Fantasy Basketball 2019: Deep NBA Sleepers After December 25

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2019

Indiana Pacers guard Aaron Holiday (3) celebrates a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. The Pacers defeated the Lakers 105-102. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

NBA action on Christmas Day usually provides entertaining stocking-stuffers for casual fans, but what can fantasy owners find on the waiver wire at a time when gifts could come in abundance?

Early Wednesday, the Boston Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors 118-102, but the losing squad had a strong performance from a contributor off the bench. The versatile big man belongs on your radar. 

Two teams received encouraging news on stars recovering from both short- and long-term injuries. Still, those key playmakers' returns shouldn't keep you away from players who are either on the rise or steadily developing in bigger roles.

The Dallas Mavericks have a sharpshooter who's locked into a starting position. The Indiana Pacers continue to see a second-year guard make strides with more time on the court.

Check out the five deep sleepers below. They are owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues and present solid short-term upside.


PF/C Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors (29 percent owned) 

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors have dealt with a rash of injuries in December. Center Marc Gasol (hamstring), forward Pascal Siakam (groin) and guard Norman Powell (shoulder) remain out and have all been sidelined since December 18.

In the meantime, head coach Nick Nurse has inserted Serge Ibaka into the starting lineup. Chris Boucher soaked up big minutes in two of the past four contests. The Oregon product brings significant upside, but he needs a consistent role to satisfy fantasy owners. 

Boucher has played 24-plus minutes twice since the Raptors lost key components to their rotation. He put together a solid performance against the Celtics on Wednesday, logging three triples, 24 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Fantasy managers may worry about Boucher's minutes fluctuating, but he's worth a look because of his rare combination of statistical contributions: triples, percentages, rebounds and blocks. While Gasol and Siakam are out, take a flier on the 27-year-old big man.


SG/SF Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks (46 percent owned) 

Sam Hodde/Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks could welcome Luka Doncic back to the lineup Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, but the offense has a clear pecking order with or without him on the floor.

Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are the Nos. 1 and 2 options, while Tim Hardaway Jr. takes on the sharpshooter role. The seventh-year swingman is third on the team in points per game (13.6), and he's knocking down approximately 37 percent (.368) of his three-point attempts, which is a season high.

When Hardaway steps on the court with a hot hand, he could lead the team in scoring—even with Doncic on the floor. This season, in six contests, the 27-year-old has logged five or more triples.

Beyond points, triples and a high free-throw percentage, Hardaway doesn't provide much help in category leagues. But if you are looking for an immediate boost in the aforementioned statistics, grab him off the waiver wire. He's in a steady starting role, playing 26.2 minutes per game.


SG/SF Troy Brown Jr., Washington Wizards (28 percent owned)

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Troy Brown Jr. logged a career-high 26 points against the New York Knicks in his most recent outing. He's finished with double-digit scoring totals over the past six contests.

Although Brown comes off the bench, head coach Scott Brooks employs a fast-paced offense, which allows second-unit contributors to fill up the stat sheet. Believe it or not, the Washington Wizards average the third-most points per game (117.5).

The Wizards won't evaluate Otto Porter Jr.'s foot injury until mid-January, which frees up minutes for others. Brown has made the most of his additional opportunities, averaging 15.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and a steal per game over the past two weeks.

More importantly, Brown's shooting percentages won't hurt you in category leagues. For the season, he's above 47 percent (.475) from the field and slightly over 78 percent at the free-throw line (.783).


SG Damion Lee, Golden State Warriors (15 percent owned)

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Without its stars, specifically Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Golden Warriors need offensive firepower alongside D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt.

Head coach Steve Kerr plugged Damion Lee into the starting lineup December 15, and he's translated extra minutes into production. The third-year guard has finished with double-digit point totals in each of the last three outings.

In an upset Christmas victory over the Houston Rockets, Lee recorded 22 points, which included two triples and a perfect 10 of 10 shooting from the free-throw line, 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals. 

The Warriors' rotation has gone through several changes with forward Draymond Green subject to rest days and rookie forward Eric Paschall hampered because of a bruised hip. At 8-24, Kerr doesn't need to push injured players in a season that will likely end the Warriors' playoff streak. 

Yet, fantasy owners should grab Lee while he's starting to heat up. With a fluid lineup, the 27-year-old could hold on to a starting job, playing close to 30 minutes per game. The guard's combination of triples, points and rebounds could boost your roster in the second half of the season.


PG Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers (19 percent owned)

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Midway through December, Aaron Holiday broke into the Indiana Pacers' backcourt rotation, playing more than 20 minutes in every game over the past two weeks. As a dominant ball-handler, he's been able to rack up assists to go along with his double-digit point totals in seven consecutive contests.

Holiday finished with career highs in triples (five) and assists (10) against the Raptors on Monday. Also note, Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) didn't suit up for that contest.

Still, owners should take a flier on Holiday since he's played more than 30 minutes in each of the past four games. He's gained head coach Nate McMillan's trust in closing minutes, which says a lot about the guard's maturity.

Over the past two weeks, Holiday has averaged 2.3 triples, 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Victor Oladipo has his sights set on a late-January return. So in the meantime, pick up Holiday while he's carved out a steady role in the backcourt. Fantasy managers should be intrigued by his recent uptick in minutes.