While most owners score a superstar or two in the first few rounds of Fantasy drafts, the middle and even later rounds are usually what separate most teams from going to the postseason or going home early.
For that reason, we have decided to target some breakout candidates for the upcoming campaign. Our definition of a breakout is a player who we feel will outperform his average draft position and possibly jump into the next tier in Fantasy value.
While there are several dozen players one could make an argument for who fit into this category, we have selected the 10 we feel will make the biggest jump in value this upcoming season.
As always, owners are recommended to do their own homework, but here is our list for those who seek help. Best of luck in the new season.
Greg Monroe: Monroe was one of the few bright spots for the Pistons last season. After spending the first two months of the season on the bench, Monroe was able to crack the rotation in January and averaged an impressive 12.0 points and 9.1 rebounds in the 48 games he started. He shot 58 percent from the field over that stretch, while also posting 21 double-doubles during his rookie campaign. First-year coach Lawrence Frank has already said he wants the offense to run through Monroe this year, which should lead to an increase in production across the board. With a year now under his belt and the promise of an increased role and minutes on offense, we like Monroe as a possible breakout candidate this year.
Ed Davis: Davis came on strong at the end of his rookie campaign and was able to provide a spark for the Raptors. After seeing slightly more than 22 minutes per game prior to the All-Star break, Davis averaged nearly 29 minutes per night over his final 26 contests of the year. He averaged 9.8 points and 7.7 rebounds over that stretch to go along with nearly a block per game. Davis is expected to play exclusively at power forward this season and should see plenty of minutes now that Reggie Evans is gone and Amir Johnson will come off the bench. With an average draft position of 144th overall, Davis should easily outperform his preseason value.
Danilo Gallinari: With three of the Nuggets’ projected starters playing in China this season, Denver will be looking for help scoring the basketball. Many feel Gallinari will be the one to provide most of that help, which is why we like him as a possible breakout option this year. Gallinari averaged 14.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his 14 contests with Denver last season and coach George Karl said he is expecting even more output from the 23-year-old in 2011-12. Gallinari will help your Fantasy team in scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage and his ability to get to the free-throw line could bring his scoring average into the 20s -- especially playing in Denver's up-tempo offense. As long as he can stay healthy, Gallinari's fourth season in the league could easily wind up being his best to date.
Chase Budinger: Budinger stepped into the starting lineup during the second half of last season and really saw his numbers take off from that point. The 23-year-old increased his scoring output from 7.8 to 14.4 points per game after he became a starter and became a very popular pick off the waiver wire. While he will now be under the tutelage of Kevin McHale in Houston, Budinger is expected to remain the team's starting forward. If he continues to see starters' minutes and stays healthy, we see Budginer becoming a consistent mid-teens scorer. That alone should make him more valuable than his average draft position of 165th overall.
Jarrett Jack: With Chris Paul out of New Orleans, all signs point to Jack becoming the team's starting point guard this season. Jack is already considered one of the top backup point guards in the league and showed he can produce as a starter, as he averaged 15-5-4 over 15 starts last season. While he has never averaged more than 13.1 points per game in his career, Jack has been stuck on the bench for most of his five years in the league. That will not be the case for the 28-year-old this season, who put up 24 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in his first preseason contest. As long as Jack is able to shoot somewhere around his career average of 45 percent from the field, he could easily see his scoring increase into the mid-teens. Add a few assists, rebounds and steals to that line and Jack certainly would be worth more than his average draft position of 136th overall.
John Wall: Wall is not the typical player we put on this list, especially after he averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals during his rookie campaign. He was one of only three players to average more than 16 points and eight assists last season and most likely would have been the favorite to win Rookie of the Year if it wasn't for Blake Griffin. Still, it wasn't all good for Wall. He dealt with a plethora of health issues, while also struggling with his outside shot and turnovers. However, the 21-year-old said he was disappointed with his production during his rookie campaign and vowed to come back in better shape with an improved outside jumper. If that is the case, Wall could easily average 20 and 10, which would no doubt put him among the Fantasy elite. If Wall ends up slipping into the middle rounds, he could be the steal of the draft.
Ty Lawson: Lawson enters his third year in the league as the Nuggets' starting point guard and seems poised for a breakout campaign. After averaging 20.2 and 26.3 minutes per game during his first two years in the league, respectively, Lawson should be looking at his first season of averaging 30-plus minutes. Combine that with the fact that he shoots better than 50 percent from the field and will man Denver's high-speed offense, and the sky could be the limit for the 24-year-old. Look for Lawson to make the jump into the next tier of Fantasy guards this season.
Roy Hibbert: Hibbert was on our list last season, although he failed to live up to expectations in Indiana. While he averaged a career best 12.7 points and 7.5 rebounds, he was very inconsistent and went through more than a few stretches where he simply could not score. He even sought the help of a sports psychiatrist at one point to try and help him snap out of his funk. However, Hibbert seemed to find a spark when Frank Vogel took over as coach and should be able to carry that over into this season. The 24-year-old spent the summer working with future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan on his post moves and added about 15 pounds of muscle. He now will have David West drawing some of the double teams that he normally sees, which could help open things up in the paint for him. As long as he stays healthy, this could be the year Hibbert makes the jump into becoming an elite center.
Marcin Gortat: After years of seeing only a handful of minutes behind Dwight Howard, Gortat enters his fifth season in the league as a starter. He averaged 13 points and 9.3 rebounds in 55 games with the Suns last year, despite being used mostly as a reserve. He will begin this season as Phoenix's starting center and has reportedly spent the summer working with Hakeem Olajuwon on some of his offensive moves away from the basket. We are very excited to see how the 27-year-old fares playing a full season in the Suns' high-octane offense, especially alongside pick-and-roll expert Steve Nash. Look for Gortat to close the gap between himself and the elite centers in the league this season.
JaVale McGee: McGee was also on our list last season, and made some noise by averaging career highs in points (10.1), rebounds (8.1) and blocks (2.4). However, the 23-year-old was plagued by a lack of post game and maturity issues for much of the season, which many feel limited his already-improved production. McGee claims he has worked on both of those issues this offseason and many are predicting this to be the season he finally breaks out. A more-seasoned John Wall running the point should help increase McGee's scoring opportunities near the rim and finally push him over the hump and into averaging a double-double on a nightly basis. While there are more attractive options available at center, McGee's upside makes him more valuable than his average draft position of 105th overall.