Fantasy Basketball: Markelle Fultz, Jabari Parker headline list of best players to stash on your bench
Got an extra bench spot? You'll want to check this out to see who you should be stashing.
The NBA season is about a month-and-a-half old. In the grand scheme of things, that's not much, but with most teams having completed at least a quarter of their schedule, it's enough of a sample to provide some takeaways.
While a number of players have broken out into Fantasy relevance early on, we'll instead focus on those who could eventually join that group, whether it be later this season or sometime beyond. The list below encompasses a wide range of players, some of whom have been limited due to injury and others who simply haven't found their way into a consistent rotation spot.
What they all have in common, though, is the potential for useful Fantasy production down the road, both in redraft and keeper leagues.
Fultz's professional career is off to about as uninspiring a start as possible, and he hasn't played in an NBA game in more than a calendar month. That said, it's way too early to give up on him, and the Sixers expect to get the No. 1 pick back within the next few weeks. Owners who drafted Fultz in the middle rounds hoping to land a starting guard have been sorely disappointed, but it's important to remember that Fultz was the near-consensus No. 1 pick in a loaded draft, which speaks to just how highly he was – and still should be – regarded as a prospect.
Once Fultz is back on the floor, it could still take several weeks for him to get up to speed, especially considering how timid he looked in the four games he played prior to being shut down. However, if he's truly moved past the shoulder injury that has been keeping him on the shelf, Fultz could end up being a Fantasy-viable guard over the second half of the season. Bottom line: It's way too early to cut bait on a No. 1 pick who's played 75 total minutes in the NBA.
Coming into the season, Robinson was viewed as perhaps the Pacers' third option behind Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo, but a severe ankle sprain – which ultimately required surgery – has shelved him since late September. The Pacers have declined to offer a firm recovery timetable, but the prevailing belief is that Robinson could be back sometime before the All-Star break. Given the long layoff, he'll likely need some time to work back into game shape, but once he's at full strength he could challenge Bojan Bogdanovic for the starting small forward spot. At worst, Robinson, who shot a career-best 39.2% from three last season, will be a fixture in the frontcourt rotation.
Frank Mason, Kings
A second-round pick out of Kansas, Mason had perhaps the best resume of any player in the 2017 Draft, but as an older, undersized prospect, he was never viewed as a true first-round talent. It's far, far too early to be scrambling to grab Mason off the waiver wire, but he's shown some encouraging flashes of late, scoring in double-figures in four of his last six games and averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 made threes over that span. De'Aaron Fox is the clear long-term priority at point guard in Sacramento, but Mason is the type of player to consider stashing in dynasty formats, particularly if your league includes designated developmental roster spots.
Parker's long-term future is one of the more interesting subplots of the season, but he still has a chance to be an impact Fantasy player this season, provided his recovery from a second torn ACL remains on track. The Bucks haven't set a target return date, but Parker has been working out at what sure looks like close to full speed, and the quiet hope is that he'll be back around the All-Star break.
The 22-year-old was in the midst of (by far) his best NBA season before the injury, posting averages of 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while shooting 49% from the floor and a much-improved 36.5% from three (3.5 3PA/G). Of course, it's unrealistic to expect Parker to immediately replicate that production, but his return for the final 25 or so games could provide a rather substantial boost for owners with the flexibility to stash him for the first four-plus months of the season.
For a player who went undrafted in most standard leagues, Collins has been one of the early surprises of the Fantasy season. The Wake Forest product has provided starting-caliber production in deeper leagues, though he ranks just inside the top-115 under the NBA's standard scoring system, due in large part to limited minutes and meager contributions outside of scoring and rebounding.
The Hawks announced Friday that Collins will miss at least the next two-to-three weeks with a shoulder sprain. That's disappointing news for obvious reasons, but especially because Collins had finally cracked the starting lineup after a month of coming off the bench behind Ersan Ilyasova and Luke Babbitt. Once healthy, Collins should step back into a consistent role, but he's not necessarily a starting-caliber forward in shallower leagues. He makes for a very appealing long-term option on a rebuilding team, however.
The No. 4 overall pick hasn't necessarily been a disappointment, but he seems to have hit an early rookie wall after an encouraging start. Jackson is just 3 of his last 27 from beyond the arc and bottomed out with a scoreless performance in just eight minutes of action in a win over Chicago on Tuesday. Although he rebounded with a 20-point, seven-rebound, three-steal effort a night later, Jackson is difficult to roster in most leagues right now and ranks as the 184th-best Fantasy player under the standard scoring system, behind the likes of Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha.
Long term, however, Jackson still has a high ceiling. He has the physical tools to be a very good perimeter defender and should develop into a more efficient all-around scorer, even if his jumpshot – which was a concern coming out of Kansas – lags behind.
If Murray went undrafted in your league, he was probably added in the first round of waiver claims after coming out of the gate with averages of 13.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals over his first three games. A week or two later, Murray was probably back on waivers after losing the starting job to Patty Mills. Outside of those first few games, Murray hasn't been Fantasy-viable and currently ranks below Jackson in terms of per-game Fantasy output. While the return of Tony Parker earlier this week hasn't helped matters, the 21-year-old Murray should still be on long-term Fantasy radars.
San Antonio locked up Mills on a new deal over the summer, but he's far from a true point guard and is much more limited on the defensive end than Murray. Meanwhile, Parker turns 36 in May and is on the final year of his contract. While he could very well end up back with the Spurs next season, his best days are in the rear-view, and it's difficult to imagine Murray not stepping into a more consistent, meaningful role in Year 3.
The 19-year-old has played more than 20 minutes just once this season, but his long-term potential is worth keeping an eye on, especially given the Nets' roster makeup. Trevor Booker and Tyler Zeller are stopgaps at best, while Timofey Mozgov is only on the roster due to his salary and is clearly not part of the future. While Brooklyn could certainly address the frontcourt via the draft or free agency, the final phase of the Pierce/Garnett debacle will keep them out of the Ayton/Bagley/Bamba sweepstakes come June. As things stand right now, Allen is in position to be groomed as the Nets' center of the future.
A bout with plantar fasciitis has kept the highly regarded European veteran on the shelf since Oct. 21, but the expectation is that he'll be back in the lineup sometime before Christmas. Whether that's ultimately the case or not, Teodosic will return to a roster decimated by injuries, including the loss of Patrick Beverley for the season.
The Clippers have leaned heavily on Austin Rivers and Lou Williams in Beverley's absence, but unlike Teodosic, neither is a true point guard. Teodosic will likely be eased back into action, but it's quite possible he could end up in a starting role once fully healthy. The 30-year-old is a poor defender and below-average scorer, but he may be one of the five or 10 best pure passers in the league, and owners with the patience to stash him on IR could be rewarded with useful assists contributions.
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