By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
As with real NBA teams, many dynasty owners at this time of the year are putting thought into rebuilding. Below, I’ve highlighted one backcourt and one frontcourt player for shallow, standard and deep dynasty leagues, respectively, who are worth targeting.
Let’s dive in.
Kris Dunn, Bulls (68 percent owned)
After an underwhelming rookie campaign (3.8 points, 2.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals in 17.1 minutes), Dunn was traded to the Bulls last offseason as part of the deal that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. He missed the first four games of the season due to a dislocated finger but burst onto the scene after that, as the tanking Bulls didn’t shy away from giving him the quality minutes he lacked under Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau.
After a handful of games in which Fred Hoiberg essentially split minutes between Dunn and Jerian Grant, Hoiberg handed over the keys to Dunn, playing him 30.1 minutes per game since Nov. 10. Dunn’s strength isn’t scoring (14.0 points on 43.0 percent from the field) and may never be, but he’s shown some upside as a passer (6.3 assists to 2.8 turnovers) and is undoubtedly a high-level defender (2.0 steals and 0.5 blocks).
Considering his success with the team, there’s little reason to suspect the Bulls will go searching for a point guard alternative, meaning Dunn’s starting role seems safe for the foreseeable future. Even if cedes scoring to most of his other teammates, Dunn projects to be a solid passer, above average rebounder for his position (4.3 per game) and is already one the league’s best sources of steals.
Caris LeVert, Nets (39 percent owned)
LeVert missed 35 games over his final two years at Michigan due to foot injuries. He slipped down the draft board to the 20th spot as a result, but had demonstrated above-average ballhanding ability and athleticism for a 6-7 guard, and the talent-starved Nets were willing to take the risk. His rookie year had some flashes, though LeVert’s numbers didn’t reflect those of a player who other teams had woefully undervalued (8.2 points, 3.3 boards, 1.9 assists in 21.7 minutes).
That’s changed a bit this year, as LeVert has shown tangible improvement as a passer (4.1 assists), though does need to cut down on his turnovers (2.3 per game). His three-point shooting has also taken a nice leap, jumping from 32.1 percent to 34.2 percent on a similar volume of attempts.
Ultimately, LeVert is looking more comfortable in his jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none role, and he’s proven capable of playing three positions. LeVert’s potential may be best reflected in his per-36-minute numbers: 16.6 points, 5.6 assists, 5.1 rebounds, a combined 2.1 blocks/steals, and 1.6 made threes. His future is a bit murky in Brooklyn largely due to the presence of D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who are relatively ball-dominant players in their own right. That said, I wouldn’t bet against LeVert eventually finding a long-term home where his talents can be fully utilized.
Terry Rozier, Celtics (41 percent)
Rozier, a third-year player out of Louisville, really began his ascent during his second year in the league. He played just 311 total minutes as a rookie, averaging under two points per game and shooting 27.4 percent from the field. That changed during his sophomore season, as he proved to be an especially capable defender, earning him 17.1 minutes per game, not to mention 16.3 minutes per game in 17 postseason games.
Rozier is now in the midst of a breakout season, as the trade of shooting guard Avery Bradley to the Pistons in the offseason opened up more backcourt minutes. His season splits aren’t amazing (10.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 24.4 minutes), but it’s clear that he’s drastically improved as a shooter. Rozier is taking 4.6 threes per game and making them at a 38.4 percent clip, a massive improvement over his first two seasons, in which he combined to average 1.8 three-point attempts per game, while converting them less than a third of the time.
The real story of Rozier’s upside comes from the times he’s seen extended run, mostly when either Kyrie Irving or Marcus Smart have been sidelined. During the nine games in which he’s seen at least 30 minutes this season, Rozier has averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc. It’s not exactly clear if he’ll remain in Boston long term, though he’s shown enough already at his age to warrant significant interest should he ever make it to free agency.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings (68 percent owned)
Drawing comparisons to Tyson Chandler out of college due to hit shot-blocking ability and lanky frame, Cauley-Stein went sixth to the Kings back in 2015. He showed some improvements through his first two seasons playing behind DeMarcus Cousins, though he wasn’t really seeing enough run to draw any great conclusions about his upside. That is, until, Cousins was traded to the Pelicans. After the All-Star break, Cauley-Stein averaged 12.9 points (50.4 percent from the field and 71.6 percent from the free-throw line), 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and a combined 2.0 steals/blocks in 30.8 minutes per game.
