Sleep Well, My Friends: More Fantasy Basketball Sleepers

Winning in fantasy basketball is not just a matter of lucking into one of the top two picks in the draft, although that certainly helps.  And its not just a matter of sticking to the discipline of the published draft rankings, rather than drafting your favorite players, although that certainly helps too.  A large part of winning fantasy leagues involves doing your own scouting and independent thinking to find value where no one else — not even the fantasy experts — expect to find it. In other words, it involves finding and scooping up “sleepers” — players that for different reasons are greatly undervalued heading into the season.

As I prepared for my second and final expert league fantasy basketball draft to be held later today, I realized that I had in mind a whole list of sleeper candidates that fantasy basketball enthusiasts might be interested in reading about.  So, at the risk of boring the pants off my regular readership, here it is:

INJURY SLEEPERS

One of the leading reasons certain players are undervalued entering the regular season is that they are coming off injury, and are seen as injury risks. Sometimes these concerns are real (see Ming, Yao), but at certain times they are a boon to astute value hunters.

Danny Granger: Granger is a stat machine, who when healthy is one of the top 6 fantasy players in basketball.  So why is he being drafted in the middle to late 2nd round?  It’s because none of the stat services believes he can keep himself on the court.  I would be delighted to draft Granger with my second pick:  that’s the kind of gamble that can win a league for you.

Monta Ellis: Monta’s situation is very similar to Granger’s.  He is forecast to play only around 68 games this year.  When he did play last year, he was the 12th best fantasy player.  But because of his injury history, he’s being ranked 25th to 35th.  That is completely unreasonable, in my opinion, given that both his scoring and defensive load will be significantly lighter this year, he’s finally back to his old playing weight, and Keith Smart is committed to resting him.  I expect Monta to be healthy this year.

Kevin Martin: A couple of years ago, Martin was a second round fantasy talent.  This year, he’s going in the 6th or 7th round, despite his return to form in the second half of last season.  I scooped up Martin with the 71st pick in my last draft, and am targeting him again.

Gilbert Arenas: Arenas is going in the fifth round for basically the same reason as the players above: owners fear that he won’t be able to keep himself on the court, for whatever reason.  It’s quite possible, but talents like Arenas don’t grow on trees.  If he slips to me in the fifth round, I’m going to gamble on a serious upside surprise.

Jameer Nelson: Nelson’s recent career has been wracked by injury, but should he really be ranked at #106, lower than the Beno Udrih and Mike Conley’s of the NBA world?  A classic injury sleeper.

Andris Biedrins: Three years ago, Biedrins was worth an early 7th round pick. This year, he’s going in the 14th round. If you believe the reports from training camp that the old Biedrins is back, you can get yourself quite a scoop. I’m not so sure. If I do wind up drafting him, I’ll try and make sure I play him a lot at the start of the season, to get his early healthy contributions. That way it won’t hurt so much if injury makes him not worth playing later.

REVERSE INJURY SLEEPERS

Pau Gasol and Kirk Hinrich: Crazy thought, but I wonder what will happen to Gasol’s stats if Kobe Bryant continues to struggle to come back from his knee surgery?  Is Gasol a sort of “reverse injury” sleeper?

If so, then Kirk Hinrich is a reverse injury sleeper deluxe:  If Gilbert Arenas suffers another brain injury, or if John Wall suffers an injury to his rookie confidence, you can be sure Hinrich, the ultimate team player, will step into the breach. Flip Saunders is already writing love poems to him.  You can be sure he’ll get plenty of court time regardless. A great sleeper to draft if you wind up with Arenas.

MIS-FORECAST STAT SLEEPERS:

This rarely happens, as basketball players are fairly well-known entities to the stat forecasters.  But here’s a few examples:

Stephen Curry: It’s hard to call a player who is being drafted 8th or 9th in most leagues a sleeper, but Curry might be just that.  How many of you believe that Curry will be limited to 6 assists/gm this season?  That’s his forecast.  I believe he’ll average over 8, and possibly close to 10, if he and Lee really start working the pick and roll.  At 9 or even 8 assists/gm, Curry is the third or 4th best player in fantasy.

Monta Ellis: Because of his tough last two seasons, Ellis is forecast to shoot a terrible percentage, and have a terrible turnover problem.  Has everyone forgotten his 60% for a month three seasons ago?  Do they realize he’s no longer the lead guard, and that he doesn’t have to force his offense this season?  Do they realize he’s back to his 185 lb. playing weight for the first time since his moped injury?  Fat Monta is gone.

