Drafting solid core players in the early rounds paired with the ability to pick players that will outperform their draft position in the later rounds is the formula for any successful fantasy basketball draft. For the purposes of this article, a “sleeper” is any player whose value over the course of the season is likely to be higher than his cost on draft day. Below is our list of 2011-2012 fantasy basketball sleepers.
With half the team stuck in China (Smith, Martin, and Chandler all signed contracts with no out clause) and Nene all but out the door the Nuggets are certainly behind the eight ball. This is terrible news for all Nuggets’ fans but great news for anyone that ends up drafting Gallinari. He steps in as the top scoring option on an offense that will not only relay great shooting ability but his ability to put on the ball on the floor and create his own shot.
Post All-Star break Ibaka averaged over 10 points, close to 9 boards but most importantly a league leading 3 blocks a game. Sure Ibaka does not put up huge point totals so he is going to fall on draft day but don’t let him fall too far as his defensive stats can really help round out your team.
Everyone just assumed that Millsap would be on his way out of Utah as it is a crowded front court with Al Jefferson and third overall pick Kanter in the mix but not so fast. It turns out that the Jazz simply love Millsap’s game and believe he is a viable option to start at small forward for them. Now this is not his natural position and he might get traded but either way his minutes should increase this season. Millsap was simply amazing last year averaging over 17 points, over 7 boards, a steal and a half, and a block a game.
Sometimes an opportunity is just as important as talent in terms of fantasy sleepers and Thompson is a prime example of that. Sure the 4th overall pick has leaping ability and could be a great NBA player but the real reason we like him is because the Cavs should be terrible this year. That means Thompson will not only get the minutes because he will probably be one of the best players on the team but also to get some experience for him and fellow rookie Irving. If you need a late round pick upside rebounding and blocks upside Thompson is your guy.
One of the best stats about Hibbert is the fact he has played 81 games in back to back years – that is almost unheard of as a 7 footer. To keep this going Hibbert has lowered his body fat percentage and apparently looks great in camp. Hibbert is a center that you can get in the middle rounds of your draft that could pay huge dividends as 15 points, 10 boards, 2.5 blocks is not out of the question for him.
DeAndre is a poor man’s Ibaka, he has the leaping ability and the talent to be a double double guy with a decent amount of blocks however, he has yet to really prove himself like Ibaka so you should be able to get him more than a couple of rounds later. Jordan should get more minutes this year and have a chance to prove himself as a viable fantasy option for years to come.
Due to Brandon Roy having knee issues all year long the Blazers looked to Aldridge to carry the load for them and Aldridge stepped up in a big way. Averaging over 21 points, almost nine boards, over a block, a steal , all while shooting over 50%. That is a fantasy stud and should be drafted as one yet again this season. The reason we have him on the sleeper/undervalued list is some bigger names will go over him but he should not last past the second round in any draft.
As stated above when discussing Thompson, opportunity is almost as important as talent and no one is going to have more freedom and opportunity as a rookie this year than Irving. With the Cavs in rebuilding mode the number one overall pick is going to be face of the franchise and the Cavs are going to give him every chance to succeed. Irving is a solid passer but a great scorer as well, he is certainly the early favorite for rookie of the year honors.
Due to injuries Wall played just under 70 games in his rookie year and could have missed more however, he is a tough kid and played hurt most of the season. This season he is 100% and ready to take his game to the next level, which we believe he will. He always had the great first step and natural court awareness but we assume the jumper will be better this year. If his floor is 18 points and 8 dimes this season just think how high of a ceiling this kid has.
Post All-Star break Lawson got starter minutes and produced at a high level averaging over 14 points and 6.9 assists per game. This season we don’t see how the Nuggets could give him any less minutes so a slight improvement can be expected, which is great numbers considering how late you can snag him.
If you have any fantasy basketball questions about a sleepers, busts, or who to draft, feel free to post them in our Fantasy Sports Forum.