A while back, I gave some discussion to young bigs with upside. Now it’s time to shine light on some recently drafted guards that have been making waves in the NBA and in fantasy basketball. We’ll look at the past, present and future outlooks for Sacramento PG De’Aaron Fox, Dallas PG Dennis Smith Jr, and Chicago PG Kris Dunn. If you don’t have time to read all of this, make sure to at least scroll to the bottom of this to see my 3 year outlooks for each player.
While not wanted dead or alive (I apologize), these “Young Guns” have each had their share of ups and downs in their young NBA careers and have all played for flawed organizations. Each has flashed the immense potential that justified being drafted in their respective lotteries, while also displaying the frustrating lows typical of most young guards as they adjust to the NBA. It will be interesting to watch their careers unfold, and witness their dynasty values adjust accordingly.
Sacramento Kings PG
Age: 21 (will be 22 later this month)
Strengths: Points, Assists, Steals
Weaknesses/Just OK: Percentages, 3PM, TOs
Fox is a blazingly fast point with nice work ethic that experienced a tough rookie season, but has made huge leaps in his 2nd season.
Fox came into the league as a solid facsimile to fellow Kentucky alum John Wall, at least as far as insane speed and acceleration, along with defensive potential, and an alpha dog mentality. After the fun of the Ball ducking Fox conspiracy, the rest of his first season was one best forgotten, especially in fantasy leagues.
These numbers are rough across the board, and turned the #5 pick in the 2017 draft into the #286 player in fantasy basketball that season, only relevant in the deepest of leagues. De’Aaron was a negative in every category, with the exception of being a slight positive in assists. Dynasty GM’s had reason to be concerned and plenty were having visions of a cigarette-smoking Vlade Divac and the Kings picking the wrong guy, or messing up an otherwise nice player. The end of the season didn’t offer any relief, as he actually regressed in his percentages moving Fox to the #309 player in fantasy basketball over the final month of the season.
Fast forward to Summer League 2018, and Fox looked like a man possessed. He only played one game, but there was an added confidence that took a hit after that long rookie season. He netted 23 points on 60% shooting, along with 8 boards, 6 assists, and 3 steals. One game against subpar competition doesn’t really say a lot, but it was still probably a relief for his GM’s to see.
Currently he has been experiencing a drastically improved sophomore season, significantly improving in almost every category and is now ranked #71 overall in fantasy basketball.
The notable increases include over a 6% increase in FG%, 6 more points, over 3 more assists, double the 3PM and blockrate, as well as a 40% increase in steals. Looking closer at what’s done through 4 games in December, Fox is averaging 22.3 points, 7.8 boards, and a whopping 2.3 steals, on 56.1% from the field and 76.2% from the line. The improved confidence in his shot, along with his strides in play making have been great to witness.
These rapid improvement align with the rep on Fox as a very hard worker and someone who would push himself to the limits to improve. As the child of 2 college athletes, he knows the effort that this takes and this mindset has clearly been instilled in him. This known trait from Fox is one of the major reasons why I believe in his current production, and expect more improvements to come. I eventually envision Fox hovering around 23 points and 8 assists, along with over 1.5 3’s and 2 steals. He could possibly also follow Wall’s footsteps and average around 1 block a game down the road. As soon as he straightens out the free throw issues, which I believe he will, the sky is the limit for De’Aaron.
Dennis Smith Jr
Dallas Mavericks PG
Strengths: Points, Assists, 3PM, Steals
Weaknesses/Just OK: Percentages, TOs
Dennis Smith Jr is an elite athlete with nice upside and is prone to electric highlights, but has suffered through a rough 1 1/2 seasons, mainly due to inefficiencies and now playing next to a future superstar.
Dennis Smith Jr always showed off elite athleticism in college that garnered many fantasy basketball fans, salivating at what he might do in the pros. While sliding in the draft, DSJ appeared to land in a nice rebuilding spot where he would take the reigns from Nowitzki as the heir apparent in Dallas. The highlight plays alone are enough to get excited about.
