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Third-Year Players To Give Up On In Fantasy Basketball: Enough Already

fantasy basketball offseason trades free agents NBA sleepers

Not every player can set the world on fire as a rookie. Or as a second-year player. Sometimes, young players take time to develop.

But other times, those struggles in years one and two can be signs that those players are on their way to washing out of the NBA.

Below are five third-year NBA players who I don't expect to take a step forward in 2022. These are players who fantasy managers should do their best to avoid this season.

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Isaac Okoro - G/F - Cleveland Cavaliers

Okoro is a tricky player to predict, but after the Donovan Mitchell trade, I just don't think there are enough opportunities to go around for Okoro, who seems destined to follow the Cedi Osman career path, which is to say that he can provide solid minutes for the Cavs but will always be the fourth or fifth option when he's on the floor.

This isn't meant as an insult to Okoro, who is a solid rotation piece. But with Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell and Caris LeVert at guard/wing and then Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Kevin Love in the frontcourt, there's not going to be a lot of plays where Okoro is asked to do much.

Okoro has started 128 of his 134 career games, but in that time, he's averaged 9.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 0.9 steals per game on a shooting split of 44.6/31.5/74.7.

The path to fantasy relevance for Okoro is that he continues to up his efficiency from three and he becomes a threes and steals player. I don't think that's a path that I want to go down as a fantasy manager.


Deni Avdija - F - Washington Wizards

RotoBaller was high on Avdija when he was drafted. I know I liked him, and I seem to remember another one of our writers saying he should have been the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft.

Looks like we were wrong.

Avdija played all 82 games last year and started eight times, but he shot just 31.7% from three on 3.2 attempts per game. He finished the year with averages of 8.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.7 steals per game. The rebounding numbers show promise. The rest...meh.

His per 36 minute numbers did see a decent rise, from 9.8 points to 12.4 points per game and from 1.8 assists to 3.0 points per game. But fantasy basketball isn't played via extrapolated data—it's played in the real minutes that someone is on the floor.

Avdija played more near the end of the season, but I'm not sure how much that matters. The team added Will Barton in the offseason, who should start at the three, pushing Avdija to the bench once again. And Corey Kispert might be better than Avdija—if he is, then I think we'll see a pretty big drop in opportunities for Deni this season.


Kira Lewis Jr. - G - New Orleans Pelicans

I'm not quite sure when Lewis will play this year, as he suffered an ACL in December that ended his season prematurely.

But even before that injury, Lewis wasn't really doing much for he Pelicans.

In 24 games, Lewis averaged 14.2 minutes. His overall field goal percentage rose from 38.6% as a rookie to 40.4% as a second-year player, but his three-ball dropped from 33.3% down to 22.4% on 2.4 attempts per game.

Lewis finished the season with averages of 5.9 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest.

The former Alabama guard made some major leaps in his last year in college as a shooter, but a lot of that leap just hasn't translated to the NBA. And if his speed—the main skill that people talked about leading up to the draft—takes a hit from this knee injury, then that's especially bad.

Also of note is that getting minutes on this team will be though. C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram should be the starting backcourt, and I think Jose Alvarado and Devonte' Graham both have an early jump over Lewis for backup minutes.


Aaron Nesmith - F - Indiana Pacers

Nesmith was traded to the Pacers this offseason, so maybe a change of scenery can do him some good.

Last season, Nesmith appeared in 52 games for the Celtics. He shot 39.6% from the floor and 27% from three, finishing with averages of 3.8 points per game, plus 1.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.1 blocks.

Overall, not good.

Now, Nesmith heads to the Pacers, where the battle for playing time could go any direction. Looking at who the Pacers have at the two and three, it looks like Buddy Hield and Bennedict Mathurin will get most of those minutes, followed by Chris Duarte to back them up. There will also be times when T.J. McConnell plays the point and Tyrese Haliburton slides to the two.

Nesmith could have a shot at beating Mathurin or Duarte out for some minutes, but nothing about his Celtics career really makes me confident in that.

But hey, you never know. Jalen Smith would have been in this article if he was still in Phoenix, but after Smith was traded to the Pacers midseason last year, he blossomed. So, maybe Nesmith can follow the Jalen Smith path?


Zeke Nnaji - F - Denver Nuggets

Nnaji played 41 games last year, with his minutes per game jumping from 9.5 to 17.0. And with that increase, his numbers took a nice leap:

2020-21: 3.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 48.1% shooting, 40.7% from three
2021-22: 6.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists. 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 51.6% shooting, 46/3% from three

There are some good numbers in there. The problem, though, is the situation that Nnaji finds himself in. Of the five players in this article, he's the one who could most use a trade—send Nnaji somewhere where he can get more minutes, and he could be pretty good.

But fantasy basketball isn't about the "what ifs." You're drafting Nnaji as a member of the Nuggets.

The Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon in the frontcourt. They have DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green to be those reliable veteran backups. They have Michael Porter Jr., who can size up and play some four.

Where are the minutes for Nnaji coming from? That's my issue here.

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