Steve Alexander

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Sleeper City!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Here is a look at some of our favorite sleepers this season. Some are big names, some are no-brainers and some are just our personal favorites. Enjoy.


Point Guards


Dennis Smith Jr. PG Mavericks – Dude was electric in Summer League play, is being handed the keys to the Mavs’ offense and has the ability to win a dunk contest, compete in a 3-point contest, and hand out a ton of assists, as well as score the ball. He should be the first rookie off the board on draft night and we’re guessing he can live up to the hype.


Jamal Murray PG Nuggets – Murray played in all 82 games last year and despite some mediocre numbers, is primed for a big season. He averaged 15 points, five dimes, 1.3 steals and 1.6 3-pointers in April and should start at point guard for the Nuggets this year. He’s an elite scorer, should shoot it better from the field (40 percent last year) and is our second-favorite sleeper point guard. Go get him.


Elfrid Payton PG Magic – He had five triple-doubles last year and averaged 12.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists, while playing in all 82 games. If he’s able to shoot it better from the floor, look out. And the best news is that he’s unchallenged for minutes at point guard in Orlando. It’s all about the hair.


Darren Collison PG Pacers – Collison was a bit disappointing last season for the Kings, but gets a fresh start in Indy, where he’ll be the preferred point guard for the Pacers. The arrival of Cory Joseph is somewhat concerning, but not enough for us to think Collison will struggle with his new team. Expectations will be high and while he’s never really lived up to the hype, this could be the year.


D’Angelo Russell G Nets – Russell was a bit disappointing last season, but should start at shooting guard for the Nets, and qualify at point guard in almost all leagues. He could lead the Nets in scoring and looks like a lock for fifth-round value. And when you consider the fact Jeremy Lin has had trouble staying healthy, Russell looks like a lock for a ton of minutes and production this season.


Patrick Beverley PG Clippers - An unlikely choice, perhaps, but that's the point. The 29-year-old requested a trade away from James Harden and Houston, saying, "I asked for a bigger opportunity, a bigger chance to display my skills on a high level." He'll get that with the Clippers and should see a substantial bump in usage from last season's paltry 14.2%, which was in line with guys like Davis Bertans and Amir Johnson. Steals and 3-pointers are a given, and he posted career highs in rebounds (5.9) and assists (4.2) last year. Hopefully he can stay healthy.


Shooting Guards


Buddy Hield SG Kings – Hield went nuts when DeMarcus Cousins was traded in February, averaging 15.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 3-pointers after Cousins was gone. Bogdan Bogdanovic was added to the Kings’ roster, which could hurt Hield, but it still feels like Hield is the guy at SG for the Kings. He may not do much outside of scoring and nailing 3-pointers, but if you take him late, he has the potential to put up some big numbers.


Allen Crabbe SG Nets – Crabbe shot 44 percent from downtown last year and will take his talents to Brooklyn this season. He should start at small forward, but qualify at shooting guard in almost every league, based on last season. More steals would be nice, but he should hit a ton of 3-pointers, score some points, hand out some assists, grab some rebounds and block at least 1.2 shots per game. He could end up being a seventh-round value, but chances are you can get him in Round 10. 


Tim Hardaway Jr. SG Knicks – All the talk about Hardaway Jr. this offseason has been about his bloated contract, but I’m more interested in his potential role on the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony is as good as gone, allowing THJ to immediately become the second option on offense behind Kristaps Porzingis. Yes he’s had his struggles on the defensive end, but the starting shooting guard role is his and we love his offensive game — he had a 55.6 true shooting percentage last season which ranked 12th among SGs. He averaged 17.5 points as a starter in Atlanta with 3.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 2.1 triples, and he had 22 games with 20+ points. He’s a sneaky value at his late-round price and offers legitimate top-75 upside.


Jaylen Brown SG Celtics - Brown is coming off an impressive rookie season, during which he averaged 8.6 points, 1.0 threes, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.2 blocks after the All-Star break. He did all that in 20.8 minutes and should see his role increase with Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley both gone. Yes, there's added competition from Gordon Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum, but Brown's versatility gives him an edge in what should be a freewheeling, matchup-based Celtics rotation this season.


