• Third-year players are normally gold mines of value in fantasy hoops. It’s normally at this stage in their careers, at least for some, that players are primed for a breakout season. You can follow this rough, albeit oversimplified timeline. In their rookie year, most players with the exception of a handful of instant-impact studs, still need to adjust to playing at NBA-level. In their sophomore year, they’ve adjusted to the pro game and have a chance to earn their coach’s respect and trust. It’s in most players’ third season that they’re fully integrated into a team’s systems or even earmarked as “core players.” Again, this is a very generalized perspective as different players grow and improve at different rates.

    Hot Targets

    It’s this group of players that will invariably be in relatively high demand on draft day. Whether they’re protected to deliver top-50 value or will most likely be taken the first four rounds of standard-league drafts, these are the third-year players who will garner the most buzz coming into the 2019-20 season.

    De’Aaron Fox, PG Sacramento Kings

    2018-19 averages: 81 G | 31.4 MP | 17.3 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 3.8 REB | 7.3 AST | 1.6 STL | 0.6 BLK | 2.8 TOV | .458 FG% | .727 FT%

    Fox was hands-down one of the better breakout performers during his sophomore season. He’s proven to be a solid source of assists at 7.3 per game, while also being able to preserve a team’s field goal percentage thanks to his .458 clip from the field. He’s not yet hit his ceiling and is in line for another leap forward. How high and how far are the only questions involving his jump up in the fantasy rankings.

    Fox can improve in the areas of free throw shooting, 3-pointers made and turnovers (2.8). He needs the game to slow down for him a bit more, which is a tad ironic considering his game is defined by quickness. Now that he’s had two pro seasons under his belt, it’s safe to peg such expectations on one of the league’s hottest rising stars.

    John Collins, PF/C Atlanta Hawks

    2018-19 averages: 61 G | 30.0 MP | 19.5 PTS | 0.2 3PM | 9.8 REB | 2.0 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.6 BLK | 2.0 TOV | .560 FG% | .763 FT%

    Collins had a lot of hype riding on his shoulders coming into 2018-19. Despite an early-season injury that kept him off the floor in October many managers still went out and gambled on the upside they were hoping to see him deliver in his sophomore season. He displayed some efficient scoring abilities from the field and the line, but his lack of defensive numbers only served to limit his fantasy appeal. As a part of the Hawks’ 1-2 punch, with Trae Young being his partner on offense, JC should once again be a hot commodity come draft day.

    Lauri Markkanen, PF Chicago Bulls

    2018-19 Averages: 52 G | 32.4 MP | 18.7 PTS | 2.3 3PM | 9.1 REB | 1.4 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.6 BLK | 1.7 TOV | .430 FG% | .872 FT%

    “Baby Dirk,” as Markkanen is called in some fantasy circles, posted solid numbers in 2018-19 as he flirted with 20-10 production that came with 2.3 treys per game. Despite the scoring explosions of Zach LaVine, Markkanen found a way to get his own shots, which was very encouraging to see from a sophomore. The only negative tagged on Markkanen in 2019-20 is the Bulls’ 3-3-3 fantasy playoff schedule for Weeks 22-24, which of course only really affects head-to-head leagues and not rotisserie.

    Jayson Tatum, SF/PF Boston Celtics

    2018-19 averages: 79 G | 31.1 MP | 15.7 PTS | 1.5 3PM | 6.0 REB | 2.1 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.7 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .450 FG% | .854 FT%

    Let’s be honest. Tatum was a bit of a disappointment in 2018-19, at least when you juxtapose the season with his awe-inspiring rookie season where he flashed so much potential. That could turn out to be a good thing. Now that we’re entering his third year in the league, Tatum will be able to own a more prominent role in the Celtics as the number two scoring option behind Kemba Walker.

    Tatum definitely has the tools to produce for his fantasy players. He’s got a well-rounded game, the athleticism to beat out slower defenders, a sweet spin move and a more-than-reliable floating jumper. With all of these weapons at his disposal and some (hopefully) improved confidence, it would not be far fetched to expect Tatum to flirt with early-round value on a regular basis this season.

