Basketball season has returned and with a new season springs new hope for all Fantasy owners. Now is the time to start looking at some of those lesser-known players that will help out your team. After the big names are gone, it will be the players that may have fallen through the cracks that will help you fill out the rest of your roster.
Plenty of players have changed addresses this offseason and we think some of the rookies will make an impact in their first year in the NBA. While some teams are still pretty undecided on their rotations, we at CBSSports.com have combed through the transaction page and depth charts to put together a list of players who might fly under the radar on Draft Day.
These sleepers could pay big dividends toward a Fantasy championship.
Omer Asik, Rockets: After two years in Chicago, Asik signed a three-year, $25 million deal with the Rockets in the offseason and will step into a starting role in Houston. He saw slightly more than 13 minutes per game behind Joakim Noah in Chicago last season and averaged fewer than 3.0 points with 4.4 rebounds. He posted 10.5 boards and two blocks in the two games he started, however, and has shot close to 53 percent from the field through his first two seasons in the NBA. While Asik has proven in the past to be a viable option in category-based formats, his inability to score has hindered his value in larger leagues. The Rockets will need to find points somewhere on a revamped roster so the 26-year-old will be given every opportunity to prove himself. There are few true 7-footers in the NBA and Asik is expected to put up solid rebounding and block totals nightly for owners. Even if he can't get close to double-digit scoring on a consistent basis, Asik could end up being a solid pickup in the late rounds on Draft Day, especially at a thin position in Fantasy.
Gustavo Ayon, Magic: Ayon jumped on the Fantasy map late last season with some solid performances for the Hornets and should see some steady playing time in 2012-13 after being traded to the Magic during the offseason. He averaged 8.3 points with 6.4 rebounds as a starter and chipped in with two assists and 1.1 blocks. Ayon also shot 53.6 percent from the field for the year and should once again be able to be counted on to post close to double-digit scoring and rebounding totals most nights. While he is not expected to put up the numbers Dwight Howard did, the 27-year-old should be a consistent contributor at a thin position, especially if he starts ahead of Nikola Vucevic at center. Target Ayon in the later rounds on Draft Day as someone who could end up making a difference in deeper formats.
Tyrus Thomas, Bobcats: Fantasy owners have been waiting for Thomas to break out since he was drafted out of LSU in 2006 as he seems to appear on a sleeper list almost every year. Last season was quite possibly the worst of his career as he averaged just 5.6 points -- his lowest total since his rookie campaign -- with just 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 54 contests for the Bobcats. He also shot a career-worst 36.7 percent from the floor and had a public falling out with then-head coach Paul Silas. With new coach Mike Dunlap at the helm, a fresh start could be just what the doctor ordered for the 26-year-old. Thomas added about 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason and could be on the verge of finally becoming a reliable option in Fantasy. Everyone knows about his prowess for blocking shots and he would be very valuable in Fantasy if he can get back to putting up decent scoring on a nightly basis. Keep an eye on his progress early on but if Thomas sees solid minutes at power forward in Charlotte, he will be helpful to owners in many leagues.
Trevor Booker, Wizards: Booker made solid progress in his second season in the NBA and should be able to take his game to the next level in 2012-13. After averaging just 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds during his rookie campaign, he upped those numbers to 8.4 and 6.5 last season. He also put up a steal and block per game while shooting 53 percent from the field. Booker proved to be productive as a starter as well, averaging 9.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in the 32 games he was in the starting lineup. The 24-year-old could see a huge role with the Wizards this season, especially with Nene's fragile history, so keep an eye on his progress early on. If he is able to get his scoring up into the mid-teens, Booker will definitely have appeal in deeper Fantasy formats.
Anthony Randolph, Nuggets: Randolph continued to disappoint owners last season as he averaged just 7.4 points with 3.6 rebounds while seeing action in 34 games for the Timberwolves. He simply failed to maintain any kind of consistency. That's two straight down years after his breakout campaign in 2009-10, but a new start in Denver could yield some positive results in Fantasy. He is expected to see playing time behind Kenneth Faried and seems very well suited to play in coach George Karl's up-tempo offense. Randolph can put up double-digit scoring with decent rebounds and more than a block per game when going well, so consider targeting the 23-year-old in deeper Fantasy formats on Draft Day.
Andray Blatche, Nets: Blatche appeared to be on the rise in Fantasy after making progress in three straight campaigns that climaxed when he averaged 16.8 points with 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 2010-11. He had a devastating season a year ago for the Wizards, however, as he played in just 26 games due to injury and other issues, putting up just 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. Blatche receives a fresh start in 2012-13 after he left Washington via the amnesty rule and signed with Brooklyn during the offseason. He is expected to serve as the backup center to Brook Lopez and could also see time at power forward behind Kris Humphries. There is a lot of buzz around the Nets heading into this season and the 26-year-old has proven to be productive when motivated. Owners in deeper formats should consider Blatche a worthwhile risk on Draft Day as he seems primed to bounce back.
