Being a fantasy manager in category and roto basketball leagues requires strategy and diversified rosters. It means avoiding players who can tank a given category and going after those who can positively impact a number of statistical areas.
But what happens when you need an extra boost in an area or two? That's where specialists are needed -- someone who can come in and provide an immediate upgrade to one or two areas of your team.
Here are the specialists to consider for each statistical category in 2022-23.
Markkanen averaged 14.8 points per game last season while shooting 44.5% from the field. He also played in 61 games, his highest total since his rookie season. Markkanen is in competition with Jarred Vanderbilt for the starting job with the Jazz following a strong EuroBasket showing in which he averaged 27.9 PPG, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.0) and Luka Doncic (28.0). There's a buzz that Markkanen is the favorite. He's in a great spot to be the go-to scorer for the rebuilding Jazz.
Powell is a three-level scorer with many skills. He beats defenders with speed, strength and other physical skills. Powell fractured his left foot in just his third game with the Clippers after being traded by Portland at the deadline, but he averaged 21.4 PPG and 2.6 triples per game during his five games with the Clippers. He's averaged at least 16.0 PPG in each of the past three seasons, and he's in position to compete with Reggie Jackson and John Wall to be the team's third option behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Vassell's development should continue to trend up in his third season, especially with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White no longer on the roster. He averaged 12.3 PPG in 27.6 minutes per game last season and is expected to play heavy minutes on this rebuilding Spurs squad. The Spurs can and should build around Vassell, who has already proved he can be a starting-quality player in the league.
Harrell's positional eligibility at both power forward and center is great for his fantasy basketball value. He will likely slide into the backup center role behind Joel Embiid, who has a robust medical history. The former Sixth Man of the Year should bring a spark off the bench for a team in need of one. Harrell played 71 games for the Wizards and Hornets last season. He averaged 13.1 PPG and 6.1 RPG in 23.1 MPG while shooting 64.5% from the field. Fantasy managers should consider him in the later rounds of their drafts.
Since leaving the Pistons, Drummond has bounced around the league, but he is still a fantasy-relevant player. This offseason, he signed a two-year deal with the Bulls to back up Nikola Vucevic. If you need rebounds, keep Drummond on your radar near the end of your fantasy draft. Over 73 games last season, he played for both the 76ers and the Nets, averaging 7.9 PPG and 9.3 RPG while shooting 57% from the field.
Smith is in a great spot to accumulate a ton of rebounds for the Pacers. He was a solid fantasy option last season after being traded to the Pacers from the Suns, putting up 13.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG. Myles Turner has never been a prolific rebounder, so Smith could lead the Pacers in rebounding. This season, he will be the Pacers' starting power forward after signing a two-year extension in July.
Hart is expected to open the season as the Trail Blazers' starting small forward. Last season he averaged 19.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 4.3 APG in 13 games after being traded to Portland. As one of the best multitool wings in the league, Hart is one of the league's top rebounding guards.
Tre Jones, PG, San Antonio Spurs
With Dejounte Murray and Derrick White gone, Jones is primed for an expanded role in his third season. San Antonio has a significant number of young players on the roster, including three first-round draft picks. After gaining sufficient experience last season, in which he averaged 13.5 points and 7.5 assists in 11 starts, Jones should be able to contribute much more this season. He should not be overlooked in drafts.
Mitchell is expected to take a leap in his second season with Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield no longer on the team. He will continue to back up point De'Aaron Fox. Last season, Mitchell averaged 14.1 PPG and 5.9 APG after the All-Star break. In 11 starts, he averaged 18.8 PPG and 9.3 APG. Mitchell should play an active role in the Kings' rotation. It's likely he'll play 30 minutes or more a game.
With Will Barton and Monte Morris traded to the Wizards, Hyland has become an integral part of the Nuggets' rotation for this upcoming season. Hyland is a player who has impressed the Nuggets' front office, coaching staff and teammates. After the All-Star break last season, Hyland averaged 12.8 PPG and 4.3 APG in 20.9 MPG. This season, he should see closer to 30 MPG.
