NBA Fantasy Sleepers (if we have a season)

By Steve Alexander of Rotoworld

The questions are starting to roll in. “When is the Rotoworld NBA Draft Guide coming out?” We’ll know the answer to that question once we know when the season might start. Talks this weekend appeared to be going well, until phrases like “miles apart” and “setting the table” were thrown out there. But whether it happens in two days, two weeks or two months, it does feel like there will be some kind of NBA season this year. And while I’d hate to write a draft guide for a season that might never happen, I’m also not ready to just crank one out prior to free agency taking place, which will have major impacts on many teams. That would be a disservice to our users and I’d much rather put out a high-quality and accurate guide a few days late as opposed to winning the speed race with an inferior product.

The season should start about a month after a deal is reached. And as soon as word comes that they will play, it will be all hands on deck at Rotoworld. We’ll probably roll the guide out in segments as we complete them. I’d imagine player outlooks, projections, rankings and tiers will all be part of Phase 1, and as soon as we have a target date, I’ll pass it along.

But for now, as we all hope and pray that the end of this lockout truly is right around the corner (it may not be), here are some fantasy sleepers for you to chew on.


Jeff Teague PG Hawks

Teague looked good in the playoffs last season, Mike Bibby is out of the way, Jamal Crawford may be on his way out, and Kirk Hinrich probably isn’t the answer to any question regarding a starting NBA point guard. I think Teague takes the reins this year and comes into his own.

Joe Johnson SG Hawks

Johnson has lost about every fantasy fan he had over the last two years, especially after last season’s disaster when he became just another Johnson. However, my guess is he can still play at a high level and might get a chance to shine again this year with Jamal Crawford possibly on his way out. Crawford is an unrestricted free agent and it’s no coincidence that Joe’s game took a turn for the worse once Crawford arrived in his backcourt. If Crawford doesn’t return to the Hawks, look for Johnson to bounce back.

Jeff Green F Celtics

I’m not completely sold on the fact that Green will have a good season in Boston. He looked like a solid player in Oklahoma City, but hasn’t really turned any heads since the day he left – including when he’s played in some of these pro-am exhibitions. But with Glen Davis likely gone as an unrestricted free agent, and with everyone on the team getting a year older, Green simply has to log heavy minutes this season. Look for him as a late-round flier at your draft.

Gerald Henderson SG Bobcats

As of now, it appears that Henderson’s only competition at shooting guard is Matt Carroll. Need I say more?

Arron Afflalo SG Nuggets

With Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith both in China (where they’ll stay regardless of when the NBA starts), Afflalo looks like the only option at shooting guard in Denver. He was very solid at times last season, and should become an everyday fantasy starter as long as he stays healthy. And while I’m not ready to call forward Gary Forbes a bona fide sleeper yet, if Danilo Gallinari struggles again for the Nuggets, Forbes is ready to take the job and run with it.

Austin Daye F Pistons

It looks rather unlikely that Tracy McGrady or Tayshaun Prince will return to Detroit, while Richard “on the trading block” Hamilton may finally be moved this year. If all of these guys go, Daye is going to become a force for the Pistons. He’s long, can shoot threes, rebound, score and block shots. But as we saw last year, unless he gets an opportunity to play 35 minutes a game, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of what happens with the rest of his team, a big boost in minutes should be coming either way.

Al-Farouq Aminu F Clippers

Aminu is entering his second season and I suspect he’ll beat out Ryan Gomes and rookie Travis Leslie for the starting small forward job. His potential takes a hit due to the fact he has to share the rock with Blake GriffinMo Williams, Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman/DeAndre Jordan, but he should have somewhat of a breakout season. Consider him a deep-league sleeper.

DeAndre Jordan C Clippers 

I’ve made it no secret that I love this kid and his shot-blocking ability, but as long as he has to share the paint with Chris Kaman, as well as Blake Griffin, we probably need to curb our enthusiasm. His free throw shooting is atrocious, but the bottom line is that Jordan should and will be owned in almost all fantasy hoops leagues this season as a primary shot blocker. And if Kaman goes down or gets traded, Jordan will truly breakout.

Wes Johnson F Timberwolves

Johnson showed some flashes in his rookie season and will now play for new coach Rick Adelman in Minnesota. It all depends on what Adelman thinks of WJ, but it would appear that all he has to do is beat out Martell Webster for the starting small forward job. But even if that happens I won’t fully trust Johnson until we see what direction David Kahn and Adelman plan on taking the team in. But don’t forget that Johnson was the No. 4 overall pick last season, meaning the Wolves will be forced to give him every chance to succeed. Target him in the final round of your draft.

