One of my favorite types of fantasy basketball leagues to play in is keeper leagues. They provide all of the in-season excitement of a standard league but toss in the added wrinkle of rewarding teams that are able to develop long-term and acquire young talent that they can eventually dominate the league with.
Typical keeper leagues allow owners to hang onto three players from their squad, but some allow more or less. Still, the goal is still the same: identify the best players to build your team around year after year. With that in mind, here are a few young players who have made the leap this season and should now be considered for keeper selection:
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers – It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Turner, who has become a breakout player for the Indiana Pacers this season. I went after him early after drafts because I was so high on him, but even I couldn’t have predicted that he would be quite this good. As of this writing, Turner is averaging 15.1 points on 54 percent shooting from the field, but what really sets him apart from typical big men is that he is also hitting 80 percent from the line and getting there 4.1 times per game. To cap it all off, Turner also pulls down 7.2 boards and is fifth in the league in blocks with 2.3 per game. He even tosses in 0.8 steals, which is excellent for a center. At just 20 years old and already sitting at 16th on ESPN’s Player Rater, Turner has quickly become a must-keep player.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers – Most of the attention in Portland deservedly falls onto the shoulders of the sensational Damian Lillard, but his backcourt partner McCollum isn’t far behind this season. Most of his value comes in the from the 22 points per game he scores on 48 percent shooting and his 2.6 threes per game. However, McCollum is somewhat underrated as a passer, which allows him to pick up a respectable 3.6 assists per game. Ideally, we would like to see more than one steal per game from McCollum, but it’s hard to complain when his current production already has him sitting at 11th on ESPN’s Player Rater. He is a bit older than the rest of this list at 25 years old, but he is well worth hanging onto in all fantasy basketball leagues.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks – Knicks fans weren’t happy when Phil Jackson selected Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in 2015, but they sure aren’t complaining now. The Latvian big man always possessed an intriguing combination of outside shooting and length, but his ability to stand up to pounding in the paint is what has really turned him into a star in the NBA. At 7’3”, Porzingis is able to block 1.8 shots per game while also hitting 2.1 threes, and he has increased his scoring to 20.1 points per game this season. His shooting percentage at 45 percent is a bit lower than one would typically expect from a big, but that’s nitpicking at this point. Porzingis is a star and seems to be destined to be a top fantasy player for years to come.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers – It may have taken quite a bit longer than anyone expected, but now that Embiid had made his debut for the Philadelphia 76ers it appears that he was worth the wait. His value has been somewhat suppressed due to a minutes limitation as well as the 76ers frequently resting him, but once those restrictions are lifted, Embiid will be a fantasy star. Even with an average of just 24.1 minutes per game, Embiid is putting up 17.5 points, 7.3 boards, and a whopping 2.5 blocks per game. Even more impressive, he also hits 1.2 threes per game while shooting them with a 43 percent success rate. He appears to be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year and should be locked up on fantasy basketball rosters for a long time.
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves – Coming out of college, everyone knew that LaVine was a freak athlete, but there were plenty of questions about his ability to handle the mental side of the game. In his third season and still only 21 years old, LaVine is experiencing a full-on fantasy basketball breakout. As the starting shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves, LaVine is averaging nearly 21 points per game on 47 percent shooting and 2.5 threes per game and shooting 85 percent from the line. He isn’t bad elsewhere too, with 3.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.8 steals per game. He still has plenty of room to grow and has edged out Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns as the best young shooting guard in the game…for now.