↑ Return to 16/17 Sleepers & Busts

2016-2017 Sleepers/Undervalued Players: Part 1

You want to focus on finding value throughout your draft, not just in the later rounds. Grabbing this year’s Jae Crowder in one the final rounds can catapult you a championship, but so can picking a player in the sixth-round who returns third-round value. None of the below players would fit the classic definition of a “sleeper” and all are currently ranked within the top-100 on Yahoo. These are undervalued players who I believe can finish multiple rounds above where they are currently being drafted. Where to take these players depends on your league. Knowing the tendencies of your leaguemates is extremely important and is something that you need to consider when prepping for your draft. If you know that there’s someone in your league that loves to punt FT%, then obviously you’re not going to be able to let DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond sit in the green room for long. Don’t be afraid to reach for players who you think will badly outplay their draft position. It’s better to draft a player a round earlier than you’d like than to miss out on the player altogether.

Y! – Current Yahoo Fantasy Basketball Ranking

EFB – Current Elite Fantasy Basketball Ranking

Paul Millsap

Y! – 18 EFB – 13

Well, it looks like everyone is back to underrating Millsap. The big man is ranked behind numerous players who have neither the upside nor the pedigree of the Hawks’ big man. Millsap has finished within the top-20 three seasons in a row and is coming off a top-10 finish. Despite that ceiling, and consistency, he is currently being drafted behind Damian Lillard, John Wall, and Giannis Antetokounmpo who combined, have finished within the top-20 only once (Lillard in 2014-2015). I blame this on fantasy players’ unhealthy obsession with assists. Winning assists each week does not get you any extra points, yet fantasy owners continually sacrifice value elsewhere for a taste of those sweet, sweet dimes. Every year I play fantasy I become more convinced that punt assists is the best punting strategy. Being able to grab players like Millsap at a discounted price is a big reason why.

Kemba Walker

Y! – 33 EFB – 24

Walker has proven himself to be an elite H2H weapon and is a lock to provide, at least, second-round value for owners punting FG%. If you are targeting Kemba, make sure you are punting FG%, otherwise, you are wasting his potential. Walker has finished 11th, 16th, 22nd, and 17th over the past four years in punt FG%. Owners who pull the trigger on Russell Westbrook or James Harden in the first-round should not be afraid to take Kemba at the end of the second round or at the beginning of the third round. Starting with one of the elite guards and following up that pick with Kemba and say, Kristaps Porzingis or Serge Ibaka, is one of my favorite strategies this year.

Nikola Jokic

Y! – 48 EFB – 31

The end of the fourth round seems far too late for a player with top-20 potential. Not many players can produce top-70 numbers in just 21.7 MPG, and even fewer could do it as a rookie. That is what Jokic managed to pull off in his freshman year. Jokic is returning to the Nuggets with a much larger role and should see close to 30 MPG. If his top-10 per minute production holds, he could be a second-round player. Think Nikola Vucevic with better defensive numbers.

Nikola Vucevic

Y! – 50 EFB – 39

Speaking of Vucevic, it seems that Yahoo has overreacted to the signing of Bismack Biyombo. As long as Vucevic remains on the Magic’s roster, he is going to start and play close to 30 MPG. The team is too starved for offense to minimize Vucevic’s role. The big man has been a top-40 player four seasons in a row and I don’t see that changing in 2016-2017. Last season, Vucevic was a top-30 player despite only playing 31.3 MPG. Even a slight decrease in his 18.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 1.1 BPG averages would keep Vucevic well ahead of his current ADP. His rebounding and stellar percentages (51.0 FG%, 75.3 FT%) keep his floor very high.

Trevor Ariza

Y! – 56 EFB – 37

Ariza is another player who falls victim to managers overrating assists and scoring. The swingman has been a top-40 player three seasons in a row and will now be a key cog in a Mike D’Antoni offense. Ariza has top-25 potential this year. Last season, over the last three months of the year, the Rocket was a top-25 player and averaged a massive 2.5 3PG and 2.2 SPG. Now that Khris Middleton is expecting to miss the majority of the season, Ariza is my favorite small forward who is currently ranked outside of the top-25 on Yahoo.

Marc Gasol

Y! – 64 EFB – 35

This is another ranking that feels like an overreaction. This time, the overreaction is due to a season ruined by a major foot injury. Foot injuries and big men do not mix well, but all indications point to Gasol being completely recovered and ready to go for training camp. In fact, it looks like the Spaniard has been healthy for a while. He was apparently close to suiting up for Spain in the Olympics. Marc has not finished outside of the top-45 since 2008-2009 and I expect that impressive streak to continue. He does come with more risk than most of the mid-round big men, but this feels like far too much of a discount for someone who was a top-20 option in 2014-2015. Gasol is one of the best fits out there for the punt FG% build (46.3 FG%) due to his boards (7.0 RPG), blocks (1.3 BPG), dimes (3.8 APG), and proficiency at the line (82.9 FG%).

Goran Dragic

Y! – 70 EFB – 51

Dwayne Wade is a point guard killer. It’s almost impossible for a point guard to provide much fantasy value when his backcourt mate has a usage rate north of 30%. Wade is now Rajon Rondo’s problem and Dragic should take advantage of his newfound freedom. The last time Dragic was the focal point of an offense he was a top-30 player and averaged 20.3 PPG on 50.5 FG%, 1.6 3PG, 5.9 APG, and 1.4 SPG. Don’t expect the Heat’s lead guard to replicate those numbers, but a top-50 finish feels very doable. He is a much better value at his current price than Jeff Teague, Reggie Jackson, and Rajon Rondo. Dragic is an excellent fit for the punt FT% build due to his dimes (5.8 APG) and strong FG% (47.7 FG%).

DeAndre Jordan

Y! – 71 EFB – 15

This ranking only makes sense if you are playing Roto. Jordan, in H2H, is a legitimate option as early as the end of the first round, but can currently be had at an absurd discount. Where to take Jordan depends on your league. In competitive leagues, I doubt that Jordan will ever last later than the third round. At least he shouldn’t. Here is a list of players who finished within the top-5 in any punting build last season (not including double-punts):

Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Hassan Whiteside, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, DeAndre Jordan.

That is quite the company that DeAndre holds. He is also significantly more durable than any of the above players. Jordan hasn’t missed a game due to injury since the 2010-2011 season. Getting Jordan anytime after the second round is a huge steal and a sad indictment of your leaguemates. As always, DeAndre will be an elite source of boards (13.8 RPG), blocks (2.3 BPG), and FG% (70.6 FG%).

Andre Drummond

Y! – 73 EFB – 20

See Jordan, DeAndre. Drummond isn’t quite the H2H weapon that Jordan is, but deserves far better than his current seventh-round ranking. Drummond has been a top-10 player in punt FT% the past three seasons and deserves consideration starting at the end of the second round. Like Jordan, where to take Drummond depends on what you think your leaguemates will do. The Piston isn’t on the same level as Jordan due to his disappointing FG% impact. Drummond’s superior scoring rate (16.2 PPG) doesn’t come close to offsetting the damage that it does to his FG% (52.0 FG%). The big man would be a much better fantasy option if his offensive game was limited to dunks and put backs.

Nicolas Batum

Y! – 74 EFB – 49

Batum is one of the most versatile players in the league and that versatility allows the Frenchman to produce one of fantasy’s most unique lines. The Hornet is an excellent source of out-of-position dimes (5.8 APG) and is an above-average rebounder (6.1 RPG) and shot blocker (0.6 BPG) for his position. He has also turned himself into a serious threat from deep (2.0 SPG) and helps owners at the line (84.9 FT%). Batum does come with a sizable FG% hit (42.3 FG%), but the swingman fits extremely well into almost any build.

Ryan Anderson

Y! – 78 EFB – 50

Anderson and Mike D’Antoni are a match made in heaven. The sharpshooter was able to average 2.0 3PG in 2015-2016 despite playing only 30.4 MPG for the ninth-fastest offense in the league. Anderson should see a slight bump in minutes and will play for a team that may end up leading the league in pace. 2.5 3PM feels very doable. Anderson has reached that mark three times in his career and each time it resulted in a top-50 finish. The Rocket is another player who is a natural fit for the punt FG% build (42.8 FG%). He also works well with the punt blocks strategy (0.4 BPG).

Chandler Parsons

Y! – 87 EFB – 55

Parsons’ time with the Mavericks was filled with disappointment, but the small forward should bounce back in 2016-2017. His role with the Grizzlies should be larger than it was with the Mavericks due to Memphis’ desperate need for both shooting and playmaking. Expect Parson’s dimes to return to their pre-Dallas levels (4.0 APG in 2013-2014) and he should flirt with 2.0 3PG (1.7 3PG). Parsons was a top-35 player in both 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 and has more upside than most players currently going in the eighth-round. He is an excellent fit for the punt FT% build (68.4 FT%) due to his out-of-position dimes and above-average FG% impact (49.2 FG%).

Aaron Gordon

Y! – 90 EFB – 62

Gordon will be on everyone’s sleeper list so don’t expect to be able to wait until the eighth-round to nab the youngster. Gordon was able to post top-115 numbers last season despite only playing 23.9 MPG. Bump those minutes into the low-30s and you’re looking at a potential monster. The Magic’s starting small forward gives you a little bit of everything and should come close to joining the one three (0.5 3PG), one steal (0.8 SPG), and one block (0.7 BPG) club in 2016-2017. His current Yahoo ranking is his floor and his ceiling is within the top-50.

Robin Lopez

Y! – 92 EFB – 72

After a very slow start to his lone year under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, Lopez was a top-60 player over the last three months of the 2015-2016 campaign. Over that stretch, he provided owners with a very clean line that included 8.9 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 55.9% shooting from the floor, and 77.2% shooting from the charity stripe. Lopez has posted top-40 numbers in the past and has that kind of potential now that he is joining a team filled with playmakers. If you do decide to target Lopez, make sure you grab plenty of steals early in the draft. The big man is a much bigger drag on your swipes than most bigs (0.2 SPG). He fits very well into the punt points build (10.3 BPG) due to his ability to excel in both percentages. In 2013-2014, Robin was a second-round player when points were ignored.

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