2016-17 Fantasy Basketball Sleepers and Busts
Eric Gordon (10) will likely be the main man off the bench in Houston. (Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle)
Welcome back to another season of Fantasy basketball. By this time, you Fantasy fanatics are probably readying your league drafts, or perhaps already drafted and are now waiting for the NBA regular season to start next week. For those about to draft, we’re sure you’ll be able to put the following information on sleepers and busts to good use.
So just what is a “sleeper” and a “bust” anyways?
A sleeper is a player who we think will outperform their average draft position (ADP) in standard leagues. In other words, a player that could be way better than his average projection. A bust is a player who many expect to deliver high Fantasy value in standard leagues, but we’re anticipating him falling short of those projections.
Let’s take a look at some sleepers first…
Eric Gordon, SG, Houston Rockets: With Patrick Beverley (knee) currently out and surgery a possibility, Gordon may have just landed himself in a lucrative position in the starting lineup. Even off the bench, Gordon is easily capable of putting up consistent scoring numbers, but of course, he has his own extensive injury history. If health stays on his side, his upside will be strong. And hey, at least now that Gordon’s a Rocket, Houston doesn’t have to worry about shutting him down — something that proved difficult in the past (see video below).
Brandon Jennings, PG, New York Knicks: There are only two point guards on the Knicks’ roster going into this season, and Jennings is one of them. This alone implies solid minutes whether he’s coming off the bench or not. The other is Derrick Rose, who is currently dealing with the politics of an LAPD rape investigation, and his own penchant for injury. Despite Rose being at the top of the depth chart, Jennings — who looks healthy this preseason — is still projected to have an increase in overall production compared to his last two seasons, although it would be nice to see some consistency (he was 0-for-6 on Wednesday after a solid effort on the weekend).
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Brooklyn Nets: The Brooklyn Nets are clearly still in the experimental stage. Brook Lopez sits as the vet pillar of the team with a whole core of fresh and young talent around him. RHJ, a 2015 first rounder heading into his sophomore season, is one of those talents, and could have some promising Fantasy upside. He may not be the one you depend on to rack up tons of offense, but he offers the flexibility to play two guard, although he’s predominantly a three. Hollis-Jefferson has the potential to routinely stuff the stat sheet when the minutes are there. The addition of Jeremy Lin should ensure that RHJ’s game get a boost, so sharp Fantasy owners will try to take advantage of this situation.
Solomon Hill, SF, New Orleans Pelicans: Solomon is another one of those players with all-around stat contributing potential. We got a glimpse of his three-point shooting upside in the postseason with the Pacers, and it was enough to prompt the Pelicans to give him big money to lure him to the Big Easy. Solomon should not only have a more active role in New Orleans, but a starting one. If his three-pointer stays lit, this pick could surely benefit you in more ways than one.
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks: If Noah has any chance of mirroring his former self and Fantasy value, it would be this season with the Knicks now that he’s been reunited his former Bull teammate Rose. It’s not often you come across a centre with passing ability like Noah, as he’s projected to dish out at least five per game this season. Add those dimes to his contribution on the defensive end, and he could become locked in as Fantasy starter.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings: Cauley-Stein may not have many options on the offensive end playing between ball dominators like DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, but his hustle stats and defensive contribution on the boards should still stick this season. Cauley-Stein is an affordable late-round option, and only in his sophomore season. If he could find some extension beyond the glass, he might be sharing looks at the starting centre more often this season against Kosta Koufos. We’ll really jump on Cauley-Stein’s train if the Kings can find a way to trade away some of its frontcourt depth and clear more minutes for the kid.
And now for the busts…
Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves: There hasn’t really been much progress in the Fantasy world for Rubio lately. Perhaps the injuries just got the better of him and capped his potential over time. Another thing that might hurt him this season is the addition of first round draft pick Kris Dunn. It seems like the only way for Rubio to retain value is to stay healthy enough to get traded to another team, but Minnesota seems skittish about dealing him, so we’re not excited about his prospects.
Deron Williams, PG, Dallas Mavericks: It seems that veteran guard Williams’ career is heading towards the white light at the end of the tunnel. The sporadic seasonal injuries have added years to his age, which doesn’t leave us with much hope for his Fantasy potential. If you’re desperate, take him as a reserve guard late in the 10th round or beyond.
Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks, SF: The question that should be on everyone’s mind is this: is this kid actually worth the $94 million, four-year deal he was offered by the Mavericks in the offseason? By the mere fact that such an offer was tendered, you’d think the easy answer would be yes, right? However, Barnes isn’t exactly coming off a season reflecting that type of promise. Now that he’s left guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson who created a distraction to defenders and opened up Barnes, this means he’ll have to actually work harder for any of his contributions. However, best believe with that type of offer, the Mavs will be putting this potential bust to work, so he’ll see if Barnes can live up to it. Judging by his 20.9 per cent shooting from the floor over the last five games, we think he’s going to struggle to deliver anywhere near that kind of value.
Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards, SF: Porter Jr. has the potential to be a huge Fantasy asset, even an all-around stat-sheet stuffer, but probably isn’t worth grabbing in the top three rounds as his ADP suggests. In fact, he only emerged as a top-70 player over the last three months of 2015-2016. The risk on this investment relies on his consistency throughout an entire regular season. Unfortunately for him, the season is bit longer than three months, and that’s not even factoring in that he has a position battle on his hands in trying to fend off Kelly Oubre Jr. for PT. Fortunately for you, you’ve been warned.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzles: The former Defensive Player of the Year seemed to have gotten himself into a situation where he was tough to trust for Fantasy purposes. The broken foot last season really upset a lot of Fantasy owners who invested in Gasol as early as the first round. We’re not suggesting you avoid him entirely, because when healthy he puts up big numbers, but the fact that the foot is already an issue again this preseason worries us. Consider this a warning to not overpay for the return, especially if Gasol has the plague of injury still lurking.
Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic: Okay, we know. Biyombo being a bust this season is definitely up for debate, especially after the run he made in Toronto in place of Jonas Valancuinas, setting a franchise record for rebounds in a game, and being offered a lucrative deal in Orlando. The Raptors will definitely miss him, however, can this rebounding tower repeat such prowess — especially with two other rebounding towers around him in Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic? Take Biyombo at your own risk, but finding his place on the Orlando roster will be the true test to measure his Fantasy upside.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below which sleepers you’re targeting and which potential busts you’re avoiding.