By John Aubin
If you ask any person that is successful in fantasy basketball leagues how they get to be successful they will tell you it is to being able to get the top players in the draft. While this is an important key to building a team I feel what is also important it is being able to find the sleepers that around later in drafts and provide you with value. Here are some players I feel will be available towards the end in upcoming drafts and should be able to out produce their ADP.
Seth Curry. There is the feeling that Curry will be relegated to a minor role with the Mavericks with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and the drafting of Dennis Smith. It remains to be seen if Ferrell can be a full-time player or if this was just another free agent taking advantage of late season minutes similar to what Tim Frazier did with the Pelicans the year before. And while Smith has become a fantasy favorite with his strong summer league and has star written all over him it is hard to see him being able to see starters minutes under Rick Carlisle. I think Smith could have a bumpy road in his rookie season with Carlisle. Curry should be able to see 29-30 minutes a game in the Mavericks rotation this year. Last season he averaged 29 minutes a game with 12.8 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.0 threes. Expect similar numbers this year which makes him a good option at guard in all fantasy leagues.
Bobby Portis. Fantasy owners continue to wait for the Bulls to unleash their big man who is now entering his third year. Portis averaged 17.8 minutes his rookie season and then last year in his sophomore year his average dropped to 15.6. With the Bulls trading Jimmy Butler and looking like they are going into tank mode this could this finally be the year that Portis solidifies a role in the rotation. Portis’s per 36 averages for last year were 15.6 points and 10.7 rebounds. Fantasy owners should look at Portis at the end of the draft. He could turn out to be someone who can contribute in points and rebounds which is something every owner is looking for in the last rounds.
Aaron Gordon. Gordon is coming into his fourth season in the NBA and has improved each year. There was a buzz about Gordon coming into last season and many fantasy owners drafted Gordon thinking there was a major breakout happening. Unfortunately, Gordon played out of position at small forward to start the season and struggled. But at the end of the season after Serge Ibaka was traded Gordon was able to play in his more natural position of power forward. In his last 10 games of the season, the 21-year-old averaged 19.1 points and 7.5 rebounds over 34.4 minutes a game. Expect Gordon to start and get similar minutes and similar production. He has dropped in rankings which could be a mistake. 2017 could be the year Gordon becomes a star.
Jamal Murray. Jamal Murray comes into the season with a chance to win some big minutes in the Denver backcourt. The 20-year old will be battling Emmanuel Mudiay and Jameer Nelson for the starting point guard job. Murray started off slow in his rookie year but turned things on as the season progressed. After February 1st, the 20-year-old guard averaged 12.1 points, on 42.3 percent shooting with 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 three-pointers and 0.9 steals in just 24.1 minutes. And he was able to put up those numbers while dealing with a sports hernia. If Murray can carve out 30 minutes a game in the Nuggets offense he should be able to bring fantasy owners top 75 value.
Willy Hernangomez. With Joakim Noah dealing with a rotator cuff injury and having to still serve out part of his PED suspension that leaves plenty of playing time for Hernangomez this season. Expect the second year center to get the starting job and see a nice increase in minutes. Hernangomez should be able to build on his rookie stats when he averaged 11.6 points on 50.2% shooting, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks in 25.8 minutes over 22 starts. The 23-year-old big man has the upside to jump up a top 50 player this season. The minutes will be there as well as the opportunity with his only competition being the suspended and injured Joakim Noah and journeyman Kyle O’Quinn. Fantasy owners need to make Hernangomez a target in drafts.
Josh Richardson. Richardson was on many sleeper lists going into last season but unfortunately, injuries plagued the 23 year old for most of the year leading to him playing just 52 games. Richardson comes into the 2017 season with a strong shot of winning the small forward job. Even if he doesn’t win the job he should see 30 plus minutes a game for the Heat. With Richardson at full health, there should be a leap in production over last season when he averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He is a good risk for fantasy owners at the end of drafts.
Zach LaVine. It may seem odd to have a player who could miss the first part of the season on this list. But LaVine is someone fantasy owners should be targeting in Dynasty and deep Keeper leagues as his value will skyrocket when he gets healthy. He is also worth drafting in standard leagues if you can stash him on an injured spot in your league. The 22-year-old was having a bit of a breakout for Minnesota before tearing the ACL in his knee. LaVine was part of the highly criticized Jimmy Butler trade the Bulls made with the Timberwolves. And people do not realize that LaVine was the big part of the deal. Once he comes back from his knee injury and the Bulls buyout Dwayne Wade, LaVine will be the man in Chicago. Expect him to jump into the top 25 fantasy players in basketball. Maybe not this year but he will definitely be there next year. With the kind of upside and role that LaVine is facing it makes taking a risk in drafting him worthwhile.