The superstars you select in the first few rounds of your fantasy draft will set the baseline for your roster, but the players you hit on in the middle rounds can make all the difference in being a championship contender.
Take a look at 10 players who are poised for breakout seasons and can elevate your team by performing above where they were drafted.
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10 players poised for a breakout fantasy basketball season
OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Last season could have been considered a breakout fantasy year for Anunoby, but I believe the 24-year-old can take things up another notch. His 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers per game all marked career-highs, while he also shot a career-best 78.4 percent from the free throw line, which plays a role in fantasy as well.
With star forward Pascal Siakam expected to miss the start of the season recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Anunoby will likely play a bigger role in the Raptors' offence to begin the year. We saw developments in his offensive game last year and he is one of the most versatile defenders in the game, sure to continue to rack up steals and blocks. Don't be afraid to reach for Anunoby in your fantasy drafts, because the best is still yet to come.
Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls
A new situation might be best for Ball to reach his full potential and he'll have that opportunity playing alongside three stars in Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan. Playmaking duties may get divided because of LaVine and DeRozan's developed passing, but Ball should still be the lead orchestrator, getting back closer to the 7.0 assists per game we saw him average in 2019-20. The Bulls' lack of frontcourt depth makes me think Ball will rack up more rebounds than last season (a career-low 4.8 RPG) and his scoring average (14.6 PPG) should remain close to the same.
Playing alongside talented scorers, it will be interesting to see if Ball can knock down over three 3s a game again this season, but regardless, he should be set for a breakout year in a new environment.
Darius Bazley, Oklahoma City Thunder
Competing for a rebuilding Thunder squad, I thought last year had the makings of being a breakout fantasy year for Bazley. The then-20-year-old was solid in 55 games, averaging 13.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 0.5 steals and blocks per game, but he shot inefficiently and a shoulder injury disrupted any momentum.
I'm doubling down on a Bazley breakout year this season, because the situation hasn't changed all that much in Oklahoma City. He should thrive playing alongside the emergence of star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and rookie guard Josh Giddey makes everyone around him better. Playing time will be readily available for Bazley as the starting power forward, meaning he'll have plenty of opportunities to put up numbers.
Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
You could certainly qualify last year as a breakout fantasy season for Bridges, but he didn't really ramp things up until after the All-Star break. From the start of April through the end of the season, Bridges morphed into a different animal, averaging 19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 51.1 percent from the field. He also knocked down 3.0 3s per game at an impressive 43.5 percent clip and found a groove at the charity stripe, making 83.9 percent of his free throws.
Bridges was a late-season gem for fantasy teams, helping make a push to the playoffs and beyond. It will be interesting to see how his numbers are affected by the return of Gordon Hayward, but after seeing production like that down the stretch, combined with Hayward's injury history, it's worth taking a swing on Bridges in the middle rounds of your draft.
Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder
Dort was another late bloomer in fantasy basketball last season, even playing through rest days due to the Thunder's placement at the bottom of the standings. He only appeared in 17 games after the All-Star break, but he had a handful of very impressive stat lines, including a career-high 42-point game to go with seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and seven 3-pointers against the first-place Utah Jazz. He had five games with 20 or more points during that stretch, taking on a larger role within Oklahoma City's offence despite being known as a defensive specialist.
The Thunder are expected to continue their rebuilding stage this season, so Dort should see similar opportunities on the offensive end, where he will prove to be a must-roster fantasy player.
Kenyon Martin Jr., Houston Rockets
Martin had his moments as a fantasy streaming star last season and don't be surprised if he takes over a starting role in Houston, giving him the opportunity to perform on a full-time basis. The 20-year-old's per 36 numbers jump off the page, averaging 14.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field last year. The playing time wasn't always there, but when he got the chance, he produced.
The Rockets will be in full rebuild mode this season, so their younger players should see the bulk of the playing time. Martin will be a beneficiary of that, so he's worth taking in the mid-to-late rounds of your fantasy draft as a low-risk, high-reward pick.
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
Murray is my favourite breakout fantasy player for this upcoming season. Last season, we got a taste of what Murray could become as one of the best young guards in the NBA. He averaged 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game, finishing as a perennial top-50 fantasy player. With DeRozan now in Chicago, every share of the Spurs' playmaking duties will be turned over to Murray, where he should thrive as the lead floor general.
I would classify Murray as a player that is worth taking even earlier than the middle rounds. Give him a look just after that top tier of fantasy players are off the board, as early as the fourth or fifth round.
Larry Nance Jr., Portland Trail Blazers
Nance was already a very solid fantasy player last season, posting balanced averages of 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He dealt with some injuries that limited him to just 35 games, but for a solid portion of the season, Nance was the league-leader in steals per game. In being traded to the Trail Blazers, Nance will be utilized even more because of how badly Portland could use his defensive prowess and versatility. Playing time should be easy to come by on a roster that is thin with depth, so if Nance can stay healthy, he'll surely be an asset for your fantasy team.
Give him a look in the middle rounds of your draft.
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Porter was certainly a breakout player last year, but I'd classify him in that same category this year. Coming off of a season where he averaged 19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.7 steals per game while shooting at jaw-dropping efficiency of 54.2 percent from the field and 44.5 percent from 3, the 23-year-old is hitting his stride in the league. The Nuggets will be without star guard Jamal Murray for a portion of the season while he recovers from a torn ACL, so Porter should remain the No. 2 option on offence behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.
He's worth reaching for in your draft because of that, so start looking for his name as early as the fourth or fifth round.
Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons
Stewart's rookie season started out slow in a crowded frontcourt, but when he received more playing time toward the end of the season, he started to shine. Over the final 15 games of the season, he averaged 12.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, notching four double-doubles in the process. All of those double-doubles were monster performances, going for 15 points and 21 boards against the Thunder, 19 points and 12 boards against the Washington Wizards, 18 points and 16 rebounds against the Cleveland Cavaliers and 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Dallas Mavericks.
Stewart will take over starting center duties in Detroit this year, so he'll without a doubt be worth a mid-round draft pick.
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