Fantasy basketball leagues are routinely won by owners who find quality value in the later stages of their draft. Every season, there are players at each position that are drafted late but turn out to be better investments than expected.
For various reasons, guys like the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry have tumbled down draft boards on ESPN.com (10-team standard leagues) relative to their potential for fantasy greatness.
Here are three guys at each position that can provide favorable returns on draft day.
Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
Thomas is an early ninth-round pick on average, going 21st among fantasy point guards. Though he's being taken behind more hyped guys like Jeremy Lin and Raymond Felton, he should outperform both of them by season’s end.
In 37 games as a starter in his rookie season, the Sacramento sophomore kept his percentages (47.7 field-goal, 84.1 free-throw) high while knocking down 1.6 threes per game.
He’s a scoring guard who can get you five or six assists per night in addition to 15 points.
Darren Collison, Dallas Mavericks
I’d rather have him than the aforementioned Lin and Felton as well.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry’s injury history worries fantasy owners, evidenced by his average fantasy draft status as the 11th point guard being plucked. These concerns are warranted, as the Warriors guard has already been hindered by an ankle injury this preseason.
That being said, Curry has top-five fantasy point guard potential.
His career shooting averages are fantastic (47.3 percent from the field, 90.1 from the line) and his 2-guard eligibility makes him an even more valuable asset.
If he’s available in the fourth round, Curry is a no-brainer, maximum-upside selection.
Ray Allen, Miami Heat
When healthy—not a guarantee given that he is 37 years old and missed 20 games last season—expect Allen to be among the league leaders in three-pointers hit in 2013. He knocked down 2.3 threes per game last year, after all.
Despite the fact that he won't be starting for the Heat, Allen is worth a look in the seventh or eighth round as a No. 1 fantasy shooting guard
Austin Rivers, New Orleans Hornets
The only rookie to make an appearance on this list, Rivers fails to get much rookie hype because No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis will be playing alongside him in New Orleans.
He may not light up the scoreboard early on, but the No. 10 overall pick should only get better as the season progresses and he adjusts to the speed of the NBA.
Ben Gordon, Charlotte Bobcats
Gordon is slated to be the starting 2-guard for the Bobcats this season. He should be a primary scorer for Charlotte, which makes him an intriguing fantasy option.
Gordon’s shooting touch didn’t go anywhere when he was in Detroit; he just didn’t take as many shots as he did when he was in Chicago.
The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year is currently the 18th-highest drafted fantasy shooting guard, but he is easily a better option than Boston’s Jason Terry, a 2-guard taken almost two rounds earlier.
Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns
In his fifth NBA season, Beasley will be playing for his third team. His fantasy relevance is largely limited to scoring and rebounding, but those are two things he does quite well.
Beasley’s last full season as a starter resulted in 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As the 15th small forward drafted, Beasley has scoring punch not frequently seen in the 11th round. He also has more upside than Andrei Kirilenko, who's both taken his spot in Minnesota and going ahead of him in the average draft.
Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets
Wallace is a top-10 small forward that is going at the 12th position among his peers. That’s probably due to his NBA relocation and recent dip in scoring (13.8 PPG in 2012).
But his fantasy value is derived more from defensive stats (1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks) and rebounding (6.7 RPG).
Wallace can be treated as a poor man's version of the Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith: a defensive fantasy anchor that should be looked at around the sixth round.
Brandon Roy, Minnesota Timberwolves
Roy will be making an NBA return this season but has been largely overlooked in fantasy circles. On average, the two-position stud (SG/SF) is going in the 11th round.
Whoever drafts him will have a major steal if Roy can return to form. He has averaged 19 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in his career—putting him in Joe Johnson territory if he were able to sustain those averages.
Johnson is being taken in the fourth round.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Fantasy owners are an impatient bunch.
Love’s fantasy stock has dropped over half a round since the news came out that he broke his hand. He’ll miss the first four-to-six weeks of the regular season—but for the other months for which Love will be eligible to play, he may very well be the No. 1 fantasy power forward.
At this stage, Love provides more value to head-to-head owners than rotisserie players, but he should be the best second-round fantasy pick this season in any format.
Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks
Stoudemire will also miss the first few games of the season with a knee injury. His injury history, like Stephen Curry’s, is well-documented.
However, also like Curry, Stoudemire is a dominant fantasy performer when healthy. The center-eligible Knicks big is being taken just ahead of New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis—a boom or bust pick depending on how much he gets utilized on the offensive end of the floor.
Stoudemire is a proven player who can get you 20 points, eight boards and a block per night. Be sure to snatch him up if he slips.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Faried gets boards (7.7 in 2012) and should see an increase in minutes during his sophomore season. Yet, he’s being drafted in the same neighborhood as Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer.
There’s much more upside to be had with this double-double machine who also contributes in steals and blocks.
JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets
Forget what you’ve seen about JaVale McGee. He’s a fine fantasy player and a blocks specialist.
McGee has the potential to swat three shots per game in the Nuggets’ up-tempo style of play. He can also pull down eight or nine rebounds and score in double-figures no matter if he is starting or coming off the bench.
McGee is a better fantasy prospect than Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez, who makes perplexingly rare appearances on the glass.
Samuel Dalembert, Milwaukee Bucks
You should be able to snag Dalembert near the very end of your draft. His numbers aren’t flashy (7.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG in 22.0 minutes per game last year), but he can help you in several categories.
Dalembert swatted 1.7 shots per game last year and provides cheap field-goal and free-throw percentage boosts for a big man.
Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Pekovic has more upside than Dalembert; and his draft position (ninth round, on average) confirms it.
The Timberwolves center doesn’t get many blocks (0.7 per game in 26.9 minutes last year), but he was an efficient scorer (13.9 PPG) and rebounder (7.4) even with Kevin Love gobbling up boards alongside him. While Love is out, those numbers should see a spike.
For fantasy owners, Pekovic is a better option than Tyson Chandler—a center taken three rounds ahead of him.