Ethan Norof

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ADP: 10 Guys Worth the Reach

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Brandon Ingram, F Los Angeles Lakers: Top 50 Selection

Get used to reading a lot about Brandon Ingram on Rotoworld this season.

Although Ingram looked like a major work-in-progress for most of his rookie year, it’s important to provide some context that extends beyond the numbers alone. As the No. 2 overall selection that turned 19 years old just before the campaign began, Ingram was joining a historic franchise whose recent performance had been forgettable at best. The Lakers had just signed free agent Luol Deng to a $72 million deal, lacked continuity and direction on multiple levels and looked committed to a questionable core with a limited ceiling. Yet some still wonder about the reason(s) behind Ingram’s initial lack of comfort and confidence. Go figure.

After the All-Star Break, Ingram began to show signs of looking like he belonged. As a boy playing in a grown man’s league, the shift in confidence was palpable and his performance improved accordingly. With averages of 13.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.5 blocks on 47.5% shooting, the intrigue began to grow and it was more often than not clear why the Lakers saw Ingram as their future franchise fixture. Now budding with confidence—armed with a re-worked shot and noticeably stronger—Ingram has the potential to average 15/5/5 and be a VIP member of the 1/1/1 (3/steal/block) club in his age-20 sophomore season.

One summer league game was all that we needed to see to know that it’s real. Now on a team with a defined direction being built around him and armed with teammates capable of accentuating his strengths, the Ingram noise isn’t going to deafen. It’s about to get much louder.

Taurean Prince, F Atlanta Hawks: Late-Round Flier

The Hawks are going through an awkward transition as a team, but evaluating and developing all potential assets has to be atop the list of priorities. Given that Prince should be starting on an under-construction Atlanta team, he’s an excellent name to tuck away in the queue as your sleeper when everyone else in the league is caught snoozing.

Over 10 games in a starting role during his inaugural campaign, Prince averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.1 3-pointers on 41.1% shooting. He’ll need to improve his percentages in order to jump into another tier, but Prince is capable of stuffing the stat sheet and providing a roto-pinball line so long as the minutes and involvement are there.

Given the lack of frontcourt depth, the second-year Baylor product should be an integral part of things throughout the upcoming season. The fact that Prince finished 2017 on a strong note than burning out is a promising sign for what might be in store, and I’m hoping to land him at a bargain in order to sell him at a premium in the pursuit of more valuable assets as the season progresses.

Kyrie Irving, PG Boston Celtics: Top 16 Selection

I have a theory for why Irving shocked most when he requested a trade away from LeBron James and a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has gone to the NBA Finals for three straight seasons.

Irving was drafted as “the man” after LeBron. Before he ever arrived in Cleveland, let alone step foot onto the hardwood in Cavs wine and gold, Kyrie was always playing from behind in LeBron’s shadow. Because James has such a unique connection to the state of Ohio, the surrounding cities and communities as well as the franchise, Irving was going to have to do something superhuman if he wanted to establish his own mark. After some less-than-memorable times and an investment in the form of an extension from Cleveland’s front office into Irving’s future and a message of “we want you to lead,” James’ surprise return to the Cavs roster again made Kyrie a Robin to LeBron’s Batman. No matter what Irving did, it’ was always going to be about LeBron. That’s nobody’s fault—it’s just the way it is in this particular situation.

Irving, now 25, is ready to control his own destiny.

Boston is a phenomenal landing spot for Irving to relaunch. As the unquestioned No. 1 on a team that changed its identity in order to facilitate his acquisition, Irving is going to be relied upon to orchestrate a completely new cast of characters that have never gone on stage together. Here’s an interesting thought exercise: Given Isaiah Thomas received legitimate MVP consideration last season—and he was in the conversation—where will Irving land in the discussion now that he’s got his own team and is taking over for IT in Boston? Chew on that for a while.

I’m taking Irving as a top-15 pick regularly without looking back. I wouldn’t have drafted him with a top-25 pick previously. Irving has all of the incentive in the world to have a monster season, and if a slow start depresses his market value early, don’t let it discourage you.