E’Twaun Moore & Jordan Crawford Pelicans SG – Solomon Hill is going to miss most of the season and Quincy Pondexter is also banged up and could be heading to the Bulls, meaning Moore and Crawford could play a lot small forward in a small ball lineup for the Pels. Moore had a career year with 9.6 points, 1.1 3-pointers, 2.2 assists and 2.1 rebounds last season, while Crawford joined the team late in the season and averaged 14.1 points, 3.0 assists and 1.9 3-pointers in 23 minutes a night. With Hill out for most of the season and Pondexter likely in Chicago, both Moore and Crawford are going to see a ton of minutes. Grabbing either of them late should pay dividends.


Small Forwards


James Johnson F Heat – JJ had a good season, averaging career highs in points (career-highs in points (12.8), rebounds (4.9), assists (3.6) and triples (1.1) with 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals on 47.9 percent shooting. To put it bluntly, he was one of the waiver-wire pickups of the season. He got paid this summer to the tune of $60 million for four years and should come into the season healthy. He might start at power forward, but should qualify at small forward in all leagues. Either way, he should be available in the middle rounds of your draft, but with his ability to hit threes, steal and block shots, he could be worthy of a fourth-round pick when all is said and done. We love him.


Brandon Ingram SF Lakers – Ingram was pretty bad last year, making many of us wonder if he could even shoot a basketball. He hit just 40 percent of his shots and averaged 9.4 points, making him a true bust. But he will shoot it better this season, should become a focal point of the Lakers’ offense and could thrive in an offense run by Lonzo Ball. He scored 26 points in his one Summer League game. We’ve got him penciled in with averages of 15.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks and a 3-pointer per game. Get him while you can.


Taurean Prince F Hawks – The Hawks blew up their roster this offseason and currently look like the Bad News Bears. The kids are going to play this season and we’re expecting a workload in the mid-30s for Prince with his ability to play the three and small-ball four. He’s very similar to Robert Covington with the money stats (triples, steals and blocks) and posted per-36 minutes averages of 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.2 triples as a rookie. 


Justise Winslow SF Heat – Winslow played in just 18 games due to a torn labrum that required surgery, but should be healthy and ready to go this season. He only has to beat out Rodney McGruder for the starting SF job and should be ready to go on opening night. His shooting is a big concern, as he hit just 36 percent of his shots from the floor last season in 18 games, and 62 percent of his free throws. But that was a small sample size and there’s a good chance he fixed his shot in the offseason – at least enough not to kill your fantasy team. If you discount the shooting concerns, he could rack up a ton of points (14.3), assists (4.0), rebounds (5.6) and steals (1.5), but just don’t count on him to hit many 3-pointers. He looks like a value pick as a late-round flier.


Joe Ingles SF Jazz – Ingles averaged just 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 3-pointers last season, but Gordon Hayward is gone, Joe Johnson is getting older and Ingles has proven he can play. His numbers should be better this season and he could become a real factor for the Jazz. Target him late, sit back, and laugh.


Norman Powell SF Raptors – Powell has been flirting with being draftworthy for some time now and the Raptors no longer have DeMarre Carroll. C.J. Miles was brought in, which could be a problem for Powell, but he also has a chance to start at small forward this season. If it happens, he could make for a very nice late-round selection. He should rack up nice points, 3-pointers and steals, so look at him late in your draft if you find yourself in need of them.


Power Forwards


Aaron Gordon PF Magic – Gordon averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 0.9 3-pointers after the All-Star break last season, hitting 50 percent of his shots and 84 percent of his free throws along the way. Fantasy owners may depend on his full-season stats, but Gordon should be a Top 50 player this season and get at least 30 minutes per night. He is one of our favorite mid-round targets.


Skal Labissiere PF Kings -  Labissiere took off after the All-Star break last season, averaging 10.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks on 54 percent shooting. Anthony Tolliver is gone and the Kings added Zach Randolph, who could actually be banned by the league after a felony marijuana arrest. If that happens, Skal is going to get all the run he can handle. If Randolph plays, Skal’s a quality late sleeper. If Randolph gets banned, Labissiere becomes a potential legitimate mid-round fantasy stud.


