Fantasy Basketball Sleepers: 5 Players Guaranteed to Explode This Season
If your fantasy basketball draft hasn't happened already, chances are it's just around the corner. That said, it's time for one final sleeper lesson.
As it's been mentioned before, a fantasy sleeper is a player that isn't initially expected to do well, but ends up posting respectable numbers and being a big help in the fantasy world. Various sleepers' stats may vary, but some of this season's under-the-radar players are in a prime position to put up All-Star quality numbers.
That said, though where they are selected in your draft remains to be seen, these players should be high on your watch list if you want to dominate in any particular category. They shouldn't be the stars of your team, who you will select in the early rounds, but rather they should be ones you opt to start at either a utility spot or a pure guard or forward position. Others may underestimate them or write them off completely, and this is how your team can have an advantage.
Long story short, the following players are going to be definite sleepers in any fantasy draft. The only difference between them and the rest is that while the others may put up respectable numbers, this select group's season stats will be eye-popping.
No. 5: Luis Scola, Phoenix Suns
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2011-12 Stats: 15.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .491 FG%
Scola isn't a conventional sleeper by any means, as most fantasy basketball managers know what to expect from him. Up until this year, he has been known as a solid power forward who can provide decent scoring and rebounding, with the golden nugget statistic being his field goal percentage.
Yet, the 6'9" Argentinian is now playing in head coach Alvin Gentry's fast-paced offense and he is occupying a position once held by Amar'e Stoudemire under former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. Simply put, he's in a position to establish new career highs in points and rebounds per game at age 32. Throw in his intelligent shot selection, and he could also be in line for his first All-Star campaign.
Thus, though he doesn't fit the usual definition of one, Scola is an offensive sleeper for 2012-13. Even if he doesn't explode in terms of how many points he scores each night, he'll still be a lock to post decent averages in scoring and rebounds.
No. 4: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers
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2011-12 Stats: 13.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, .380 3P%
One of Holiday's underrated strengths is that he is very big for a point guard at 6'4", 180 pounds. His long and lean figure allows for creating great mismatches on defense and his footwork isn't bad either. Like the aforementioned Scola, he isn't a conventional sleeper but this season, he could be in for a career year.
The fact is that Holiday is a good scoring point guard in a system that allows him to utilize his talents. His three-point shooting is reliable, his defense pesky and with the right amount of targets, his passing game is something worth watching.
That said, don't let the former UCLA Bruin's low assist total from last season turn you off. He now has some reliable go-to guys in new center Andrew Bynum and 2-guard Jason Richardson. If they can bond well on the court and Holiday starts driving to the basket more than taking a jump shot, fantasy owners could potentially have one of the more underrated point guards in the league on their roster.
Is Holiday the best point guard available? Absolutely not. Still, his overall talent is too much to pass up and in fantasy basketball, he could play a great role in a team's success.
No. 3: Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
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2011-12 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, .586 FG%
Kenneth Faried is only 6'8", 228 pounds, but he is the perfect example of how size can be deceiving. Despite being on the smaller side for a power forward, he is actually the all-time leading rebounder in NCAA Division I Basketball history and averaged 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in his senior season at Morehead State.
In his rookie season in Denver, he didn't really start making an impact until mid-February but impressed team management enough that longtime big man Nene was traded to the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline. Over the final two months of the season, Faried averaged 11.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and gave the fans more to look forward to once the new season began.
Now that next season is upon us, it's time for Faried to become a sleeping fantasy beast. He takes many high-percentage shots and is absolutely fearless when it comes to playing hard under the basket, both on offense and defense. In fantasy terms, this means potentially high scoring and rebounding totals, both of which can be of great value.
No. 2: Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
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2011-12 Stats: 9.5 PPG, .401 FG%, .306 3P%, 1.7 SPG
Shumpert is a unique type of sleeper, as he is currently recovering from a torn ACL suffered in last year's playoffs and isn't expected back until mid-December or January. Yet, based on how he performed in his rookie season, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket will only continue to get better with time. That said, in spite of the fact that he won't play until two months into the season, Shumpert is a must-have for a team looking to add steals and three-pointers.
While Shumpert is a great pest, what with his defense earning him a spot on the 2012 All-Rookie First Team, mark my words. Starting this season, he's going to establish himself as a scoring threat. His shooting percentages last year may appear sub-par, but his continued work on his jump shot resulted in some pretty amazing games last season.
For example, in a 100-90 Knicks loss to the Atlanta Hawks on March 30, a game in which New York was without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin, Shumpert posted the following stat line: 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting (3 of 5 three-point shooting) and three steals. No matter how you look at it, those numbers are nothing to sneeze at.
That said, Shumpert is worth picking even though he'll ride your bench for two months. He is determined to improve and even if his scoring remains the same, he'll still bring more than enough help with his steals.
No. 1: Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
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2011-12 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, .564 FG%
Though Kevin Love may be the rebounding machine in Minnesota, Pekovic is going to give him a run for his money this season. The 6'11" center is bound to reach a career-high in minutes in 2012-13, way up from the 26.9 per game he logged last year. Should that happen, his numbers could be off the charts. To give you an idea, he averaged 18.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes last season.
That said, with his playing time increased and point man Ricky Rubio expected back in December, everything is set up for Pekovic to put together a career season. He has a fine supporting cast around him and if he just utilizes his strength more, he's going to become a fine option at center with high fantasy value.
The best part is that he won't be ranked as highly as some top centers like Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard, so he'll surely be available in the middle rounds.