Fantasy Basketball: Potential busts to be wary of in drafts

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By Mike Barner, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

One of the most exciting topics to debate during fantasy basketball draft season is sleepers, but it’s just as important to discuss players who are overrated and could be potential busts.

Let’s discuss five of those players who may be best avoided in 2020-21.

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

It might seem like blasphemy to put James in this category given the season he just had for the Lakers. He took over as the team’s starting point guard, a move that helped lead them to a championship. It also helped him finish with a career-high average of 10.2 assists per contest. On top of that, he averaged 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.2 three-pointers. The only areas that he didn’t excel in were blocks (0.5) and his free-throw percentage (69.3 percent).

Although the Lakers did add Dennis Schroder, James will still be the team’s primary ball handler. The reason why he could be a bust this season is not because his role is changing or because he is another year older, but because of the shortened offseason. He will have only been off for about two months since last season ended, which is certainly not ideal for a player entering his 18th season in the league.

The Lakers want to defend their title, so they won’t be worrying about their regular-season record. They want to make sure that James is healthy for the playoffs, so expect him to play limited minutes out of the gate and rest one half of back-to-back sets. Frankly, there’s a chance that he doesn’t play on consecutive days all season. James’ numbers will likely be outstanding, yet again, but his per-game fantasy value will likely far exceed his total value. Given that you’ll likely have to use one of the last picks in the first round or an early second-round pick to add James to your squad, he could end up being a significant disappointment this season.

Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

The hype around Williamson rivals just about anyone in the league. The first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft has a unique combination of size and athleticism that could make him a potential star. Injuries limited him to only 24 games last season and he didn’t log a ton of playing time when he was healthy, averaging 28 minutes per contest. Still, Williamson made his mark, averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per contest while shooting 58.3 percent from the field.

The problem with Williamson is that the hype around him somewhat masks the fact that his game doesn’t exactly translate well to fantasy right now. He barely contributed on the defensive end with averages of just 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks. He also averaged only 0.3 three-pointers and essentially stopped shooting them altogether for long stretches. On top of that, he shot an ugly 64 percent from the charity stripe.

Basically, much of his value comes from his ability to score and shoot for a high percentage from the field, while also chipping in above-average rebounds. While those contributions are valuable in real-life basketball, they’re not nearly valuable enough to justify an early round selection.

Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors

Wiggins actually put forth a valuable fantasy campaign last season. He split time between the Timberwolves and Warriors, posting combined averages of 21.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 2.1 three-pointers. It marked the third time in his career that he has averaged at least 20 points a night, and his averages in rebounds, assists, blocks, and three-pointers were all the highest marks of his career.

As good as Wiggins was last season, he was in just about as good of a fantasy situation as it gets — with both Minnesota and Golden State. The Timberwolves were lacking talent and then lost Karl-Anthony Towns to an injury. The Warriors were in an even worse state of affairs with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both sidelined. That contributed to Wiggins posting a combined 27.4 percent usage rate, which was nearly two percentage points higher than his career mark.

Wiggins enters this season under very different circumstances with the Warriors. Curry and Draymond Green are healthy, and Kelly Oubre Jr. was added to help offset the loss of Thompson for another season. They also upgraded at center by drafting James Wiseman. If everyone stays healthy, Wiggins could see a significant decline in the scoring department and revert to his previous, inconsistent self.

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

Turner is often a darling of the fantasy basketball world because of his unique skill set. He’s averaged at least 1.8 blocks in each of the last four seasons and he has recorded back-to-back campaigns with an average of at least one three-pointer a night. Last season, he was particularly impactful in both areas with averages of 2.1 blocks and 1.4 three-pointers.

The problem with Turner is that the rest of his production is mostly underwhelming. He’s not a potent offensive threat by any means, averaging 13.3 points or fewer in four of his five seasons in the league. His efficiency has also declined as he attempts more three-pointers, which resulted in his field goal percentage bottoming out at 45.7 percent last season. He’s also not a great rebounder for his size, averaging 6.6 boards or fewer in three of his five seasons.

If you want to add Turner to your team, you’ll likely have to draft him around the middle of the fourth round in 12-team leagues. Yes, his ability to provide blocks and three-pointers is appealing, but is he trending in the direction of Brook Lopez? Like Turner, Lopez has been valuable in both categories, averaging at least 1.7 blocks 10 times in his career and at least 1.5 three-pointers in each of the last four seasons.

However, as we saw from Turner last season, he also doesn’t shoot for a great percentage from the field for a center while providing sub-par contributions in points and rebounds. Turner should still average at least a couple of more rebounds a game than Lopez does, but if his field goal percentage continues to trend downward, taking him in the fourth round might not work out well.

Danilo Gallinari, Atlanta Hawks

Injuries have often put a damper on Gallinari’s career, but he was mostly healthy last season on his way to playing 62 games. He thrived as one of the main scoring options on the Thunder, averaging 18.7 points and a career-high 2.9 three-pointers per contest. The Thunder overachieved on their way to making the playoffs but decided to undergo a rebuild during the offseason, which resulted in Gallinari moving on to the Hawks.

The problem facing Gallinari is that he goes from a team with limited depth to arguably one of the deepest teams in the league. He’s better suited to play power forward in the current state of the NBA, but he’ll likely have to spend a lot of time at small forward with John Collins and Clint Capela up front. To begin the season, the plan is for Gallinari to come off the bench, and it remains to be seen how much that decision will impact his workload.

Gallinari’s ability to provide points and three-pointers accounts for the majority of his fantasy appeal. He doesn’t contribute many assists, and his steals and blocks numbers are essentially non-existent. Add in his career 42.7 percent shooting from the field and Gallinari could see a significant decline in his fantasy upside in Atlanta.

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