    Donovan Mitchell, PG/SG Utah Jazz

    2018-19 averages: 77 G | 33.7 MP | 23.8 PTS | 2.4 3PM | 4.1 REB | 4.2 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.4 BLK | 2.8 TOV | .432 FG% | .806 FT%

    Mitchell finished in the top-60 in 9-cat ,per-game value, but he’s got to share the rock with a capable scoring point guard in Mike Conley this season. If anything, we wouldn’t mind seeing a slight dip in his 23.8 points per game if it will translate into better shooting efficiency from the field as well as a lower turnover rate. He’s a player who is already coming into his own and has embraced being the main man in Utah. His low-ish assists at 4.2 per game will likely allow him to slide in drafts, making him a nice target in the middle rounds.

    Bam Adebayo, PF/C Miami Heat

    2018-19 averages: 82 G | 23.3 MP | 8.9 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 7.3 REB | 2.2 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.8 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .576 FG% | .735 FT%

    Out of all the incoming juniors, Adebayo probably has the most steam behind him coming into fantasy drafts. That said, he’s likely going to be over-drafted in leagues with ultra-aggressive managers. You will really have to take Bam at the right time. He’s not going to magically transform into a Nikola Jokic-type of player overnight but he will be able to make a significant jump in fantasy value. Just make sure said value isn’t priced in when you do grab him, though the flashes he showed last year raise the question of what exactly that price will be.

    Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF Orlando Magic 

    2018-19 averages: 75 G | 26.6 MP | 9.6 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 5.5 REB | 1.1 AST | 0.8 STL | 1.3 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .429 FG% | .815 FT%

    Isaac has been a slow but steady work in progress. Not all players grow in big leaps. Some improve through a slow burn of development. Given the sample size of games he’s managed to provide us, Isaac appears to fall into the latter category. His ability to put up cash counters (steals, blocks, threes) made him an instant HB darling and rightfully so. He may not explode, at least no just yet, but it’s fair to project some improvement from Isaac as he enters his third season in the league.

    Solid Bets

    These are the third-year players who will more than likely produce value outside of the top-50 and will be drafted accordingly but will be standard-league relevant. What this means is that these players should be able to produce top-150 value based on projections – or at least close to it, making them worthy of your attention in standard-league drafts. A few names on this list are a bit on the speculative side, however, they end up making the cut for their upside and potential to be producers of standard-league value.

    Thomas Bryant, C Washington Wizards

    2018-19 averages: 32 G | 34.5 MP | 20.7 PTS | 2.5 3PM | 3.6 REB | 8.7 AST | 1.5 STL | 0.9 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .614 FG% | .781 FT%

    Expect Bryant to be a hot commodity in 2019-20. There are simply no ifs or buts about it. With the Wizards now rid of Dwight Howard, Bryant has an unhindered path to both minutes and opportunities to produce oh so wonderful fantasy value.

    His 2018-19 per-36 minute numbers are tantalizing at 18.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Even if his turnovers rise to above one per game, Bryant has a sweet shooting touch at the line at .781. He’s someone who can flirt with top-50 value but will need to prove that he can do it on a regular and consistent basis.  You may have to reach for him in your fantasy leagues if you’re interested in riding the wave of his potential this coming season.

    Lonzo Ball, PG New Orleans Pelicans

    2018-2019 Averages: 47 G | 30.3 MP | 9.9 PTS | 1.6 3PM | 5.3 REB | 5.4 AST | 1.5 STL | 0.4 BLK | 2.2 TOV| 40.6 FG% | 41.7 FT%

    Lonzo is getting a fresh start with the Pelicans this season. His ability to fill up the stat sheet has always made him an intriguing target in fantasy. Unfortunately, he’s struggled with both bouts with the injury bug and with poor shooting accuracy from both the field and the line.

    As of now, Ball remains a double-edged sword, providing solid contributions in the counting stats, while burning owners with less than ideal percentages. Still, he’s young and has played far less than the average junior for us to note that he’s got a lot of leash to grow while playing alongside Jrue Holiday.

