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2011-12 Draft Prep: Draft Day sleepers

Fantasy Writer
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Fantasy owners go into Draft Day every basketball season with a good idea of what they are looking for. Grab some elite, reliable options early and fill out the rest of your roster with players that should have prominent roles on their squads.

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But after the well-known players are taken, who is left to target?

The key to a successful Fantasy draft is finding players that out-produce their value, whether it's an early round pick or someone you take a flier on in the final rounds.

That is easier said than done but luckily for owners, we at CBSSports.com have taken the time to compile a list of 10 players who we feel have the best chance at becoming sleepers. As if that was not enough, we also threw in a couple of rookies that should make some noise in Fantasy.

Keep these players in mind and best of luck finding the next pick that makes your friends ask, "Where'd you find that guy?"

Gordon Hayward:The lanky Hayward put on 15 pounds of muscle this offseason and is preparing to start for the Jazz in his second year out of the perennial mid-major Butler. While his numbers were not much to write home about during his rookie campaign (5.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.1 apg) he showed late in the season that he can put up solid stats with more playing time. He averaged 16.4 points over the final seven games and shot 58 percent from the field while playing about 36 minutes per contest over that span. Hayward has a unique skill set for a wingman as he can handle the ball with ease and has been noted for his passing. His ability to shoot for a respectable average, even from beyond the arc, should only improve with time, which is why we like him as a sleeper this season. Hayward has the potential to fill up the stat sheet on any given night so target him as a player with high upside on Draft Day.

Caron Butler: Butler got off to a solid start a season ago before rupturing his right patellar tendon and has landed in a favorable spot this offseason. He joins Chris Paul as new arrivals on the Clippers, who already have one of the most exciting players in the NBA in Blake Griffin, and should benefit from playing with arguably the best point guard in the league. Butler has averaged at least 15 ppg over the last seven seasons and while he will likely not be needed for that kind of production in Los Angeles, his ability to contribute in other categories should help him fill up the stat sheet for Fantasy owners. The 31-year-old can haul in close to seven rebounds with at least four assists per contest when playing well, and has always been known for his defensive prowess. He also showed improvement in his 3-point shooting a year ago and should see plenty of open looks with Griffin commanding attention down low. He is not your typical "sleeper" but Butler should be able to out-produce his average draft position in 2011-12.

Gary Forbes: After being buried on the depth chart in Denver a year ago, Forbes signed with the Raptors in the offseason and could end up standing out on a team desperate for production. His scoring went up along with his minutes in his first season in the NBA, as well as his rebounds and assists, so there is potential for the 26-year-old to produce as long as he can earn playing time. He averaged 9.5 points with four rebounds and 1.8 assists in his 11 starts a year ago, which would make him a low-end option in Fantasy if he can put up numbers like that on a consistent basis. Aside from DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani, there are not too many scorers in Toronto so Forbes might be a late-round pick on Draft Day that could end up paying off for owners as the season goes on.

Jeff Teague: After years of under-producing, Teague showed Fantasy owners in the playoffs a year ago that he could keep up with league MVP Derrick Rose and enters this season as an intriguing player in his third year out of Wake Forrest. He averaged 12.9 points, 3.6 assists and 2.1 rebounds in about 30 minutes of action during the playoffs, which were up from the 5.2 points, 2.0 assists and 1.5 boards he posted during the regular season. With Mike Bibby no longer in Atlanta, he should be able to beat out Kirk Hinrich for the starting gig and has the potential for a breakout campaign. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.3 assists in his seven starts a year ago and has improved his shooting in each of his first two seasons in the NBA. While Joe Johnson is the unquestioned major scoring threat on the Hawks, Teague should contribute enough all around to take his status to the next level in Fantasy. We like him as a late-round pick on Draft Day.

Tracy McGrady: McGrady proved he could still be a viable option in Fantasy a year ago as he averaged 8 points with 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a smaller role for Detroit. While he faded down the stretch, he is reportedly in his best shape in years and has found himself in a favorable position with the Hawks this season. With Jamal Crawford leaving via free-agency, he slides into the sixth-man role for Atlanta and will likely have the ball in his hands more often than not when he comes off the bench. He has always played more of a point-forward position, like he did for the Pistons a year ago, and his ability to score has never been questioned, so Crawford-like production could be on tap for the veteran. The Hawks will look to him for scoring when Joe Johnson is not on the court, so McGrady should be able to get back into double-digit scoring this season. Injuries have plagued the 32-year-old in the past but as a late-round flier, McGrady could end up being a big sleeper for owners this season.

Toney Douglas: The signing of Baron Davis by the Knicks likely means Douglas will not start for New York this season, but he definitely has the most upside of any point guard on the roster. Davis and Mike Bibby are both past their prime and Douglas, who averaged 10.6 ppg last season, should see solid minutes in the backcourt. The addition of Tyson Chandler gives the Knicks more of a low-post presence, which should leave the 25-year-old with some open looks more often than not. Douglas is more of a scorer than a distributor, but with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire expected to put up most of the points, assists will come. Douglas has improved his stats in each of his first two seasons in the league so with his best year yet on the way owners should target him as a high-upside option on Draft Day.