Monta is horribly mis-forecast. Draft him.

Kevin Love: I am not convinced that Kevin Love is a winning NBA basketball player.  Too slow, too porous at the four for today’s game.  As a fantasy basketball player, though, I think he may surprise some people.  For this reason: He’s starting to light it up from three.  He began showcasing the shot for USA basketball, and has been carrying it over into the preseason:  He was 3-3 from three and scored 32 points in the last preseason game.  If Love’s three-point shot becomes a feature of the TWolves’ offense, his .8/gm in threes, and 15 pts./gm forecasts are both low.

DEEP SLEEPERS:

These are very low ranked players who are worth a speculative late draft pick because of the possibility of significant upside.  These players are just coming into their own, and thus not well known or understood by the forecasters, who are essentially statisticians, not talent evaluators, at heart. And these players are almost always to be found flying under the radar in obscure markets.

Linas Kleiza: Kleiza’s going to be the starting small forward in Toronto, and I believe will light it up in points, threes and rebounds for an atrocious team in an uptempo offense.

Jrue Holiday: Holiday plays for a lousy team, but has the full confidence of Doug Collins, who is expected to play smaller and push the tempo.  I think he might surprise.

Marcus Thornton: Owners are fearful that Marco Belinelli has taken the starting two job away from Thornton because he plays better defense.

Ha!

Terrence Williams: Williams averaged an impressive 14-7-5 stat line over the final six weeks last season, but owners are fearful that defensive guru The Squeaky General is going to go with Anthony Morrow as his starting two guard.

Ha!

Reggie Williams: As noted in my last piece, Reggie is a complete unknown among stat forecasters and owners.  Given the fact that the Warriors have one of the weakest benches in the league, I think Reggie is a lock for 30 minutes a game, and will greatly exceed his current forecasts of 9-3-2.  Heck, he averaged 15-4-3 in 24 games fresh out of the D-league last year.

Dorell Wright, Nic Batum and Austin Daye:  These are deep, deep sleepers that should only be ventured if the others are unavailabe.  For the first two, check my last piece.

Austin Daye is a player who blew my socks off when I watched him in the Vegas summer league.  At 6-11 200 lbs., Daye is every bit the super-long, super-skilled small forward that Anthony Randolph wishes he could be.  He’s currently buried in a logjam, but if the Pistons manage to move Tayshaun Prince at the deadline, Daye owners could reap a bonanza.

32 Responses to Sleep Well, My Friends: More Fantasy Basketball Sleepers

  1. I’ve got a guy deeper than dirt. Based on how much I wanted the Warriors to draft this guy a few years ago, I landed Tiago Splitter. In my league he is eligible to play the SF, PF and C positions and plays for San Antonio, who if he’s got anything at all–he was the MVP of his league in Europe–will find time on the court. I also see Luis Scola as a sleeper. I don’t believe for a minute that he’ll be limited to backing up Yao Ming. I think he gets 30 minutes on the court regardless. Good luck!

  2. “Stephen Curry: …believe he’ll average over 8 (assists), and possibly close to 10, if he and Lee really start working the pick and roll.”

    According to the WarriorsWorld report on Saturday night’s game in Portland, Curry and Lee only worked the p & r once the entire night. Is this just because Smart is practicing other aspects of the offense while they have the preseason opportunity, or is this obvious weapon going to go underutilized this season?

  3. As soon as you started talking about sleepers I dozed off, but when I woke up my pants were still on. Did I miss out on something?

  4. HA! Too funny, MW…
    Of course, I’m just a sucker for any reference to “pants”.

  5. Certainly not MWLX! Is it too late to rewrite that expression?

  6. Chauncey Billups was made available to me at a great discount in my latest draft. I hadn’t planned on targeting him, but as I was pondering I was struck with this thought: What happens to the stats of Billups and J.R. Smith if Carmelo Anthony is traded?

    I drafted him.

  7. Curry article:

    http://nba-facts-and-rumors.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/22748484/25340548?source=rss_blogs_NBA

    Interesting that the writer mentioned Warriors and playoffs in the same sentence. Is that a first?

