• Brad Berreman

2017-18 Fantasy Basketball Deep Sleeper: Dwayne Bacon

Upon being traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Charlotte Hornets on draft night, Dwayne Bacon’s potential to make an impact as a rookie took a hit. Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, fellow rookie Malik Monk and Jeremy Lamb are all blocking a path to playing time on the wings, with little room if everyone is healthy.

But everyone is not healthy, as Batum is in line to miss at least six weeks due to a torn ligament in his left (non-shooting elbow) and Lamb is dealing with a groin injury that has sidelined him late in the preseason.

Lamb is currently the next man up for the Hornets at shooting guard while Batum is out, with Monk in the mix for time at both guard spots. But Lamb has never averaged even 10 points or 20 minutes per game in any season of his career, and his three-point proficiency (28.1 percent last year) leaves a lot to be desired.

Over his two seasons at Florida State, Bacon averaged 16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and one steal per game. Outside of rebounding, which dropped from 5.8 per game to 4.2 per game from 2015-16, Bacon upped his output in virtually every other area last year. That includes traditional (17.2 points, 1.7 assists, 45.2 percent from the floor) and advanced metrics (54.4 True Shooting Percentage, 20.8 Player Efficiency Rating, 3.8 Win Shares).

Bacon has looked good in the Hornets last two preseason games, with increased playing time, averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the most recent game, which has to be kept in the context of preseason but could point to an increase in confidence.

Bacon is at best a potential short-term fantasy asset heading into the season. If he carries preseason momentum into games that count, even a fully healthy Lamb will have trouble keeping Bacon off the floor. Batum has not exactly been a picture of durability either, with 28 missed games over the last three seasons, so even when he returns to action in mid-to-late November more missed time can’t be ruled out.

Bacon is not worth drafting in fantasy leagues, but he is someone to keep an eye on early in the season. There’s a path to playing time if he can take advantage of it while Batum is out, with the potential to sustain a role after that. Opportunity is the first step to fantasy value, and Bacon can earn one early this year and never really relinquish it.

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