5 Fantasy Basketball Sleepers for 2017-18
Fantasy basketball season is upon us, and that means it's officially draft time.
To get started on your research, jump on over to our NBA player projections. There, you will find total and per-game projections for each NBA player as well as a one-number value that shows each player's overall importance in fantasy hoops based on his contributions in your typical standard-league categories (the "Fantasy" column).
We're here today to give you five standout sleepers from our projections. For our purposes, a sleeper is someone with a standard-league average draft position (ADP) outside the top 100 but who our projections say will be firmly inside it by the end of this coming season.
Now, let's wake up on some sleepers.
SF/PF Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Yahoo O-Rank: 79
ESPN Rank: 137
Our Rank: 56
Aaron Gordon finished last season as the 133rd-ranked player in nine-category leagues, with averages of 12.7 points, 1.0 three, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 1.1 turnovers in 28.7 minutes per contest, and a shooting split of 45.5% from the field and 71.9% from the free throw line. If you look at just those numbers, it makes sense why he's ranked 79th on Yahoo (and 101st as recently as last week) and 137th on ESPN going into this season.
If you look at his post-trade-deadline numbers, however, they tell another story.
The Orlando Magic traded Serge Ibaka at the deadline last year, allowing them to stop playing Gordon out of position at small forward and shift him back to his natural position at the four. Over the remaining two months of the season, Gordon excelled, ranking 50th in nine-category leagues with averages of 15.9 points, 0.8 triples, 6.2 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal, 0.7 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers in 31.2 minutes per contest, and a shooting split of 50.0% from the field and 83.1% from the line.
We have him projected 56th overall this season, with numbers more closely resembling his late-season production than the season as a whole.
SF/PF Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
Yahoo O-Rank: 110
ESPN Rank: 151
Our Rank: 61
Nikola Mirotic was fairly hyped up going into fantasy drafts at this time last year, coming off a 2015-16 campaign in which he ranked 87th in nine-category leagues. Unfortunately, Mirotic took a step back in 2016-17, finishing with a ranking of 110th after a season with fewer starts and a lower usage rate than the one before.
This season, however, Mirotic has some post-hype appeal on a completely depleted Chicago Bulls squad.
Niko's main competition for a starting spot, Taj Gibson, has left, so Mirotic should have a clearer path to minutes this time around. When you look up and down Chicago's roster in the first year of the post-Jimmy Butler era, it's not hard to imagine that he'll have an expanded role and a bump in usage, as well. If he manages to build on his strong finish to last season -- he ranked 43rd in nine-category leagues over the last two months -- he has the opportunity and a strong chance to destroy his current ADP of 148th.
We're projecting him to do just that, putting him 61st on our rest-of-season rankings.
PG/SG Allen Crabbe, Brooklyn Nets
Yahoo O-Rank: 128
ESPN Rank: 168
Our Rank: 63
Allen Crabbe may never live up to the massive four-year, $75 million contract he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers last summer, but he should have the opportunity to at least make good fantasy-wise on his modest ADP of 166th this year on a lowly Brooklyn Nets squad. He projects as the team's starting small forward (his fantasy eligibility is a bit misleading, as he's played 51% of his career minutes at the three, per Basketball-Reference.com), and with more minutes and usage, should come more fantasy goodies.
Over the last two months of the 2016-17 campaign, Crabbe ranked 94th in nine-category leagues in 28.7 minutes per game. We are projecting him to get an extra two minutes per contest on top of that -- which should lead to even more triples if you're looking for a specialist -- making his solid peripherals even more valuable (43.8% shooting from the field, 84.4% from the line, and a mere 1.0 turnover per contest).
You can get Crabbe all the way down at 128th on Yahoo and 168th on ESPN, but our projections like him at 63rd in our rest-of-season rankings. He's a great flier to take with one of your last couple picks in a standard, 12-team draft.
SF/PF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets
Yahoo O-Rank: 140
ESPN Rank: 191
Our Rank: 65
What's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got to do to get some love in fantasy hoops? Dude played and started in 81 games for the Charlotte Hornets last year, finished 84th in nine-category leagues (58th over the last two months of the season), and has somehow got an ADP of 149th across Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS.
The closest thing to an explanation we have is that MKG does not excel in flashy stats like points (9.1 career average) and threes (he's only connected on seven triples in his five-year career). If you look past those categories and can fill them elsewhere, however, there's a lot to like in his line.
He gives you elite rebounding (7.0) for a guy you can slot in at small forward on your fantasy squad, while also contributing great defensive numbers (0.9 steals, 1.1 blocks), and solid peripherals (46.7% shooting from the field, 77.8% from the line, and a mere 0.9 turnovers).
We're projecting him at 65th, so he's a no-brainer sleeper pick near the end of your draft.
PF/C Dewayne Dedmon, Atlanta Hawks
Yahoo O-Rank: 167
ESPN Rank: 445
Our Rank: 68
The Atlanta Hawks have a dumpster fire of a roster going into 2017-18, only three seasons removed from winning 60 games and making the Eastern Conference Finals (sorry Hawks fans, you know it's true). They're lacking in frontcourt depth in particular, so Dewayne Dedmon could be poised for a breakout campaign.
Dedmon only played 17.5 minutes per contest for the San Antonio Spurs last season, but his per-36-minute line of 10.5 points, 13.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.8 blocks, and 1.7 turnovers, and accompanying shooting split of 62.2% from the field and 69.9% from the line are drool-worthy.
Dedmon's obviously not going to play 36 minutes a night, but even at our modest projection of 21.3 per game, he grades out as the 68th-ranked player in our projections with elite rebounding (8.7), blocks (1.3), field goal percentage (56.7%), and turnovers (1.0).
His current ADP is all the way down at 186th, so grab him with your last pick and laugh all the way to your fantasy hoops championship.
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