Fantasy Basketball 2021: Which players improved their stock during NBA preseason?



The NBA season tips off on Tuesday, Oct. 19 with a doubleheader featuring two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams in the Nets and Bucks, followed by a star-studded battle between Western Conference juggernauts in the Lakers and Warriors.

While you don’t need the preseason to evaluate players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis or Stephen Curry, there are always a handful of players who thrive in a new situation, giving us a sneak peek at what they might have in store for the upcoming regular season.

If you’re behind on your studying for your upcoming fantasy draft, we have you covered with a 2021 fantasy basketball cheat sheet that includes top 200 player rankings, positional rankings, breakout sleepers, draft steals and top rookies to watch for.

2021 Fantasy Basketball cheat sheet: top-200 rankings, sleepers, breakout players, top rookies

If you’re all caught up there and looking for some last-minute notes based on preseason production, you’ve come to the right place.

Below you can find players and rookies who have increased their fantasy draft stock during the 2021 NBA preseason.

Fantasy Basketball risers from 2021 NBA preseason

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Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors

If the preseason is any indication, Poole has proved himself worthy of a roster spot in fantasy basketball. For as long as Klay Thompson is out – which is anticipated to be until around Christmas – the third-year guard appears to be in line to fill his spot in the starting lineup.

Poole has been the breakout player of the preseason, averaging 23.3 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. His scoring average is second-highest among all players in the preseason and he’s doing so while shooting an efficient 51.6 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from 3. When you take into account that he is also averaging 4.0 3-pointers made and just 1.5 turnovers per game, Poole becomes a very valuable asset to any fantasy team’s bench.

His ceiling might be limited with Thompson’s return coming at some point during the season, but if he continues to play at this level, he should still carve out a prominent role on the Warriors’ bench.

Once the available player pool dwindles down in the later rounds, give Poole a shot as he could be a steal for the early part of the season.

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Herro has advocated for himself plenty of times heading into the 2021-22 season, from saying people are sleeping on him to grouping himself in with some of the most talented young players in the NBA. After a disappointing sophomore season, opinions vary on what the 21-year-old may have in store for Year 3.

So far, during the preseason, Herro’s play has backed up his self-confidence. The Heat guard is averaging 20.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field.

Those are solid numbers that any fantasy owner would take, but it is worth noting his role will be different during the regular season. Herro is expected to come off the bench as a sixth man, whereas, he has alternated between starter and reserve in the preseason due to absences from everyday players like Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler. He has also gotten more shot attempts for that same reason, but Herro will still be expected to play a microwave scoring role when the games count.

But keep in mind, any time a starting guard or wing is forced to miss time during the regular season, Herro will likely be the first man up to fill a spot in the starting lineup. He may have fallen off of some people’s fantasy draft radars after last year, but don’t be afraid to take a swing on a player who should play a key role for one of the best teams in the league.

OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors

Anunoby appears to be a unanimous favorite for a breakout season, but his production in the preseason even surpasses those expectations. The 24-year-old has steadily improved over every season of his career and in Year 5, he looks ready to attack on the offensive end, raising his fantasy ceiling significantly.

In the preseason, Anunoby was Toronto’s leading scorer, averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting 52.0 percent from the field and a blistering 54.2 percent from 3. With All-Star forward Pascal Siakam expected to miss time to start the season, Anunoby should have plenty of opportunities to fill that void offensively, seeing the majority of the shot attempts that would typically go to his teammate.

Anunoby has always been a solid fantasy contributor because of his defensive counting stats, but if he keeps this up, you may want to consider drafting him even earlier than his normal middle-round range.

Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic

Is this finally the year that we see Bamba reach his full potential?

Since being selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bamba hasn’t exactly had a fair shot to prove he was worthy of a top-10 selection. Under new head coach Jamahl Mosley, it looks like he may finally get an opportunity to showcase his skills.

Bamba has been awesome during the preseason, averaging 12.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in just over 20 minutes per game. That blocks average should sound all the bells and whistles in your head when it comes from a fantasy perspective.

If Bamba receives enough playing time to become a consistent source of rebounds and blocks to go with his typical efficiency (he’s shooting 57.7 percent from the field in the preseason) he’s well worth a draft pick in the middle-to-late rounds.

2021 Fantasy Basketball rookie report

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Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse alluded to throwing No. 4 overall pick Barnes right into the fire, using him in a variety of ways, and we saw just that in the preseason. Barnes will likely fill Siakam’s spot in the starting lineup until he returns from offseason shoulder surgery, meaning the minutes will be there to be productive. After leading Toronto with 5.6 assists to go with 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and over a block and a steal per game, it’s clear that Barnes will tally counting stats of every kind. He should be one of the first few rookies off the board.

Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Speaking of stuffing the stat sheet, No. 6 overall pick Giddey appears to have no problem doing that, too. He has only played two games thus far, but the Australian jumbo guard is fitting in nicely, averaging 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. It looks like he’ll be a starter with the Thunder and he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot, giving him the opportunity to become a well-rounded fantasy player.

Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets

Hyland was one of my favorite sleepers for this fantasy season, given the Nuggets’ available minutes at point guard with Jamal Murray recovering from last season’s ACL injury. The rookie likely won’t fill Murray’s spot in the starting lineup – that will probably go to Monte Morris or Facundo Campazzo – but he has made a strong case for a big role off the bench. Hyland has posted 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game in the preseason and should certainly be on your radar at the end of your fantasy draft.

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

Murphy is the biggest fantasy sleeper of this rookie class, but it may not stay that way for long. Averaging 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 3-pointers made and 1.8 assists per game in the preseason, Murphy has made his impact felt for the Pelicans. With his prowess as a versatile and lengthy defender on a team that is desperate for help on that end of the floor, Murphy should see enough playing time to produce solid fantasy numbers. He’s another rookie who is worth a draft-and-stash pick toward the last few rounds.


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