We’re in the height of fantasy basketball draft season. Players like Jonathan Isaac, who’s out recovering from injury with no firm date to return, are going in the top 100, Kawhi Leonard, who may not play at all this season, is going in the top 125, as is Andre Drummond, the backup big to Joel Embiid. Suffice to say that player value is perhaps not accurately reflected by average draft position, which is what always happens during draft season.
Every year there are under-owned players who return good to great fantasy value. Here are 17 players who I like for this season, all of whom are rostered on less than 10% of ESPN teams.
Monte Morris, PG, DEN, 9.4% rostered
Morris will be the starting point guard for one of the best teams in the West. He’ll be on the floor with the MVP, Nikola Jokic, as well as Michael Porter, Jr., one of the most efficient shooters in the NBA. Morris is Jamal Murray’s backup, but Murray’s out recovering from injury, perhaps for the entire season. Morris had the fourth best true shooting percentage on the Nuggets last season (of player who played 20+ minutes per game), 57.4. Terry Rozier and Collin Sexton also had 57 TS% last season, to give you an idea of where Morris is. Morris’s per-36 minutes numbers last year were 14+ points per game, 4+ assists per game, 2+ rebounds per game, 1.5 three pointers made, and 1 steal per game. That doesn’t seem all that impressive, but only 30 players equaled or exceeded those numbers last season. I don’t think Morris will be fantasy gold, but I do think he’ll be SOLID: he’ll have minutes, he’ll get shots. For a player under 10% rostered that seems like damn fine return on investment to me.
Lu Dort, SG/SF, OKC, 9.1%
Dort’s shooting improved from his rookie to his sophomore year. Will we see another improvement from the young guard? If he can get his 3PT% up to around 37%, then he’ll be a bona fide fantasy asset, maybe a 15-3-3 kind of player, but whose main asset is his real life defense. We don’t think the Thunder have much scoring besides Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but Dort’s potential as a 3&D perimeter player would complement SGA’s offensive attack, and I think OKC will allow Dort the leash to fail. I assume Dort has a fairly long leash to start the season, but if his shot’s still faulty, his minutes may dwindle. Still, it won’t cost you much to find out in drafts or off the waiver.
Patrick Williams, SF/PF, CHI, 8.6%
This is a STASH pick. Williams is out injured to begin the season, but he could have a pivotal role on the Bulls when he returns. Williams is one of, if not the, best defenders on the Bulls, but he had a minimal impact on offense last year. However, that was his rookie year, and he didn’t have the offensive weapons around him then that he does now. You’d think that the rest of the team would steal his shots, but I have a feeling that the Bulls are intending to find out exactly how good Williams can be, which means he’ll get his shots and his minutes. Everyone dreams of finding the next Kawhi Leonard, a ferocious wing defender who can score 20+ points per game. Do the Bulls have a guy like that, or something approximating Kawhi? That could be the difference between being a borderline playoff team and being an actual threat in the playoffs. I’m definitely a believer, but Williams’s low ownership reflects how fantasy folks feel. If you can burn a roster spot with an IR stash, I’d do it. He won’t cost you a high draft pick, that’s for sure.
Kendrick Nunn, SG, LAL, 6.5%
Talen Horton-Tucker is out with an injury, which means that the Lakers starting five needs a 2-guard who can shoot. The candidates for this position are Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk (see below), both of whom came to the Lakers this offseason. Nunn averaged 14+ PPG and 2+ 3PM per game last season in Miami. We thought that his role would be much reduced in LA, but maybe not? LeBron needs shooters around him, and Russell Westbrook DEFINITELY needs shooters around him. Nunn’s one of the best long range shooters on the Lakers right now, so I’m not going to overthink it. I think Nunn and/or Monk will be fantasy fire as deep perimeter threats around Bron & Russ.
Aleksej Pokusevski, PF, OKC, 5.3%
Poku is seven feet tall and is an outside shooter who likes to distribute the ball. I just want to watch him play. If he clicks, he becomes another Unicorn like (Good) Kristaps Porzingis, but with less defense and more playmaking. As stated above, OKC doesn’t have much scoring impact behind SGA. Can Poku provide?? Is he Okie Dirk???
Cam Reddish, SF/SG, ATL, 5%
I know, I know, I know: the Hawks are deep at every position and Cam’s underwhelmed so far in his career. De’Andre Hunter, his draft classmate, is a better defender, and Cam’s talents seem to be duplicated by some of the other perimeter players, like Bogdan Bogdanovic. Cam had a nice stretch in last year’s playoffs, but can he keep it going? And, will the Hawks give him enough minutes and shots to continue to develop, or will they decide to go all in with the vets, relegating Cam to trade bait? I’m still willing to bet on Cam’s talent, and I think there’s fantasy value here, even if he ends up being a sixth man on this deep team. If he gets traded to another team and ends up with more minutes and shots, then I’m grabbing him off the waiver wire immediately.
