As training camp nears (less than three weeks to be exact) fantasy owners tend to get the occasional jitters as draft day approaches.
Instead of researching for the players that will improve based on their new surroundings or system of play, owners tend to base their draft around the top fantasy leaders of the league and those who are predicted to break out.
Forget those projections, and if you're not fortunate enough to obtain the first three picks in your draft, don't bank on selecting Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, or LeBron James.
With that out of the way, you can now focus your attention to the players that you shouldn't be sleeping on in Brandon Ribak's fantasy edition of "Don't Sleep On Em".
Linas Kleiza (SF, TOR)- Not Ranked in top 100 for SF position on CBS and Yahoo!
Does this name ring a bell? Well, it definitely should. Kleiza was apart of the Denver Nuggets squad from the 05'-06' season up until the 08'-09' season.
In that time Kleiza made quite a name for himself amongst the Nuggets organization and certainly the fans, averaging 8.3 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 19 MPG during his four years as Carmelo Anthony's back-up.
The Lithuanian joined the Olympiakos in Greece during last offseason and ended up leading the Euroleague in scoring, dropping just under 18 points per contest.
In six games played in the FIBA World Championship thus far, Kleiza is posting an impressive 19.5 PPG and 7.2 RPG on an efficient 55.2 percent shooting for Lithuania.
Whether you're sold or not, Kleiza has vastly improved his overall game since parting ways with the Denver Nuggets and heads into training camp as the projected starting small —forward for Jay Triano and the Toronto Raptors.
With starters minutes on a rather young roster, Kleiza will undoubtedly emerge as a top candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award.
Quick Tip- Kleiza should be drafted during the mid-rounds of your draft, don't miss out on his fantasy upside.
Roy Hibbert (C, IND)- Ranked 26th amongst centers on CBS, not ranked in top 100 for Yahoo!
11.7 points and 5.7 boards per game doesn't seem all that impressive for a 7'2" center, but let me tell you why this guy is worthy of being selected on draft day.
Hibbert has spent the offseason working on his strength, conditioning, and overall game with Larry Bird's former teammate, the legend Bill Walton. In that time the seven-footer has reportedly dropped his body fat to a ridiculous 10 percent, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The 23-year old has tons of potential to expand his game and emerge as a fantasy stud this season for two key reasons.
Firstly, the Pacers acquired point-guard Darren Collison via trade in which the young gun will assume the starting role for Indiana. With Collison—who averaged 5.7 APG in 27.8 MPG during his rookie season—being a traditional pass first type of PG, Hibbert will see a surplus of easy buckets around the rim (rising his scoring average).
Secondly, Indiana dealt rebounding machine Troy Murphy to the New Jersey Nets. With Murphy no longer around to snatch 10-12 boards per night Hibbert's rebounding will inevitably increase, giving the center an opportunity to bring down close to 10 rebounds per contest.
Quick Tip- With Collison around and Murphy gone, Hibbert's PPG, RPG, BPG, and FG% should shoot up during the upcoming season. If you decide to wait until the later rounds of your draft to select a center, Hibbert will be a sleeper in all fantasy formats.
J.J. Hickson (PF, CLE)- Ranked 99th out of 100 amongst forwards on CBS, not ranked in top 100 for Yahoo!
Fantasy owners got the opportunity to see glimpses of J.J. Hickson play at his best. Although he was never an option to pick up off of the waiver wire last season, the 22 year-old could become one of the biggest sleepers of the year this season.
Hickson averaged 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes last season and will have a chance to average around 8-10 boards per game this year, especially if head-coach Byron Scott decides to give Hickson the starting power-forward role (which he reportedly stated during an NBA Summer League game).
With LeBron James and Big Z out of the way, the ingredients are placed for Hickson to emerge as a perfect fantasy recipe for all fantasy owners.
Last season Hickson averaged 14.3 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 13 games when he logged 30+ MPG. With virtually no consistent production on the Cavaliers roster outside of Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison (who could be dealt before the trade deadline), imagine what the forward could do for fantasy owners this season
Quick Tip- Draft Hickson in the mid to late rounds of your draft, you'll be happy you did so!
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