It was last season, during the first round of playoffs, when I realized that Desmond Ben was a star.
After starting 17 of 68 games averaging 9.2 PPG as a rookie, Bane started last season in a battle with the 10th rookie in total draft pick Ziaire Williams and De’Anthony Melton for a starting point next to Dillon Brooks on the wing. Brooks was injured early in the season, allowing Bane to start alongside Milton, and he played so well that he never gave up his spot, averaging 18.2 PPG on excellent shooting (46.1 FG%, 90.3 FT%, 43.6 3P%) with 4.4 RPG, 3.0 3PG, 2.7 APG and 1.2 SPG at 29.8 mpg per season.
In the first round of playoffs, he kicked her as high as Emeril. While the world focused on transcendence Ja MoranteIn addition to the rivalry/romance emerging between Morant’s father and Karl-Anthony Towns’ father, Bane was the top scorer on the field for the majority of the series. Over the last four games, while Morant has been dropping to 18.5 PPG on 32.8 FG%, Bane has closed on Timberwolves averaging 27.0 PPG (52.1 FG%, 84.6 FT%, 53.5 3P%), 5.8 3PG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.5 BPG and 1.3 SPG at 40.9 mpg. But, if you back off, you may have missed out on the Bane star role, as he suffered a back injury towards the end of the series that would plague him for the rest of the post-season.
But I noticed.
Thus, when I was predicting the stats for all of this NBA’s off-season stats in preparation for the 2022-23 season, I noticed Bane’s excellent post-season run before the injury “gave an indication of Bane’s rise this season.”
During the first four weeks of the season, Bane showed his willingness to hit that upside. This season he started right where he left off before back issues, averaging 28.5 PPG (53.4 FG%, 89.5 FT%, 53.7 3P%), 5.1 RPG, 4.5 3PG and 4.4 APG in his last eight games through Friday night. .
There are significant elements in Bane’s game and development path that suggest this stellar transformation is legit, not just a flash in the pan. First, Bane was an excellent and effective shooter in college and entered the NBA as the last pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft with a 3D wing profile in the Pro. He had a decent height but NBA body, which makes him strong for a winger. His ability to defeat three times in a clip of over 40% as well as his effort and physical ability in defense were thought to have been his tickets to play at the NBA level, giving him high ground.
And they were, but Bane’s shooting ability translated so faithfully that it opened up the rest of his game. Bane shot 43.2% of downtown on 4.0 attempts per game as a beginner, then raised that to 43.6% on 6.9 attempts as a sophomore. Most importantly, not only has his efficiency steadied as he gets bigger, but he also had a lower percentage of his 3-point field goals assisted in his second season (83.3% assisted) than in his first season (93.2 3P%). Thus, while Bane has proven that he can be among the most proficient long-range shooters in the league while playing the easy looks created by most of the league’s electric floor general in Morant, he’s also beginning to prove his creativity. His shot was 3 points from dribbling and still finished the ball at a high section.
What happens when the premier league shooter proves he can consistently bring down the trio? Opponents must respect the shot and try to keep it off the three-point line. This means that defenders run towards him when he gets open points, and they also have to go out more to defend him when the ISO is out of the arc. This allows Bane to space the ground and make it easier for his teammates to score when he’s on the field, which is tangible in his Real Plus Minus (RPM) points. Bane ranked second among shooters and 17th in the NBA in RPM last season and currently ranks 21st in RPM early this season.
But, on the fantasy basketball front, the respect Bane embodies behind the arc also opens the playing field for him to attack and create his own point stats in the box. Bane is going at his best scoring pace yet, but did so with only 41.7% of his two-point field goals and only made 65.9% of his three-pointers. Instead of being set up, Bane is the one who creates offense for himself and his teammates. He has averaged a 4.7 APG so far, nearly double his previous career’s 2.7 APG. According to Second Spectrum, Bane generates 1.3 points per live isolation as a ball handler, a skill he has greatly improved since he was in the NBA.
As he attacks more from dribbling, especially against lopsided defenses trying to block his long-range shot, Bane has greatly increased the number of fouls he takes. He currently takes 4.5 FTAs per game, more than double the 2.0 FTA average he scored last season. As a 90% free throw shooter, this ability to fouls makes him a more effective goal scorer overall, but in category fantasy leagues, this makes him an impressive free throw percentage that can be invaluable to your roto teams.
Bane showed me in the playoffs that he’s ready to be a superstar. I think his fast start will just continue, and if anything, it will only strengthen as the season progresses. Add to that the fact that he’s not a household name yet, and that he’s been a relative iron man thus far in his NBA career in terms of games played, and Bane could be an excellent commercial target in the fantasy league of hoops. I wrote this week that fantasy managers could fall asleep easily if they were able to trade away from volatile, high-risk players like Keri Irving or Anthony Davis in value. Well, Bane is the other side of that trade discussion. He has shown himself as a relatively low-risk contributor with a stellar influence that many people still think of as a minor role player.
If you can trade Bane and get him for anything less than a star’s worth, it can do more than just set up your team for success. At the right price, Bane can be an FBA-winning contributor.