Editor’s note: I’m a fool and forgot to post this when it was written Thursday March 7th. All stats are up until that day so my apologizes if things have slightly changed over the past four days.
There are less than 20 games left in the NBA season. The fantasy playoff picture should be clear by now in your individual leagues, so rather than just write a column about under-owned players that can help playoff teams during this stretch run, let’s write a column for the fantasy owners who aren’t in the playoffs this year. Who should you pick up in anticipation of next season?
If you’re out of the playoffs and you’re looking to enhance your team for 2019-20, please consider these guys for keepers (these guys are also great choices if you are in the playoffs and need the help). Generally, there’s no reason to assume that a young player, or a player in their prime, should get worse the following year unless they were a mediocre player on a bad team—and, thus had volume. (For example, Justin Holiday has been the 96th most valuable player on ESPN basic this season, and he’s 29 years old. However, he’s sub-average in shooting (27 3PT% in the 28 games he’s played in Memphis, and he has a sub-50 true shooting percentage on the season, which sucks), and he might not be assured a starting role next season (he’s averaging 8 fewer minutes on the Grizzlies than he did on the Bulls before getting traded). He’s meh, and he’s not assured volume, so even though he’s under 30, he’s not a strong buy to improve or return top 100 value next season.)
Brook Lopez, C, MIL, 9.43 Player Rater, 62.5% owned, 30 years old
We’re already breaking rules! BroLo will be 30+ next season, but who cares, he’s been absolutely awesome this year. He has a 59.1 TS% (a 60 TS% is excellent, Paul George has a 59 TS%), and he’s one of only 24 players this season to average 6.5+ 3PA per game, and he has the 12th best 3PT% out of that group. He also has the SECOND MOST BLOCKS IN THE NBA. He’s been PERFECT for Giannis and the Deer, and if the Milwaukee Bucks make the Finals with him, then the Lakers as a franchise should be relegated to the G League as punishment for not resigning BroLo. Brook Lopez is the only player in the top 50 who isn’t at least 75% owned. I do not savvy. He’s one of the best shooters in the league and he’s a Center. He’s been more valuable than Andre Drummond (who’s only 25, btw!), and Al Horford, and Julius Randle, and Montrezl Harrell. There’s no reason to think he won’t produce similar numbers next season, especially if he stays in Wisconsin.
Josh Richardson, SG/SF, MIA, 7.68 PR, 88.9% owned, 25 years old
JRich is a fave round these parts, but he’s had a strange season (as have the Miami Heat). He’s been strangely bad at home (sub-40 FG%, sub-34 3PT%), and he had two terrible months (December and January) which were probably due to a shoulder injury he played through. His line on the season—17+ points per game, 3+ rebounds per game, 4+ assists per game, on 42% shooting—would probably look closer to 20 PPG on 45 FG% without those two bad months. Despite his seemingly bland numbers, though, only 31 players this season can equal or exceed JRich’s 17-3-4. I can’t imagine his numbers don’t improve next season if he’s fully healthy (and, perhaps Miami’s weird roster gets improved, too). I continue to believe he’s a young stud. His ADP this year of 105th should at least be top 75 next season. Acquire him if you can.
Jarrett Allen, C, BK, 7.44 PR, 87.6% owned, 20 years old
Jarrett Allen is averaging 11 PPG and 8 RPG. Only 28 players in the NBA this season can meet or exceed that (out of players who’ve played in at least 40 games), and Allen and Deandre Ayton are the two youngest players on that list, both 20 years old. Allen’s also averaging over a block per game. He’ll most likely be a double-double machine next season, and should be a top 50 player, no doubt.
Bojan Bogdanovic, SF, IND, 7.09 PR, 68.9% owned, 29 years old
There are 82 players who average 12+ field goal attempts per game. Only 16 of those players have a 50+ FG% on the season. Only two of those 16 also have a 40+ 3PT%: Tobias Harris and Bojan. He’s averaging nearly 20 PPG since January 1st. Bojan’s been magnificent since Victor Oladipo got injured, and he’s one of the main reasons why the Indiana Pacers are still in the third seed in the East and have the fifth most wins in the entire NBA.
Dewayne Dedmon, C, ATL, 6.43 PR, 25.6% owned, 29 years old
Dedmon’s averaged 10+ PPG, 7+ RPG, 1+ Assist, Steal, Block, and 3PM per game. That doesn’t sound that impressive, does it? Consider this: only four players in the entire NBA are averaging 1 or more in each of those 6 stat categories. Dedmon, Nikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol, Robert Covington all average at least 1 P/R/A/S/B/3PM per game, on at least 40 FG%. That’s what’s known as “useful.” If he’s available in your league for the playoffs, pick him up: he’s averaging 12 and 7 on 51 FG% since 1/1.
