NBA Draft Kit: 10 Players under $10

NBA Draft Kit: 10 Players under $10

Finding value is important in all drafts, but it's easier to target specific players in auction leagues, where you don't have to worry about someone getting sniped before your next pick. 

Most auction leagues provide $200 worth of salary, and saving some money left over to take advantage of late discounts is crucial. Many fantasy owners blow a significant portion of their money in the early going trying to either secure an elite talent or several of their "guys".

By staying patient, plenty of value can fall into your lap, especially as lengthy auctions wear on. In most leagues, the following players should occupy less than five percent of your budget -- $10 in a $200 auction --  but easily have top-100, or even top-75, upside.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder

Gilgeous-Alexander's overall numbers as a rookie with the Clippers were solid, and likely indicative of future success, but they weren't overwhelming. He was especially valuable as a defender, averaging 1.1 steals in 26.5 minutes per game. While he ranked just outside of the top-130 for the whole season, Gilgeous-Alexander was trusted more by coach Doc Rivers down the stretch. Over his final 13 appearances, he ranked as the 60th-best fantasy player on the back of 14.8 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and a combined 2.1 steals/blocks. 

Now with the Thunder, it's tough to gauge how exactly SGA's role will develop while sharing the backcourt with Chris Paul. OKC is rebuilding, but all indications are that Paul will step into

Finding value is important in all drafts, but it's easier to target specific players in auction leagues, where you don't have to worry about someone getting sniped before your next pick. 

Most auction leagues provide $200 worth of salary, and saving some money left over to take advantage of late discounts is crucial. Many fantasy owners blow a significant portion of their money in the early going trying to either secure an elite talent or several of their "guys".

By staying patient, plenty of value can fall into your lap, especially as lengthy auctions wear on. In most leagues, the following players should occupy less than five percent of your budget -- $10 in a $200 auction --  but easily have top-100, or even top-75, upside.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder

Gilgeous-Alexander's overall numbers as a rookie with the Clippers were solid, and likely indicative of future success, but they weren't overwhelming. He was especially valuable as a defender, averaging 1.1 steals in 26.5 minutes per game. While he ranked just outside of the top-130 for the whole season, Gilgeous-Alexander was trusted more by coach Doc Rivers down the stretch. Over his final 13 appearances, he ranked as the 60th-best fantasy player on the back of 14.8 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and a combined 2.1 steals/blocks. 

Now with the Thunder, it's tough to gauge how exactly SGA's role will develop while sharing the backcourt with Chris Paul. OKC is rebuilding, but all indications are that Paul will step into the role he's occupied for the vast majority of his career: controlling the offense as a methodical, high-usage point guard. That doesn't bode well for Gilgeous-Alexander's assist rate, but he's shown enough upside as a defender and three-point shooter (36.7% on 139 attempts) to imply that he'll function productively off the ball.

Furthermore, Paul has a lengthy injury history that's grown more and more troublesome with each passing year. Considering he's missed at least 21 games in each of the last three seasons, it's no longer a matter of if Paul gets hurt, but when. On top of that, the front office won't be hesitant to deal the 34-year-old in the event the right deal arises. When Paul misses games, or if he's ultimately dealt, Gilgeous-Alexander would be the obvious choice to take over as the full-time starter at point guard. After making a name for himself as a rookie, Gilgeous-Alexander is not exactly a sleeper, and he's no guarantee to fall below the $10 threshold -- but if he does, don't hesitate to pull the trigger.

Nicolas Batum, Hornets

Batum is coming off of his worst fantasy season since 2009-10, finishing as the 105th-ranked player. He took a backseat offensively to the likes of Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, launching just 7.5 shots per game and handing out a eight-year-low 3.3 assists per contest. But he showed flashes of his former self in January and February, averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and a combined 2.1 steals/blocks across a 25-game sample. Those numbers vaulted him to a rank of 49 over that period.

With Walker and Lamb out of the picture, Batum could, by default, be forced into a bigger offensive role -- especially if Terry Rozier isn't as ready as the Hornets hope/pray he is. We can't expect Batum to be a top-50 player -- though he did reach that mark just three years ago -- but there's some clear upside on a Hornets team devoid of talented playmakers -- or simply playmakers in general. The longer-term concern is that, once the Hornets inevitably fall out of contention in the East, coach James Borrego might heavily favor younger players. Even if that's true, the Hornets don't have an overwhelming amount of young talent, and considering their investment in Batum -- nearly 53 million American dollars over the next two seasons -- parking him on the bench wouldn't be a great look.

