Everyone loves talking sleepers and breakout players. However, sometimes it’s the players that you don’t draft that end up leading you to a title in fantasy basketball. Based on their average draft positions, let’s look at some players who could turn out to bust this season.
Dejounte Murray, Hawks
Murray broke out last season. After the Spurs moved on from DeMar DeRozan, Murray was left to run the show. He didn’t disappoint, averaging 21.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.4 three-pointers per game. He remained efficient despite a career-high 27.3 percent usage rate, shooting 46.2 percent from the field. With just 2.6 turnovers per game, Murray was also an excellent nine-category contributor.
As good as Murray was, he’s now in a completely different situation with the Hawks. He’s gone from leading the Spurs in scoring and assists to playing a supporting role to Trae Young, who’s had a usage rate of at least 33.0 percent and averaged at least 9.3 assists in each of the last three seasons. Murray should still play a ton and has a chance to lead the league in steals. However, it’s fair to expect a significant decline in his points and assists. He could also see a decrease in rebounds with talented big men in John Collins, Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu on the roster.
Murray’s ability to contribute in so many areas means he can still be a valuable fantasy option, even with the high likelihood of regression. However, in many drafts, he’s going towards the end of the second round or beginning of the third. His production could disappoint based on that kind of draft capital being required to land him.
Kawhi Leonard, Clippers
Leonard sat out all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL. There was initially hope that he could return late in the season or for the playoffs, but the Clippers took a cautious approach with their superstar and kept him on the sidelines. That wasn’t a surprise, given that Leonard has not appeared in more than 60 games since the 2016-17 season.
Leonard enters this season healthy. The Clippers have a loaded roster, and there are championship aspirations with Leonard available. If they are going to achieve that goal, Leonard will need to be healthy once the playoffs arrive. That means he will likely receive a lot of rest.
The Clippers have 15 back-to-back sets this season. It won’t be surprising if Leonard misses at least one game of each set. Add in other rest days and potential injuries that could crop up, and it would seem a stretch for Leonard to play 60 games. Looking for him to play 50 games might even be the best-case scenario. His name recognition and past production have him being taken as early as the second or third round in many leagues. That’s too early for a player with so many question marks.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder
When Gilgeous-Alexander is on the floor, he’s one of the most valuable guards in fantasy. He’s averaged at least 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 three-pointers in back-to-back seasons. He’s never shot worse than 80.0 percent from the free-throw line or 45.3 percent from the field during his career. On a lousy Thunder team that seems to be in an endless rebuild, he has produced a usage rate of at least 27.8 percent in both of the last two seasons.
As appealing as Gilgeous-Alexander is, he comes with plenty of concerns. The Thunder should be tanking again, especially with Chet Holmgren (foot) suffering a season-ending injury during the summer. OKC likely has their sites on Victor Wembanyama — the expected first pick in the 2023 Draft. With the Thunder looking to land high draft picks the last two seasons, Gilgeous-Alexander has been limited to 35 and 56 games, respectively.
To further complicate matters, Gilgeous-Alexander suffered a Grade 2 left MCL sprain during the offseason, putting his status for opening night in doubt. The Thunder should be cautious with his current injury, and any other ones that he suffers later in the season, even minor ones. Like Kawhi Leonard, expecting Gilgeous-Alexander to reach 60 games played is a stretch. He’s being selected mostly in the third round of fantasy drafts, leaving him with the potential to disappoint.
Tobias Harris, 76ers
The good news with Harris is that he’s been healthy lately. He appeared in 73 games last season and has played at least 72 games in six of the previous seven seasons. He also generally plays a lot, averaging at least 33 minutes per game in each of his first three full seasons with the 76ers. While logging 35 minutes per game last season, he averaged 17.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 three-pointers.
A lot of Harris’ production came at the beginning of last season before the 76ers acquired James Harden. After the trade deadline, Harris averaged only 14.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. The difference was him taking 12.1 shot attempts per game during that span. Before that, he launched 15.2 shot attempts per game.
Harden will now be a team member for the entire season, and Tyrese Maxey continues to emerge as one of the team’s better scorers. Add in Joel Embiid, and shot attempts could be limited again for Harris. He’s currently being selected in the fifth round of most drafts, before the likes of some players with significantly higher upsides, including Michael Porter Jr., Jalen Brunson and Alperen Sengun. Harris likely won’t be a complete flop, but his floor isn’t high enough to warrant that early of a selection.