While drafting sleepers is one of the best things about fantasy sports, avoiding players who will struggle in the upcoming season is one of the most important things to hit correctly. Here are some bust candidates.
Isaiah Thomas PG Cavaliers – Thomas was nothing short of amazing for the Celtics last season and was even getting some MVP attention, although his numbers weren’t nearly at the insane level of Russell Westbrook’s and James Harden’s. But this year is a different story. As if going to Cleveland to play with LeBron’s usage rate weren’t bad enough, Thomas’ hip injury is obviously still a huge issue and no one seems to know when he might be able to play again. He says he’ll be fine and will be able to return to form with no problem. But given how many games he might miss, the teaming with LeBron and the fact he’ll be out of his comfort zone in Boston, this could be a long season for both Thomas and the Cavaliers. The risk seems to outweigh the potential reward, given that he’ll likely be an early-round selection in most drafts.
Chicago Point Guards – Kris Dunn, Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are the point guards in Chicago this season. And that’s not a good thing. Payne broke his foot, never seemed to fit in with the team and it looks like they’re giving up on him. Dunn didn’t live up to the hype in Minnesota last season and didn’t even really put a blip on the radar, then missed most of Summer League this year due to a family situation. Grant simply looks like a career backup. Maybe Dunn will spring to life and break out this season, but I’m not sure he’s good enough to make it happen. Dunn averaged just 3.8 points and 2.4 assists as a rookie.
Rajon Rondo PG Pelicans – Rondo went off late in the season and might have helped the Bulls take out the Celtics had he not injured his thumb in Game 2 of the playoffs. He signed with the Pelicans and it appears that they might be ready to start him at point guard and roll with Jrue Holiday at shooting guard. But Rondo will not be the only point guard on the floor, while he’ll have to compete with studs like Holiday, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins for shots. The only thing working in Rondo’s favor is a gaping hole at small forward, but E’Twaun Moore and Jordan Crawford should be able to help fill the gap. Rondo’s not going to score much, his free throw shooting is atrocious and he’s probably not worth the headaches that will come with owning him for a few assists and steals.
Jeremy Lin PG Nets – Lin not only played just 36 games last season thanks to a hamstring injury, but now has to deal with playing alongside D’Angelo Russell, who is more point guard than shooting guard. I don’t think Lin can stay healthy this season and even if he does, Russell looks like he could blow up, which could make for another long season for Lin. He’ll be serviceable when he plays, as he averaged 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 3-pointers last season, but those numbers will almost certainly take a hit for the new-look Nets. He’ll likely be a serviceable second or third point guard, but don’t look for a return of the kid we saw blow up for the Knicks in 2011-12.
Dwyane Wade SG Bulls – Wade has played in more than 70 games exactly once over the last six seasons and made it through just 60 games last season in Chicago. His body has a ton of mileage on it and he’s now a walking, talking “maintenance-day machine.” He averaged 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals last year, but he’s not much of a 3-point shooter these days and hit just 43 percent of his shots on the year. The fact that Jimmy Butler is now in Minnesota should work in Wade’s favor, but you can also expect more days off this year, struggles with his shot and more mediocrity from Wade as his career winds down. He’ll be worth playing on nights when he’s in the Bulls’ lineup, but if you set them for a week at a time, I don’t think Wade will even be worth owning due to the headaches that will result from all the missed games.
Carmelo Anthony SF Knicks – Melo was a Top 60 player last season and didn’t live up to his ADP of a third-round pick. He was also basically shut down at the end of the season due to soreness, missing six of his last 11 games, further infuriating his owners. He clashed with Phil Jackson, who has since been fired, but Melo still appears to be on his way out of New York. We don’t know where he’ll land, although Houston remains a possibility, and his motivation will be a key factor if he stays in New York for very long. He’s been pretty disappointing and has ended up on a lot of “never again” lists for fantasy owners over the past two seasons. And given the direction things appear to be heading in, he may find a whole new set of owners who will be adding him to their “never again” lists a year from now.
Marcus Morris F Celtics – At first glance Morris looks like the starting power forward for the Celtics after coming over from the Pistons. But the Celtics will likely move some young players and Gordon Hayward around to squeeze Morris out of the starting lineup. Even when he started for the Pistons last year the results weren’t impressive, as he averaged 14 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.3 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers on 42 percent shooting. Those are not great numbers, especially for a power forward, and Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving are going to get the bulk of touches for the Celtics. Even if Morris does end up starting for Boston, his production, poor shooting and lack of steals and blocks will make him a very tough player to own.
Dario Saric PF Sixers – The Homie Dario was fun to own last season and in the conversation for Rookie of the Year, averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers after the All-Star break. However, power forward Ben Simmons should be healthy and ready to roll, C Joel Embiid is hoping to be able to stay healthy this season, and Markelle Fultz should take over at point guard. The Sixers also added PF Amir Johnson, which means Saric is going to have to compete with Simmons and Johnson for touches, minutes and shots. The Sixers are deeper at every position and Saric simply won’t have the same opportunities he was afforded last year. He’s still worth a late-round flier, but his situation is not a great one and it’s simply not realistic to expect him to surpass last season’s brilliance. In fact, he’ll have a pretty tough time even matching what he did last year.
Al-Farouq Aminu PF Blazers – Aminu was basically a bust last season, despite not being drafted until about the 130th pick in most leagues. He averaged just 8.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 1.0 steals and 1.1 3-pointers and hit just 39 percent of his shots. The Blazers frontcourt is suddenly crowded with Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan all in the fold, so Aminu’s role almost has to be diminished this year. His minutes are going to take a hit and there just aren’t enough basketballs to go around for a deep frontcourt in Portland. He was only worth a 12th-round pick last season and could struggle to even be worth owning this time around. Let someone else draft him.
Patrick Patterson PF Thunder – Patterson struggled with knee problems last year and averaged just 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 3-pointers on 40 percent shooting in Toronto. He had offseason knee surgery, which will leave him a little iffy for opening night, but is in a good spot to start at power forward for the Thunder, whom he signed with over the summer. He’ll only have to beat out Jerami Grant to start, but even if Pat-Pat is healthy, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams should be taking most of the shots for the Thunder. It should be another long season for Patterson, even if he’s healthy enough to play and start.
Jonas Valanciunas C Raptors – Valanciunas has struggled under coach Dwane Casey and averaged just 12 points, 9.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks last year. He was healthy and played in 80 games, but returned just Top 70 value after being drafted in the 50s. Patrick Patterson is gone, but Serge Ibaka is back and the Raptors want him to play more minutes at center. The Raptors tried to unload JV and his contract over the summer, but were unsuccessful. His minutes have trended down for four straight seasons and they could take another dip this year, as well. Pascal Siakam, Lucas Nogueira and Jakob Poeltl are all seeking larger roles, while Ibaka is going to steal some of his minutes in the middle. Valanciunas will probably be worth owning, but there’s no reason to target him until the later rounds of your draft.
Timofey Mozgov C Nets – Mozgov was sent to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez deal after averaging just 7.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.6 blocks for the Lakers last season. He’s got a real chance to start at center for his new team, but rookie Jarrett Allen looks like the real deal and should put up better numbers than Mozzy. Mozgov will be a fifth or sixth scoring option, at best, for the Nets, and given his struggles last season when he had every opportunity to play for the Lakers, things aren’t looking up in Brooklyn. Look for Allen to ruin Mozgov and let someone else draft him.