Sleepers and busts have and always will be an essential part of fantasy basketball. While drafting consistent players that might have low upside but also have high floors is important to build a well rounded fantasy team, drafting players who out-play their perceived value are the ones that win leagues. Conversely, drafting a bunch of players that fail to perform at the price you paid for them is how you end up in the loser’s bracket.
But enough of the small talk, lets get into this year’s most notable sleeper and bust candidates. All ADP numbers are based off ESPN’s Live Draft Results.
Derrick Favors (PF/C – UTA)/Enes Kanter (C – UTA):
Gone are fantasy studs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and enter former top 3 picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Favors was already a viable fantasy asset last year, averaging 9.4 pts, 7.1 rebs and 1.7 blks but that was only in 23.2 minutes per game. As the new starting center with no notable competition, Favors should see 33-35 minutes a game, and that is all he needs to put up elite fantasy numbers. His shooting percentages are not great but getting 14 and 11 with over 2 blocks from an ADP of 62 is great value.
Kanter did not get as much playing time as Favors did last year so his production was obviously curbed. Kanter has a better offensive arsenal than Favors, having a developed jumper and some solid post moves, Kanter is an even juicier sleeper than Favors. Kanter should also see a massive boost in minutes and with that he should just about match Favors in points and rebounds. He will get around one less block per game than his front court counterpart, his elite FG% just about evens that out. These two big’s minute boosts make them both excellent sleeper candidates, but Kanter will provide better return on investment due to his higher upside on offense and his lower ADP which sits at a ridiculously low 109.
O.J. Mayo (SG – MIL):
This season, Mayo goes from being the second scoring option in Dallas to being the top dog in Milwaukee. Mayo posted serviceable numbers last season nonetheless, averaging 15.3 pts, 3.5 rebs, 4.4 asts, 1.1 stls, 1.7 threes and even shooting 45% from the field. Now in Milwaukee, Mayo’s only competition for touches are Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Knight, which means Mayo will be shooting a lot. Expect regression on his FG%, down to the low 40′s, but Mayo did shoot 40% on threes last year and if he can continue that efficiency beyond the arc with his increase in volume, 2.5 threes per game is very realistic. With about 4 boards, 4-5 assists and a steal, you are drafting Mayo mainly for his near 20 ppg and elite production from three. Those numbers are at par with Klay Thompson, who is being drafted over 30 picks before Mayo’s ADP of 68.
Jonas Valanciunas (C – TOR):
Similar to Favors and Kanter, Valanciunas’ value is set to sky rocket due to an increase in playing time. Jonas showed what he could do when receiving respectable minutes last April, averaging 15 pts, 6 boards and 2.4 blocks to go along with elite percentages. Valanciunas will get starters minutes this season and could put up 15-17 pts, 7-9 rebs and at least 2 bpg. What makes Valanciunas an elite sleeper is his undervalued percentages. His FG% of over 50% will be more impact-full with his increase in shots, and his 79% from the line, already great for a big man, will be incredibly valuable as he goes to the line a lot for a center as seen in his 7.7 FT attempts per game in April. Valanciunas’ ADP of 80 is absolute robbery, as the talent and opportunity are both present, not to mention the chance that Rudy Gay is traded at some point. It would not be a surprise at all if at this time next year we are discussing him as a top 20 pick.
Evan Turner (SG/SF – PHI):
Turner, the best player on a possible historically bad team, has a huge opportunity ahead of him as it relates to putting up fantasy numbers. Turner could realistically push for 40 mpg and with that, his already diverse stat line will be even more impressive. Averaging over 6 rebs and 4 asts last year from the shooting guard position shows his fantasy value, the only thing we are waiting on are the 3′s and steals, which he averaged under 1 of each. The downside of drafting Turner is his bad percentages, especially his low 40′s FG%, but if he can get around 1 three and 1 steal per game this year, along with 15-18 ppg, 7 rebs and 5 asts, he is a sure bet to out perform his ADP of 88 and become a top 50 player.
Robin Lopez (C – POR):
Now the starting center in Portland, Lopez could put up nice numbers in the role J.J. Hickson succeeded in last year. Lopez had sustained periods of value last year due to his points, FG% and blocks, and those are the stats that could make Lopez an excellent late round pick. The only thing stopping Lopez from getting the 29 mpg Hickson got last year is the possible emergence of Meyers Leonard and the addition of Thomas Robinson, but if he gets the playing time, 12-13 points, 6 rebounds, near 2 blocks and a great FG% makes Lopez a great late round flier.
