Fantastic basketball players who can make or break your draft
There are many types of risk to consider when evaluating NBA players in fantasy basketball, whether it’s a player’s age, injury history, its role in the rotation or perhaps a stat gap that you will need to build the rest of your team around.
As you build your fantasy basketball roster, the size and competitiveness of your league will help determine how much risk you need to be willing to take to position yourself for a real shot at the championship.
In this column, we’ll focus on 10 of the biggest risk/reward players who can make or break your team in 2022-23.
Anthony Davis, PF/C, Los Angeles Lakers
Davis is one of the most dominant power forwards in the league when he’s on the court, and he’s averaged 23.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.3 blocks per game last season. The question with Davis, as it seems to have been since entering the league in 2012-13, is whether he can stay healthy. He played just 40 games last season after recording 36 games in 2020-21, and only reached the 70-game mark twice in 10 NBA seasons (2016-17 and 2017-18). With an average draft position of 25.6 in ESPN leagues, Davis is in the third round in most 10- and 12-team leagues, and he could slip into the fourth round in eight-team leagues, making him a theft if – and he is a big if – he can stay on the pitch.
Tyrese Haliburton, PG/SG, Indiana Pacers
The secret is out about Haliburton, a savvy mid-round selection last year who is now a strong second-rounder in most leagues (13.5 ADP). He’s taking over as lead ball handler in Indiana with Malcolm Brogdon now in Boston, and there’s reason to believe the well-rounded 22-year-old can better the 17.5 PPG, 9.6 APG , 4.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 2.2 3PG. and 50.2 FG% he posted after joining the Pacers last season. In fact, Halliburton is a legitimate candidate to lead the league in assists. The problem is, Haliburton has gone from being a fine piece of the puzzle last year to a fundamental player on fantasy rosters this season. Anything less than second-round production, and fantasy managers will want to opt for another much-loved second-round option.
Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Williamson looks fit and appears to be in excellent health heading into this season. In May, he was cleared for all basketball activities after imaging of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot came back clean. Hey, that’s good news, and we’ll accept it. Williamson enters the season with fresh hopes and a new five-year extension worth up to $231 million. In this agreement, there is a clause requiring the 22-year-old to maintain a certain weight, which should serve as a kind of protection. Still, questions remain about its durability. He hasn’t played in a game since May 4, 2021 and is entering his fourth NBA season after playing a grand total of 85 games. With an ADP of 24.4, it will take a second or third round to land him this season, and no one has a greater risk/reward – especially in the points leagues. Zion has the potential to make it into the top 10 if he can stay healthy.
Kawhi Leonard, SF/PF, LA Clippers
Leonard missed last season due to a torn ACL, and the last time fantasy managers saw him on the pitch, he averaged 24.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.6 GSP. It’s no slam dunk that Leonard will return to the court and quickly become a fantasy dynamo. Regardless, Leonard has missed many games throughout his career. he has never played 75 games in his 11 NBA seasons, and he hasn’t played more than 60 in the last five (one being cut short by the pandemic). Now 31, it’s very possible that Leonard’s workload will be managed and gradually increased as the season progresses. Plus, the Clippers have 15 straight games this season, which will likely cost Leonard at least a few games. He has top talent when he plays, but the lack of games is a concern for someone with an ADP of 26.3.
Ben Simmons, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Simmons averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.6 SPG and 0.6 BPG in 58 games in 2020-21, so it’s clear to see why – even after a missed season – the 26-year-old former No. 1 overall pick has an ADP of 67.6. He can do so much on the pitch, so the benefits are easy to see. On the other hand, how many games he will play and where he will be mentally and physically are the biggest questions after a year and a half out. He must also prove that he can coexist with his teammates. Simmons and the Nets know it will take time to find his old self. It’s important to determine your level of patience as a fantasy manager before drafting him.
Kyrie Irving, PG/SG, Brooklyn Nets
Irving is one of the most unpredictable fantasy basketball players in recent memory. Due to his vaccine status, he played just 29 games last season, earning 27.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.8 APG and 1.4 SPG while shooting 47% from the field. NBA players won’t need to be vaccinated to play in the United States this year, but Irving still won’t be able to play in Toronto, and in recent years he’s missed games for a variety of other reasons. Entering the final year of his contract, Irving has plenty to play for and has the talent to carry fantastic teams. Just know what you’re drafting if you take him, as his ADP of 30.2 means it’ll take a pick in the first four rounds of most leagues to land him.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG/SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
In 56 games last season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. He is one of the brightest young stars in the league. Unfortunately, Gilgeous-Alexander is playing for the Thunder, a team with a long history of tanking. They’re surely already eyeing top prospect Victor Wembanyama for next year’s NBA draft, and with Chet Holmgren — the No. 2 overall pick in 2022 — already out for the season with a foot injury, the fear of tanking is real at OKC. In September, Gilgeous-Alexander suffered a grade 2 MCL sprain which further complicates his situation. The talent is there for SGA, but an ADP of 44.9 makes it a risky choice under the circumstances.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Westbrook’s fantasy game has always relied on volume, and at this point in his career he’s better suited to the points leagues, as his FT% has taken a nose dive in recent years and his turnovers have remained high. Westbrook’s reduced role for the Lakers last season hurt his fantasy value, but he still managed 18.5 PPG, 7.1 APG and 7.4 RPG – numbers that many players would love to claim. After an offseason to better understand what worked and what didn’t, it’s possible the 33-year-old point guard could bounce back this season under new head coach Darvin Ham, a former Milwaukee Bucks assistant who insists Westbrook is crucial to the team’s success this season. With an ADP up to 75.1, it’s a spot in the draft where it might be worth picking up a flyer on the future Hall of Famer.
LeBron James, PG/SF/PF, Los Angeles Lakers
James was superb last season for a Lakers team that was without Anthony Davis for most of the season, and he finished with 30.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.1 BPG. After signing a two-year, $97.1 million extension, James enters Season 20 with the same high expectations that have surrounded him since growing up in Akron, Ohio. The problem is that James has an ADP of 10.8, which means it will take a late first round or an early second round to land him, and that’s a lot for a player who turns 38 in December and who missed 63 regular season games in the past. two seasons. Considering LeBron’s age, career minutes played and what amounts to a fair amount of rest days this season, there’s reason to be cautious here. But when he’s on the pitch, James is still one of the best in the game.