Tyrese Maxey, SG, PHI, 5%
Maxey’s value seems predicated upon whether or not Ben Simmons plays for the Sixers this season. But, even if Simmons does come back to Philly, Maxey’s talents on offense are still extremely complementary to how the Sixers play. I think Maxey will be given plenty of opportunities this season, Simmons or no Simmons, mainly because the Sixers need him to be good. Honestly, I think Maxey should be at least 25% rostered, just in case Simmons DOESN’T come back, and all of his minutes and shots are up for grabs.
Patty Mills, PG, BKN, 3.5%
Soooo...maybe you’ve heard Kyrie Irving may miss some games this season due to, uh, personal decisions regarding vaccination. If Kyrie doesn’t play, or can’t play, or can’t play in home games, or whatever, if Kyrie’s unavailable for a majority of games, then James Harden is likely the primary “point guard” for the Nets. BUT. Harden also ran point for the second unit last season, something that Patty Mills has been doing in San Antonio for years now. Patty Mills as a sixth man, backup PG, on a high-powered offense that may break league records this season is something I’d like to invest in. And for a pittance, you say? I know it’s tough to suggest a player who primarily comes off the bench, but I feel like Patty Mills is going to have a much larger role on this team than currently advertised.
Franz Wagner, SF, ORL, 2.9% and Chuma Okeke, PF, ORL, 2.3%
Ok, both these guys play for the Orlando Magic, so don’t make fun, please. SOMEONE has to play these minutes out, and Jonathan Isaac doesn’t seem close to a return to the court, and Aaron Gordon is now in Denver. Minutes and shots are available on the wing in Mousetown. Okeke was solid as a starter in the latter half of last season, while Wagner was the #8 pick in this year’s NBA draft. I think both of them will be given plenty of opportunities to perform, and hell, both of them may start. Just a reminder that minutes and shot have to go to somebody, even on tanking teams. Sometimes volume from an okay player on a bad team is better fantasy value than a good player on a good team, yknow?
Precious Achiuwa, PF, TOR, 2.1%
Achiuwa might get big minutes early in the season because the Toronto front court is dealing with some injuries right now. Both Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher are out, meaning there are front court minutes available for Khem Birch, Precious, and the newest Raptor, Scottie Barnes. Kyle Lowry is gone and Pascal is out, meaning this team belongs to Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby until Siakam returns. Can Achiuwa’s dynamic defense mesh and help this Raptors team compete in the East? Can he improve on his offense while he has the chance? I like Precious a lot, so I’m hoping he does well, though he may just be an early season flier until Siakam returns.
Devin Vassell, SG/SF, SAS, 1.4%
I just like Vassell a lot. This is a very young Spurs team, and no one aside from Dejounte Murray and Derrick White is really established. A jump on offense from Vassell would be an enormous help for San Antonio because scoring might be tough to come by for these young Spurs.
Malik Monk, SG, LAL, 1.1%
Monk’s had a turbulent career, to say the least, but he’s in a position to succeed on the Lakers. These will be the most wide open shots he’s ever had in the NBA playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Can he supplant Nunn as the starting 2-guard? If not, can he capitalize as an immediate scoring punch off the bench? I still believe in his pure scoring potential, but if he can’t make it work with LeBron, then it’s probably never going to work.
Cameron Payne, PG, PHO, 0.9%
He’s the backup to a 36-year-old point guard. This is not difficult. Handcuffs aren’t as important in fantasy basketball as they are in football, but you can see this one coming from a mile away. If you don’t roster CamPayne, at least have him on your watch list. If CP3 goes down, Payne’s percentages will go upUpUP.
Payton Pritchard, PG, BOS, 0.8%
Malichi Flynn, PG, TOR, 0.7%
Facundo Campazzo, PG, DEN, 0.6%
These final three are just guards I really like. I think Pritchard’s in line for an increased role in Boston, I think Flynn’s probably the sixth man in Toronto, or maybe even a starter (he had a nice run at the end of last season when Lowry wasn’t playing), and I think Facu Campazzo is one of the most electric passers in the NBA. He and Joker should sell NFTs of their passes because they are a beauty to behold. With Jamal Murray out, Facu’s role should increase as he’s now either the primary PG backup or, gasp!, maybe the starter if he outplays Morris?!?! Time will tell, but if Facu’s shot doesn’t get better fast, then it won’t matter how good a passer he is, he won’t be able to play.
Let us know some of your under-owned favorites in the comments.