October 15, 2019, 3:10 am
With the season fast approaching, it’s time for us to unveil our sleepers. This is the list that everyone is hungry to read because there’s nothing more satisfying than being ahead of the curve and snapping up a game-changer that your friends barely even know exists.
Because we try to cover as many league types as possible, we’re going to start with this list of sleepers – true end-of-draft or deep-league targets – and follow it up with Players to Reach For and our signature item, the Hoop Ball 6, later in the week. Enjoy!
Okogie hit the radar after the All-Star break last season, returning top-150 numbers after floating around near the top-200 for much of the season. His playing time predictably spiked down the stretch following the ouster of notorious veteran-overplayer Tom Thibodeau and Okogie’s athleticism started to turn into usable stats. For the month of March, Okogie put up 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks and 1.0 threes per contest while shooting .442 from the field – notable given that he shot .386 on the full season.
With the Wolves reportedly trying to trade Andrew Wiggins and maybe even Robert Covington, it appears as though they’re ready to move into a new era with Okogie and Jarrett Culver holding down the wings. How quickly that happens is anyone’s guess but those late-season numbers feel like Okogie’s floor, with some extra volume swapped for worse shooting. Given his potential to rack up steals and out-of-position blocks, the talented sophomore could climb higher.
In a disappointing twist, Bertans hasn’t grabbed hold of a starting job in Washington despite early rumors that he was favored to start while Rui Hachimura acclimated to the league. Even so, Bertans is a capable forward with upside on a Wizards roster that’s short on potential long-term pieces at the moment.
At bare minimum he’ll be a 3-point asset, and we’re expecting him to blast past his previous career-highs in playing time, scoring, rebounds and threes. Whether or not Bertans’ efficiency holds up is another question, but barring a complete collapse there’s easy top-125 appeal here with borderline top-100 upside.
Thomas is probably a bit too well-known to be a true sleeper, and he was getting drafted somewhat fairly before his latest injury setback, but we’re still believers that he can take over the starting point guard spot. If so, there’s late-middle round potential there for the taking. A motivated Thomas would easily wrestle the lion’s share of minutes from Ish Smith and his hand injury is going to depress his price to the point where he may not even get drafted in 12-team formats. If you can afford to be patient while he recovers, IT is a nice dart throw.
Osman generated some sleeper hype last season but ended up as a fairly large disappointment after a few good games out of the gate. Last year should’ve showed the Cavs that Osman isn’t – or at least wasn’t ready to become – a primary scorer, and his game should be more under control as a second or third option in a functioning offense. That’s a role he should assume this season, though that’s all going to hinge on Kevin Love’s health.
That’s far from a safe bet but Osman is going to get lots of opportunity in a role that actually suits him, and still has room to improve as a player. That’s a good recipe for a post-hype breakout of sorts.
Bembry was on and off the fantasy radar last season, settling in as a top-170/200 player on the season despite 23.6 mpg and a .640 mark from the line. After the All-Star break he was even better, returning top-150/165 value despite just 21.6 mpg. While he may never be a boost to your efficiency, Bembry wears multiple hats for the Hawks and should be able to step into a slightly larger role with Kent Bazemore gone.
Though Atlanta’s rookies could also crowd him out, Bembry brings an important element of playmaking given that the Hawks only have one true PG on the roster. With solid rebounds and assists, plus the potential for 2.0-2.5 combined cash counters per night, Bembry is a quality end-of-bench play that should go under the radar outside of highly competitive leagues.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Jones is a fantastic athlete that started to come into his own last season, capitalizing on Miami’s wave of injuries. Some good fortune (for him) got Jones through the door but he looks ready to make noise this year all on his own.
His versatility gives him a big leg up with the Heat’s depleted depth chart – and minimal help is on the way with the team hard-capped after the sign-and-trade for Jimmy Butler. Last season Jones logged 9% of his minutes at shooting guard, 54% at small forward and 37% at power forward, and he’ll be helped further by the fact that Justise Winslow fancies himself a point guard now.
