As we fast approach the start of the 2023-2024 NBA regular season, we are shifting our focus to fantasy basketball drafts. Every year, we take a look at players we like, really like, and dislike. This article isn’t necessarily players I dislike, but players I’m fading at their current ADP’s. I’ve used Underdog Fantasy as a reference point and the players are listed in order of which they’re being drafted. Speaking of Underdog, don't forget to check out some of my 2023 Underdog Fantasy NBA Best Ball Targets. Some of my top fades in this particular article are second and third round picks and others are being selected in the later rounds. Let’s dive into my ten fades of the upcoming fantasy basketball season.
2022-2023 was undoubtedly a leap year for Lauri Markkanen who became a star overnight after taking the keys to the car for the Utah Jazz. He averaged a career-high 25.6 points, 34.4 minutes, and 17.3 shots per game. His three-point volume went up and his rebounding upside got back to where it was early on in his career. All that was great. He was a fantastic fantasy value last year and yet he finished as the 31st overall fantasy scorer. Very good from where he was drafted, but he’s being slotted in around the same mark this year. This year is going to be different for Markkanen and the Jazz. He’s still “the guy” offensively, but Walker Kessler is going to be starting every game, they went out and traded for John Collins and have a healthy back-court of Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson who are score-first players. Markkanen isn’t very sound on defense and doesn’t provide much there and I could see regression in both scoring and rebounding this year. He’s a top-50 player, but I’m not taking him inside the top-30.
The 2022-’23 campaign was the first time in a while Kristaps Porzingis was able to top 60 games played so tip of the cap to him for that, but he enters the season already having gone through plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a nagging injury that will likely cause Porzingis to miss time throughout the year, especially when the team is playing a back-to-back. Going from a Wizards team that constantly had one of it’s top options off the floor last year to a team where he’s clearly playing third wheel to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should cause a slight step back in production as well. There are bigs being drafted after Porzingis with a safer floor and higher ceiling.
I’m not sure it’s coincidence that Rudy Gobert’s first season playing alongside another center resulted in him blocking less than two shots per game for the first time since his rookie season, a season in which he only averaged 9.6 minutes/game in. It was also the first time since the 2017-2018 campaign in which he averaged less than 12 rebounds/game and 14 points/game. Guess what? The Timberwolves are running right back with the same front court as Karl-Anthony Towns is projected to start at power forward alongside Gobert. It was the first time he didn’t finish as a top ten fantasy center since the 2018 campaign and finishing outside of the top 20 this year isn’t out of the question if he remains in Minnesota.
Entering his age-32 season, Khris Middleton's stock is trending down, at least in terms of fantasy basketball. Middleton is entering a season in which he only played 33 games last year and his games played have trended downward in the past couple of seasons. He has remained a 20-point scorer in four of the last six years, but in none of those seasons has Damian Lillard been wearing the same jersey as him. Middleton is now the clear-cut third-scoring option on a team dominated by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Lillard. Lillard’s not only a scorer, however, as he’s averaged seven or more assists in four straight seasons, which COULD also impact Middleton’s assist numbers. I’m out on Middleton in the top 80 picks right now.
It’s not that I think Keldon Johnson couldn’t lead the team in scoring or finish second in scoring, it’s what San Antonio did in the draft that concerns me. I’m not sure if you heard, but they took that Victor Wembanyama guy. Have you heard of him? I think he’s the one that was involved in an altercation with Brittney Spears. Johnson averaged career-highs in points, attempts, and threes last year, but took a step back in rebounds. The problem with Johnson’s fantasy value is he is VERY scoring dependent at times and there’s no reason to think his scoring or rebounding will improve with Wemby in town. He doesn’t contribute essentially anything in defensive numbers either. Devin Vassell enters the year healthy, they re-signed Tre Jones, and have Jeremy Sochan entering year two. This feels like a regression year for Johnson and if that’s the case he will not pay off his ADP.
There are an endless amount of question marks surrounding Miles Bridges entering the 2023-’24 campaign. Obviously, character issues are front and center. He’s also going to miss the first ten games of this year due to a 30-game suspension he’s finishing out. The Hornets drafted Brandon Miller second overall, re-signed P.J. Washington, and have Gordon Hayward healthy coming into the campaign and they’re all direct competition to Bridges. Did Bridges have a career-year in 2021-’22? He did, but there is no guarantee he’s going to step right back into the role he had previous to the damage he inflicted. There are too many unknowns for me to invest in Bridges as early as he’s being drafted.
At last year’s trade deadline, the Knicks went out and acquired Josh Hart and this offseason, they brought in Donte DiVincenzo. 2022-2023 already wasn’t an overall great campaign for Barrett as he took a slight step back in the scoring department and saw his second straight decline in three-point shooting. He rebounded less, assisted less, and provided less than one combined steal/block per game. He’s now done that in back-to-back seasons and as the Knicks add more and more defensive-minded players, that won’t improve. Barrett enters the season as the third-best scorer on a nightly basis while also not contributing defensively. Not sure I’ll have any shares if Barrett’s being taken within the first 80, maybe even 90 picks of drafts.
I wasn’t too keen on drafting Derrick White prior to the Jrue Holiday trade, but the hype behind him did make sense after the Celtics lost Marcus Smart and were likely going to lose Malcolm Brogdon too. At least we were unsure of what Brogdon’s Celtics tenure beyond last season would look like. Now that Jrue Holiday is in town, White is firmly the fifth offensive option on a nightly basis and he’s being drafted within the top 100 on Yahoo and Fantrax he’s in the top 75. Boston is expecting White to be a three-and-D guy for them but has only once shot north of 37% from three in any of his six professional seasons. I’m just unsure what his fantasy value is for a guy who’s likely to see his 12.4 points decrease on top of everything else. I’m out at White’s price point.
I like Looney, but I don’t like that the Warriors went out and added Chris Paul this season because they’re already a team that liked to play small-ball. Now it’s guaranteed they’re going to be doing it a LOT. According to StatMuse, only the Celtics and Knicks played more small-ball lineups in 2022-2023 than the Warriors. Looney did have a career year in minutes, points and rebounds, but the minutes portion of the program is not a guarantee here. He’ll likely be the starter, but that’s not anything that’s mattered in years past. He’s started 150 games over the last two seasons but hasn’t averaged north of 23 minutes. The Warriors have also experimented with Jonathan Kuminga in their small-ball lineups too, so Looney’s days of career high’s are numbered.
I like the Thompson brothers upside in the NBA, but much like Kevin Porter Jr., his role really isn’t all that defined given what the Rockets depth chart looks like. They’ve had six first-round draft picks in the last three years and all of them averaged 20-plus minutes per game. Fred VanVleet and Jalen Green both averaged north of 34 minutes per game last year and Dillon Brooks and Cam Whitmore top the small forward depth chart. Where is Thompson going to get minutes from in order to make him fantasy viable this season? I’m out unless we hear something more definitive.