12 Early Fantasy Basketball Busts (2022)
Where are you going, Kevin Durant? Did the Indiana Pacers ruin the Phoenix Suns’ dream of landing one of the best players of all time?
What about you, Donovan Mitchell? Is New York really a lock to land the dynamic — but flawed — guard?
Will LeBron James sign an extension before Aug. 4? Will he allow Russell Westbrook in the same locker room — or on the same bench — as him?
OK, that last part is exaggerated, but the rest is valid. And it’s why we are at a standstill right now.
Even still, we have a good idea of the landscape for a lot of teams with the moves — or lack thereof — that they made with the NBA Draft and free agency.
So while yes, we have pieces we are still waiting to fall into place and we are a couple of months away from training camp, it’s never too early to prepare for the upcoming fantasy season.
Last week, we looked at some early sleepers. This week, we are going to look at potential busts that you should avoid unless they are at a great price in your draft.
The Clippers are going to be really, really good this year. They are one of the favorites for a reason, but their biggest real-life strength is the biggest weakness for fantasy managers.
Besides Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the biggest surefire fantasy option is actually Ivica Zubac.
Is he their third-best player? Hardly.
But in a league that is putting an emphasis on having wings to compete, the Clippers took it to a whole new level.
On their own, most of the wings could be viable options for fantasy, but the Clippers have Norman Powell, Nic Batum, Marcus Morris, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Amir Coffey, and Brandon Boston, who are all competing for time. That’s not to mention Robert Covington, who is likely going to have to find his time as an undersized center, and Reggie Jackson and John Wall sharing time at point guard.
Malcolm Brogdon (PG – BOS)
I’m hesitant to put Brogdon here because he’s a damn good player. But also, if the Celtics actually move Derrick White and/or Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown for some guy named Kevin, then Brogdon could see a huge spike in fantasy value.
But as things sit now, he’s going to see a decrease in usage and involvement in the offense as a guard off the bench. That could be good in the long run since he misses so much time every single season, but from a fantasy perspective, we’re going to see minutes in the low-20s with fewer opportunities to create.
Tobias Harris (PF – PHI)
Harris settled in nicely as a third option in Philadelphia and was still pretty useful for fantasy managers. But that changed when James Harden was dealt to Philly in early February last year.
When Harden first arrived, we knew someone was going to take a backseat, and it seemed like it would be Tyrese Maxey given the spacing and sharing the ball-handling duties in the backcourt.
But where Maxey thrived, Harris saw his production take a dip.
His shots per game, usage, rebounding, and scoring all took a hit with Harden there, leaving him as the fourth option for the Sixers.
Harden re-upped, and Harris again finds himself little more than the fourth option for the Sixers on the floor.
He still has name value, but I’m expecting more of what we saw post-Harden than pre-Harden for Tobias.
Harrison Barnes (SF/PF – SAC)
Barnes is coming off of a season with his highest points per game and usage rating since the 2018-2019 season and the highest VORP (1.4) of his career.
I”m not falling for it, and you shouldn’t, either.
Despite having the fewest field-goal attempts per game since his 2015-2016 campaign, Barnes saw his scoring output go up.
That’s because of his 5.5 free-throw attempts per game — which was 16th in the league. That is despite Barnes averaging 2.2 paint touches per game — 156th in the league last year.
Add to it the arrival of Keegan Murray and gunners Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter, and you’re looking at a decrease in touches, usage, and overall production for Barnes.
Ömer Yurtseven (C – MIA)
It wouldn’t be a Waterloo column without writing about my boy Yurt! The Heat are continuing to roll out Dewayne Dedmon regularly as the backup for Bam Adebayo, despite Yurtseven being the more talented option.
I know it’s taboo to question the Heat, but I can’t help it in this situation.
When Bam missed time last year, Yurtseven received some actual run and outperformed Dedmon.
This is a deep-league play, of course, but it looks like we’re stuck waiting, again, for Yurtseven to get his moment.
De’Andre Hunter (SF/PF – ATL)
Last year was supposed to be the moment for Hunter. He was going to take on a larger role, but then, he got hurt.
Even when he returned, Hunter just didn’t develop into the player that we hoped he’d turn into.
There’s still time for him to be a useful role player and a waiver-wire player for fantasy, but it’s looking less and less likely that he’s going to reach the previous ceiling that we hoped he could.
What’s more, second-year potential breakout Jalen Johnson is waiting in the wings and will be more involved in the offense this year — perhaps at the expense of Hunter.
Mark Williams (C – CHA)
I went on record saying that I liked the strategy the Hornets deployed in the draft, despite preferring Jalen Duren from a talent standpoint. The dream was the Hornets getting a big rim protector lob threat for LaMelo Ball. Duren would have fit better, but Williams was a great get and has a solid floor as a fantasy option.
The thing is, if you’re expecting him to start right away or even seem 20-some minutes, you’re mistaken.
The Hornets are stuck with the idea of Mason Plumlee being the best option night in and night out, and that’s going to limit the immediate return of Williams on the court.
T.J. Warren (SF/PF – BKN)
I remember what Warren did during the bubble, too. I remember getting excited about him from a fantasy perspective.
But after struggling to get healthy and the lack of interest around him as a free agent — he received just a one-year deal with Brooklyn for $2.6 million — it tells you all you need to know about how much teams trust him.
If Durant is moved, we could see playing time opened up for Warren, but that’s ignoring the potential return that the Nets get.
We’re looking at a low-usage, low-involvement player, who could turn into more for the Nets. But as it stands now, 15 minutes or so seems like the cap.
- Kenyon Martin Jr. (F – HOU)
- Christian Wood (PF/C – DAL)
- James Bouknight (SG – CHA)
- Cam Reddish (SG/SF – NYK)
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