The fantasy basketball season is still a long way off, but the NBA Playoffs are a chance to see players perform on the best stage. Last postseason, the public witnessed the meteoric rise of Jalen Brunson as he turned his phenomenal run through the Western Conference Finals into becoming the Knicks’ franchise point guard. I doubt we’ll see players increase their value That many in this post-season, but a handful of players stood out for their performance on the field. Here are five risers from the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
Devin Booker,Phoenix Suns
Booker was arguably the best player during his 11-game postseason run. He went ballistic, averaging 33.7 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.8 threes, 1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 59/87/51 shooting splits.
His game went to another level, with 55.0 fantasy points per game, compared to 42.7 in the regular season.
The answer is yes.
Booker underperformed his ADP last season, but the Suns have a lot of looming concerns. Chris DadMe, 38, is in the twilight of his Hall-of-Fame career and also coming off his worst NBA season since his rookie year. His contract is partially guaranteed, so I bet he stays while the Suns actively try to relieve their disgruntled star, Deander Ayton. Paul’s downfall and Ayton’s inevitable departure will only make Booker more useful.
New Suns head coach Frank Vogel isn’t known for his offensive creative brilliance, but he has a track record of letting his stars run the show (such as his stint with the Lakers, LeBron James And Anthony Davis in 2020). Sure, everything went south in LA after their Bubble Championship, but Vogel’s attack will no doubt be by Booker and Kevin Durant.
Booker proved he could thrive alongside KD as he posted slightly better numbers with him in the lineup than without. It was a small sample, but:
-8 games with KD: 28.5 points, 6.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals – 49/32/86 shooting splits
-45 games without KD: 27.6 points, 5.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 0.9 steals – 49/36/86
His 31st finish in 9-cat leagues this year places him as a third round player, but given the situation and play throughout this postseason, Booker is an early second round pick for me in 2023/24.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Countless moments during the postseason redefined Jimmy Butler into Himmy butler. He outperformed his ADP of 30 this season, finishing 11th in 9-cat leagues after his most efficient season to date. That consistency carried over into the postseason, and then some. Butler led the underdog Heat through a challenging gauntlet of opponents (Bucks, Knicks and Celtics) all the way to the NBA Finals.
After going nuclear in the opening round averaging 37.6 ppg, his score came back down to earth a bit, averaging 23.5 ppg since the conference quarterfinals. Despite that drop-off, he was one of the most grippy players when the game was on the line, closing on D (leader in postseason total steals) and constantly putting his teammates in position to succeed.
He certainly helped his fantasy stock in this historic postseason run, but how high will he go in next season’s drafts?
Expecting him to replicate a top-12 finish is a little rich, but he should be a second round pick who could fall in the third round due to his age and load management risks – even though he played 64 games last season.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Murray’s playoff ascension is higher than Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker and Nikola Jokic. Murray became a different race as soon as the postseason started. His final playoff appearance in the 2020 Bubble was memorable, but he’s stepped it up in 2023.
He finished the regular season averaging 20.0 points, 6.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.6 threes, 1.0 steals, and 45/40/83 shooting splits. In 17 games this postseason, he has tied the score with 27.0 points, 6.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 3.1 triples, 1.6 steals and 48/39/93 shooting splits.
Murray outperformed his preseason ADP of 76 to finish 52nd in 9-cat leagues. He and Jokić are fast becoming one of the best duos in the NBA, and after playing 65 games this year, his draft stock should be through the roof next season.
He’s completely healthy (two years away from his ACL injury), and with his combination of scoring, facilitating, and defending, I’d aggressively aim for him in Round 3 heading into the ’23-24 season.
Caleb Martin, Miami Heat
For the uninitiated, Martin’s relentless grind led him to success this postseason. He went out of the 2019 NBA Draft, signed a 10-day contract with the Hornets (which turned into a two-way deal), and eventually signed a multi-year deal. He was fired after two seasons and found himself unemployed at a gym where he played pickup with famed rapper J. Cole.
As Martin tells it, J.Cole contacted Caron Butler, who got him a tryout for the Heat, and the rest was history. He succeeded again, from a two-way deal to signing a 3-year/$20 million deal through 2025.
The Warm Up became the Come Up.
As far as fantasy managers go, they should be more than familiar with Martin as he proved to be a useful asset during the ’22-23 regular season. Many of his chances came from injuries – the Heat had the most games missed due to injury or health protocols this year, so their “next man up” mentality is no surprise. But that’s no blow to Martin, as his game has earned the trust of his teammates, staff and organization.
Martin’s had the second-highest effective field goal (eFG) and true shooting (TS) percentage of the playoffs, and entering the NBA Finals, his 68.4 eFG% was the highest in NBA history. playoffs with at least 150 field goal attempts, according to NBA Advanced Stats. His ability to catch and shoot threes was a game-changer, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Martin averaged 19.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 3.1 threes and 1.4 shares with absurd 60/49/88 shooting over the seven-game series.
While he didn’t take home the award, he had my vote for Eastern Conference Finals MVP. As the Heat continue to tweak their lineup in their quest for a championship, Martin is not allowed to be used as in the previous rounds. But make no mistake: Martin is a key member of the Heat and should be competing for a starting role next year. His ridiculous display of efficient shooting is unsustainable, but confidence works wonders, and I think this was something of a coming-out party for Martin.
The return of Tyler Hero probably puts a damper on his chance, but his performance in the postseason saw more minutes in the SF and PF spots heading into next season. He should be a late selection and could become a top-100 player if he gets minutes in the 30s as he has in the 2022/23 play-offs.
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves only lasted five games, but Edwards provided another glimpse of what to expect next season. He averaged 31.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.0 threes, 1.8 steals and 2.0 blocks with only 1.6 turnovers in his first round against the Nuggets. His shooting splits were also strong, at 48/35/85.
Fantasy managers are well aware of the advantage Edwards brings to 9-cat leagues, and while he underperformed against his ADP (he finished 37 with an ADP of 20 in the preseason), I was excited about how the playoff version of Edwards could have been unleashed heading into his fourth NBA season. He
saw the third-highest usage percentage in the playoffs with 33.3 and was third on the team in potential assists and rebound opportunities. He was also aggressive on both sides of the ball and was the only player in the postseason to average at least 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks.
He has improved his points, rebounds, assists, 3pt percentage and FG percentage in every season since entering the league. Dropping two 30-point games — with a 41-point outing against the Western Conference champions — shows he’s ready to take that next leap.
The Timberwolves know their Twin Cities experiment on the frontcourt didn’t work, so if Karl Anthony Steden will be moved this off-season, allowing Ant-Man to operate more in space and take the reins of his team.
Despite finishing with a fourth round in 9 category competitions, fantasy managers should draft him next year as a late second/early third round pick.
Honorable Mentions: Gabe Vincent and Malik Monk