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2022-23 Fantasy Basketball Comeback Candidates - Guards and Wings: Part 1

There is a thing the NFL does that the NBA does not: hand a Comeback Player of the Year award after every season. As the very own NFL defines it, this award is given "to the player who shows perseverance in overcoming adversity, in the form of not being in the NFL the previous year, overcoming a severe injury, or simply a poor performance."

With that in mind, I'm bringing this accolade to the realm of (fantasy) basketball and giving you some names of who should be candidates to have a "Comeback Season" in 2022-23 after missing time of late or straight playing way below their true-talent level in the past few months and/or years. With more than 450 players regularly playing in the NBA, it's understandable that you have forgotten about some of those guys missing time recently and for long periods of time.

Here are a few picks of players with G/F eligibility expected to have bounceback campaigns when the upcoming season tips off that you might draft without other fantasy GMs really noticing those players' presence on the board after they forgot about them!

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Fantasy Basketball Comeback Candidates - Guards and Small Wings

John Wall, PG - Los Angeles Clippers

John Wall is back, and while Wall might have not played a single game since mid-2021 and sat out last season entirely (not to mention in the last three campaigns he played he never topped either 41 games or 1,410 minutes), he has always been a perennial top-five player when active and there is no reason they can be a fantastic value play as an aging vet.

The lone fact that he will play next season makes him a winner already, and the addition of doing so for a monster of a team in the Clippers just puts the cherry on top of his case. As things stand there is still the question of whether Wall would start games or not (he seems to be cool with the latter option though, so no ego-related issues around the final outcome are expected), but even on a diminished role he should thrive.

The Clippers had just one "true" point guard last year in Reggie Jackson and he wasn't nearly close to a real asset in the fantasy realm with an average of just 30.3 FPPG and 0.97 FP/min. Wall and Jackson might work in some sort of PG-by-committee platoon alternating starts.

Wall is a legit superstar and that means that he and Kawhi (returning from injury) will take a rather high usage rate to themselves. Best-case scenario, Wall gets to play 60+ games, logs 32+ MPG and reaches around 36-to-40 FPPG to finish the year as a top-50 player overall. Whether he starts or not he will get tons of assists (to PG13 and Kawhi, or as the main playmaker in the second unit) and he's also expected to be a legitimate spot-up shooter for the Clips.

Jamal Murray, PG - Denver Nuggets

I am writing this at the very start of August and Yahoo! has just released its first set of ADP values. Murray is getting drafted around the 76th pick on most standard fantasy leagues. The last time he played, he finished the 2021 season as the 75th-best overall player in the fantasy world.

That, of course, speaks of a natural balance between price and production. That also doesn't factor in the fact that when Murray posted that 75OVR finish he only appeared in 48 games and that Nikola Jokic was on his way to winning his first MVP in what would have boosted Murray's numbers even more on a season-long, 82-games-played basis.

Murray's 2021 campaign was absolutely magnificent and a true improvement on his first four years in the league. Murray went from topping an average of 33.4 FPPG in years prior to posting an average of 36.8 FPPG in 2021... and although doubters will point out the raise of the playing time (more than three more minutes a pop for an average of 35.5 MPG), the truth is that his per-minute production was also his best ever at 1.04 FP/min.

Pro-rate his average FP to an 82-game basis and Murray would have finished that season as the ninth-best player in the NBA and as part of such a group of players to reach 3,000+ DKFP that year.

The TS% figure of 59.2 was ludicrous but Murray had already reached close to those levels of shooting back in 2018 when he posted a 57.6% mark. His PER jumped all the way up to 18.3 the last time we watched--that's a superstar-level figure--and although Murray has been out of the court for a year and a half he's still hyper young entering his age-25 season and without many changes--let alone for the worse--having taken place in Denver. Get ready for a thunderous comeback and don't Murray slip past the 60th overall pick if you don't want to get snipped.

Ben Simmons, PG/SF - Brooklyn Nets

Simmons is a collateral beneficiary of the most consequential no-trade in NBA history. In case you're not aware, the Nets and Kevin Durant agreed to--at least for now--extend their relationship ahead of next season, making KD's trade request a thing of the past. This means that all of Durant, earlier-extended Kyrie Irving, and a healthy Ben Simmons will all share the floor in Brooklyn next year unless something unexpected (at this moment) happens and some or all of those pieces get actually traded away.

Starting with the "worst" of the three players highlighted here (and that "worst" was very hard to type, believe me), Ben Simmons is a winner for me entering 2023 and most definitely a player to have in consideration in the "Best Comeback Season" category if that was one. I know that won't probably be the consensus opinion out there, and that's a very valid and reasonable way of thinking about it, but that's where I'm sitting these days.

Simmons will be sharing the floor with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and even though that is going to help him rack up numbers while getting freed from some defensive attention, it will also take tons of chances for him to get fantasy points (remember, Simmons is definitely not a spot-up shooter or anything of the like).

Even though Ben won't be able to take on a bona fide no. 1 role and franchise-leading duties with KD and Kyrie staying, I have to assume he will still thrive as he already did in Philly playing next to another mammoth--of another ilk, though--in Joel Embiid.

Simmons sat out last year after passing a ball instead of dumping a layup in the 2021 playoffs when he was still a Sixer. Simmons wasn't even close to his best version the last time we saw him, posting an average of 36.6 FPPG in 2021 compared to his prior best of 42.1 as a sophomore in 2019 at just 22 years of age. That was also a season in which Embiid was the only true star in Philadelphia. Something similar might be around the corner for Simmons depending on how Brooklyn works the rotation.

This is all confabulations, though, as Simmons has to make it back to the court first. He should have no trouble doing so come tip-off day, but we'll see. Simmons can do it all from scoring 14+ PPG to dropping 8+ APG to grabbing 7+ RPG.

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