Fantasy NBA sleepers who will likely outperform their draft position this season
Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State WarriorsESPN rank: 62 Yahoo rank: 63 Mark my words, Klay Thompson will be among the names talked about for Most Improved Player this season. He won’t be sharing time with Monta Ellis, he’s the clearcut starter at shooting guard, and he has one of the sweetest strokes in the game. As a starter, he put up top 20 fantasy numbers last season, to the tune of 18.1pts, 3.2rebs, 3.0asst, 1.1stl, 44%fg, 91%ft and a whopping 2.1x threes per game. He has an NBA pedigree as the son of two time NBA Champion Mychal Thompson, not to mention got vital experience playing for the USA Select team playing against this year’s USA Olympic squad – don’t snooze on him after round 5-6. Projected stats: 80 games, 17.5pts, 3.7reb, 3.2asst, 1.2stl, 150x threes, 44%fg, 87%ft.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail BlazersESPN rank: 84 Yahoo rank: 79 This pick is more a ‘well he has no real competition’ and the coach has come out saying he’ll play. So he obviously has faith from his coach, and he didn’t hurt his case by having a sensational Summer League. The #6 pick in this year’s draft might be the most polished rookie along with Anthony Davis, and after putting up 26.5pts, 4reb, 5.3asst, 89% on free throws and hitting 11 threes in just four games, he has to be the starter. Those numbers won’t be regular season type numbers, but he has the talent to put up rookie Stephen Curry type numbers and if the Blazers speed their pace up a bit, who knows what he’s capable of. Projected stats: 78 games, 13.5pts, 3.8rebs, 5.2asst, 1.2stl, 130x threes, 43%fg, 85%ft.
Evan Turner, SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ersESPN rank: 99 Yahoo rank: 98 Turner has been given the unfair tag of ‘bust’ by some observers, but he just hasn’t had consistent minutes playing a very similar game to the newly departed Andre Iguodala. He has a unique talent for positioning and timing, and after putting up a ridiculous college stats his Junior year at Ohio State (20pts, 9.2rebs, 6asst on 52%fg), he went #2 behind John Wall, but only now has he been given the opportunity to showcase his talents. Doug Collins knows how to coach, and he has already said Turner will be his starter at SF as well as his backup point guard, which means some sneaky assists late. I’d try and attach Turner to a player who can hit some threes, and with good percentages – he doesn’t shoot the ball well, from anywhere. Projected stats: 78 games, 13.6pts, 7.1rebs, 3.8asst, 1.1stl, 0.6blk, 30x threes, 41%fg, 67%ft.
Ersan Ilyasova, PF, Milwaukee BucksESPN rank: 53 Yahoo rank: 50 Ilyasova may have been the best waiver free agent/waiver wire pick-up last season. He’s been around for years now and always teased with his outside shooting and rebounding combo, but only last year did he really cement himself as a force on the boards. As one of the top offensive rebounders in the league, he made people really take notice when he dropped 29pts and 25rebs on the Nets in February. Not only did the rebounding come on, but the three ball really fell for him, sinking 1.1 per game on a ridiculous 50.8% after the All Star break. Don’t bid expecting 20 and 10, but get him in the round 6-7 range and see him outperform some much bigger names drafted ahead of him. Ellis and Jennings will dominate Bucks’ headlines and scoring, but Ily will still be top 40 by the end of the season. Predicted stats: 75 games, 14.8pts, 9.5rebs, 1.5asst, 0.9stl, 0.8blk, 90x threes, 50%fg, 80%ft.
Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, Toronto RaptorsESPN rank: 67 Yahoo rank: 78 I’ll admit it. I did draft him this year, so if he doesn’t perform I’ll be the one leading the ‘your sleeper list sucks’ jeers. As a former #1 pick he should be putting up big time numbers, but for reasons varying from bad fit with the coach, injuries, complacency or just laziness, Il Mago just hasn’t got it altogether over his career. The past season he showed he can be The Man on a bad team (a vastly underrated attribute for fantasy players), at least for the 13 games he played before the All Star break – to the tune of 23.5pts, 6.4reb, 2.1asst, 1.4x threes on 47%fg and 84%ft. Those numbers are top 15 over the course of a season – close to Dirk Nowitzki level. Something to take note of is the decline in blocks, threes and field goal percentage for the third straight year, while during the same stretch his free throw percentage and assists have increased. I suspect he plays a lot more PF this year rather than C, which will help his overall numbers – just remember to pair him up with a shotblocking/rebounding type at C. Predicted stats: 68 games, 21.8pts, 5.8reb, 1.9asst, 0.5stl, 0.9blk, 90x threes, 45%fg, 84%ft.
Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota TimberwolvesESPN rank: 80 Yahoo rank: 73 Nicknamed “Zangieff” after the red undie wearing Russian beast on Street Fighter II, Pekovic might sound like a European swimsuit model, but he couldn’t be further from it. From the get go, Pekovic’s offensive rebounding and field goal percentage numbers jump out at you: 56%fg and 3.9 offensive rebounds per game vs 3.5 defensive rebounds per game. Simply put, he is a beast in the paint, and he is only going to better this season – a contract year. Rick Adelman has already come out heaping praise on his starting C, saying he’s arrived in tip top shape, and while Linsanity was going on, “He was unbelievable”. In his 35 starts he put up 15.4pts, 8.5rebs, 0.8blk and paired his impressive 54%fg with a respectable 74% ft. Predicted stats: 75 games, 14.8pts, 8.8reb, 0.9asst, 0.7stl, 0.9blk, 56%fg, 72%ft.
Know of any diamonds in the rough? Feel free to add them in the comments field, feedback is always appreciated! Photo Credit: (top) Brace Hemmelgam/US Presswire