The fantasy basketball season is upon us, a notion that is almost as exciting as the actual NBA season itself kicking off.
This year, when you're scrummaging through the remaining players, as you look to fill our your roster in the late rounds of a draft, remember that there are a few steals to be had. These players will not help you win the league outright, but will help you put up some extra points that could be the difference between a victory and a loss.
The condensed season this year will open the door of opportunity for many players, as teams will look to give their key players a bit of extra rest.
So, keep in mind that the late rounds of your draft are anything but a non-entity, as there are an array of value picks to be had.
Arron Afflalo's contract status is serving as a deterrence in the fantasy basketball world, as many are electing to pass on the shooting guard in the midst of his uncertain destination.
While Afflalo is not a player you should be taking early, embrace his presence in the later rounds of your draft as you look to fill out the roster. Wherever he goes, he will be playing some substantial minutes, improving upon his production totals from last season.
Afflalo is not a caliber of player that should be left in the later rounds of a draft, but for now, his situation is holding him back.
But only for now.
Andrei Kirilenko will not be returning to the Utah Jazz, leaving the newly added Josh Howard to take over a bulk of the minutes at the small forward slot.
On a young Utah team, the veteran Howard is going to get plenty of action. He is a good scorer and is going to get a lot of opportunities to do just that with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson opening up the floor for the Jazz.
Howard's best basketball is behind him, but he is going to enjoy an increased role in Utah, which should lead to a dramatic increase in his production. He is one of the more undervalued players in the league, and this doesn't change when we cross over into the realm of fantasy basketball.
Plenty of fantasy owners will pass on Howard, even in the later rounds of a draft. You shouldn't be one of them.
Key perimeter players J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler are being held hostage in China until March, which guarantees that Danilo Gallinari's role on the Denver Nuggets is set to increase even more.
Gallinari is a lethal three-point shooter and can get to the foul line when he drives the ball to the bucket. He has been criticized for not being aggressive enough, but he will have no choice but to correct this given the Nuggets' current state of existence.
Many have been disappointed in Gallinari's performance thus far, which will keep him buried in most drafts, and this will prove to be a mistake.
As you enter the later rounds of your draft though, keep in mind that the Italian is set to become the go-to guy in Denver, even before Nene and Ty Lawson.
Even with the addition of Baron Davis, Toney Douglas is set to begin the season as the New York Knicks' starting point guard.
Until Davis returns, it will be Douglas' show. He has always been valued for his defense, but faces doubts regarding his ability to run an offense, specifically New York's, which is latent with star-power.
That being said, Douglas improved his facilitating abilities by great leaps and bounds in Chauncey Billups' absence last season. He also gained some much needed exposure to the postseason, making him privy to the most rigorous of pressures the league has to offer.
Douglas is not the same player he was last year, nor is he in the same position he was either. He is going to start for a large portion of the season, and will be given a lot of chances to put up points, as well as assists, thanks to Amar'e Stoudemire's and Carmelo Anthony's presence on that end of the ball. He will still put up strong defensive stat lines as well.
Don't let the Gilbert Arenas speculation intimidate you. Douglas will be available later on in the drafting process, and you should select him without hesitation.
Paul George impressed quite a few people in his debut season, but not so many that he is going to be selected early on in any fantasy drafts.
George apparently grew two inches over the offseason, making him 6'10" now. He is going to see a lot of minutes at the 2-guard thanks to the presence of Danny Granger, rendering him a matchup headache for anyone who defends him.
He is a strong defender who has great rebounding potential, and is one of the few members of the Indiana Pacers who is a legitimate long-range threat.
Many will be averse to selecting George early because he is still somewhat raw, and is supposed to play behind Granger. While he is still developing his game, he has shown a grasp of it that exceeds his experience. As for his position, it is almost a non-factor as Indiana will play both he and Granger at the same time for a large portion of the game.
George is going to rip apart owners who opted take a different route in their selective process. Make sure that you aren't one of them.
You can follow Dan Favale on Twitter here @Dan_Favale.