NBA Draft Guide: Top-10 Unrestricted Free Agents to Avoid

  • Top-10 Unrestricted Free Agents to Avoid

    NBA players are human like the rest of us and there’s often a real motivation to kick their game into high gear when they are on the cusp of signing a massive deal. The new CBA kicks in soon and with the new TV deal also looming, there is a Brinks truck worth of money available to stars that become indispensable to their franchise. There are generally two types of unrestricted free agents, one that is looking for their first big contract once making the leap after their first or second deal and the established vet who is looking for a massive payday later in their career. This isn’t a great free agent class by any means, but that just means there will be more mid-tiered players looking to cash in on their breakout season. Here is a list of the top unrestricted free agents you should avoid drafting in fantasy for the coming season.

    Pascal Siakam – PF – (TOR)

    Siakam is one of the few elite players looking for a mega-deal next summer and while he could be primed to have one of the most productive seasons of his career, the real question is what jersey will he be wearing this season? Siakam is a jack-of-all-trades forward that can seamlessly fit into almost any system. He’s pretty much a lock to finish in the top-45 each campaign and doesn’t take anything off the table category-wise. He’s still in the prime of his career and is generally pretty healthy, playing between 56-71 games in each of the last four seasons. The real boon to his value is the out-of-position dimes he provides, career-high 5.8 last season and as long as his new team doesn’t take the ball out of his hands, the dimes should continue to be prevalent.

    Siakam is who he is at this point and I wouldn’t expect a major jump in any statistical categories, but the looming question mark of “will they or won’t they” trade him makes his fantasy value a little murkier than normal. It’s probably the highest on the Raptors where he can continue to operate as a pseudo-first option (averaged career-high 24.2 PPG), but it doesn’t seem very likely that the Raps brass will keep him, simply to let him walk as a free agent after the season. The Pacers and Hawks are the two favorites to land him and they both have holes in their frontcourt, but they also have elite playmakers and it’s possible Siakam could take a backseat ala John Collins. I would expect his numbers to take a hit on whatever team he gets traded to and he’s already being drafted closer to his ceiling than his floor. He remains a solid player to draft in the early-middle rounds, but while his consistency remains one of his biggest selling points, it’s his uncertain future that is harder to bank on this season.

    Buddy Hield – SG – (IND)

    Hield had his breakout season last season and he really made the leap from unreliable gunner to one of the most prolific shooting guards in the league. It’s rare that a player of his limited skill set makes such a massive fantasy jump as he turns 30, but it’s not unprecedented. He’s a natural fit next to Tyrese Haliburton and as long as he’s getting great looks from beyond the arc, his fantasy value should be fairly stable. The real dilemma when looking to draft Hield is do you use the last three season’s worth of data that had him shooting 40.6% from the field or last season’s potential aberration where he was dialed in from the jump and hit his shots at a career-high 45.8% clip.

    You can make the argument either way, but even when he was traded mid-season two campaigns ago he still upped his FG% from 38.2% as a King to 44.7% as a Pacer. This might be a whole lot of speculation on one category, but the reality is it’s the only thing that has proven volatile over his career. The jump in FG% is what made his value go from being in the 70-100 range the last few seasons in averages to a top-50 player last season. Hield doesn’t get hurt, pass, rebound or block. His 1.2 steals last season were great, but not that far out of the norm, so the only thing you should be buying or selling is his FG%. Sadly, this is fantasy and there are always external factors at play and one of the biggest next season is the emergence of Benedict Mathurin as a go-to scorer breathing fire down Hields’ neck. It’s just as likely the Pacers decide to sell high on Hield and move him mid-season rather than pay him a massive deal that might not be on their timetable and without Haliburton feeding Hield all season; it’s more than likely he regresses back into inefficient gunner mode.

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