Lonzo Ball, Pelicans

Ball's NBA career has gotten off to a less-than-ideal start, especially on the health front. He's played just 99 games across his first two seasons, and he recently admitted that the Big Baller Brand shoes he played in were so poorly made that he had to change them every quarter. Tough to say if that played any role in his recurring knee and ankle injuries. We'll never know.

Putting aside the possibility that what's standing between Ball and his potential as a professional athlete is wearing shoes he doesn't like, he's shown upside in his limited action. During his rookie year, he ranked as the 59th-best fantasy player in 34.2 minutes per game. And while his usage dipped, as expected, after the arrival of LeBron James to the Lakers last season, he still put together top-80 numbers in his 24 combined December and January appearances.

In joining the rebuilding Pelicans, Ball will have an opportunity for a much-needed fresh start. He's the expected starter at point guard, and could mean a 30-plus-minute-per-night role next to Jrue Holiday. While Holiday will presumably do a fair share of playmaking himself, Ball's ability to rack up supplementary stats should ensure him a high fantasy floor, as he's averaging 6.9 rebounds and 2.5 combined steals/blocks per 36 minutes for his career. If he can improve his shooting even a little bit, and retain a solid assist rate, a breakout season is well within reach.

Kent Bazemore, Trail Blazers

With the Hawks, Bazemore started off the 2018-19 season strong, averaging 14.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals/blocks in 27.6 minutes across his first 34 games -- good for a rank of 56th overall. But he suffered an ankle injury mid-season which forced him to miss 14 straight contests. After that, his role and production suffered, and he finished the season as the 146th-ranked player.

Prior to his injury, Bazemore was en route to his third top-75 finish in four seasons. Now with the Blazers, Bazemore has a chance at reaching that threshold again. Aside from Bazemore, Portland's wing depth is thin, featuring only Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja as alternative options. The result may be Bazemore getting nearly 30 minutes per game at shooting guard and small forward. Plus, any missed time by Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum, while rare, would force Bazemore into a bigger role.

Miles Bridges, Hornets

Prior to March, Bridges saw just 19.2 minutes per game. But once it was obvious that the Hornets were out of the playoff race, he was given an expanded role. Over his final 13 appearances, the rookie averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and a combined 2.1 steals/blocks in 32.2 minutes. It's a small sample size, but those numbers were good enough to secure a rank of 61st over that period.

Bridges' role should only expand this season following the departures of Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb. Fantasy owners do have a right to question if Bridges is ready for a high-volume role considering he took just 10.8 shots per 36 minutes last season, but he shot an impressive 51.2 percent from the field in the 11 games in which he took double-digit shot attempts, and he also averaged 1.5 made threes during those games. At the very least, Bridges could mold into a nice three-and-D option who picks and chooses when to attack the basket with his athleticism.

Alex Len, Hawks

For most of last season, Len averaged fewer than 19 minutes per game and wasn't fantasy-relevant. But with Dewaynde Dedmon dealing with injuries late in the year, more action opened up for Len. From March onward, Len saw 24.4 minutes per game, and he turned that into 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks in 26.0 minutes during his final six appearances.

With Dedmon now in Sacramento, all signs are pointing toward Len starting at center next season, as the Hawks are committed to the idea of John Collins as a power forward. Atlanta's center depth is suspect, at best, with just Damian Jones and rookie Bruno Fernando behind Len. That could lead to Len pushing close to 30 minutes on a regular basis. If that comes to fruition, he could be in line for a breakout campaign. For his career, Len has averaged 15.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 assists in the 44 games in which he's played 30-plus minutes. That represents his absolute ceiling for next season, but he's in the best position of his career to succeed.

Caris LeVert, Nets

LeVert has a significant injury history, appearing in just 168 games through his first three seasons. But before suffering a dislocated right foot 14 games into last season, LeVert was playing the best basketball of his career. He averaged 19.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 30.7 minutes, ranking as the 69th-best fantasy player over that stretch. LeVert eventually returned from the injury in early February, but it took him a while to get acclimated again. Eventually he did, and he posted 17.9 points, 3.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals over his final 13 games, which includes five playoff games against the 76ers.

