With fantasy basketball draft season in full swing, managers are hard at work finding ways to gain an edge. While identifying sleepers and manufacturing as much value as possible is the best way to get a jumpstart on your competition, it's equally important to ensure you avoid players who could tank your season.
As those who've played fantasy basketball in the past know all too well, injuries are the number one reason a player can bust. From Anthony Davis to Kevin Durant to LeBron James to Kawhi Leonard, the 2022-23 season was marred by a number of big-name injuries that upended the fantasy landscape.
While those injuries tend to be unpredictable, managers can proactively avoid players who tend to miss time on an annual basis. We'll highlight a couple of those names below, but in general we'll look to identify players whose current ADP does not necessarily align with their upside or risk profile.
We begin with a veteran who's mostly been the source of headaches for fantasy managers over the last several years. Talent has never been a question when it comes to Porzingis, but he's been among the most injury-prone players in the NBA since tearing his ACL as a member of the Knicks in 2017-18. Since then, Porzingis has missed an entire year (2018-19) and played 57, 43, 51 and 65 games, respectively, over the last four seasons.
It's important to note that Porzingis is coming off of his best fantasy season – and one of his healthiest – but his 65 games played for Washington last season felt like a best-case scenario. Porzingis also served as the No. 1 option for much of the season with Bradley Beal missing significant time.
As a member of the Celtics, Porzingis is in a much better basketball situation, but he'll function as the No. 3 or even No. 4 option on a lot of nights behind Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday. With an ADP of 23.8 in CBS leagues, Porzingis' cost is a little too rich for my taste.
Kuzma topped 20 points per game for the first time in his career last season, finishing with averages of 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.5 threes across 64 appearances. With the Wizards mired in a rebuild, those numbers should be replicable, but it's worth bearing in mind that Kuzma did not finish inside the top 100 (total value) in roto leagues last season due to a combination of poor defensive stats (1.1 combined steals/blocks) and a so-so field goal percentage (44.8% FG).
HIs percentages are far less of a concern in points leagues, but even so, Kuzma's CBS ADP (63.3) feels a little aggressive. With Porzinigis in Boston and Bradley Beal in Phoenix, Kuzma's usage should be sustainable, though Jordan Poole does arrive as another high-volume player who will suck up a ton of possessions. While I'm on board with drafting Kuzma well inside the top-100, his stat profile doesn't quite line up with his ADP.
Facing a 25-game suspension to begin the season, Morant is coming at a discount in fantasy drafts. However, in CBS leagues, his ADP remains in the low-50s (51.3, to be exact), which feels a bit too aggressive for a player with only one top-60 finish (roto leagues) in four NBA seasons. The suspension means Morant will miss at least 30 percent of the campaign, so his best-case scenario for games played is 57. Consider that Morant has been somewhat injury-prone thus far, in addition to the fact that he could require a week or two to ramp up once he's cleared to return. Beyond that, the Grizzlies could build in some rest for Morant – particularly later in the season as the playoffs approach.
For a number of reasons, Morant is a fun player to roster in fantasy, but even when healthy/not suspended, his value has never really equated to his real-life profile. While his scoring, rebounding and assists numbers are fantastic in points leagues, Morant is a low-volume three-point shooter (1.5 3PM/G last season) and a slight negative when it comes to free-throw percentage. He shot just 74.8 percent at the line a year ago – a damaging figure in roto leagues for a player who got to the charity stripe 8.1 times per game.
While recognizing his upside in points formats, I'm ultimately not comfortable burning a fourth or fifth round pick on a player who will likely play fewer than 50 games.
RJ Barrett, Knicks
Barrett is on the short list of players whose value changes significantly in roto leagues versus points leagues. Percentages have been a glaring issue for the 23-year-old, and that was once again the case in 2022-23, when he averaged 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists but shot just 43.4 percent from the floor and 74.0 percent at the free-throw line.
In points leagues, Barrett finished inside the top-75 in total value, but he ranked well outside the top-150 in roto, so be sure to know your league's scoring settings before considering investing in Barrett. Even in a points format, I'm not sure I'm comfortable snagging Barrett at his CBS ADP of 66.8. While he's shown improvement in some areas, he's still behind Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson in the pecking order, while Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Josh Hart and new arrival Donte DiVincenzo could all eat into his workload. Fantasy managers can fall back on Barrett's durability (70+ games in three straight seasons), but I'd still wait another round or two before drafting him in a points format.
Anthony Davis, Lakers
Seasoned fantasy basketball players have been through this same song and dance with Davis on a near-annual basis throughout his career. The big man stayed relatively healthy during his days with the Pelicans, but since arriving in Los Angeles prior to 2019-20 he's played in only 62, 36, 40 and 56 games, respectively.
Last season, Davis re-asserted himself as one of the most-dominant big men in fantasy, putting up 25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.0 blocks while shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 78.4 percent from the line (up from 71.3% FT in 2021-22). On a per-game basis, he was easily a top-10 player.
For fantasy managers willing to roll the dice, Davis makes for an appealing target in the 10-to-15 range, but I tend to be more risk-averse with my early picks. If he magically stays healthy, Davis could be a league-winner, but if he plays 55 games you're going to face an uphill battle trying to recoup that value.