Let’s be honest: Drafting the sleepers you want in the round you want is one of the most satisfying feelings in fantasy basketball. That said, sleepers are a dangerous breed. Like fair trades in the NBA these days, sleepers are not sure things and can sometimes burn you if you pounce too early on them. To help sort out the sleepers you should be eyeing in your fantasy basketball drafts this year, here’s a list of players who are napping, dozing and comatose (assuming nine categories).
Napping (sleepers in a loose sense of the word, because just about everyone knows it):
Arron Afflalo (SG, TBA): Wherever he lands, Afflalo will be asked to shoulder a bigger portion of the load this season. He doesn’t hurt you in a single statistical category, which makes him a low-risk asset. (Target in rounds 6-7)
Jared Dudley (SG/SF, Suns): Vince Carter‘s gone, which means the starting SG spot is all Dudley’s. From Dec. 2, 2010, through the end of the last season, Dudley played in 65 games (15 starts, 50 off the bench) where he returned top 80 value. Like Afflalo, you’d be hard-pressed to find a statistical category where Dudley will hurt you. He’ll be an especially solid source of threes and steals. (Target in rounds 6-7)
Jeff Teague (PG/SG, Hawks): Kirk Hinrich is going to miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, which means Teague will get the reins of the offense right away. The young point guard showed off his skills in the first five games of the Hawks’ six-game playoff series against the Bulls (the last one was a blowout): During this stretch, Teague shot 56 percent from the field and averaged 17.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 turnover per game, matching up against Derrick Rose no less. That said, he should still be viewed as a mostly untested player who doesn’t hit many threes. (Target in rounds 8-9)
DeAndre Jordan (PF/C, Clippers): This one’s only for those in head-to-head formats. Jordan, freshly re-signed with the Clippers, shoots a high percentage from the field (68.6 percent last season), blocks a lot of shots (1.8 per game last season) and rebounds the ball pretty well (7.2 per game last season). The downsides are that he’s awful from the free-throw line (45.2 percent last season) and still has Chris Kaman to contend with â€“ for now. If Kaman’s banished from the Clippers, as expected, Jordan’s stock goes even higher. For now, he’s a raw big man who can help you in some categories. It would be exciting to see how high his ceiling is if he’s given the lion’s share of minutes at center for the Clippers this season. (Target in rounds 9-10)
Dozing (these guys aren’t going to sneak up on you, but you might be underestimating their values):
Tony Allen (SG/SF, Grizzlies): He eagerly tweeted a welcome to two new teammates in what was believed to be a trade sending O.J. Mayo to the Pacers before calling it a “false alarm,” but that doesn’t change the fact that Allen will be a great value pick in drafts this season. He proved last year that he’s capable of doing a lot when given around 28-29 minutes a game, and if Mayo is dealt away, Allen should have no problem notching that much playing time. Regardless, Allen is a thieving machine who also shoots a high percentage from the field. Keep a close eye on the Mayo situation, as it can tip the scales hugely in favor of Allen’s fantasy prospects. (Target in rounds 8-10)
C.J. Miles (SG/SF, Jazz): Miles had a breakout campaign last season. Though he struggled with his field-goal percentage, he was a helper with threes and chipped in well-rounded lines. He’s 15 pounds lighter than he was last season and is in better overall shape, which is a bonus. Expect him to start at SG or SF for the Jazz this season and average around 15/3.5/2 along with around 1.5 threes a game. (Target in rounds 7-8)
Austin Daye (SF/PF, Pistons): He had a sleeper tag put on him last season but never fulfilled those expectations. Daye will be a big part of the youth movement in Detroit and should start for his team this season. In 16 starts in 2010-11, he averaged 11.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.7 threes per game. While he shot at a solid clip from the charity stripe (87.1 percent in those starts), Daye struggled from the field (42.6 percent in those starts, 41.0 percent for the whole season). He’s got a high ceiling and should offer great returns for owners fortunate enough to nab him at the right spot this year. (Target in rounds 8-9)
Paul George (SG/SF, Pacers): George had a solid rookie campaign last season. His averages per 36 minutes were 13.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.2 threes. With more muscle on his frame and a starting SG spot with his name on it, George will have plenty of opportunities to build on his all-around appeal from 2010-11. If, however, the Pacers acquire another productive shooting guard (e.g., Mayo), George’s appeal will fall a bit. Don’t spring too soon on him in your drafts, but don’t let him fall too low, either. (Target in rounds 10-12)
Toney Douglas (PG/SG, Knicks): The professional Chauncey Billups is a victim of the amnesty clause and the peg-legged Mike Bibby will don a Knicks uniform this season. The door is open for Douglas to get a solid 30 minutes a night this season. In nine games as a starter last season, Douglas averaged 52.2 percent from the field, 81.8 percent from the line, 2.4 threes, 13.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.6 turnovers in 29 minutes per contest. If nothing else, Douglas will be a solid source of threes and steals on your bench. But there’s a good chance he’ll be more than that in 2011-12. (Target in rounds 8-9)
