June 27, 2019, 2:57 pm
Hey Hoop-Ballers! Welcome to the second installment of what will be a comprehensive dynasty-focused look across the league at stash-worthy players in all league sizes that warrant keeping an eye on throughout the off-season. Regardless of whether you are still riding high fresh off a championship, or debating trading your entire team after a last place finish, now is the time to take inventory of high-upside players available on the wire and under-performing rostered players that can be had at a discount.
This is going to be a deeeeeep dive that hopefully has a little bit of info for everyone regardless of league size. I’ll also be keeping this updated throughout the offseason as free agent signings and trades alter the chess board. In the interest of keeping things digestible, I’ll be breaking the list into four separate tiers of players to watch based on league size: 1) Shallow League (10-12 teams); 2) Standard League (12-16 teams); 3) Deep League (16-20 teams); and of course, Masochist… I mean… Super Deep League (20-30 teams).
As a general rule, I’m going to skip over players that I assume are rostered in every league (Doncic, Ayton, etc.), but will pause to discuss big-name players that may be acquired at a discount. Also, players are grouped into tiers within league size tiers according to my best guess at their possible fantasy ceiling, and how long it may take them to reach that peak. Try to keep in mind that my ballpark estimate at their ceiling is just that, a very rough estimate of average fantasy production in a vacuum, not taking into account free agent moves and trades that impact their situation. As free agency moves forward, I will add updates to impacted players and discuss immediate and long-term fallout.
So, with all of that said, let’s jump in with a look at some players that 12-16 team league managers should to keep an eye on or consider stashing.
Moderate Size League (12-16 Team) Stashes/Players to Watch
Derrick Jones Jr., Heat
Age: 22 | 2018-2019 Rank: 255 | Contract Status: UFA after 2019-2020 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-75 | Development Timeline: 1-2 Years
Derrick Jones Jr. is probably best known for his ability to produce highlight reel dunks anytime he steps on the floor, but fantasy managers know that there is far more to his game than rim rattling. His overall season numbers aren’t great, but injury and inconsistent utilization limited his ability to gain any sense of consistency this season.
If we zoom in to look at the 19 games this season in which he played at least 25 minutes, a pretty unique fantasy stat set pops out. In an average of 28 minutes per night, Jones scored 11.0 points on 53.5 percent shooting (70.6 percent at the line) with one triple, 5.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, one steal and 1.1 blocks with only 0.5 turnovers. Triple-one averages and solid rebound numbers on efficient shooting, sign me up.
Advanced stats paint a slightly conflicting picture. Offensively, he is a considerable negative at a -1.3 OBPM, but for the first time in his career has exceed his negative offensive metric scores with positive defensive ones at 1.5 DBPM. If he can continue to build out a more diverse offensive skill-set predicated on getting to the rim with a bit of spacing (while staying healthy), he should become a regular fixture in the Heat’s rotation.
With Ryan Anderson, Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk all on the books for a combined $54.7M next season, and Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic adding another $46.3M to the books by picking up player options for 2019, the Heat basically find themselves in salary cap hell this offseason. Their inability to make significant moves in free agency without trading away assets in a salary dump may add even more emphasis on developing young and affordable talent from within, as their cap situation looks better in 2020, but not by much… This all portends well for Jones as he may more consistent run in the rotation with members of the Heat’s younger core moving forward.
Josh Okogie, Wolves
Age: 20 | 2018-2019 Rank: 239 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-75 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
An injury to Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins’ familiar disappearing act, and a rash of backcourt injuries expedited Okogie’s timeline to fantasy relevance this season. Over the last two months of the season, Okogie posted top-100 numbers almost entirely based on defensive stat production with the occasional triple for good measure.
The scouting report on Okogie is fairly straightforward: aggressive and versatile defender on the wing with explosive athleticism and a jump-shot that is about as reliable as an NBA League Pass stream. His advanced numbers back this assessment up with an impressive 0.4 DBPM and decidedly poor -2.0 OBPM.
Beyond box score metrics, Okogie continues to score well as a defender as he was in the 82nd percentile of NBA wings in block percentage (0.9%),at the 84th percentile in steal percentage (2.1%), but had predictable rookie fouling problems as he was only in the 30th percentile of foul percentage (3.8).
