NBA Draft 2023: Rookies to follow in fantasy basketball outside of Big 3

The 2023 NBA Draft class is truly something special. While the San Antonio Spurs secured future star Victor Wembanyama with the top pick, the Charlotte Hornets took Brandon Miller second and Scoot Henderson went third to the Portland Trail Blazers. They are the most prominent prospects in this class, but here, I'll break down three additional players I'm excited to see leap into the NBA.

Dereck Lively, C, Dallas Mavericks

Lively played one season for the Duke Blue Devils before deciding to enter the NBA Draft, and the timing couldn't have been better. Coordinated rim protectors and rim runners are at a premium now, which pushed Lively up draft boards.

His numbers don't jump off the page — 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists with 2.4 blocks and 66% shooting from the field. However, he's giving me the vibes of Nic Claxton — one of the fantasy breakouts of the 2022-2023 season.

Lively led the NCAA in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (6.8), finished first in block percentage in the ACC (12.7%) and eighth in the country in blocks per game (2.4). And numerous accolades followed: ACC All-Freshman, ACC All-Defensive and ACC All-Tournament teams.

Offensively, I've seen comps to Tyson Chandler, but his ability to stretch the floor is an untapped element of his game. Naturally, Lively's 7-foot frame relegated him to be near the basket in high school (he was a McDonald's All-American, by the way) and at the collegiate level. But from what I've seen in his draft workouts, there's some Myles Turner in him if given the opportunity.

While I wanted to see Lively with the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing with Luka Dončić is a pretty dope consolation prize. Lively's defense, rim-running, and lob-threat potential should give him a fighting chance of surpassing the likes of Maxi Kleber, JaVale McGee and the recently acquired Richaun Holmes.

Bilal Coulibaly, G/F, Washington Wizards

The 6-foot-6 Frenchman has quickly made a name for himself — not only because he was the teammate of Victor Wembanyama on Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 (also known as "Mets 92"), but also because of his drastic improvement throughout the season. He started on the junior side (essentially the farm system for Mets 92) and was called up midway through the season, eventually becoming the starting small forward in their late-season quest for a French League title.

I've seen many draft analysts bucketing his offensive game into the "pretty raw" category. Still, from what I've watched, the soon-to-be 19-year-old attacks the rim fearlessly and is a competent ball-handler who can score with contact. He could be a project, but he's oozing with upside.

Jonathan Givony, ESPN's NBA Draft analyst, drew some compelling comps for Coulibaly: Mikal Bridges, Otto Porter and Andrew Wiggins.

What I like most is the comparison to Bridges, initially a low-usage guy for the Phoenix Suns who made an impact through his defense before landing in Brooklyn. Given Coulibaly's size and length, he could do something similar on the perimeter and earn his keep as a 3-and-D wing.

The athleticism is evident, along with his ability to score in a plethora of ways, but his defense at the point of attack and his fighting through screens to contest shots had him moving up draft boards.

In a surprising move, the Wizards were the team to trade up one spot (was that necessary?) with the Pacers to select Coulibaly seventh overall. The Wizards have taken a lot of heat over the past week but landed one of the most intriguing prospects of the 2023 class.

Fantasy-wise, I don't expect Coulibaly to be an immediate difference-maker, but this is an optimal landing spot where he should have an opportunity to crack the rotation this season.

Anthony Black, G, Orlando Magic

Black made the All-SEC freshman team after averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists with 45% shooting from the field for the Arkansas Razorbacks. I have some reservations about his ability to knock down shots on the perimeter (his form could use some work), but he gets downhill, finishes with touch at the rim and compares nicely to some stout defenders coming out of college.

And yeah, I may not like his shooting form, but he's shown a knack for scoring in the paint. He shot 51% on 2-point field goals while attempting over six shots per game from inside the arc (13th in the SEC).

There's a lot more to like about Black from a fantasy standpoint. He finished third in the SEC in steals per game (2.1), was second in the SEC in assists and shot the fourth-most free-throw attempts while playing more minutes than anyone in the SEC and any freshman in the country.

One thing is for sure: He'll need to cut down on his turnovers if he wants to hold a job at the next level; he averaged three per game and had the most in the SEC. However, I'm not too concerned because he's shown he can also use size and versatility to succeed off-ball. So, even if he's not the primary ball-handler, he can make an impact by cutting or making the extra pass to put him or his teammates in a position to score.

He's only 19 years old but has the right balance of confidence and maturity to thrive in the league from Day 1. When asked about entering the draft and being a potential lottery pick, Black said, "I deserve to be drafted high, but regardless I'm more ready to just work. There are a lot of dudes who get drafted high who don't do well in the league. The work you put in and how you produce is far more important than where you get picked."

I was sold until Black, a notable draft riser, heard his name called by the Orlando Magic with the sixth pick. Unfortunately, he joins a crowded backcourt so it begs the question — can we expect him to contribute right away? I don’t think so and he’ll likely need a trade or injury for him to hold value in redraft leagues. But, starting Magic point guard Markelle Fultz will be a free agent next season, so Black's time isn’t too far away. And with his size, he could be used in a variety of ways.

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