Dirk Nowitzki (PF – DAL):
A big name, not his production, is what is keeping Dirk in the top 20. Don’t be the guy whose season is ruined because their second rounder isn’t playing as such. Dirk averaged only 17.3 pts, 6.8 rebs and less than 1 block and steal per game last year and there is no reason to believe those numbers will improve, if not get worse. Dirk is now 35, has missed 49 games total the last two years, and now has to compete with legendary ball hog Monta Ellis for touches. There is also the fact that his numbers just are not that good. 7 rebounds and .7 blocks for a big man are below average, especially one taken in the top 20. People say he maintains value from his percentages and his 3 point shooting, while 1.2 3s per game are nice, his FG% of 47% is below average for a big man and his high 80′s FT% is on a low number of attempts. Numbers similar to what Ryan Anderson should put up, minus 1 three per game, is certainly not worth his ADP of 19, so drafting Nowitzki could put your team in a serious hole from the get go.
Paul Pierce (SF – BKN):
Now the 3rd or 4th option of the Nets, Pierce might actually put up numbers that we’re accustom to seeing from players his age. A 36 year old is always at a high injury risk, but Pierce will struggle, due to less playing time and subsequently fewer shot attempts, not the durable Pierce’s injury risk. New head coach Jason Kidd will likely play new aging vets Pierce and Kevin Garnett around 30 mpg, and let younger stars Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson shoulder the offensive load. Pierce should still put up decent points, percentages and threes, but his assists will surely drop as the 3rd ball handler of the starting 5, and his decrease in volume will make his percentages less value. And with an ADP of 48, I would much rather take O.J. Mayo twenty picks later and have his upside, rather than the declining Pierce.
Kawhi Leonard (SF – SA):
Despite being a popular sleeper pick this year in fantasy circles, I don’t think Kawhi will have the success that others are projecting. First off, the situation he is in is no different than it was last year, where Leonard was a low end fantasy option at best. Kawhi’s “breakout” happened in the playoffs, while his only major statistical improvement over that span was his 9 boards per game, but that was a direct result of him playing added minutes at PF because Tiago Splitter was unplayable against the explosive, small ball Miami Heat. Leonard will be back at SF in the regular season and his rebounding should settle at 6-7 per game. He contributes with nice percentages and near 2 steals per game, but his 3′s, points and blocks are average at best for a SF. Kawhi is undoubtedly a stud in the making, but he is much more valuable in real life than in fantasy where his ADP of 50 is too steep for me. I would not be surprised if Leonard takes the next step, but he will be a top 50 fantasy player this season as a best case scenario, leaving his current draft value with only downside.
Jeremy Lin (PG – HOU):
“Linsanity” simply is no more, and fantasy owners must move on from Jeremy Lin. Lin put up a modest stat line last year with 13.4 pts, 3 rebs, 6.1 asts, 1.1 threes, 1.6 stls and average percentages. With the addition of Dwight Howard, Lin’s touches will decrease even more which leaves his only valuable fantasy stats as his assists and steals. Neither of those project to decrease due to Howard’s addition, as his assists could even increase, but a two stat player can be found on the waiver wire all the time. Lin could also see his playing time decrease this year in favor of the promising Patrick Beverley, a better defender and 3 point shooter who shined in the playoffs and fits the Rockets scheme better. A player with a decreasing role, low upside and limited talent is not someone who should be taken in the top 85, where Lin’s ADP is at 84.
DeMar DeRozan (SG – TOR):
Entering his 5th season and first year of his big contract extension, DeRozan has yet to show that he is anything but a voluminous scorer. While last year’s 18.1 ppg catches the eye, if you look closer you will notice that DeRozan is average or worse in every other notable fantasy stat. Last year’s .4 threes per game, 2.5 asts and .9 steals were horrible for a SG and his average percentages do not make up for it at all. Competing with shot happy Rudy Gay and now Jonas Valanciunas for touches, DeRozan will have to improve his statistical diversity to be worthy his top 100 ADP. DeRozan should probably be avoided in drafts and in season unless you are needy for points.