*All stats prior to Thursday’s games. All numbers courtesy of ESPN.com and NBA.com. Thank you!*
In this space last Friday I wondered whether Evan Mobley, the impressive rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers, should be rostered in at least 70% of fantasy basketball leagues. Guess what? He’s now 77% rostered in ESPN leagues, and that number could go even higher. Can one of the players below also shoot up in fantasy value this week? Here are five mostly available players in ESPN fantasy basketball who are worth your time picking up.
PLAYER UNDER 50% ROSTERED
Lauri Markkanen, PF, CLE, 49.9% rostered
The Finnisher is starting for the Cavs and he’s averaging 10+ points per game, 7 rebounds per game, 1+ assists per game, and 1+ steal per game. He’s third on the Cavs in minutes per game (30 MPG), third in field goal attempts per game (11+ FGA), and he’s first in three point attempts per game (6 3PA). He’s starting, he’s playing a lot, he’s shooting a lot, AND he’s top 100 on the ESPN Player Rater.
But Natty! He has a 30.5 field goal percentage and a 23 3PT%! Off-the-Markkanen has a 41.7 true shooting percentage, YUCK!
Fer sher, I respond. BUT. That 30 FG% is the worst of his career (he shot 48% from the floor last year during his “disastrous” last season with the Bulls). He shot 40% from three last season (his 23 3PT% this year is also the worst of his career), and he had a 61.9 TS% last season, which is fantastic. All of which is to say that that I see some positive regression coming for the Finnisher. He’s a 6’11” 24 year old who’s shown he can shoot better than he has. He’s already a top 100 player even with the dreadful shooting. Could he end up top 75 or even top 50 once his shot starts to fall more frequently?
PLAYER UNDER 40% ROSTERED
Will Barton, SF, DEN, 35.1% rostered
So, these Nuggets are walking wounded early in the season. Enter Will Barton who’s now 1st in MPG on Denver, and 3rd in shot attempts. He’s averaging 16+ PPG, a career best, along with 4+ RPG, 3+ APG, and a steal per game. He’s averaging 4.8 3PA, which is second on Denver, and he’s draining them at a career-best 42 3PT%. He has a 59.5 TS%, also a career best, and he’s playing at the fastest pace of his career. He’s #83 on the ESPN Player Rater (prior to Thursday’s games). All arrows are trending up for Barton. Is he fool’s gold? I don’t think so! The Nuggies need another scorer with Jamal Murray out (and now Nikola Jokic, the MVP, is banged up, too), and Michael Porter, Jr. is still shaking off the rust. I think Barton could be 50+% rostered by this time next week, easy. Jump on board while you can, because he seems to be the #1 or #2 if/when Joker’s out.
PLAYER UNDER 30% ROSTERED
Desmond Bane, SG, MEM, 29.3% rostered
Sophomore Desmond Bane is THIRD in MPG on Memphis, and SECOND in FGA (!!!!). He’s already a top 50 player on the player rater. Currently averaging 19+ PPG, 4+ RPG, 2+ APG, 7+ 3PA, a 40 3PT%, and a 62 TS%, WOW! He’s taking 14+ shots per game and opening things up for the rest of this hella fun Grizzlies team. Out of all the NBA players who are averaging 28+ MPG (like Bane) and 14+ FGA per game, Bane is NINTH in true shooting percentage. (Kevin Durant is 8th, to give you some context.)
Four players had those same stats or better last season (19-4-2, 7+ 3PA, 40+ 3PT%): Steph Curry, Zach LaVine, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving. Got any damn? Cuz that’s a goddamner of a list to be on, especially for a sophomore. Can this kid keep it up?? Tom Hardy plays Bane and Venom in the movies, but in the comics it was Bane who needed venom in order to break Batman’s back. Is this Bane a symbiote? Or, a destroyer? WHICH TOM HARDY IS HE? ...Or is he both?!
PLAYER UNDER 20% ROSTERED
Tyrese Maxey, SG, PHI, 18.5% rostered
So, Maxey is another sophomore, but he’s only #141 on the player rater so far. Why am I suggesting him? Coupla few reasons.
First, he’s second in minutes on the 76ers (33 MPG). Ben Simmons’s absence is Maxey’s gain. He’s also third in field goal attempts per game (12 FGA/game). He’s getting the opportunity for volume.
Second, he’s currently averaging 14+ PPG, 4+ RPG, 3+ APG, and he’s shooting 45% from the floor. Not great, Bob, you’d like to see more dimes and a better field goal percentage, fer sher.
BIG BUT. To-The-Maxey is basically averaging 10+ drives per game, and he’s finishing at a near 52% rate on those drives. Here’s the list of players this season who drive 10+ times per game, have a 52+ FG% on those drives, and play at least 30 MPG, along with their fantasy roster percentage:
Giannis Antetokounmpo - 99% rostered
Kevin Durant - 99%
Damian Lillard - 99%
Russell Westbrook - 99%
Luka Doncic - 99%
Donovan Mitchell - 99%
Jaylen Brown - 99%
Ja Morant - 99%
Jayson Tatum - 99%
Malcolm Brogdon - 94%
Collin Sexton - 93%
Darius Garland - 79% (missed time with an ankle injury)
That’s a list of first and second round draft picks. Now, Maxey won’t reach those heights unless his shot starts falling more efficiently, but just look at what he COULD do if his shot DOES turn bueno. Drives are an unheralded part of fantasy basketball, but they can tell you a lot: who gets penetration opportunities, who can get to the foul line, who can dish out of drives for assists, who is trusted with the ball? If Maxey turns into one of those guys, if he can keep up his athleticism and improve just a little bit on his efficiency, then his fantasy value will skyrocket. He’s a sophomore who’s now the starting point guard for a team with title aspirations, so there will be a learning curve. But, get real yall: LOOK AT THAT LIST. Nine of the twelve are 99% rostered. Maxey costs you nothing to acquire, and he could end up being a player who helps you win a championship. Add him while you can.
PLAYER UNDER 10% ROSTERED
Grayson Allen, SG, MIL, 6.6% rostered
This one was tough because there are several players under 10% rostered who I rilly rilly like. But, Allen seems to be in a good position to succeed on Milwaukee. The Bucks are another team with mucho ailments and players missing games. Allen’s currently #64 on the player rater (shocker), mostly due to him taking advantage of the playing time given him early in the season. He’s third in shot attempts on Milwaukee, fourth in minutes, and first in 3PA (8 per game). The Bucks want him to shoot, hell, they NEED him to shoot. He has a 32 3PT% so far, but he shot threes at a 39% clip last season, so there’s positive regression coming. He’s a cheap source of fantasy value: 13+ PPG, 4 RPG, 1+ APG, and 1 steal per game. It’s not sexy, but it IS cheap, which is exactly how the ladies describe my dates. That’s suboptimal in romance, but very attractive in fantasy basketball. The Bucks need healthy legs, and Allen’s there. Sometimes, that’s all it takes for a player to be a useful fantasy add.