This is Part Two of my 2012-2013 Sleepers and Busts review. In Part One, I discussed Jrue Holiday, Dorell Wright, Kawhi Leonard, Monta Ellis, David Lee and Derrick Favors (Sleepers); and Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Anthony Davis, OJ Mayo, John Wall and Jeremy Lin (Busts).
It’s mid-training camp now, and we have an actual idea who’s in shape, who’s injured, and how the position battles are shaping up. I’ve kicked into my serious draft preparation, because this is the sweet spot for holding your draft — the moment where a little work can give you a serious informational edge over your rivals.
I’ve reviewed the rosters and depth charts of every NBA team, and assembled a list below of players that I think are undervalued or overvalued relative to their rankings on Basketball Monster (the best ranking service I know). That is how I think of Sleepers and Busts — in terms of value. You may think you have identified a breakout candidate, but guess what? If the ranking services like Yahoo and CBS agree with you, then your breakout candidate will not be undervalued in your draft. In fact, he could very well be overvalued!
My picks might seem unconventional as a result. I like to think against the grain, because that’s the only way you can crush your draft.
Jump for fantasy value!
Before I start, I’d like to make some corrections to Part One in light of training camp developments:
Derrick Favors is no longer on my sleeper list, because Enes Kanter has lost 50 lbs. and is looking like an absolute monster. They’re going to eat each others’ minutes.
Jrue Holiday and Dorell Wright are greatly dependent for their value on the health of Andrew Bynum. There’s greater risk there than I previously thought.
John Wall has of course gotten injured, and fallen from #19 where I thought he was overvalued, to #41. At that level, I’m just guessing.
Dirk Nowitzki has come up with a bum knee that he might need scoped. So while my opinion of Anthony Davis hasn’t changed, his value relative to Dirk has.
Michael Beasley: Big time sleeper @83. Finally with the right coach for his talents, uptempo and offensive-minded Alvin Gentry. Beasley’s the best offensive player on the Suns, and he’s already being urged to let it fly from three. Grab him!
Damian Lillard: @64, not sure how much he can overachieve. But there is literally no one behind him on Portland’s depth chart, which makes him very low risk. He killed it in summer league, and he’s still killing it so far in the preseason.
Pau Gasol: Projected @26 after ranking 13 and 18 the last two seasons. I understand the thinking that Dwight Howard will take away points and rebounds. What they’re missing: In the Princeton offense, the Lakers will be forcing the ball to Pau in the high post. A lot. Pau’s assists totals should explode.
Alonzo Gee: @103 with 32 min/gm projected. This is thin, because Basketball Monster is good. If you’re ranking service has him lower though, take note: Gee is the primary beneficiary of the Cavs naming CJMiles as their starting two over Dion Waiters.
Mike Dunleavy: @142, 26 min/gm. Excelled off the bench last season, but who else do the Bucks have at SF now that Delfino is gone? Please don’t say MBam — you can’t play a non-shooter at 3 in this league. He’s an undersized 4.
Stephen Jackson: @190, 22 min. Seriously? Two years ago Jackson was the #35 player in the league. I have a hard time believing he doesn’t work his way into serious minutes for the Spurs this season. Danny Green ahead of him? Huh. Jack proved he’s still a great player in the playoffs, guarding Kevin Durant. Sit down, Green. And one other thing: this is a contract year for Stack Jack.
Kevin Martin: Perfectly valued @56, after an injury-wracked season last year. Just want to point out two things: Horrible team. Contract year.
Jason Terry: Why in the world is he @99 when the last two seasons he was ranked 61 and 58? Avery Bradley will be out until December and Courtney Lee won’t challenge his minutes. And he’s playing with a dude named Rondo! Jump on Terry if he falls to the 80′s.
Eric Bledsoe: @260, 15 min/gm. This is as deep as a sleeper can get, but Bledsoe proved that he’s a terrific player in the cauldron of the playoffs last season. Undersized at the two but still a ferocious defender, I see him becoming the number three guard in the Clips rotation, taking minutes from Crawford and Billups. Does that mean you can draft him? Probably not, but I just wanted to get on record with this guy. Good player, and if Paul goes down, immediate stud.
Dion Waiters: You can’t draft him if he’s not starting. But keep an eye on him at midseason. I believe in this kid.
