Hey guys, welcome back to the NBA Roundtable! We have recently seen some huge performances from some promising young bigs around the league including Alex Len, Myles Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein, Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon, so I asked the Rotoworld hoops crew their thoughts on which guys they are most excited about moving forward. I’ll start us off…
Jonas Nader (@JonasNader)
I love the fact that Aaron Gordon is starting now, and his value gets a huge boost due to the fact that the Magic are slipping down the standings. Gordon’s ceiling could be insane, so I think we could see some monster numbers after the All-Star break. He should be owned in all leagues right now.
Nikola Jokic is another guy that intrigues me, and he has put up two huge performances in his last three games. He is averaging 11.6 points, 7.3 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks in that span, but he has done that while playing just 23.0 minutes per game. I am worried that Jusuf Nurkic will eventually complicate things in the frontcourt, but Jokic should still get plenty of burn in what is supposed to be a rebuilding season.
Alex Len is excelling at power forward, and all that offseason talk about him working on his jump shot appears to be legit. The Suns are tanking and they’re not even trying to be shy about it, so Len is going to get plenty of minutes from here on out. He has posted two double-doubles in two out of his last three games, but keep in mind that he does have durability issues (glass ankles).
Myles Turner took the NBA by storm last week, but Ian Mahinmi is back from his ankle injury and coach Frank Vogel trusts him a lot more than the rookie. Turner could eventually push Jordan Hill completely out of the rotation and he does have enough range to play the four, but his outlook is complicated at best. Still, he has way too much upside to be sitting on the wire right now.
Willie Cauley-Stein has looked great next to DeMarcus Cousins, but I’m in no hurry to add him in a lot of my leagues. He will give you decent boards and a couple of blocks occasionally, but that’s basically it. I’d like to see him expand his game before I would be interested, but you could certainly do worse if you need a big.
Editor's Note: The results are in. RotoGrinders has finished crunching the numbers and today announced the 2015 Daily Fantasy Sports Tournament Player of the Year. See who the winner is. (Spoiler: You might recognize him from his appearances on FanDuel TV commercials.)
Steve Alexander (@docktora)
I'm most excited about Aaron Gordon, while Alex Len is also very intriguing. Both guys should be owned and I think Gordon's breakout game is just around the corner. I also like Myles Turner quite a bit, but Ian Mahinmi is back and Turner played just 18 minutes on Tuesday. He was still productive, but Mahinmi double-doubled in the start, and the timeshare makes me a little nervous. Willie Cauley-Stein has been unleashed for the Kings and is also playing very well. Nikola Jokic looks like the center of favor right now in Denver, but Jusuf Nurkic could get healthy and hot at any time. But Jokic is the guy I want to own there right now. Going forward, I'll rank these guys: Gordon, Len, WCS, Jokic and Turner.
Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher)
Alex Len - Maybe the Suns had their PF answer right under their noses. Len has played 73 minutes next to Tyson Chandler in the last three games. Plus, he played 17 of Chandler's 19 minutes on Tuesday. Not many players can be double-double threats with great percentages and flirt with 2.0 blocks, so Len's upside is sky high.
Nikola Jokic - Jusuf Nurkic's conditioning is awful and Joffrey Lauvergne just isn't the answer. Plus, Jokic's low-post passing is huge for the Denver offense, and his PNR D is a lot better. He has the potential to be a monster, especially if the Nuggets start selling players.
Aaron Gordon - Scott Skiles still doesn't get it. The Magic are getting destroyed with 'Dipo and Elfrid together and Evan Fournier has been awful as a small forward lately, too. The Magic are losing games, so that bodes very well for Gordon. His per-36 stats aren't great, but expect his role to grow with the Magic slipping.
Myles Turner - He led all drafted NCAA players in block rate last year in college and he can score, too. Turner's minutes are going to be low, but he has a huge upside and is a good free throw shooter.
Willie Cauley-Stein - If he's not dunking, he's not scoring. Rudy Gay will come back and take some minutes away from Trill and he's not a great shooter from the line. He's probably one of the safest guys, but the lower upside is unappealing.
