Should managers reach for Nerlens Noel?

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There's just under a month to go until the 2021-22 NBA season tips off! We imagine fantasy hoops managers are scouring to get the latest rankings, potential breakouts, mock drafts and much more.

Managers are probably wondering: should Kevin Durant go in the first round? Where should you draft Stephen Curry? What about keeping an eye on players that are worth drafting early this season?

This year's Draft Guide is stuffed with exclusive content targeted to provide the knowledge you need to get key value in drafts and build a strong roster. We're gearing up for what should be a great season of fantasy hoops, and we're ready to help your team management from tip-off to the last week of the regular season. Whether you're looking for expert analysis, under-the-radar players, positional tiers, mock drafts, or player profiles, we're confident these are some of the sharpest fantasy basketball tools we've ever put together.

We've already previewed our overall 8-CAT rankings, 8-CAT point guard rankings, 8-CAT shooting guard rankings and identified some draft reach candidates from our Draft Guide. In today's preview, we're highlighting five of Raphielle Johnson's top players that are worth reaching for in drafts this upcoming season.

Check it out:

1. Robert Williams (Boston; C)

The "Time Lord" is a favorite around these parts; regardless of Williams' past injury issues, many staffers around here can't seem to quit him when it comes to fantasy. And with good reason, as Williams' per-36 numbers are off the charts. His per-36 numbers in 2020-21 were very good, as Williams averaged 15.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 3.3 blocks per. Add in the fact that he shot 72.1% from the field, and Williams is worth the risk. After failing to crack the top-150 in either of his first two seasons, Williams finished within the top-75 last season. He's been going just outside of the top-50 in early Yahoo mocks, but Williams is worth grabbing before your draft reaches that point.

2. Terance Mann (LA Clippers; SF)

Mann's position on this list can be attributed to two things: his improved play during the Clippers' run to the Western Conference Finals, and Kawhi Leonard's ACL tear. In 19 playoff games (six starts), Mann averaged 7.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers in 19.9 minutes per, shooting 51.9% from the field and 71.4% from the foul line. While that doesn't represent a major increase when compared to his regular season numbers, consider Mann's averages in his playoff starts. Mann's averages as a playoff starter: 13.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks and 1.8 3-pointers in 29.5 minutes per game, while shooting 57.1% from the field and 77.8% from the foul line. With the aforementioned Leonard set to miss a significant portion of the regular season, there's an opportunity for Mann to approach the high-20s in minutes per game. For that reason, fantasy managers should not hesitate to reach for him, even with his preseason Yahoo ranking being 312.

3. Larry Nance Jr. (Portland)

A change of scenery may do Nance some good, even though he was anything but a malcontent during his time with the Cavaliers. Rather than being trapped in a rebuilding project, where his playing was likely to decrease due to the arrival of Evan Mobley, Nance can be a contributor for a team that hopes to establish itself as a contender in the West. He's been a top-100 player in each of his last five seasons, which some may not assume when looking at Nance's statistical profile. But he's capable defender and rebounder, and is coming off of a season in which he made a career-best 1.2 3-pointers per game on 36% shooting. His usage won't be high in Portland due to the presence of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Norman Powell, but Nance doesn't the ball all that much to make an impact. In short, he'll be a better version the player that Portland thought it was getting when it signed Derrick Jones Jr. last summer.

4. Nerlens Noel (New York; PF, C)

Noel played well in his first season with the Knicks, and he was handsomely rewarded in free agency ($27.72 million over three years). Despite averaging 5.1 points per game, Noel finished the 2020-21 season ranked within the top-75 in 9-cat formats. He's been a top-100 player in each of the last two seasons, the first of which serving as Steven Adams' backup in Oklahoma City. So if Noel were to lose out to Mitchell Robinson in a battle for the starting center job, he would still be a viable fantasy option in most leagues. Betting on Noel to be a top-100 player three years in a row may be seen as a stretch by some. But given the injury and foul trouble issues that his biggest competitor for minutes (Robinson) has struggled with throughout his career, Noel is worth taking a gamble on before your draft hits triple digits.

5. De'Anthony Melton (Memphis; PG, SG)

Even with the Grizzlies acquiring Jarrett Culver this summer, the logjam behind Dillon Brooks has cleared up some due to Memphis sending Grayson Allen to Milwaukee. That leaves Melton and Desmond Bane as the options that Taylor Jenkins had at his disposal last season, and the former could benefit with regard to fantasy value. Melton's per-36 averages last season were 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.1 blocks and 3.0 3-pointers per, and he finished with career-best percentages of 43.8% from the field and 80.4% from the foul line. Melton played 20.1 minutes per game in 2020-21, and an increase to 25 per would give him a shot at being a credible fantasy option. A top-150 player last season, taking a late-round roll of the dice on Melton wouldn't be all that risky.

To see the rest of our 8-category rankings, expert columns, sleepers and positional rankings for a variety of formats and all that our 2021 NBA Draft Guide has to offer, you can purchase EDGE+ Roto here for as low as $3.99 per month! And if you're into DFS and betting, be sure to check out our EDGE+ Max package that includes our DFS and Betting Tools for as low as $11.99 per month.