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2010-11 Draft Prep: Sleepers to consider

Sergio Gonzalez
Fantasy Writer
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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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Basketball questions to DMFantasyHoops@cbs.com . Be sure to put Sleepers in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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