On offense, things are pretty ugly. Okogie was in the 10th percentile in effective field goal percentage (44.4%), 11th percentile in 3-point efficiency (28%), and despite taking nearly 40 percent of his shots at the rim, failed to convert those looks at an above average rate as he ranks in the 41st percentile for wings in efficiency at the rim (58%).
Okogie’s borderline elite defensive production already makes him an appealing target in fantasy, however even modest gains in efficiency at the rim (or perhaps less likely, efficiency beyond the arc), could bump his stock from a fringe top-100 player to a legit mid-round asset. Depending on what moves the Wolves make this offseason, we may see a role for Okogie that resembles his end of season top-100 run. Despite Okogie’s potential, things remain up in the air as Andrew Wiggins trade rumors continue to circulate, Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones may suit up elsewhere next season, Robert Covington returns to the roster, and newly added rookie Jarrett Culver stands to compete with Okogie for minutes on the wing.
All of this uncertainty and congestion at the 2 and 3 makes Okogie a bit less appealing in the near term, but he is worth a luxury stash if you have the space in the hope that defensive prowess wins him a consistent spot in the rotation.
Zhaire Smith, Sixers
Age: 19 | 2018-2019 Rank: 382 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-75 | Development Timeline: 3-4 Years
After spending most of his rookie year rehabbing a foot injury he sustained before the season (seriously… what is it with Sixers rookies), we only got to see a very brief glimpse of Smith in NBA action to close out the season.
It is a very small sample size, but in the four games in which Smith played over 15 minutes he averaged 9.3 points on 35 percent shooting with 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.25 steals, 0.25 blocks and 1.5 turnovers. Not exactly earth shattering stuff. In 11 games of G-League stats, Smith posted similarly uninspiring numbers.
So what makes him worth stashing over other guys on this list? A lot of that depends on your team’s situation and roster make-up. Smith is far from a sure thing – his shooting projections are questionable at best, and his resume against high-level competition is sparse. However, his physical gifts are not in question, and with a bit of patience the profile of an NBA rotation player is there.
The Sixers have little in the way of guaranteed contracts beyond 2019, and should they fail to re-sign Jimmy Butler and/or J.J. Redick, a huge hole opens up in rotation at the two and three. However, the addition of Matisse Thybulle (who has a fairly similar skill-set) adds some uncertainty. Smith may be a few years out, but if you are rebuilding and need a home run, he has the potential to develop into a nightly triple-one money counter (with some rebounds and assists) threat on solid efficiency.
Jordan Bell, Warriors
Age: 24 | 2018-2019 Rank: 349 | Contract Status: RFA
Possible Ceiling: Top-75 | Development Timeline: 1-2 Years
Bell was about as awake as a “sleeper” pick could get prior to the start of the 2018 season, and it’s not hard to see why. In his rookie year, he managed to finish just outside of the top-180 in only 14 minutes per game, and was a top-20 player on a per-36 basis. The starting center role in the pre-Boogie stretch of the season appeared wide open, and Bell was competing with admittedly less flashy likes of Damian Jones and Kevon Looney for minutes.
As the season marched on, Bell’s role continued to diminish as Looney’s profile increased, throwing cold water on any hope of a breakout season from Bell. The talent and upside is clear to see, but highly inconsistent and erratic play in big moments, combined with a series of off-court immaturity issues placed Bell squarely in Steve Kerr’s doghouse.
Luckily for Bell, a combination of injuries to Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins forced Kerr’s hand on giving him some additional run in the playoffs. For the most part, he has answered the call and made his mark on both sides of the floor. Bell is a RFA this offseason, so the Warriors may have a difficult decision to on whether to match if another team throws a large offer at Bell. It is hard to guess where he will suit up next season, but the prospect of increased playing time regardless of destination warrants a stash or buy-low offer if others have lost faith.