Aaron Gordon, F Orlando Magic: Mid-Round Selection

Gordon was a popular breakout pick last season, but a crowded frontcourt and undefined role both contributed to a sluggish start. Over his first 56 games prior to the All-Star Break, AG didn’t do much to leave an impression, averaging an easily replaceable 11.2 points, 4.6 boards, 0.8 steals and 1.0 3-pointer on a paltry 42.8% shooting, including a very underwhelming 65% from the free throw line. Orlando then decided to unleash him by abandoning the Serge Ibaka experiment, and Gordon responded with averages of 16.4 points, 6.2 boards, 1.0 steal, 0.7 blocks and 0.9 3PM on 50.3% shooting, including a much-improved 83.8% from the charity stripe over his final 24 games. It’s very easy to see where the fantasy appeal comes from in Gordon’s game, and he could be poised to make the third-year leap at just 22 years old.

Drafting Jonathan Isaac was another investment in the front court, but the Magic are dangerously thin at the four and Adreian Payne—who sits behind AG and Isaac on the depth chart—is a non-contributor. There is no reason for Gordon to be averaging fewer than 30-34 minutes per night, and so long as he continues to take steps in the right direction when it comes to his efficiency, the man who wears double-zero on his back could easily open more eyes around the league with a consistent, roto-friendly effort at both ends of the court.

Gary Harris, G/F Denver Nuggets: Top 50 Selection

Don’t be fooled: Target Harris high and don’t look back.

Although the Michigan State product is often grouped with the top 100 rather than the first 50, Harris has a game made for nine-cat leagues and holds considerable value in that setting. We saw the kind of contributor Harris is capable of being when he was on the floor last season, but he really kicked it up a notch (BAM!) over his final 25 games, averaging 16.8 points, 3.2 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.2 triples with just 1.3 turnovers while shooting 53.3% from the field, including 41.9% from the 3-point line and 82.5% on free throws.

With Danilo Gallinari now making his home in Los Angeles, Wilson Chandler moving in and out of the lineup and Juancho Hernangomez mostly untested, Harris figures to play a significant role in a revamped attack led by Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. The chemistry between Jokic and Harris, in particular, is something to watch closely, and it won’t be surprising when more people are kicking themselves for not stealing Harris at a discount on draft day before we move into 2018. It’s still pretty amazing to fathom the idea that the Nuggets dealt Doug McDermott’s draft rights to Chicago in exchange for the rights to Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic.

Avery Bradley, SG Detroit Pistons: Top 70 Selection

I understand Bradley missed a stretch of time last season and is now wearing Bad Boy Blue, but he has no business being drafted in the 75-100 range after coming off of the best season of his life. Once known as a player only capable of contributing with his defense, Bradley absolutely blossomed in Boston and became a legitimate threat on both sides of the ball. It’s hard to believe that Bradley is going to again flirt with six rebounds per night on a team that includes Andre Drummond and Boban Marjanovic, but he has a propensity to find loose balls, hustles with his heart and contributes in multiple categories across the stat sheet. For a guy who can be had in the middle rounds, Bradley currently looks like a value.

Stan Van Gundy doesn’t make acquisitions just to see how they’ll fit. He’s the type of decision-maker who already has ideas about how the pieces will be put together, and Bradley is going to be asked to play a sizable role on both ends given the construction of this particular Pistons team. Think about this: The Pistons willingly waved goodbye to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—a then 24-year-old restricted free agent who had no leverage in his contractual situation—when the opportunity to acquire Bradley presented itself. Looking past the likely dip in rebounds,  there is plenty of room for AB to post similar numbers in other categories (16.3 points, 2.0 triples, 1.2 steals, 1.6 TO, 46.3% shooting, 39% from behind the 3-point line) in his first season with Detroit as he did during his final year in Boston. And no need to worry about incentive—Bradley is playing for a new group of evaluators and trying to leave the impression that he’s a foundational piece in a contract year. As usual, he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Blake Griffin, F/C Los Angeles Clippers: Top 30 Selection

The Los Angeles Clippers are (again) officially Blake Griffin’s team.