  8. Felt, since I know you like to make an occasional wager to back up your sporting world convictions, this is for you. The Bill Simmons Report covers the entire 2010-2011 NBA team win totals over/under.

    http://c.espnradio.com/audio/441219/simmons_2010-10-19-180819.4600.mp3

  9. Don’t know if I’ll be able to find the time to listen to the whole thing, Steve. I do plan to write a post soon giving my opinion on all the win totals. Right now I’m mulling over the most important total of all: Warriors 31 games. It seems like a no-brainer, but I want to get a look at Keith Smart’s new “motion offense” first. I am very concerned that the Warriors are not emphasizing simple pick and roll with three of the best pick and roll players in the NBA on their roster.

  10. GSOM found a video link and I watched the second half. Anybody see it? I got some questions (re: offense).

  11. Apes sleeper picks for deep leagues:
    Splitter, McGee for bigs
    Dorel Wright, SF
    Evan Turner, SG
    Felton, PG

  12. I didn’t catch the video, but I am very concerned with the kind of boxscores I’m looking at — Curry is not getting enough shots, and Lee is obviously not getting his shots in the right places.

    Coaches tend to work on a lot of different things in pre-season, and not show their true hand. But if it’s true that the Warriors are going to go with a silly motion offense over pick and roll, then Keith Smart has hitched the Ferrari to an oxcart.

  13. Turner hasnt been getting a lot of love Ape, so you may be right that he’s a ripe sleeper pick. I’m curious, what stats do you think he’ll help you with?

    I saw part of a FIBA game that Splitter played, and wasn’t very impressed. Unless he’s a great shot blocker, which I don’t think he is, I’m not sure what you’ll get from him.

    McGee is a known quantity now. Anyone sleeping on him? He’ll help in shot blocks, but I think Blatche will get all the shots that Wall and Arenas don’t launch themselves.

    I’m with you on Wright and Felton. Though I think Felton is most undervalued in the points category, and it appears the Knicks may wind up with Carmelo (for Randolph and Gallinari) after all. How will that affect Felton’s points?

  14. My dominant memory last night, second half, was of the team feeding their bigs in the paint, where they had heavily contested shots and didn’t make many. Except for a brief spurt when Curry came back in, fourth quarter, I don’t recall their running that much. DW and Vlad took many of the outside shots: 3-11. And if Ellis hadn’t done his thing, the game would have been an utter disaster.

    Call me crazy, but I like to see scorers score.

    Or maybe Smart is trying to get the other guys going, preseason?

    I could be off here and it’s just an impression, but it seems to me that in many of the offensive sets it’s easy for Curry to get double-teamed. He had to work awfully hard just to bring the ball down. As for his fouls (I’m really guessing), he does get carried away, but I wonder if instead he’s compensating for a defensive breakdown. The Suns had several easy drives to the hoop.

    Curry also didn’t shoot well, obviously, but didn’t take many. Here is where I question Steve Nash comparisons. Nash can and will cut back on his shots to run the team. I’d rather see Curry keep shooting.

  15. Just checked on the SBNation Pound the Rock website for info on Tiago. Apparently he has a plantar problem with his foot and hasn’t played at all this preseason. Sounds ominous; however, there sure isn’t a lot of competition for minutes at the 4/5. Tim Duncan and then Bonner, McDyess and Blair. Blair may be a decent sleeper if you need rebounds; apparently he’s been kicking butt and taking names.

    Go Giants!

  16. Maggette watch:

    Maggette is recovering from surgery for torn peroneal tendons and may not make the opener.

    “Young Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said Maggette has ‘taken him under his wings.’ Jennings said Maggette has given him some tips on attacking the rim and drawing fouls. Jennings had difficulty finishing at the basket and getting to the line as a rookie last season.”

    http://www.journaltimes.com/sports/article_af6f0178-dbe6-11df-a998-001cc4c002e0.html

    Call me sentimental, but I miss Maggette. We never saw what he could do with a full-sized front court last year. He can score, even when the offense stalls. The team could have done creative things with him, coming off the bench, playing smaller positions.

  17. WheresMyChippy

    Alright. Just had my draft and I think I did very well. It went like this:

    Rnd 1) Lebron James (4th)
    Rnd 2) Gerald Wallace (13th)
    Rnd 3) Monta Ellis (20th)
    4) Luis Scola (29th)
    5) Kevin Martin (36th)
    6) Andrew Bogut (45th)
    7) Chris Kaman (52nd)
    8) Baron Davis (61st)
    9) Jameer Nelson (68th)
    10) Yao Ming (77th)
    11) Reggie Williams (84th)
    12) Corey Maggette (93rd)
    13) Mike Miller (100th)
    14) Robin Lopez (109th)

    Its FG%, FT%, 3PTM, PTS, REB, AST, ST, BLK, and TO.