Troy Brown Jr., Wizards
Age: 19 | 2018-2019 Rank: 393 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-100 | Development Timeline: 3-4 Years
It was a rough start to the year for Troy Brown as he bounced in and out of the rotation, playing strictly garbage time minutes in what little time he spent on the floor. Looking purely at his season averages doesn’t accurately portray the flashes we saw from Brown over the last month of the season.
In 18 games down the stretch, Brown averaged 9.1 points on 43 percent shooting with 1.0 triple, 5.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.2 blocks in an average of 27 minutes per game. This stretch run was highlighted by a 24-point scoring night, a 10-rebound performance and an eight-assist game. I’m not intending to cherry-pick specific statistical outliers to oversell Brown (he’s got a long way to go still), but rather to highlight that there is the potential for him to develop a well-rounded, roto-friendly stat set.
He is in a good situation to take a step forward in the next few years on a Wizards team that desperately needs someone to step up. With Trevor Ariza potentially headed out in free agency, and John Wall likely sidelined for a significant part of next year, there could be additional minutes opening up for Brown, and there is even the possibility of him filling the starting small forward slot to start the season. The Wizards will likely try to get a look at their top-10 pick, Rui Hachimura, but depending on what the Wizards do in free agency there could be plenty of minutes to go around for both Brown and Hachimura.
Luke Kennard, Pistons
Age: 22 | 2018-2019 Rank: 296 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-100 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
After following up a disappointing rookie year with a largely uninspired sophomore campaign, Kennard did start to show signs of life over the final few months of the season. At the moment, his fantasy appeal lives and dies with his 3-point shot, and that has a lot to do with the role that Dwane Casey has asked him to play as a spark-plug sharpshooter off the bench. However, a combination of the Pistons’ salary cap nightmare this offseason and the impending free agency of reserve guard Ish Smith may force Casey’s hand into giving Kennard some run as a primary ball-handler.
It is intriguing to imagine the fantasy returns of Kennard playing on the ball more, but there is no guarantee that playing more on the ball will broaden his stat set. In college, Kennard posted a paltry 13.6 assist percentage to go along with a sub-par 1.4 steal percentage. His NBA numbers don’t look all that better, posting a 12.3 assist and 0.9 steal percentage this season.
His advanced numbers aren’t great either (-0.5 OBPM and -1.0 DBPM), but the reality is that we have never seen Kennard play the type of role (in college or the NBA) that he may next season, so there is room for optimism. I’m not out on Kennard yet as an eventual top-100 fantasy player, particularly after an impressive playoff performance this season, but his stock is currently pretty low making now an opportune time to stash or buy-low.
The Pistons added some depth at the wing this offseason in Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvydis and Tony Snell. Doumbouya and Sirvydis are both are particularly raw and may not threaten Kennard in the short-term, but the addition of a high-ceiling type player in Doumbouya may hurt Kennard’s long-term dynasty appeal as long as he stays in Detroit. We will have to see how Casey deploys Snell, but his addition further divides potential minutes available at the two and three.
Jalen Brunson, Mavericks
Age: 22 | 2018-2019 Rank: 276 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-100 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
Brunson is yet another second-round pick from the loaded rookie class of 2018 that made waves in his first NBA season. Despite the inconsistent shooting stretches, Brunson managed to hold down near top-150 value as a starter after the trade deadline, punctuated by his best line over that stretch of 34 points on 75 percent shooting with three triples, five rebounds, four assists and a steal.
Brunson flashed the ability to provide some explosive statistical outbursts, but his advanced numbers leave a bit to be desired (OBPM of -0.8 and DBPM of -1.6). He was also a net negative on the court with a -1.9 net plus-minus, and struggled in particular in lineups with Luka Doncic, posting a minus-4.7 win differential playing alongside Luka compared to a minus-2.7 without him according to cleaningtheglass.com. That is not necessarily a great sign for Brunson’s future value as a potential starter on this team. With those struggles in mind, he did manage an assist to usage ratio of greater than 1.0, ranked in the 74th percentile of point guards in turnover percentage, and was a highly efficient finisher at the rim (64%).
