Five Players Worth Reaching for in 2023 Fantasy Basketball Drafts
It’s that time of year. September is somehow already nearing its final stretch, which means October looms. That’s right, we’re just over a month out from regular-season NBA action. That means it’s the perfect time to prepare yourself for the main event: fantasy hoops. Whether you’ve already started identifying your draft targets or need a place to start, there’s no time to waste.
Our all-new 2023 Rotoworld Fantasy Basketball Draft Guide is loaded with expert analysis, positional tiers, mock drafts, player profiles, rankings for multiple scoring formats, and so much more. It’s the ultimate companion for any fantasy hoops manager looking to enter the year with confidence. With so many tools at your disposal, you’ll be in a great spot no matter where you are in your preparations for what should be a very fun year of hoops.
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Reaching for a player in a draft is something that every fantasy manager has considered at some point in time. Get it right, and the risk taken could serve as the foundation for a championship roster. Get it wrong, and a disappointed manager could find themselves carrying out a postseason activity that goes viral on the internet. With that in mind, below are four players who are worth reaching for in drafts this year. Some will be high picks, while others should be viewed as more than guys you should take a late-round flier on. In the full draft guide, you can see all 10 players worth reaching for.
Let’s dive in.
Desmond Bane, SG, Grizzlies
Bane is coming off of the best individual season of his NBA career. He finished the 2022-23 campaign with averages of 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 2.9 3-pointers in 31.7 minutes, with the production making him a top 40 player in 8- and 9-cat per-game value. The biggest issue for Bane, who shot 47.9% from the field and 88.3% from the foul line, last season was availability, as injury limited him to 58 games. With Ja Morant suspended for the first 25 games, there should be more opportunities for Bane to initiate the offense, even with the offseason acquisition of Marcus Smart. Fantasy managers in snake drafts picking at (or near) the Round 2/3 turn should strongly consider using one of those picks on Bane.
Nic Claxton, C, Nets
After offering little in the way of consistent fantasy production during his first three NBA seasons, Claxton was a breakout fantasy player in 2022-23. Averaging 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, and 2.5 blocks in 29.9 minutes, Clax was a top 25 player in per-game value and top 15 in totals. The exits of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving ushered in a new era in Brooklyn, one in which Claxton is now viewed as one of the team’s most important building blocks. Instead of having to share minutes with veterans whose best days were clearly behind them, Claxton flourished in his first season as the Nets’ unquestioned starter at center. Look for more of the same in 2023-24, and while he shouldn’t be taken off of draft boards as soon as a Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid, drafting Claxton as soon as Round 3 in standard leagues is a gamble worth making.
Josh Giddey, SG, Thunder
Giddey may have finished last season ranked outside the top 100 in 9-cat per-game value, but he made noticeable strides in his second NBA season. Appearing in 76 games, he produced averages of 16.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, and 1.0 3-pointers in 31.1 minutes, shooting 48.2% from the field and 73.1% from the foul line. The field goal percentage is what should catch the eye, as Giddey improved by nearly seven points from his rookie campaign (41.9%). Playing alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should only help Giddey regarding the quality of shots that he gets, as well as the continued improvement of Jalen Williams and the addition of Chet Holmgren.
Jabari Smith, PF, Rockets
Even if you choose to ignore how Smith performed during his brief run at Summer League due to the competition level, the progress he made after the All-Star break last season should not be overlooked. In 24 games after the break, Smith averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 1.3 3-pointers in 33.5 minutes, shooting 44.6% from the field (38.9% pre-break) and 77.1% from the foul line. And that’s with the Rockets clearly needing to address the point guard position. Well, Houston did that in free agency, signing Fred VanVleet to a three-year deal. The combination of Smith’s improvement and being able to share the court with a bonafide leader at the point makes him worth gambling on in drafts.
Jalen Williams, SG, Thunder
We’ve got another Thunder player on the list, as JDub was one of the best rookies in the NBA last season. Appearing in 75 games, he averaged 14.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.0 3-pointers in 30.3 minutes, shooting 52.1% from the field and 81.2% from the foul line. A top 75 player in 9-cat per-game value, Williams was a top 50 player in totals. He was shut down after just one appearance in Summer League, as it was clear immediately that he didn’t need to be out there. Also of note was Williams adding weight/muscle this summer. While we may not find out the specifics of the body transformation until media day, the change could make JDub an even better fit in the frontcourt next to the aforementioned Holmgren.