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2012-13 Draft Prep: Draft Day sleepers

Fantasy Writer
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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.

Centers

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.

Forwards

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.

Guards

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.

Rookies

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.

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Player News
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8:06 pm ET) 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.

Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(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.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
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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