That is a lot of numbers thrown out all to say that Brunson has not yet flashed early-round upside, but appears to have a fairly safe floor in 25-plus minute per night. The Mavericks may end up with a good amount of cap space to play with this offseason, so we will need to see who they land before getting too excited. However, at the moment J.J. Barea, Devin Harris and Trey Burke are all on expiring deals, leaving Brunson in a great position to hit that aforementioned 25 mpg threshold regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Jonah Bolden, Sixers
Age: 23 | 2018-2019 Rank: 274 | Contract Status: UFA after 2021-2022 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-100 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
In his first NBA season, Bolden flashed an impressively diverse stat set and the potential to become a fantasy darling even in a steady reserve role. In 22 games this season where Bolden played at least 15 minutes, he averaged 7.2 points on 47.4 percent shooting with 1.0 triples, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks in an average of 21 minutes played.
Bolden has some holes in his game still, shooting 57 percent from the charity stripe on just under one attempt per game in the 22 games referenced above. Despite the great defensive numbers, he was inconsistent defending off the ball, and clearly fit better as a four, struggling to maintain positioning down low when guarding opposing centers. However, Bolden has solid defensive instincts (as demonstrated by his impressive 2.0 DBPM), and it is hardly fair to knock a rookie big man for inconsistent play and lapses in focus that should be corrected with experience.
Bolden is a bit more developed as a player than Zhaire Smth, but the same questions regarding the Sixers roster apply to his fantasy prospects for the next few seasons as well. The Sixers need a backup center behind Joel Embiid, but Bolden has proven an inconsistent option there at best. However, with some expected development he may seize the job out of necessity if the Sixers don’t address the issue in free agency.
If both Butler and Tobias Harris leave town, there is a chance that Bolden plays more minutes at the four next to Embiid. We don’t have much of a sample size on the Embiid/Bolden pairing, but numbers suggest the Sixers should explore the possibility – All Bolden (4) Embiid (5) rotations combined for a plus-14.5 in points per possession differential, a stifling 101.0 defensive rating, and a massive 29.2 offensive rebound percentage.
This is all speculation and conjecture until we see how free agency plays out, but don’t sleep on Bolden as a legitimate top-100 player in the next few seasons with the potential to go higher if his stat set continues to fill out.
De’Anthony Melton, Suns
Age: 20 | 2018-2019 Rank: 213 | Contract Status: UFA after 2019-2020 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-100 | Development Timeline: 3-4 Years
It is essentially gospel at this point that the Suns have a glaring hole in their roster at the one. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that, while that may be true, they may not need to look outside of the organization to ultimately fill that gap with a bit of patience. If the Suns are intent on not giving Devin Booker the starting point guard job, that leaves De’Anthony Melton, Elie Okobo, Tyler Johnson, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque or a yet to be signed free agent as potential options to split minutes at the one.
Of all the above players, Melton and Okobo (and possibly Jerome, but more on him later in rookie rankings) make the most sense as dynasty stash candidates. Neither Melton nor Okobo made significant contributions this season, but between the two, Melton profiles as the more attractive option as a fantasy asset given his defensive-stat-rich stat set. In 19.7 minutes per game this season, Melton averaged 5.0 points on 39.1 shooting (only 5 attempts per game, but still rough) with 0.6 threes, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.5 blocks.
Melton is essentially a non-factor on offense (an abysmal -3.5 OBMP is evidence here), but he looked the part of a rotation level player on defense this season (backed up by an impressive 1.0 DBPM). Given the Suns’ clear ambition of landing a point guard in free agency, there is a minimal chance we see Melton starting next to Booker next season. However, his defensive impact is not to be understated, and that SHOULD earn him decent rotation minutes. However, the fact that the Suns took on both Jerome and Lecque and are actively seeking to add another starting caliber point guard might mean that they don’t have much confidence in Melton’s ability to contribute.
Regardless, he is worth a stash if you have the ability to do so. The ability to produce top-150, or even top-100, fantasy numbers is there even with little-to-no offensive improvement. Beyond his raw talent, the best-case scenario for Melton (a trade to a more stable situation) just may occur if the Suns strike out on a top-tier free agent point guard and look to acquire one through a trade.
