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Five Bounce-Back NBA Players For 2023 Fantasy Basketball

Mikal Bridges - NBA DFS Lineup Picks, Daiy Fantasy Basketball

Narratives dominate the mainstream NBA media, particularly when discussing the league MVP. However, regarding who wins the Most Improved Player award, typically, it simply boils down to increased numbers, precisely points per game.

At RotoBaller, we have pinpointed five players to whom we expect bounce-back campaigns in the 2023-2024 season.

Unfortunately, injuries occur frequently in the world of professional sports. That said, players returning from injury didn't qualify for this exercise. Nonetheless, with a healthy mix of player roles listed, each listed player has a legitimate chance at making a difference on your fantasy team.

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Mikal Bridges, SG/SF - Brooklyn Nets

Steve Carell's role in The Office was outstanding. Many people think of The Office as the best sitcom of all time. However, Carell had more depth than many expected from a comedic actor who played a fictional paper company's zany middle manager. Nominated for an Oscar in 2015, Carell more than proved his range. Mikal Bridges has the same opportunity with the Brooklyn Nets.

After 365 games as a key role player on the Phoenix Suns, Bridges seized an opportunity by his inclusion into the blockbuster Kevin Durant trade. Wasting no time, Bridges scored 45 points three games into his Brooklyn tenure. Although Bridges didn't have a down 2022-2023 campaign by any means, the Villanova alum is likely for an All-Star bid in 2024.

Usage has much to do with Bridges' case for a bounce-back qualification. In the 27 regular season games for Brooklyn, Bridges posted a career-high 30.3 usage percentage, averaging 26 points on .607 true shooting.

No one on Brooklyn's roster will post such efficient numbers. Ben Simmons isn't reliable, despite the multiple shirtless workout videos surfacing on X (formerly known as Twitter). Spencer Dinwiddie is a decent second option but is likely best as the third on a team seeking a playoff berth. The rest of Brooklyn's roster consists of veteran role players and unproven prospects. Unless Sean Marks tries his chances with a third disgruntled star, Bridges, undoubtedly, is the guy moving forward in Brooklyn.


Karl-Anthony Towns, PF/C - Minnesota Timberwolves

International basketball is filled with joy and passion by the athlete and the fan. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves production created a specific negative emotion for Minnesota's 2022-2023 season. Yes, the feeling had a dose of passion, but disappointment played a significant role in Minnesota's eight-seed finish so much that punches were thrown courtside between Minnesota teammates.

Fast-forward to the present time, and Towns' emotions are healthy following the shocking 3-0 start from the Dominican Republic National FIBA team. Towns explained why Nestor Garcia (Che), the head coach of the Dominican Republic National team, plays a huge factor in the team's success:

"I think Che is one of the best coaches in the world. You know, I am around a lot of amazing coaches in the NBA -- some of the winningest coaches in the world, some of the best coaches ever. A great coach is a coach who gets the most out of his players and makes those players every day come to work, come to practice, and come to the game with a smile on their faces. Che always finds a way to do that."

Towns is happy again. Playing for his National team seems to have melted any negative energy surrounding Towns. Aside from happiness, drive, and determination exudes from Towns when speaking of his prideful participation with the Dominican Republic National team.

After missing 53 games due to a strained calf (Grade Three strain), the self-proclaimed "best shooting big in NBA history" made such a claim laughable. This was due to his 25 percent shooting from deep and 75 percent from the charity stripe during the opening round of the postseason.

Now, with the pride of leading a humble team to glowing heights, Towns has the aura of someone who wants to win regardless of the cost. Minnesota has a young leader in Anthony Edwards, but Towns needs to buy in and consistently produce without hurting the team. In fairness to Towns', if his approach to the FIBA tournament carries over, the Dominican Republic star will turn a new leaf in Minnesota. Missing the All-Star game this season seems out of the question for the rejuvenated Towns.


