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The Top 10 NBA Fantasy Sleepers

Mark BirdsellContributor IIINovember 7, 2016

The Top 10 NBA Fantasy Sleepers

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    The NBA season is just around the corner.  Teams will be starting training camp soon, which means it time to prepare for your fantasy draft.

    Fantasy basketball is tough.  You need to focus on dual eligibility to get the most out of your players.  However, the most important thing is finding that gem at the end of the draft.  A player that is worth taking a risk on.

    There are a few principles I follow when drafting my fantasy team.  First, I don't draft from the best teams.  You won't find anyone from Boston or Los Angeles (Lakers, not Clippers) on my roster, with the exception of Kobe Bryant.  The problem with these teams is they are too good and all you are doing is drafting based on the player's name.

    Next, I focus on point guards and power forwards.  This covers almost all of the statistical categories.  Point guards generally get you assists, steals and a high free throw percentage.  Whereas power forwards typically get rebounds, blocks and a high field goal percentage.  And both give you points.  The problem is I tend to lose turnovers and three-point field goals most weeks. 

    However, in a standard head-to-head league if you can finish the week 7-2, that is a good week.

    Finally, I look to draft players who are poised for a breakout season.  Adding to my point above, I don't like drafting "name" players outside of the first few rounds.  The problem is you are paying a premium for the name, and they generally aren't worth it.

    Fantasy sleepers is an interesting concept, because they are a lot of players that will be called "sleepers." However, fans and analysts who follow the NBA are anticipating they will breakout.  A few examples are Anthony Randolph, Darren Collison, Marc Gasol and Marcus Thornton.

    All had good seasons last year, with the exception of Randolph, and you should expect them to have a big year in 2010-11.

    The players on this list hopefully aren't obvious candidates for a breakout year.

Andrea Bargnani

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    As I start this list I know what you are thinking: Bargnani averaged 17 points and six rebounds per game last year so he isn't really a sleeper pick.  He is a solid mid-round pick with forward and center eligibility, but that's about it.

    Well, that is partly true.  Bargnani entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2006.  He has increased his scoring, rebounding and blocks every year in the league.  Blocks, by the way, is one of the hardest categories to come by, and he averaged 1.4 blocks per game last season.

    Anyway, Bargnani is poised for a breakout year.  He has shown flashes of greatness throughout his first four seasons and this is the year.

    Chris Bosh joined Wade and LeBron in South Beach.  Hedo Turkoglu is headed to the desert to play with Steve Nash.  There isn't much left.  Bargnani, all of a sudden, is the face of the Toronto Raptors.

    With so many young players on the roster, coach Jay Triano will have to look to someone and my prediction is Bargnani will be that man.

    I could easily see Bargnani averaging 20 points, eight rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 three-pointers per game this upcoming season.

J.J. Hickson

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    Hickson is in a very similar position as Bargnani.  There isn't really anyone left on the team.  The Cavaliers made the NBA Finals in 2007 and only two players (Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson) remain from that team.

    This year's team will even look markedly different from last season.  LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have both gone to Miami.  Shaq and Delonte West went to Boston.  The 2010-11 Cavaliers will not resemble last year's 61-win team.

    However, to that point Cleveland must focus on the future and the future is J.J. Hickson.  Hickson is a 6'9", 240 pound power forward with a lot of a talent.

    His status increased every month last season and ex-GM Danny Ferry was smart to refuse to move him at the trade deadline.  Both Phoenix and Washington wanted Hickson, but Ferry held strong and refused.

    While, now that The King is gone, Cleveland will hand the keys to the kingdom over to J.J. Hickson.

Tiago Splitter

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    NBA analysts have been waiting for years for the San Antonio Spurs to be too old.  Well, I don't think this is going to be the year.

    Yes, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are on the wrong side of 30.  Tony Parker also isn't quite as young and quick as he once was.  However, George Hill is sitting and waiting to take over in the backcourt and up front it will be Tiago Splitter.

    Splitter should do the same thing for Duncan that Duncan did for David Robinson.  Splitter has long been considered the best player not in the NBA.  He waited a few years to come over so that he wasn't bound by the NBA's rookie pay scale.  Now he is set to join the Spurs next season.

    Splitter might not start right away, but I guarantee he will be starting by the end of the season.  Gregg Popovich will continue to monitor Duncan's minutes.  And San Antonio doesn't have much front court depth.  The team has the undersized Matt Bonner, DeJaun Blair and the aging Antonio McDyess. 

    Tiago Splitter was the MVP of the Spanish League in 2010 and the Spanish League Finals MVP.  He will be given every opportunity to succeed with the Spurs and I expect him to take full advantage of it.

Serge Ibaka

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    Ibaka is in a fantastic situation.  He is on a young and upcoming team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that took the Los Angeles Lakers to six games in the first round.  Personally, I believe the Thunder will finish the 2010-11 season with the second-best record in the Western Conference, trailing said Lakers.

    Serge Ibaka figures to be a large part of this team going forward.  The point guard position is set with Russell Westbrook.  Kevin Durant has the small forward position covered, and is likely the favorite heading into this season to win the MVP.  However, the Thunder are lacking upfront.

