Ahh. Head-to-head fantasy basketball. The bittersweet platform on which we build illustrious, annual six-month careers as team or league managers in a fantastical world of real statistics and dramatic interpersonal dilemmas. It consumes the very lives we vowed never to give up again once we missed out on last year’s league’s playoffs in utter frustration. Many—and I mean many—can relate to the glorious ups and downs of fortifying, nurturing, and fielding a competitive fantasy squad. If you want to make it to your league’s championship this year, however, one of the most surefire ways to do so is to get a grasp on 2013-14’s possible sleepers:
It all begins on draft night. Your league manager sets up an agreeable time and format while everyone participating gears up in preparation for the excitement. Almost always, participants pick players based on the statistical performance of the previous year. Yes, LeBron should unanimously go number one overall; possibly Kevin Durant, if you’re into that.
But, outside of the first round or so, as many can testify, it’s not always the safest route. Players age, change roles, and teams go in different directions. For whatever reason, the 20-plus fantasy points you got from a said player last year doesn’t translate to the present season, and you end up wasting a high pick on a measly ten fantasy points per night. On the flip side, a player that underperformed last season, or is coming off a major injury, falls in your league’s draft and someone is sly enough to snatch him up at a huge value gain. The term “sleeper” is appropriate for this player.
A sleeper can also be an undrafted player, who wasn’t valued high enough to be selected in your league’s draft. The most gratifying of sleepers is the undrafted player—the one you pick up off the waiver wire at barely any expense to your team. The following players represent, to me, the highest chance of outperforming their perceived status and achieving that “sleeper” label. Enjoy.
In the Draft:
Any Utah Jazz player (starter). They will surely be mid- to late-round picks because of the uncertainty surrounding them; but, if they’re available in the lower or even middle rounds, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Seeing as the Jazz are going young, they’ll get plenty of chances to put up good stats, especially Trey Burke.
Derrick Rose. A former league MVP coming off of an ACL injury, Rose didn’t play through the entirety of last season. He’s primed for a return this year, but is still stipulated negatively in fantasy. Be weary of when you select him (don’t gamble on him too early if you can get him at a lower pick), but keep him at the forefront of your sleeper options.
Michael Carter-Williams. In a similar situation as the Jazz, the Sixers are going young and promoting draftee Michael Carter-Willams. He’ll be “the man” from the get-go, and already gave us a very promising glimpse at the Orlando Summer League. Much like Damian Lillard last year, MCW could be a great rookie point guard draft steal.
Cody Zeller. Paired with big man (and former Jazz player) Al Jefferson on the post, Zeller should be on the fast track to contributing not only to the Bobcats, but to the fantasy world this season. Zeller is a great rebounder and an even better athlete. His skill set and situation with the Bobcats make for an enticing sleeper option.
Kawhi Leonard. The blossoming young kid on the aging Spurs roster, Kawhi Leonard will have an even larger role with the kingly Spurs this year. His knack for offensive rebounds and put-backs, solid defense, and athleticism make him a deadly sleeper pick in the middle rounds.
Other Draft Notables: Victor Oladipo, Klay Thompson, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Danny Granger.
Off the Wire:
Tiago Splitter: Splitter may or may not be selected in your league’s draft, but, if he’s not, you should be prepared to snatch him off the waiver wire. Splitter is a solid backup big who puts up unusually nice fantasy numbers for a free agent pickup.
Darren Collison: As the newly primed backup point guard to the Clippers’ Chris Paul, Collison should have a revival and turn it up a notch.
Patrick Beverley: Bevereley showed some playoff heroics against the Thunder last year, and is in an optimal position to make his mark on the NBA this season. Playing on a contender like the Rockets will help fuel Beverley’s game as he backs up Jeremy Lin. He’s a generally unknown player and should be available. Patrick could end up being the one of the major fantasy sleeper of the year.
Jared Sullinger: The Boston Celtics forward is a definite low-risk high-reward waiver grab. He’ll be the focal point of a rebuilding franchise and has all the scoring and rebounding prowess a fantasy stud needs. Seeing as he’s coming off a season-ending injury, he should be absolutely available in all leagues. Whatever you do, don’t hesitate to snatch Sullinger if he’s available.
Other Wire Notables: MarShon Brooks, John Henson, CJ McCollum, Kendall Marshall, Jeremy Evans, Ian Clark, Phil Pressey.
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