Fantasy basketball lottery ticket players to target late in drafts


Special to Yahoo Sports

By the end of a fantasy basketball draft, some managers start to check out, with some even opting to turn on auto-draft. But the truth is every round is meaningful, and leagues are often swung by what takes place well after the first 50 or 60 picks.

Rather than rehashing the same arguments I’ve made for various bounce-back candidates, teams to target, and my personal must-draft list, this time we’ll look at a new batch of players worth considering in the latter stages of fantasy drafts. Each player on this list has an average draft position (ADP) of 100.0 or later and could pay major dividends for fantasy managers.

Brooks exploded offensively during the first round of the playoffs, pouring in 25.8 points per game and emerging as the true No. 2 option next to Ja Morant. Meanwhile, Anderson was in the conversation for the Most Improved Player award. Moreover, Memphis traded away Jonas Valanciunas and Grayson Allen this offseason, so the opportunity for both Brooks and Anderson to build on last season will be there. Of the two, Brooks has the higher upside, though Anderson is a solid, multi-category producer who can play on and off the ball.

Birch finished the season on a high note and re-signed with the Raptors this offseason. Chris Boucher may lack the bulk to play heavy minutes at center while sophomore Precious Achiuwa might be too green to hold down anything but a reserve role. Birch seemed to quickly gain favor with coach Nick Nurse upon his arrival late last season. Although Birch has never been all that valuable throughout an entire season, this could be the year that changes, especially if he’s able to establish himself with Boucher (finger) and Pascal Siakam (shoulder) likely to miss time to begin the regular season.

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There’s no way to know how long the Ben Simmons Saga will carry on or what Philadelphia will get in return for the 25-year-old All-Star. But until the situation with Simmons is sorted out, several 76ers will need to step up. Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris can only do so much.

Curry is an elite three-point shooter coming off a scintillating playoff performance. Green remains a solid option, especially for category leagues, thanks to his ability to contribute threes, steals, and blocks. Maxey’s ability to get into the teeth of the defense should help him tally decent assists totals. And Thybulle will try to fill the shoes of Simmons defensively. It’s unlikely that every one of these players proves valuable for fantasy purposes, but it’s almost a certainty that one of them significantly exceeds expectations.

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Simmons’ seemingly unexpected return to the team Monday night throws another wrench into projecting the Sixers’ backcourt. Even if Simmons does the unthinkable and returns to play in regular-season games, the belief is that the two sides are still working toward finding a trade. In that scenario, a significant asset or two would be coming Philly’s way, but until that happens, throwing later-round darts at Curry, Maxey, or even Shake Milton — who appears to have usurped Maxey for the starting point guard spot (for now, at least) — makes a lot of sense.

Having been named the starting center, Gafford projects as a nightly double-double threat with upside in the blocks department. If Thomas Bryant (knee) does return sometime in December, that could complicate things, especially given the presence of backup big man Montrezl Harrell. However, Bryant has struggled to stay healthy for much of his career.

A late-round draft selection of Daniel Gafford makes a lot of sense this season. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

As such, Gafford is worth targeting in the later rounds as a strong, short-term option with season-long upside. Even once Bryant is back, he could require a decent ramp-up period coming off of a torn ACL. And Gafford may show well enough early on to command a larger role going forward.

After moving on from Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn this summer, Miami’s bench is shallower than most kiddie pools, especially with Victor Oladipo (quad) out indefinitely. As the probable sixth man, Herro should have the greenest of green lights off the bench. Furthermore, if Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler miss some time, which they usually do, Herro could be called upon to start and play heavy minutes.

Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta is among the deepest teams in the league, and Huerter’s per-game averages last season weren’t as impressive as they were the year before. Nevertheless, he came alive during the playoffs, particularly in the second round, when he rose to the occasion in Game 7 against Philadelphia. Based on his playoff breakout and his intriguing combination of threes and steals, Huerter is still worth a flier near the end of most standard drafts.

Enes Kanter and Dennis Schroder, Boston Celtics

Kanter is at least worth keeping an eye on and he might be worthy of a late-round pick, especially as a low-cost backup to Al Horford or Robert Williams. Williams has a ton of upside but has appeared in only 113 games across three seasons. Meanwhile, Schroder won’t have as demanding a role as former Celtics guard Kemba Walker, but his offensive abilities might be better utilized in Boston than they were in Los Angeles last season.

Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love has played in 25 games or fewer in two of the last three seasons, while Lauri Markkanen has had his struggles both in terms of health and productivity throughout his career. Mobley can already do a bit of everything, and it would behoove the Cavaliers to prioritize his development this season.

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During the preseason, Love has mostly been an afterthought in the team’s rotation, and Mobley was stellar in Sunday’s matchup against the Bulls, posting 15 points, 10 boards, four dimes, three blocks, two steals, and one trey in 32 minutes. It could be another long year in Cleveland, but Mobley could have a chance to emerge as the top fantasy rookie in the class.

Larry Nance Jr., Portland Trail Blazers

Nance was one of the most underrated offseason additions by a playoff contender. He appeared in only 35 games last season. However, his ability to occupy all three frontcourt spots, combined with Portland’s lack of depth, means Nance will likely play a crucial role in 2021-22 — whether he’s a full-time starter or not.

Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks

For starters, there’s a good chance the Bucks could be careful with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s workload this season. And Brook Lopez, at 33 years old, is no spring chicken anymore. Coming off a season in which Portis averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 boards in only 20.8 minutes, there’s a decent chance he could approach a nightly double-double off the bench in 2021-22.

Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

Williams will likely be available via waivers, as his pre-season injury has kept him from being drafted in most leagues. Still, he was incredibly efficient last season, especially for a rookie, and the Bulls badly need what he brings to the table defensively at both forward spots. The Florida State product appears to be ahead of his initial timetable and could be available for the season-opener next week.

John Wall, Houston Rockets

Wall hasn’t appeared in more than 41 games in a season since 2016-17, so it’s not all that surprising that fantasy managers aren’t reaching for him. However, Wall’s career per-game averages — 19.1 points, 9.1 dimes, 4.3 boards, 2.0 threes, 1.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks — speak for themselves. After a series of major injuries, Wall will probably never return to his peak form. But if he’s bought out, there will be no shortage of teams attempting to sign the former All-Star. At 31 years old, he might still have some gas left in the tank. Wall’s status is worth keeping an eye on for managers in points leagues, in particular.



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