Every fantasy draft, no matter the sport, follows a similar structure. The first few rounds are reserved for the superstars; the average but still safe players are drafted in the middle rounds and the last few rounds are meant for players with exciting potential but low success rates.
Most of the time, the players you pick in those last rounds are off your team by the end of the season, but every now and then you find a diamond in the rough.
Last year, that included players like Donovan Mitchell and Lou Williams. Going into the 2018-19 season, these are some of the biggest breakout candidates for the year.
A lot of shots have opened up for the Cavs since LeBron James left this offseason. Rodney Hood will likely be one of the biggest beneficiaries. The fourth-year shooting guard has always looked like a promising prospect as a pure shooter, as he’s averaged 1.9 3-pointers per game since entering the league in 2014. He is the most likely candidate to emerge as the second scoring option behind Kevin Love on a rebuilding Cavaliers roster.
In the playoffs last season, the Pacers surprised everybody by taking the Cavs to seven games in the first round. One of the bright spots of the series was Domantas Sabonis, who averaged 12.4 points in 24 minutes per game. Sabonis might be a defensive liability, but he has respectable range and great footwork for a power forward. He has a strong chance to take Thaddeus Young’s spot in the lineup at some point this year.
The Knicks are obviously not in the playoff picture this year. All-Star Kristaps Porzingis could be out for the entire season, leaving them with a thin roster, which is very interesting for fantasy purposes.
The starting point guard is going to be Trey Burke at the beginning of the year, but that could change in a flash. Burke has had a rocky NBA career, going from lottery pick to playing in the development league just a few years later.
If Burke looks shaky, sophomore Frank Ntilikina will get a chance to start at point guard. Ntilikina is an intriguing prospect that I expect to be available or dropped early in the season.
Last season, the Magic spent high draft capital on Jonathan Isaac in what was considered one of the deepest drafts of all time. Isaac missed most of his rookie season with an ankle injury. Now he’s 21 years old, and he plays on a team that’s building for the future. I expect Isaac to eat away at Jonathon Simmons’ minutes as the year goes on, and he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
When Hield entered the league in 2016, his player comparison was Stephen Curry. Obviously he hasn’t met those expectations, but he has carved out a major role in Sacramento’s offense. The Kings don’t have a true No. 1 offensive weapon, and I would not be surprised to see the offense run through Hield this year. Buddy has immense upside and great opportunity this season. He should be rostered in every league.