Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire: Underrated Sleepers Nobody Knows About
Maybe you were too late to claim Jamal Crawford or Chandler Parsons from the waiver wire in your fantasy basketball league after each player put on a strong performance in his first game. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other potential impact players that are waiting to be taken in the overwhelming majority of leagues.
The players in this list are owned in less than one percent of ESPN.com leagues but have a legitimate chance to—at least temporarily—fill needs for fantasy owners at the beginning of the season. This list has a representative from every position on the floor.
It’s a mix of bench players and current NBA starters sorted by the percentage of leagues in which they are owned in fantasy basketball.
Here are eight underrated sleepers that nobody knows about.
8. Robin Lopez, C, New Orleans Hornets
Percentage Owned: 0.8
On Wednesday night, the New Orleans Hornets’ Robin Lopez started in the middle alongside top draft pick Anthony Davis against the San Antonio Spurs.
He played 26 minutes and almost notched a double-double: eight points, nine rebounds, three assists and a block. Lopez can put up those numbers on any given night, fortifying the blocks and boards categories of a fantasy lineup.
The big man averaged 3.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 14 minutes per game last season as a member of the Phoenix Suns.
7. Boris Diaw, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs
Percentage Owned: 0.7
On the opposite side from the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday was Boris Diaw and the San Antonio Spurs. The starter is coming off of his first offseason with the team after averaging 4.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 20.3 minutes with the Spurs last year.
He’s a sneaky source of assists as a big man and he proved it on Wednesday night, dishing out six dimes as he scored four points, grabbed four rebounds and got two steals and a block. Diaw averaged four or more assists in every season as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats, a nice bonus coming from a center-eligible fantasy player.
6. Brandan Wright, PF, Dallas Mavericks
Percentage Owned: 0.6
The Dallas Mavericks are missing Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman for the time being, opening up frontcourt minutes for power forward Brandan Wright. He’s played well in his time with the Mavericks, posting a two-game average stat line of 14.5 points, four rebounds and 2.5 blocks.
Most interesting about Wright’s fantasy game so far is his field-goal percentage: The big man is shooting 92.3 percent (12-of-13) from the floor in 22.5 minutes per game.
He obviously won’t keep that going for the rest of the season, but Wright is a career 56.6 percent shooter that averages 0.9 blocks per game in 13.8 minutes. He can be a solid contributor for those categories.
5. Randy Foye, PG/SG, Utah Jazz
Percentage Owned: 0.6
Foye led Utah Jazz bench players in minutes played with 22 against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. He was the only bench guy to score in double figures for Utah, putting in 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting (2-of-3 from deep) and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.
Foye also contributed three rebounds and three assists. The career 11.6 PPG scorer should be a solid source of points and threes with the occasional 20-point performance.
4. James Johnson, SF/PF, Sacramento Kings
Percentage Owned: 0.5
James Johnson surprised on Wednesday by starting for the Sacramento Kings against one of his old teams, the Chicago Bulls. He played 21 minutes—meaning the 6’9” forward was going to get some numbers on the defensive end.
He has career averages of 1.0 blocks and 0.8 steals in 19 minutes per game.
Johnson shot just 1-of-8, but pulled down three boards and got three steals. Unfortunately, that came with four turnovers. Still, the 25-year-old should be able to get his ball security under control—or get relegated to purely defensive duties going forward.
3. Steve Blake, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Percentage Owned: 0.3
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, L.A. Lakers point-guard acquisition Steve Nash is doubtful to play on Friday against the L.A. Clippers.
It’s only natural that they get another guy named Steve to start at the point in his absence.
Steve Blake has played 42 total minutes in two games this season, totaling seven points, three rebounds, nine assists, three steals and one turnover. He’s been efficient in his limited shots, knocking down three of six attempts.
If Nash misses extended time, Blake should be a solid source of assists and toss in the occasional three for good measure.
2. Kosta Koufos, PF/C, Denver Nuggets
Percentage Owned: 0.2
If you asked the average NBA fan who the starting center is for the Denver Nuggets, you’d probably hear “JaVale McGee” as your answer.
That would be incorrect.
Kosta Koufos would be the guy who got the start for George Karl in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The seven-footer played 30 minutes and came away with six points, nine rebounds and a block.
That game was uncharacteristically low-scoring for the traditionally high-flying Nuggets offense as Denver scored just 75 points in the loss. Koufos actually has upside while he maintains his playing time; McGee will be breathing down his neck.
1. Kim English, SG, Detroit Pistons
Percentage Owned: 0.1
Kim English of the Detroit Pistons can knock down the three. He led the Pistons in threes attempted and made on Wednesday night, hitting two of four shots from deep in just 14 minutes of play.
The second-round rookie of Missouri added two steals and three assists for an efficient fantasy night as a 2-guard; he committed one turnover in the process.
English had the best plus/minus of the Detroit players in the Pistons’ nine-point loss to the Houston Rockets. He may have earned a couple more minutes with his plus-eight performance. He’s not a must-add in fantasy basketball at this point, but he’s someone to keep an eye on as his minutes increase if he continues to hit from beyond.
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