Bruno Caboclo, Grizzlies
Age: 23 | 2018-2019 Rank: 159 | Contract Status: UFA after 2019-2020 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-125 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
After starting the season without a contract and logging only 147 minutes over the past two seasons, you would be forgiven for giving up on Caboclo. In 2014 when he was selected by Toronto in the first round, Caboclo had the looks of a potential fantasy gem. Standing 6’9” with a crazy 7’7” wingspan, his upside was nightly triple-one money counter potential with solid rebounding numbers and no glaring efficiency issues.
However, coming into the NBA at only 18 years old with essentially zero high-level basketball experience proved to be too much for the young Brazilian, as he failed to crack the Raptors rotation, appearing in only 23 games in garbage time over the first three years of his career. Ultimately, the Raptors shipped his expiring contract out to Sacramento in 2017, where he saw a bit more playing time, but not enough to draw any contract offers for the 2018 season outside of the G-League.
Speaking of the G-League, let’s take a look at how he fared there considering that is where he has spent the bulk of his time since entering the league in 2014. In 28 games this season, Caboclo posted per-36 numbers of 20.8 points on 51.7 percent shooting with 3.1 triples (43 percent from deep) with 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.9 blocks. His advanced numbers are equally impressive, posting a 2.7 OBPM (the first positive mark in his career), and a 3.8 DBPM (also a career-high). Now THAT is Caboclo that the Raptors were eventually hoping to see after taking a serious gamble on him in the first round.
Compare those numbers to his per-36 G-League numbers from the past two seasons and his stats with the Grizzlies this year, and I’m willing to say that the breakout we saw from Caboclo late this season may be legitimate:
YR PTS 3s REB AST STL BLK FG% FT% 3PT% OBMP DBPM G-League Per 36 Stats 2016 13.2 3.2 7.2 1.7 1.3 1.6 41.2 65.5 33.1 -1.3 2.4 2017 16.9 3.2 7.7 1.6 1.6 1.9 39.8 83.1 34.1 -0.3 2.9 2018 20.8 4.4 9.2 1.6 1.5 3.9 51.7 74.4 43.0 2.7 3.8 2018-2019 NBA Per 36 Stats (based on 34 GP) 2018 12.7 2.2 7.1 2.3 0.6 1.5 42.7 84.0 36.9 -1.0 1.2
The talent may be legitimate, but his situation this season is far from ideal. Before we get too excited and declare Caboclo as a locked-in top-75 fantasy player moving forward, the final 10 game stretch of the season where he was posting top-50 numbers as a starter came without Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks Jaren Jackson Jr. and Avery Bradley. The Grizzlies also added Brandon Clarke through the draft, and picked up Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver and Jae Crowder in exchange for Mike Conley. Given this sudden influx of rotation-level players to the Grizzlies roster, thoughts of Caboclo picking up where he left off should probably be jettisoned.
He is signed through the end of next season on a non-guaranteed deal, but it is hard to imagine him getting significant minutes with all of the players mentioned above healthy and still on the books next season. Still, given his ability to rack up stats across the board, a top-200 finish in a reserve role isn’t out of the question. He is still somewhat of an unknown given raw he started and how little development opportunity he saw over the first three years of his career, but the natural talent and upside is apparent. He is more of a luxury stash in shallow leagues, but should be rostered in any 16-team dynasty league or larger.
DeAndre’ Bembry, F, Hawks
Age: 24 | 2018-2019 Rank: 204 | Contract Status: RFA after 2019-2020 Season
Ceiling: Top-125 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
After essentially losing an entire year of development last season with numerous injuries, Bembry began to deliver on some of his untapped upside as a fantasy producer. He ended up just outside of the top-200 on the season, but demonstrated steady improvement over the season and had a few blow-up games. He has a very well rounded stat-set rooted in defensive stat collection, and even his deficiencies at the line don’t end up hurting too bad thanks to his low volume of shots from the stripe.
Given his defense heavy skill-set, Bembry’s advanced numbers on offense (-3.3 OBPM) and defense (1.1 DBPM) don’t come as much of a surprise. His 2.5 steal percentage is the 11th best in the NBA. Combine that with a 1.8 block percentage and 14.7 assist percentage and Bembry has the making of an impactful rotation player and fantasy asset. However, the consideration for Bembry is whether his defense is worth keeping on the floor despite the overwhelming negatives on the offensive end (17.4 turnover percentage, 29 percent efficiency from deep and 64 percent efficiency at the line).