Tobias Harris, SF/PF - Philadelphia 76ers

When one conjures thoughts of an NBA journeyman, $248.5 million career earning doesn't come to mind. However, Tobias Harris stands as the exception. Before you exit the article, consider the logic. The Philadelphia 76ers, with James Harden on the cusp of playing for China of his own accord, have problems. Joel Embiid desperately needs help, and Harris has a history of borderline-carrying playoff teams.

Despite averaging his lowest scoring mark since the 2015-2016 season, Harris has a shot at one lost long-term contract. Historically, the contract year provides intangible powers to players seeking another parking lot of cash. As Harden's future with the Sixers is as done as a well-done steak, 14 points per contest from Harris will bury the Sixers' position as an Eastern Conference contender.

Without the signature Darryl Morey move left to improve the team, Harris represents Philadelphia's chances of staying afloat in a fleeting title contention window. Don't let Harris' underperforming narrative completely take the wheel, though. The 12-year, elite journeyman produced an efficient shooting campaign.

Posting a career-high .602 true shooting percentage last season, Harris showcased more with less, indicative of the 11.4 field goals attempted per contest. While the lucrative journeyman won't make the 2024 All-Star game, expect an uptick in scoring. Ultimately, Harris must use the powers of the contract year to keep "The Process" from crumbling.


Fred VanVleet, PG - Houston Rockets

Fred VanVleet is a leader. On the court and off the court, the 2019 NBA champion carries himself as such. Unfortunately, VanVleet's intangible qualities didn't amount to much last season. In a contract year for a team in which he spent seven seasons, the Wichita State alum played below-average basketball.

Despite VanVleet's All-Star achievement the previous season, the Toronto Raptors again couldn't get over the hump. They seemingly slipped into a rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2023. Starting over with VanVleet as a constant professional appeared the move for the Raptors moving forward. However, Masai Ujiri felt otherwise, allowing VanVleet to earn a three-year, $130-million deal with the tired-of-tanking Houston Rockets.

VanVleet is a professional and self-aware player. He knows last season didn't go well. Similar to Toronto, the Rockets have a green roster. But unlike Toronto, Houston's playoff drought expands to three consecutive seasons.

Despite signing to a terrible team, VanVleet has a few things working in his corner. As Ime Udoko sets to coach the young roster, the former Boston Celtics head coach has a history of getting the best out of his young players. VanVleet won't need to stomach the entire leadership burden as he did in Toronto.

Jalen Green will benefit from VanVleet's presence and vice versa. Green hasn't had a teammate like VanVleet. Green's inefficient start to his professional career led to another down year in Houston. Desperately needing a veteran point guard, Green has a chance at playing a more naturally flowing game with a point guard inclined to involve his teammates.

Likewise, VanVleet knows his job in Houston. Lead the team but also help grow the younger prospects. While Van Vleet's points per game number won't see a dramatic ascension, the shooting metrics will rise.


Jordan Poole, PG/SG - Washington Wizards

No one else in the league has a higher potential for a bounce-back campaign than Jordan Poole. What happened to him this past summer personified sports: Being right in a dispute doesn't mean much if you are the lesser player.

Without rehashing the all-too-well-documented practice footage, Poole's behavior among the Golden State Warriors dynasty nucleus ultimately led to his exile to the Washington Wizards. Sent to the opposite side of the country, playing for a team with as much pressure as a popped volleyball, Poole's redemption story has major legs.

Admittedly, Steve Kerr allowed Poole room for some heat-check moments. This included his Game 1 performance vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 2023 postseason. However, without the pressure of the highly esteemed veterans, Poole can unleash his adventurous offense. In no way did the Warriors hinder Poole's game, evident in his 20-point average for last season, but the Michigan alum has more to offer regarding fantasy play.

Although the Wizards won't finish the 2023-2024 campaign as a playoff contender or even a pretender, Poole will provide a much-needed surge to their offense. Put it on the books: Poole won't pull any punches with his offensive repertoire, leading to higher counting stats.

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