By Alex Barutha, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Hardly any semi-productive rotation player is worth completely avoiding in fantasy. It always comes down to the price you pay, whether it be in draft position or auction dollars. But every season, there are players whose risk severely outweighs the potential payoff.
The players below fit that criteria. Should they be drafted in some leagues? Sure — at some point, the risk becomes worth the reward. But on the whole, these are players I would recommend staying away from based on their current ADP:
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Oladipo is rehabbing a torn quad tendon that limited him to 36 games last season. The most recent reports on his recovery suggest a return sometime in December is likely, though that’s by no means set in stone. If he came back for the first game in December, that would cap Oladipo’s games-played at 63. That number alone already makes Oladipo a risky pick, but it also assumes he plays every game from that point on. It doesn’t account for rest days or the additional, minor injuries that hit nearly every player in the league at some point. There’s also the distinct possibility that Oladipo comes back later in December — or misses the entire month. It could be January. We really don’t know.
We can’t assume Oladipo will be right back to his old self, either. The chances are slim that he’ll return to top-10 value, or even top-50, in the games he does play this season. While he’s never played at worse than top-75 value (2016-17), he still played 33.2 minutes per game that season, which is another mark he could struggle to hit in 2019-20.
Oladipo currently has a sixth-round ADP, which is absolutely too high given the circumstances, and it’s almost a guarantee it’ll be a busted pick if you take him there. Even if you’re in a fantasy league with an Injured Reserve spot or two, taking Oladipo within the top-100 is risky.
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
We haven’t seen Kuzma this preseason, as he’s been dealing with a stress reaction in his left foot. That’s somewhat of a concern on its own, but what could really hold Kuzma back this season is the addition of Anthony Davis to the Lakers. With Davis adamant about playing power forward, LeBron James slotting in as a small forward/point guard hybrid, and Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee locking down center, it seems like Kuzma’s role could be squeezed.
Given his scoring ability, Kuzma will still get on the court, but it could be in more of a sixth-man capacity. Over the past two seasons, he holds an average fantasy rank of 106, but that’s in 32.1 minutes per game. If he sees both a reduction in minutes and production given the talent around him, his fantasy value would dip significantly. That would make him hardly worth a selection in a standard league. He’s currently being drafted in the eighth round, which assumes he’ll have the best season of his career. Given the injury and questionable fit, that simply doesn’t add up.
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
Though he averaged only 8.3 points per game, Bridges’ overall contributions led to him become a solid fantasy asset last season. He was especially valuable as a three-and-D player, averaging 1.2 triples and 1.5 steals in 29.5 minutes. Playing all 82 games also helped his case as a fantasy asset, as he provided top-85 value in terms of total production.
But that Suns team — like many before it — was a disaster, winning only 19 games and falling out of contention before the end of December. Bridges led the team in minutes. That won’t happen again. The front office made a point to improve the roster during the offseason, adding Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, and Cameron Johnson, while retaining Kelly Oubre.
Bridges’ ability to play multiple positions will help him get on the court, but it seems unlikely he’ll be playing over Rubio, Oubre or Devin Booker. Maybe he’ll fight Saric for minutes, but Saric is a more well-rounded offensive player. Bridges needed nearly 30 minutes to be the 131st-best fantasy player on a per-game basis as a rookie. If he loses that role in any capacity, it’s hard to justify grabbing him in the ninth round, which is where he’s currently being drafted.
Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons
Rose has come off the board as a late-round flier in many fantasy drafts this year. He’s being selected in 75% of leagues and going in the 11th round, on average. We know he has the talent to be a top-100 player. He’s hit that mark on a per-game basis twice over the past six seasons. Last season was a bounce-back, as Rose averaged 18.0 points on 48.2% shooting, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 27.3 minutes.
The injuries continue to pile up, though. He hasn’t played more than 66 games in any of the past six seasons. His best finish in terms of total production over this stretch is 113th. So maybe you’ll get some value if you draft him in the 11th round and he plays 65 games, but the chances of that are slim. It’s probably better to just shoot for someone with more upside — or at least less downside — at this point in the draft.
D.J. Augustin, Orlando Magic
Do you believe in Markelle Fultz? In the Magic’s first three preseason games, he’s averaging 6.7 points on 32.1% shooting, 4.3 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 19.8 minutes. The Magic are in a tough spot. They’d like to develop Fultz since they traded for him at a significant discount and he’s in a contract year. But Orlando also has playoff aspirations that are clearly within reach, and it’s unlikely they’d allow Fultz’s development to stand in the way of a return to the postseason.
In the middle of all this is Augustin, who was a reliable starter for the Magic once again last season. The more Fultz’s role grows, the more Augustin’s will shrink. In 28.0 minutes per game last year, Augustin put up top-130 numbers. Given the circumstances, though, I don’t see the upside in taking Augustin in the 12th round, which is his current ADP in the 83% of leagues in which he’s been drafted. There’s minimal upside and plenty of downside. Maybe Augustin still plays 28 minutes per game this season, but you’d still be drafting him near peak value, which is never a good idea.
Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
We’ve written extensively about the obstacles facing Millsap this season, and yet he’s still coming off the board around pick 115 in Yahoo leagues. At that point in the draft, you can afford to start taking some risks, but if that’s the course I’m going to take, I’d rather lean toward a player with more upside. At age 34, Millsap’s best days are clearly behind him, and the Nuggets already took steps to manage his workload last season, as he was limited to just 27.1 minutes per game — his lowest figure in more than a decade.
The Nuggets brought back nearly their entire contributing roster, in addition to trading for Jerami Grant and “adding” another high-upside piece in a healthy Michael Porter Jr. For continuity reasons, it wouldn’t be surprising if Millsap holds onto the starting power forward spot, but a further decline in his night-to-night role feels all but inevitable.