    Jarrett Allen, C Brooklyn Nets

    2018-19 averages: 80 G | 26.2 MP | 10.9 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 8.4 REB | 1.4 AST | 0.5 STL | 1.5 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .590 FG% | .709 FT%

    He’s shown that he has trouble defending more powerful bigs and it has led to him being benched in favor of more reliable veterans. His appeal has taken a hit this season with the Nets signing veteran big man DeAndre Jordan. Allen says he wants to and will compete for that starting center gig. However, we could be looking at an unfortunate timeshare situation between him and Jordan, which severely limits his upside.

    Kyle Kuzma, PF Los Angeles Lakers

    2018-2019 Averages: 70 G | 33.1 MP | 18.7 PTS | 1.8 3PM | 5.5 REB | 2.5 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.9 TOV | 45.6 FG% | 75.2 FT%

    We could be looking at the third piece of the Lakers’ “Big 3.” That’s the upside Kuzma brings to the table. On the other hand, we could be looking at the second coming of an overrated Carmelo Anthony (please, no). Hopefully, for Kuzma, it’s more of the former than the latter. He’s shown us that he can put up points on the board last season, but he will need to prove that he can do more than that before we can count on him to deliver dependable fantasy value.

    The path to Kuzma’s development in 2019-20 will be centered on his ability to improve on his rebounding and passing numbers. Defensive stats would be even better but that seems like wishful thinking.

    Luke Kennard, SG Detroit Pistons

    2018-19 averages: 63 G | 22.8 MP | 9.7 PTS | 1.7 3PM | 2.9 REB | 1.8 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.9 TOV | .438 FG% | .836 FT%

    Kennard is someone to consider as a flier pick at the end of standard-league drafts. He finished 2018-19 strong and established himself as a reliable source of points and threes while being friendly on the shooting percentages and turnovers. He’s got a Joe Harris mold entering this coming season but is someone who can be easily overlooked in drafts. Don’t sleep on him.

    Zach Collins, PF/C Portland Trail Blazers

    2018-19 Averages: 77 G | 17.6 MP | 6.6 PTS | 0.5 3PM | 4.2 REB | 0.9 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.9 BLK | 1.0 TOV | .473 FG% | .746 FT%

    Collins has a shot at starting for the Blazers at the four this season. He’s a big man who can both block shots and hit the three. He’s also shown us flashes of his potential in the past. Collins has undeniable intriguing upside but will struggle with consistency. Look to Collins in the later rounds of your drafts to shore up those big-man stats.

    Dennis Smith Jr., PG New York Knicks

    2018-19 averages: 53 G | 28.5 MP | 13.6 PTS | 1.3 3PM | 4.8 REB | 1.3 AST | 1.3 STL | 0.4 BLK | 2.9 TOV | .427 FG% | .635 FT%

    DSJ has been a disappointment from day one. 2019-20 will be a make-or-break season for him with the Knicks. He will get a chance to quarterback an offense that’s going to showcase some young and promising talent in the form of Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle an R.J. Barrett. His stat set issues have been an awful bane to his fantasy basketball appeal – what’s left of it, that is. He’s not worth reaching for early, but is more of a last-round flier pick. Worst case scenario is that you can cut bait in case things don’t pan out favorably for him.

    Deep-League Diving

    These third-year players are more suited for deep leagues. One or two of them will be able to flirt with standard-league value from time to time but for the most part, these guys will be delivering value in the top-200 range or higher. 

    Jordan Bell, PF/C Minnesota Timberwolves

    2018-19 averages: 68 G | 11.6 MP | 3.3 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 2.7 REB | 1.1 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.8 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .516 FG% | .610 FT%

    Bell got his fair shot to shine with the Warriors last season. Unfortunately, he was not able to convert said opportunity into meaningful and productive minutes on the floor for the Dubs. He comes into 2019-20 with a fresh start with the Wolves. He will serve as a backup to Karl-Anthony Towns, which will also cap his minutes on the floor. He’s best looked at as a big man to consider in leagues that are 16-teams or deeper.

    Josh Hart, SG New Orleans Pelicans

    2018-2019 Averages: 67 G | 25.6 MP | 7.8 PTS | 1.4 3PM | 3.7 REB | 1.4 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.6 BLK | 0.9 TOV| 40.7 FG% | 68.8 FT%

    Hart is a former Summer League MVP. While that honor doesn’t really count for much in terms of regular-season value, he has established himself as a capable scorer and playmaker. Unfortunately for Hart, his sophomore season was slowed by injury and he was not much of factor in fantasy.

