Sometimes you do tons of research on a player, they stay healthy and they have every opportunity to succeed, but things don’t pan out. It happens. We are all human (except for Victor Wembanyama). We can’t predict the future, so to act as if we never miss on a player wouldn’t be intellectually honest. But I also believe in larger sample sizes. If a player had a rough season last year, and they shouldn’t have, chances are they will bounce back this year. Let’s dive into four of my favorite bounce-back players for the 2023-2024 NBA Fantasy Basketball Season.
4 Bounce-Back Players for 2023-24 Fantasy Basketball
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, SG/SF
Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters that this game has ever seen. It just so happens that he’s on the same team with the best shooter that this game has ever seen (Steph Curry). Klay Thompson’s contributions often get overshadowed, but last year, Klay had a rough season. At least in terms of how he’s performed historically (when healthy). He played in 69 games last year, which was a huge hurdle for him when you consider he had played 32 games in the three previous years combined. On top of that, he averaged 22 points (19 for his career), 4.4 3PM (3 for his career), and also more rebounds & assists relative to his career averages. So where does the general consensus that he’s had a rough season come from? Well, the reason Steph and Klay were such a lethal combination was their knack for efficiency from three AND Klay’s ability to lockdown opposing wing players.
Let’s look at last year’s shooting efficiency first. 43.6% shooting from the field (down from 45.5% for his career). He also shot 41.2% from three, which is also slightly down from his career average (but admittedly, still stellar). Defensively, he’s averaged 1.4 stocks (steals + blocks) for his career, and last year he averaged 1.1 stocks. He’s a year older now, and like everyone else, he will decline. HOWEVER!….with Golden State shipping Jordan Poole out to Washington, I think it’s far more likely we see Klay take over much of that vacated scoring (it’s more likely Klay & Steph shoot more, than Kuminga/CP3). On top of that, CP3 is much more of a willing passer than Poole, so there will be added shots for Klay and Steph going forward. I expect a career-high in scoring for Klay this year, AND a return to the All-Star Game.
Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers, SF, PF
Do you know what happens when you’re the third wheel on a team with James Harden and MVP-form Joel Embiid? You get less counting stats. Not because you’re a worse player, but because your usage rate declines. Tobias saw his worst scoring average since his 2015 season (14 PPG when he was 23). His usage rate also fell to 18%, which is lower than his career average of 22%, and his lowest since that same 2015 season. So, what’s changed since last year? Oh…you know… just James Harden saying he will never play for a Darryl Morey run team ever again. Will Harden keep his word? I don’t know. Will that mean Harden is going to get maximum playing time and usage rate going forward? Absolutely not. Expect Tobias Harris to score much closer to his 20 PPG average that he had been averaging, since before Harden arrived in Philly. Harris should have equal value in points and categories leagues, relative to his ADP.
Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets, SF, PF
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard some form of Ben Simmons slander over the past few years. Whether it’s a player who’s afraid to shoot, someone who fakes injuries, afraid of fans, yadda….yadda….please, just ignore all of that. It’s based on speculation and not fact. What is factual is that Simmons appears to be fully healthy for the first time in several years. He’s now on a team devoid of a natural scorer (I love Mikal Bridges, but he’s been serving as a scorer because it was thrust upon him). He’s always been a downhill, pass-first player, and now he’s surrounded by shooters who can maximize what Ben Simmons does best. The steals and blocks will come naturally, as he’s one of the most switchable defenders in the league, and if he’s given 30 minutes per game on this team, he becomes an elite categories option and a very solid points league option. Ben Simmons should be on your radar as a nightly triple-double candidate. Ben Simmons has made enough money in his career to never need to dribble a basketball ever again. If he didn’t want to take the criticism, he wouldn’t play. He’s going to be as motivated to prove doubters wrong as he’s ever been. I want shares of that motivation in as many leagues as I can get him in.
Fred VanVleet, Houston Rockets, PG
This one is simple. VanVleet signed a three-year, $130M deal in free agency. If you think that was to defer to younger players, you’re sorely mistaken. VanVleet is going to be the point guard on a team that will threaten to lead the league in pace while passing to players who can thrive in dribble penetration offenses (Cam Whitmore, Jalen Green, etc.). VanVleet averaged 20/7/4 in his best statistical season in 2021-22. With the absence of Kevin Porter Jr., and no other natural point guards on the roster, I fully expect VanVleet to exceed these averages this year. You should be able to draft VanVleet in the middle of your draft. That’s excellent value.
Got your eyes on a few bounce-back players of your own? Don’t be shy. Drop some names in the comments below! In the meantime check out all the great analysis in our 2023 Fantasy Basketball Draft Kit!