↑ Return to 17/18 Sleepers & Busts

17/18 Sleepers/Undervalued Players: Part 1

You won’t see me write too much about sleepers. There’s two reason for that. First off, I don’t like the term. When you hear the term “sleeper”, final-round picks who become top-50 players and swing leagues are usually the first thing that comes to mind. Players like that pop up every year, and obviously drafting one of those players will be a huge boost to your championship aspirations, but it’s just as important to focus on finding value in the middle of the draft. These mid-round players usually won’t be accompanied by the sleeper tag. However, drafting a player in the seventh round who returns fourth-round value can win you your league too.

The second reason I don’t place too much focus on sleepers is that sleepers will differ from build to build (Note: This is for mid-round sleepers only. In the final rounds you should focus on upside first and fit second). For example, you’ll see Patrick Beverley on this list. He is definitely a sleeper for those punting points. He can likely be had for an eighth-round pick even though he was a top-40 player without points last season. Beverley looks poised for a big year, but if you’re punting threes or steals, then he shouldn’t be on your sleeper list. When compiling your own personal sleeper list or reading others’, make sure you keep team build in mind. Team build is everything in fantasy basketball.

Stay tuned for part 2. It will contain close to twenty players currently ranked outside of the top-135 on Yahoo that have a very good chance to be relevant to standard league owners.

Y! – Current Yahoo Fantasy Basketball Ranking

EFB – Current Elite Fantasy Basketball Ranking

Kevin Love

Y! – 41 EFB – 28

Last season, Love sported a healthy 26.4% usage rate, which was easily his highest rate since the move to Cleveland. The increase in usage led to a top-30 finish and increase in his scoring numbers (19.0 PPG, 2.4 3PG). Expect him to surpass that mark with Isaiah Thomas looking likely to miss a major chunk of the season. When Kyrie was off the court last season, Love’s usage rate jumped to 31.3%. A 20/10 season from Love is very doable, especially if Thomas’ timeline is measured in months and not weeks. A top-15 finish in the punt FG% build is not out of the question either considering he posted borderline top-20 numbers in that build in 2016-2017.

DeAndre Jordan

Y! – 49 EFB – 25

Yahoo is shortchanging most of the punt FT% bigs. Jordan’s ranking is the most unforgivable of the bunch given his his history. DeAndre has been a first-round player in the punt FT% build the past four seasons. Players who can produce first-round value in any single-category punt build shouldn’t be ranked as borderline top-50 players. Losing Chris Paul definitely hurts, but Jordan should still be the favorite to lead the league in FG% (71.4 FG%) and is a top contender for the rebounding crown (13.8 RPG). Those in competitive leagues should be prepared to jump on DeAndre in the third round. Even at that price tag, he’s an excellent bet to return at least a round of value.

Andre Drummond

Y! – 59 EFB – 37

Drummond’s failure to take the next step on the court hasn’t stopped him from continuing to be an early-round asset in the punt FT% build. He was a top-20 player in the build in 2016-2017 who finished second in the league in rebounds (13.8 RPG) and first in steals among players with center eligibility (1.5 SPG). Like Jordan, he’s ranked far too low. Drummond’s floor in the punt FT% build is the second round. I can assure you that no other player available after pick 50 has a second-round floor in any single-category punt build. When to take him depends on your league. He’s a fine pick in the third-round and will be a massive steal if he falls past the fourth. The punt FT% studs do lose some points for their lack of trade value. You will almost never get equal value back in return for either player as other owners are usually very hesitant to sacrifice their FT%.

Robert Covington

Y! – 65 EFB – 35

I don’t think the fantasy community appreciates just how good Covington was last season. Before Christmas, he wasn’t even a top-90 player in fantasy. His shooting bottomed out and he was hard to roster if you weren’t punting FG%. That all changed in the New Year. Over the last three months of the season, he was a top-20 player. In a punt FG% situation, only twelve players were more valuable than the Sixer. Over that stretch, he was more valuable than players like Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward, and C.J. McCollum. All of those players are going 30-40 picks ahead of Covington. I’m not suggesting that you take Covington in the third round. You don’t need to. You’ll likely be able to grab him in the fifth or sixth or maybe even later if you play in a questionable league. I have him ranked 35th because I think that’s about how valuable he’s going to be. He doesn’t even have to improve to reach that mark. He finished with third-round value last season and I think he can do it again.