He’s carried that momentum into this season, filling the rebounding and defensive role scouts projected he’d play, but has been a pleasantly surprising offensive talent as well, averaging 16.4 points per 36 minutes and doing it on 49.4 percent shooting. Cauley-Stein has also developed a fairly reliable mid-range jump shot, hitting 42-of-92 (45.7 percent) attempts from 16 feet to the three-point line this season.
The big man has also shown comfort with the ball in his hands in the halfcourt, handing out 2.9 assists per 36 minutes. Even in an unlikely scenario in which he improves only incrementally going forward, Cauley-Stein projects to be a top-100 player if given a starter’s workload. He’s been the 123rd0ranked player this season, despite averaging only 27.7 minutes per game. Factoring in even a moderate level of improvement, however, Cauley-Stein could develop into one of the league’s better two-way big men.
Jordan Bell, Warriors (4 percent owned)
Picking someone four percent owned as a standard keeper to target might seem ambitious, but in between his early-season DNP-CDs and ankle injuries, Bell has shown plenty of promise. At 6-8, he’s undersized for the center spot, but provides energy, quickness and overall athleticism that greatly outweighs Zaza Pachulia’s abilities. He also provides the type of rebounding and defensive upside that the Warriors covet, and he’ll learn under the tutelage of the league’s best defensive player.
In the 16 games in which Bell has seen at least 16 minutes, he’s averaged 7.6 points (61.2 percent from the field), 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and a combined 2.9 blocks/steals. The downside of snatching up Bell is that the nature of the Warriors’ small-ball game plan may not afford him massive minutes in the near future.
Or, could it be the case that we have not seen the Warriors give 30-plus minutes to a center because they’ve never had anyone like Bell before? First it was Andrew Bogut, then Zaza Pachulia — both unathletic, big bodies who could set screens, box out and stand in front of the basket. All the while, they’ve used a carousel of undersized, more offensive minded options on the bench — David Lee, Mo Speights and David West — with Draymond Green spending plenty of time at center. In Bell, they may have finally found the sort of all-around talent that’s eluded them at that position. At the very least, he’s a comprehensive insurance policy behind Green.
Hopefully, we’ll get a better understanding of what Bell’s future role might be once he’s healthy and the Warriors are in the postseason. Regardless, I think he’s worth picking up, as he’s proven to be highly productive in limited action. Even in my aforementioned best-case scenario, I doubt he’ll ever see 36 minutes per game. However, his prorated numbers in that scenario — 12.6 points, 9.7 boards, 4.5 dimes and a combined 4.4 blocks/steals — are jaw-dropping.
Montrezl Harrell, Clippers (32 percent owned)
Harrell fell to the Rockets with the 32nd pick in the 2015 NBA Draft amid valid concerns that he was too small to play center and not skilled enough to succeed at the four. Harrell slogged through his rookie season (39 games, 9.7 minutes per), though was successful in the then-D-League, averaging 24.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.4 blocks in 38.9 minutes per game across 12 appearances for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The following season, coach Mike D’Antoni equipped him as a true backup center to Clint Capela, ignoring his lack of size for the position. In the process, Harrell posted 9.1 points (65.2 percent from the field) and 3.8 assists across 18.3 minutes per game. Then, over this past offseason, he was dealt to the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul trade.
He’s been surprisingly successful playing behind DeAndre Jordan and has developed a quality offensive game. In the 17 games when Harrell has played between 19 and 32 minutes, he’s averaged 16.7 points and 6.1 boards on 62.2 percent shooting.