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Fantasy Basketball Sleepers: Undervalued NBA Players We Love in 2015-16


It is only two weeks until the NBA season tips off with the Chicago Bulls hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 27.  Leading up to then, thousands of hardcore fans will be drafting their yearly fantasy basketball teams and doing the research to help them crush daily fantasy leagues in 2015.  Rotoballer is excited too, as we start to ramp up our own fantasy basketball coverage for the 2015-16 NBA season.

Between now and the start of the NBA season, we will be ranking players, digging for sleepers, sniffing out busts, and diving into draft day strategy, with new content online every day.

Today, we will be taking a look at a few sleepers who may be going lower in your drafts than they should, and could give fantasy owners a nice return on their investment on draft day.

 

NBA Draft Sleepers for Fantasy Basketball

Tyreke Evans (G, NO)

All of the focus will be on superstar Anthony Davis, but teammate Tyreke Evans who could be the surprise performer for the New Orleans Pelicans in the upcoming season.  After a disappointing first season in New Orleans, Evans rebounded last season and posted a solid stat line of 16.6 points, 6.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.

Those stats were aided by his move to point guard on a full time basis with a variety of injuries to Jrue Holiday.  The team has already said Holiday is not likely to be back until around January and will be on a heavy minutes limit upon his return.  That should bode well for Evans who saw over 34 minutes per game last year.

Although that number should not take a huge jump, a big reason for positivity here is the arrival of Alvin Gentry as head coach.  Gentry is known as a coach who loves to push the pace and has coached point guards like Steve Nash and Stephen Curry to elite fantasy seasons.  Evans is certainly not the shooter those two are, but he should be able to push towards 20 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 1.5 steals which are all elite for fantasy point guards.

 

Isaiah Thomas (G, BOS)

Perhaps no player burst onto the scene in the 2013-2014 season as loudly as Isaiah Thomas.  In that season the diminutive guard averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.8 three pointers made per game for the Sacramento Kings.  He then signed a new deal with the Phoenix Suns, but got off to a disappointing start while battling for playing time.  But 46 games into the season he was dealt to the Boston Celtics, where he seemed to find his mojo once again.  Despite just 26 minutes per game off the bench, Thomas posted 19.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.3 three pointers made per game.

Thomas may see his draft stock get lowered as he is likely not to start.  However, when he was on the floor last year Thomas had an unbelievable usage rate of 32.8.  That rate puts him in company with the likes of LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins.  With no other true point guards in Boston, Brad Stevens will rely on Thomas to be the team’s top scorer and assist man while also being an elite option in terms of three pointers made and free throw percentage.

 

Kyle Korver (G/F, ATL)

Many times when you are in a fantasy draft, much of the league is looking to make flashy picks with big names or players with a high ceiling.  Often a player such as Kyle Korver goes undervalued due to style of basketball he plays.  However, when you take a look at the numbers you see a player who is an elite option in several categories.  Last season Korver averaged a career high 2.9 three pointers made per game on a ridiculous 49.2% from deep while also shooting just short of 90% from the free throw line.  In a standard rotisserie league those stats will shoot you directly to the top of those categories, which is excellent from a mid-round pick.

Korver will not help your team much in assists, however at 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds along with a surprising 0.6 blocks and 0.7 steals per game means he is not going to be a detriment in nearly any category.  With nearly the exact same rotation coming back for another year, expect Mike Budenholzer to continue to get the best fantasy value out of Korver even as he enters the tail end of his career.

 

Kenneth Faried (F, DEN)

Going into last season, Kenneth Faried was pegged as player who could be ready to bust out for a giant season.  That was not the case.  He saw his points per game drop by over a point per game and was not able to boost his rebounding or defensive stats.  Look for that to change with the arrival of head coach Mike Malone to the Denver bench.  The former Kings coach was lauded by players like DeMarcus Cousins as a great coach, especially for big men.  If that rubs off on Faried, he could turn into the fantasy stud many have been waiting for.  Not a big scoring player, much of Faried’s value comes from his hustle stats including rebounds, blocks, steals and field goal percentage.

In an up pace system, value estimates for Faried could push up towards 15 points, 11 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game which would put him in elite company of only a handful of players. Only Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeAndre Jordan averaged a double-double with at least 1.0 steal and 1.0 block last season.  The downside to Faried’s game is that he will provide nothing in terms of assists, threes, and free throw percentage, but if he can live up to expectations elsewhere, those numbers will not matter.

 

The Portland Trailblazers

When Lamarcus Aldridge left Portland this summer, many people probably dismissed the entire Trailblazers team for fantasy purposes.  That would be a mistake.  Although the loss will hurt the actual team, it may be a huge blessing for the remaining players on the team in terms of fantasy value.  Along with Aldridge, they also lose Wes Matthews, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum.  What that means first off is that Damian Lillard is now option number one for Terry Stotts and should see a huge uptick in scoring.  Last season without Aldridge and Batum on the floor Lillard’s usage rate was 31.8, which would put him in the top five of the NBA.  It would not be a huge upset to see him lead the league in scoring.

Outside of Lillard, Portland will likely start C.J. McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee.  McCollum becomes an interesting option in terms of shooting and scoring stats, as Lillard is likely to see a ton of defensive attention.  Portland has also said McCollum will run the point when Lillard sits, giving him a bump in assists.

Aminu has always been a solid source of rebounds, steals and blocks from the small forward spot while not hurting you in any category.

Davis may be the most interesting of the bunch.  He has shown flashes of brilliance in his career, but has never been able to see steady minutes.  If he can lock down a starting spot and over 30 minutes a game, do not be surprised to see Davis average a near double-double with the possibility of almost two blocks per night.

Finally, Mason Plumlee has been given a new starting gig after being a spot starter for Brook Lopez last year.  Much like Davis, it would not be surprising to see Plumlee average a near double-double with a few blocks at the price of a low round pick, though Plumlee's value is capped by his terrible free throw shooting.

 

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