Shannon Brown: After enjoying the best two seasons of his career with the Lakers, Brown heads to the Suns and their up-tempo offense. With Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher no longer blocking him at the off-guard spot, he should see a ton of playing time in Phoenix and with the way his game has grown over the last few years, should be in for his best one yet. The 26-year-old has averaged slightly more than 8 points over the last two seasons and should be able to put up double digits running alongside the incomparable Steve Nash, no matter if he starts or comes off the bench. While Brown has never been a huge contributor in assists or rebounds, he should be a nice option for some low-end steals and shoots well enough to make an impact in the majority of Fantasy leagues.

Tyson Chandler: After winning a championship with the Mavericks last season, Chandler signed with the Knicks in the offseason and will provide some much-needed defense and rebounding for an already-potent offense. He had a resurgent campaign in his lone season in Dallas as he posted double-digit scoring for just the second time in his career and recorded nearly 10 rebounds per game. Owners know what he brings defensively and his rebounds and assists should go up in New York, with him hauling in boards and kicking it out to open shooters. While the 29-year-old will not be needed for a ton of scoring, he will likely excel in second-chance points and has proven throughout his career to be able to shoot for a high average. Chandler will be a great complement to Anthony and Stoudamire and should not be too shabby for Fantasy owners as well. Consider Chandler a Top 25 Fantasy center on Draft Day.

Brendan Haywood: Haywood endured the worst season of his career with the Mavericks a year ago but his prospects are looking much better heading into 2011-12. With the aforementioned Chandler now in New York, he becomes the starter in Dallas and should be able to get back to the type of production he posted in his days with the Wizards. While putting up double-digit scoring will not be needed with Dirk Nowitzki on his team, rebounding and blocked shots should come easy to the 32-year-old, who has averaged as many as 9.3 rpg (2009-10) and 2.5 bpg (2008-09). Expect a bounce-back campaign from Haywood and consider him a worthwhile late-round pick in the majority of Fantasy formats.

Ekpe Udoh: Udoh is going to be an interesting player to watch this season as he is currently behind Andris Biedrins on the depth chart. While it has been well-documented that the Warriors clearly want more from Biedrins this season, Udoh -- the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft -- stands to gain the most if Biedrins cannot improve. He showed a year ago that he has all the tools to be a viable option in Fantasy, as he averaged 4.1 points with 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while seeing action in 58 games. His production increased in the seven games he started and with Golden State, so moving to a slower-paced offense will offer plenty of potential for the 24-year-old collect some solid rebounds and blocked shots. We feel Udoh will see an improved role this season and become a more well-rounded player. Target him a little higher in Rotisserie formats but he is a worthwhile late-round pick in most leagues on Draft Day.

Jan Vesely: Vesely is one of the more athletic international players to come out in recent years and could have a solid role with the Wizards in his rookie campaign. "The European Blake Griffin" improved his offense last season as he averaged 10.4 points in Adriatic league play and 9.2 points in Euroleague play, with his low-post game improving the most. If he can become running mates with John Wall, Fantasy owners might see Griffin-like dunks on a regular basis in Washington this season. Vesely lacks in rebounding for a player his size but might be worth a look in deeper Fantasy leagues on Draft Day.

Ricky Rubio: Rubio will make his long-awaited NBA debut this season and could end up being the starting point guard in Minnesota, after being drafted by the club two years ago. While he will not be counted on for much scoring, he has some serious playmaking ability and should be able to rack up a ton of assists with some steals. His ability to get in the lane will also serve him well, as well as his Timberwolves teammates, so there is a high ceiling for the 21-year-old. Don't be afraid to scoop Rubio up in the later rounds on Draft Day, especially in Rotisserie formats.

Tristan Thompson: While Kyrie Irving went No. 1 overall in the 2011 draft, Thompson is going to be a key piece in getting Cleveland back to the playoffs and he should see some decent playing time during his rookie campaign. The lanky forward averaged 13.1 points with 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his final year at Texas and has the wingspan to be an efficient player in the paint. While he is a bit undersized and still needs to work on his shooting, he will be one of the first players off the bench for the Cavs and will be counted on for rebounding when Anderson Varejao is off the court. He will likely endure some growing pains in his first NBA season, but we feel Thompson will end up being a viable option in Fantasy.

Brandon Knight: Knight is another athletic guard to come out of Kentucky in recent years and should be able to see some decent playing time as a rookie. After averaging more than 17 points and shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc during his lone college season, he should be able to help a Detroit squad that has been starving for some scoring. While the Pistons are committed to Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon's struggles should open the door for Knight, so keep him in mind as Draft Day winds down.

Kemba Walker The Bobcats took Walker with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft and he has the potential to be one of the more productive rookies in the 2011 class. After averaging 23.5 points with 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists his senior year at UConn, he should be able to earn playing time on a Charlotte team that won just 34 games a year ago. His quickness and ability to score will be useful in all Fantasy formats, as long as he can see substantial minutes, so don't be afraid to pick him in the later rounds on Draft Day.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/22/2014) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

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(9/20/2014) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


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. 


 
 
 
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