Victor Oladipo

Y! – 66 EFB – 34

Managers should just ignore what happened to Oladipo in Oklahoma City. He didn’t stand a chance playing next to Westbrook and his record-breaking usage. Better players than Oladipo would have fell victim to Westbrook’s historic usage. To get a better idea of what Oladipo is capable of in a starring role, we should look at his final year with the Magic. That season, he was the first option on a lottery-bound team that was playing for ping pong balls. He’ll be in that exact same position this year with the Pacers. In 2015-2016, the shooting guard was a top-35 option and averaged 16.0 PPG, 1.4 3PG, 4.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. Those numbers do not represent his ceiling. Oladipo got even better as the season went on and was a top-10 player over the last two months of the year. He is potentially a league-swinging steal at his current sixth-round price.

Trevor Ariza

Y! – 68 EFB – 46

Ariza is now 32 and will drop off eventually. However, a sixth-round price is ridiculous for a player who has posted top-40 numbers four seasons in a row. His current late sixth-round price looks like floor. Ariza’s value is dependent on two things. How many threes he hits and how many steals he manages. With Chris Paul in town, I have a hard time believing that his threes are going to fall off (2.4 3PG). His advanced age should eventually slow him down on the defensive end, but he is coming off a season where his steals actually trended up as the season went along. You shouldn’t be worried about P.J. Tucker. Many of Tucker’s minutes will come beside Ariza as a small-ball four.

D’Angelo Russell

Y! -72 EFB – 55

If you’re playing Roto, then you shouldn’t have an issue with Russell’s Yahoo ranking. His FG% (40.5 FG%) and turnovers (2.8 TOPG) are going to be major problems for owners playing that format. In H2H, he’s worth looking at earlier. Assuming he’s matched with a friendly build, preferably the punt FG%/TO build and paired with Russell Westbrook or James Harden, Russell can be a deadly H2H weapon. He’ll be the clear-cut first option on a team that loved throwing up triples last season. In 2016-2017 only three teams attempted more shots from deep than the Nets. In his final year with Lakers, Russell averaged 15.6 PPG, 2.1 3PG, 4.8 APG, and 1.4 SPG in only 28.7 MPG. He should be north of 30 MPG this season and 20 PPG and 3.0 3PG is possible.

Patrick Beverley

Y! – 87 EFB – 61

Like Russell, Beverley has the chance to be very valuable this season if placed in the correct build. The best build for Beverley is clearly punt points. As I mentioned in the introduction, he was a top-40 player without points last season. The move to Los Angeles should help him maintain that value. He’ll be asked to create more for the Clippers (4.2 APG) and could see his shot attempts and threes jump (1.6 3PG) now that he’s not playing beside James Harden. Don’t feel the need to reach for Beverley even if you are punting points. Players like Beverley always go later than they should in drafts. Plenty of managers will take one look at his PPG and dismiss the point guard.

Nerlens Noel

Y! – 91 EFB – 49

Noel is an incredible per minute player who should see a major increase in playing time in his second (and possibly final) season with the Mavericks. Last season, Noel somehow managed to be a top-65 player despite only playing 20.5 MPG. If he plays close to 28 MPG this season, a very real possibility given the Mavericks’ lack of depth at center, a top-30 finish is possible. Even if his minutes are limited to around 25 MPG, he should still return plenty of value on his current eighth-round price. I’d reach for Noel a round early. His per minute defensive production gives him a high floor (2.2 SP36, 1.8 BP36) and Noel has turned himself into one of the better sources of FG% impact (59.4 FG%). He’s even improved enough at the line (69.4 FT%) to be a safe play outside of the punt FT% build.