Joe Ingles, SF/SG, UTA, 6.41 PR, 71.3% owned, 31 years old
Ingles is over 30 but I just want to say that only 17 players average 11+ PPG, 5+ APG, 3+ RPG, and 1+ SPG, and attempt 5+ threes per game. Joe Ingles is one of those 17 players, and he has the third best 3PT% (37.6, which is down for him, he was at 44 3PT% the last two seasons) of those 17, behind Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving. Dude’s had a down shooting year, which makes me think he played through an injury, but his long range shots have fallen at a 40+% since February 1st, so maybe he’s over it. You might be able to acquire him cheaply for a postseason run because A) he’s boring, B) hardly anyone knows who he is, C) he doesn’t score a ton of points, and D) he’s old(er). Could be a buy low opportunity with the season winding down.
Derrick Favors, PF/C, UTA, 79.6% owned, 27 years old
Derrick Favors is only 27 years old??!?!?! I am constantly amazed at how young this dude is. He always fades into the background of the NBA season because A) Utah, and B) Rudy Gobert, and C) he’s solid but not great. He’s never averaged 10 RPG, he’s never shot threes, and you have no idea what he sounds like because you’ve never seen him talk. He was the third overall pick in 2010. Like I said above, not that many players get you 11 and 7 per game, but it’s a little telling that Utah’s never traded him. Is it because they like him so much? Or, because no one else wanted him? He seems to be a bit of an old school player in a new school league. Think about it this way: he has 460 total rebounds this year. The two players right above him, Aaron Gordon and Blake Griffin, are also front court players, and they have 92 and 150 total 3PM this season, respectively. Favors has made 14.
Jerami Grant, SF/PF, OKC, 6.26 PR, 73.3% owned, 24 years old (!)
Grant’s had a helluva year. He nearly doubled his shot profile, and he’s still shooting better than 50% from the field. He’s a young, 6’9”, stud defender who’s playing more, shooting more, scoring more, rebounding more, and taking and making more threes than ever before. Again, this is a top 75 player who’s 24 years old. He has the 27th best plus-minus on the year. If his shot continues to improve as he grows older, then could we be looking at a Paul George-lite? PG13 is a 6’9” defender who broke out when he was 24 years old…
Jaren Jackson, Jr., PF/C, MEM, 6.21 PR, 55.1% owned, 19 years old
Okay, obviously 3J is hurt, but this guy is an absolute stud, he was averaging 14 and 4 before he got injured, and he’s probably going to be a top 25 player in a few years, especially if Memphis completely rebuilds around him. He should be held in all dynasty leagues, and picked up if available, even if you’re in the playoffs. He’s that good, and absolutely worth stashing.
Jeremy Lamb, SG/SF, CHA, 6.04 PR, 72.3% owned, 26 years old
Lamb will never be considered a good fantasy player until he’s better at shooting threes. That’s all there is to it. He’s an underwhelming perimeter player (sub-35 3PT%) on an underwhelming team (Charlotte’s 29-34 and continues to be a poorly run franchise). To be fair, he gets you 15 and 5 per game, and less than 50 players in the NBA do that, so his skills are valuable in fantasy. But...damn, man...he was drafted after ZBo this year, y’know? He’s not a very good player IRL, but he could improve as he’s only 26.
Joe Harris, SG/SF, BK, 5.99 PR, 36.7% owned, 27 years old
Joe Harris is averaging 13 PPG, 3 RPG, and 2 APG on the season. Meh, right? He’s one of 75 players to have, or best, those averages. HOWEVER. Harris is one of only three players who’s averaging 13 and 3 on 50+ FG%, and 40+ 3PT% on 3+ 3PA per game. The other two are Malcolm Brogdon and Tobias Harris. Joe Harris has the third best true shooting percentage out of all players who play 24+ minutes per game (after two centers, DeAndre Jordan and Rudy Gobert). He is, as the scientists say, “lights out.” He’s one of the best shooters in the entire NBA, and he just won the three point competition during the All Star Break, AND his Brooklyn Nets should/will make the playoffs. He’s getting better, too: Harris shot 55% from three in February. C’mon.
Marcus Smart, SG/PG, BOS, 5.79 PR, 19.6% owned (get real), 25 YEARS OLD!
Smart is averaging 8 PPG on 41 FG% (career best field goal percentage, btw), with 3 RPG, 4 APG, 1+ SPG, and 1+ 3PM (36.5 3PT%, also a career best). I know, that doesn’t sound like much, but less than 50 players in the NBA average 3 RPG, 4 APG, and 1 SPG, so that’s a pretty solid floor to have, especially for such a young player. He also has the fourth most steals in the entire NBA, a very useful stat contributor from such a low-owned player. In fact, PJ Tucker is the only other player in the top 5 totals of a stat cat (minutes) with a sub-50% ownership; most top 5 players are owned in the high 90s (except for Brook Lopez, who’s owned in the 60s but has the 2nd most total blocks in the NBA this year). Smart’s been averaging 10+ PPG since January 1st, too. He’s a good young player, who already provides elite contributions in difficult defensive stat cats, and who’s shooting is improving. Time to jump on board before everyone else does.
