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Third-Year Fantasy Basketball Breakouts: The Time Is Now

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.

A lot of star players take a leap in year three, but there are also players who aren't stars but become solid role players in that third season. Anthony Edwards is a candidate to make a "star" leap this season, but the primary focus of this article is on players who underachieved, or missed time with injury, during their first two seasons.

Below are five third-year NBA players who are set to take the next step this upcoming season. These players might not set the world on fire, but I expect them to be contributors in fantasy basketball who can help you in a variety of ways.

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James Wiseman - C - Golden State Warriors

Wiseman didn't play last season because of a knee injury, but the Warriors will probably need him on the court a lot this season after a ton of key players departed after the team's 2022 championship.

Entering this season, Wiseman should begin as the primary backup to Kevon Looney at center, but the former No. 2 overall pick has the upside to emerge as the team's starter.

As a rookie, Wiseman started 27 games and averaged 11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks across 22.6 minutes per game. If he's healthy, he should be able to contribute similar numbers, with the potential for more on the offensive end, since the Warriors aren't going to get much scoring from frontcourt-mate Draymond Green.


Onyeka Okongwu - C - Atlanta Hawks

Last season, Okongwu saw his numbers rise across the board from his rookie campaign: 4.6 to 8.2 points per game, 3.3 to 5.9 rebounds per game and 0.7 to 1.3 blocks per game.

In the eight games where he played at least 25 minutes, Okongwuscored in double figures five times and pulled down at least seven rebounds in each game. He had multiple blocks in four of those—and when I say "multiple," I mean at least three.

The Hawks have something in Okongwu. The scoring might not consistently be there, but he's going to be a good source of blocks and steals this season with a high field goal percentage, and if Clint Capela misses time, Okongwu becomes a must-play player.


Patrick Williams - F - Chicago Bulls

Williams appears set to start at the four for the Bulls this season. That was the role he had to start last season, but a wrist injury knocked him out from October 30th until he returned on March 21st, when he came off the bench initially.

But Williams saw his role grow once he returned, starting the final four games of the regular season and all five of the team's playoff games.

In that playoff loss to Milwaukee, Williams played 30.6 minutes per game, with averages of 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest, as well as 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks. He shot 46.8% from the floor and 33.3% from three, but those efficiency numbers are deflated by a 0-for-9 performance in Game 3. He shot over 50% in three of the five games, and took at least nine shots in each of those three games.

Williams is a great floor-stretching four for this team. If he can continue to show the improvement we saw late in the season, he's in for a big year.


Josh Green - G/F - Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks had a disappointing offseason. Jalen Brunson left for the Knicks and...that was about it. JaVale McGee joined the team, but that doesn't help fill the new void that Brunson's departure creates.

The Mavs will need someone to step up to provide the team with guard/wing depth, and one of the only players who is really positioned to be that guy is Josh Green.

Green played 67 games last season and averaged 15.5 minutes per game. He shot 50.8% from the floor and 35.9% from three, finishing with averages of 4.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.

Those numbers are obviously not fantasy-relevant, but if we scale up Green's usage, I think we get somewhere. In games where he played between 20 and 29 minutes, he averaged 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 41.7% from the floor. That was on a 14.6% usage rate.

If Green ends up being used as often off the bench as it looks like Dallas will have to use him, he'll contribute some decent numbers.


Aleksej Pokusevski - F - Oklahoma City Thunder

Poku was the player I most debated putting in this article. He's a prime candidate for the forthcoming follow up to this article, which focuses on third-year players who won't break out.

But sometimes, you have to put your foot down on a player. Poku was so interesting when he was drafted, but seemed to be very much a "year away from being a year away" kind of guy. Well...the 2022-23 season would be that "year away from being a year away" season.

Poku was really, really bad as a rookie, shooting 34.1% from the floor. Last year, that improved to 40.8%, though his overall scoring dipped from 8.2 points per game down to 7.6.

But over his final 15 games, there was a notable uptick in raw numbers. Poku played 29.6 minutes per game, averaging 12.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. There were signs that Poku was starting to become the player OKC drafted. And with Chet Holmgren set to miss his rookie season, Poku should see a lot of minutes on this struggling Thunder team.

If he can finally find some consistency from three, Poku will be an intriguing fantasy option, even if he's still a bit of a flawed player who still needs to bulk up more.

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