2017 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Injuries give Joel Embiid, Isaiah Thomas real bust potential
You don't want to risk ruining your Fantasy team on Draft Day, and avoiding these big names may be the key.
With the season fast approaching, Fantasy owners may want to begin narrowing down their list of draft targets. While preparing, it can be easy to think about potential steals -- value players to target at certain rounds and draft spots. But if things go awry and none of your planned value picks are on the board, knowing who not to choose can be even more important when constructing a team.
This was an offseason marked by radical changes around the NBA, including blockbuster trades, free agent signings, and the arrival of a highly-anticipated rookie class. With all the shake-ups occurring around the league, owners should be looking carefully at which players' situations could lead to them being overvalued.
Whether it's due to injury concerns, team adjustments, or simply out-of-control hype, here are some crucial players who could ultimately fail to produce the kind of value their draft position commands.
Thomas' rise to prominence was one of the more surprising stories in the NBA last season. The 28-year-old increased both his volume and scoring efficiency, leading to a top-five MVP finish and All-NBA Second Team honors. Fantasy owners expecting lightning to strike twice, however, may be disappointed in Thomas' encore.
Thomas faces a number of obstacles heading into next season -- chief among them, his health. He will need to recover from a hip injury that nearly derailed the trade to Cleveland, and at this point it's unclear when, he'll be back to 100 percent. Once healthy, he'll also need to get acclimated to a new environment and adjust to playing alongside LeBron James. Thomas played with All-Star-caliber players in Boston, but James' weight on the court is unique and could force Thomas to spend more time off-ball.
All that said, Thomas should remain among the league's most productive point guards. However, the injury looms as a bit of an unknown. On top of that, it's likely that he'll see at least a minor dip in scoring as a byproduct of going from unquestioned No. 1 option in Boston to secondary playmaker in Cleveland. That's enough to make him a risk in the early rounds.
Embiid is one of the more interesting cases in Fantasy basketball this season. If he can somehow play 75 games, he might be the Fantasy MVP. His unique offensive and defensive skillsets allow him to fill up the stat sheet, and unlike with most big men, owners won't have to sacrifice free-throw percentage or three-point makes.
The problem with Embiid, however, lies in his ability to remain on the floor. The Kansas product has played just 31 games since being drafted in 2014 and has dealt with a litany of foot and knee injuries. His status heading into camp is still somewhat uncertain, as he has yet to be cleared for full 5-on-5 participation after undergoing a procedure in March to repair a torn meniscus.
Even when playing last season, his injuries -- as well as a nasty propensity for fouls -- limited him to just 25 minutes per game. While Fantasy owners were still able to reap the rewards of his ridiculous per-minute numbers, Embiid's inability to play a full complement of minutes kept him from quite reaching top-level Fantasy contributor status. He didn't even play a second back-to-back set, and still broke down!
The hype machine surrounding Embiid, as well as his sky-high ceiling, could make him an early pick in many Fantasy drafts. Owners should be wary of the risks associated with Embiid and should think long and hard before using a valuable pick on a player whose injury history could cause him to ultimately contribute next to nothing to a team.
Despite being just 27 years old, Ibaka's numbers have continued to deteriorate over the last few years. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that his per-game blocks production, once his Fantasy bread-and-butter, has declined for five straight seasons.
That consistent decline should cause owners to think twice about reaching to select Ibaka, who had formerly been on the elite end of the Fantasy spectrum. Though he still provides stellar shooting numbers for a big man, his shrinking blocks numbers make it even tougher to stomach his relatively low rebound totals and lack of assists.
On top of all of that, Ibaka's field goal percentage tailed off into firmly mediocre territory after he was traded to Toronto last season. While the sample size is limited, it doesn't exactly bode well for Ibaka having an offensive renaissance in the Raptors' Iso-heavy system.
While Ibaka's name recognition and past Fantasy production may lead to an early-round selection in many drafts, it goes without saying that selecting a rim-protecting specialist who ranked 11th in the league in blocks per game last season may be unwise.
Lin is a quality player, but his Fantasy upside is extremely limited. Many owners took gambles on him last season under the assumption that he would produce thanks to a lacking supporting cast. Though injuries were the main cause of his struggles, his statline was fairly pedestrian in the 36 games that he was able to play: 14.5 points, 5.1 assists in 24.5 minutes per game.
This offseason has only driven Lin's value down further. The Nets traded their best player to the Lakers for a talented young guard in D'Angelo Russell. Russell threatens to take touches away from Lin and could hurt Lin's scoring and assist numbers, which have been his primary source of value in the past.
All signs point to Lin and Russell spending plenty of time on the court together, but Russell is the player with the higher upside, and prioritizing his development may be in Brooklyn's best interest.
Wade is one of the most recognizable names on any draft board, but his value is at an all-time low as he enters his second season away from Miami. More conservative owners may have already been wary of Wade due to the fact he's only played 70 games once in the past six seasons. This year, however, injuries are not the only red flag for Wade.
Wade's field goal percentage has declined significantly in each of the past four seasons. With the Bulls' roster looking as thin as it has in recent memory, Wade will likely be the No. 1 option offensively, but that's a hefty burden to ask of a 35-year-old.
Perhaps the more pressing concern is the uncertainty surrounding Wade's long-term home. A buyout seems more inevitable than ever, and if Wade were to accept a lesser role with a contending team like Cleveland or Houston, his production would likely suffer. He could be a useful contributor of volume counting stats in Chicago, but he would be on the fringes of Fantasy relevance nearly anywhere else. There just isn't enough upside here.
If Wade's situation gives you pause, you probably shouldn't even consider drafting Carmelo Anthony. The nine-time All-Star has been the center of trade rumors for well over a calendar year, and he, like Wade, is a candidate to be bought out. With the Knicks honing in on Kristaps Porzingis as the franchise centerpiece, it seems more and more likely that Melo will end up in a new city at some point.
As long as he remains a Knick, Anthony should provide his usual Fantasy value as an efficient scorer and decent rebounder. However, if Anthony ends up in Houston or Portland, two teams that have reportedly expressed heavy interest, his share of the offensive workload would likely decline. He doesn't have a broad enough skill set to make up for a loss of volume, and could become just a scorer and 3-point specialist in a new home.
While the young and athletic former No. 1 pick has made strides since coming into the league, Wiggins has done surprisingly little to diversify his game. He's never handed out more than 2.3 assists per game, and hasn't demonstrated tangible improvement in the defensive categories either. Thus far, Wiggins' one-dimensional game has led to near-elite scoring production, but not much else.
In the wake of an eventful offseason, even Wiggins' value as a point-producer could be threatened. He'll be joined in Minnesota by a perennial All-Star player and 20-point-scorer in Jimmy Butler, a player who likes to get to the rim and free-throw line for the bulk of his production, like Wiggins. The team will have better depth coming off the bench behind him in Jamal Crawford. On top of that, he'll have to adjust to a new point guard, while remaining in the shadow of Karl-Anthony Towns.
For Wiggins, this will almost certainly translate to fewer shots. Given the lack of evidence that he can make meaningful contributions in other statistical areas, Wiggins' Fantasy ceiling heading into the year is relatively low.
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