    I think I’m in pretty good shape…

  18. Feltbot, Turner is an fill the stat sheet kind of player, provided he gets playing time which I think he will earn as the season progresses. But if you’re in a league that penalizes for TO’s, he may not be the best pick. I’m guessing he could go 16pts, 4 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 block.

    Bonus sleeper picks: Robin Lopez, Barbosa, Monroe, Beaubois, Ibaka

  19. Where’s My Chippy, (Does that name mean you are 2 feet off the green but find yourself in deep rough?) I like your team, too. But with only 8 in your league, you’ll find nearly every team is loaded as well. Have a great season!

  20. WMC, I think u took Scola high but the rest of your draft is ridiculously good. How do I get in your league? :>

  21. Rgg, I’m as familiar with Nash’s game as any fan, having literally caught most of the games in his career. I think Curry is the closest point guard to him I’ve seen in talent, so I will be drawing a lot of Nash comparisons this year, and especially comparisons between how Coach Smart uses Curry and how Nellie, D’Antoni and Gentry have used Nash.

    Nash was trained by Nellie to absolutely torch teams that sag off him and defend the roller, or zone the set plays. After getting the message his first few years, he has never hesitated to take his shot when that was the best option of the offense. Remember what he did to the Warriors in the Oracle last year? It’s what has always made his teams, and Don Nelson’s teams, unguardable.

    If Keith Smart screws up this aspect of Curry’s game, it will be an unspeakable crime against basketball. Given the passing talents of Curry and Lee, the high pick and roll, with the three other players spacing, will be the most unguardable play the Warriors have. It will be impossible to double team Curry without unleashing Lee in the heart of the defense. It will be impossible to double team Lee without getting a dagger in the back from Curry.

    This is also true of course of Monta Ellis, who MUST be allowed to isolate with the help of high picks.

    Motion offenses are for college teams, or NBA teams bereft of offensive superstars at the point. Teams like the old Sacto Kings (Bibby) or New Jersey Nets (Kidd) or the Lakers (Fisher) or Celtics (Rondo). The Golden State Warriors are NOT those teams.

    Neither the Spurs (Parker and Ginobili), nor any team that has offensive geniuses at point guard and power forward (Stockton and Malone, Nash and Stoudemire), nor the World Champion Miami Heat have run or will run motion offense. THOSE are the teams on which this Warriors team must be modeled.

    I’m really hoping Smart gets this, or the noises emanating from this blog will be piercing.

  22. FB:
    Compared with Nash only in one regard: I want Curry to keep shooting, and he may have to with this team. The rest of the comparison, of course, I want to keep.

    And I will defer to superior analysis once the games start, and look forward to it. Something don’t look right, from what little I’ve seen and understand.

  23. Any chance they’re playing Vlad Rad so much to showcase him so they can trade him? He didn’t finish at the rim worth crap last night (Thurs.).

  24. Great, great article Steve, thanks. It’s both funny and sad that no Bay Area journalist had either the inclination or the chops to attempt a retrospective look at one of the greatest coaches and GMs in sports history themselves. Given the vibrant creative and intellectual environment we enjoy in the Bay Area, you would think it would be home to some of the most creative and accomplished sports journalists in the nation. But no, we live in a sportswriting backwater.

  25. Rgg, Vlad Rad is getting run simply because the Warriors are desperately thin on the front line, again. They will need him.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe either VR or BW can play small forward, which is where Smart experimented with VR last night. BW can’t shoot, and neither player has a prayer of defending small forwards.

    Which leaves Reggie Williams backing up the small forward. But wait, don’t the Warriors need him to back up the guards?

    More on the state of the Warriors soon….

  26. Hey, Steve, I really enjoyed that nba.com piece about Nellie. Thanks for the link.

    Especially ironic was the Cuban comment that Nellie “kind of lost the passion with the Mavs…” Yea, not long after Cuban traded away Steve Nash, against Nellie’s wishes. Bye, bye championship.

  27. Pingback: A Nellieball Christmas: Warriors 109 Blazers 102 + Heat 96 Lakers 80 + Magic 86 Celtics 78 | Feltbot's Warriors Blog

  28. Pingback: Feltbot’s 2012 Fantasy Basketball Sleepers - Feltbot's Warriors Blog