Routinely taken in the top 5 of dynasty drafts, Smith would go on to have a familiar up and down rookie season, and managed to make the All-Rookie 2nd team. Overall it was not a great fantasy season, as he ranked #232 overall, but unlike Fox, he managed to jump up to #135 for the final month of the season. Combining the highlight level athleticism with improved play over the final month had many fantasy GM’s feeling more optimistic.
The 2018 Summer League was not as confidence-boosting as Fox’s as he struggled his way towards averaging 12 points on 38% shooting. That’s not what we wanted to see DSJ do against the summer league rookies and scrubs. The poor showing along with questions about how he would play next to Euro prodigy Luka Doncic led many to question how this season would go.
So far there has been a full on regression of expectations for what a high upside 2nd year player would produce. While a #193 ranking overall is an improvement over last year, many expected and predicted more.
There are trade offs for improvements and regressions in his play, with some solid improvements in FG% and slight increases in defensive stats, while most of his offensive production, along with an already shaky FT% has gone down. This was obviously not the play that Dallas or fantasy basketball GM’s were hoping for and while it’s still extremely early in his career, it’s reasonable to wonder if the DSJ we expected will ever meet those lofty expectations. Luka Doncic has quickly surpassed DSJ in every way and has quickly become the face of the franchise. In addition to all of this, Smith also has been dealing with a wrist injury which has kept him out of the last 3 games.
Can Smith function as a 2nd banana to to Doncic? Would he be better off getting a fresh start somewhere else? The 2 stars of the team could definitely build more chemistry as the season wears on. Luka has the type of game that should play well with anyone, and I believe we definitely haven’t truly seen what DSJ is capable of. Either way, he needs to improve his efficiency if he has any hopes of becoming a star in this league. I’m of the mindset that he would be best served with a change of scenery. I believe he could make major strides as an aggressive scoring point guard for a different team (Nice bump in value in 2020-21). If he stays in Dallas, he may continue to flounder until all confidence is lost.
Chicago Bulls PG
Strengths: Assists, Steals, Boards
Weaknesses/Just OK: Scoring, Percentages
Kris Dunn was a 4 year college player that thrives on defense and can rack up assists and boards from the point, though we may already be what he is.
Dunn was a divisive selection at pick #5 to Minnesota in the 2016 NBA draft after building his college career in Providence on the strength of his defensive play. Picked ahead of offensive studs in Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray, many questioned his worth, and dynasty fantasy GM’s followed suit by generally letting him slide past Hield and Murray in their rookie drafts. While his rookie season was limited by the rookie discrimination from Coach Thibideau (17.1 mpg), he managed to flash that defensive ability as well as some nice assist and steal potential.
In the Summer of 2017 Dunn was a major piece in a trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves. With Dunn heading to Chicago, he was no longer behind any established vets and would have opportunity under a different coach. He went on to become the starter and managed to be be ranked #77 overall in fantasy basketball in 2017-18 on the strength of very good assists and elite steals.
Fantasy Basketball GMs took note of his assist/steal/rebound contributions and this season, Dunn made for an enticing mid round target in drafts and a solid 2nd PG that would not produce a lot of scoring or efficiency, but offer value in most of the other cats. Unfortunately he was injured in his first game of the season and has remained out until last night, where he was eased back into action with 9 points, 6 assists, 3 boards in 20 minutes. This recovery time will most likely mean Dunn will show some rust, but once he gets going, he should produce close to and possibly better numbers than what he did last season. Chicago has been running some interesting guys out at point in his stead, and none have impressed. He should have the green light for minutes and role as soon as he’s back in game shape.
Moving forward I don’t know if I see major improvements on the offensive end for Dunn. He should remain an excellent assist/boards/steals guy that you can draft in the middle rounds, assuming you are set on your scoring. He will manage similar stats, with potentially small improvements in efficiency, 3PM, and assists. Overall, he may be near his ceiling.
|De’Aaron Fox||Top 50||Top 30||Top 25|
|Dennis Smith Jr||Top 120||Top 100||Top 60|
|Kris Dunn||Top 60||Top 50||Top 45|