Identifying players who can outperform their ADP is one of the keys to success in fantasy basketball. Today, we're highlighting four NBA stars who are ranked outside of the top 12 on most draft boards but have the potential to provide first-round value.
This roundtable list has everything — from established fantasy performers eager to reclaim their status to up-and-coming players on the verge of stardom.
Let's jump right in to see what the analysts have to say!
Mikal Bridges - SG/SF, Brooklyn Nets
Yahoo ADP: 19.3
Projecting Mikal Bridges to be a top-12 fantasy player is hardly a bridge too far. After being traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Brooklyn Nets last season, Bridges morphed from an ascending role player into a budding star.
He's a complete fantasy player with a near-perfect balance of efficiency and production. And now that he's established himself as the clear No. 1 option in BK (he averaged 26 points per game in 27 contests with the Nets), he'll draw more attention from opposing defenses, unlocking his untapped potential as a playmaker.
Per @cleantheglass, Mikal Bridges has spent 54% of his minutes at point guard since joining the Nets, and the flashes he's shown as a complimentary playmaker have been promising.
Gonna be interesting to see how much Jacque Vaughn can get out of him in this department. pic.twitter.com/pa1NV1yr7I
— AlexHoops (@AlexHoops_) February 17, 2023
He had a 30% usage rate with the Nets last season, and HC Jacque Vaughn is preparing him for even more. Bridges is undoubtedly one of the best two-way wings in the league, but his underrated facilitating raises his ceiling into the first round. — Dan Titus (Yahoo, @dantitus)
Trae Young - PG, Atlanta Hawks
Last year, Trae was being drafted at the end of the first round of most drafts, but his ADP is sitting toward the very end of the top 20 this time around. On the surface, it may seem like the arrival of Dejounte Murray limited Trae’s production and will keep him from returning to first-round production.
That isn’t the case.
Quin Snyder's arrival (and Nate McMillan's departure) seemed to do wonders for Trae, especially in the playoffs. Snyder’s offensive approach will allow Trae to hit more 3-pointers and get better shot attempts, which should be enough for him to return to first-round production. We’ll see if it results in wins for the Hawks, but it’s clear that they’re committed to maximizing his production on the offensive end of the floor. Snagging him in Round 2 is a great way to start your draft. — Noah Rubin (Rotoworld/Fantasy Basketball International, @noahrubin22)
You know what the best indicator of future success is? Past success. Towns had six seasons as a top-10 fantasy producer before Rudy Gobert came to town. Put differently, the 27-year-old, firmly-in-his-prime Towns has returned first-round fantasy value every season except for last year and his rookie year.
Gobert makes for an easy scapegoat, but Towns’ biggest regression was in points — not a category where blaming Gobert makes much sense. While the odds are against Towns returning to the top 12, some bounce back is likely. And it only takes a few things breaking right (or a Gobert injury) for KAT to claw back to his old first-round territory.
*Note: I really wanted to be writing about Desmond Bane here, but, bullish as I am, top-12 is too optimistic for me. — Alex Rikleen (Rotowire, @rikleen)
Cade Cunningham - PG/SG, Detroit Pistons
So, you want first-round value without burning all of your draft capital? Well, let me reintroduce you to Cade Cunningham, the fantasy gold mine quietly gearing up for a breakout season.
Last year was heartbreaking if you drafted Cade. He only lasted 12 games before undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg, ending his season. As a result, fantasy managers are fading him in the early rounds of drafts. I’ve seen players like Jordan Poole going ahead of him, which has me shaking my head like Will Ferrell in "A Night at the Roxbury."
Despite many passing on him this draft season, Cunningham’s fantasy-centric game will continue to evolve. He has room for growth regarding his FG percentage, but a full season under the leadership of a top-tier coach should help Cunningham fine-tune his game.
So, when you’re prepping for your draft, order some Detroit-style deep-dish pizza and drive Motor Cade way up on your rankings! — Robbin Marx (Bleav in Fantasy Basketball Podcast, @bleavinfantasy)