The new NBA season is just around the corner and now is the perfect time to start doing research for your fantasy basketball teams next season. And the good news is that we’re here to help.
Our NBA fantasy series will assist you with identifying potential sleepers and undervalued players that have a chance to outplay their draft positions and help your teams dominate next season.
Some of these bargain pickups can potentially have a breakout year, while others may bounce back from mediocre ones. As such, these NBA players should be on your fantasy radar as drafting them at an opportune time will be key in helping you build a championship team.
This time around, we take a look at the Southwest division and identify one player from each team that should be on your NBA fantasy watch list in 2017/18.
Dallas Mavericks - Dennis Smith Jr.
Taking a rookie in any NBA fantasy draft is always a gamble because you never know what to expect. But if you're a thrill-seeking manager, don’t pass up the chance on taking Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks. You may get better value for Smith Jr. than other rookies entering the NBA this year, which includes Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz.
The 19-year-old is heading to a Dallas Mavericks team that is more well-rounded than the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers. In that, Smith has a better environment around him to excel and, boldly speaking, can be a dark horse to win the Rookie of Year.
The situation he is going into is somewhat similar to Damian Lillard's when he first came into the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers. The product of North Carolina State is projected to be the Mavericks' starting point guard and will be playing around some decent veterans such as Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and Dirk Nowitzki. This should only help Smith Jr’s game and give him a better opportunity to succeed than Ball and Fultz.
Houston Rockets - P. J. Tucker
The Houston Rockets have very well-defined roles, and it looks like 99% of the team's ball-handling will run through either Chris Paul or James Harden. That means other starters' (Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson) fantasy value will take a hit, and there won’t be many late-round bargains on the Rockets’ roster.
However, P. J. Tucker might be someone to consider in the later rounds of your draft. The Rockets signed Tucker to a four-year deal worth around $32 million this summer and probably don’t plan to just leave him on the bench.
As a result, expect the 32-year-old to come in and play some important minutes for Houston next season. Considering that he is a versatile player capable of guarding multiple positions, Tucker can provide low-end stats (5.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 triples) across all nine fantasy categories. In very deep leagues, the veteran might be that one difference maker that gives you the slight edge every week.
Memphis Grizzlies - JaMychal Green
With Zach Randolph gone to the Sacramento Kings, JaMychal Green is officially the Memphis Grizzlies’ starting power forward. He is entering his fourth NBA season and is at a perfect point in his career to take a huge step forward. We have seen his stats steadily improve every year, and he finished last season with a decent stat line, averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, as well as a 0.500 field-goal percentage across 27.3 minutes per game.
With starting minutes this year, Green can very well have a breakout year and set new career highs across the board. Don’t be surprised to see him average a double-double and finish as a top-60 fantasy player next season.
Right now, he is still very much under the radar and is ranked 117th in ESPN’s fantasy basketball projection. Theoretically, Green should be available in the ninth or tenth round of most standard 12-team leagues. But given his upside, taking him a bit earlier might pay off in a big way.
New Orleans Pelicans - Ian Clark
Despite playing on a very stacked Golden State team last season, Ian Clark made decent contributions off the bench for the Warriors. Considering that he only averaged 14.8 minutes per game, the 26-year-old almost doubled his points total from 3.6 to 6.8 and increased his threes per game from 0.5 to 0.8. Heading into a new environment with the New Orleans Pelicans, Clark’s stat line should continue to trend upwards with more playing time.
The Pelicans' backcourt is rather thin, with an aging Rajon Rondo as their starter alongside Jrue Holiday, who only averaged 51.5 games in his last four seasons. Clark has a good chance to see around 20 minutes per game and get even more playing time when Rondo and Holiday go down. This likely means the two-time NBA champion can once again set new career highs in 2017/18 and average over ten points per game.
San Antonio Spurs - Davis Bertans
The San Antonio Spurs had a rather quiet offseason. Aside from bringing in Rudy Gay, they did not add a significant piece to their frontcourt. Right now, they have Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge as their starters, with Joffrey Lauvergne and Davis Bertans coming off the bench.
But as we have seen in years past, the Spurs always seem to give their youth a chance to compete for important minutes in their lineup. It looks like Davis Bertans will be that guy this year, especially since Gasol and Aldridge are both in their thirties; coach Gregg Popovich will likely rest them extensively throughout the year.
Bertans is only 24-years-old and his youth likely intrigues the Spurs to give him several opportunities to prove himself at the NBA level. Additionally, he is a great shooter from behind the arc for a big man and the Spurs could use his skillset to stretch the floor. Bertans had a great showing for Latvia at EuroBasket 2017 and should be able to carry that momentum into the 2017/18 NBA season.