Many fantasy GM’s walk into drafts with a handful of names highlighted on their cheat sheets. Listed below are ten players that I hope to land on draft day, and I am willing to reach in order to make it happen…
Mike Conley - Memphis Grizzlies:
How vital is Conley to the Grizzlies success? Conley played in 10 of Memphis’ first 11 games last season, and the Grizz were 7-3 (four games over .500). He was sidelined by a debilitating heel injury in early November and missed the rest of the season. The Grizzlies went 15‐55 (40 games below .500) without Conley in the lineup. Because he missed the majority of the 2017-18 season, his average draft position (ADP) will be far lower than it should be this year. I plan to take advantage of folks sleeping on Conley and pounce if he slips farther than he should. Remember, in 2016-17, he set career-highs in points per game (20.5), rebounds (3.5), made treys (2.5), field goal percentage (.459) and three‐point field goal percentage (.407). He finished that season ranked 23rd overall in nine-category fantasy leagues. He certainly has the potential to crack the top-30 again this upcoming season.
Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks:
Yahoo default rankings currently list Doncic at No. 137. There are three other rookies listed ahead of him: Wendell Carter Jr. (118), Jaren Jackson Jr. (123), Deandre Ayton (130). Personally, I expect Doncic to win the Rookie of the Year award and post better fantasy numbers than any other player in the 2018 NBA draft class. While all rookies have a tough time making the transition into the NBA, Doncic has a terrific head start. He has been playing against grown means since he was 16 years old. Last season, playing for Real Madrid in the ACB (the second best basketball league in the world) Doncic became the youngest player ever to win both the regular season MVP award and the Final Four MVP. He averaged 20.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2.1 treys, 1.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per-36 minutes.
Danilo Gallinari - Los Angeles Clippers:
Like Doncic, Danilo Gallinari is ranked extremely low by Yahoo, with Gallo coming in at 183. The reason Gallinari lands so low is due to his awful injury history. Over the last five seasons, he has appeared in just 196 of a possible 410 games (47.8 percent of total contests). In 2017-18, his first season as a Clipper, a variety of injuries limited him to just 21 games. However, he is fully healthy at the moment, as evidenced by his MVP performance in the NBA Africa game, in which he tallied 23 points and eight boards. He has also stated that he wants to play for the Italian national team this summer. In 2016-17, while playing for the Denver Nuggets, Gallo suited up for 63 games and averaged 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 treys, while shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 90.2 percent from the stripe. He finished that season ranked 46th overall in nine-category fantasy leagues. In 2015-16, he averaged a career-high 19.5 points to go along with 5.3 boards and was 44th overall in nine-cat leagues. Yes, the injuries are obviously worrisome, but the upside is undeniable. If he slides into the ninth or tenth round, I plan happily scooping him up.
Jarrett Allen - Brooklyn Nets:
Allen showcased his enticing upside when he was finally inserted into the Nets starting lineup in late January. He started at center in each of his final 31 games and averaged 10.5 points, 6.4 boards and 1.7 blocks in 23.8 minutes in those contests while shooting 62.1 percent from the floor and 80.5 percent from the line. Just 20 years old, Allen is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. With limited competition for minutes in the middle, Allen should see his playing time and production increase substantially in 2018-19. Hop on the bandwagon while there is still room.
Jonathan Isaac - Orlando Magic:
Issac has the tools to be a remarkably productive fantasy contributor. In limited playing time last season, he averaged 2.2 steals, 2.0 blocks and 1.1 made 3-pointers per-36 minutes. To put that in context, per Basketball-Reference, Issac is the first player in NBA history to log more than 500 minutes and average at least two steals, two blocks and two treys per-36 over the course of a season. The primary concern related to Isaac is his health. Last season he appeared in only 27 games due to nagging ankle injuries. In addition, the Magic have solid depth along their front line, which could potentially result in limited playing time. Nonetheless, his upside makes him worth reaching for in the mid-to-late rounds.
Jordan Bell - Golden State Warriors:
The towering presence of DeMarcus Cousins at center, and he talk from coach Steve Kerr that he may consider starting Damian Jones while Cousins is sidelined, will likely scare away plenty of potential Bell owners, which is just fine by me. Assuming Bell’s ADP drops into the late rounds, he becomes a low-risk, high-reward value selection. This pick equates to betting against Boogie Cousins as much as it’s an endorsement of Bell. The Warriors only have one goal next season, and that’s winning another championship. The regular season is relatively meaningless, and they already have four future Hall-of-Famers they can count on. Thus, they have zero incentive to rush Boogie back into the mix. Golden State has the luxury of being able to hold him out until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible. Then, even after he makes his debut, they can sit him on the back end of back-to-backs. Add up all that time on the sideline, and Bell should have plenty of time to shine. Although his numbers don’t jump off the page, Bell is a solid all-around fantasy contributor that can stuff the stat sheet. As a rookie last season, averaged he 9.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.5 blocks per-36 minutes, while shooting 62.7 percent from the floor.