There is the possibility that he finds consistency in his outside shot and becomes a valuable 3-and-D player. Even if that never happens, his assist numbers seem to indicate that he could serve as an effective secondary ball-handler, but can he do so without serving as a turnover machine?
Despite all of those questions, I like Bembry as a stash player because of the strong foundation he already has. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but the defensive numbers are already there, and with only a bit of progress as a shooter or ball-handler, he has the making of a steady top-150 floor. I’m less concerned about Bembry’s development as an individual player than I am about Bembry the player on the Atlanta Hawks.
Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince are no longer around, but with De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish in town (and to a far lesser extent Solomon Hill) minutes may be hard to come by. Bembry is worth a stash until we see how it all plays out, but the Hawks’ wing-heavy draft will likely carry serious implications for him moving forward.
Devonte’ Graham, Hornets
Age: 24 | 2018-2019 Rank: 392 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-125 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
Graham had a few knocks against him coming out of college regarding his age, size, athleticism and ability to score at the NBA level. While there is nothing he can do about the former concerns, he showed enough promise this season to demonstrate that, at the very least, a future in the Association as a backup guard is possible. His per-game ranking of 390 is pretty uninspiring and hides some stretches of borderline top-150 play while filling in for injures, so let’s zoom in. In the 19 games where Graham played at least 18 minutes, he averaged 7.4 points on 36 percent shooting with one triple, 2.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, one steal and 0.9 turnovers in 23 minutes.
That is not exactly the stuff of fantasy dreams, but there is at least cause for optimism. His advanced box plus-minus numbers are fairly mediocre for a rookie (-2.7 DBPM and -1.6 OBPM), and his steal percentage (1.7) needs some work when compared to his college and G-league numbers in the regard (2.5 percent and 2.2 percent respectively).
However, with already encouraging assist numbers and even a modest amount of expected growth in efficiency with experience in the league, Graham could eventually be a top-175 type player in a reserve role with a potential top-125 ceiling if he were to start. Throw in a dash of intrigue with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb’s impending free agencies, and Graham becomes an appealing stash candidate dynasty leagues with 12-teams or more.
Ante Zizic, Cavaliers
Age: 22 | 2018-2019 Rank: 299 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-125 | Development Timeline: 2-3 Years
Zizic has the perfect game for an era of the NBA that has since passed, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t develop the requisite skill-set to become an every-game player in the modern NBA. His defensive deficiencies are clear to see, and he doesn’t have the most diverse offensive game, but he has shown what you want to see from a 22-year-old prospect with less than 1500 total NBA minutes under his belt – promise and steady improvement.
His early season was largely defined by DNPs and garbage time minutes in blowout losses, but around the turn of calendar in January, Zizic was thrust into the starting lineup due to a series of injuries. In 35 games played over the final stretch of the season, Zizic averaged 10.4 points on 58 percent shooting with 6.8 rebounds and 0.4 blocks. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff, but serviceable deep-league numbers.
Advanced numbers don’t necessarily shine a positive light on Zizic’s play this season, as he was a negative on both sides of the ball with a -1.7 OBPM and a -1.4 DBPM. Interestingly enough, despite his negative advanced box score stats, Zizic posted an impressive plus-9.3 net plus-minus on a terrible Cavs team. These aren’t the kind of box score stats that scream future fantasy stud, but Zizic is worth a stash in most dynasty leagues as he is simply too young to write off entirely heading into his third NBA season at only 22 years old.
Jarred Vanderbilt, Nuggets
Age: 20 | 2018-2019 Rank: 483 (only 16 GP) | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-125 | Development Timeline: 3-4 Years
Vanderbilt’s ceiling as a fantasy asset is hard to assess given he played a whopping total of 69 minutes this season and roughly 0 percent of those minutes were meaningful. He also has a relatively incomplete college resume after missing most of the college season and a large portion of his rookie year rehabbing an ankle injury.
