Fantasy leagues are won or lost in the mid-to-late rounds. You shouldn’t need us to tell you that you should draft Chris Paul or LeBron James in the first round, but we can give you a list of potential late-round bargains that you should keep an eye on. Drafting a solid core of 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 a successful draft.
Keep in mind that with every sleeper, there is a bit of risk involved. We have often seen a tendency to draft over-hyped sleepers too early, which completely defeats the purpose. So with that being said, be sure to load up on proven players first, and then as the mid-to-late rounds approach you may want to take a gamble on some of the players on this list.
Eric Gordon had a great rookie season and should continue his success as a sophomore. After the All-Star break last season he averaged 19 points and two 3-pointers per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. Gordon is in a great situation with the Clippers as he will be unchallenged for minutes as the starting SG. He is worth drafting as a No. 2 fantasy guard and has a great upside.
Harden was the No. 3 overall pick in this years NBA draft and should have decent fantasy value as a rookie. Harden will likely start the season coming off the bench and Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook will remain the primary scorers for the Thunder. Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, look for Harden to find a role in the Thunder’s offense and be a decent source of points, 3-pointers, and steals. Harden is worthy of a fantasy roster spot in deeper leagues, making him an ideal target in the later rounds.
Williams was a solid sixth man for the Sixers last year, but he will get a chance to prove that he can be a starting point thanks to the departure of Andre Miller. Williams averaged 12.8 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds last year while playing only 23.7 minutes per game. He is more of a scorer than a pass-first point guard, but with the additional playing time, Williams should see a boost in numbers across the board.
Last season Bargnani finally looked like the player the Raptors wanted when they drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006. Bargnani will continue to be a solid fantasy option in all formats because of his shooting ability, and unique combination of blocks and 3-pointers. As an added bonus, the 7-footer is also eligible at center. Entering a contract year at age 25 there’s a huge upside here.
Last season, Ariza had a solid postseason run with the Lakers, which helped land him a 5-year, $33 million contract with Houston. Ron Artest signed with the Lakers opening up a starting role for Ariza with the Rockets. With injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Ariza finds himself in a very favorable position and may actually lead the team in scoring. As a scoring threat, Ariza will receive more attention from defenders, but he still should post career-high numbers in every category.
The 20-year old Randolph has been penciled in to start at power forward for Warriors this season, but anyone who has followed Don Nelson in the past knows how much he alters his lineups. Randolph definitely has solid shot-blocking ability and the potential for good rebounding numbers. Down the stretch last season he averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds, with better than a block and a steal while shooting good percentages. If he can log 30 or more minutes a game Randolph could be in line for a monster year.
After missing nearly the entire 2008-09 season with a wrist injury, Haywood is expected to be 100 percent for opening night. His last full season, Haywood averaged 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks and we expect similar numbers this year if he stays healthy. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee may cut into a few of his minutes, but he’s a solid No. 2 center worth drafting with a late-round pick in all leagues.
Once a promising young forward who averaged 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds as a rookie, Frye has dwindled into fantasy mediocrity logging only 11.8 minutes per game last season. He will have a new start in Phoenix this year and a chance to log starter minutes with Shaq gone and Robin Lopez as the only true center for the Suns. Frye could have a bounce-back year and is worth a look in the late rounds.
Last year Hibbert showed flashes of becoming a fantasy worthy center averaging 11.9 points and 6.1 rebounds over the last month of the season. Hibbert will be battling Jeff Foster and Solomon Jones for the starting center position, but it appears that Hibbert has the edge. If he can double his playing time from last season he could be a 15-point, 7 rebound player. Hibbert is worth a late round pick in deeper leagues, but continue to monitor the position battle if you are targeting him.
Yeah, thats right, Darko! Getting traded to the Knicks is likely his last chance to prove that he is not worthy of “biggest bust of all time” consideration. Despite his recent fantasy irrelevance, he is talented and a great shot blocker. He runs the floor very well for his size, which makes him a nice fit for Mike D’Antoni’s system and there is very little competition at the center position for the Knicks. We still consider a him a very low-end option, but he has sleeper potential with a late-round pick in deeper leagues.