Fantasy Basketball 2022-23: Six players to fade at their ADP in drafts

By Nick Whalen, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

The time has come for fantasy managers to begin preparing in earnest for 2022-23 NBA fantasy drafts.

While every manager loves hunting for late-round sleepers or identifying the next big breakout, it’s equally important to realize which players may be best avoided in fantasy drafts. Some players may be risky investments due to injuries or age, while others may find themselves in disadvantageous roster situations.

Below, I’ve identified six players I’ll likely be avoiding in most fantasy drafts this season. An important distinction, however, is that I’m avoiding them at their cost of investment – in other words, I don’t like their chances to exceed, or in some cases meet, their Yahoo ADP. In a vacuum, I’d happily roster all of these players if they fall to me at a certain point in a draft, but more often than not, I’ll allow another manager to take on the risk.

Ben Simmons, Nets (Overall ADP 84.6)

Simmons is at the top of my list of fades for this season. I fully acknowledge he’s put together multiple top-40 seasons, but it feels like decades ago that Simmons was considered perhaps the best two-way young asset in the league. Obviously, Simmons did not play a single NBA minute last season amid a back injury and mental health struggles. All indications are he’ll be ready to roll for the start of the season, but it’s hard for me to believe that both of those issues will simply fade away.

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It’s also worth noting that the last time Simmons actually played basketball, he barely finished 2020-21 as a top-70 fantasy player. His counting stats dropped across the board, and he failed to show any improvement as a free-throw or 3-point shooter. Now in Brooklyn, Simmons faces more question marks than ever. There’s a chance he fits in seamlessly in a new role with a new cast of teammates, but there’s simply too much risk here for my taste.

Zion Williamson, Pelicans (Overall ADP 41.3)

Let me start by making it clear: I love Zion Williamson. I'm rooting for him to have the type of career we all thought he would after his freshman year at Duke. He looks like he's in great shape and should provide a huge boost to an up-and-coming Pelicans team that made the postseason without him playing a single game last season.

But for as impactful as Williamson can be, he’s on the short list of players who are more valuable in real life than in fantasy – at least that was the case during his only complete NBA season (2020-21). During that campaign, Williamson posted 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks and shot 61.1 percent from the field over 61 games. However, he still finished outside the top 50 in nine-category leagues (per-game value).

It's certainly possible Williamson takes another leap forward this season, but the Pelicans have enough high-quality pieces – Williamson is yet to play a minute alongside CJ McCollum – that they won't need him to come back and be the undisputed No. 1 option.

Health will also always be a concern for Williamson, who played only 24 games as a rookie before sitting out the entire 2021-22 campaign. That factor alone is enough to give me some pause – couple it with the fact Williamson may cost a top-35-to-40 pick in most leagues and it’s enough for me to stay away.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder (Overall ADP 37.4)

Gilgeous-Alexander has been among the riskiest players in fantasy basketball over the last few seasons. On a per-game basis, there’s no doubt he’s one of the league’s elite fantasy guards, but availability has been a major concern.

Two seasons ago, Gilgeous-Alexander got off to a fantastic start before missing the entire second half of the season due to a combination of an injury and the Thunder's tanking mandate. Last season wasn't quite as severe, but Gilgeous-Alexander played in only 13 games from Feb. 1 onward. Oklahoma City will already be without this year's No. 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, so it's fairly easy to imagine the Thunder making one last grand tanking effort – especially with Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson awaiting at the top of the 2023 Draft.

Chances are, Gilgeous-Alexander will easily return top-40 value for as long as he's on the floor, but I'm concerned that, for the third straight year, he won't be available at the point in the calendar when I need him most. It's also worth noting that Gilgeous-Alexander is currently battling a Grade 2 MCL sprain that could limit him to begin the regular season.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies (Overall ADP 85.4)

Like Gilgeous-Alexander, Jackson is also dealing with an injury heading into camp, but for fantasy purposes, his prognosis is much more concerning. The big man underwent surgery back in June to address a stress fracture in his right foot, and he’ll likely remain out until at least December.

While Jackson was able to stay healthy last season (78 games), it was the first time in his career he played more than 58 games. Fantasy managers should also bear in mind that Jackson ended up seeing action in just 11 contests in 2020-21 after his recovery from a torn meniscus took significantly longer than anticipated.

The good news is Jackson's ADP is currently sitting at 85.4, so most fantasy managers are being realistic about how many games he'll likely play. Even so, given Jackson's history, it's entirely possible he could end up missing roughly half of the season. I'll likely find myself leaning toward other options in that range – such as Wendell Carter Jr. or Franz Wagner – and hoping I can snag Jackson a bit later.

Chris Paul, Suns (Overall ADP 35.7)

Late in his career, Paul has proven me wrong time and time again. He was one of the most injury-prone guards in the league during his prime years, but Paul has miraculously been able to stay healthy while aging into his late 30s. At some point, however, age is going to catch up to one of the best point guards of all time.

Paul began to show some signs of wear and tear last season, as he missed some time after the All-Star break and didn’t look like his usual self during the postseason. Recent history implies he’ll once again be among the league leaders in assists, but the fact that his free-throw (83.7% FT) and 3-point (31.7% 3PT) shooting fell off a cliff last season has me a bit concerned.

With an ADP of 35.7, Paul will need to both stay healthy and continue producing at an elite clip to return value. At this stage in his career, Paul can still be a major impact player, but I’m expecting him to (finally) take a step back this season – especially after averaging 32.9 minutes per game in 2021-22. That was his heaviest workload since 2014-15 as a 28-year-old.

In that ADP range, I'd prefer to go with Bradley Beal, Cade Cunningham, Jaylen Brown, Evan Mobley, or perhaps even Zach LaVine.

Christian Wood, Mavericks (Overall ADP 56.0)

On one hand, I understand the appeal of buying in on Wood this season. There's an argument to be made he's the second-best player on a Luka Doncic-and-everyone else Mavs roster. On the other hand, coach Jason Kidd made it clear at the team's media day that Wood will begin the season in a bench role while JaVale McGee starts at center.

It's not that Wood can't be productive as a reserve. He'll still see plenty of minutes, but it's extremely difficult to envision him meeting – let alone exceeding – his current ADP of 56.0. Last season, Wood had the best fantasy season of his career and still finished outside the top 65. The year prior, he posted a well-rounded 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.9 threes per game (in 32.3 MPG) and still didn't crack the top 60.

The biggest issue for Wood is he’s a very poor free-throw shooter (62.3% FT last season) who takes enough (4.9 FTA/G) that it weighs down his overall value. Frankly, I don’t see that changing overnight. With his role somewhat up in the air, Wood is shaping up to be a stay-away for me this draft season.