You don’t give a whit about these guys in late October, yet I promise you’ll know them by the time we regain our hour while you’re pondering just how early Carlos Correa should go in your Fantasy baseball draft (hint: think of a number between 10 and 20).
Each Fantasy basketball season presents us with a host of players who begin the season as glorified roster fodder but end it as either a solid complimentary contributor or, as in the case of Jeremy Lin in 2012, a Fantasy team-altering presence who comes out of nowhere as a category-stuffing wiz, which leaves fellow owners in awe of your Nostradamus-like foresight. While none of these players currently need to be on your roster in standard leagues, each is Clip ‘N Save worthy, so keep your ears on the street in anticipation.
Clint Capela, F/C, Rockets: If you saw his act in the postseason, then you know Capela offers dunks so violent they belong in a Michael Bay movie to go along with the ability to inhale rebounds and redirect shots as if his family’s name is at stake. Owned in just three percent of polled leagues, Capela is one Dwight Howard trip to the IR from becoming a must-own commodity, a good possibility considering D12 missed 41 games last season. If/when the opportunity to join the starting lineup arrives, Capela should evolve into a 10-point, nine rebound presence who will add one or two blocks as well. Buyer beware: his free-throw shooting is so bad that those under 17 are not permitted to watch him without parental approval.
Nemanja Bjelica, F, Timberwolves: The well-seasoned sniper from Serbia drained 11 of his 24 attempts from beyond the arc (45.8 percent) during the preseason, but is buried on the Minnesota bench behind Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Deng and Shabazz Muhammad. Translation: Bjelica will see significant minutes sooner than later. The T’Wolves lack a consistent long-range bomber, which means the 6’10” Bjelica will start warming up those cold Minnesota nights just as the temps hit below zero. Owned in five percent of polled leagues, Bjelica also averaged six rebounds during exhibition play while getting in 22 minutes a night and is also a skilled ball handler. He also averaged over a steal per game in his time in Europe, further adding to the intrigue. It shouldn’t be long before #FreeNemanja is a popular hashtag for Fantasy owners.
Raul Neto, G, Jazz: While most 16-year-olds were trying to convince their parents to trust them with car keys while navigating the curves and mountains of high school, Neto made his professional debut in his native Brazil in 2008. He emerged as one of the world’s best young point guards, which led to the Hawks drafting him in the second round of the 2013 draft, only to pitch him to the Jazz, who let him get two more years of international seasoning before bringing him over this summer. The season-ending injury to Dante Exum flung the door open for Neto, who spent the preseason pushing incumbent point Trey Burke to the limit. Coach Quin Snyder wasn’t sure who would open the season in the starting lineup, but Neto, owned in six percent of polled leagues, will see a chunk of minutes, and his pass-first mentality could lead to a flurry of assists. If Burke gets injured or struggles early, then Neto’s ownership will climb sharply, while allowing both Alec Burks and Rodney Hood to thrive at their more natural position at the two.
Nik Stauskas, G, 76ers: Like Bjelica, Stauskas is on a bad team on which rapid promotion weighs in his favor. A stress reaction in his right tibia caused him to miss the entire preseason, yet it shouldn’t take long for Stauskas and his long-range marksmanship to provide an impact for the outside shooting-challenged Sixers. He averaged just over 15 minutes per game last season and shot 32 percent from three-point range, numbers that will improve greatly this winter. Owned in 11 percent of polled leagues, there are just enough owners willing to stash him on their bench before unleashing him. Stauskas will also be a great low-cost/high-payoff sniper in DFS formats, as he will be good for at least 4-6 games where the basket will be truly kind to him.
Glenn Robinson III, G/F, Pacers: He has a platinum seal of approval, as GM Larry Bird feels GRIII can emerge as the next franchise cornerstone, so much so that Bird sent him to work with shooting guru, Hal Wissel, in order to improve his touch from outside. The results began to speak for themselves during the final five games of the preseason, in which Robinson shot almost 54 percent from the field while knocking down 87 percent of his free throws. For now, Robinson is behind a trio of former “oozing with talent yet never tapped into it fully” small forwards in C.J. Miles, Chase Budinger and Solomon Hill, while Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey present roadblocks at shooting guard. Minutes will be hard to come by, but if odds are defied and the door opens, Robinson should begin laying the foundation of what could be a career that exceeds his father, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson II.
Clearing the Bench
*We saw the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night, only it will be the Cavaliers outlasting the Bulls. Out west, I see Golden State repeating, as they top the Spurs in seven. The Cavs get the Finals rematch, as a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will be enough to deny talk of a Golden dynasty by the Bay.
*The Trail Blazers emerge as the surprise team in the West, while the Magic begin putting together the pieces of what could be a very scary team in a year or two. On the flip side, there’s something about the Clippers that screams “disappointment” in the West. As good as I think they will be, don’t be shocked if the Bucks take a step back.
*NBA 2K16 may be the best video sports game ever. At the least, it has completely replaced Madden as the game to have. Still holding out hope for an NCAA College Football reset, though.
*The first thing I’d do if I could be Adam Silver for a day? Abolish the need for stargazing in the stands, especially for games played in New York, Los Angeles or Miami. I’d venture at least 95 percent of fans watching could give a damn about whether a Kardashian or performers with actual talent are at the game. Nothing annoys me more about the NBA than this.
*Warriors assistant Luke Walton will be a head coach in the next two years. That’s a lock.
*Keeper/dynasty owners would be wise to stash Raptors forward Bruno Caboclo. Few players have the ridiculous upside of Caboclo, who played for just 23 minutes last season. The Brazilian native, who played with Raul Neto, is only 20, but the young man with the 7’2” wingspan is on a slow but steady track towards perhaps becoming an elite talent.