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Three Forgotten NBA Players To Keep An Eye On For 2023-24

We're getting closer to the start of the new NBA season. While fantasy managers are beginning to prepare their shortlists, some players are flying under the radar, both by the media and by the fans.

These guys are all players who are trying to prove themselves to their squads, as the NBA is getting more and more competitive with each passing year. These players have some slight flaws that are holding them back from truly breaking out, and there's a lot of hope that the flaws could be fixed this season.

With that in mind, this article will look at three forgotten players to keep an eye on for this upcoming season. That doesn't mean that you have to draft them right now, all we're saying is: remember their names, just in case.

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#3. Shake Milton, PG/SG - Minnesota Timberwolves

All Shake Milton ever wanted was consistent playing time. Coming out of SMU, teams knew that Milton had a nice-looking jumper and intriguing physical tools (7’0.75” wingspan). But they were concerned with his lack of aggressiveness, age, and ability to finish at the rim.

Now a five-year NBA vet, Milton has turned that final weakness into a big strength. His FG% at the rim has improved dramatically, and he is one the best finishers at the rim amongst perimeter bench players.

Milton had to wait a while until the Sixers gave him a chance, but he blossomed into a great rotational piece after a 27-point night against Atlanta. He followed that up with a 39-point game against the Clippers and averaged 19.4 points per game in the seven games before the NBA's restart in the bubble.

Milton got off to a great start but several minor knee and ankle injuries slowed him down. He still was a solid piece capable of star-level play, as he averaged 20.4 PPG in the nine games where he played 29 to 36 minutes. After another solid start in 2021-22, he was struck by a back injury that kept him out of action for a month. He was reduced to playing just 17.7 minutes a night after his recovery.

His role with the squad was inconsistent in 2022-23, as he averaged 20.3 PPG as a starter, but many games with very few minutes hurt his season averages. He barely even played in the playoffs, as he compiled just 21 minutes in six games, a far cry from his 126 minutes in four playoff games in 2020.

Milton then signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Timberwolves in the offseason, and they will provide him with exactly what he needs: a fresh start. He'll be brought in to replace Jaylen Nowell and even step in and be a reliable starter when the stars get hurt. He has played PG, SF, and even a little bit of PF in his career with Philly to go along with SG, his main position.

Milton can be a Swiss army knife type of player with Minny who can give him a way more consistent role than Philadelphia did. All he has ever done when given the opportunity is produce, so hopefully he can be a reliable contributor to this Timberwolves squad.


#2. Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C - Atlanta Hawks

Onyeka Okongwu might have been initially overshadowed as part of the legendary 2015-16 Chino Hills roster which had Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball, and LiAngelo Ball. He shined as the Ball brothers gradually moved on from the school, as he went from averaging 9.6 PPG in 2015-16 to averaging 23.8 PPG as a senior. He graduated as a five-star recruit (ESPN) and committed to the USC Trojans, where he quickly turned around a 16-17 team into a 22-9 contender.

Most scouts projected that Okongwu would become a starter right off the bat, and there were a lot of high hopes that the Hawks would replace Clint Capela with the younger Okongwu. But here we are, heading into the fourth year of Okongwu's NBA career. It still hasn't happened yet.

Okongwu has some holes in his game, most notably his three-point shot and his fouling tendencies. The latter is probably the main reason why he isn't starting. There have been many bigs across NBA history who have shown immense talent off the bench but never got starter minutes due to their high foul rates.

But Okongwu's Per 36 foul numbers have declined every season since he entered the league, and is now sitting at 4.9. His three-point attempts also went up in the final few games of the season, as he went 2-5 from deep in his last four games compared to 2-11 in his previous 174 games. With him entering a contract year, there's no reason to think why he couldn't keep up the improvement in those areas.

Another thing to consider is that the Hawks are starting to see diminishing returns with Capela, whose VORP has steadily decreased every year since becoming a Hawk. He posted a negative Plus/Minus Net Per 100 Possessions for the second time in his career (-1.7). The last time he did that, he got traded. Maybe his time could be up soon. Okongwu averaged a +3.4 in that category and his other advanced stats are almost identical to Capela's.

With rumblings that Trae Young could go to the Lakers, maybe the Hawks decide to get younger and free themselves from this mediocre roster. Or maybe they keep Young and decide to start Okongwu and the team takes a big leap? Either way, Okongwu has a good chance of proving his worth in this make-or-break year.


#1. Zach Collins, PF/C - San Antonio Spurs

Zach Collins has battled injury issues throughout his entire career, but it didn't use to be like this. Collins was a very durable player before entering the NBA, as he played in every game of his freshman season in college. Despite being the seventh man off the bench on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, he quickly caught the attention of many scouts due to his advanced stats (31 PER and 10.6 BPM) and sweet shooting stroke. His squad made it all the way to the National Championship Game but lost to UNC.

After that, he declared for the draft, as lottery teams were enamored by his potential although he was considered a project player. He was drafted by the Kings and traded to Portland on draft night. He started his career in Portland playing almost no meaningful minutes in his first two seasons before being named the starter for his junior campaign.

Collins put up some very respectable numbers in his first three games but went down with an injury that would have ended his season under normal circumstances. But since this is the infamous 2020 season we're talking about, he came back during the bubble.

Collins had a Plus/Minus Net Per 100 Possessions of +8.9 that year. You can definitely see why if you see the team's record with (8-3) and without him (27-36). He then suffered an ankle injury, which kept him out for the playoffs. He had to get surgery, which cost him the entirety of the next season.

He then signed a three-year, $22 million contract with the Spurs, and spent most of 2021-22 rehabbing. After the long rehab process, he finally got the chance to show what he was made of, as he put up 9.5 points per night while playing behind Jakob Poeltl. During that time, he had a stretch where he went 3-18 from three. Gregg Popovich made him stop shooting threes for a while, but he regained his trust after the Spurs traded Poeltl back to the Raptors.

Collins shined, averaging 16.5 points and eight boards while shooting 49.4% from the floor and 39.2% from deep. For the first time since November 2019, Collins is completely healthy and is producing well. Despite the addition of Victor Wembenyama to the Spurs' frontcourt, he is expected to be starting alongside him.

If you're playing for Pop, he's gonna test you. If you don't answer the call, you'll no longer be in his plans. Thankfully, Collins earned Pop's trust, so there's a chance that he'll do big things this year.

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