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Some players take a little longer than others to reach their full potential. If you want to take advantage of their rise up the fantasy leaderboards, you have to stay ahead of the curve.
Here are five promising players with a fantastic opportunity to finally break out this season:
PG/SG Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Oladipo has achieved post-hype breakout status. Having toiled for three seasons on awful Magic teams, then playing out a one-season sabbatical in the margins of Russell Westbrook's MVP season, basketball fans haven't given the No. 2 pick from 2013 much thought.
There are some signs of encouragement, however. Despite an offense almost entirely built on Westbrook pounding the ball into the floor for 20 seconds every possession, Oladipo shot career high percentages from inside the arc (49.1 percent) and from 3-point territory (36.1 percent). In games in which Oladipo took at least 16 shots, he scored 19.2 points per contest with an additional three assists a night.
Oladipo and dynamic third-year center Myles Turner are truly the only established core pieces on the Pacers' roster today. Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young, Lance Stephenson, Cory Joseph, and Al Jefferson will all see their contracts expire within the next two seasons. Since the Pacers are on the hook for all of his four-year, $84-million extension, count on them doing whatever it takes to maximize Oladipo's development in year five.
theScore Ranking: 38 Overall, SG13
FantasyPros ADP: 65 Overall, SG19
PF Julius Randle, Lakers
Randle averaged 12.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game from 2015-17, while raising his field goal percentage from 42.9 to 48.8 percent between his first and second full seasons despite doubling his 3-point attempts.
His scoring outlook continues to improve with the Lakers trading score-first D'Angelo Russell for pass-first rookie Lonzo Ball. Randle's rebound totals actually stand to improve as well with Brook Lopez starting at center. Lopez's emergence as a viable floor spacer with the Nets last season will offset Randle's limited range; by playing closer to the hoop on offense, expect Randle to see more high-percentage put-back dunks and lay-ups, one of the most statistically valuable sequences in fantasy basketball.
And above everything, Randle is one of the most skilled passers for his size, averaging 4.5 dimes per 36 minutes last season. It's not inconceivable that Randle averages 15-10-4 this year while shooting 50 percent. He's a potential top-40 player.
theScore Ranking: 63 Overall, PF25
FantasyPros ADP: 78 Overall, PF29
PF/C Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings
The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins in February last year, removing the roadblock between their stable of young big men and fantasy relevance. Cauley-Stein stands to gain the most from a full season without the superstar's presence dictating his minutes on a game-to-game basis.
After the Boogie trade, Cauley-Stein averaged 12.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game. Similar production over 70-plus games is his baseline for 2017-18. Zach Randolph will take some opportunities away from Cauley-Stein, but the Kings are not going to play the 36-year-old at Cauley-Stein's expense.
theScore Ranking: 85 Overall, C26
FantasyPros ADP: 100 Overall, C31
SG/SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Nets
The biggest knock against Hollis-Jefferson is he's only shot 23.5 percent on 3-pointers to date. Ultimately, his long-term development is more crucial to the Nets than Trevor Booker or Quincy Acy, so he should see solid minutes by default.
Hollis-Jefferson only played 29 games in his first season, so a 9-6-2 line in Year 2 while playing just under 23 minutes a game is still fairly encouraging development. With increased floor time - which won't be hard to come by on a rebuilding Brooklyn team - Hollis-Jefferson's stats should continue to scale, with obvious growth potential if he can iron out his perimeter shooting.
theScore Ranking: 122 Overall, SF40
FantasyPros ADP: 143 Overall, SF49
PG Ish Smith, Pistons
The key to Smith's fantasy value is tied closely to the Pistons' growing discontent with presumptive starting point guard Reggie Jackson. If Jackson sees his role diminish, by demotion, injury, or trade, Smith will have an opportunity to emerge as a strong source of assists and solid contributor in other categories.
In 32 starts last season, Smith averaged 12.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field; Jackson averaged 14.5 points, 5.2 assists, and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent. At the very least, anyone drafting Jackson should keep a close eye on Smith, even handcuffing the two if there's ample room on the bench.
theScore Ranking: 148 Overall, PG46
FantasyPros ADP: 183 Overall, PG48
(Average Draft Position figures courtesy: FantasyPros)
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)