NBA Draft Guide: Restricted Free Agents to Draft/Avoid

  • Restricted Free Agents to Target in Fantasy

    Restricted free agency doesn’t have the same allure as unrestricted as most guys worth getting a max get re-upped well before they hit the semi-open market. This year’s crop of restricted free agents is actually quite dire and there are only a handful of players you actively would want to target in the early rounds of your fantasy draft, but there’s always gold to be mined as long as you’re willing to dig deep enough. Most of these players live on the cusp between making the leap or taking whatever contract they can get from the team that drafted them. Most teams are willing to overpay simply so that they don’t lose the asset for nothing, but they also aren’t willing to break open the vault. All that matters in life is motive and opportunity and most of these players have the motive to get paid in the offseason, but the real crux lies in whether they will get the opportunity to fully showcase what they can bring to the table.

    Tyrese Maxey – PG – (PHI)

    Maxey has been one of my favorite players ever since he made the leap as a sophomore. There is no doubt he’s one of the fastest players in the league and can score from all three levels in the blink of an eye. Greatness on the court doesn’t always translate into the fantasy elite and Maxey is in danger of falling into that camp. Maxey averaged 20.1 PPG on great percentages (48.1 FG% and 84.5 FT%) but was still outside the top-75 on per-game averages and barely a top-100 asset on totals in 60 games. If the Sixers kept the status quo and ran it back, history would repeat itself and Maxey would get drafted in the top-50 and likely disappoint again.

    Luckily for Maxey, James Harden is on the Sixers and is aggressively threatening to hold out unless he gets traded. For all of Harden’s talents, his style is a black hole of over-dribbling and ball dominance that often relegates Maxey to stand in the corner and wait his turn. Unless the Sixers pull off a Harden-for-Damian Lillard coup, it’s finally going to be Maxey’s turn to run the show. Maxey is a thoroughbred that has been kept in the stables for three seasons and is finally ready to break down the barn doors. His game might not be perfectly fantasy-compatible with a lack of boards/dimes and defensive stats, but sometimes you have to ignore the nerds and follow your gut. If that doesn’t convince you then take the final 26 games of the season where Maxey posted top-15 value on totals and top-30 on per-game averages.

    Onyeka Okgongwu – C – (ATL)

    The predicted demise of Clint Capela was premature and everyone who snagged Okongwu last season waiting for him to overtake the Swiss starting big man was left mildly disappointed. Okongwu was still a totals beast, finishing top-50 in 80 games, but he was just outside the top-75 on per-game averages and probably got dropped at some point over the first 20 games, where he averaged less than 20 minutes of action. Capela (29 years old) hasn’t really shown any signs of decline yet, but the Hawks have proved that they are willing to shake things up and you have to assume they are trying to move Capela to free up some cap and let the new wave take over. Drafting Okongwu is really a bet against Capela getting hurt or traded because if either happens, the sky is the limit as his minutes will jump from 23.1 per game to closer to 30 and that will have a cascading effect on all his counting stats. The best bet is for Okongwu to simply become too good not to start and if he can even make a mini-leap on both ends while Capela slips a little bit, that should widen the gap enough that the Hawks are forced to hand the reigns to Okongwu. Okongwu is a great pick in the middle-to-late rounds because while his floor is assured, his ceiling remains completely undefined.

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