[10-17 Update: Dare I speak the name Andray Blatche? Currently off the board @250, he was the 89th ranked player two years ago getting only 28 min/gm. He has re-dedicated himself under Avery Johnson's wing, is apparently in great shape, and has been killing it so far this preseason. And he'll be playing with DWill. Hmmm. Intriguing late round sleeper.]
[10-20 Update: Jonas Valanciunas and Andreas Bargnani. I haven't seen JV play yet, but Toronto is raving about him, and he's already impressing in the box scores even though he's not yet in shape -- he sat out the first half of training camp. Does this mean he's a steal @164? I'm not sure, because Basketball Monster forecasts him at 26 minutes, which is probably right. But I'm wondering what the presence of the kid in the middle will have on Bargnani, who will now be sliding to the spread four to start the game. I think this will help keep Bargnani healthy and fresh, may increase his minutes over the 34 forecast, and also could help his horrid rebounding numbers. Ranked @73, Bargani might be worth a higher pick.
Stephen Curry (bust) and Jarret Jack (sleeper): Curry has now suffered two incidents with his bad ankle that caused him to be taken out of preseason games. I think it's safe to say at this point that the likelihood of him surviving the season healthy is low, and of returning to his rookie form is even lower. It would be insane to draft him @6 where he is projected, and it might be wise to take him off your board altogether. Let someone else gamble their fantasy season on him, unless he drops far enough that he's screaming to be taken.
This makes Jack a definite sleeper @173. I think it's likely he'll exceed his 25 min/gm forecast even in games Curry plays.]
Kobe: Projected @11 after ranking 7 and 9 the last two seasons. How could that be overvalued? I just think in the Princeton offense, the ball’s going to be in Kobe’s hands a lot less than people think. That 5 assist projection in particular looks wrong. This could be the year that Kobe spots up, and trusts his teammates to carry the load in the regular season.
Mo Williams: A lot of risk taking him where he’s projected @59. Utah needs a point guard that can feed the post, and that is SO not Mo Williams. I could see him actually losing his job mid-season to Jamaal Tinsley, who’s suddenly in the best shape of his career.
Eric Gordon: Still feeling his knee, being held out of training camp. A major risk @31, particularly for a player so reliant on athleticism.
Jeff Teague: Can you risk drafting this guy @37, when Devin Harris is behind him?
Ryan Anderson: @35, 35 min/gm. It is astonishing to me that people haven’t realized that Anderson and Anthony Davis play the same position. Nobody seriously believes either of these guys can play the three, do they? And NO isn’t going to throw Davis to the Wolves at the five, are they? I don’t believe in Anderson’s minutes.
Brandon Bass: Can a player @131 be a bust? Yes, if they’re projected at 32 min/gm with Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger behind them.
Ersan Ilyasova: Projected @50 and 33 min/gm after ranking 72 with 28 min last season. Really? I love Ilyasova as a player, but take a look at the Bucks’ loaded front court this season: Dalembert, Gooden, Udoh, MBam, Henson, Pryzbilla, Sanders. Is he really going to get 5 minutes more this season than last?
Isaiah Thomas: Too risky @77, 30 min/gm. The Kings picked up Aaron Brooks, and still have that guy named Jimmer that the down-to-the-cloth Maloofs and everyone else in SacTown will be chanting for.
George Hill: Probably ok @91. But I’ve never believed in Hill as a starting caliber pg, and DJ Augustin is behind him. Pass.
Lou Williams: Fairly valued @94. I mention him because he’s considered a sleeper by many. Don’t fall for it! At 6-1″ 175, he’s a big underdog to get starters’ minutes. And his shooting percentage will kill you.
Wilson Chandler: @127. One of the most underrated players in the league before his injury. But his injury was a bad one. And the Nuggets are loaded on the wings. And there are trade rumors. Pass.
Tiago Splitter: @126. I bring him up because I’ve seen him discussed as a sleeper. Not sure how anyone who watched last year’s playoffs could believe that. Splitter can’t defend against the Thunder or the Heat nor any other team built like them (Nuggets, Celtics). And Pop loves him some Boris Diaw.
Kemba Walker: @105, 30 min/gm. Shot 37% last season in a running system that should have been good for him. Playing for a no-nonsense college coach this season. Ramon Sessions behind him. Pass.
[Stephen Curry (bust): The injury risk on Curry is now extreme (see sleeper update, above). Stay away.]
As always, I’ll answer questions about any players I’ve left off my list in the comments below. [I've also begun updating this post as more names occur to me, so check back if that interests you. Updates will be posted at the end of each list.] Good luck in your draft!