    Currently, Jeff Green starts at power forward, but he is more of a combo forward and can't handle the strength of legitimate post players.  Similarly, the Thunder are lacking a true center.

    These two voids will be beneficial for Ibaka.  He is entering only his second season in the NBA, but is ready to play a major role with this team.  Ibaka's points, rebounds and minutes increased every month over last season.

    If he doesn't start on opening night, it won't be long before Scott Brooks puts him in the starting lineup.

Roy Hibbert

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    The Toronto Raptors must be kicking themselves for giving up Roy Hibbert and only receiving half of a season of Jermaine O'Neal in return.

    Coming out of Georgetown, Hibbert looked like a solid defensive-minded center.  However, he is developing into an all-around player. 

    Last season he averaged 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in only 25 minutes of action.  Hibbert's biggest problem is staying on the court, as he averaged 3.5 fouls per game last season and had four or more fouls in 43 games.

    If Hibbert can continue to grow and learn to play without fouling he will be a big addition to the Indiana Pacers.  Danny Granger is the face of the team and Darren Collison is headed for a breakout year.  But Indiana is lacking a post presence. 

    Josh McRoberts hasn't done anything, Tyler Hansbrough will never be a starter in this league and Troy Murphy is headed to New Jersey.  Of course, Murphy is a "stretch-four" but he was a solid rebounder and Hibbert will have to pick up the slack.

J.J. Redick

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Redick came into the league as a one-dimensional player.  He was one of the greatest shooters in the history of college basketball, but it wasn't clear how he would do at the NBA level.

    In his first few seasons with the Orlando Magic, Stan Van Gundy had him glued to the bench.  However, Redick has continued to develop his game.  He is no longer just a shooter; he has worked on his ball handling and defense and is becoming more of a complete player.

    Redick will never be the a top 2-guard in the league, but by the end of the season he will be the starting shooting guard in Orlando.

    Vince Carter is not the player he once was.  Carter was an All-Star and All-NBA player while with the Raptors.  Now he is beginning to decline.  Carter's first season with Orlando wasn't anything to write home about, and he seemed to get worse as the season went on.

    Finally, as the playoffs progressed Carter saw a decline in his minutes, while Redick continued to get more playing time.  Redick is the perfect type of player to compliment Dwight Howard.  He spreads the floor well and is going to have a great season.

JaVale McGee

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    The Washington Wizards are entering a rebuilding period and McGee, along with John Wall and Andray Blatche, will be right at the center of it.

    McGee's put up very pedestrian numbers last season, averaging only 6.4 points and four rebounds per game.  However, once management blew up the team and McGee became the starting center he really began to emerge.

    McGee averaged 13.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks over the last month of the season.

    This was enough to impress Jerry Colangelo, as McGee was invited to Team USA's training camp.  He ultimately was cut and did not join the team for the World Championships, but there is no doubt playing against some of the league's best helped his development.

    JaVale McGee is the type of fantasy player you want on your roster. He isn't well known to causal NBA fans, but he is set to log a lot of minutes on a young team.  There is tremendous potential for him to be one of the steals of your draft.

Marreese Speights

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    Speights is an interesting player.  He played great early on the in the season, when Elton Brand was out with injuries.  Then Brand came back, Speights got hurt and we saw his production drop.

    Now, the Sixers have traded away Samuel Dalembert for Spencer Hawes.  Brand is still a big question mark.  And Speights should be ready to see a lot of playing time up front.

    Speights should be close to a double-double man next, similar to role Al Horford had with the Atlanta Hawks a few seasons ago.  Horford has since developed into an All-Star and I'm not saying Speights will follow suit, but he should 10 points, 10 rebounds and one block per game.  Plus, he likely will be forward and center eligible, which only adds to his appeal.

D.J. Augustin

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    D.J. Augustin has had an up-and-down NBA career so far.  Larry Brown has never been his biggest fan. However, with Raymond Felton headed to New York, Augustin is the starting point guard by default.

    There is much competition for the job.  The only other true point guard on the roster is Shaun Livingston.  Now anyone who has read my work knows I'm a big fan of Livingston's game and he is beginning to show flashes of brilliance after suffering that devastating knee injury.  However, I don't see Brown giving him the keys to the Bobcats.

    Augustin can easily become a 12 to 14-point scorer, along with seven to eight assists per game next season.  He is a solid free throw shooter, averaging 85 percent on his career.  And he should give you one steal and 1.5 three pointers per game.

    Those are all solid statistics for a second point guard on your fantasy roster.  Plus, he will come a lot cheaper then a lot of other point guards who will give similar production.

C.J. Miles

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    The final player on this list is C.J. Miles of the Utah Jazz.  He probably the least well known player. However, at the same point in time, I believe he is poised for the biggest leap.

    Deron Williams is arguably the best point guard in the NBA and Jerry Sloan is one of the best coaches.  The Jazz are a team constantly battling against the salary cap and therefore are forced to find cheap, talented players.

    Wesley Matthews had a breakout season last year, which earned him a five- year, $33.4 million contract with the Portland Trailblazers. 

    The Jazz are also going to have to deal with the loss of Kyle Korver, Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer, all of whom are set to join the Chicago Bulls.

    By default, Miles should be the starting shooting guard from day one in Utah and I expect him to take full advantage of this opportunity.

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