The 2020-21 NBA season is right around the corner, which means the fantasy basketball season is upon us as well. With a little more than a week to go before the regular season tips off, most fantasy basketball leagues will have their drafts within the next week. Team owners are studying who to draft, what strategy to take on, how to build their team should Player X fall into their laps, and which players they should avoid.
There are certainly those sure-fire fantasy studs who will give you elite numbers night in and night out. However, others could also pose a huge risk, depending on where they’re drafted. With that, here are five risky players owners may want to exercise caution on in the early rounds of their fantasy drafts.
Kristaps Porzingis had surgery on his right knee in early October and is projected to return at some point in January. On a per-game basis, the Dallas Mavericks star offers elite production and could help in various categories such as points, rebounds, blocks, and 3-pointers. He also offers solid efficiency from the field and the foul line.
Last season, the Latvian averaged 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. He turned up his production a notch in six games in the bubble, with insane averages of 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 89.1 percent from the free-throw line with significant volume (9.2 attempts).
Without a doubt, those numbers warrant second- or third-round consideration. In addition, it’s rare to see players who can be elite in both blocks and 3-pointers. Thus, some may be willing to take a flier on the 7-foot-3 unicorn given his tantalizing potential to put up big stat lines, especially since he’s playing alongside Luka Doncic.
However, given that KP is coming off knee surgery, it might be better to let someone else take on the whirlwind of owning the injury-prone big throughout the season.
Zion Williamson should be a popular pick in the early rounds of drafts, especially with the news that he won’t have any restrictions in his sophomore campaign. The New Orleans Pelicans stud played just 24 games last season after missing nearly a third of the campaign due to knee surgery. When he made his NBA debut, Zion didn’t waste time putting up elite numbers despite playing on a minutes restriction.
With last year’s No. 1 overall pick reportedly coming into the 2020-21 season healthy and ready to go at full force, many are expecting a strong sophomore year from Williamson. The 20-year-old should be able to put up an easy 20-10 to go along with elite efficiency from the field and some defensive goodies along the way.
Williamson has alluring upside and could break out if he can stay healthy throughout the year, but that’s the magic word: if.
The explosive forward has yet to prove he can stay on the floor. Furthermore, will his body be able to handle a supposedly heavier load this season? With so much uncertainly on Zion’s health, it might be best to go with a player who won’t give you uneasiness throughout the year.
There’s no doubting Kyrie Irving’s ability to put up points on the board. The Brooklyn Nets star provides steady rebounding and assist numbers along the way. He also offers elite 3-point shooting and efficiency from the field and the free-throw line.
Most mock drafts project Irving as an ideal target in the second round. He also has the potential to provide first-round value if the Nets play to their full potential this season. The six-time NBA All-Star should still be able to get his 25 a night even with Kevin Durant’s return and the steady supporting cast in Brooklyn. And just like his new Nets teammate (spoiler: he’s up next on this list), he can explode for 50 on any given day.
However, Irving is coming off an injury-riddled campaign in which he played just 20 games. He’s arguably the poster boy for the ultimate risk-reward in fantasy given his injury history and ability to put up elite stat lines whenever he plays. With that said, if you’re the type who’s willing to take a risk for a potentially big reward, just make sure to proceed with caution if you’re thinking about taking Irving in Round 2.
Before tearing his Achilles in the 2019 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant was lighting up the playoffs. In the 2018-19 season, KD averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and a career-best 5.9 assists in his last year with the Golden State Warriors. Now with the Brooklyn Nets, many expect them to become contenders for the title, and that should be in large part to Durant’s elite production.
As you can see, Durant offers elite scoring and all-around production, with sprinkling defensive stats along the way. At his peak, Durant could put up a 30-5-5 in his sleep to go along with some blocks and steals, all while shooting extremely efficient from the field, from 3-land, and from the foul line.
However, coming off such a devastating and potentially career-altering injury, there’s a lot of uncertainty on how Durant will look when he finally takes the floor. Missing nearly a year and a half of action, it may take a while for the two-time Finals MVP to regain his form. There’s also the risk of potentially sitting out back-to-backs or games throughout the year as he eases his way back. With those factors, owners may want to exercise caution in investing a late first-round pick with KD.
Fresh off an NBA championship run, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James should be a popular target for fantasy owners in the first to second rounds of the draft. Even in his age-36 campaign, there’s no doubting James can still fill up the stat sheet and provide great efficiency, especially from the field.
Owners will still likely roll with the ever-reliable James as their guy to build around, with his ability to put up triple-doubles or near trip-dubs on any given night. However, there is plenty of risk taking James that early, especially with he and the Lakers coming off the shortest offseason in NBA history.
James has already indicated he’ll take it easy through the first half of the season. There could also be plenty of nights where James sits out games, especially in back-to-back situations. He’ll still put up elite numbers; perhaps his standard 25-7-7 whenever he’s active.
However, given the reasons stated above, owners should probably consider bumping The King down a few spots on their draft boards.