Fantasy Basketball Sleepers: Late-Round Gems You Can Bank on
Winning a fantasy championship in any sport is a test of knowledge, preparation, perseverance and a lot of luck.
When preparing for your draft for the 2012-2013 season, it's important to plan ahead and discover what players typically go where to maximize the amount of talent you can fit on your squad.
For example, over-drafting or reaching for a player can kill one's draft whereas patiently waiting and grabbing a few late round steals can set you up for a championship run.
Here are seven players that, according to Yahoo! Fantasy Basketball, are all currently going in the seventh round or later that could help carry you to the title.
Drafting Kevin Durant in the first round wouldn't hurt, either.
JaVale McGee, C, Denver Nuggets
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 7, Pick 1
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, .556 FG%, 25.2 minutes
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 12.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, .578 FG%, 32 minutes
Elite Fantasy centers are usually hard to grab, with Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum likely both going in the first round.
Waiting just a few rounds, however, and McGee should be available with most of the same production at a fraction of the cost.
McGee just signed a fresh new four-year deal as the Nuggets center of the future and should enjoy a career year being surrounded by the best supporting cast he's ever had.
Not an elite scorer, McGee provides a plethora of blocks and rebounds and has been a typically high percentage shooter from the field for his career (.612 FG% after trade to Nuggets).
Look for a bump in minutes, and production, as the Nuggets have invested a lot of money in the 24-year-old and will be expecting him to live up to his contract.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 8, Pick 1
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, .467 FG%, 34.5 minutes (At Weber State)
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 16.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists, .440 FG%, 34 minutes
If anyone is going to challenge Anthony Davis for NBA Rookie of the Year, it's going to be Lillard.
The former Weber State star should be the Blazers starting point guard from day one, as they have no other real options to contend for the job.
Lillard absolutely tore up the NBA Summer League, averaging 26.5 points and 5.3 assists per game earning Co-MVP honors.
With a talented core around him of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Meyers Leonard and others, Lillard will have plenty of options to pass to while keeping his scoring total up as well.
It's safe to expect a high amount of turnovers from a rookie point guard, but the production Lillard will provide in other stat categories will more than make up for it, especially if he's available in the eighth round.
O.J. Mayo, SG, Dallas Mavericks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 8, Pick 2
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, .408 FG%, 26.8 minutes
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 17.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, .440 FG%, 33 minutes
Mayo may end up being the steal of free agency, landing on a Mavericks team that should be desperate for his scoring.
With a drop in minutes and production for the past few years in Memphis, Mayo should be able to secure the starting shooting guard job away from Vince Carter and once again get big minutes.
Draft Mayo for his scoring, but also expect a high number of three pointers made (1.5-2.0) per game and a high free throw percentage as well (.817 for his career).
2012-2013 could very well be Mayo's breaking out party and his best season since his rookie year when he averaged 18.5 points per game. Expect Mayo to come close to this number, if not more.
Glen Davis, PF/C, Orlando Magic
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 9, Pick 4
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 9.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.3 blocks, .412 FG%, 23.4 minutes
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 13.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, .450 FG%, 35 minutes
If there's one person in Orlando that's glad Dwight Howard is gone, it has to be Davis.
Taking over for Howard at center in the playoffs last season, Davis showed what he's capable of when given the opportunity. In five games against the Indiana Pacers, Davis put together averages of 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest.
While Davis has never been a real shot-blocking threat, his efforts in the playoffs could mean an increase in the category in 2012-2013. Orlando is extremely thin at center and Davis should almost certainly start and be called upon to do a heavy dose of scoring and rebounding just as he did in last years playoff.
Magic fans aren't happy Howard is gone but fantasy owners will be if they can grab Davis late.
Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 10, Pick 2
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 13.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, .564 FG%, 26.9 minutes
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 14.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, .572 FG%, 32 minutes
Pekovic was a major key to Minnesota's early season success last season, and should only continue to get better going into his third pro season.
A quick look at his stats from last season can be a bit misleading. Not receiving consistently high minutes until February of last season, Pekovic finished the second month with averages of 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in 31.1 minutes per game.
He had an equally impressive March with 17.4 points and 8.5 rebounds while upping his time on the court to 33.3 minutes per game.
This was a stretch in which the T'Wolves were in the playoff hunt with Ricky Rubio. Getting Rubio back this season and adding Andrei Kirilenko will likely mean a postseason birth for Minnesota and an even better season for Pekovic.
George Hill, PG, Indiana Pacers
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 10, Pick 4
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, .442 FG%, 25.5 minutes
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.1 steals, .451 FG%, 34 minutes
Hill was brought in to be the backup to Darren Collison last season but instead ended up taking his job.
With Collison traded to the Mavericks in the offseason and Hill signing a five-year, $40 million it's clear who the Pacers want to run their offense.
More of a combo guard than a true point, expect Hill's assists numbers to rise but not reach an elite level. What fantasy owners can count on is a solid overall statline with contributions in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, three pointers made and a high free throw percentage.
Hill would be an ideal third point guard on a fantasy roster. With an increased role on a good Pacers team, 2012-2013 should be Hills best season thus far.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: Round 12, Pick 1
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, .682 FG%, 23.5 minutes (Lithuania)
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 13.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, .554 FG%, 28 minutes
The second and final rookie that should go down as a steal has yet to play a game on American soil.
The Raptors fifth overall pick in 2011, Valaciunas will finally get a chance to show the NBA and fantasy owners what he's capable of.
Likely the teams starting center, Valanciunas brings a defensive presence Toronto has never gotten out of Andrea Bargnani. Expect a healthy amount of rebounds and blocked shots mixed in with a nice dose of scoring as well.
Projected to go in the last round of many fantasy drafts, Valanciunas is certain to turn into a productive center in the NBA and should produce results immediately.