asset despite playing only 21 minutes per night. At this point, he is firmly behind Al Horford in the rotation, and with good reason. However, Horford is not a part of the future for the Thunder, and although a trade may not be in his immediate future, we could certainly see his role scaled back down the stretch. Earlier in the season, Horford was away from the team for an extended period due to the birth of his child. During that time, Roby saw his role increase and while he didn’t set the world on fire, he absolutely held his own.
That unexpected uptick may have been a blessing for the second-year player as it somewhat fast-tracked his development to the point where the coaching staff can call on him when needed. There is also the fact that Moses Brown has been dominating in the G League and he too could be handed a meaningful role at some point. This could impact Roby and so while there is a chance he becomes the starter, we cannot know for sure. However, for now, he should be at least considered in standard formats based on what we have seen over the past couple of weeks.
Isaac Okoro, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Unlike Roby, Okoro has been playing significant minutes for the majority of the season. Early on, it was clear he was struggling on the offensive end of the floor, highlighted by the fact he is averaging fewer than 10 points per game despite playing 33 minutes. However, he has certainly improved that aspect of his game to the point where he can typically be relied upon for at least 1-2 triples per night.
Looking ahead, it is all about developing what is already there for Okoro. His defensive ability is what has kept him on the floor and so we know what we are getting there. As a player who could potentially average 1.5 steals to go with double-digit scoring, his floor is high enough that he should be on the radar in most competitive leagues.
James Wiseman, C, Golden State Warriors
Having drafted Wiseman, I have to say it has been an underwhelming start to his career. At this point, he is barely inside the top-250 in 12-team formats and the path to minutes is not as clear as we might have hoped. Granted, his direct competition is far from exemplary but the Warriors have opted to play a lot of small-ball with the resurgent Draymond Green often sliding up to play the five. That said, it has not been all doom-and-gloom for the rookie and the upside is undoubtedly there. Let us not forget that he played only three games during his time at college.
Steve Kerr has made it clear Wiseman still has a number of aspects on which he needs to focus moving forward. However, he has also gone on record to say that they do need to find more minutes for Wiseman moving forward. It paints an unclear picture and a lot could come down to exactly where the Warriors are sitting in terms of the playoff race come mid-April. If you are in a fight to make your own playoffs, Wiseman could be a tricky player to hold due to the inconsistent playing time. Those sitting pretty atop the standings might be able to move ahead with him on their bench and hope that it all comes together sooner, rather than later.
Jaxson Hayes, C, New Orleans Pelicans
Hayes is perhaps the most questionable of all these names based on the fact he has barely been in the rotation at times. His rookie season was spent playing behind Derrick Favors and to be honest, he failed to blow anyone away during that time. Steven Adams was signed in the offseason and immediately came in as the starting center, once again relegating Hayes to a backup role. Unfortunately, it was not only Adams standing in his way. Willy Hernangomez resurfaced earlier in the season and after Adams was forced to miss a period of time, it was the Spaniard who shifted into the starting lineup.
So why should we consider Hayes a breakout candidate? Adams has been far from dominant this season and his fit alongside Zion Williamson is questionable, to say the least. Hernangomez can provide some tasty rebound numbers but typically offers very little else. Stan Van Gundy has stated recently that they need to be finding more time for Hayes and that was evidenced by the fact Hernangomez was out of the rotation completely in their previous game against the Heat. This is by no means a sure thing but it makes sense for the team to see what they have in Hayes now he has a substantial amount of playing time under his belt.
Robert Williams, C, Boston Celtics
I was hesitant to include Williams on this list, purely because there is no reason he shouldn’t be rostered in all standard leagues at this point. He is the 92nd ranked player this season, in only 16 minutes per game. Over the past two weeks, he has seen his playing bump up to almost 19 minutes per game, and subsequently, his ranking has climbed to 64.
Williams has been viewed as a per-minute beast ever since coming into the league and the only issue has been the fact that the coaching staff had some trust issues. Finally, it seems that he has done enough to garner more faith and that is being reflected on the court. It is still hard to see him carving out more than about 24 minutes on any given night but as we have seen, that is more than enough for him to be a must-roster fantasy player.
De’Anthony Melton, G, Memphis Grizzlies
Melton is almost certainly the most frustrating of this bunch and if you have him on your roster, I do feel your pain. In just over 20 minutes per game, Melton is a fringe top-100 player and so for starters, we need to view this as his floor. It is unclear why Taylor Jenkins refuses to simply hand him more playing time and of course, who are we to judge? They seem intent on giving minutes to Grayson Allen and Dillon Brooks, both of whom you could argue are inferior to Melton. Unfortunately, this is a trend that has been ongoing and so it is hard to see where the playing time is coming from.
As discussed earlier, Melton has still been a 12-team asset despite the ups-and-downs and so he should be viewed as a must-roster player, at least for now. From that point, we simply need to cross our fingers and toes in the hope that the talent we all see is able to be translated into a more sizeable role. Not unlike Williams, it is hard to envisage Melton seeing the floor for more than 24 minutes but at this point, that would certainly be viewed as a win.
Is Adam on the money with his Breakout Candidates? Let him know in our Fantasy Basketball Forums or over on our members-only Discord channel