This thing is now all about Blake. In deciding to help facilitate Chris Paul’s departure and extending a $170+ million deal to Griffin, Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers, Lawrence Frank and the rest of the Clippers’ front office made an emphatic statement that BG is the new (old) top dog. And now it’s on Griffin to show why he should be considered a legitimate, No. 1 option on a team capable of contending for something meaningful.

Despite Griffin failing to eclipse 70 games in three straight seasons and having ongoing injuries with his lower half, I am very comfortable investing an early third-round pick in Griffin. Not only should Blake’s numbers improve across the board as the unquestioned alpha, but his efficiency should be a focal point as Los Angeles can now capably spread the floor around him and play to his strengths rather than have Griffin play off of CP3. In assessing Griffin’s outlook from a fantasy standpoint, there is a lot to like about the situation, and the idea of Griffin making plays out of the post again instead of having to play second fiddle to Paul is something that should have a tangible impact on his engagement and production.

The one caveat to this is that Griffin has to produce defensively and score more if he’s going to provide a positive return on investment at this ADP, but I’m willing to take that chance on a reborn Griffin given we’ve seen it from him prior combined with the fact that he should be eager to reestablish his superstar value in a league questioning his credentials.

Khris Middleton, G/F Milwaukee Bucks: Top 35 Selection

It still feels like Money Middleton is one of fantasy basketball’s best-kept secrets. Maybe the delayed start (torn hamstring) last season pushed him out of sight, out of mind for some, but he came quickly back into focus upon returning to action and stands to be at the forefront of everything Milwaukee does given the Jabari Parker (ACL) situation.

Although he was limited to just 29 games, Middleton was an unquestioned difference-maker down the stretch with averages of 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.6 triples (2.2 turnovers) on 45.0% shooting, including an electric 43.3% from behind the arc. With a normal offseason behind him and a regular training camp on tap, Middleton should be much better positioned to assume the role of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s wingman, and the Bucks are going to need him to be a big part of the offensive attack without a ton of scoring on the current roster. Flirting with an 18/5/5 line isn’t out of the question, and his propensity to rack up steals and triples makes him a younger, more exciting version of Trevor Ariza with additional upside.

Dewayne Dedmon, C Atlanta Hawks: Late-Round Flier

Have you seen Atlanta’s frontcourt “depth?” Let me break it down for you.

PF: Ersan Ilyasova, John Collins, Luke Babbitt

C: Dedmon, Mike Muscala, Miles Plumlee.

Summary: WOOF!

Dedmon did well for himself on the open market after spending time further developing in San Antonio, and he should find himself as Atlanta’s starting center when the ball is tossed up into the air at halfcourt on opening night. His propensity to grab rebounds and block shots while being efficient from the field makes him a bargain-bin, double-discounted version of DeAndre Jordan and Dedmon is exactly the kind of player I’m looking to target at the end of my draft if I need what he provides.

Willy Hernangomez, C New York Knicks: Late Mid-Round Selection

Let’s call it like it is: Joakim Noah was a bust of an overpriced signing and should open the season as one of the league’s highest-priced backups behind Hernangomez. It’s just that simple. You can’t deny the chemistry between Willy and New York’s most important player—Kristaps Porzingis—and developing that connection needs to be at the forefront of the priority list in another rebuilding season inside Madison Square Garden.

In 21 games as the starting center last season, Willy got jiggy with it, averaging 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks on 50.8% from the field, including a very nice 78.4% from the foul line. Overall, per 36 minutes, Hernangomez averaged 16.0 points, 13.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.0 block on 52.9% shooting. These are very promising numbers, and Hernangomez, like a number of other young Knicks, should now benefit from more involvement now that Carmelo Anthony has moved on to OKC. Given how far down Hernangomez is going to be in some pre-ranks and how late he can be grabbed in drafts, make sure to stash the big fella in your queue early and don’t be hesitant to pull the trigger before anyone else is even thinking about his name.

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