2019-20 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Bust candidates to avoid -- or at least wait on
Nick Whalen projects six players who might not live up to where they are being drafted in some leagues.
With less than two weeks -- yes, two weeks -- until NBA opening night, draft season is in full swing. This time of year, nothing is more important than accurately evaluating and projecting players in preparation for an auction or a draft.
Last week, we took a look at undervalued players to target. This time around, we'll zero in on six players who, if things don't break the right way, could sink your Fantasy season before it even begins:
I'm somewhat hesitant to throw Oladipo in this category, but it's important to highlight the risk that comes with drafting him this season. The Pacers have yet to clarify when the two-time All-Star will make his debut, and the current belief is that a return at some point in December would be the best-case scenario.
But even if Oladipo is back on the floor on Dec. 1, he will have missed 19 contests, and the Pacers already hinted that they plan to manage his workload throughout the regular season. Plus, given the severity of the injury, Oladipo will likely require at least a few weeks to work his way back to full speed.
Taking all of those factors into account, getting 50-55 high-level games from Oladipo feels like the optimal outcome. That's more than half of a season, so Oladipo is certainly worth an IR spot if you can spare it, but the risk that he misses more time or struggles to regain his pre-injury form is enough to scare me off.
It's also worth noting that, prior to the injury, Oladipo was not the same player last season than he was during his fantastic 2017-18 campaign. Sure, his workload decreased from 34 to 32 minutes per game, but he also lost more than four points per game, while his shooting percentages plummeted across the board. He also registered just 2.0 combined steals/blocks per game -- down from 3.2 per game in 2017-18.
With a composite ADP of 82nd overall, Oladipo isn't coming off the board exceedingly high, but taking a chance on him in the fifth or sixth round could prove costly.
Even if you're of the belief that the move to Brooklyn will reinvigorate Jordan, taking him in the sixth round (ADP: 70) could end up being a reach. Setting aside the fact that his production has declined the past two seasons, Jordan will step directly into a battle for playing time with third-year big man Jarrett Allen, who, at least until early July, looked to be the Nets' starting center of the future.
As of early October, it's still unclear which of the two will earn that designation, but for Fantasy purposes, it might not matter. Both players will play, and chances are, they'll split minutes relatively evenly. Even in around 25 minutes per game, Jordan can still be a double-double threat, but his shot-blocking is on the decline, and he's no longer the uber-efficient shooter he once was when he led the league in field goal percentage from 2012 through 2017.
The 31-year-old can still be a fine Fantasy contributor as a second or third center, but given the uncertainty surrounding his role -- and the fact that Allen's development should be prioritized -- there's little reason to pull the trigger sooner than you have to.
Millsap coming off the board inside the top 100 (ADP: 99) is a touching nod to his legacy as one of the more consistent mid-level Fantasy players of the past decade. To be fair, he's coming off of another productive season in which he put up 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks/steals per game. But he saw his workload decrease to just 27.1 minutes per contest -- his lowest figure in more than a decade. And that was before the Nuggets -- already one of the deepest teams in the league -- traded for Jerami Grant, who averaged nearly 33 minutes per game and made 77 starts for Oklahoma City a year ago.
The fact that Denver opted to pick up Millsap's $20 million team option this summer says a lot, but that decision was made before Paul George sent the Thunder's offseason into a frenzy. The Nuggets saw an opportunity to add an ascending talent in Grant and capitalized.
While it's hard to imagine Grant matching the 32.7 minutes per game he averaged in OKC, he'll be a significant factor in the rotation, and Millsap is the obvious candidate to lose playing time to the 25-year-old. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Nuggets keep Millsap in the starting lineup for continuity reasons, but he'll almost certainly take a step back, production-wise, so there's not much upside to taking him inside the top 100.
Last season was the best-case scenario for Griffin owners: he established new career-bests in scoring and made 3s, handed out 5.4 assists per game, and, most importantly, missed only seven games in the regular season. That made Griffin a top-35 player in eight-cat leagues, but given his injury history, he simply can't be relied upon to reach the 75-game plateau again.
Prior to 2018-19, Griffin had missed 24, 21, 47 and 15 games, respectively, in his previous four seasons. Toward the end of last season, his body began to break down, and he ultimately missed two of Detroit's four first-round games against Milwaukee. Even in the (fairly unlikely) event that Griffin avoids an injury over the course of the season, the Pistons will almost certainly build in more rest days to avoid another late-season breakdown.
At some point, the risk becomes worth the reward with injury-prone players. But Griffin's current ADP (36) is just outside the third round -- that's too early for a player whose average finish over the last five seasons is 81st overall.
Lamb's mini-breakout was one of the few positive subplots to the Hornets' season, but color me skeptical that he'll be able to keep it up in Indiana. The Pacers offer Lamb a significantly better basketball situation, but even with Victor Oladipo sidelined, he'll no longer be the clear-cut No. 2 option on a roster that also features Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
Early on, Indiana will lean more heavily on Lamb for scoring, but once Oladipo returns, his role figures to take a hit. There's a good chance Lamb could even end up coming off the bench if Warren gets the nod at small forward. Drafting Lamb in the mid-80s (ADP: 86) isn't going to sink your roster, but it's still a bit too high for a player who has only one top-120 season under his belt.
In fairness, Aldridge has provided little reason to believe he'll fall off, as he's bounced back nicely over the past two years after a rocky start to his tenure in San Antonio. However, he turned 34 in July, and at some point it will be time to scale back expectations.
Consider that only seven players in NBA history have averaged at least 20 points and nine rebounds per game at age 34 or older, and all seven of those players are in the Hall of Fame. Of that group, only three -- Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes -- managed to add at least 1.0 blocks per game.
Maybe Aldridge defies the trend and adds his name to that impressive list, but history suggests a regression could be on the horizon. Considering Aldridge finished as the 27th and 29th overall player in the past two seasons, grabbing him in the early-to-mid-30s (ADP: 32) isn't an egregious choice by any means. But as he embarks on his 14th NBA season, Aldridge becomes an inherently riskier Fantasy commodity.
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