As fantasy basketball drafts get underway, here are some of the most prominent rising players to consider selecting for the 2023-24 NBA season.
Fantasy Basketball: Projected Risers in 2023-24
Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jaren Jackson Jr. ranked low in fantasy standings last year due to a foot injury that forced him to miss the start of the season (he was out for four-to-six months). However, his value quickly skyrocketed after having a career year. The 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year emerged as one of the league’s premier defenders and an offensive powerhouse. His 18.6 PPG on 50.6% shooting, 6.8 RPG, and 3.0 BPG made him a steal for managers who took a chance on him. This season, he has the potential to be an All-Star.
Mikal Bridges emerged as a star since being traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Brooklyn Nets. During his tenure with the Suns, he averaged 12.2 PPG on 49.9% shooting, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.3 SPG. Those stats jumped to 26.1 PPG on 47.5% shooting, 4.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 1.0 SPG across 27 games with the Nets. Bridges had a high usage rate of 29.5% in Brooklyn, which is expected to stay the same this year. With the 27-year-old entering his prime and being the team’s number-one option, his fantasy value has significantly increased.
With Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant facing another suspension, Desmond Bane is expected to shoulder some of his weight in his absence. Morant will miss the first 25 games of the season and must fulfill some requirements before returning. In the meantime, Bane will likely receive extended minutes. The 25-year-old boasted solid all-around fantasy numbers last season and projects to be at the center of the team’s offence this year. In 2022-23, he averaged 21.5 PPG on 48/41/88 shooting splits, 5.0 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 1.0 SPG.
Coming off a surprising breakout year with the Utah Jazz, Lauri Markkanen became a star and number-one option for the team. He drastically increased his scoring to 25.6 PPG and posted a 50/39/88 slash line, 3.0 3PM, 8.6 RPG, and 1.9 APG. That year, he also won Most Improved Player and had an All-Star selection, and the forward has drastically increased his fantasy stock. Heading into next season, Markkanen’s role as the face of the franchise is only expected to grow.
22-year-old Walker Kessler emerged as a valuable option for fantasy managers last season. The former 22nd overall pick was given increased minutes in the latter half of the season, helping him become one of the league’s top shot-blockers. Posting 9.2 PPG on 72% shooting, 8.4 RPG, and 2.3 BPG, the center will likely start for the Jazz this season. That means another leap for Kessler is imminent. While he was most beneficial on the defensive end, his efficiency and potential offensively are promising.
After an eventful summer, the Washington Wizards are a drastically different squad. As a result, their lack of star power means that offseason acquisition Jordan Poole will likely be their go-to player. This will be his first chance to lead a team, as Washington’s offensive powerhouses, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, were traded away. Poole has increased his production throughout his career and is already a leading pick for Most Improved Player. Last season with the Golden State Warriors, he averaged a career-best 20.4 PPG, 2.6 3PM, 2.7 RPG, and 4.5 APG.
The drama surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard will almost certainly end in a trade. As a result, rising star Anfernee Simons is poised to become the focal point of their offence. The shooting guard has already taken tremendous leaps in his short career. Last year, he posted 21.1 PPG on 45/38/89 shooting splits and 4.1 APG. Simons will primarily make an impact on the offensive end, having the chance to get more scoring opportunities and shouldering the playmaking duties.
Scottie Barnes‘ fantasy value was lower than expected last season due to a sophomore slump. That year, he averaged 15.3 PPG (the same as his rookie year), 6.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 1.1 SPG. However, the loss of Fred VanVleet in free agency points toward a leap this year. The 22-year-old is expected to take on a greater role as a scorer and playmaker, and new head coach Darko Rajakovic will help that. It’s even possible that Barnes moves to the guard spot, but if he doesn’t, he’ll still be expected to produce more assists. He’s a highly versatile two-way player who the Toronto Raptors expect (and need) to step up.
Los Angeles Lakers sensation Austin Reaves has used this offseason to prepare for his bigger role this year. After spending the start of 2022-23 on the bench, the guard eventually earned the starting gig on a consistent basis. Following the All-Star break, he emerged as a key piece for the team, and his efficiency and three-level scoring have been significant for the Lakers. Averaging 13.0 PPG on 53/40/86 splits, 3.0 RPG, and 3.4 APG, the 25-year-old is preparing to become Los Angeles’ third star and have an increased load.