The acquisition of Kyrie Irving doesn't help LeVert's cause, but he was clearly able to mesh with another high-usage point guard in D'Angelo Russell. And the Nets are low on dynamic scorers and playmakers -- there's an argument that, outside of Irving, LeVert is the next-best option. Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, Rodions Kurucs, Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan can all score, but generally, someone needs to feed them the ball to do so. LeVert will be especially valuable if Irving and/or Spencer Dinwiddie miss time due to injury, and they both have a history.

Hassan Whiteside, Trail Blazers

Whiteside's fantasy stock has been declining since its peak in 2015-16. That season, Whiteside played 29.1 minutes per game and was the 15th-ranked overall fantasy player. However, his production started slipping as he lost favor with coach Erik Spoelstra, and Whiteside finished the next three years ranked 28th, 48th and 106th, respectively. He lost his starting job in March of last season to Bam Adebayo but was still only on pace to be ranked 89th prior to that. Ultimately, Whiteside finished the season averaging 12.9 points, 12.3 rebounds and combined 2.9 blocks/steals in 25.4 minutes across 53 starts.

In need of a replacement for the injured Jusuf Nurkic, the Trail Blazers traded for Whiteside, and he's expected to start at center. Portland's frontcourt depth is extremely thin -- Zach Collins, Pau Gasol, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, Skal Labissiere -- so there's a great chance Whiteside will be leaned upon more than he has over the past couple seasons. He's also in a contract year, which is always a motivating factor. This is a perfect opportunity for him to rehab his fantasy value, which means owners should be willing to take the gamble if the asking price is less than double-digit dollars.

Serge Ibaka, Raptors

Toronto's acquisition of Marc Gasol pushed Ibaka out of the starting lineup on most nights and, ultimately, into a smaller role. That persisted throughout the playoffs, with Ibaka garnering only 20.8 minutes per game during the Raptors' run to the title. So the lasting image we have of Ibaka from last season is that of a declining player whose role was decreased when it mattered most.

But a lot is changing. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are gone, creating question marks on the wing and at forward for the Raptors. Aside from Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, the most reliable depth at those spots is Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby. The latter two would certainly not be considered reliable in a vacuum.

As a result, we may see Siakam play more small forward and Ibaka play more power forward in an effort to maximize the best-available talent. While Ibaka spent 97% of his minutes at center last season, that was fueled by team construction that no longer exists. He actually spent 87% of his minutes at power forward during his first full year in Toronto. Plus, the Raptors don't have a reliable backup center, so Ibaka should still see plenty of action there, too. The result should be an increased role for Ibaka, possibly one that sees him top 30 minutes per game. He's never finished worse than the 67th-ranked player when averaging 30-plus minutes in a given season.

Gary Harris, Nuggets

Last season was another campaign derailed by injuries for Harris, who is averaging just 64.2 games played since becoming a true starter four years ago. He appeared in only 57 games (48 starts) in 2018-19, seeing just 28.8 minutes per game while the Nuggets attempted to ease him back into a role late in the year. Mike Malone let Harris loose in the playoffs, handing him 36.9 minutes per game, in which he averaged an encouraging 14.2 points (46.2 FG%, 35.1 3P%), 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and a combined 1.5 steals/blocks. Ultimately, though, fantasy owners who drafted Harris got a player who ranked outside the top 160.

The constant injuries have tanked Harris' value, but he has a real history of being a top-80 player. He was ranked 79th in his 18 games before injury last season, 65th in 2016-17, and a fantastic 39th just two seasons ago, when he averaged 17.5 points, 2.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 2.3 threes and 1.8 steals.

Injuries aside, fantasy owners have a right to be concerned that the Nuggets' depth means they'll never have to rely on Harris as much as they did in 2017-18. Maybe he'll remain in a role where he sees minutes in the upper-20s every night, while Malik Beasley, Will Barton, Torrey Craig and Michael Porter Jr. get opportunities. But the four-year, $84 million extension Harris signed in October of 2017 suggests the Nuggets believe in him as the ideal third option behind Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Taking a gamble on a major Harris bounceback is well worth it if you can snag him for around $5.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Barutha
Alex is RotoWire's Chief NBA Editor. He writes articles about daily fantasy, year-long fantasy and sports betting. You can hear him on the RotoWire NBA Podcast, Sirius XM, VSiN and other platforms. He firmly believes Robert Covington is the most underrated fantasy player of the past decade.
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