It is always a good thing to get a lot for a little. In a Fantasy draft, finding the right sleeper can offer you a very good Fantasy option for a very cheap price and can propel your team to a championship.
When drafting, Fantasy owners should always have with them a working list of players they expect to be available to them late in drafts that they deem to have the upside and potential situation available to them to turn them into viable Fantasy players -- even if it is not right away.
The top thing to look for in a sleeper for your Fantasy hoops squad is their potential for playing time. Minutes are key. It does not matter how good a player may be if he is not on the floor long enough to rack up stats. By the same token, sometimes even a lesser player who might find himself in a situation for a good amount of run can lead to useful numbers.
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After playing time, the next thing you want to determine is how much upside that player has. Look for players who have put up numbers even on limited occasions whenever they have been given playing time. Their production per 48 minutes can be a very telling statistic when it comes to finding the right sleeper.
We have also found over the years that targeting 'bad' teams can lead to good results for Fantasy owners. While we don't expect any real surprises this year for teams like the Lakers or Heat, we do anticipate teams like the Cavaliers and Timberwolves to offer up some useful Fantasy options.
Below is a list of our Top 10 sleepers going into the 2010-11 regular season. We always encourage Fantasy owners to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, but this list is a very good starting point.
And it's fine with us if you just want to print these out and copy off us. We won't tell.
Top 10 Sleepers
1. Jeff Teague, G, ATL: New Hawks coach Larry Drew declared an open battle at point guard between Mike Bibby and Jeff Teague coming into the preseason and while he has missed time this preseason with an ankle injury he has shown excellent upside in his limited preseason action. Sooner or later, we expect Teague to take control of the point guard job in Atlanta and he has the potential to be not only a good distributor, but also a good scorer.
2. D.J. Augustin, G, CHA: The Bobcats are looking for a replacement at point guard with Raymond Felton out of town and Augustin looks more than capable of filling that role. He has put together a positive preseason, averaging in the mid teens in scoring with limited turnovers and solid 3-point shooting. The minutes will be there and so is the potential for career highs with increased minutes.
3. Ramon Sessions, G, CLE: Sessions' role is still undetermined going into the season, but we expect him to see solid playing time this year either as a starter or off the bench. The Cavaliers are looking for capable scorers in the absence of LeBron James and Sessions has put up good scoring numbers whenever he's gotten good playing time in his career. But he's also proven to be able to put together very useful and diverse stat lines for category leagues. Last year, he averaged 18.7 points, 7.2 assists and 5.9 rebounds over 48 minutes.
4. Will Bynum, G, DET: The Pistons are considering Bynum as their starting point guard going into the season. Rodney Stuckey would play a sixth man role off the bench and is still going to be around to sap Bynum of his potential for high-end numbers. He averaged 18.1 points and 8.1 assists per game over 48 minutes last season, so there is real upside here.
5. Hakim Warrick, F, PHO: The Suns are not set on what they will do at power forward this season to replace the loss of Amar'e Stoudemire. They are toying with the idea of using under-sized Hedo Turkoglu at the four, but if that does not work out (as we anticipate it will not), Warrick will be right there to pick up the minutes. He has had a strong preseason, even leading the team in scoring for much of it. He is another player who has flourished when given significant playing time in the past, but he has struggled with consistency. He may have a chance to straighten out those issues this season in Phoenix.
6. Darko Milicic, C, MIN: Darko will be looking to build off a successful stint in the second half of last season in Minnesota. He averaged 8.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in his 24 games with the Timberwolves, which doesn't look like much, but one has to consider that Darko was not in the best playing shape after seeing very little playing time in New York. He will never live up to the expectations that the Pistons had when they selected him No. 2 overall in 2003, but he is an excellent shot blocker and can benefit from big minutes alongside a strong offensive player in Kevin Love this year.
7. DeJuan Blair, C, SA: Blair is expected to start at center to begin the year in San Antonio. He averaged 8.8 points and 8.4 rebounds in 23 starts last season, but that was playing just 23.6 minutes per game. This season, as the team continues to try to ease the burden on an aging Tim Duncan, we expect Blair's minutes to get up closer to 30 minutes per game, making a 10-and-10 season a distinct possibility.
8. Josh McRoberts/Tyler Hansbrough, F, IND: The power forward job in Indiana is still up for grabs and each player has made a strong case to be the replacement for Troy Murphy with good preseason performances. Whichever player can establish himself in the early going this season will have a good chance to step into solid numbers with the Pacers looking to make up for the 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game they lost when Murphy left the team.
9. Tiago Splitter, C, SA: Splitter is a relative unknown to the NBA, but he comes with experience and is coming off an MVP season in Spain. Much like Blair, and perhaps at his expense somewhere down the line, Splitter will benefit from the Spurs trying to keep Tim Duncan fresh. He will have to earn his minutes early on this year, but is a player with nice upside both on the boards and on the offensive end. He averaged 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last year in the very competetive Spanish league. Fantasy owners are advised to be patient with Splitter, but there is some excellent long-term upside here -- especially for keeper-league owners.
10. Serge Ibaka, F, OKC: Ibaka is another solid late-round flier pick. He could see time at the four or five this season and may wind up picking up center eligibility (in leagues that allow it) if Nenad Krstic falters. The Thunder don't have much depth up front and Ibaka has shown in the preseason that he fits in well with the first unit as a player who does not need the ball much to be productive. He averaged 10.4 points and 6.2 rebounds through his first five preseason games, but his most telling stat was that he averaged 2.8 rebounds per game.
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