Trae Young - Atlanta Hawks:
During his sole season at the University of Oklahoma, Trae Young put up jaw-dropping numbers. He averaged 27.4 points, 8.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 3.7 treys, and 1.7 steals in 35.4 minutes per contest. In the process, he became the first player ever to lead NCAA Division 1 in both scoring and assists. How much does Atlanta believe in his talent? Well, to clear the path for Young, they were willing to trade away No. 3 overall Luka Doncic and starting point guard Dennis Schroder, who led the 2017-18 Hawks in points, assists, minutes, field goal attempts and free throw attempts per game and usage rate. The only other point guard currently on the roster is injury-prone Jeremy Lin, and it has been reported that Atlanta plans to play Lin alongside Young at times. Thus, it’s safe to assume Trae will get all the minutes he can handle next season for the rebuilding Hawks. Yes, the turnovers and inefficient shooting percentage are admittedly a significant concern in nine-category fantasy leagues, but I think Young’s ceiling is still extremely high.
Markelle Fultz - Philadelphia 76ers:
Admittley, this is a boom-or-bust pick. After averaging 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks, and 2.1 treys, while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from downtown, as a freshman at Washington, Fultz was viewed nearly unanimously as the top player available in the 2017 draft, enticing the Sixers to trade up to the top overall spot to snag him. However, as we know, Fultz’s rookie season was a complete dud. He was limited to just 14 games in 2017-18, as a shoulder injury led to the yips and a broken jumper. However, Fultz has reportedly rebuilt his shot under the watchful eye of trainer Drew Hanlan, one of most respected trainers in the business. As a result of his awful rookie campaign, Fultz’s stock has plummeted, dragging down his ADP along with it. If he is still on the board at around pick 100, I’ll am willing to bet on him bouncing back in a big way. The kid is incredibly talented and physically gifted. If he can fix his jumper, he has a chance to provide a terrific return on investment.
De’Anthony Melton - Phoenix Suns:
Before trading Brandon Knight to the Rockets, the Suns had minimal depth at point guard. Now they have even less, which makes one of the players they received back from Houston and intriguing, late-round sleeper. Melton sat out the 2017-18 season at USC due to an NCAA investigation and, as a result, slipped all the way into the middle of the second round. The Rockets shrewdly scooped him up with the 46th overall pick in the 2018 draft. Melton showcased his incredibly versatile skill in Las Vegas during summer league action when he averaged 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.4 treys and a league-leading 3.0 steals. While not a pure PG, Melton will likely be asked to frequently facilitate the offense, assuming the Suns don’t bring in a starting-caliber point guard. Currently, there are only two other PG’s on the Phoenix roster: second-round pick Elie Okobo, and undrafted rookie Shaquille Harrison, who does not have a guaranteed contract. If the Suns choose to enter the season with the roster as currently constituted, Melton is definitely a name that should be highlighted on cheat sheets come draft day.
Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox - New York Knicks:
I’m grouping these two Knicks rookies together, as I feel they both have a chance to exceed expectations next season. Knox generated significant buzz earlier this summer when he was named to the Summer League's All-NBA First Team after averaging 21.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.5 3-pointers and 1.0 steals in 32.2 minutes. With Kristaps Porzingis recovering from a torn ACL and sidelined for the foreseeable future, Knox is stepping into an ideal fantasy situation, as the Knicks will need someone to not only log minutes at power forward, but also step up and help shoulder the scoring load. Robinson also surprisingly played very well in Las Vegas, averaging 13.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 4.0 blocks, while shooting a scorching 66.7 percent from the field. Robinson’ short-term value is far less certain than Knox, as there is a possibility Robinson begins the season in the G-League. However, if the Knicks part ways with Joakim Noah as expected, minutes could open up immediately. If he can earn consistent playing time off the New York bench, Robinson’s elite combination of talent, athleticism and length could generate viable fantasy production.
Other Players To Consider Reaching For: Cedi Osman, Harry Giles, Seth Curry, Montrezl Harrell, Willy Hernangomez, Myles Turner, Julius Randle, Kevin Love, John Collins, Gary Harris, and Malcolm Brogdon.