We’re less than a week away from the start of the NBA season and with the fantasy basketball draft season almost coming to an end, here are five mid-to-late-round sleepers who will exceed their ADP this season.
The second-year pro and defensive aficionado carries an eighth-round ADP (94.3) and I think he is a cheaper version of Suns F Michael Bridges in drafts. The Pelicans’ offense is undoubtedly loaded, but Jones remains one of the best sources of stocks (steals + blocks) in fantasy basketball. Per Cleaning the Glass, Jones finished 94th percentile in steals last season and 81st percentile in blocks at the forward position.
But I’m encouraged by what he’s done this offseason to improve his shooting.
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Before leaving his first preseason game with a rib injury (don’t worry, he’s fine), he showcased a more fluid catch-and-shoot jumper which is a welcome development for fantasy managers. He was 76th in per-game value last season, but I think he’ll be more than just a defensive specialist this year. He shot 48 percent from the field last season, and if he’s getting more looks on the perimeter, his scoring should creep up to over 10 points per game with at least 2.5 stocks, 4.0 rebounds and strong shooting percentages.
Despite having a low usage rate, I’m projecting his efficiency and defensive prowess to elevate him into a top-60 player this season.
“But Dan, weren’t you touting Brandon Clarke as a sleeper earlier in the preseason?”
Yes, I was.
But, after watching several Grizzlies preseason games, I’m convinced that Santi Aldama has the most sleeper potential for Memphis. He caught my eye after dropping 31 points with nine rebounds and three blocks in a Summer League game this year (and early All-Summer League second team), but I wasn’t sure if that would translate to training camp and the preseason.
Spoiler alert — it has.
Aldama started at power forward in each of the Grizzlies’ four preseason games, so he’s trending to start in Wednesday’s season opener versus the Knicks. And it makes sense. Deception is a natural fit in the Jaren Jackson Jr. role for the Grizzlies’ offense with his ability to stretch the floorprotect the rim and finish in traffic. With an average of 25.5 minutes per contest this preseason, the Spaniard is putting up solid numbers — 13.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 threes, 1.8 stocks plus 58% from the field and 82% from the line.
With an ADP of 144.7 (13th round), he should be one of the top sleepers to draft in the late rounds of fantasy basketball drafts this season.
The Hornets are losing bodies left and right to start the season, but that should only increase PJ Washington’s value out of the gates. Washington’s ADP is 99.3 (9th round), but he’ll be starting at power forward while commanding over 30 minutes per night. He has a fantasy-friendly profile as an undersized big who, with increased minutes, will be a reliable source of threes, steals and blocks for fantasy managers.
He’s always a threat to pull up from deep, but I’ve seen improvement in his ability to beat defenders off the dribble oath create in the post. He shot a career-best 47% from the field last year, but I’d expect that number to regress with more opportunities on offense. Although, I’m optimistic his contributions across other categories will balance out the risk of his shooting percentages falling with increased volume.
In his career, when receiving at least 30 minutes of playing time, he averaged 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.0 threes and 2.1 steals. With many question marks in the Hornets frontcourt, Washington has a lot of potential and upside this season — giving me confidence he’ll outperform his ADP.
DeAndre Hunter – SF, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks picked up Hunter’s option for the 2022-2023 season so he has a bit of monetary motivation to ball out in Year 4. Most of his competition for minutes has moved on — Cam Reddish is in New York, Kevin Huerter is in Sacramento and Bogdan Bogdanovic is still rehabbing a knee injury and will likely not be ready for the start of the season.
Now, I understand the apprehension in wanting to target Hunter in fantasy basketball drafts. He’s missed 78 games due to injury over his past two seasons and when he’s played, he hasn’t offered much outside of scoring for fantasy managers in category leagues. Well, I think that changes this season. He’s had two promising outings so far in the preseason — averaging 19.0 points with 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 threes and 2.0 steals in only 23 minutes per game.
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There will be times when he’ll fluctuate with John Collins as the third option in this offense and although he may not rack up too many rebounds, he’ll be a viable contributor for points, threes and steals in the tail end of fantasy drafts this season.
Wendell Carter Jr. – C, Orlando Magic
The Magic big man carries a 7th-round ADP and I think the market has steadily caught up to Wendell Carter Jr. having a productive fifth NBA season. Selfishly, I was hoping the re-signing of Mo Bamba would depress his ADP, but it hasn’t. Carter is being drafted right after Alperen Sengun (one of my breakouts) and Jakob Poeltl. That feels right, but Carter is being slept on as a center who gives you a nightly double-double and, recently, assists.
The assists are a new development in his game that will boost his fantasy value over his peers in fantasy. Per Cleaning the Glass, Carter ranked in the 81st percentile in usage and 82nd in assist percentage at the center position last year. With Franz Wagner‘s ascension and the addition of Paolo Banchero to the Magic frontcourt, I think we’ll see more growth in this area for Carter heading into this season.
Through four preseason games, Carter is averaging 4.3 assists per game. And, notably, he put up an 18/7/8 in 31 minutes against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. If the assists are real and he still averages at least a 15-and-10 double-double with a couple of stocks, he’s on the verge of becoming one of the best fantasy centers in the league.