Fantasy hoops sleepers and busts


One of the first things most fantasy owners like to do is find sleepers and busts. It's exhilarating to snag an emerging star player in the later rounds in the draft, and it can be a kick in the gut to spend a high pick on a player who ends up being a major disappointment.

So our fantasy basketball analysts are here to point out some of the potential bargains and breakouts for 2013-14, as well as potential busts and disappointments. In most cases, the sleepers are being taken much later in drafts compared to their potential value for the season, while the busts are being selected far earlier in drafts compared to what they're expected to do.

To help you with your search for sleepers and busts, we've got choices from our writers Tom Carpenter, John Cregan, Joe Kaiser, Brian McKitish and Neil Tardy, plus some further explanations of their picks.


Point Guard

Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns: Stepping out of Chris Paul's shadow, Bledsoe's minutes will rise sharply from the 20.4 he averaged last season. Expect him to be among the league leaders in steals; he ranked No. 3 in the NBA last season in steals per 48 minutes (3.37). (Joe Kaiser)

Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns: Dragic doesn't appear to have a lot of help in Phoenix, but that didn't hinder him much last season, when he averaged 16.1 points, 9.5 assists and 2.0 steals after the break. We're all excited that Eric Bledsoe is at last a full-time starter, but don't forget about the guy starting next to him. Compare Dragic's numbers to Mike Conley's, and then consider their relative draft positions. Dragic is a great value in the sixth or seventh round. (Neil Tardy)

Shooting Guard

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls: Butler is primed to build off last season's phenomenal finish, posting averages of 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 3-pointers in 12 playoff games. The return of Derrick Rose should create more space and opportunities for the talented Butler. (Brian McKitish)

Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers: It's easy to malign Turner as a bust in light of his lofty NBA draft position. Toss out the baggage, though, and you're left with a player projected as the likely No. 1 scoring option on a team bereft of scoring punch -- a team, as we all know, that seems engineered for maximum accrual of pingpong balls that will be entirely expectations-free. That is a recipe for some unexpected fantasy goodness. The amount of touches Turner will receive (he could be the 76ers' second-best point guard) guarantees an across-the-board improvement. While his efficiency has been all over the statistical map, his Usage Rate (20.1 in 2012-13) has steadily climbed every season, and he should easily establish a career high there in 2013-14. I think this is the year Turner finally realizes his mini-Iguodala potential and becomes a top-60 player. And don't forget Turner plays at the shallowest position (shooting guard) in fantasy. (John Cregan)

Small Forward

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz: There's a decent list of small forward sleepers (Jeff Green, Thaddeus Young, and Kawhi Leonard come to mind), but most of them are being drafted appropriately in early drafts. Hayward is the kind of player who's going in rounds 9-10 but should provide seventh-round value given the lack of offensive options in Utah this season. In fact, I like most of the Jazz's starting lineup as sleeper candidates: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke (when he returns from injury). (Brian McKitish)

Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets: Parsons offers a great combination of 3s, field goal percentage and assists from the SF spot. Plus, his 3s and field goal percentage likely will rise now that he can work the inside-out game with D12. He should outperform his current ADP of 84 by at least a couple of rounds. (Tom Carpenter)

Power Forward

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: I'm done saying "this may finally be the year age and a lack of minutes catch up to Tim Duncan's fantasy value." I don't care if Duncan is secretly in his late 50s, we're talking about a top-10 player currently languishing in the fifth round of most fantasy drafts. Duncan actually improved last season, shoring up the one weak spot in his game -- free throw shooting -- by going 82 percent from the line. While Duncan will play only 68 to 72 games (while topping out around 30 minutes a night), it's criminal that he's being taken this low. He's still providing elite levels of blocks and chips in a gaudy 2-plus assists per night (Cousy-esque for a big man). I'd drop Duncan a little (third round) due to the projected loss of games played, but he's still going to be a top-40 player. (John Cregan)

Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers: Forget about last season; put it out of your mind. D12 is gone, Steve Nash is rooming with Father Time, Kobe Bryant is playing on one leg, and Gasol is in the last year of his contract. In other words, we should expect nothing less than his 2011-12 production, and likely much more. He has no business lasting past the second round. (Tom Carpenter)

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks: After a season of contract uncertainty, Millsap has a great opportunity with the Hawks. Now that he's out from under Derrick Favors' shadow, look for the 28-year-old's minutes to climb back into the mid-30s. Remember, just years ago Millsap was a top-20 talent on the Player Rater. Just from the increased playing time alone, I'm thinking Millsap can easily register 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals. (Neil Tardy)


Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: The Raptors' young big man will help your percentages from the field and the free throw line, and after a strong rookie season, it's conceivable for him to put up double-doubles and two blocks on a nightly basis. (Joe Kaiser)


Point Guard

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets: I'm listing Lawson primarily because of the position in general. This is an odd market for fantasy point guards. Injuries have scuttled the values of multiple elites at the position (Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams). After Chris Paul and Stephen Curry are taken off the board, I think you'll see a run on about 10-12 point guards (Derrick Rose through Monta Ellis) from the end of the first round through end of the fourth round. The key is to not reach for one when there will be many quality options left on the board. Lawson is a key example. His slump early last season left him outside the top 50 on the Player Rater, but his strong finish in the playoffs (21.3 points, 8.0 assists) apparently has some owners dreaming big. He's definitely top 40, but don't panic and reach for him when there will be other fine options (Jrue Holliday, Brandon Jennings, Tony Parker, Mike Conley) available a few spots later. (John Cregan)

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics: With so many great point guard options throughout the league this season, why take a gamble on someone like Rondo who may be out until December or January at the earliest, and likely won't be at full strength upon his return? Granted, I'll admit that Rondo could become a value if he falls too far in your drafts, but he's more of a late-round option than a mid-round option. (Brian McKitish)

Shooting Guard

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: Yes, I believe in the Black Mamba, and if anyone is going to overcome a ruptured Achilles tendon at age 35, it is Kobe. But I also believe in the science of human physiology, which means I think the odds of him coming anywhere near his ADP are remote. I'd take a flier on him in the latter rounds, when the risk/reward ratio makes more sense, but he'll be long gone before then. (Tom Carpenter)

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors: The addition of Andre Iguodala will cut into Thompson's minutes, as the two of them split time on the wing with Harrison Barnes. Pass on Thompson for one of the elite SGs or a cheaper value that can fill more categories. (Joe Kaiser)

Small Forward

Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans: Evans goes from a starter in Sacramento to a super sub in New Orleans, but there are several problems with this. For one, the Pelicans already have their star off the bench; his name is Ryan Anderson. Secondly, Evans will have to compete for minutes and shots with Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers. (Joe Kaiser)

Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets: I'm not exactly going out on a limb here to suggest that Pierce may see a decline in minutes (and thus production) in Brooklyn this season. The Nets are absolutely loaded, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Jason Kidd employing the Gregg Popovich strategy of resting his aging stars to keep them fresh for the playoffs. Pierce will still be a nice fantasy investment, but be prepared for a decline in production across the board in his 16th professional season. (Brian McKitish)

Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons: I'm not buying Smith's mid-range game. For Smith to get major minutes in the Pistons' overloaded frontcourt, he'll have to log a lot of time at small forward. And the further Smith gets from the basket, the scarier his field goal percentage appears; from 10-15 feet he shot just 24 percent, from 16-23 feet he improved to a still-disquieting 33 percent. The minutes and volume numbers will be there for Smith this season; he's going to provide ample value in blocks, rebounds, steals, points and assists. But I don't see Smith suddenly becoming more efficient in a post-contract year, even with the (much-needed) change of scenery. The Pistons are in short supply of players capable of extending a defense, and I'm worried their talented frontcourt won't find that space. (John Cregan)

Power Forward

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans: While the Pelicans (I don't care what anyone says, I'm digging the name) likely will have Anderson and Anthony Davis on the floor together plenty, I still question fantasy owners' devotion to such a one-dimensional player. Here are Anderson's 2012-13 stats as a reserve: 15.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 3s and 41.5 percent shooting. I'll get my 3s elsewhere. (Neil Tardy)

Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons: I had him as a sleeper for years, but the drastic roster changes by the Pistons this summer and the maturation of Andre Drummond will limit Monroe's offensive workload, which means he'll have trouble matching his ADP. He's not a shot-blocker, and fewer shots mean less impact for his terrific field goal percentage. He'll still contribute to a degree, but there is little upside this season, barring a trade. (Tom Carpenter)


David Lee, Golden State Warriors: From a fantasy standpoint, Lee has been about as reliable as any big. In the past five seasons, he's averaged at least 16.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 34.9 minutes. That last number is the one I wonder about. Last spring, the Warriors made their playoff run without Lee, led by Curry and aided by the emerging Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Now Andre Iguodala is on board and Andrew Bogut is apparently healthy for the first time since Flo Rida hit it big. In short, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Oakland. Don't count on Lee averaging a double-double this season. (Neil Tardy)