Each year, players underestimated in the fall end up playing a crucial role on fantasy teams throughout the season. After an off-season with major league turnover, many players will see expanded roles instead of the big names that have been sold. Some young talents have earned more opportunities on their teams.
Let’s take a look at six players whose names are not known to everyone, and who can be a great choice.
Alperen Sengun, Rockets
Sengun gave an idea of what he could do as a rookie last season, posting 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 blocks in 29.7 minutes in 13 games. The Turkish big man is gearing up for what should be an undeniable opening role with Christian Wood, who is currently in Dallas.
Sengun is only 20 years old, so he has a lot of development ahead of him. He’s usurping last season’s fantastic value based on minutes alone, but the upside combined with this heightened role makes Sengun especially intriguing. Houston’s youthful, fast-paced style will also do him good.
Tre Jones, Tottenham
On the one hand, Jones has garnered some attention, given that he’s tasked with replacing DeJonte Murray now that the latter is in Atlanta. However, the 2020 second round pick may still be underrated in terms of fantasy as he is relatively unknown after averaging just 12.0 minutes per match during his first two seasons while stuck behind Murray and Derrick White.
But what little we’ve seen of Jones as a starter is reassuring. He had 13.5 points on 48.8% shooting, 7.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 32.7 minutes in 11 rotations on the opener last season. Jones now has a chance to play the role of the main ball carrier in a rebuilding team that should give him plenty of minutes.
Jalen Smith, Pacers
Smith is a talented young player who performed well with extended opportunities last season and plans to be the starting power forward in the rebuilding pacers. Smith re-signed with Indiana to a two-year deal this off-season after showing strong form from the Suns trade, averaging 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 24.7 minutes. in 22 games with the Pacers.
The third-year sports pro was shooting 50.3% overall in all his time at both clubs, and he upped the ante a bit with 2.4 3-point attempts per competition, which he exhausted with a 32.8 percent clip. Smith also increased his free throw percentage to 76.5% from 71.4% in his rookie season, and it’s worth noting that during his second and final college season in Maryland, he hit 36.8% from long range.
Nasir Little, Trail Blazers
Body and shoulder injuries limited Little to 42 games last season, but the 2019 first round pick still managed to rack up career highs in points (9.8), rebounds (5.6) and assists (1.3) in 25. 9 minutes per game. The Blazers’ loss to Damian Lillard certainly opened up some opportunities to exploit, but the fact that Little averaged 11.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks in 29.5 minutes at 21 starts, still encouraging.
Little is expected to open the season as the starting small forward for the Trail Blazers. He will be surrounded by a plethora of talented players who need more defensive attention: Lillard, Anferny Simons, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkić. While this quartet will naturally find wide use, Little’s solid 46.1% career shooting rate and ability to hit random long shots could make him a hidden source of value in the deeper leagues.
James Wiseman, Warriors
As the second overall pick of 2020, Wiseman isn’t exactly forgotten. However, after missing the entire 2021-2022 Warriors championship with a knee injury, he has lost some momentum and is in awe. In the 2020–21 season, Wiseman had an encouraging rookie season at age 19, averaging 11.5 points (on 51.9 percent shooting) and 5.8 rebounds in a modest 21.4 minutes in 39 games.
Wiseman began to return to playing form during the Las Vegas Summer League, posting 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just under 20 minutes per game. By all accounts, his surgically repaired knee responded well. While he plans to launch a new campaign for veteran Kevon Looney, his drafting pedigree and advantages give him the potential to usurp Looney at some point.
Terence Mann, Clippers
Mann will open the season with a second squad. However, he has shown improvement in this role year after year and coach Tyronne Liu should continue to trust him despite the arrival of John Wall and the return of Kawhi Leonard. The 2019 second-round pick is averaging a career-best 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists, as well as a 48.4% success rate from the field.
Mann has averaged 28.6 minutes per game with 34 draws, and those opportunities may not be available this season. However, Mann’s ability to play on either wing helps his cause, and Liu will likely look to keep both Paul George and Leonard’s legs when possible, pending a playoff run.
Other bed candidates to consider:
Jake LaRavia, Grizzlies
Victor Oladipo, Heat
Kendrick Nunn, Lakers
Thomas Bryant, Lakers
Bones Highland, Nuggets
Bruce Brown, Nuggets
Isaac Okoro, Cavaliers