Fantasy Basketball: 10 Buy-Low Targets Guaranteed to Pay off

Bryan ToporekFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2012

Fantasy Basketball: 10 Buy-Low Targets Guaranteed to Pay off

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    It happens every year: Some late-round or undrafted fantasy basketball player goes on a ridiculous, season-altering run that shakes up the complexion of your league's playoff race.

    This year, with the help of this list, that owner is going to be you.

    All but three of the players featured here have an average draft position (ADP) of 100 or greater in ESPN.com fantasy leagues as of Oct. 31, making them all likely available in the 10th round or later in your draft.

    If you target a few of these players with your late-round selections (or scoop up any who go undrafted), your team will have the depth you'll need to seriously contend for your league's championship.

    In reverse ADP order, these 10 players will all contribute far more than their draft positioning might otherwise suggest in 2012-13.

10. Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Bobcats (ADP 140.0)

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    With an average draft position of 140, Bismack Biyombo would be going undrafted in 10-team leagues with only 13 spots on each team.

    That's absurd.

    Sure, Biyombo averaged only 5.2 points and 5.8 rebounds in just over 23 minutes during his rookie season in 2011-12. He also averaged 1.8 blocks in that time, which translates to nearly three blocks per 36 minutes.

    Assuming the Charlotte Bobcats entrust a few more minutes to Biyombo per night in 2012-13, it's highly likely that he'll be one of the league's top five shot-blockers this season.

    Considering how often difficult it is to find quality shot-blocking options late in fantasy drafts or on the waiver wire, you'd do well to draft Biyombo with a late-round pick to fortify your blocks category, despite his presumably negligible contributions on the offensive end.

9. Omer Asik, Houston Rockets (ADP 116.0)

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    The Houston Rockets didn't sign Omer Asik to a three-year, $25 million contract in the summer of 2012 to have him ride the bench for the next three years.

    He's almost guaranteed to play at least 30 minutes per night as the starting center coming out of the gate, making him a valuable late-round fantasy contributor.

    His 2011-12 season averages of 3.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game don't inspire much confidence, but keep in mind, Asik received less than 15 minutes of playing time per game back in Chicago.

    In all but one preseason game for the Houston Rockets this preseason, Asik posted double-digit rebounding efforts. He also managed six steals and five blocks in the Rockets' seven preseason games, despite often playing for only roughly 25 minutes per game.

    Asik should prove to be an elite rebounder with his increase in minutes in 2012-13, and he'll contribute a bit in points, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.

    His average draft position of 116 suggests he'll be available in the 12th round of most drafts, and you shouldn't hesitate to snap him up there or a round or two earlier.

8. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards (ADP 114.2)

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    The start of Bradley Beal's rookie year became that much tougher when the Washington Wizards' starting point guard, John Wall, went down with a knee injury that should sideline him for the first month of the season.

    Seeing as Wall's replacement, A.J. Price, won't be inspiring fear in many opponents, Beal will be the Wizards' most significant offensive threat in the backcourt until Wall returns.

    There's both good and bad with that scenario.

    On the one hand, you should expect an increase in points and assists as Beal potentially takes on some of the on-ball responsibilities in the offense.

    On the other, a decrease in shooting efficiency is almost a given without Wall setting him up for easy looks.

    When Wall returns, and he and Beal can develop some continuity on the floor together, Beal could emerge as a solid fantasy contributor right in time for your league's playoffs. He's well worth an 11th- or 12th-round pick, as his average draft position of 114.2 would suggest.

7. Glen Davis, Orlando Magic (ADP 112.3)

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    Glen Davis has quickly risen toward the top of my personal favorite sleepers list for 2012-13, as he appears to be the Orlando Magic player best suited to step into the massive void left by Dwight Howard.

    After Howard went down with a back injury toward the end of 2011-12, Davis stepped in and started every game in April, averaging 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 31.4 minutes per game.

    When the Magic locked horns with the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2012 playoffs, Davis bumped his averages up to 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 38 minutes per night.

    Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon and Al Harrington all lurk as potential threats to Davis' hold over the frontcourt, but Davis didn't show any signs of slowing down during the preseason, averaging nearly 17 points in only 26 minutes per game.

    For an 11th- or 12th-round pick, Davis will provide enormous contributions in the points, field goal percentage and rebounding categories and should be able to chip in on assists, blocks and steals, too.

6. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (ADP 110.8)

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    If you're in a rotisserie league, the injury that's expected to sideline Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio until December or early January may be too much disincentive to draft him. That's understandable.

    For those in head-to-head leagues, however, Rubio's injury should do nothing to detract owners from scooping him up with a late-round pick.

    Once Rubio returns—which he's made clear that he won't do until he feels completely ready—it's not difficult to imagine coach Rick Adelman attempting to put him on a minutes limit to ease him back into playing.

    It's also not difficult to imagine Rubio shredding that minutes limit with the virtuoso play he frequently put on display in 2011-12.

    One can only hope that this time off has allowed Rubio to work on his jump shot (his 35.7 percent average from the field in 2011-12 won't stand for much longer), but upon his return, he'll again be an elite option for assists and steals, two of the more difficult categories to fill in fantasy basketball.

    That's well worth a 10th- or 11th-round pick, even if you can't reap the rewards for the first month of your fantasy season. 

5. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors (ADP 108.9)

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    Jonas Valanciunas may only be a rookie, but he's already earned the Toronto Raptors' starting center spot, likely guaranteeing him 25 minutes per game or more for now.

    He posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and a block in only 23 minutes in the Raptors' opening-game loss to the Indiana Pacers, suggesting that even if he can't average 30-35 minutes per game this season, he'll still be a valuable fantasy contributor.

    There's not much not to like about Valanciunas, despite the fact that he's only 20 years old. At 6'11" and roughly 230 pounds, he's got the size to bang in the post with most of the NBA's bigs, although someone like Andrew Bynum could prove a challenge for him.

    While he didn't attempt any free throws against the Pacers, Valanciunas nailed over 80 percent of his free throw attempts in each of the past two seasons in Europe, making him an elite free-throw shooter for his position. (Want some lessons, Dwight Howard?)

    I drafted Valanciunas in Round 10 of my 12-team league this season, and already, I'm reaping the rewards. He's going to get some serious burn this season as one of the Raptors' franchise building blocks, making him even more valuable for those of you in keeper leagues.

4. Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers (ADP 103.6)

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    While Andrew Bynum continues to nurse a bone bruise in his knee, the Philadelphia 76ers completely reshuffled their starting frontcourt, benching Spencer Hawes in favor of Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen.

    Young had been angling for a starting spot all summer after the Sixers traded Andre Iguodala away for Bynum, and now has a chance to prove he belongs there full-time, even when Bynum returns.

    He added roughly 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason in an effort to give him the bulk to guard opposing 4's more consistently. To date, Young's been a tweener—not always quick enough to defend 3's, but not stocky enough to stand a chance against some of the league's bigger 4s.

    When Bynum does return, Young will likely head back to the bench, but should still earn around 30 minutes per game as the Sixers' new sixth-man replacement for Lou Williams.

    He won't help you much with scoring or three-point shooting, but Young should shoot at least 50 percent from the field and average around a block and a steal per game. For a 10th- or 11th-round pick, you could do far worse.

3. Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns (ADP 99.6)

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    Like Omer Asik with the Houston Rockets, the Phoenix Suns didn't just give Michael Beasley a three-year, $18 million contract to let him languish on the bench.

    Suns coach Alvin Gentry expects Beasley to be "the man" for Phoenix in 2012-13, according to ArizonaSports.com.

    Beasley's never been the most efficient scorer—his field goal percentage has actually decreased each season—but give him enough shots and he can light up the scoreboard. From the sound of things, he'll have the green light in Phoenix, at least in the early going.

    Historically, his career stats suggest he won't be a major contributor in many other fantasy categories besides scoring, with career averages of 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks per game.

    However, I'm sipping the Beasley Kool-Aid this year and believe that he will begin to thrive as the No. 1 option for the Suns after four years of struggling in Miami and Minnesota.

    If nothing else, you could do far worse than a guy who's going to get you 20 points, five boards, a steal and a block per game with a ninth- or 10th round pick.

2. Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves (ADP 95.3)

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    The San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard remains my favorite fantasy sleeper for 2012-13 (and his opening night proves why!), but Nikola Pekovic of the Minnesota Timberwolves isn't far behind.

    With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio out for at least the first month of the season, the Timberwolves are going to rely on Pekovic offensively more than ever.

    Considering he averaged 15.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in only 29.8 minutes per game after the 2012 All-Star break, it's pretty clear that Pekovic will be up for the challenge.

    Don't just listen to me. ESPN.com's John Hollinger predicts Pekovic will average "something along the lines of 17 points and nine boards [per game], with a shooting percentage in the low to mid-50s."

    Does that sound like a mid-10th-round pick to you? I didn't think so.

    Pekovic went in the eighth round of my 12-team draft this season, and I'm still cursing the owner who grabbed him one pick before I could. (Leonard was a nice consolation prize).

1. Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City Thunder (ADP 80.2)

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    Let's just hope Kevin Martin can have the same kind of debut with the Oklahoma City Thunder that James Harden did with the Houston Rockets, huh?

    Thirty-seven points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals later, and Harden's now skyrocketing up fantasy draft boards for those who still haven't held their draft.

    The Harden-Martin swap may have temporarily shaken the NBA, but Harden is already off and proving that he's comfortable in his new digs. If Martin does the same, the Thunder could have both a real-life and fantasy sleeper on their hands.

    Martin's long been one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA, which should allow him to slide into Harden's former spot with relative ease.

    Harden's efficiency is what made him such a dynamic pairing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and Martin brings similar efficiency, albeit in a much different way.

    During the 2011-12 season, Harden generated nearly all of his points from either beyond the three-point line or right at the rim, while Martin relied far more on his mid-range game. (See Kirk Goldsberry's shot charts of the two players on Grantland).

    Martin's free-throw attempts plummeted in 2011-12, but before that he's averaged at least seven FTAs per game in each of his past five seasons. In 2010-11, he managed to  average 23.5 points in only 32.5 minutes per game.

    He won't be seeing 35-plus minutes for the Thunder if Harden didn't, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Martin average in the high teens in shooting with strong contributions in the field goal percentage and three-point shooting categories, too.

    That's well worth a late eighth- or early ninth-round pick in your fantasy draft, as his average draft position of 80.2 would suggest.