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Special to Yahoo Sports
As the new NBA season tips off, fantasy basketball enthusiasts are gearing up for a journey filled with strategic decisions, unexpected twists and the pursuit of championship glory. Bold predictions can lead to unparalleled triumphs or spectacular failures. It’s a high-risk, high-reward game. So, let’s dust off the crystal ball and see what we come up with.
Victor Wembanyama will finish as a top-15 fantasy player
Wembanyama is doing things on a basketball court we’ve never seen before. Exercising caution with rookies is usually the right call, but what does that even mean in this case? Fantasy managers are drafting players like Walker Kessler and Nic Claxton as high as the fourth round almost purely based on their blocks upside.
Wembanyama has maybe the highest blocks upside of anyone who’s ever played in the NBA. That’s before we even start considering his diverse offensive skill set, which includes 3-point shooting, smooth footwork and quality passing. Per 36 minutes in the preseason, Wembanyama averaged 33.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 4.7 blocks.
Trae Young returns first-round fantasy value
Young’s ADP is 17.7, so he’s usually going in the mid-second round. His shooting has fluctuated over the past four years. Last year was a low point, with the point guard slashing 43/34/89. But Young still averaged 26.2 points and 10.2 assists, returning second-round value. In 2019-20 and 2021-22, he returned first-round value. The 25-year-old has a high floor and room to grow, while many traditional first-round options are aging and have injury concerns. Whether you’re in a points or categories format, don’t sleep on Young returning a top-12 investment.
Mikal Bridges ends up as an ADP (19.5) bust
After being traded to Brooklyn last season, Bridges returned mid-third-round value. The general sentiment is that he’ll be able to improve and gain a round’s worth of value while acting as the Nets’ No. 1 option. I believe that potential is there, too. But Bridges isn’t 23 years old; he’s 27. Development isn’t a given. And he’s relatively one-dimensional as a fantasy asset. After coming over to Brooklyn, he averaged 26.1 points (2.5 threes), 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.6 steals-plus-blocks while shooting 48/38/89. Those are obviously great numbers, but it’s a massive lean on his scoring (and efficiency in category leagues).
He’s not a great rebounder or passer, and his strong defense doesn’t translate well to statistics — an issue since he started taking on a larger role in 2020-21. Many other options being drafted in the second round have higher upside than Bridges.
Ayton’s ADP is 49.3, which is well within reason, especially with Yahoo’s default being a two-center format. He’s recently been more of a fifth or sixth-round fantasy player on stacked Suns teams, but he returned third-round value as a sophomore on a Phoenix team that gave significant minutes to Ricky Rubio, Kelly Olynyk and Dario Saric. The 25-year-old big man has an opportunity to be more of a focal point in Portland’s offense, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him as the team’s second-leading scorer behind Anfernee Simons. Late-season “rest” is a concern, but the situation presents a nice opportunity to buy back low on Ayton. In his sophomore year, he averaged 18.2 points on 55 FG% and 75 FT%, 11.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.2 stocks in 32.5 minutes.
Tyler Herro will return fourth-round value
To me, this doesn’t feel bold at all. But drafters think differently. The 23-year-old has an ADP of 69.1. He finished just above that mark two years in a row in per-game value. Why, now, with another year of development and a Heat roster as barren as ever, is Herro being devalued? Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler are aging and injury-prone, as is Josh Richardson. Most of Miami’s depth is young, unreliable and/or struggles to take on more usage. There will be plenty of nights where Herro is the team’s clear No. 1 option.
Like Herro, I predict Williams can return two rounds of value on his ADP (65.6). After getting acclimated to NBA basketball during the first two months of the year, Williams returned fifth-round value from December onward. From February on, that reached third-round value. Maybe the real bold prediction would be that he returns top-30 value, but Chet Holmgren should steal his fair share of usage. Either way, plenty of evidence suggests Williams can safely be drafted sooner than his ADP. During his final 57 games, he averaged 15.1 points on 52/37/81 shooting, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 stocks in 32.0 minutes.
Brandon Miller will not be a rosterable player in 12-team leagues
“Bold” is relative here since Miller is the No. 2 overall pick but has an ADP of just 131.9. However, I’ve been in drafts where he’s gone just inside the top 100. I also recently did an AMA on Reddit and was downvoted and accused of not watching Charlotte Hornets basketball when I voiced my opinion that Miller has not looked good.
In nine Summer League and preseason games combined, Miller has just one performance over 18 points, and he failed to score in double-digits once during preseason, despite seeing over 21 minutes in every game. He’s slashing 38/24/82 in those nine appearances and took just four (four!) total free-throw attempts in preseason. In preseason, Miller also had 11 turnovers to 10 assists. At best, he’s the third option in Charlotte behind LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier, and this is before considering Gordon Hayward or Miles Bridges (extremely TBD).
The poor efficiency, a lack of assists or defensive stats, and a limited path to increased usage make him a stay-away.
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