I am currently working up my first top-150 ranking this offseason, and I wanted to highlight a few players that I believe may be undervalued in fantasy drafts come October.
* Larry Nance Jr. - Cleveland Cavaliers:
Although he had a solid season in 2018-19, averaging career highs in points (9.4), rebounds (8.2), assists (3.2) and steals (1.5), Nance may not have entirely lived up to expectations for Cleveland, considering they inked him to a four-year, $44.8 million extension last summer. Nonetheless, he certainly delivered from a fantasy perspective, stuffing the stat sheet while shooting a higher percentage (52%) with limited turnovers. Sum it all up, and Nance finished last season ranked 55th overall in nine-category formats. To put that in context, Donovan Mitchell, D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green finished 56, 57 and 58th respectively.
Nance also finished the regular season in grand fashion, grabbing double-digit rebounds in each of the Cavs final seven games of the year. He averaged 12.3 boards and four dimes per game over that stretch. In the last game of the season, Nance tallied a whopping 18 points (on 7-of-8 shooting), 15 rebounds, seven assists four steals in 36 minutes. Per NBA.com, he became the first NBA player since 1973-74 (when steals were first tracked) to put up at least 18 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and a .875 FG% in a single game. With Cleveland not signing any notable free agents this offseason, Nance should again see plenty of playing time in 2019-20. While Nance doesn't have the same name recognition as many other players expected to available in the mid-to-late rounds, he has an excellent opportunity to outperform his ADP.
* Delon Wright - Dallas Mavericks:
D Wright was another player who posted remarkably impressive numbers late last season, as he recorded triple-doubles in three of the Grizzlies final four contests. (Shockingly, he now ranks second in Memphis franchise history for triple-doubles behind only Marc Gasol). Over those four games, Wright averaged 18.5 points, 10.8 boards and 9.8 assists. In the 11 total games he started for Memphis, Wright averaged 14/7/7 to go along with 1.8 steals in 36.3 minutes.
He was a restricted free agent this summer before the Mavericks traded two future second-round picks to Memphis and inked him to a three-year deal worth $29 million as part of the sign-and-trade. In Dallas, Wright will likely compete with Jalen Brunson for starting PG duties. Wright could be an excellent fit alongside Luka Doncic, who is the Mavs primary playmaker, as Wright is a solid defender who can toggle between both guard spots. Dallas also signed Seth Curry this summer and Tim Hardaway Jr. is expected to be healthy, so the Mavs have plenty of backcourt depth. However, the 27-year-old Wright could be in line for a breakout season if he can stay healthy and produce efficiently.
* Kevon Looney - Golden State Warriors:
Golden State coach Steve Kerr made fantasy folks raise their eyebrows last month when he heaped praise on Looney. Considering the recent departures in Golden State, Kerr, as a guest on the 'The Warriors Insider Podcast' stated that he views Looney as "one of our best players and one of the guys that we're really going to count on from night to night." Quite interestingly, Kerr also said he wants to increase Looney's playing time and see the young big man expand his game. "We talked a lot about him expanding his game. I would like to play him more minutes. You know, traditionally, he's been kind of a 25-minute a night guy. I'd love to get that over 30."
And here's the cherry on top. "I want him to shoot corner 3's," Kerr urged. "He's got a really nice touch and he shoots them in practice, but I think next year is the time to extend that range out to the corner 3, and we're going to give him every opportunity to expand his game." Looney has made a grand total of five 3-pointers (on 26 attempts) over his four years in the NBA. Thus, we should obviously be pessimistic about him developing into a reliable source of treys, but his per-36 minutes last season were encouraging (12.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocks) and there is clearly a path for him to return surprisingly solid fantasy value in 2019-20.
* Gary Harris and Will Barton - Denver Nuggets:
What a difference a year makes. In 2017-18, Gary Harris finished 34th overall in nine-cat formats. Will Barton ranked 52nd. As a result, both Harris and Barton were highly-touted, hot commodities on draft day last fall.
Although the Nuggets had an impressive season, ripping off 54 victories, both Harris and Barton struggled mightily with a myriad of injuries and poor play when they were on the floor. Harris hobbled his way to 57 games, averaging under 13 points per game on 42% shooting, and finished 2018-19 ranked 163rd in nine-category leagues. Barton appeared in only 43 contests, scored 11.5 points per game on 40% shooting, and sank all the way to 211 overall.
As a result, both players will likely be largely overlooked this fall, which could present a tasty buy-low opportunity for a pair of talented and capable fantasy contributors.
* Ish Smith, Washington Wizards and Zach Collins, Portland Trailblazers:
As I detailed in my "Free Agency Winners" column last month, Smith and Collins are uniquely positioned to earn a ton of minutes and, accordingly, record plenty of valuable counting stats. Smith should be able to win the starting point guard job in Washington, which means he has a chance to crack the top-125 overall. Collins is currently recovering from a pretty nasty ankle injury, but assuming he's ready to rock by September, his upside is tantalizing.