Fantasy Basketball Rankings 2012-13: Early Look at Top Sleeper at Each Position
Experienced fantasy players know that to win a league one needs the right combination of drafting skill, key free-agent pickups and overall luck.
When discussing drafting skill, it's easy to take a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant in the first round. But what about the the second round? Third? Sixth? How about the the 12th?
Sleepers are a necessary addition to any champion's team—the players everyone else overlooks, for whatever reason, come draft time.
These are the players that oftentimes make the difference between being a fantasy champ or being a fantasy chump. Here are the best sleepers at each position to help prepare you for your fantasy basketball draft.
Center: Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: 122.3
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
It's hard to believe, but Pekovic was actually Minnesota's second-leading scorer last season.
Although he did not receive 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, posting 17.4 points and 8.5 rebounds while upping his time on the court to 33.3 minutes per game.
It's safe to expect a boost in minutes for Pekovic from the less than 27 he received last season to somewhere in the low-30's this year.
Getting Ricky Rubio back this season and adding Andrei Kirilenko will likely mean a postseason birth for Minnesota—and an even better season for Pekovic.
Power Forward: Glen Davis, Orlando Magic
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: 116.2
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
Davis' minutes were already expected to go up with the departure of Dwight Howard, and more may have just opened up.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Magic forward Al Harrington is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and likely won't be ready for the start of the season.
Davis will likely start at either power forward or center—a position that he excelled at in last year's postseason. With Howard sidelined, Davis put together averages of 19.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest in five games against the Indiana Pacers,
Magic fans may not be happy that Howard is gone, but fantasy owners will be if they can grab Davis late.
Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: 134.5
2011-2012 Stats Per Game: 7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, .493 FG%, 24.0 minutes
Predicted 2012-2013 Stats Per Game: 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, .482 FG%, 28 minutes
Leonard won't blow anybody away with his stat line, but will make a nice late-round selection for your team.
The likely starter at small forward for the Spurs, Leonard is a great defender who should begin to contribute more on the offensive side.
Just going into his second pro season, look for an increase in minutes and production in a number of areas. Not only should he post solid scoring and rebounding numbers, but his premier defense should lead to a high number of steals as well.
Shooting percentages from Leonard are also a plus, as his .493/.376/.773 line was very impressive for a rookie. These numbers only got better as the season went along, and rose to .500/.450/.813 in 14 playoff games.
Another plus is that Leonard almost never turns the ball over, averaging just 0.7 giveaways per game last season.
Shooting Guard: George Hill, Indiana Pacers
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: 123.3
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 gets the slight nod over O.J. Mayo due to his eligibility at both guard spots.
Now that he is the starter at point guard for the Pacers, expect a heavier workload for Hill in 2012-13.
More of a combo guard than a true point, Hill's assists numbers will rise, but won't reach an elite level. What fantasy owners can count on is a solid overall stat line with contributions in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, three-pointers made and a high free-throw percentage.
Hill would be an ideal third point/shooting guard on a fantasy roster. Indiana is a team on the rise, and has plenty of talent to distribute the ball to. Hill and his fantasy owners should both benefit.
Point Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Yahoo! Average Draft Pick: 97.7
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
As expected, Lillard has already been named the Blazers starting point guard.
This was a move that was widely presumed, as Lillard absolutely tore up the NBA Summer League, averaging 26.5 points and 5.3 assists per game while earning Co-MVP honors.
With a talented core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Meyers Leonard and others around him, 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 a late round.
Anthony Davis will be drafted before him, but don't be surprised if Lillard has the better rookie season and NBA career.