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2023-24 Fantasy Basketball: Don't forget these 5 specialists in your category league drafts

By Alex Barutha, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Category leagues offer an opportunity to explore specific team builds. Managers in head-to-head leagues should pick three to five stats to focus on the most when constructing a team, to win more categories than their opponent in any given week.

Managers in roto leagues should probably opt for a more balanced build, but punting a couple of categories can still result in a winning squad.

Below are five overlooked players for category formats. It might be misleading to state that certain players are undervalued (or overvalued) for all builds. So, I've presented players along with a specific build they're suited for, noting why they might be overlooked relative to their ADP.

Zach LaVine, Bulls (ADP: 51.5)

Build: Moneyballers (Points, Threes, FT%)

Zach LaVine headshot
Zach LaVine
SG - CHI - #8
2022 - 2023 season
24.8
Pts
4.5
Reb
4.2
Ast
0.9
Stl
35:57
Min

Much of the NBA's MVP-caliber talent could be considered moneyball-style players, like Nikola Jokić, Steph Curry and Jayson Tatum. They're capable of drilling a handful of threes on any given night, but still aggressive enough to get to the free-throw line and shoot a high percentage. But where should you turn after the first few rounds of fantasy drafts?

LaVine is a two-time All-Star. He missed out on the accolade last season, but that doesn't mean he's taken a significant step back. He averaged 24.8 points, 2.6 threes and made 4.7 free throws at 84.8% in 2022-23. LaVine is mainly known as a dunker, and the Bulls have been underwhelming, but don't forget he's an excellent scorer.

If you're chasing efficient bucket-getters, LaVine should be on your shortlist.

Last-round options: Bennedict Mathurin, Naz Reid, Immanuel Quickley

Tyus Jones, Wizards (ADP: 83.1)

Build: Ultimate teammates (Assists, Steals, Turnovers)

Tyus Jones headshot
Tyus Jones
PG - WAS - #5
2022 - 2023 season
10.3
Pts
2.5
Reb
5.2
Ast
1
Stl
24:15
Min

These players mitigate what few turnovers they commit by swiping possessions back on defense, and they keep their teammates involved on offense. Jokić and Tyrese Haliburton are two high-level examples of this type of player, though some can still be found late in drafts.

After being recognized as one of the league's best backup point guards over the past few seasons, Jones finally gets his chance to take control of an offense. He was traded to Washington in the deal that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Boston and Marcus Smart to Memphis. Per 36 minutes over the past four seasons, Jones has averaged 7.8 assists, 1.6 steals and just 1.4 turnovers. Few players in the NBA are more of a "pure point guard" than Jones. If you miss out on him in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft, consider his brother Tre Jones on the Spurs.

Last-round options: Josh Hart, Mike Conley, Alex Caruso

Jabari Smith, Rockets (ADP: 91.8)

Build: Stretch bigs (Rebounds, Blocks, Threes)

Jabari Smith Jr. headshot
Jabari Smith Jr.
PF - HOU - #10
2022 - 2023 season
12.8
Pts
7.2
Reb
1.3
Ast
0.9
Blk
31:02
Min

Offering a rare combination of stats, stretch bigs are the epitome of modern basketball. Early in drafts, players like Jaren Jackson, Myles Turner and Porziņģis fit the mold. Finding this archetype late in drafts can be challenging due to scarcity, but we can't forget about Houston's promising sophomore.

Smith couldn't find traction for much of his rookie year, but he began to shine as 2022-23 came to a close. During the season's final two months, he averaged 7.6 rebounds, 1.5 threes and 0.8 blocks in 33.4 minutes. While those numbers don't leap off the page at first glance, RotoWire is projecting just three players to reach those marks this season — Smith, Porziņģis and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Rockets have a lot of roster changes, but Smith's status as a No. 3 overall pick carries weight, and he should improve. It's worth mentioning he averaged 35.5 points on 48/33/95 shooting in two 2023 Summer League appearances.

Last-round options: P.J. Washington, Al Horford, Naz Reid

Andrew Wiggins, Warriors (ADP: 91.8)

Build: Three-and-D players (Threes, Steals, Blocks)

Andrew Wiggins headshot
Andrew Wiggins
SF - GS - #22
2022 - 2023 season
17.1
Pts
5
Reb
2.3
Ast
0.8
Blk
32:10
Min

Three-and-D players are what most fans imagine when they think of a role player or "glue guy." Of course, plenty of the league's top talent also falls into this category — think Paul George and Anthony Edwards. But who should you turn to late in drafts?

Wiggins feels like an afterthought in most fantasy drafts at this point, which started around the time he was dealt to Golden State. It doesn't help that he appeared in just 37 games last year between injuries and a personal matter. Still, he's settled into a nice role for himself. Over the past three seasons, he's averaged 2.2 threes, 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks. His blend of steals and blocks especially appeals to managers who want to do well in both categories. Plus, Wiggins is surrounded by veterans who haven't been especially healthy lately. There should be plenty of nights where extra usage falls in his lap.

Last-round options: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Deni Avdija, Jarace Walker

Harrison Barnes, Kings (140.2)

Build: The Contrarian (FG%, FT%, Turnovers)

Harrison Barnes headshot
Harrison Barnes
SF - SAC - #40
2022 - 2023 season
15
Pts
4.5
Reb
1.6
Ast
0.1
Blk
32:28
Min

The average fantasy manager in your head-to-head category league, or even a roto league, will opt to punt percentages and turnovers. It's straightforward, putting player value closer to points leagues by valuing the positive box score stats. But that creates an opportunity to construct a contrarian team, targeting percentages and turnovers.

Enter Barnes, who is among the league's most boring players — Tobias Harris is also in the running — but perfectly fits a contrarian team build. He averaged just 1.0 turnovers per game last year while shooting 47.3 FG% on 9.6 attempts and 84.7 FT% on 5.0 attempts. The forward's free-throw shooting is surprisingly voluminous and should help create a nice buffer if you roster a couple of subpar, low-volume free-throw shooters. There's a good chance Barnes will be available with the last pick in your draft.

Last-round options: De'Andre Hunter, Gordon Hayward, Bojan Bogdanovic