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Five NBA Players Poised to Take a Major Leap

Every year, a few young players take the next step and elevate their games into fantasy stardom.  The hype train will be going full force on many young players, and a lot of them will end up burning you.  If you pick the right young players, though, you'll be vastly rewarded.

Let's take a look at a few early to mid round draft picks who carry some of the biggest upside heading into the 2016-17 NBA season. Note: Position eligibility based on Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

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Five NBA Players Poised to Take a Major Leap

Giannis Antetokounmpo (PG/SF/PF, MIL)

From Jan 1st through the end of the year the Greek Freak played 48 games and averaged an outstanding 17.7 points, 5.4 assists, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.6 blocks.  All of this while boasting a season long field goal percentage of 50.6% and a solid 72.4% from the free throw line.  Did we mention that he did all that in his age 21 season?

In his first three seasons in the NBA, Antetokounmpo has seen scoring, rebound, assist, and shooting numbers increase each season showing how he has grown as a player in his short career.  The one downside to his game has been his lack of a consistent deep shot as well as an increase in turnovers.  In nine category leagues the 2.5 turnovers per game are not a great stat but certainly do not compare to the 4.6 that a James Harden will commit per game.  Also in terms of his three-point shot, after a 2014-2015 season that saw him only make seven all season on 15.9% shooting, Antetokounmpo bounced back last season with 28 three pointers made on a better 25.7% from deep.

All of this does not take into account that for much of this season the Bucks will be without star wing Khris Middleton who suffered a torn hamstring and is likely out six months.  That will put even more of the offensive load on a player who only had a usage rate of 23.2 last season.  If that number can rise to around 30, on par with other stars, he will undoubtedly return top 10 if not top five value.  Be prepared to draft him in the top eight picks if you want him in your upcoming drafts.


Victor Oladipo (PG/SG, OKC)

When Kevin Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors, fantasy owners began to think of the possibilities of how good Russell Westbrook could be in fantasy basketball.  Although he will be a top end player, it may actually be the newly acquired Oladipo who is the biggest beneficiary of Durant’s exit.  The former Orlando guard has shown flashes of fantasy brilliance as he posted a solid 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 three pointers made per game last year.  Along with the counting stats, Oladipo also has solid rotisserie value with a free throw percentage of 80.8% for his career while also only turning the ball over 2.1 times per game last season.

Westbrook’s new running mate has also been a very durable player having played at least 72 games in each of his first three years while averaging over 31 minutes played per game in all three.  That will be critical as the team will have to replace Durant’s 32.2 usage rate, but also Serge Ibaka’s 17.3 usage rate and Dion Waiters 17.7 rate.  The hope for fantasy owners is his across the board statistics will go up with teams focusing all of their energy to stopping Westbrook.  He'll also get a chance to run the offense against bench units for those short stretches when Westbrook is sitting out. Because of his skill set a top 15 ranking is not out of the question for Oladipo if Billy Donovan can work him into the Thunder lineup.


Nikola Jokic (C, DEN)

Unlike Oladipo and Antetokounmpo who are already somewhat known commodities locked into big roles, the young Jokic of the Nuggets is more of a gamble with tremendous upside.  In his rookie year, the Serbian big man posted a pedestrian stat like of 10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.6 blocks per game.  However, it is important to notice those numbers came in just 21.7 minutes per game.  If you extrapolate those numbers to a per 36-minute basis you see a future star at 16.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks.  Those stats put him right on course with a player such as Marc Gasol a few seasons ago when he was an early second round pick and a consensus top 20 player in all formats.

Also encouraging for players in rotisserie leagues is that despite being a 20-year-old rookie, Jokic had a sparkling 51.2% field goal percentage and an elite 81.1% rate from the free throw line.  This season he should be expected to jump near the 30 minute per game line with a likelihood of seeing a huge jump in his 21.0 usage rate from his rookie campaign.  His preseason ranking on Yahoo! has already shot up from 48 to 25 over the course of about a week.  It looks like the Nuggets are committed to getting him plenty of minutes.  Even if he is limited to around 25 minutes, his percentages and solid defensive numbers drastically decrease the chances he has a bust season, while if he gets more minutes he has top 15 upside.


Dennis Schroder (PG, ATL)

Like Jokic, Schroder comes into this season as a bit of an unknown to the larger public but has huge upside to be a fantasy star.  The move that may unleash the German guard on the NBA is the trade of veteran point guard Jeff Teague to Indiana.  Entering his fourth season in the NBA, Schroeder will finally get a chance to start and play big minutes.  Last season in just six starts he put up a respectable 13.7 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.8 rebounds.  Those numbers should be easily attainable with the loss of not only Teague but also stalwart Al Horford to Boston.

Schoder’s per 36 counting stat numbers are similar to a top 36 pick with 19.5 points, 7.8 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals.  Those numbers would put him right in line with the like of Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving in terms of production.  The one down side to his game will be a high turnover rate and shooting percentage around 40%.  You can easily build around those deficiencies in head-to-head leagues, but they could cap his upside in roto leagues.


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (SG/SF, BKN)

While he's now up to a much higher draft price than he was in early drafts (currently pre-ranked at 81 on Yahoo! after starting at 337), it's still worth singling out this highly talented young wing from Brooklyn.  Hollis-Jefferson’s numbers from last year are nothing to behold as he only played 29 games due to injury and posted just 5.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.  However, the second year wing should see a huge uptick in production on what may be the worst team in the NBA.  The team traded away veterans Thad Young and Joe Johnson last season to make room for the Arizona product.

With the likes of Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez around, he will not contribute a ton in terms of scoring, but he has per 36 minute totals of 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks from last season.  If you are looking for a high upside contributor across the board, defensive minded young players such as Hollis-Jefferson and Justice Winslow are drastically being undervalued in fantasy leagues.  They'll provide a solid base in "hustle" stats while they have the capacity to make a leap offensively that could pay dividends on your draft investment.


By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.