If you're in a keeper league, you know how important it is to always be on the lookout for young talent. Whether you're a winning team looking to continue dominating or a rebuilding team looking to hoard potential, it's always worth seeing who's available.
I don't need to explain why guys like Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Ja Morant and the like are worth trying to get your hands on. Unless you've been under a rock, you know they're on a future-hall-of-fame trajectory. And chances are, if you don't have them, you can't pry them away from who does.
Instead, look to pick up relatively unknown guys from the waiver wire to stash. Go to a winning team's manager and send him a win-now piece for a young player he can afford to give up to make a run for the league's title.
This list is far from comprehensive and doesn't include the most elite young talent, but it contains players who should be acquirable in your keeper league:
Quickley is looking like one of the steals of the 2020 Draft. He's already fighting off Elfrid Payton for point guard minutes, though that doesn't take a herculean effort. In games where he earned at least 20 minutes, Quickley is averaging 18.3 points with 44/38/94 shooting splits. He's not an elite passer (4.0 AST in those games) but makes up for it with low turnover numbers (1.2 TO). He already has a 30-point game under his belt, popping off for 31 against the Trail Blazers in just 24 minutes. There's a good chance he's the point guard of the future for this team.
The defense is what stands out so far for Alexander-Walker. He's averaging 2.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per 36 minutes. Coming out of college, he was a versatile scoring wing, but he hasn't gotten many opportunities to showcase that on a Pelicans team full of ball-dependent or ball-dominant players (Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Eric Bledsoe, Lonzo Ball). Notably, with Bledsoe and Ball off the court, Alexander-Walker is averaging 22.4 points per 36 minutes. He's a long-term play in a keeper league since his team context may need to change before he becomes an impact player.
Maxey caught Fantasy managers' attention earlier in the season when a myriad of Sixers players were out due to COVID-19 protocols. Maxey had one monster performance against the Nuggets, posting 39 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals in 44 minutes. After that, he came back down to earth but continues to be a part of coach Doc Rivers' rotation. Maxey is a little too reliant on mid-rangers for my taste, but he has upside as a secondary playmaker (3.6 AST and only 1.3 TOV per 36 minutes), and he's a passable defender (1.3 STL per 36).
The Clippers continue to use Zubac as a backup center, but I wouldn't be afraid to take a gamble on his role increasing sometime over the next few years. He's a per-minute monster, averaging 15.8 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes across the past two seasons. His field-goal percentage (62.4%) and free-throw percentage (76.9%) are also positives. Even if he doesn't begin to see minutes in the mid-to-upper 20s, you're still getting a useful player in deeper leagues.
If you haven't heard of Horton-Tucker, it's because you didn't lock into the preseason, which is certainly forgivable. But the hype was out of control. Two Horton-Tucker rookie cards sold for $3,000 on eBay in December. Three. Thousand. Dollars. Now that things have settled down, you might be able to swoop in and steal him from another Fantasy manager who beat you to the punch initially. You aren't going to find anything in the numbers to suggest he's a future superstar, but 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.8 combined steals-plus-blocks per 36 minutes is pretty nice. He's still more of an eye-test guy at the moment, but don't be surprised if he keeps carving out more and more time in the Lakers' rotation.
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor profiled Reid as "shades of Andray Blatch, Troy Murphy and Jared Sullinger," which is precisely the kind of weird grab-bag of players that makes Reid intriguing but also confusing. If you like the modern NBA offense, it's easy to love Reid. He's a legitimate 3-point threat, shooting 35.6 percent from 3 over his first two seasons on 149 attempts. He's also upped his finishing ability at the rim this season, hitting 65 percent of his looks (not impressive for a big man, but acceptable). Reid also has not taken a single long mid-range jumper in his career. In games where coach Ryan Saunders has given him 20-plus minutes this season, he's averaging 13.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.5 assists. The main problem in the immediate future is that he's Karl-Anthony Towns' backup. It's tough to say when that situation will be alleviated.
Melton is stuck behind Ja Morant, so he only has so much upside in the immediate future. But the Grizzlies believe in him, as the organization handed him a four-year, $35 million contract extension in November. He has elite per-minute steals and blocks production, with the guard averaging 2.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per 36 minutes for his career. The other parts of his game are still coming along. But encouragingly, he draws a non-shooting foul on 2.5 percent of team plays -- a rate in the 92nd percentile for combo guards. Floor fouled percentage has a strong correlation to excellent players that defenses struggle to guard. Players in the 100th percentile for their position are Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Collin Sexton and Trae Young.
Tillman was barging his way into the rotation even before Jonas Valanciunas was sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols. In 21.1 minutes per game, he's averaging 8.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists (just 0.4 turnovers) and 2.2 combined steals-plus-blocks in 21.1 minutes. Tillman's ability to finish around the basket, play mistake-free basketball and generate defensive stats practically ensures he'll remain a rotation player for the Grizzlies in the future. The initial concern is that he's undersized, standing at just 6-foot-8 without 3-point range. That's fine at this stage of his career, but it could cap his upside down the road.
Coach Erik Spoelstra doesn't just hand out minutes. Ask Kendrick Nunn, who is getting DNP-CDs when everyone is healthy in the backcourt. That alone is enough reason to have faith in Achiuwa, who is garnering 15.9 minutes per game. He generates most of his offense at the rim, taking 83 percent of his shots there and going 45-of-64 (70%). He's not afraid of contact, either, shooting 6.5 free throws per 36 minutes -- a fantastic number for any young player. His other numbers per 36 minutes stand at 16.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.3 combined blocks-plus-steals.
The easiest way to explain Gafford as a player is that he's a worse-defensive-rebounding Mitchell Robinson. He shoots 68.4 percent from the field and averages 13.1 points, 6.6 rebounds (3.2 offensive), 3.1 blocks, 1.3 assists and 0.9 steals per 36 minutes. Opponents often have to foul Gafford to stop him from getting on the offensive boards, as he draws a non-shooting foul on 3.5 percent of team possessions (95th percentile for bigs), and his defensive numbers speak for themselves. His opportunities are due to team construction -- namely, Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen eating center minutes -- but I like him as a long-term prospect.
Vanderbilt is a defensive specialist and a great rebounder who is showing some playmaking upside. He's averaging 11.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes to go along with his 12.8 points on 61.2 percent shooting. Vanderbilt is not going to shoot unless it's at the rim, so his field-goal percentage should stay high -- just don't expect him to become a scorer in any capacity. He has no touch and is a career 51.0 percent free-throw shooter.
Maledon is a 19-year-old rookie point guard out of France who shows an ability to make the right decisions with the basketball. He's averaging 2.6 assists to only 1.7 turnovers in his 21.6 minutes per game. That's not amazing, but it's a good mark for a 19-year-old drafted in the early second round. He's not an explosive athlete, so he's having trouble finishing at the basket (9-of-24), but he's shooting well from 3 (27-of-73, 37.0%) and the long mid-range (9-of-15, 60%). If George Hill gets dealt to a contender, Maledon should step into a more significant role.