Samardo Samuels, Cavaliers: After a down 2011-12 campaign, Samuels re-dedicated himself during the offseason and showed up to camp 20 pounds slimmer. He also cut his body fat from 15 percent to the 6 percent to 7 percent range. Samuels averaged 7.8 points with 4.3 rebounds during his rookie season, but put up just 5.4 points with 3.3 rebounds a year ago. He is expected to be the backup power forward to Tristan Thompson heading into 2012-13 and will also see some time at center behind Anderson Varejao and rookie Tyler Zeller. Coach Byron Scott has pointed out that Samuels is one of the few players on the Cavs that can score with his back to the basket. With a new physique, he could pay dividends in Fantasy. His role limits his appeal to deeper formats, but owners in those leagues should keep Samuels on their radar.
Aaron Brooks, Kings: Brooks returns to the NBA after spending last season in China and will compete with Jimmer Fredette to serve as the primary backup to Isaiah Thomas in Sacramento. Brooks played in 41 games last season for the Guandong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association and averaged a team-high 22.3 points. He is just two seasons removed from winning the league’s Most Improved Player award, when he averaged 19.6 points and 5.3 assists with Houston in 2009-10, and can obviously still put up some points. Brooks has proven more in the NBA than Fredette so he should have a nice role off the bench for the Kings. If he can even come close to the numbers he put up in 2009-10, the 27-year-old will be worth a look in deeper Fantasy formats.
Kirk Hinrich, Bulls: After spending the last two seasons in Washington and Atlanta, Hinrich signed with Chicago in the offseason and rejoins the team that drafted him in 2003. He averaged just 6.6 points with 2.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds backing up Jeff Teague last season for the Hawks and shot a career-low 34 percent from the 3-point line. While he did do slightly better as a starter, the 31-year-old pretty much fell off the map in Fantasy. With Derrick Rose expected to miss extensive time due to a torn ACL, Hinrich should have a big role in his first season back with the Bulls. That means it’s possible he could return to the 13.4 points, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals he averaged with the team from 2003-2010. Hinrich has always done a decent job from beyond the arc and his production should increase in 2012-13, so consider him a worthwhile option in deeper formats while he is seeing some run with Rose out.
Shelvin Mack, Wizards: Along the same lines as Hinrich, Mack will compete with A.J. Price to serve as the starting point guard for Washington while John Wall (patella) is out. Mack averaged just 3.6 points with 2.0 assists and shot 40 percent from the field in his first season out of Butler, but the Wizards appear to be pretty high on the 22-year-old. He averaged 14.1 points and 1.1 steals in his three years in college and shot close to 36 percent from beyond the arc. His value will obviously go down once Wall returns, but if he is able to beat out Price for the majority of the playing time, Mack will be worth owning in deeper Fantasy formats.
Jared Sullinger, Celtics: Sullinger has garnered some rave reviews since being taken No. 21 overall in the 2012 Draft by the Celtics and figures to have a prominent role during his rookie campaign. After putting up 17.3 points with 9.7 rebounds during his two years at Ohio State, he averaged 11.2 points with 8.6 rebounds and a steal during the Summer League and gives Boston some much-needed size in the frontcourt. Some back issues caused him to drop in the draft but, Sullinger could end up starting in Boston and make a difference in Fantasy -- if he can stay healthy. Fantasy owners should be able to count on consistent low-end scoring and rebounding totals from the 20-year-old and with Kevin Garnett mentoring him, the former Buckeye should progress as the season goes on. Sullinger is worth taking a flier on in deeper Fantasy formats as he could steal playing time from Brandon Bass and surprise some owners.
Terrence Jones, Rockets: Jones was taken with the No. 18 overall pick by the Rockets in the 2012 Draft and showed during the Summer League that he can put up some points as he averaged 18.2 points with 8.6 rebounds. He was a bit overshadowed on a stacked Kentucky team in college, but still averaged 12.3 points per game with 7.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.8 blocks. Houston will likely have him coming off the bench to begin the season, as the Rockets will need point-production from somewhere. That means the 20-year-old should be able to force his way on the floor with his shooting range. The Rockets have a plethora of power forwards on the roster but Jones appears to have the most upside and should be able to make a difference in Fantasy in 2012-13. Target Jones in the later rounds on Draft Day.
Harrison Barnes, Warriors: After averaging 17.1 points with 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals during his sophomore season at North Carolina, Barnes was taken No. 7 overall by the Warriors in the 2012 Draft and is already fighting for a starting job in Golden State. He has been competing with Brandon Rush for minutes at small forward thus far and impressed during the Summer League, when he averaged 16.8 points with 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals. The 20-year-old has the scoring ability to make a difference in Fantasy. Even if he comes off the bench early on, he should be in line to see a healthy amount of minutes. Barnes is definitely a rookie to watch in 2012-13 and is worth targeting.
Meyers Leonard, Trail Blazers: Leonard took a huge step forward during his sophomore season at Illinois and ended up as the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by Portland. After averaging just 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds during his freshman year, he put up 13.6 points with 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season and was considered as one of the more athletic big men in the draft. He has been coming off the bench so far in the preseason, but can run the floor and has a decent jump shot for a 7-footer. While he will play against the likes of Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson and many of the big men in the Western Conference, he should be able to hold his own and at the very least put up decent rebounding and block totals. Owners shouldn't expect a ton of scoring early on from Leonard, but the 20-year-old is definitely worth a look, especially at a thin position in Fantasy.