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The role of big men in today’s NBA is as fluid as ever, and though the need for a traditional ground and pound big man has been minimized with the emphasis on three-point shooting and being versatile defensively, having a productive big man could be the deciding factor that gets you over the hump.
The last three NBA champions, the Bucks, Lakers, and Raptors have all had productive bigs or players that essentially functioned as bigs, i.e your Giannis Antetokounmpo for this year’s Bucks squad. To go back even further, the Warriors’ use of Draymond Green as a small-ball five-man really began to change the narrative as far as the role of the big man and what was actually important to playing winning basketball.
In fantasy hoops, similar to the real NBA, having the right big man is key and can be the difference between you winning or losing your league. So with that being said, today we will be highlighting some big men, who you might want to avoid on draft day. In the past few week’s I have given you some breakout players at every position and this week we will wrap up our trilogy on busts, so you should have everything you need to take your league by storm on draft day.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at some big men who you might want to avoid on draft day this season.
Enes Kanter- Boston Celtics
Kanter is back for his second stint in Boston after spending the 2019-2020 season in Celtic green before spending last year in Portland. Last season was one of Kanter’s best seasons in the NBA as he averaged 11.2 points on a career-best 60.4% shooting from the floor with 11.0 rebounds, which also tied a career-best. Kanter also played all 72 games, the third time in his career that he has played every single regular-season game.
The reason that I am a bit hesitant about Kanter in Boston is because of the way that the Celtics’ depth chart looks at the center position. Robert Williams is in line to start at Center so long as he is healthy, and Al Horford will likely be next in line behind Williams. After that, you get to Kanter as the third center, but if Horford gets some minutes at power forward, which he could and likely will in some lineups, this will give Kanter more minutes. You also still have Juancho Hernangomez, who the Celtics acquired in free agency, who will also compete for minutes down low.
In Kanter’s previous stint with Boston, Kanter played just 16.9 minutes per game and averaged 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. This time around, the Celtics will have more frontcourt depth so it would not surprise me to see his numbers drop even lower this season.
Paul Millsap- Brooklyn Nets
Millsap was once an All-Star in four consecutive seasons in Atlanta from 2013-2017. He then took his talents to Denver, where he has been for the last four seasons and has seen his minutes and his production drop in each of the last four seasons. Millsap will now bring his talents back to the Eastern Conference in Brooklyn, as he will join five other former all-stars on the loaded Nets squad. He will likely back up Kevin Durant at power forward on most occasions, but depending on the lineup, he could also see some time at center.
Millsap has seen his point totals decrease in each season since his last All-Star appearance in 2017 and he will join a Brooklyn bench that will also include former all-stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as Bruce Brown, who the Nets used in a pseudo-Draymond Green type of role towards the end of last season. In Denver this past season, Millsap averaged 9.0 points on 47.6% shooting from the floor (34.3% from three) with 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 20.8 minutes per game. This was his lowest-scoring season since 2007-2008 when he averaged 8.1 points for Utah in just his second season in the NBA.
Best case scenario for Millsap, he likely will play between 17-20 minutes a game, but due to the abundance of weapons that Brooklyn has, unless some injuries occur, Millsap likely won’t get very many shots. Therefore, I would probably stay away on draft night, and if he starts to put up numbers, he could be an intriguing waiver target, but a lot likely has to go right for that to happen.
Rudy Gay- Utah Jazz
Gay has never had an NBA season where he averaged single digits, but it is probably a safe bet that this season could be his first. Gay has spent the last four seasons in San Antonio, and last season he averaged 11.4 points on 42.0% shooting from the floor (38.1% shooting from three) with 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 21.6 minutes per game. This season though, Gay will be suiting up in Utah with the Jazz, and he will join a solid power forward rotation with Royce O’Neale and Eric Paschall, who Utah acquired from Golden State this offseason. Gay will also see minutes at the small forward spot behind Bojan Bogdanovic.