Reggie Jackson, PG, DET, 5.68 PR, 81.5% owned, 28 years old
Since January 1st, RJax’s line is 16 PPG, 2+ 3PM (42+ 3PT%), 4+ APG, 2+ RPG. That’s pretty close to JRich’s production on the season. Reggie finally, FINALLY, looks healthy and comfortable in the Pistons offense. He’s already owned in the 80s, but if he continues to improve as the season winds down, then he’ll almost definitely improve on his ADP from last year of 82nd, in the hopes that his second half carries over into the next season. He’s already been plenty valuable, even with a mediocre first half.
Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF, PHX, 5.53 PR, 43.6% owned, 23 years old
Oubre is one of the most valuable young wings in fantasy, IF his opportunities persist in Phoenix next season (no reason why they wouldn’t). In 36 games with Phoenix this season, Oubre’s averaged 16 PPG, 5 RPG, and 1 APG/SPG/BPG. Less than 40 players are averaging 16 and 5 this season, so that’s a nice baseline to grow from. He needs to improve his outside shot and sink more free throws, but there’s every reason to believe that he can. Jayson Tatum is averaging 16/6/2 this year, btw.
Terrence Ross, SF/SG, ORL, 5.33 PR, 38.5% owned, 28 years old
Ross is 11th in total 3PM this season. He’s the only player in the top 15 of total 3PM whose ownership is under 50%. Only 12 players this season are attempting 6 threes per game, and have a 37+ 3PT% and a 42+ FG%: Steph Curry, PG13, Redick, Klay Thompson, Buddy Hield, Lauri Markkanen, JRich, Bob Covington, CJ McCollum, Khris Middleton, Kyrie Irving, and TRoss. He’s been one of the best shooters in the NBA this season, and in my heart, I think Orlando kept him at the trade deadline because they value him so highly. He’s in his prime, he opens up the floor for the rest of the Magic players, and he’s damn good at his job. Again, he’s the only player in the top 15 of total 3PM that isn’t 50+% owned. Pick him immediately, if you can.
Al-Farouq Aminu, PF, POR, 5.31 PR, 24.9% owned, 28 years old
The Chief has arrived, and he’s here to provide stable and solid and boring production! Can I blow your mind real fast, please? Only 15 players average 9+ PPG, 7+ RPG, and 3+ 3PA per game. Aminu’s one of ‘em. Isn’t that nuts?? His numbers are soooo mundane-seeming, but they’re actually hella valuable as a floor guy. He’s one of six players, total, who have 450+ total rebounds and 80+ 3PM on the season.
Ricky Rubio, PG, UTA, 5.01 PR, 86.2% owned, 28 years old
Very similar to his teammate, Joe Ingles, Rubio provides valuable counting stats, but very quietly. Rubio’s averaging 12 PPG, 6 APG, and 3 RPG, and he’s one of only 19 players to do so. Just like Ingles, you don’t necessarily want Rubio for his scoring, but he provides great assist numbers, and he’s been playing with injuries this season. If you can buy low on him, you should seriously consider Rubio as a top 75 player.
Jonathan Isaac, PF/SF, ORL, 4.79 PR, 38.7% owned, 21 years old (!)
Herrrrrrrrrrre we go! Fake Teams’ favorite young fantasy player, Jon Judah Isaac is 6’10”, and has been sinking threes since February began. He’s been the 31st best player in ESPN basic over the past 30 days. He’ll probably get you 13+ PPG and 6+ RPG next season, at least. He hasn’t been hitting threes at home; if that normalized, his ratios would look a lot nicer. Everyone, including bigs, need to be able to shoot threes in the New NBA. Isaac is showing that he can, and even his baby steps have propelled him into the top 100 on the season. I think you could easily see him as a top 75 player next season. He hasn’t even played 100 NBA games yet.
Mikal Bridges, SF/SG, PHX, 4.79 PR, 7.7% owned, 22 years old
Phoenix is a bit of a mess, but you can see that a team of Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, Oubre, Bridges, and a real point guard could form a pretty fun, young team. Phoenix also has Josh Jackson, Tyler Johnson, and TJ Warren are also there, but one wonders whether one or two of those players will be shopped this offseason. Bridges has the 2nd most total minutes on Phoenix, which might surprise you. The Suns seem committed to him.
Spencer Dinwiddie, SG/PG, BK, 46.3% owned, 25 years old
Derrick White, PG, SA, 19.2% owned, 24 years old
Both of these young players have just returned from injuries. I think they’d both be in the top 100 if they’d had healthy seasons, but they’ve been sensational since returning: Dinwiddie had 28 points in Brooklyn’s last game, and White had SIX BLOCKS in his last game (along with nine assists in his past two games). The Nets and the Spurs are both in the playoff picture, and they’re desperate to stay there. I anticipate both players will see some rest down the stretch, but their teams need them, so their usage should be safe enough to trust for the fantasy playoffs. They’re both dynamite players for next season, as well. The Spurs will have an interesting guard rotation: Dejounte Murray (out this season), Derrick White, DeMar DeChozan, and Bryn Forbes. Murray and White will be a defensive juggernaut in the backcourt, while DeChozan and Forbes will be there for offense. If the Spurs strengthen their front court in the offseason, they’ll be damn good again next year.