Fantasy Basketball: Underrated 2nd Year NBA Players Worth Drafting
This one is for the risktakers because although Derrick Williams could be one of the biggest steals of the fantasy draft since he is unranked in ESPN’s Top 150, he is currently sitting in Rick Adelman’s doghouse for being inconsistent and hogging the ball. Unfortunately for Adelman though, with Kevin Love out for six-to-eight weeks with a broken hand, the Timberwolves coach may have to give Williams a significant bump in minutes.
What’s great for the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft though is that with Love out, he will be able to play his natural power forward position instead of the 3. When he is on the court as a small forward, he is forced to be out on the perimeter, which seemingly entices him to shoot three-pointers despite the fact that he only shoots 26.8 percent from downtown.
So ultimately, while Love will return in a couple of months, Williams and Adelman will hopefully have reconciled by then and Williams will have figured out how to maximize his efficiency when he is on the floor. Further, without Michael Beasley on the team anymore, there is going to be a need for more scoring, and if Williams shows that he is willing to be more of a team player, then perhaps Adelman will reward him and ask him to be the one to fill that scoring void.
The only other realistic option Adelman has is to give more opportunities to former second-round picks Dante Cunningham and Chase Budinger as well as the Russian veteran Andrei Kirilenko. It would make sense for him to do that since he has generally used a system that incorporates a philosophy of sharing the ball to create a real team dynamic, but as mentioned before, this pick is risky.
On the other hand, the payoff would just be huge since Williams isn’t even ranked, but has more talent than Cunningham, Budinger and Kirilenko combined and could turn into a 17 ppg and 8 rpg guy. If Williams is still there after the 11th round, you might as well take the gamble.
1. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (ranked 102nd)
The San Antonio Spurs use so many different players that it would seem like a mistake to draft one of their guys when he isn’t Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan. But, let’s not forget that Gregg Popovich likes to keep his veterans well rested, so it would be hard to recommend drafting one of San Antonio’s better-known players since they won’t play in as many games as most stars.
Rather, because Popovich will want his veterans to be fresh for the postseason, he is going to rely on his younger players to propel his team to a top seed in the Western Conference. And the guy Popovich will lean on most is likely going to be Kawhi Leonard.
In college at UNLV, Leonard was known as a great defender and rebounder because of his big hands, but he wasn’t much of a scorer. Typically, he would shoot mid-range jumpers from behind the free-throw line or just clean up his teammates’ misses and score off of offensive rebounds.
Spurs General manager R.C. Buford must have known that Leonard was capable of more though since he traded his backup point guard, George Hill, in order to obtain the San Diego State sophomore on the day of the 2011 Draft. And once the NBA season started to progress, Buford proved again to be one step ahead of just about everyone else.
During the regular season, Leonard posted a modest 7.9 points a game to go along with 1.3 steals and less than a turnover, but it was during the postseason that he started to pick it up. In the playoffs, he shot 45 percent from three-point range, snagged over seven rebounds per outing despite playing from the 3 and had a field-goal percentage of .488, which is incredible for a small forward.
So ultimately, since he has been severely underrated by ESPN as the 102nd best prospect, it makes him the most enticing to draft since he will likely be available later in the draft than any of the players previously mentioned other than Derrick Williams.
At the end of the day, expect the former San Diego State standout to take the next step under the tutelage of one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time and to become one of the best surprises in the Western Conference.