It’s that time of year again where I unveil my favorite sleepers exclusively for our draft guide readers. But since I like to think I’m a nice guy, this will be a special sneak peek at four of the upwards of 20 sleepers on the list.
Last season this list crushed, and below you can see how some of my calls finished in 9-cat leagues:
Brook Lopez finished 19th at an ADP of 83
Buddy Hield finished 23rd at an ADP 92
Pascal Siakam finished 26th at an ADP of 141(!)
D’Angelo Russell finished 35th at an ADP of 88
Montrezl Harrell finished 43rd at an ADP of 139
Jerami Grant finished 50th at an ADP of 130
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That doesn’t mean I didn’t have some misses (I’m looking at you Jordan Bell), but overall I’m very proud of how I did and thrilled to kick off a new season. As a general rule I’ll try to keep my all selections above an ADP of 75, but just keep in mind that ADPs can be extremely volatile this early. If you have any questions you can find me on Twitter here, and be on the lookout for the guide on September 15th!
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (ADP: 78.2)
If any of you have done mock drafts, the first thing you will notice this year is that the elite point guards fly off the board quicker than Michael Scott and George Coztanza fleeing a fire. But fear not, as there are a few second- and third-year PGs that I really like this year in the middle rounds. SGA is by far my favorite, a player that was traded to the Thunder to be the face of the franchise as they begin their post-Westbrook rebuild.
SGA’s rookie year numbers don’t jump off the page, but it’s how he finished the year that really turned heads. In the final 20 games of the season, SGA was 38th in 9-cat leagues with 14.3 points, 4.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.1 triples on 52.9% from the field and 78.2% from the line. The best part? He did that with an 18.8 usage rate. That will go way up on an OKC team that lacks firepower, and while the presence of Chris Paul might scare some away, keep in mind that SGA played nearly as many minutes off the ball as he did on last year. He’ll have no problem coexisting with CP3, and once the veteran is inevitably traded the rest will be curtains.
Jarrett Culver (ADP: 147)
Jarrett Culver is the No. 2 prospect on my big board for this rookie class after carrying Texas Tech to the NCAA Finals. A two-way stud, Culver averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 triples, 1.5 steals and 0.6 blocks on 46.1% from the field and 70.2% from the line with an absurd usage rate of 32.2. He reminds me a lot of Jimmy Butler as a guy who can be a secondary ball-handler at the NBA level while being a suffocating defender on the other end -- he only allowed 0.68 points per spot up possession (80th percentile).
The Wolves have talked about using him all over the floor including PG for stretches, and while some patience will be needed early on, he has a legitimate shot of having a Donovan Mitchell-like rookie season with only Andrew Wiggins and Josh Okogie standing in his way. I’d expect roughly 20 minutes to begin the year with that number shooting up closer to 30 by the All-Star break. Give me all the Culver shares in the final rounds.
Derrick Jones Jr. (ADP: Undrafted)
Here’s a player that is essentially free in fantasy drafts and that no one is talking about. DJJ was a training camp standout last season, prompting the Heat to give him a standard contract and a shot at rotation minutes. He didn’t disappoint, averaging 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.7 blocks and 0.5 triples on 49.4% from the field and 60.7% from the line in 19.2 minutes. The Heat let him roam on the defensive end as he racked up countless steals and swats, and it’s no secret that the organization is high on the forward. In fact, they were ready to scrap the Jimmy Butler trade when DJJ’s name came up.
Guys like Jonathan Isaac (another target of mine) get loads of hype for their 1-1-1 upside in steals, triples and blocks, but a deeper look at the stats shows us that DJJ is being undervalued right now.
Jonathan Isaac per-36 minutes: 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 dimes, 1.1 steals, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 triples.
DJJ per-36 minutes: 13.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.2 dimes, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks and 0.9 triples.
The difference? Isaac will cost you a pick around 75 and DJJ can be snagged with your final pick. Miami’s roster outside of Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro is uninspiring, so I’m expecting DJJ to get a ton of minutes and run circles around James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk.
Wendell Carter Jr. (ADP: 82.3)
Injuries have been frustrating for WCJ with a thumb issue robbing him of the end of his rookie season and a core muscle surgery sidelining him this offseason. He’s on track for training camp though, and if I’m being honest I’m excited that WCJ didn’t play down the stretch because he’s going to be available at a huge discount this season.
As you know, breakout candidate Bam Adebayo is one of Rotoworld’s favorite targets, but WCJ is a player with a similar stat set that you can grab 3-4 rounds later.
Bam’s per-36 last season: 13.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks on 57.6% from the field and 73.5% from the line.
WCJ’s per-36 as a rookie: 14.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.9 blocks on 48.5% from the field and 79.5% from the line.
So many players break out in their second or third seasons, and I’m betting on a better supporting cast and just his overall health to elevate WCJ’s play. He shot an incredibly low 28.4% on post ups last season which dragged down his FG%, but the Bulls can offset that by putting him on the perimeter more often in the mold of Al Horford. Adding playmakers like Tomas Satoransky will only help too with WCJ converting 41.2% of his catch-and-shoot jumpers. I'd bet on a top-50 season here.