We’re more than halfway through the NBA season, ditto the fantasy basketball season. Managers in dynasty leagues are considering their standings and making a choice: is my team a contender this year? If not, is it time to focus on next year and look to the youths?
More and more teams will be looking on the wire for talented, and under-rostered, young players. Below are some of those who are probably available, and who are worth your time to roster for this season and beyond.
AYO DOSUNMU, CHI, SG, 17.6% ROSTERED, 22 YEARS OLD, #47 Player Rater Last 15
Let’s start with a rookie who has been thrust into a starting role in Chicago due to Covid absences and injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Ayo made his first career start on December 6th against the Nuggets, playing in Chicago, and the Bulls won that game 109-97. DeMar DeRozan didn’t play in that game, he had just entered Covid protocols. Dosunmu played 42 minutes in that game! Since that start Ayo’s averaged 9.6 points per game on 56% shooting, with 3.3 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game, and 2+ 3PA with a 44.6 3PT%. The last two weeks he’s averaged 11+ PPG, 4+ RPG, 6+ APG, 1 steal per game, and 1.5 3PM, and he has a 50 FG% over that span. Jesus, who is this kid?? He had 9 dimes versus Orlando and 11 assists against the Blazers recently. He’s a rookie, the Bulls are in, hello, first place in the East, and Ayo is averaging the second most minutes on the Bulls over the last month. The dimes are delightful, and the shooting efficiency is surprising but most welcome. Ayo’s going to get a lot more run if he continues being this efficient from the floor, and his roster rate will likely increase. Grab him off the wire right now, because he won’t be getting cheaper until/unless Lonzo & Caruso come back healthy. Ayo’s been a top 50 player recently, might as well ride the wave while you can.
JARRED VANDERBILT, MIN, PF, 25.9% ROSTERED (ESPN), 22 YEARS OLD, #55 PR15
V8’s been a top 100 player on the season, #83 overall, and it’s easy to see why. Vanderbilt’s tied with Joel Embiid in total rebounds this season, but V8’s played in 60 fewer minutes. Vandy’s grabbing those goddamn boards, in other words.
The last two weeks he’s averaged 10.1 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.4 SPG, and he’s shooting 61% from the floor. His per-36 numbers on the year are 10 and 12 with two steals. (V8’s averaging 26 minutes per game for the season.) He is so tantalizingly close to becoming a consistent double-double threat, and he’s still very young. If you need boards this season, and who doesn’t really, then Vanderbilt’s your young, widely available, top 100 in fantasy man.
CHRIS DUARTE, IND, SG, 19.8% ROSTERED, 24 YEARS OLD, #64 PR15
Duarte’s an older rookie, but he’s still a rookie on a team with a lot of injuries and possibly a helluva lot more available minutes if the Pacers end up trading some players away. Duarte’s averaged the fourth most MPG for Indiana the past month, and recently he’s delivered 12.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 1.4 3PM. He’s still finding his way in the NBA, but he’s giving top 75 value over the past two weeks, and 13-5-2 with 1+ steals and 1+ threes is a totally solid fantasy line from a young player. Duarte’s giving you a little bit of everything but blocks, and if that’s his fantasy floor? Just imagine what his ceiling might be with a few more years of seasoning in the pros. I don’t think he’ll ever be a star, but he’s a solid fantasy player, and he’s cheap and available, and he’s getting minutes on a bad team. No need to overthink this one.
LU DORT, OKC, SG/SF, 28.5% ROSTERED, 22 YEARS OLD, #67 PR15
Dort’s one of my fantasy boyfriends, and he’s been a top 100 player on the season, which pleases me immensely. Since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is out through the All Star Break, at least, Dort’s getting more to do on offense. The past two weeks he’s provided 17 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2 APG, 1 SPG, and 2.9 3PM. Those are counting stats that every fantasy team can use. The OKC Thunder don’t really have that much talent, strangely, and with SGA out, it’s kinda the Dort & Josh Giddey Show. Also, top 100 in fantasy is top 100 in fantasy. He’s another guy you don’t need to overthink, just pick him up ASAP. He’s a good player on a bad team getting minutes and shots. Don’t worry about Dort.
HERB JONES, NO, SF/PF, 20.2% ROSTERED, 23 YEARS OLD, #71 PR15
#60 on the year Herbert Jones! Jones is getting it done with defensive stats, 1.5 SPG and nearly a block per game for the season, but for the last month he’s averaged 11-4-2 with 1+ SPG, 1 3PM, and 50% shooting from the floor. The shooting efficiency may ebb and flow, but Young Herb’s been one of the best young defenders in the NBA. He’s a top 75 player! Just imagine what he can do if/when his shot develops in the next few years. He’s one of my favorite young players in the NBA right now, and the Pelicans are giving him all the run he can handle. He should be rostered in a LOT more leagues. Add him while you can.
CAM JOHNSON, PHX, SF, 12.7% ROSTERED, 25 YEARS OLD, #88 PR15
Cam Johnson doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he’s been one of the best three point shooters in the NBA this year. Of the 26 NBA players to average at least 3 3PM per game since the start of December, Cam Johnson has THE BEST 3PT%. That’s fantasy value in a nutshell, being the most efficient at something in volume. He makes a lot of threes at a high rate, yessir, I will take that on my fantasy team, thank you. The past two weeks he’s averaged 13-5-1 with a steal per game and 2.9 3PM. He’s played the fourth most minutes on the Suns the past month, even though he’s gone between starting and coming off the bench. Phoenix, just like every other team in the NBA, desperately needs efficient outside scoring. Cam Johnson’s delivered that this season, to a remarkable degree. Prior to Thursday’s games, 22 players had 122 or more total 3PM this season, including Cam. Cam’s played the FEWEST total minutes of those 22 players. Were he to get a larger role, his volume could increase. Can Jae Crowder keep Cam out of the starting five forever? Johnson’s only 12% rostered, and he’s been a top 100 player recently. He’s definitely worth rostering, including for the long term. What if he’s a starter next season?
Also, keep your eye on Cam Reddish, now on the Knicks (who isn’t playing, Thibs), De’Andre Hunter on Atlanta, and Victor Oladipo on the Heat. Dipo’s maybe hopefully coming back from injury sometime soon, while Reddish and Hunter are two young players with pedigree. Hunter’s looked like he might be taking a leap, when he isn’t injured; while Cam still has potential, he just needs the PT. Keep all three on your radar, at least, or pick them up if you’ve the roster flexibility. For what it’s worth, I’m rostering Hunter in my main league, I think he’s good for the long haul.
Good luck out there! Pay attention to the wire while your friends are ignoring the NBA until after the Super Bowl.