Fantasy Basketball: Players to avoid in drafts at all costs

·7 min read

By Nick Whalen and Alex Barutha, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

As fantasy basketball draft season heats up, it’s important to enter each and every draft as well-prepared as possible. Identifying players to target within each round or tier is a must, but equally vital is deciding which players you’ll be completely staying away from.

There are several reasons for adding a player to your Do Not Draft list. Maybe it’s an injury concern, a change of scenery, or simply a personal vendetta after being burned one too many times in the past. Whatever the rationale, keep in mind that regardless of whether they fall a round or two beyond their ADP, there’s a reason you’ve made a point to stay away.

Deciding which players to cross off your list can be difficult, as virtually any player can become a valuable asset at the right draft slot. However, some players simply aren’t worth the trouble in the end.

Here are the seven players Alex Barutha and Nick Whalen have identified as their personal stay-aways for 2021-22:

John Wall, Rockets

Wall and the Rockets agreed in mid-September that he would not play another game for the franchise. Wall just turned 31 and doesn’t fit the timeline of the rebuilding Rockets, especially with Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green needing as many minutes as possible in the backcourt.

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Wall is coming off his first season back after tearing his Achilles during the middle of the 2018-19 campaign. All things considered, he played well — 20.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 STL — but he appeared in just 40 games and shot 40.4 percent from the field. If he can land on a team that commits to playing him 30-plus minutes, Wall should have fantasy value, but managers should still be wary given his age and injury history. Ultimately, it’s probably not worth it to draft Wall unless you’re getting an immense discount (outside of the top-150). - Alex Barutha

Kyrie Irving, Nets

This one goes without saying, at this point. While there’s a chance the situation could be resolved before the regular season begins, if you’re drafting right now, the hurricane of mystery engulfing Irving makes him too risky to consider around his usual value. Of course, at some point in the draft, it makes sense to snatch Irving up as a value play, but as of Wednesday, it doesn’t appear the superstar plans to get the vaccine anytime soon.

Patience on the Nets’ side of things looks to be wearing thin, with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN recently implying that the team likely won’t allow Irving to be even a part-time player, assuming his vaccine holdout continues. - Nick Whalen

Kawhi Leonard, Clippers

Leonard tore his ACL in June during the Western Conference semifinals against the Jazz. While reports have indicated that he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery, we’re so far away from a potential return that it’s tough to gauge if that news is actionable. Initial indications are that he may return to practice around March or April.

LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2)
Kawhi Leonard's injury makes him nearly undraftable. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Many fantasy leagues end in April, so the chances of Leonard actually playing in a game and posting meaningful numbers seem extremely slim. If your league is deep and has two IR spots, there’s an argument to take a flier, but the pick could probably still be used better. - Alex Barutha

D’Angelo Russell, Timberwolves

When it comes to Russell, it’s more of a personal vendetta. I bought in on Russell two seasons ago, when he played a grand total of 45 games between Minnesota and Golden State, and I fell into the trap again 2020-21. He played even fewer games (42) last season and ended the year coming off the bench for a Timberwolves team that was once again woefully disappointing.

Entering 2021-22, Russell is firmly on my Do Not Draft list. While he’s a good source of points, assists, steals, and high-volume threes when healthy, he’s really only had two NBA seasons that weren’t derailed by some sort of injury. On top of that, Russell is a shaky free-throw shooter (76.5% FT) for a guard, and he’s a perennial drag on the fiel-goal percentage category.

Minnesota also has a pair of capable guard options in Malik Beasley and Anthony Edwards. If the latter has a breakout sophomore campaign and emerges as the No. 2 option behind Karl-Anthony Towns, that could leave Russell battling Beasley for secondary touches. Carrying a Yahoo ADP inside the top-80, I have no problem staying away from Russell. - Nick Whalen

Kevin Love, Cavaliers

The 33-year-old big man has played just 103 games over the past three seasons while dealing with various injuries. Plus, it’s no secret both Love and the Cavs would prefer for their relationship to come to a close. Love should be on a competitive playoff team, and Cleveland should play their young players more. However, given his massive contract and poor availability, sending him to another team is nearly impossible, and neither side apparently wants to deal with buyout negotiations.

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What will his role be for the upcoming season? That’s as cloudy as ever. The Cavs drafted a big man in Evan Mobley with the third overall pick in this year’s draft, and Lauri Markkanen signed in the offseason. Both players fit Cleveland’s timeline better than Love. But as long as Love is around, he’s presumably going to play. The question is: How much? He has top-50 upside on a per-game basis if he can see minutes in the high-20s to lower-30s, but that may not be in store for him. Plus, he’s practically a lock to miss 20 games. He’s come off the bench and played limited minutes in each of the Cavs’ first two preseason games. All things considered, it’s just best to avoid the situation entirely. - Alex Barutha

Kemba Walker, Knicks

Not too long ago, Walker was rightfully considered one of the safest bets in all of fantasy basketball. Through his first eight NBA seasons, he rarely missed time, and by the end of his run in Charlotte, he was a 25-6-4-1 player who chipped in more than 3.0 threes per game. But over the last two seasons, Walker's chronic knee issues have gotten the best of him, limiting the now-31-year-old to 56 and 43 games, respectively. Given the circumstances, Walker has remained an effective player, but fantasy managers can no longer rely on him to be in the lineup on a weekly — let alone nightly — basis.

Joining his hometown team could provide a jolt, but Walker’s knees aren’t going to get any healthier as he ages, and the Knicks’ deep roster affords them the luxury of managing Walker’s workload. In daily lineup leagues, it makes sense to take a swing on Walker with a later-round pick. But managers in weekly leagues could find rostering Walker to be more trouble than he’s worth. - Nick Whalen

Danilo Gallinari, Hawks

Gallinari is 33 years old with an extensive injury history. He’s played at least 70 games just twice in his career, and his median number of games played is 59. He’s still been able to put together some nice fantasy campaigns due to his quality three-point shooting and excellent free-throw percentage, but it’s going to become tougher and tougher to rely on the veteran with each coming season.

Not only that, but he’s on an up-and-coming Hawks team with plenty of other options at forward, including De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish. Gallinari played just 24.0 minutes per game last season and ranked 149th in per-game fantasy production (168th in total production behind 51 games played).

Of course, there’s an argument to take him after pick 150 if your league is that deep, but most aren’t. - Alex Barutha

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