Carlos Delfino (SG/SF, Bucks): His stellar play was derailed by a pesky concussion last season, but we learned that Delfino is a three-point beast when healthy. He averaged 2.1 treys per game in 2010-11, along with 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals. Assuming he stays well in 2011-12, Delfino should have no problem asserting himself as a well-known and sought-after fantasy asset. (Target in rounds 7-8)
DeMar DeRozan (SG/SF, Raptors): DeRozan was a fantasy stud last year â€“ if your league didn’t count three-pointers made. He says that his three-point shot is improved heading into this season, which is great news, but don’t put too much stock into it just yet. If he feels more comfortable jacking up shots from downtown and takes some time to actually connect on a healthy number of them, it could do his field-goal percentage no favors. Still, DeRozan is a promising player on a team desperate for a star, so look for him to build on his solid numbers from last season. (Target in rounds 7-8)
DeJuan Blair (PF/C, Spurs): With the veteran Tim Duncan heading into a season that will put a lot of strain on that old body of his, Blair will be looked upon to carry a heavier load this season. He’s apparently in better shape, which is good news. Blair should be able to approach double-doubles and a steal or two on a nightly basis. (Target in rounds 9-11)
Comatose (for whatever reasons, these guys are often forgotten â€“ but not by you, right?):
Jodie Meeks (SG, 76ers): Meeks flew under the radar for much of last season, but he was one of the hottest waiver-wire adds from February through March. During this stretch, he put up top 40 numbers, mostly thanks to his solid shooting percentages and 2.4 threes per game. With Evan Turner doing little to unseat Meeks from his starting SG spot, fantasy owners shouldn’t be too hesitant on pulling the trigger on the man with a supermodel’s name this season. (Target in rounds 8-10)
Ryan Anderson (PF/C, Magic): Anderson takes full advantage of the minutes given him. The problem is that he usually has to battle for anything more than 22-23 minutes a night. Though the Magic traded away Brandon Bass, they got Glen Davis in return. That said, if (or when) Dwight Howard departs from the squad, Anderson should have a slightly better shot at claiming more minutes on a consistent basis. He’s a big man who hits a ton of threes (2.1 in just 22:18 per game last season) and shoots well from the free-throw line (around 84 percent for his career), which is a luxury in fantasy ball. (Target in rounds 9-10)
James Johnson (SF/PF, Raptors): In his 25 games with the Raptors last season, Johnson averaged 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, a steal and 1.1 blocks in just under 28 minutes a game. He says his jump shot is better, which, if true, would boost his fantasy appeal even higher. Johnson’s solid all-around production will be a boon for any fantasy owner who can grab him late in their drafts. (Target in rounds 11+)
Omri Casspi (SG/SF, Cavaliers): He’s expected to start at SF for the Cavs, a team in need of offensive help. While Casspi isn’t the biggest name around, he has the skills to help fantasy squads. In 27 starts for the Kings last season, he averaged 10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.3 turnovers and 1.6 threes. Expect him to produce around those numbers this season for the Cavs. (Target in rounds 11+)
Ed Davis (PF/C, Raptors): Davis showed flashes of big-time promise last season, averaging close to a double-double in 17 starts. Though his free-throw shooting is pretty dreadful, he’ll give you what you want from a big man. Davis also gained about 18 pounds of muscle in the extended offseason, which should work to his advantage. Coach Dwayne Casey also said that he’ll deploy Amir Johnson (Davis’ primary competition for minutes at PF) as a power forward and center, while playing Davis only at power forward. This could mean less of a timeshare for Davis, which would be good news for his fantasy production. (Target in rounds 11+)
Jonas Jerebko (SF/PF, Pistons): He missed all of last season with an Achilles injury but is healthy heading into this season. The Swede posted solid averages in his rookie campaign and should be able to produce solid lines for the Pistons in his delayed sophomore campaign, so long as he steers clear of injuries. He’s another guy who won’t hurt you anywhere and has the skill set for approaching 1/1/1 averages in threes, steals and blocks. (Target in rounds 12+)
Gerald Henderson (SG, Bobcats): With Stephen Jackson out of Charlotte, Henderson inherits the starting SG gig. He had hip surgery in the offseason but got extra time to heal, thanks to the lockout. In 30 games as a starter for the Bobcats last season, Henderson averaged 44.9 percent from the field, 83.5 percent from the line, 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.1 turnovers. While he won’t hit many threes, Henderson can clearly fill up the stat sheet. (Target in rounds 11+)
Jerryd Bayless (PG/SG, Raptors): He was a stud in his 18 starts for the Raptors last season, averaging 18.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, a steal and 2.9 turnovers, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field and 81.0 percent from the free-throw line. Bayless will give Jose Calderon a run for his starting PG job and should have little problem working his way into some kind of timeshare. Taking a late flier on Bayless could pay off nice dividends, especially if Calderon gets hurt or demoted at any point in the season. (Target in rounds 12+)
Throughout the season, be sure to leave your questions, comments, concerns, trade offers, roster problems and more in the comments below.
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