Eight Players To Draft Aggressively Next Year

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Five months, 20-plus weeks and 70 games later, we’re almost at the end of this wild sprint of an NBA regular season.

We’re also almost done when it comes to Roundball Stew columns for the season — this will be the last one (though the podcast is going to continue throughout the playoffs and the offseason).

As I mentioned on said podcast recently, I’m going to close things out with a list of Eight Players I Will Fight You To Draft (Not Literally) In Fantasy Leagues Next Season.

Let’s get to it:

Fred VanVleet, PG/SG, TOR

Try as I may, I can’t stay mad at FVV, even after he has missed 18 of Toronto’s last 36 games, a stretch that lit way too many of my fantasy squads on fire. The bottom line is that this guy — despite some shaky shooting — was an absolute fantasy stud when healthy, putting up 19.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 3.3 3s (on an admittedly bad 38.9 percent from the field).

However, if anything, all the absences down the stretch — and the shaky shooting — will only make VanVleet that much easier to draft next season. If you’re getting him anywhere outside the top-25, I still think it’s excellent value for a guy who finished inside the top-20 on a per-game basis, according to BasketballMonster.com.

Domantas Sabonis, PF/C, IND

It can be a dangerous trap to overemphasize a late-season hot streak from the year before when you’re drafting the following season, but in this case, it’s a pit I’m planning to fall into. Over his last 20 games, Sabonis is averaging 20.4 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 7.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.5 bpg and 0.9 3s, numbers that put him 13th overall in 9-category leagues during that run. After rising from 108th overall to 48th overall to 27th overall the last three seasons (27th overall is his ranking this year), the 25-year-old has a real shot at a finish inside the top-20 next year. Sign me up.

Lonzo Ball, PG/SG, NOP

Lonzo missed a somewhat agonizing number of games in March and April, but it’s been a brutal season for just about everyone, and let’s not overlook the fact that he’s been quietly pretty excellent for a while now when healthy. Since early February (a span of three months and 38 games), Ball has posted 15.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.6 bpg and 3.4 3s — on 41.7 percent from the field and 82.0 from the line with 2.3 turnovers. Now that significant percentage concerns appear to be in the rear view mirror, the 23-year-old is set up for a potentially huge season — and is still seemingly underrated at the same time.

LaMelo Ball, PG/SG, CHA

As much as Lonzo could be underrated heading into fantasy drafts next year, I can easily picture a scenario where LaMelo’s draft hype spins out of control, to the point where I won’t draft him. But I will certainly try.

For perspective on what he’s done as a 19-year-old, according to my latest search on Basketball Reference, he’s one of three teenagers (along with LeBron James and Luka Doncic) to ever average 15+ ppg, 5+ rpg and 5+ apg. For the season, he’s at 15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.8 3s, while shooting 44.3 percent from the field (and that’s something I’ll admit I was terrified about being a major problem heading into this year).

Ultimately, this guy’s ceiling in both fantasy and real life are pretty outrageous, and that’s why I think it’s going to be tough to get him in fantasy leagues. So let’s roll up our sleeves (figuratively) and fight.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG/SF/PF, ATL

His season took off in mid-March after his return from a knee injury and the firing of Lloyd Pierce, who was using him as primarily a catch-and-shoot guy rather than the all-around scoring machine that he apparently is. After six bad games where he was finding his footing, Bogdanovic scored 23 points in a March 18th win over OKC, and that was the launch point for a pretty outstanding run. Since that game, he’s sitting at 20.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.5 spg and 4.1 3s, shooting 50.6 percent from the field (and 90.3 from the line) with 1.3 turnovers. The good news if you're planning to draft him is that people may evaluate him based on his season-long numbers from this season, and they won’t tell the whole story.

(And yes, he has PF eligibility on Yahoo. I have no idea why.)

Isaiah Stewart, PF/C, DET

Since the early part of April, the 19-year-old Pistons rookie has posted 11.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.7 spg, 1.9 bpg and 0.5 3s — including six triples over his last three, as he continues to showcase a very intriguing skill set heading into year two. The big man will play the majority of next season at age 20, and I’m expecting big things from Stewart, who should get a chance at a starting role from the jump despite the presence of Mason Plumlee on the roster.

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Mo Bamba, C, ORL

Can Bamba stay healthy over a full season? Will he have to fight for minutes with Wendell Carter Jr.? At this point I don’t care — I’m drafting him regardless. Since the NBA trade deadline, Bamba is sitting at 11.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg and 1.2 3s in just 21 minutes a game. The upside here is just silly if he gets a chance to play starter’s minutes over a full season.

Anthony Edwards, SG/SF, MIN

I was a skeptic when it came to Edwards’s fantasy value coming into this season because I was terrified that a guy who shot 40.2 percent in college was going to be a potential nightmare in that area. And the reality is, he was exactly that early on, shooting 37.1 percent through the first two months of the season (32 games).

In 38 games since then, Edwards has gone to another level. Here’s a quick before and after comparison:

First 32 games: 14.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.8 3s (37.1 / 79.5)

Last 38 games: 23.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.6 bpg, 2.8 3s (44.3 / 75.5)

Much like LaMelo, Edwards will not be easy to draft in fantasy leagues next season — pretty much everyone is going to have this idea — so there may come a point where his draft day position is just too high.

And he might still be worth it.

Thanks for reading this season. We’ll see you on the podcast (not literally) throughout the playoffs and the offseason.

For a full breakdown of some 2021 Fantasy Awards featuring me, Ryan Knaus and Steve Alexander, check out the latest episode of the Roundball Stew podcast, right here and in the embedded player below:

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