Willy Hernangomez

Y! – 97 EFB – 87

Joakim Noah looks cooked and Coach Hornacek seems intent on limiting Kyle O’Quinn to under 20 MPG. That leaves plenty of minutes for Hernangomez, the likely starting center for the Knickerbockers. We got a taste of what Hernangomez can do over the last two months of his rookie campaign. The big man posted top-90 numbers in only 24.7 MPG. Over those two months, he averaged close to a double-double (11.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG) and did so fairly efficiently (52.6 FG%, 73.7 FT%). He could definitely outperform his current ADP, but his ceiling is likely outside of the top-50 due to his lack of defensive stats (1.1 SP36, 1.0 BP36).

Willie Cauley-Stein

Y! – 102 EFB – 81

The other Willie is a very intriguing sleeper as well. The DeMarcus Cousins trade nearly doubled Cauley-Stein’s minutes and the 24-year-old took advantage of the opportunity. He was a top-80 player over the last two months of the season and averaged 12.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.9 BPG. He should start at center this season and see upwards of 30 MPG. That makes him one of the best big man bargains in the draft. Most big men who are available this late don’t come close to matching Cauley-Stein’s steals rate (1.3 SP36) or have the potential to impact FG% like Cauley-Stein does (53.0 FG%). He could outproduce players currently going multiple rounds before him.

Gary Harris

Y! – 107 EFB – 45

Unless Yahoo updates this ranking, Harris is your sleeper of the year. He has no business being ranked this low. He’s a 23-year-old who has shown significant improvement in each of his three seasons in the NBA and is returning to same role in which he was able to produce top-55 numbers in last season. Harris’ game is exceptionally fantasy-friendly. He is an extremely efficient scorer (50.3 FG%) whose efficiency isn’t due to a lack of threes (1.9 3PG). His scoring, and minutes, increased as the 2016-2017 season progressed. Over the last two months of the year, he was playing 34.4 MPG and scoring 17.0 PPG. Usually a 3-and-D wing like Harris costs you a mid-round pick. Be very aggressive when targeting Harris.

Marquese Chriss

Y! – 112 EFB – 82 

Chriss is going to post some very tasty popcorn numbers, but whether or not he outplays his draft position will come down to how much he can improve his efficiency. Last season, his efficiency was as ugly as his per minute stats were good. As a rookie, Chriss only shot 44.9% from the field and 62.4% from the line. If he can get his FG% into the upper 40s and his FT% closer to 70%, then he could crush his current ADP. There’s not many players who have the ability to produce 1.5 3P36, 1.4 SP36, and 1.4 BP36 like Chriss did in his freshman campaign.

Seth Curry

Y! – 116 EFB – 90

Curry is essentially a poor man’s Gary Harris. His biggest draw is his ability to hit from deep (2.0 3PG) while also helping you in the FG% column (48.1 FG%). He’ll compete with Wes Matthews for the Mavericks’ starting shooting guard spot, but regardless of where he starts the game, he should play close to 30 minutes a night. As long as he maintains his average steals rate (1.1 SPG) and efficiency (85.0 FT%), he should be able to outplay his current draft spot. The other Curry was a top-50 player over the last three months of the season and is a very good fit for the punt assists build due to his point guard eligibility, efficiency, and low assists (2.7 APG).

Marvin Williams

Y! – 117 EFB – 83

Williams was a top-50 player in 2016-2017 and followed that up with a top-70 finish in 2016-2017. He got better as the year went along. After a rough start, he was a top-45 player over the last two months of the season and finished just outside of the second round over that time period if points were ignored. His ceiling isn’t as high this season as it has been in the past due to the presence of Dwight Howard. Last season Frank Kaminsky saw time at both frontcourt positions. With Cody Zeller and Howard at center, he and Marvin will likely be stuck competing for the 48 minutes available at power forward. It’s fair to drop Marvin a couple rounds, but he’s currently ranked behind Kaminsky and that’s not fair to the veteran. Williams should start and continue to be a very good source of out-of-position threes (1.6 3PG). He’ll also provide low-end numbers in the big man categories (6.5 RPG, 0.7 BPG).

T.J. Warren

Y! – 118 EFB – 67

The Suns aren’t going to just toss aside Warren because they drafted Josh Jackson. Warren just turned 24 and is coming off of an exceptionally impressive finish to the season. They shouldn’t have any issue finding plenty of minutes for both players. Jackson saw plenty of time at the four while at Kansas and Marquese Chriss can easily slide over to the center spot. Warren should be very good and outplay his current ADP, but don’t expect a repeat of the top-30 numbers (16.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.9 BPG) that he posted over the last two months of the season. His role on offense won’t be as large with Eric Bledsoe returning to the lineup. If you find your team falling behind in FG% early in the draft, Warren should be one of your primary late-round targets. Few wings help you as much in that category as Warren does (49.6 FG%).

Dennis Smith Jr.

Y! – 124 EFB – 101

Smith looked like the real deal during summer league and should be considered the favorite to be the Mavericks’ starting point guard on opening night. This year’s ninth-overall pick played six very impressive summer league games in which he averaged 17.3 PPG, 1.5 3PG, 4.2 APG, and 2.2 SPG in 25.5 MPG. He looks like he’s going to contribute in almost all the categories that quality point guards contribute in. The only major question mark in his line is his FT%. In his only season at NC State, Smith shot a mediocre 71.5% from the line. A slow start is very possible as he adjusts to the speed of the NBA, but with the Mavericks unlikely to compete for a playoff spot, Smith could be unleashed down the stretch and be a difference maker when it matters the most.

Aaron Gordon

Y! – 127 EFB – 57

If Aaron Gordon was still stuck at small forward I would understand Yahoo’s ranking. Gordon is a completely different player when he’s playing the three. Before Serge Ibaka was traded to the Raptors, Gordon was barely a top-200 option and was shooting an awful 43.6% from the floor. After the trade, he was able to slide back to the power forward spot and the move to the four resuscitated his fantasy value. Gordon was a top-40 option after the move and his FG% jumped to 50.5%. He’ll play the four again this season and that makes his current ranking on Yahoo a tragedy. Where to take Gordon depends on your league. Just don’t expect to get him at his current 11th-round price. There will be at least one owner in your league who realizes Yahoo’s mistake.

Nikola Mirotic

Y! – 129 EFB – 89

Mirotic looks like a good bet to return to the Bulls and that is a very good thing for his value. With the Bulls not interested in making the playoffs this season, the frustratingly inconsistent Mirotic could have a longer leash in 2017-2018. He’ll be competing with rookie Lauri Markkenan and Bobby Portis for playing time. That is a competition that Mirotic should easily win if he’s playing even remotely close to his potential. He’s burnt most us in the past, but at his current price, how can you justify staying away. Mirotic has far, far more upside than almost every other player available at this point in the draft. He showed that upside down the stretch of the 2016-2017 campaign. He was a top-30 player over the last month of the season and averaged 15.8 PPG, 3.1 3PG, 6.8 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.9 BPG.

Thaddeus Young

Y! – 132 EFB – 73

This is a serious overreaction to the Pacers’ youth movement. Young should still start at power forward and could post top-50 numbers over the first half of the season. Thad was looking very good last season before he suffered a wrist injury that sapped his effectiveness. Before the injury, he was a top-50 player averaging 11.5 PPG, 0.9 3PG, 6.1 RPG, 1.8 SPG, and 0.5 BPG while shooting 52.1% from the field. What makes Young risky is that he’ll be a prime candidate to lose minutes during the fantasy playoffs. The Pacers will be playing for nothing and he could see some DNP-“Rest” games when owners are battling for a championship. Still, he’s far better than his late-round price suggests. Even if you grab him around the ninth or tenth, you’ll have a steal on your hands.

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