Special to Yahoo Sports
If you don’t often look at the fantasy rankings, you may be surprised by what you see. Some players who are third or fourth options on their real-life teams are some of the best fantasy assets in the NBA. If you’re building a balanced team for roto leagues, it’s essential to know where the hidden value lies.
Below are a handful of players who rank much higher than most managers would expect, and you may be able to trade for them by dangling a bigger name.
Nine-category, per-game value: 12
The oft-injured Jackson missed the season’s first month while recovering from foot surgery. He wasted no time getting back into the swing of things and has been returning first-round value since stepping on the court.
Trying to pry Jackson away from a rival manager will be challenging, given Jackson’s 3.3 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. But, they may not understand how valuable his fantasy profile truly is because the rest of his numbers don’t jump off the page.
Not only is Jackson ranked 12th — above big-name guys like LeBron James, Domantas Sabonis and Paul George — he plays a position of scarcity (center) while also providing steals and blocks stats that are difficult to find on the waiver wire. That makes him more valuable by default than some guards and wings near him in the rankings.
It would be hard to lose a trade for Jackson unless you’re handing away someone truly elite like Luka Doncic or Jayson Tatum. With all transactions, you need to consider your team’s needs, but the only substantial reason to pass on a deal would be if you’re already leading your league in blocks.
Nine-category, per-game value: 19
Like Jackson, Anunoby’s elite defensive numbers lift his fantasy ranking. He’s posting a league-high 2.3 steals per game and chipping in 0.8 blocks.
His three-point shooting has declined this season, but he’s still making 1.8 per game, and both his field-goal percentage (46.5) and free-throw percentage (83.6) are higher than last year. The negative assist-to-turnover ratio is mildly concerning (2.1 assists, 2.3 turnovers), but Anunoby isn’t killing you in either category.
Helping his case is that he’s tied for the third-most minutes per game in the NBA (37.1) with his teammate Fred VanVleet. The Raptors’ 17-23 record has created trade buzz, but my guess is that Toronto will ultimately go for the playoffs and continue to play guys like Anunoby big minutes. Coach Nick Nurse has nowhere to turn on the bench, so Anunoby will always be heavily involved.
You can ignore this advice if you’re already leading your league in steals. Otherwise, do what you can to acquire Anunoby and watch yourself climb up the standings.
Nine-category, per-game value: 25
Lopez has gotten plenty of hype this season for his shot-blocking (2.6 BPG), but you wouldn’t assume from the rest of his stats that he’s the 25th-ranked player in fantasy.
He’s going to decimate your assists production (1.2 APG), but he’s also not creating turnovers (1.4 TOV). His turnovers per game are the lowest of anyone in the top 29. Lopez has to be on your radar if you’re one of the few people building a low-turnovers team intentionally.
Part of Lopez’s charm is his ability to both hit threes (1.9 per game) and keep a high field-goal percentage (50.5). His rebounding can be slightly inconsistent (6.5 RPG), but he’s been better lately (8.0 RPG in the past 12 games).
There’s no need to trade for Lopez if you already lead your league in blocks, but if you’re looking to catch up in that category or just build a balanced roto squad, the center should be a target. There are fantasy managers out there who will deal him away for a household-name player who’s farther down the ranks.
Nine-category, per-game value: 32
Wiggins just returned from a month-long absence due to a groin injury, though that shouldn’t affect how fantasy managers view him. He played 19 minutes in his first game back, but there’s not much reason to believe he’ll be limited for much longer.
Quietly, Wiggins is having the best fantasy season of his career. His free-throw percentage (64.4) is still inexplicably poor, but he’s reached career highs in field-goal percentage (50.5) and three-point percentage (44.2), drilling 3.0 triples per game. Plus, his turnovers (1.4 per game) are at a career low, and his steals (1.3 per game) are at a career-high.
His statline doesn’t have glaring holes, and even his poor free-throw shooting isn’t that damaging since he takes just 2.0 per game. Wiggins has just turned into a quality two-way fantasy option — one that ranks much higher than most managers would expect.
Acquiring Wiggins should be easy. He’s a role player putting up relatively modest numbers. They just happen to translate exceptionally well to fantasy.
Nine-category, per-game value: 35
What’s making Harris so valuable? Similar to Wiggins, he’s without glaring weaknesses, and he’s keeping his turnovers low. Harris averages just 1.3 turnovers per game — an extremely low mark for an involved wing. The rest of his statline is simply solid — 16.5 points on 49.2 FG% and 87.9 FT%, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 threes, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks in 34.4 minutes. There’s also zero concern regarding his role or workload. He’s practically locked into this production.
Those numbers make him a good fit for almost any fantasy team. He’s a safe, high-floor option, especially if you’re building a balanced roto squad.