    Things have not improved much for Hart, despite being shipped off to the Pelicans over the summer. He now has to somehow find a path to productivity playing behind Jrue Holiday. A task easier said than done, especially given how all-in the Pelicans are with focusing on their new-look offense around Holiday.

    Dillon Brooks, SG/SF Memphis Grizzlies

    2018-19 averages: 18 G | 18.3 MP | 7.5 PTS | 0.8 3PM | 1.7 REB | 0.9 AST | 0.6 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .402 FG% | .733 FT%

    Brooks wound up producing a lackluster sophomore campaign in 2018-19 due injury. He did deliver a promising rookie season, so it’s not too much of stretch to consider him as a bounce-back candidate. He will have some competition from Josh Jackson and Grayson Allen, but Brooks’ value has been more about his efficiency than stat-production volume. Consider him in deep leagues if you want roll the dice on his ability to get back on track.

    Monté Morris, PG Denver Nuggets

    2018-19 averages: 82 G | 24.0 MP | 10.4 PTS | 1.1 3PM | 2.4 REB | 3.6 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.0 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .493 FG% | .802 FT%

    Morris was a gift that kept on giving for the Nuggets last season when they called on him to step up, and step up he did. There was a window when he was a worthwhile pickup, even in standard leagues, for a brief period of time.

    If he wasn’t playing behind Jamal Murray, we’d consider ranking him higher. For now, however, Morris’ should be left undrafted in standard leagues but is worth a look in deeper ones for his ability to deliver production off the bench when given the opportunity. He’s the rare point guard who’s better in 9-cat, too.

    OG Anunoby, SF Toronto Raptors

    2018-19 averages: 67 G | 20.2 MP | 7.0 PTS | 1.0 3PM | 2.9 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .453 FG% | .581 FT%

    Anunoby enters the “upside” conversation thanks to the departure of both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. That said, this third-year player has still a lot to prove. The Raptors are now Pascal Siakam’s team but there’s enough opportunity crust left on the plate for Anunoby to get his own piece of the fantasy value pie. He’s still more of a speculative gamble as of now, but he will definitely get his shot to shine.

    Harry Giles, PF/C Sacramento Kings

    2018-19 averages: 58 G | 14.1 MP | 7.0 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 3.8 REB | 1.5 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.4 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .503 FG% | .637 FT%

    Giles has shown us last season that he’s still far too raw a talent to relied upon for steady value. We definitely like what we’ve seen from the flashes he did manage to display in 2018-19. It also does not help his case that the Kings added Dewayne Dedmon to start alongside Marvin Bagley III.

    Giles should make some strides this season, but keep your expectations in check and do not expect an explosive breakout situation from the get-go.

    Josh Jackson, SG/SF Memphis Grizzlies

    2018-19 averages: 79 G | 25.2 MP | 11.5 PTS | 0.9 3PM | 4.4 REB | 2.3 AST | 0.9 STL | 0.7 BLK | 2.2 TOV | .412 FG% | .671 FT%

    One way or another, Jackson managed to provide value within the top-300 while playing for the Suns. Despite a lengthy absence by T.J. Warren due to injury, Jackson’s value was capped by his lack of efficiency, bouts with foul trouble and plain old poor play. He gets a chance at a fresh start with the new-look Grizzlies but until he Jackson addresses the issues in his game, he will always be on the outside of the top-200 looking in.

    Malik Monk, SG Charlotte Hornets

    2018-19 averages: 73 G | 17.2 MP | 8.9 PTS | 1.5 3PM | 1.8 REB | 1.6 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.3 BLK | 0.387 FG%| 0.882 FT%

    Monk should get a shot to shine brightly this season with Jeremy Lamb now with the Pacers and no longer being a threat to his minutes. He’s still too much of a one-dimensional player to be considered in standard leagues. Monk will emerge as a source of points and threes if all the chips fall in his favor. The Hornets have been enamored with Monk in the past, so let’s see if he’s able to follow through and use that trust and turn it into productive minutes on the floor.

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