Over the coming days, we at Today’s Fastbreak will be doing a team-by-team breakdown of each NBA franchise’s fantasy prospects for the 2016-17 season. We’ll continue today with the Utah Jazz.
The Utah Jazz entered the 2015-16 season as a trendy sleeper pick to make the Western Conference playoffs, but a myriad of injuries derailed those dreams. Luckily for fantasy basketball owners, the Jazz appear poised to make good on those predictions one year later.
Rather than invest in another first-round rookie, the Jazz flipped the No. 12 pick to the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team trade, receiving underrated floor general George Hill in return. They rounded out their backcourt depth chart in free agency, signing seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson to a two-year, $22 million deal to provide depth alongside Rodney Hood and the oft-injured Alec Burks.
Utah’s frontcourt, meanwhile, looks largely the same, with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors expected to dominate minutes and touches. The Jazz did grab Weber State’s Joel Bolomboy with a second-round pick and signed Boris Diaw to a two-year, $14.5 million deal, but those two, Trey Lyles and Jeff Withey won’t be fantasy relevant so long as Favors and Gobert stay upright.
Let’s take a look at which Jazz players you should target with early-, mid- and late-round picks and who you should leave on the waiver wire. We’ll also highlight one breakout pick or a sleeper who’s likely to outperform his draft position, along with one bust who may end up disappointing this season.
Gordon Hayward, SG/SF: Gordon Hayward started the 2015-16 campaign off on the wrong foot, shooting just 39.4 percent from the floor over his first 10 games, but he quickly righted the ship to calm the nerves of his fearful fantasy owners. The Butler product finished the year as the 28th-ranked player in eight-category leagues after averaging a career-best 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 triples and 1.2 steals in 36.2 minutes per night. With George Hill now around to absorb some of the ball-handling and playmaking duties, Hayward should be able to avoid a similarly rocky start in 2016-17. Owners should begin eyeing him closely around the third- and fourth-round turn.
Rudy Gobert, C: After bursting onto the fantasy scene following the 2015 All-Star break, Rudy Gobert became a consensus third-round pick heading into last season, as his shot-blocking upside alone gave him tantalizing appeal. The full-fledged breakout never quite came to fruition, though, as he averaged 9.1 points on 55.9 percent shooting, 11.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.5 assists and 0.7 steals in 31.7 minutes per night to finish as the 68th-ranked player in eight-category leagues on a per-game basis, according to Basketball Monster. Utah doesn’t have much in the way of center depth to play behind Gobert, but he’ll need to get his field-goal and free-throw percentages north of 60 again to return top-30 value. Split the difference between Gobert’s overly optimistic projections last year and where he finished and you have the makings of an ideal fourth- or fifth-round pick.
Derrick Favors, PF/C: Gobert attracted most of the early-round attention heading into last season, but Derrick Favors wound up being the better value. Across 62 contests, the Georgia Tech averaged 16.4 points on 51.5 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals in 32.0 minutes per night, finishing as the 34th-ranked player in eight-category leagues on a per-game basis, according to Basketball Monster. Favors doesn’t swat shots to the degree that Gobert does, but he’s a much more prolific scorer and shot a career-best 70.9 percent from the free-throw line last season. Owners must factor injury risk into Favors’ draft-day price, but they shouldn’t be deterred from spending a fourth-round pick on him.
George Hill, PG: Two years ago, Hill emerged as a vastly underrated fantasy asset, averaging 16.1 points on 47.7 percent shooting, 5.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 triples and 1.0 steals in Paul George’s absence to finish as the 38th-ranked player in eight-category leagues on a per-game basis, according to Basketball Monster. With George back in the fold this past season, Hill’s per-game averages predictably dropped to 12.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 triples despite him playing nearly five more minutes per night, sending him plunging to the 77th-ranked player. He’ll face a similar issue in Utah, as Gordon Hayward is plenty capable of creating off the dribble, so fantasy owners shouldn’t expect Hill’s production to return to its 2014-15 level. With Dante Exum lurking as competition for playing time, Hill may even struggle to match his 2015-16 output.
Rodney Hood, SG/SF: Rodney Hood had a breakout fantasy campaign as a sophomore last season, finishing as the 69th-ranked player in eight-category leagues. With Alec Burks in Utah’s rotation for the first 27 games, Hood averaged 12.1 points on 41.9 percent shooting, 2.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 triples, 1.0 steals in 29.9 minutes per game. But after Burks fractured his fibula, Hood’s per-game averages jumped to 16.4 points on 43.3 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.4 triples and 0.9 steals in 33.4 minutes. Not only is Burks returning this year, but the Jazz added Joe Johnson in free agency, too, giving Hood even more competition for minutes. Given his ability to play either the 2 or the 3, though, fantasy owners shouldn’t sweat him losing too much playing time, making him well worth a late-round pick.
Alec Burks, PG/SG: Burks has plenty of fantasy upside, but his inability to stay healthy makes him a late-round flier at best. Last year, a fractured fibula limited Burks to only 31 games, but he averaged 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 triples and 0.6 steals in 25.7 minutes per night when he did play. Like Hood, he’ll have to contend with Johnson as a threat to his playing time, but both should be able to co-exist off the bench without much trouble. His lengthy injury history is what should deter owners from spending anything more than a late-round pick on him, though, as he’s missed at least 18 games in all but one of the past four seasons.
Dante Exum, PG
Shelvin Mack, PG
Raul Neto, PG
Marcus Paige, PG
Joe Johnson, SG/SF
Joe Ingles, SF
Chris Johnson, SF
Trey Lyles, PF
Boris Diaw, PF
Joel Bolomboy, PF
Jeff Withey, C
Sleeper: Rodney Hood
Bust: George Hill
Other team breakdowns
Atlanta Hawks | Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Denver Nuggets | Detroit Pistons | Golden State Warriors | Houston Rockets | Indiana Pacers | Los Angeles Clippers | Los Angeles Lakers | Memphis Grizzlies | Miami Heat | Milwaukee Bucks | Minnesota Timberwolves | New Orleans Pelicans | New York Knicks | Oklahoma City Thunder | Orlando Magic | Philadelphia 76ers | Phoenix Suns | Portland Trail Blazers | Sacramento Kings | San Antonio Spurs | Toronto Raptors