Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out for the season with an injury.
Al Horford will sit out the rest of the season.
And, now, Lu Dort has a concussion.
Things aren’t going very well for the Oklahoma City Thunder recently. But the thinning of their ranks leads us to enticing fantasy basketball possibilities. A bad team with a ton of minutes to give to young players? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Let’s start with the Thunder’s new starting point guard, rookie Theo Maledon, who’s the heir to SGA’s minutes. Over the last week, he’s averaged 30+ minutes per game, 13+ points per game, 5 rebounds per game, three assists, and two steals. Not bad! He’s also taking 5+ 3-point attempts per game in March, and sinking those treys at a 40% clip. Here’s the list of players who are averaging on the season 13+ PPG/5+ RPG/3+ APG and shooting 5+ 3PA at 40+ 3PT%: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Paul George, and Khris Middleton.
Is Theo Maledon as good as those players? Probably not, but he’s delivering counting stats and ratios like they do, and his recent play is probably indicative of what you can expect for the rest of the season: lots of minutes and lots of counting stats. If he can keep his 3PT% up, then that’s just butter. Why? Because Theo Maledon is currently a starting PG in the NBA and he’s 5% rostered (ESPN leagues). You should probably keep your eye on a starting PG, especially one whose minutes are safe.
Over the past month there are ten players in the NBA who are averaging at least 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 5 3-point attempts per game:
- Luka Doncic
- James Harden
- Nikola Vucevic
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- LeBron James
- Russell Westbrook
- Julius Randle
- Kyle Kuzma (40% from three since February 26th)
- Donte DiVincenzo
- Aleksej Pokusevski
All of the players above are rostered in at least 60% of ESPN leagues (90+% for most of them), except for Poku. Pokusevski is 5.5% rostered.
Pokusevski is the 7-foot wing on the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s 19 years old, and he’s been averaging the third most minutes per game for OKC over the past month. Now that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is done for the season, Poku’s minutes and role should be safe, and hell, they may even increase. Poku’s averaged five APG since SGA went down.
Poku’s a top 125 player over the past two weeks. His efficiency isn’t good, but again: he’s 19 years old, and he’s now playing over 30 minutes per game as a starter. His efficiency isn’t supposed to be good yet! But, his counting stats and fantasy value are worth a roster spot. He’s been as valuable as Duncan Robinson and Slow-Mo Kyle Anderson these past two weeks, and both of those guys are 40+% rostered. Poku’s averaging a block a game on the season, same as two other 19 year olds: Isaiah Stewart on the Pistons and James Wiseman on the Warriors.
The OKC Thunder are a young team, and Poku’s the youngest. He’s also the tallest, and his offensive skills are burgeoning along with his playing time. Seven footers who can shoot end up having long NBA careers. Pokusevski may never develop into an All Star, but right now he’s playing star-level minutes on a team without their leader. He should be a valuable fantasy player for the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, the young front court of Isaiah Roby (9% rostered) and Moses Brown (now 43% rostered, get him while you can!) are also putting up nice volume numbers recently. They’re fourth and fifth in MPG the past two weeks, respectively. Roby’s averaged 10 points and 6 boards, with 1+ steals and 1+ blocks per game, whiles Thunder Moses is averaging 13 and 12 with nearly two blocks per game. While Darius Bazley and Lu Dort are both out, the starting five for OKC is Maledon, Svi Mykhailiuk (a supposed sharpshooter from the Pistons that OKC got in exchange for Hamidou Diallo), POKU AT THE THREE, Roby and Thunder Moses. I’m not shitting you, that’s probably their starting five until Lu and Baze are back. Right now, Thunder Moses is the most rostered player in OKC’s starting five.
Good players on bad teams are generally fantasy gold, but young players on tanked teams are just as valuable. The Thunder are playing for tomorrow. While they do, their players are delivering today. We should accept that the efficiency will ebb and flow, but the minutes and the shots should remain constant.