Last season Jones needed 19.2 mpg to average 4.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 0.7 blocks and 0.5 threes while shooting .494 from the field. With more playing time, it’s easy to see how DJJ could climb into the top-125 with ease.
Olynyk is in a similar boat as Jones, only with a higher floor given the likelihood that he starts at power forward for most of the season. The Heat are going to need multi-faceted contributors like KO and the fact that his backups are James Johnson, who showed up out of shape, and Meyers Leonard, who is a little bit like Olynyk but worse, certainly helps. If his right knee bone bruise doesn’t keep him off the floor, Olynyk is looking at the steadiest role he’s ever had in Miami and should cruise into the top-110 with room for more.
Jones is finally out of Minnesota but he didn’t end up in a true breakout destination. Even so, the Grizzlies are willing to experiment with two-PG lineups and the scarcity of assists gives Jones an easy pathway to value.
Last season’s situation makes it tough to read much into the turnover on the Memphis depth chart, but even Shelvin Mack averaged 22.7 mpg in 53 contests as a backup point guard. Jones is a far better player than Mack, and the Grizzlies are going to need him no matter how good Ja Morant is. Top-120 numbers aren’t out of the question.
Kleber’s stock is going up as uncertainty surrounds the status of Dwight Powell’s hamstring, but he should still be able to provide at least a short-term profit for most managers. The versatile Kleber never took off as hoped when he was given extended run last season, but fantasy managers don’t have to squint hard to see how 4.6 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 threes can help out. Between Powell’s injury and Kristaps Porzingis’ load management, Kleber should have some easier access to minutes this year. He’s definitely worth a shot in the last rounds of 12-team drafts.
Noel managed to return top-155 value (9-cat) last season in only 13.7 minutes per game, pretty much entirely on the back of 0.9 steals and 1.2 blocks per contest. With the Thunder set on a rebuild, Steven Adams’ minutes should be coming down to a certain extent, and there remains a remote possibility of OKC using the duo together in an ultra-big lineup. If Adams gets traded then Noel is an automatic, must-add player, but even in the meantime there’s elite per-minute production here at a bottom-barrel price. Noel may be more of a build-specific sleeper but he’s absolutely a player that shouldn’t be forgotten, even in standard drafts.
Richaun Holmes getting love from Hoop Ball, a tale as old as time. You know the story – Holmes can return top-150 value in even 16 mpg, and his play in preseason has him trending upwards. Last season he shot .608 from the field to go with 4.7 rebounds, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest, and that was on a Phoenix team where his playing time was capped by the presence of a franchise center. Draft away.
If you haven’t heard, the Raptors lost both of their starting wings this summer. That’s going to give the team plenty of opportunity to elevate its younger players into more prominent roles, and while OG Anunoby is generating some nice buzz we’ll take a second to focus on Norman Powell. The Raptors don’t get through Milwaukee without Norm’s work and he has a habit of showing up in big games.
Last summer’s trade took him out of the running to start but Powell has been on the cusp of a larger role for a couple years running. This time around there should be nothing standing in his way, and there is an absolutely massive usage vacuum in Toronto. Powell’s easily going to exceed his previous career-high of 18.8 mpg and we’re looking at a player who can provide a boost in scoring, steals and threes. This could finally be the full breakout campaign, and he’s absolutely worth a shot at the end of all 14-teamers and in anything shallower if you’re aggressively on board.
Bacon is probably a bit further down on last year’s list than you’d like (top-350) to project a big jump, but he’s got a couple things that look ready to break his way. First is the fact that the Hornets have openly embraced a youth-first philosophy, at least in public comments. That could mean that Nic Batum’s minutes are getting dialed way down, which opens up a lot on the wings – doubly so if the same happens to Marvin Williams and Miles Bridges slides down to the four.
Second is that his competition isn’t all that great. Malik Monk has yet to emerge as a real threat to anyone’s role, and his draft pedigree is the only thing that would get him on the floor before Bacon.
Lastly, Bacon’s drawn consistent praise from two separate coaching staffs, with both groups turning to him as a fill-in starter. The trust is there and though Bacon has some stat set work to do, he should get enough playing time to land inside the top-200, and possibly even the top-175.