Thybulle is one of the league's best defenders, and while he doesn't contribute much in any other area aside from blocks (1.0 BPG in his career), he is an excellent source of steals. His 115 steals last season ranked eighth in the league, despite him playing only 25.5 MPG. Thybulle broke the Pac-12 single-season record for steals by Jason Kidd in his final collegiate season (2018-19) by leading all NCAA Division I players with 126 steals. In addition, he became the Pac-12's all-time steals leader with 331 as well as the first player to have two 100-steal seasons. Thybulle is worth a late-round flier in category leagues because of his defensive production.
Zion Williamson's return will not dramatically alter the Pelicans' look from last season, at least not as far as Jones is concerned. New Orleans expects the second-year forward to play a significant role since the team did not add much depth on the wing. He can contribute in multiple statistical categories from a fantasy perspective. Last season, Jones became the first rookie in franchise history to rack up 80 or more steals and 45 or more blocks.
"Young Glove" is best targeted as a steals specialist in deeper leagues. Last season, he averaged 1.4 SPG in just 17.6 MPG, providing a spark off the bench for the world champion Warriors. After six years of battling for roster spots, Payton found stability in Golden State before signing a three-year deal worth $28 million to head to back to his roots in the Northwest. He will be a key part of the Blazers' rotation and play around 20 MPG as a backup to Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. If either Lillard or Simons miss time, as they did last season, Payton's fantasy ceiling would be even higher.
Alex Caruso, PG/SG, Chicago Bulls
Caruso is expected to be the Bulls' first guard off the bench. If Lonzo Ball is out, he can also fill the void as a starter. Caruso is projected to average 25-30 minutes per game and contribute steals and assists. He's a very good option late in drafts. He missed time with a foot injury and was limited to 41 games in his first season with the Bulls, but Caruso averaged an eye-popping 1.7 SPG along the way.
Claxton played in 47 games last season, starting 19 of them. He averaged 8.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.1 BPG. Numerous statistical areas, including blocks, could improve for him as he enters his fourth NBA season. As the Nets' starting center, Claxton is well positioned to big an active presence in the paint.
Sengun averaged 9.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG and 0.9 BPG in 20.7 MPG behind Christian Wood last season. In 13 starts, his numbers increased in all areas. Sengun now starts at center for the Rockets with Wood gone, and those blocks have a chance to rise to well over 1.0 per game.
Williams is in a great position as a rookie with the Hornets. He was selected 15th overall in 2022 after being named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year at Duke. It's possible that Williams could surpass Mason Plumlee as the starter. He averaged 2.8 BPG during his final season in Durham, and in fantasy drafts, Williams is an intriguing flier.
Other blocks specialists:
Malik Beasley, SG, Utah Jazz
As part of the Rudy Gobert blockbuster trade, the Jazz acquired Beasley from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Over the past two seasons, he's averaged 3.3 triples per game. Beasley finished fifth in the league with 240 total 3s last season. He should average over 30 minutes per game and have a high usage rate this season. Beasley is a great value at his average draft position.
Allen averaged 11.1 points and 2.4 triples while shooting 44% from the field. With 61 starts, he played 27 minutes per game as the Bucks' starting shooting guard. Allen should have a very similar role this season. The 3-point specialist is a great fantasy pick near the end of the draft.
Field goal percentage
Ivica Zubac, C, LA Clippers
Zubac is the only true center on the Clippers' roster with Isaiah Hartenstein gone, so he won't have to split time with him anymore. Last season, he averaged 10.3 PPG and 8.5 RPG while shooting 63% from the field. Zubac could set a career high in minutes and other statistical categories while maintaining a high field goal percentage. As one of the league's more underappreciated starting centers, he's in line for another strong season.