Carlos Delfino G/F Bucks

Delfino was knocking down a ton of threes and playing very well before going down with a concussion last year that basically ruined his season. He should be back and healthy this time around and should team with Stephen Jackson to give the Bucks a potent 1-2 combo on the wing. Delfino and S-Jax can flip flop at shooting guard and small forward, but with guys like Tobias Harris and Darrington Hobson also fighting for playing time, you can expect Delfino and Jackson to get a bulk of the minutes this season. Delfino should be classified as a super-sleeper, based on how well he was playing last year before getting hurt.

Anthony Morrow G/F Nets

Morrow dealt with a nasty hamstring injury, left knee soreness, a head injury, a finger injury and the death of his grandmother last season. He played in just 58 games and was a model of inconsistency when he was in there. Part of that was due to constantly being banged up, which made it tough for him to get into a groove. He averaged just 13 points and two 3-pointers per game, but what I like about him is that he scored 19 or more points 15 times last season, and hit between 25 and 30 points five times. If he can stay healthy, the starting SG job should be his, and he should become a much more consistent scorer (and source of threes) for the Nets.

Marco Belinelli SG Hornets

Belinelli is a restricted free agent, meaning he’ll be playing for a contract, and he’s also the best shooting guard in New Orleans, as Marcus Thornton was shipped to the Kings last season. Willie Green may offer a little competition for Belinelli, but I really get the sense a breakout season is coming. He played in 80 games and averaged 10 points and just under two 3-pointers per, but I could see those numbers coming closer to 15 and 2.5 this season.

Serge Ibaka F/C Thunder

Can we call this guy a sleeper? No, not after last season. We can’t. So where do you draft him? Round 5 of your draft sounds about right to me.

James Harden SG Thunder

Harden played in all 82 games last year, as well as 17 playoff games, but started just five times, none of which included the playoffs. But as much as Scotty Brooks feels the need to run Thabo Sefolosha out there for tip-off, Harden is the guy the team needs on the floor for a majority of each game. I’ll be shocked if Harden isn’t starting this year, and even if he doesn’t, you can bet he’ll get more than the 26 minutes he got last year. I think his 3-pointers can rise from 1.4 to 2.0 per game, and that his scoring average will hit 15 ppg.

J.J. Redick SG Magic

Redick has been biding his time for the last five years on the Orlando bench, playing behind guys like Vince Carter andJason Richardson. But Vince is in Phoenix and J-Rich is an unrestricted free agent, and if he goes, Redick just might be your starting 2-guard in Orlando. Maybe Gilbert Arenas will get his act together and rain on Redick’s parade, but I finally think this is the year you can plan on making Redick a late draft pick if you need a 3-point shooter.

Spencer Hawes C Sixers

Hawes is a restricted free agent and somebody has to play center in Philly, right? Yes, he’ll be as inconsistent as always, but will be worth grabbing late, especially in leagues where you start two centers. He’ll be “battling” with Nikola Vucevic and Marreese Speights for minutes.

Jared Dudley G/F Suns

With Vince Carter nearly as old as me, and Grant Hill an unrestricted free agent, Dudley could very well be the starting shooting guard in Phoenix this season. In fact, we’ve already got him penciled in there, as long as he can beat out Vince and Mickael Pietrus. Dudley is a true fantasy sleeper and he can hit threes, score and rebound. If he is named the starter, he’ll be a great way to use a late fantasy pick.

Wesley Matthews G/F Blazers

I am of the opinion that, much like Peyton Manning, the Brandon Roy that we knew and loved is gone. Roy will play next season, but I’m not expecting much more than what we got last year, which means Matthews is going to fill the void and have a nice season.

Greg Oden C Blazers

Oden has had a lot of time to recover from his latest horrific knee injury, meaning he’s worth a flier in all fantasy drafts. It would be foolish to think he can stay healthy, become consistent and live up to any of the hype that followed him was drafted four years ago. But you never know, and his shot-blocking ability alone makes him worth grabbing once the better centers are off the board.

Gary Neal G Spurs

Neal will qualify as a deep sleeper with George Hill residing in Indianapolis now. He’ll likely back up both guard spots and could even start at shooting guard if Gregg Popovich decides to bring Manu Ginobili off the bench.

J.J. Hickson PF Kings

Hickson will have to battle with Jason Thompson for the starting gig, but my guess is JT will end up backing upDeMarcus Cousins at center. Samuel Dalembert is likely gone as an unrestricted free agent, clearing the way for Cousins at C and Hickson at PF. But whether Hickson will be better in Sacramento than he was in Cleveland remains to be seen. He should at least be able to match last season’s 14 points and nine boards, while more blocks and better free throw shooting would push him to a new level.

C.J. Miles G/F Jazz

Andrei Kirilenko is an unrestricted free agent, meaning Miles could end up being the primary option at small forward. He averaged nearly 16 points in 19 starts last season, and while the rest of his numbers were somewhat anemic, I’d expect more production across the board if he wins the job full time.

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