5 Fantasy Basketball Busts (2021-22)
It’s great to identify a fantasy sleeper and reap the sweet, sweet rewards of landing a talented player at a bargain draft price. What’s not so sweet is spending a high pick on a player who fails to live up to expectations. No one wants to draft a bust, so today I’ll help you identify five players who won’t pay off value relative to their draft capital.
LeBron James (PG, SG, SF, PF – LAL) Yahoo ADP 12.6
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge LeBron fan. I just can’t justify drafting him around the Round 1/2 turn this season. James finished 24 in per-game average last season and 75 in totals after appearing in just 45 contests. He provided above-average production in points, assists, rebounds, threes, steals, and FG% while playing 33.5 minutes per night.
The Lakers’ move to add Russell Westbrook (a player who needs the ball in his hands) was surely calculated to take some of the ball-handling responsibilities away from LeBron and give him another reliable playmaker. In his short tenure with the Lakers, he’s been the de facto PG, racking up plenty of counting stats along the way.
With Russ in town (in addition to other notable shooters and playmakers including Carmelo Anthony), it wouldn’t be surprising to see a reduction in workload for the King, pushing his value back to the end of the second or beginning of the third round. He should still provide elite per-game numbers, but they won’t be worth a first-round selection. His value diminishes even more in roto leagues based on his recent durability.
Julius Randle (PF, C – NYK) Yahoo ADP 21.7
Last season’s Most Improved Player going from league-winner to bust? I’m afraid so. Randle led the Knicks in scoring, rebounds, and assists last season while rocking a 28.5% usage rate. That usage and those gaudy stats that made him such a valuable fantasy player are sure to take a dip in 2021-22.
After relying on the likes of Alec Burks, Elfrid Payton, and Reggie Bullock for heavy minutes as playmakers last season, New York added Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier for an instant backcourt upgrade. Mitchell Robinson appeared in just 31 games last season but is expected to be healthy to start the season.
After a spectacular regular season in which he led the NBA in minutes, Randle appeared fatigued in the playoffs, shooting just 29.8% from the floor and 33.3% from deep. After inking him to a massive, four-year extension, the Knicks are likely to take it easy on their franchise cornerstone, resulting in a decline in production this season. He’ll have a tough time living up to his lofty ADP.
Ja Morant (PG – MEM) Yahoo ADP 39.0
Morant is without a doubt one of the highest-upside young talents in the NBA, but is that upside worth an early fourth-round fantasy pick? Morant finished last season outside the top-100 in per-game value thanks to a decrease in his already-poor shooting and negligible increases in scoring, rebounds, and assists.
There’s a lot to love about a guy who averaged 19/7/4 a season ago, though he has some glaring weaknesses in defensive stats, turnovers, threes, and shooting percentages that make him a risky option in Year 3.
Memphis has a backcourt loaded with talent in the likes of Dillon Brooks and De’Anthony Melton and talent across the roster at every position. While Morant will obviously have the ball in his hand more often than not, he’s far from the only playmaker on the team. He’ll need to clean up his turnovers and improve his efficiency this season if he hopes to live up to the fantasy hype that’s been heaped upon him. At pick 39, he’ll have to make some huge strides to pay off that steep asking price.
Jonas Valanciunas (C – NOP) Yahoo ADP 43.2
After two and a half strong seasons with Memphis, JV will play for the Pels this season in a move that will likely diminish his fantasy value. Valanciunas finished 40th in per-game value last season, as he parlayed career highs in points (17.1), rebounds (12.5), and FG% (59.1) into the best fantasy season of his career. Based on that finish, his ADP is already lofty, and taking him in the middle of the fourth round would be drafting him at his ceiling.
Playing alongside Zion Williamson, Valanciunas will likely be asked to play more outisde of the paint to help space the floor and open things up for the former. While Valanciunas has been a respectable three-point shooter in limited tries throughout his career, he’s not a high-volume outside scorer. Playing further away from the basket could cut into his rebounds and FG% – two of the categories that made him such a value a season ago.
Finally, I can’t think of a scenario in which JV approaches the 17.1 points he posted a season ago while sharing the court with two high scorers in Williamson (27.0 PPG) and Brandon Ingram (23.8 PPG).
Jarrett Allen (C – CLE) Yahoo ADP 66.3
Allen had the best season of his career in 2020-21, posting averages of 12.8 points, 10.0 boards, and 1.4 blocks while shooting 61.8% from the field. A traditional big with no three-point game, Allen is reliant on rebounds, blocks, and a high FG%. At least two of those categories could be poised to take a dip this season.
With the third pick in this year’s draft, Cleveland selected Evan Mobley, the seven-footer who can handle the ball and has the ability to shoot outside the paint and swat shots effectively. Also in the mix is the now-expensive Lauri Markkanen who came to the Cavs via sign-and-trade in the offseason.
Both frontcourt additions figure to see 25-30 minutes a night and could eat into Allen’s numbers. It’s tough to imagine Allen falling outside the top-90 this season, but drafting him at current ADP in the middle of the sixth round is a bit of a reach. You can find better options in this range with less question marks.