Fantasy Basketball 2013: Burgeoning Stars Worth Reaching For

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Fantasy Basketball 2013: Burgeoning Stars Worth Reaching For
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The worst thing owners can do in fantasy sports is draft according to the preseason rankings. 

Sure, they are a good guide and offer somewhere to start, but in the end, if fantasy owners let someone else's rankings control how they draft, they're probably going to lose. 

If you really like a player, or are expecting a breakout, don't be afraid to draft him earlier than his ranking suggests. Don't assume that everyone else in your league is drafting according to the rankings and that player will last for another round or two just because he's projected as such.

The postseason rankings aren't going to resemble the preseason rankings, so don't draft like a robot. There's a reason auto-pick teams never win. 

That being said, let's take a look at some stars worth taking far earlier than they are being selected on average, with ESPN's live draft results serving as the measuring stick.  

 

Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Pelicans

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As a rookie, the former No. 1 overall pick averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals in just 28.8 minutes per contest. He also shot 51.6 percent from the field and 75.1 percent from the free-throw line. 

Consider those numbers his floor for 2013-14. 

Davis has the ideal skill set for fantasy purposes. He is long, athletic and intelligent enough to rack up rebounds, blocks and steals. But as a former guard who grew faster than Jack's magic beanstalk during his senior year of high school, he has the mid-range game to score and put up elite percentages for a big man. 

Finding power forwards and centers who won't kill you in the free-throw department is a sneaky way to build a very solid team, and Davis has a chance to shoot 80 percent from the stripe while providing elite numbers in the rebounding, blocks and steals categories. 

Based solely on the fact that the Pelicans are ready to stop treating him with kid gloves and give him well over 30 minutes per game, it wouldn't be surprising if he finished the season as the top fantasy big man. 

And of course, there's also the fact that he's still just 20 years old and has been tearing apart the preseason, meaning there is upside on top of an already high floor. 

Davis is being drafted, on average, No. 26 overall. That makes him an early third-round pick in 12-team leagues. 

I wouldn't bat an eye if someone took him in the first round, though. 

 

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Based on his regular-season averages from last year (11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.7 steals, 1.1 3PM, 49.4 percent from the field, 82.5 percent from the line), being drafted right around No. 52 overall is probably deserving. 

But Leonard is just 22 years old, meaning there is still room for progression, and if his performance in last year's postseason is any indication, he is in line for a significant jump in production. 

In the playoffs, Kawhi So Serious increased his minutes (36.9), points (13.5), rebounds (9.0), steals (1.8) and field-goal percentage (54.5) as he established himself as one of the more promising players in the Association. 

Gregg Popovich won't be letting Leonard loose for nearly 37 minutes per contest during the regular season, but this is a talented young wing with impressive length and ability. He contributes across the board and is only getting better. 

I'd target him in the late-third or early-fourth instead of early-fifth where he's going right now. 

 

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Now, this one is a little tricky because Drummond, who shot a silly 37.1 percent from the line last year, is going to hurt your free-throw percentages. 

So, unless you're planning on punting the category or making up for it with the entirety of your roster around him, you might want to stay away.

But if you can stomach the free-throw percentage, this is someone you want to own.

In his rookie season last year, Drummond received just 20.7 minutes per game, but on a per-30 minute basis, he averaged 11.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per contest. 

As the freak-of-nature 20-year-old—6'10" and 270 pounds, running the court with scary athleticism—continues to get better and continues to approach starter's minutes, he is going to put up some gaudy numbers.

Which of these will out-play their average draft position the most?

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So far this preaseason, he has given a glimpse of that, averaging 17.7 points (on a ridiculous 66.7 percent shooting), 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals in just 23.7 minutes per contest. He has even showed much improvement at the line, knocking down nine of 12 from the charity stripe. 

On average, Drummond is currently being drafted as an early sixth-round pick in 12-team leagues. 

Again, if owners can stomach the free throws—or if he continues to show this kind of improvement at the line—fantasy owners should be taking him, at the very least, two rounds earlier than that. This is a burgeoning superstar with potential to churn out second- or third-round production if he gets the minutes. 

 

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