With the last week of the season here, let's scrap the usual format and look at players who could be "Under The Radar" for next season. We'll examine players who have seen their stocks rise and should be taken significantly higher in next year's drafts. These are players who won't be forgotten in next year's drafts but could still come at a discount, being more difficult to rank. All of these players improved this year as the season progressed, and if they can continue that success they'll be part of a lot of championship fantasy teams. If nothing else, revisit this list and see what developments have taken place before you draft next season.
Klay Thompson, G, GS - Believe it or not, if you go back to the first column of the season I listed Thompson as a "really under the radar" candidate. The rookie has made the trade of Monta Ellis look smart as he's filled in admirably, especially recently. Thompson has strung together three consecutive 24-plus point performances and is averaging 18.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.4 three-pointers made and 1.4 steals in 10 April games. Throw in he's shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 87 percent from the charity stripe and you have an extremely valuable fantasy option. There will be more mouths to feed in the Golden State offense when Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut return, but Thompson should carve out a role as the third scoring option for the offense. Keep him in mind if you're looking for three-pointers in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts next season.
Goran Dragic, G, HOU - The bacterial infection to Kyle Lowry may have been a blessing in disguise for the Rockets. Had that not happened, it's likely Dragic would have kept his backup role for the season and would not have been given the opportunity to be one of the best point guards in the Association for six weeks. Dragic turns just 26 in a couple of weeks and has a double-digit scoring streak of 23 games in the works. While the Rockets fight for a playoff spot in the West, Dragic has averaged 20 points, 7.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals in April. It probably doesn't make a lot of sense to carry both Kyle Lowry and Dragic next season, and it's hard not to think both should be starting somewhere in the league. Keep an eye on any moves the Rockets make in the offseason (likely to address the frontcourt) before determining the value of the two point guards.
Kevin Seraphin, F, WAS - While Nene Hilario and Trevor Booker have both been sidelined with their respective injuries, Seraphin has had plenty of opportunity to show his upside on the court. Ironically, he helped lead the Wizards over the Eastern League-leading Bulls on Monday night (minus Derrick Rose), the very team who originally drafted him. At 6-foot-9, he has the ability to play either center or power forward and should remain in the starting five next season even if everyone is healthy. Seraphin is averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds this month and has been impressive as a shot blocker. He has 21 blocks in his last six games and is shooting 53.1 percent from the field for the season. Someone will get minutes in the paint for Washington next season and Seraphin has shown enough talent to stake a claim to that time.
Brandon Knight, G, DET - A backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight should be the way the Pistons open up next season. The Kentucky product and 2011 eighth overall pick is only 20 and likely hasn't come close to filling his potential on the court. He's shot the ball much better after struggling from the field earlier this season. In January, he shot only 39.6 and then shot a paltry 37.8 percent in March. However, he's drastically improved his shot selection and boasts a 49.4-percent mark this month despite attempting 3.8 three-pointers per game. His 37.9 percent from three-point land bodes well for future fantasy success as does the 22 assists recorded over his last three games. Keep him in mind next season once the top-15 point guards are off the board.
Arron Afflalo, G, DEN - Afflalo has taken his game to a whole other level this season and will be one of the bigger reasons if the Nuggets make the playoffs. The guard out of UCLA has posted career numbers almost across the board with 15.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He's shot at least 46 percent from the floor in each of the last three seasons and has been unstoppable in April. For the month he's averaging 20.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists while hitting 47.2 percent of his threes and 51.5 percent from the floor. The five-year investment that Denver made with him in December has paid immediate dividends.
MarShon Brooks, G, NJ - Brooks has had something of an inconsistent season, which shouldn't be surprising considering he's a rookie. Brooks has had to battle for playing time with teammates despite showing a more complete game. He's played much better recently, averaging 16.8 points, six rebounds, four assists and 1.3 steals over his last six games. Always known as a scorer, it's nice to see Brooks contributing in other categories as well. It's hard to predict what is going to happen in New Jersey with a lot of potential wheeling and dealing in the offseason, but Brooks has a lot of potential if he can find starter's minutes next season.
Paul George, G, IND - First, I'll squelch the rumors that George has taken out a restraining order on me considering the length I've talked about him in this column. The truth remains that he has all the makings of being a perennial All-Star in the league given his skill set. He's scored 4.1 more points per game, grabbed 1.8 more rebounds and dished out 1.2 more assists this season than his rookie campaign. He shoots a respectable 38 percent from beyond the arc and has seven games of at least 20 points this season. George should continue to improve his game next season as a third-year player and take another step in his development.
Avery Bradley, G, BOS - It probably won't surprise you to find that the Celtics "big three" - Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce - will be a combined 108 years old next season. Allen has missed five consecutive games, in part to rest up for the postseason. The problem is Allen is in the final year of his contract with the Celtics, and they have another in-house option at shooting guard if they choose to stick with Bradley. While Allen was part of the trio that brought a title back to Boston, the realization that the page needs to be turned to a younger generation should strike Danny Ainge this offseason. Enter Bradley, who has parlayed his increase in minutes this month into 13.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.9 steals. While those numbers don't jump off the page, remember that Bradley is only in his second year and could have that stat line as his floor and not ceiling next season.
That's it for me this season. Look for my (hopefully) triumphant return a week or two before next basketball season starts, and thanks for reading.
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