NBA media day was a moment. Emo Himmy made his debut, Raptors President Masai Ujiri threw some not-so-subtle shots at Pascal Siakam, and sadly, we’ll never know what Ben Simmons was actually doing when he skipped Sixers Media Day a couple of years ago.
The term “breakout” is defined differently across the fantasy community. I’m using breakout to describe players who have yet to finish in the top 75 in per-game value, should exceed their average draft position (ADP) and see a boon in minutes and opportunity. You won’t see players like Mikal Bridges or Evan Mobley because they don’t meet the criteria.
So if I won’t rep those guys, who’s left?
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Giddey could’ve landed with the guards since he’s projected to start at shooting guard with Chet Holmgren back, but he logged most of his minutes at PF and SF last season. The Thunder are loaded with talent, and trust me, Jalen Williams crossed my mind as a potential breakout, but I see more upside in Giddey for fantasy heading into the season.
Giddey enters his third NBA season as one of five players to average at least 16 points with seven rebounds and six assists per game last year – the others? Nikola Jokic, LeBron James, Domantas Sabonis and Luka Doncic. That’s some pretty esteemed company. He’s an excellent target for points leagues, but he’ll also make significant strides in category leagues.
He’s a natural playmaker who uses his size and craftiness to get to the rim while also finding his spots in the mid-range. He notched four triple-doubles in his sophomore campaign (tied for seventh in the league) while sporting a 24% usage rate, the second-highest on the team behind Shai Gilegous-Alexander. So much of Giddey’s fantasy value is tied to his elite rebounding and assists relative to his position. He finished 108 in per-game value last year, so how does he continue to rise from here? More scoring, higher efficiency and defense.
On the scoring front, both Giddey and Thunder GM Sam Presti mentioned during media day that he’d use his size and physicality more to get to the line. He only went to the line a couple of times a game last season and hit them at a 73% clip. Not great, but I’m encouraged by his play at the FIBA World Cup, where Giddey went to the charity stripe over five times per game across five contests. He did shoot only 65%, but given he’s shot in the mid-to-low 70s in his first two seasons, I’ll give him a pass. I also expect more threes, as he improved his three-point percentage by almost six percent in his second season.
He largely takes high-percentage shots, as evidenced by 38% of his shots coming at or near the rim last season and upping his eFG% to 52% last season (a six percent improvement from his rookie year). All signs indicate that he’s trending up in efficiency, and if he continues to do so, his fantasy stock will rise as well. His defense is the biggest hindrance to his breakout potential. Still, with Holmgren anchoring the defense, I think his presence, along with Lu Dort‘s torture chamber-like defense, will give Giddey opportunities to jump passing lanes and use his rangy length to swipe at least a steal per game for this first time in his career. Everything will click for the Aussie in Year Three, and he’s tracking to be one of the Most Improved Player’s ahead of this season.
Last year, I pegged Franz Wagner as one of my breakout forwards and this year, I’m going back to the same team, only this time I’m featuring the 2022 Rookie of the Year. It doesn’t feel like a breakout, given he just took home a highly-coveted award, but Banchero was not a good fantasy player for category leagues. Points leagues are a different story, but he’ll be better for both formats this season.
Banchero finished outside the top 200 in category leagues compared to 58th in points leagues — primarily because of his inefficient shooting. Shooting 42% from the field is rough for a power forward, and it didn’t help that he also averaged nearly three turnovers, was abysmal from three and racked up only 1.3 stocks per game.
I’m here to tell you that’s all going to change. Much of Paolo’s production last season was hampered by a lingering neck injury that affected his range of motion — and, ultimately, his shot. But after he persevered through it, something clicked over his last 15 games of the regular season. He shot 37% on threes while attempting over five per game. He also hit 45% from the field to close out the final two months of the season.
Even though the USA National Team fell short at the FIBA World Cup, Banchero played a vital role for Team USA as the small ball center, which challenged him to be more decisive defensively and expand his responsibilities to screen setting, rim protection and rebounding — all areas that will help the Magic this season.
His usage rate will be north of 27%; he’s already one of the best passing power forwards in the league (ranked 10th in assists at the position) and isn’t far off from being in the top 10 in rebounding at his position, either. Banchero is one of 12 players in NBA history to average at least 20 points with six rebounds and three assists in his rookie campaign. If that’s his floor, there’s an All-Star caliber, top-60 potential type of player if he takes a step forward — improving his efficiency with an uptick in counting stats.
One of the most underrated fantasy players today, McDaniels continues to heap praise from his peers, and this is the season he’ll get the much-deserved notoriety from fantasy managers, too. McDaniels ADP sits around the ninth round, and that is far too low for a player who’s oozing with untapped potential – just ask Anthony Edwards.
Anthony Edwards on Jaden McDaniels:
“Jaden is the most important person on the team. He has the most potential”
Big time season coming from Jaden McDaniels 🔜 pic.twitter.com/0kvPgJGurG
— Joel Moran (@joelvmoran) September 30, 2023
He’s one of the premier wing defenders in the game who not only passes the eye test but also has the data to back it up. He averaged 1.9 stocks last season but, more importantly, showcased his ability to score efficiently. He raised his FG percentage by over five percent (52%), his three-point percentage by eight percent (40%), and eFG% by six percent (59%) from his second to third season.
Former Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt likened McDaniels to the Suns version of Mikal Bridges. That was a very interesting comp, as Bridges’ fantasy relevancy started in Year Three, where he finished 42nd in per-game value despite averaging only 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 threes and 1.9 stocks. However, his efficiency was next level, dropping an impressive 54/43/84 shooting split.
And McDaniels is close to those marks.
His role is expanding on offense, with his volume and usage rising over the past three seasons. He’s got handle, is a willing passer, and even playing without the ball, turned into one of the most effective cutters last season.
It also helps that he’s eligible for an extension in the ballpark of Devin Vassell’s recent deal, so this breakout has some financial motivation.
He’s an ideal 3&D wing that’s pacing to be more involved offensively, and at draft cost, you’re getting a slightly diluted version of the Suns’ Mikal Bridges — which is well worth the price of admission given his trajectory heading into his fourth NBA season.