JaMychal Green F/C Grizzlies – Green had a career season, averaging 8.9 points and 7.1 rebounds last year, starting in 75 games and returning 10th-round fantasy value. Zach Randolph is out in Memphis (and maybe the league) and Green is set to start at power forward, and should see most of the minutes there this season. He’s also a good free throw shooter and hit 55 3-pointers last year, so he could end up being a monster fantasy pick in the later rounds in your draft.


Marquese Chriss PF Suns – Chriss played in all 82 games for the Suns, averaging 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.9 blocks, 0.8 steals and 0.9 triples in 21.3 minutes. He wasn’t worth owning before the All-Star break, but really came on late, averaging 12.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 steals and 1.2 triples down the stretch. Chriss can play both PF and C and is going to get a lot of minutes this season. Alex Len still hasn’t re-signed and the Suns will be focusing on player development again, so his minutes should be in the mid-30s. Foul trouble can be a problem (5.4 fouls per 36 minutes as a rookie), but he’s a potential breakout player that will likely cost owners a late-mid round pick. For what it’s worth, he had per-36 minute averages of 15.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.5 triples last season.


Cheick Diallo PF Pelicans – He only played 17 games as a rookie and the Pelicans already have Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, so obviously Diallo’s not going to be a must-own player this season. But the Pelicans almost have to play Diallo over Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, meaning there’s some deep sleeper potential here. In the five games he played more than 22 minutes, Diallo averaged 13.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks. Think of him more as a 14-16 team stash, or a dynasty flier.




Willie Cauley-Stein C Kings – WCS saw a bump in points per game in his second season (8.1), but his rebounds (4.5), blocks (0.6), field goal percentage (53.0) and minutes (18.9) took a bit of a hit last year. But he quickly became relevant when the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins and WCS became one of the hottest pickups in fantasy hoops after the All-Star break, averaging 12.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.9 blocks. He should get at least 30 minutes a night for one of the league’s worst teams and last year’s second=half numbers seem to be a foregone conclusion. More blocked shots would be nice, but he’s a fine late-round pick as a source of rebounds and FG percentage, while a full breakout is also a possibility.


Willy Hernangomez C Knicks – Willy had a nice second half of the season, averaging 11.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks in 24.2 minutes after the All-Star break, while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from the line. Joakim Noah is constantly hurt and suspended for the first 12 games of this season, which is great news for Hernangomez. Additionally, the Knicks are not good, so this season should be all about developing the young talent they have and Hernangomez is right in the middle of the pack. He should open the season as the starter and we’d be shocked if he wasn’t able to hold off Noah and Kyle O’Quinn all year long. He’s not the greatest shot blocker for his size, but he’s a solid pick towards the end of the middle rounds.


Nerlens Noel C Mavericks - Noel will fall in fantasy drafts this season, especially if contract talks with Dallas continue to drag along, but his upside shouldn't be overlooked. Plenty of owners have been burned by Nerlens in the past, due to his awkward spot in a center-loaded Philly rotation, and then frequent issues with his surgically repaired knee. If he stays in Dallas and his knee is fully healed, however, owners could land a 23-year-old center who had top-40 value on a per-minute basis last season. Minutes in the 26-28 range would be enough to exceed his ADP.


Boban Marjanovic C Pistons – One of our favorite end-of-the-season pickups from last season, Boban The Barbarian lit it up in the final four games with 15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals in just over 22 minutes per game, and coach Stan Van Gundy has already confirmed that he will open the season as Andre Drummond’s backup. With Aron Baynes gone and a projected role of around 20 minutes, Boban is a high-upside pick in the later rounds. 


Richaun Holmes C Sixers – Holmes emerged as one of the best waiver-wire pickups after the All-Star break thanks to the disappearance of Joel Embiid. He racked up 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals and 0.7 3-pointers on 58.1 percent shooting, returning top-35 value in standard leagues after the All-Star break. Embiid and Ben Simmons should be ready to go this season and the Sixers added Amir Johnson to the mix, but Holmes simply looks too good not to play for this team. He’s a "lightning-in-the-bottle" player according to coach Brett Brown and he should be Embiid’s primary backup. That makes him a must-own handcuff to Embiid, who is sure to have some maintenance days and minutes watching, even if he’s able to stay healthy this season. And if he goes down again, Holmes could turn into a monster. 

Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for and a contributor to The 2017-18 NBA season marks (at least) his 16th year of covering fantasy hoops for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.
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