Every year, the experts in fantasy sports fail to consider every single factor in determining a player’s statistical value. This could be because of unforeseen player development, a new role, a new team, or even an injury. This year’s top-200 rankings have come out, and just like there were last year, there are definite steals and busts within these rankings. Here are the biggest potential draft steals.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Ranked 191)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed almost the entire season last year with two major injuries. He played just seven games in between the injuries. In those seven games, however, head coach Steve Clifford showed he was willing to play Kidd-Gilchrist big minutes. While returning from serious injury, MKG managed to have a 19 point and 12 rebound game on 6/7 shooting and a 20 point and seven rebound game against Chicago. Kidd-Gilchrist is an elite defender as well who greatly improves the team – Charlotte was 13.6 points per 100 possessions better with Kidd-Gilchrist playing in 2015-16, and 12.2 points per 100 possessions better in 2014-15 in a much bigger sample size from Kidd-Gilchrist. This is a player who will play, and he is entering the age most players begin to take massive strides at age 23. He is a much better selection than some of the players ranked ahead of him from 140-190.
Nikola Mirotic (Ranked 129)
Nikola Mirotic had a down year last season, but nearly every Bull did as Derrick Rose was historically awful from the point guard position, and there was a significant decrease in coaching ability from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg. This season, the Bulls significantly upgraded their back court talent, and they let the aging big men Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol walk in free agency. Rajon Rondo is going to give the Bulls players many more scoring opportunities, and Dwyane Wade is going to attract a lot more defensive attention as well. Mirotic’s presence in the starting line-up is going to be critical because neither Rondo nor Wade can stretch the floor, Jimmy Butler isn’t a high level shooter either, and Robin Lopez simply can’t score from beyond the paint. Mirotic will get big minutes, and he is already very effective on a per minute basis, with a career 17.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes. Expect big things from Mirotic in his 3rd year. Mirotic has more fantasy potential than players ranked higher than him like J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford, Bismack Biyombo, Danny Green, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, and Michael Carter-Williams.
Myles Turner (Ranked 101)
Turner showed big game potential so many times at such a young age (19) last season. With the head coach who developed LaMarcus Aldridge into a star in Portland now as his own head coach, the hype is real for Turner, who is the same type of player from the same college program as Aldridge in University of Texas. Turner had 14 games with 15 or more points last season, 18 games with seven or more rebounds, and 22 with two or more blocks. He was the typical inconsistent NBA teenager last season, but his size (6’11”,) development under Nate McMillan, and increased role with Ian Mahinmi, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger gone will all contribute to Turner outplaying this ranking, and some of the players ranked ahead of Turner like DeMarre Caroll, Andre Iguodala, George Hill, Kent Bazemore, or Trevor Ariza.
Harrison Barnes (Ranked 94)
Harrison Barnes was just another player on the historic 2016 Golden State Warriors, but on the Mavericks, Barnes will likely be the team’s number one option. Dirk Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points per game last season, but he is 38, and that level of production cannot be counted on a season to season basis at that age. Nobody on the Mavericks has the kind of potential that Barnes -the number one recruit in 2010 and 7th overall pick in 2012 – have. Barnes had 14 games with 17 or more points last season, so the ability to be a high level scorer is there. He will have a big role on Dallas, and is definitely a steal at rank 94. His fantasy potential is higher than some of the players ranked ahead of Barnes like Andre Iguodala, George Hill, Kent Bazemore, Trevor Ariza, or Thaddeus Young.
Blake Griffin (Ranked 23)
Blake Griffin’s low ranking is surprisingly low. This is a player who was overrated earlier in his career, and he plays for a very good Los Angeles Clippers team. Last season, Griffin averaged 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Those numbers alone are exceptional, and they underestimate the fully healthy Griffin because the last few games of Griffin’s 35 game season occurred after missing 46 games. Griffin has higher fantasy potential than some of the players ranked ahead of him like Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler, or Kyrie Irving. Expect more of Griffin’s pre-all star break averages of 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game this season.