Ranking the 5 Most Undervalued Fantasy Basketball Assets of 2012-13
Sometimes in fantasy basketball, preseason hype doesn’t go far enough. There are sleepers that pop early like Darren Collison of the Dallas Mavericks, but the situation with the Mavs’ new starting point guard was a calculated—and inexpensive—risk in fantasy hoops.
The players on this list have an average draft position inside the Top 80 on ESPN.com, but have stated early cases that their respective fantasy draft tumbles were unwarranted. They are ranked by the apparent differences between their respective draft positions and their fantasy outlook going forward.
Collison’s name would be mentioned in a more expansive list, but this top five is focused on fantasy basketball players who were mainstream options in the preseason.
5. Tim Duncan, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs
So…Tim Duncan’s going to boom on Serge Ibaka and treat it like business as usual—another day in the office for the future Hall of Fame San Antonio Spurs power forward, right?
Sure, except he’s 36.
That’s why Duncan’s fantasy value is so low. People continue to expect him to slow down, but he’s continued his efficient production even as a senior citizen in the NBA player community.
San Antonio knows he’s older. The Spurs are not going to play him for 40 or 45 minutes a night. That’s just not going to happen.
What has been the case in the early season, however, is that the big man is averaging more minutes per game (33.3) than any of the last three full seasons. The last time he averaged more minutes in a full NBA campaign was his age 32 season.
Duncan played 34, 34 and 32 minutes in the first three games of this year. By comparison, he played 21, 26 and 16 in the first three last season. It is still early, but the veteran is back to his double-double ways (21 PPG, 10 RPG) and has swatted three shots in each of the Spurs’ first three contests.
You might want to buy in on Timmy.
4. Paul George, SG/SF, Indiana Pacers
He’s underrated based on his lack of national exposure—George is scoring 14 points per game—but he offers tangible assistance in almost every other fantasy category.
Turnovers (4.7 TOPG) have been a major issue with George, as has his field-goal shooting (41.5 percent). But he is perfect from the line thus far this season, averaging at least one steal (1.0), block (1.7) and 3-ball (1.3) made per game and pulling down 13 rebounds a night through the Pacers’ first week of play.
He’s also got 4.7 assists per night.
The difference between George’s 2011-12 campaign and his 2012-13 outlook, likely caused by Granger’s absence, is his minutes played per game.
George played 25.7 minutes a night last season. He’s averaging 39.7 through three games this year.
3. Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry has been a boss on the boards as a point guard for the Toronto Raptors, averaging 7.3 per game after his first three. He’s playing out of his mind, shooting 57.5 percent from the field—including 50 percent from deep—and 94.4 percent from the line. He’s piling up 23.7 points, 7.0 assists and 3.7 steals per game.
His career shooting averages are far below that (42.2% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 78.6% FT), making Lowry a potential sell-high candidate. He was a sixth-round pick on average but could potentially be traded for a slow-starting early round type like Serge Ibaka or Ty Lawson if their owners are panicking.
Lowry is in a position to be a top 10 fantasy point guard with the Raptors based on his shot volume and multiple category production. Right now, however, he is the No. 1 player in fantasy based on averages.
2. James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets
This one wasn’t our fault.
The fantasy basketball community had James Harden pegged as a skilled 2-guard that can fill the stat sheet in limited minutes off the bench, selecting him with a second-round pick on average.
Then he got traded to the Houston Rockets just before the NBA season and everything turned upside down; as in, James Harden’s fantasy upside now looks down on that of most of the Association.
After averaging 26.9 minutes per game with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden has topped the magical 40-minute barrier in each of his first three games with the Houston Rockets. He has been terrific getting the ball in the basket, averaging a league-leading 35.3 points per game.
Harden is shooting 52.9 percent from the field—while knocking down 2.3 threes per night—and 81.8 percent from the line (on 11 attempts per game). He’s also averaging a LeBron James-esque 6.3 rebounds and assists through the first three in addition to 1.7 steals a night.
The only issue with Harden’s fantasy game thus far is his 4.7 turnovers per game; but you’ll take that along with all of the good things he’s done in the other categories.
1. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers
Through three games, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard already looks like the fantasy basketball rookie of the year. He started his career with a legit double-double against the hyped L.A. Lakers that placed him in historic company:
Damian Lillard joins Isiah Thomas & Oscar Robertson as the only players with 20 pts, 10 ast in NBA debut (via Elias)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 1, 2012
Lillard hasn’t had a double-double since, but he has averaged nine assists through his first three games and dropped 21.3 a night against the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.
Damian Lillard is 2nd player in NBA history w/ 20+ pts & 7+ ast in each of 1st 3 career games. The other? Big O in 1960. (h/t elias)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 4, 2012
Comparisons to Oscar Robertson are never a bad thing when it comes to fantasy basketball—or the NBA, for that matter. Robertson is, after all, the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season.
Lillard’s four rebounds per game aren’t enough to consider him a candidate to fill Robertson’s shoes in that regard, but he has been a great fantasy option as the floor general for the Blazers. He’s shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, 37.5 percent from deep and 90.9 percent from the line.
The rookie is turning the ball over at a rate of 3.7 per game, but he should be able to cut down on those as his first year progresses. Meanwhile, he’s averaging 38.3 minutes per game.
As long as Lillard doesn’t hit a rookie wall, he should be a fantastic fantasy asset for the remainder of the season—and his average draft position is in the eighth-round of 10-team leagues.
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