Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Anyone who plays fantasy sports, even at a casual level, knows that avoiding busts can be just as valuable as finding sleepers.
There are plenty of reasons a player can get slapped with the “bust” label: injury issues, age, team change, overachievement in the previous season. Rajon Rondo somehow managed to check off all four last season, though, in a twist of fate, here I am yet again talking myself into Rondo as a potential sleeper.
That doesn’t mean that if you, I, or anyone else believes that a player will bust that they shouldn’t be selected at all. Fantasy owners can fall into the trap of labeling a player and subsequently avoiding him to the point of absurdity. Even if I’m not high on Reggie Jackson, I wouldn’t hesitate to take him in a later round if he’s clearly the best player available.
At some point, the rewards begin to outweigh the risks.
Below, we’ll take a look at a handful of the riskier players at each position. Again, these aren’t must-avoids, but you may want to think twice about before investing.
With the Bulls trading away Jimmy Butler for younger talent, it appears the organization is finally, if not reluctantly, moving into a full-blown rebuilding effort. As a result, coach Fred Hoiberg has little incentive to overwork the 35-year-old. Plus, if — or seemingly when — Wade is bought out, somewhat of an uncertain role would follow.
Waiters started off extremely slowly last season before bursting onto the scene with arguably unsustainable numbers. Over his final 23 games, Waiters averaged 18.7 points, 5.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds on 46.9 percent shooting from the field and an astounding 45.0 percent from deep.
Drafting Waiters based on his second half is probably misguided — the Heat will be healthier this year, by default, and there’s little to suggest that Waiters’ second-half surge is sustainable over the course of a full season.
The Pacers are in a rebuilding phase after dealing Paul George and losing Jeff Teague in free agency. hile Collison is a quality starter, the Pacers may look to deploy fellow-addition Cory Joseph as much as possible to gauge his potential as a future piece. As a result, Collison’s minutes could tail off as the season goes on, particularly if the Pacers struggle.
While I’m generally high on Bradley as a fantasy commodit, it’s important to note that his value last season was inflated by a career-best 6.1 rebounds per game. That mark topped his previous high of 3.8 boards per game back in 2013-14.
The Celtics were a horrendous defensive rebounding team last season, so Bradley was asked to snag a disproportionate number of rebounds for a guard. Considering he’ll join the Pistons, who feature glass-cleaner Andre Drummond, Bradley’s rebounding numbers will likely come back down to earth.
Honorable mention: Kris Dunn, Reggie Jackson, George Hill, Isaiah Thomas
Anyone on the Bulls
The Bulls simply have too many young forwards to make sense of as draft season approaches. Paul Zipser, Lauri Markkanen, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are all 26 or younger — only Mirotic is older than 23 — and will compete for minutes on a nightly basis.
Attempting to guess which nights Portis will play 35 minutes and which nights he’ll play 15 minutes will be a frustrating exercise, and the same could be said for the other three, though developing Markkanen, the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler deal, may be more of a priority.
Anderson is a strong fit in Houston’s run-and-gun system, but he remains one of the worst defenders in the league at his position. Houston loaded up on frontcourt defenders this summer, bringing in P.J Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, meaning Anderson could see his role diminish, by default. He’s still the best long-range shooter of the three, but Tucker hit 40 percent of his three-point looks as a member of the Raptors, and if that proves to be even remotely sustainable, his two-way ability could give him the upper hand.
Last season, Johnson had the elusive breakout season by a 30-year-old. As the Heat dealt with a myriad of injuries all over the roster, Johnson was given increased responsibility as a ball handler, almost out of necessity.
While his ability to play multiple positions should keep Johnson on the floor, it may be tough to replicate last season’s production, assuming the Heat are even a little bit healthier. Perhaps the biggest impetus is the return of Justise Winslow, whose extended absence last season is what opened the door for Johnson to take off.
Honorable mention: Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jae Crowder
With the addition of Dwight Howard over the offseason, it’ll simply be difficult for Zeller to find minutes conducive to fantasy production. He’ll still have a prominent role as the backup to Howard, but the two are virtually unplayable in tandem considering Zeller shot just 22-of-67 (32.8 percent) from 10 feet and out last season. It’s possible that Frank Kaminsky, a far superior floor-spacer, ends up cutting into Zeller’s minutes, as well.
I have little doubt about Jordan’s ability to maintain his level of rebounding (13.8) and shot-blocking (1.7) from last season, but the loss of Chris Paul could have major implications for his offensive production. Per NBA.com/Stats, Jordan received 30.7 percent of his passes from Paul last season and shot 80.3 percent on attempts stemming from a Paul pass. In short, Jordan’s life on offense will be much harder without easy lobs from the best pick-and-roll point guard in the league.
Chandler played in just 47 games last season while dealing with a personal matter and an ankle injury, and he was eventually shut down completely after the All-Star break as the Suns shifted into full-on tank mode. Though his best years are behind him, Chandler still has massive upside as a rebounder, as he recorded 14 games last season with at least 15 rebounds. The question is whether he’ll play enough games for that upside to manifest as fantasy value.
While Chandler projects to open the season as the starter, the Suns’ fate in the uber-competitive Western Conference could be sealed by the break, so Phoenix may again have little incentive to prioritize Chandler’s role.
Honorable Mention: Joel Embiid