Ethan Norof (@Ethan_Norof)
Nikola Jokic: I've been shouting from the rooftops for everyone to hop aboard The Joker's train, and it's hard not to get excited about his second-half outlook. Jusuf Nurkic (knee) isn't in shape, there is no guarantee that he'll fully rebound with his health this season and the Nuggets should be prioritizing player development with their youngsters in the second half of the season. He contributes across the stat sheet, really doesn't hurt you and offers the type of versatile upside not traditionally found on the waiver wire.
Alex Len: Even if I'm still a little uneasy about his health (ankles), there is no denying that Alex Len has been productive when given the chance to contribute this season. The Suns are without an answer at power forward, and the team didn't pay Tyson Chandler $52M to sit on the bench when he's healthy enough to play. That means to expect more of Len at PF, where he's been quite productive in a short stint so far.
Aaron Gordon: The path to minutes has finally cleared for 00, but his impressive athleticism may not translate to across-the-board production just yet. That's OK, and GMs should feel encouraged to stick with him now that he's finally in the starting lineup. Capable of producing across the stat sheet for a team that needs his defensive activity along the frontline, Gordon is the type of upside player you want at the back end of your roster.
Myles Turner & Willie Cauley-Stein: The upside is clear for these two capable shot-blocking rookies—and they could both play consistently large roles for their teams as soon as this season—but each faces a more difficult path to consistent minutes than the other three on this list.
Jared Johnson (@JaredJ831)
Myles Turner, I just love that dude's game. He has 3-point range, can score in a variety of ways and his 3.6 block rate is nothing short of elite. Unfortunately, I don't see him truly realizing his potential this season as he stuck behind Ian Mahinmi in the rotation, but his future is very bright.
I would be enjoying Willie Cauley-Stein's recent surge a lot more if I didn't send him to the waiver wire literally the game before he started producing, but hey, it is what it is. He's been nice over the past five, owning averages of 10.2 points, 9.8 boards, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game on 57.9 percent shooting from the field and 70.0 percent from the stripe. As long as he's starting and playing around 30 minutes a night, he'll be a worthwhile guy to own in fantasy hoops.
Ryan Knaus (@Knaus_RW)
It's an exciting time to have a few young big men stashed on your bench. Center-eligible players are scarcer than power forwards in nearly all formats, so I immediately give an edge to guys like Alex Len, Nikola Jokic and Myles Turner, but it's all about opportunity.
Myles Turner edges out Aaron Gordon and Willie Cauley-Stein due to his demonstrated upside and clear path to playing time in Indiana. Ian Mahinmi is having a career year but there's no reason Turner can't carve out a 25-minute role, even if he isn't starting. That should be enough for him to establish reliable fantasy value, as he's on a five-game stretch with averages of 19.6 points on 64.6% shooting, 6.2 boards and 2.8 blocks in just 27.6 minutes per game. Pacers.com writer Mark Montieth wrote on Wednesday, "[Frank Vogel] is indeed planning to increase Turner's playing time beyond 25 minutes per game and wants to get a look at how Turner plays alongside center Ian Mahinmi." Yes, please. Per-36-minute stats: 19.1 points (56.8% FGs, 67.3% FTs), 8.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 2.7 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, 4.4 personal fouls.
The Suns' decision to start Alex Len alongside Tyson Chandler was borne of desperation with injuries to Jon Leuer (back), Markieff Morris (shoulder) and Mirza Teletovic (ankle). He's been terrific in the role, however, and has started the past two games despite Markieff's return. Len's oft-injured ankles are holding up to increased minutes and the Suns have every reason to unleash him over their final 35 games. Per-36-minute stats for 2015-16: 12.6 points on 45.3% shooting, 10.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks, 2.5 turnovers and 4.7 personal fouls.
Nikola Jokic is also high on my list, as he's been producing steady 12-team value for weeks despite limited playing time -- he's averaging just 19.6 minutes in January. Jokic's talent is undeniable and it's hard to see out-of-shape Jusuf Nurkic overtaking him as the Nuggets' starting center this season, giving Jokic one of the more stable outlooks of these young bigs. He's an asset in both percentage categories, he's a crafty playmaker, and he contributes some defensive stats without many turnovers, so roto owners shouldn't be overlooking him. Per-36-minute stats: 16.8 points (54.3% FGs, 80.2% FTs), 0.4 threes, 10.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks, 2.4 turnovers and 4.2 personal fouls.
Honorable mention: Boban.