Gimme Five – 5 Surprises Who Will Continue Surprising

6 min read

With Fantasy Basketball season ending and the slow, dry months arriving, I wanted to take a moment to appreciate some of the players who really shocked the world this year – the guys who likely helped win fantasy championships due to their final fantasy rank compared to their projections going into the season. These players have since been recognized and re-valued. They will be much higher on your draft radar next season than they were previously. I don’t want to focus strictly on the “15 minutes of fame” players though (early-season Javale McGee). Instead, I want to discuss the ‘surprise players’  who I believe will continue improving – the ones who, believe it or not, might still go undervalued in next season’s fantasy drafts.

I won’t throw the term “sleeper” around irresponsibly here because everyone knows these players by now. While they won’t necessarily be sleepers, they might still outperform their average draft position due to various reasons. Further on-court development, teammate Free Agency departure, and coaching/system change – these are all reasons a player might show significant improvement in one aspect or another. These are the players I’ll be watching closely in my drafts next season in hopes that I can snag them at a decent price.

Pascal Siakam

Final Fantasy Rank: 41

Minutes Per Game: 32

Usage Rate: 19.8

In addition to the fact that he started playing ball later than most professionals, there’s a lot to like about the odds of Siakam improving his fantasy game even further. You certainly won’t be able to grab this guy in the late-round, sleeper territory at this point, but I believe that even drafting him somewhere around the 4th round could be a steal next season. The Raptors Forward provides enough two-way versatility to continue demanding significant on-court minutes, bolstering his near-every-cat value. If he improves his fantasy game, would that directly translate to improving in every cat? Maybe. But even if he only bumps up a few of his categories, that can be huge – enough to make him a 3rd, or even a 2nd-round value. Playing in a Nick Nurse system that utilizes him to his strengths, I wonder just how much improvement Siakam would be good for if his teammate, Kawhi Leonard, were to leave for a sunnier city in free agency. How much better would Siakam be with a significantly increased role in this Raptors offense? That’s difficult to predict considering his development is still far from its perceived ceiling. If Leonard does, in fact, depart this summer, Siakam’s role would increase, but that likely means he would also see tougher defenders in his face. Regardless, I believe Siakam’s aforementioned versatility, combined with his court IQ and rapid development will go a long way toward achieving top 25 fantasy value. He’s still young enough, and maybe untapped enough, to be considered a key cog of Toronto’s future. This team’s management and coaching staff are smart enough to know what they might have in Siakam. I expect them to put everything they can into his development to ensure he becomes the most valuable player he possibly can be.

Jerami Grant

Final Fantasy Rank: 74

Minutes Per Game: 32.7

Usage Rate: 15.3

Maybe the most tantalizing aspect of Jerami Grant’s fantasy appeal is the fact that he doesn’t need a high Usage Rate to find success. The importance of that aspect cannot be understated while Grant is slotted next to usage monsters like Russell Westbrook and Paul George in OKC’s starting and finishing lineups. Another positive factor to consider is that the Thunder’s 2019-20 roster will likely look very similar to this past season’s given that they’re miles over the tax bill, so at the very least, we can expect fantasy production around the same top 75 level we saw this past season. In addition, at age 25, Grant still has a bit of development to go before hitting his prime. Furthering his offensive repertoire – even just a little – would undoubtedly raise Grant’s fantasy ceiling. However, simply remaining an athletic, hustle stat beast, inching closer to his prime, should be enough to consider taking him in the middle rounds of Dynasty drafts.

Malcolm Brogdon

Final Fantasy Rank: 64

Minutes Per Game: 28.6

Usage Rate: 21

The question with Brogdon is what city he will call home next season. Milwaukee has already extended Eric Bledsoe’s contract. And they should do everything they can to re-sign Khris Middleton this summer. Additionally, Nikola Mirotic and Brook Lopez are nice system fits that the team will want to retain as well. Where does that leave Brogdon? The 64th-ranked player this past year, Brogdon can fit well on any fantasy roster – he’s even a decent Assist-punting PG option. Although next season will only be Brogdon’s fourth, he’s already 26 years old. He was a four-year college player when he was drafted out of Virginia in 2016. Any team would appreciate Brog’s experience and locker room demeanor. Regardless of where Brog is playing next season, he’s proven himself enough to earn a significant role on any NBA roster. On a lesser team, he would even find himself with a larger role than that of which he had with the Bucks. Depending on where he lands this summer, I would consider drafting Brogdon as early as round 5 – maybe even late in round 4.

Thomas Bryant

Final Fantasy Rank: 98

Minutes Per Game: 20.8

Usage Rate: 17.3

A guy that my fellow Unicorn, Starks, liked from the beginning, Thomas Bryant really made a name for himself when he was given the chance this season. While he seemed a bit inconsistent at times, he showed that he’s got the juice to be a real fantasy contributor. While he may not be a starting-caliber player just yet, he’s certainly worth some playing time. As a Top 100 player who even displayed top 50 flashes at times, Bryant will contribute obvious big man stats like Rebounds, Blocks, and FG% when given the opportunity, but even has upside for more. Bryant will be only 22-years old at the start of next season and has shown moments when he can space the floor, and even has a nice FT% for a young Center. A Restricted Free Agent this summer, Bryant will certainly have his suitors. Whoever the Wizards hire to replace Ernie Grunfeld will be a fool to let him walk when the team is obviously so close to ‘rebuild’ status. While he still has a lot to learn to help him grow as a player, Bryant can become a solid starter for a team that will put time into his development.

Buddy Hield

Final Fantasy Rank: 38

Minutes Per Game: 31.9

Usage Rate: 24.2

After a rough, off-the-standard-league-radar Rookie campaign, Buddy Hield showed exceptional improvement in his Sophomore year. But I don’t think anyone saw this coming in his third season. In an up-tempo Kings offense that was, dare I say, fun to watch, Hield was a linchpin. His scoring – namely his deep ball (3.4 triple’s per game) – was a catalyst for establishing the Kings as a competitive offense. Combine that with his reliable free throw stroke and solid lack of turnovers for a player with a Usage Rate like his, and you have a top 40 player. The value Hield brought to fantasy teams was highway robbery considering he was barely a top 100 guy just one season prior to this breakout. There’s no reason to think Buddy will slow down now. While I don’t think his ceiling is significantly higher than his recent display, 3rd-round value is a reasonable expectation if Hield remains a key weapon in Sacramento’s young, evolving offense.