Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a rotating panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic. Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's Joe Kaiser and Kyle Soppe, and ESPN reporter Kieran Darcy.
Among the players in action this weekend during the NCAA tournament, which one are you most interested in observing with an eye on his future fantasy potential as an NBA rookie or a long-term fantasy keeper.
Darcy: Forgive me for choosing an obvious one, but I'm really looking forward to seeing UCLA's Lonzo Ball go up against Kentucky on Friday night, and then possibly against North Carolina on Sunday.
Ball stuffed the box score in the Round of 32 against Cincinnati, with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. UCLA and Kentucky are the two highest-scoring teams left in the NCAA tournament field, so this game should be played at a pro-like pace. Let's see if Ball continues to look like a possible No. 1 overall draft pick and an immediate significant fantasy contributor at the next level.
Soppe: There is no shortage of NBA talent taking the floor in the Sweet 16, and given the increased level of competition at this point in the tournament, we should get a good feel for these prospects stack up against one another. Ball, Malik Monk, and De'Aaron Fox all grade out as top-10 picks in Chad Ford's Big Board 4.0 and play in the same game... but you've seen these three all year and will be hit over the head with their respective scouting reports over the next three months.
I'm watching Caleb Swanigan, as I believe he is a special talent and we will get to see how he does against an elite team in Kansas. There isn't a single player in the NBA averaging 10 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from distance, something that Swanigan is doing this season. That obviously won't translate, but the versatile skill set is exactly what today's NBA is all about. He displayed reasonable court vision last week against Iowa State and I am very interested in what he can do against a Kansas team that is full of NBA-level talent.
If he winds up falling to a team like the Milwaukee Bucks or Indiana Pacers, he could pair with other big men and find a role to play early in his career. And speaking of Milwaukee, Greg Monroe ranks as a top 100 player on our per game Player Rater and I don't think his 2016 stat line is out of reach for Swanigan next season.
Kaiser: Without a doubt, it's UCLA's Ball for me. Ball has received so much attention due to his father's continual stream of over-the-top statements, but so far it hasn't negatively impacted the UCLA standout's game. Ball and the Bruins play Kentucky on Friday, and that will be a big opportunity to see how the 6-foot-6 guard plays against one of the top teams in the country.
Ball's scoring (14.7 PPG), distributing (7.6 APG), rebounding (6.1 RPG), knack for steals (1.9 SPG) and 3-point shooting (2.3 3PG) make him a player who will likely be the highest drafted rookie in fantasy drafts next season, and that's why he'll have all of my attention for as long as UCLA stays in the tournament.