With opening night in the NBA less than a month away, fantasy leagues are scrambling to set up draft times and locations while owners are hustling to put together their cheat sheets.
The first few rounds are easy—everyone knows about Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and LeBron James—but we're here to introduce you to a new group of players who are about to burst onto the fantasy basketball scene.
Make sure these five guys are highlighted on your draft sheet this year.
Here are the five breakout fantasy basketball players for 2012:
Roy Hibbert has shown steady progress throughout his three years in the league, and we believe this is the year he blows up. There isn’t much talent on Indiana’s roster, so coach Frank Vogel will count on the 24-year-old to produce in the paint. Plus, centers from Georgetown have a pretty good track record in the NBA (Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington). Okay, maybe not Harrington. He was pretty bad. But Hibbert won’t be. Draft him ahead of Andrew Bynum and Joakim Noah at center.
Last year’s stats: Pts: 12.7 Reb: 7.5 Ass: 2.0 Blk: 1.8 FG%: 46.1
THIS year’s stats: Pts: 16.0 Reb: 10.1 Ass: 2.3 Blk: 2.2 FG%: 48.3
A true “breakout season” is usually the result of talent and opportunity meeting together for the first time. That is what is about to happen with Ty Lawson. The 24-year-old out of North Carolina has been an important role player in his first two seasons in the league with the Nuggets, but now it’s time for a promotion.
Ty played 20 minutes a game his rookie season, followed that up with 26 per last year, and that number will be into the 30s in 2012 as Lawson becomes the starting point guard in a run-and-gun Denver offense. Did we mention he shoots 50 percent from the field? Among point guards on our cheat sheet, we have Lawson right after Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups.
When you see Marcin Gortat on the basketball court for the first time, he doesn’t exactly look like a guy that has the potential to fill up a box score. Besides, he never averaged more than four points a game in his four seasons in Orlando.
A midseason trade to Phoenix last year, however, provided two huge benefits to the Polish big man: 1) He was no longer a backup to Dwight Howard, and 2) His point guard became Steve Nash. Gortat put up impressive numbers during the second half of the season in Phoenix and at 27 years old, the beast is coming out in 2012. Take Gortat right after David Lee goes off the board.
Last year’s stats: Pts: 10.2 Reb: 7.9 Ass: 0.9 Blk: 1.1 FG%: 56.1
THIS year’s stats: Pts: 15.0 Reb: 10.4 Ass: 1.1 Blk: 1.5 FG%: 54.7
Wait, another Indiana Pacers player? Another UNC alum? Another big white guy? All just coincidences, I suppose, but what isn’t a coincidence is how Hansbrough’s production skyrocketed when Frank Vogel took over as coach of the Pacers in January of last year.
The 26-year-old is set to play a lot of minutes in his third season in the NBA as he and Hibbert start to become a very tough frontcourt tandem to deal with in the East. Sit back and let the rest of your league draft over-the-hill power forwards like Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Antawn Jamison—then be smart and add Hansbrough to your roster. You can thank me later.
Last year’s stats: Pts: 11.0 Reb: 5.3 Ass: 0.6 Stl: 0.5 Blk: 0.2
THIS year’s stats: Pts: 15.2 Reb: 8.0 Ass: 1.1 Stl: 0.8 Blk: 0.6
Quick: Name three players on the Detroit Pistons. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s OK, we had trouble with that one, too. One thing’s for sure, a lot of basketball fans will soon find out about Greg Monroe. The seventh overall pick last year, Monroe had a rough first couple months in the league but found his groove after the All-Star break and will be the main man in the paint for Detroit in 2012 (sorry, Ben Wallace).
And, by the way, Monroe is another Georgetown center. Don’t be surprised if he ends up leading the Pistons in scoring and rebounding as early as this season.
Last year’s stats: Pts: 9.4 Reb: 7.5 Ass: 1.3 Stl: 1.2 Blk: 0.6
THIS year’s stats: Pts: 15.7 Reb: 9.9 Ass: 1.5 Stl: 1.3 Blk: 1.2