So, we don’t know what we don’t know about Vanderbilt’s game, and how he may or may not have improved from his short run with the Kentucky Wildcats. What we do know with relative certainty, is that he has the potential to develop into an elite rebounder at the NBA level. When it comes to second-tier mystery box flier candidates, I’d rather roll the dice on someone who I know will move the needle in one category (threes being the exception here) compared to someone who may end up being pretty good at a few things, or may just be mediocre across the board.
It is not a huge sample size, but over 16 games in college, Vanderbilt posted an insane 18.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. Through four games of G-League play, he followed that up with a rate of 17.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, and grabbed 12.0 boards per 36 minutes with the Nuggets this season. We know he can rebound, but the rest of his fantasy profile is still a mystery.
It is fair to guess the following: his offensive game likely still doesn’t consist of much outside of rim-running; he has solid court-vision and passing ability; and if his college stats are an indication, will be a decent defensive stat collector (1.0 steals and 1.8 blocks per 40). Given how little high-level ball he has played and the Nuggets’ depth at the three and four, patience will be key, but I’m high on Vanderbilt as at least a possible top-150 fantasy player that can be had for free just about everywhere.
Lonnie Walker, Spurs
Age: 20 | 2018-2019 Rank: 453 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-150| Development Timeline: 3-4 Years
If for no other reason, Walker is worth stashing on the hype that his name carries alone. He generated some buzz coming out of last year’s draft, and has the ability to produce some flashy scoring numbers, which can lead some to overrate players. You may have gathered from that intro that I’m not very high on Walker as a long-term fantasy contributor, but that doesn’t mean that others aren’t, and that his name value can’t be leveraged in a trade down the line after a few big scoring nights.
Walker spent part of his rookie year rehabbing after tearing his meniscus in the preseason. His NBA averages aren’t worth going into given the small sample size (though he did have a 16-point night on 54 percent shooting with three triples, two rebounds and nothing else late in the season). His G-League averages – 16.6 points on 43.6 percent shooting with 1.2 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.3 blocks in 28 minutes per game – give a bit more insight into what we may expect from him statistically.
There are a few things to like there from Walker, but outside of scoring his stat set is pretty barren. The one-dimensional stat set is the primary concern with Walker as a fantasy asset, and his college numbers don’t do much to east those concerns – 11.5 points on 41.5 percent shooting with 1.8 triples, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks in 27.8 minutes. There is always the possibility that evolves into more a facilitator (he’s had flashes of looking like an average passer, but isn’t always the most willing), but I’m not optimistic that he ever fully lives up to the hype.
Bruce Brown, Pistons
Age: 22 | 2018-2019 Rank: 343 | Contract Status: Team Option for 2020-2021 Season
Possible Ceiling: Top-150 | Development Timeline: 3-4 Years
Despite starting for the majority of the season, Brown posted meager fantasy numbers as a defensive specialist, averaging 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks per game, and barely scratched the top-350. With that said, Brown may have technically been listed as a starter, but really was only a starter in name only, seeing only an average of 21 minutes per game in those games. His per-36 averages aren’t flashy – 7.9 points on 40 percent shooting with 0.6 triples, 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steal and 0.9 blocks – but a rebounding guard that can provide out-of-position blocks does have some fantasy appeal.
His advanced numbers confirm what you might have already inferred from a look at box score stats – Brown’s offensive game is light years behind his defense. He posted an impressive 1.7 DBPM and was an overall positive player with a plus-3.6 net plus-minus rating. However, his -3.7 OBPM is pretty abysmal. His defense is solid enough to earn minutes, and he could potentially turn into a triple-one money counter guy, but barring some massive steps forward on offense he may be more of a back-end option in standard leagues for defensive stats. He should probably be stashed on someone’s roster in deep bench 16-team leagues and larger. In small-to-moderate size leagues Brown can probably stay on the wire, but is worth keeping an eye on as free agency moves on.
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, Miami Heat
Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.
Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, Miami Heat
Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".
It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, Philadelphia Sixers
According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.
Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia
Source: The Athletic
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.
Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.
Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter