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Sep 23

2016/2017 Sleepers/Undervalued Players: Part 2

Here is part two of Elite Fantasy Basketball’s 2016-2017 Sleepers/Undervalued Players list. Below are players that fit the traditional definition of a “sleeper”. All are currently being drafted outside of the top-100 or not at all. Some are familiar faces, while others are exciting young players about to play major minutes for the first time in their careers. When the final rounds of your draft begin, you should be focusing on one thing, and one thing only, upside. I don’t completely ignore fit in the final rounds, but it’s much less important than it is in the early rounds. You’ll be able to find players like Gerald Henderson and Taj Gibson on the wire all season long. Don’t waste a draft pick on someone whose best case scenario is a top-130 finish. If you blow a late-round pick on a high-upside player who doesn’t work out, it’s not a big deal. Roster flexibility is key in the early stages of the season and I can think of worse things than having an open roster spot during the time of year where impactful free agents are plentiful.

Myles Turner

Y! – 107 EFB – 65

Turner is a future early-round fantasy asset and everyone knows it. Don’t expect to be able to draft Turner at his current ninth-round price. You’ll have to reach, but the young big man has enough upside to justify a mid-round selection. Turner looks like a reasonable pick starting in the sixth round. If you are punting FG%, Turner is a must-grab. The sophomore derives very little of his value from his FG% (49.8 FG%) and should provide excellent numbers in two categories that punt FG% teams often struggle with, rebounds (8.8 RP36) and blocks (2.3 BPG). Don’t worry about the Pacers’ signing of Al Jefferson. The former Hornet looked washed up in his final year in Charlotte and is a net negative on both ends of the court.

J.R. Smith

Y! – 112 EFB – 85

Ranking a player outside of the top-100 when that player has finished within the top-100 six seasons in a row is silly. J.R. still hasn’t signed with the Cavaliers, but there’s been no indications that he’s not coming back to Cleveland. His agent is Rich Paul, who is also LeBron’s agent, and the agent who let Tristan Thompson hold out all the way into training camp, so the contract drama may not end soon. Once he does sign, he’ll assume the same role that he has had the past two seasons. Smith was a top-75 player in 2014-2015 and a top-95 player in 2015-2016 and his final ranking will likely fall somewhere in between those two finishes. I target J.R. almost every year. He can fix any issues you have with your threes very quickly (2.6 3PG) and is usually an above-average source of steals (1.1 SPG). I like him quite a bit in the punt FT% build as his the threes, nightly scoring upside (12.4 PPG), and low turnovers (0.8 TOPG) help you win three categories that the punt FT% build often struggles with.

Danny Green

Y! – 113 EFB – 87

It may sound too simplistic, but Green’s struggles in 2015-2016 came down to one thing. He just missed shots. He got the same great looks that he always does, he just couldn’t knock them down. Green only hit 35.8% of his wide-open three-point attempts in 2015-2016, which is well below his 2014-2015 mark of 52.5%. His inability to knock down open shots led to huge drops in his FG% (37.6 FG%) and his triples (1.5 3PG). This dropped Green outside of the top-130 only one year after he posted top-25 numbers. Expect a major bounce back season from the shooting guard. It’s very unlikely that a player as proven as Green has back-to-back seasons of shooting well below his career averages. The Spur, if he can get his jumper going, is going to be an excellent punt points option. In 2014-2015, only 12 players were more valuable than Green in that build.

Clint Capela

Y! – 117 EFB – 74

This is last time you’ll ever be able to draft Capela outside of the middle rounds. The Rockets’ starting center is about to become a mainstay of the punt FT% build (37.9 FT%). Capela is a phenomenal per minute player and should see close to 30 MPG this season. In 2015-2016, he averaged a whopping 12.1 RP36, 1.2 SP36, and 2.3 BP36 while shooting 58.2% from the floor. Capela is only 22 and still has plenty of room to grow, especially on the offensive end (13.3 PPG). If you’re punting FT%, you need him on your roster. Reach for him if you have to. If you’re punting both points and FT%, then drafting Capela is even more essential. The big man could be a top-30 option in the double-punt.

Enes Kanter

Y! – 124 EFB – 73

Kanter is, by far, the best source of points, rebounds, and percentages impact currently available in the later rounds and has much more upside than his current draft price indicates. The big man was a top-20 per minute player in 2015-2016 and should soak up many of the possessions that previously went to Kevin Durant. It’s hard to overstate how huge Kanter’s FG% impact is likely to be this season. Despite only playing 21.0 MPG last season, Kanter had the seventh-largest positive impact on the category. An 18 and 10 season is very possible as is a top-50 finish. Kanter is a natural fit for the punt blocks build (0.6 BP36) and is an excellent choice for the punt assists build due his dominant percentages impact (57.6 FG%, 79.7 FT%) and his refusal to share the ball (0.4 APG).

D’Angelo Russell

Y! – 125 EFB – 78

Let’s just pretend that the Lakers’ 2015-2016 season never happened. Russell’s rookie season was extremely disappointing, but it likely would have gone much differently if Kobe Bryant wasn’t on the roster. Coming out of college, it looked like Russell was going to have a very fantasy friendly game. At Ohio State, he produced exceptional point guard stats (2.7 3PG on 41.4 3P%, 5.0 APG, and 1.6 SPG), was an excellent scorer (19.3 PPG), and was a very good rebounder for his position (5.7 RPG). We’ll likely see a more well-rounded line from Russell this year and the sophomore should hit at least 2.0 3PG and hand out over five assists each night. He’s a solid fit for both the punt FG% and punt FT% strategies as he’s likely to struggle in both categories (41.0 FG%, 73.7 FT%).

Terrence Jones

Y! – 147 EFB – 118

Jones was one of the worst players in the league last season and deserved to be at the bottom of the Rockets’ depth chart. He finished last among power forwards in real plus-minus and second last in the entire league, ahead of only Archie Goodwin. The Pelicans have decided to take a chance on Jones, and fantasy players should follow suit. Jones was a top-70 player in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 and that is the kind of upside that you want to be spending your late-round picks on. A player like Tony Allen is a safer late-round pick, but he’ll never swing your league. Jones is the type of player who could potentially be a major difference maker. The opportunity should be there. The Pelicans are thin up front behind Anthony Davis and Jones should see plenty of time beside his college teammate. The still only 24-year-old has the ability to produce useful numbers on the boards (6.7 RPG in 2014-2015), on the defensive end (1.8 BPG in 2014-2015), and from the floor (52.8 FG% in 2014-2015).

Cody Zeller

Y! – 167 EFB – 103

Zeller should badly outperform his current draft spot and is a fine pick starting the ninth round. The Hornet was a top-105 player in 2015-2016 despite only playing 24.3 MPG. He provides an exceptionally clean line and helps owners both from the field (52.9 FG%) and at the line (75.4 FT%). Zeller also helps owners on the defensive end (0.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG) and chips in on the boards (6.2 RPG). Expect his minutes to rise now that the Al Jefferson is a Pacer. Zeller could be a top-80 player this season and will likely finish much higher than that in the punt points build (8.7 PPG).

Matt Barnes

Y! – 172 EFB – 145

It’s starting to look like Rudy Gay could be moved by opening night. He’s informed the Kings that he will be opting out of his contract after the season is finished and the Kings will try to get something for the small forward before then. Barnes will likely soak up many of Gay’s minutes should Gay be moved. Barnes has been a top-120 player four seasons in a row and was a top-90 option just two seasons ago. If his FG% can return to its 2014-2015 levels (44.4% in 2014-2015, 38.1% in 2015-2016), Barnes could be a top-100 player. He provides across-the-board production that includes solid boards (5.5 RPG), above-average threes (1.6 3PG), and very useful defensive stats (1.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG). Barnes is one of the few players available at the end of the draft that has the potential to average one three, one steal, and one block.

Jae Crowder

Y! – 186 EFB – 44

Until Yahoo updates their rankings, each draft, in the middle rounds, is going to devolve into a game of chicken. Crowder is going to be sitting there, everyone in the league is going to know it, everyone is going to be hoping they can get him later than they should be able to, and all but one manager is going to be too late. I think Crowder is a perfectly legitimate pick starting in the fourth round. With Khris Middleton likely out for the year, there’s not many wing players available after the first two rounds who have early round potential. Crowder does. Last season, the Celtic was a top-35 play thanks to his excellent threes (1.7 3PG) and elite steals (1.7 SPG). Crowder is also a decent rebounder (5.1 RPG) and a sneaky source of out-of-position blocks. Don’t wait too long.

Marvin Williams

Y! – 214 EFB – 69

Williams is in the same position as Crowder, buried in the Yahoo rankings for unknown reasons. Marvin’s top-50 finish was a surprise, and with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back, it’s unlikely he repeats it. However, a top-75 finish is still very possible. Williams has always been a underrated fantasy asset. He has flirted with top-100 numbers before and has been a top-100 player in the punt points build numerous times. Not many players in the league can offer you close to two threes per night (1.9 3PG) while being a consistent source of blocks (1.0 BPG). When to pounce depends on your leaguemates. If you see Crowder or Evan Fournier go off the board early, then you’re unlikely to be able to grab Marvin at a discount. If those guys stay on the board for longer than they should, then you may be able to wait.

Evan Fournier

Y! – 215 EFB – 66

Fournier could lead the Magic in scoring this season and should be ranked somewhere in the top-75. The shooting guard will absorb many of the shots that went to Victor Oladipo and could flirt with 20 PPG (17.0 PP36). If Fournier wasn’t a below-average rebounder (2.8 RPG) and passer (2.7 APG) he could be an early-round asset. The rest of his line is very useful and includes excellent threes (2.0 3PG), solid steals (1.2 SPG), a low turnover rate (1.7 TOPG), and above-average efficiency (46.2 FG%, 83.6 FT%).

Jerryd Bayless

Y! – 241 EFB – 129

This is far too low for a starting point guard who is likely to hit two threes per game (1.9 3PG). Bayless won’t be a point guard in the traditional sense. Ben Simmons will run the Sixers’ offense and the journeyman will be used more as a spot-up shooter than as a facilitator. Bayless is an good fit for the punt assist build (3.1 APG) and is a cheap way to fill your point guard spot. There’s some upside here if Bayless runs away with the starting gig. The 1.9 3PM that he averaged in 2015-2016 came on a team that played at the seventh-slowest pace in the league. The Sixers play much faster, evidenced by their sixth place finish in pace last season. A faster pace and a larger role gives Bayless an outside shot at producing top-100 numbers.

Josh Richardson

Y! – 308 EFB – 130

The Heat just don’t have many proven NBA players on their roster any more and Richardson should help fill the void left by Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, and Luol Deng. He’ll miss the first week or so of the season, but once he does return, he’ll see plenty of minutes at both the two and the three. Richardson was a top-100 player over the last two months of 2015-2016 and averaged 1.7 3PG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.7 BPG over that span. He is a better bet than Justise Winslow to provide useful fantasy numbers due to his ability to hit from deep.

Norman Powell

Y! – 335 EFB – N/A

Dwane Casey let Powell run wild down the stretch of 2015-2016 and the extended run resulted in top-100 production from the rookie. Over the last month of the season, in 28.9 MPG, Powell averaged a very intriguing 12.9 PPG, 1.9 3PG, 4.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. He won’t play quite as many minutes now that DeMarre Carroll is healthy, but the swingman should see plenty of playing of time in the Raptors’ smaller lineups and should be one of team’s main options off the bench. A top-150 finish is possible with room for much more if DeMar DeRozan or DeMarre Carroll were to miss time.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Y! – 337 EFB – 88

Hollis-Jefferson is my bet to be this year’s fantasy breakout star. I expect him to be at least a top-50 player in the punt points build and the Nets’ swingman could flirt with top-50 overall value if everything goes right. He will be given every opportunity to succeed. The Nets’ wing rotation is the worst in the league and Rondae should have no problem carving out a 30 MPG role. His rookie year per minute production was very impressive. He averaged 9.0 RP36, 2.3 SP36, and 0.9 BP36. Hollis-Jefferson is not yet a threat from deep (0.2 3P36), but given his current price, that’s not a deal-breaker. The sophomore could lead the league in steals and grab close to eight boards per game.

Tim Frazier

Y! – 357 EFB – 149

Frazier is unlikely to be useful for more than a month or two, but that doesn’t mean fantasy owners should stay away from Jrue Holiday’s replacement. Mo Williams helped countless owners get off to hot starts in 2015-2016 and Frazier could do the same for owners investing a final-round pick in the Pelican’s temporary starting point guard. Frazier was very good down the stretch of the 2015-2016 season. Over the last month of the season, Frazier was a top-90 player in 9-category leagues despite only starting one of the Pelicans last 16 games. Over that span, he averaged 13.1 PPG, 0.8 3PG, 7.5 APG, and 1.4 SPG. I would rather have that kind of production in my lineup for a month or two than waste my final pick on a player like Courtney Lee who is likely to be rosterable all season long, but who lacks top-100 upside.

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