The reason that I think Gay’s production could see a decent drop, is because I think Eric Paschall could be in for a career year in Utah, as he will be reunited with his longtime friend, and former AAU teammate Donovan Mitchell. Paschall had a solid two-year run in Golden State, where he averaged 12.2 points on 49.7% shooting from the floor (30.1% from three) with 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.4 turnovers over two seasons. Paschall was playing behind Draymond Green in Golden State, but in Utah, Paschall is a better offensive option than Royce O’Neale and will be a younger, more athletic option than the veteran Rudy Gay.
Gay will still get minutes off the bench, but he will likely be less of a factor offensively because of the pieces around him. Jordan Clarkson is coming off of a sixth-man of the year award, Joe Ingles will be in for another productive year, and Hassan Whiteside will be locked into the backup role behind Rudy Gobert. This leaves, Gay, O’Neale, and Paschall to fight for about 50-60 minutes between the three of them, and I think Gay could end up with the short end of the stick mainly just because of father time.
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Daniel Theis- Houston Rockets
The reason that Theis is on this list has less to do with him, and more to do with the additions that the Rockets made via the draft, namely Alperen Sengun, who looked the part of a promising young prospect in Summer League. The Rockets will have a rotation down low that will include Christian Wood, who is coming off of a breakout campaign in 2020-2021, Jae’Sean Tate, who burst onto the scene in his rookie season in the NBA last year, Usman Garuba, who the Rockets also spent a first-round pick on in this year’s NBA Draft, as well as the aforementioned Theis and Sengun.
It is no secret that the Rockets are prioritizing the development of their young players such as Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green, who they selected 2nd overall in this year’s draft. They illustrated this by agreeing to allow former all-star John Wall to be away from the team, as they try to find a trade partner that works for both parties. You always need good veterans around to help to lead the young players on as the season goes on, but as the Rockets hit their inevitable growing pains and bumps in the road, they will surely favor the development of their young bigs such as Wood, Tate, and Sengun over that of Theis, who at this point in his career will surely not be relied on to carry the scoring load at any particular time.
In an interview with Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Theis said that his goal this season is to be a “veteran defensive anchor” for this young Rockets team. Last season, Theis averaged 0.9 blocks and 0.6 steals per game, so this year you might see an increase in those numbers, but Theis at his best averaged just 1.3 blocks and 0.6 steals per game with 6.6 rebounds, so defensively Theis is far from a juggernaut. All in all, Theis will likely be a guy that could warrant a flyer on waivers, but on draft day, there will be tons of better options for big men.
Thaddeus Young- San Antonio Spurs
Thaddeus Young has played 14 NBA seasons and has averaged double-figure points in 13 consecutive seasons. The only season that he did not average double figures was his rookie season in Philadelphia where he averaged just 8.2 points per game in 21.0 minutes. Last season in Chicago, Young averaged 12.1 points on 55.9% shooting from the floor and 26.7% shooting from three with 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, which was a career-high.
Young will now suit up for San Antonio, who is now in full rebuild mode after trading DeMar DeRozan to the Bulls, in the deal that landed Young in silver and black. Similar to Theis in Houston, Young will now be a veteran in a rebuilding situation featuring a lot of younger players in San Antonio. Keldon Johnson is the name that I believe will have the most to do with Young’s drop in production. In his second NBA season, Johnson averaged 12.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 28.5 minutes per game. The thing that I believe will impact Johnson’s development the most will be the time that he spent with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics this past summer. Johnson was named to the USA select team but then was added to the official roster after several players such as Kevin Love and Bradley Beal withdrew for various reasons.
Johnson was able to leave Tokyo with a gold medal and likely a plethora of new knowledge after being around some of the best players in the world such as Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Draymond Green, and many many others. There has been a lot of optimism out of the Spurs’ camp about Johnson’s development and the season that they expect him to have in year three, and I think that if he develops the way many think he will, Thaddeus Young will be the person who is affected the most. Last season though, Young found ways to impact the game as a facilitator, so moving into a situation with Gregg Popovich, it is not unlikely that they could find other ways to use Young, but will that be enough to make him a fantasy factor? Only time will tell.