2017-18 Fantasy Draft Kit: Sleepers To Watch

09/13/2017 at 04:09am
What separates good fantasy players from great fantasy players is finding valuable players that are flying under the radar of your competitors. While everyone will have their fair share of superstars to lead their squad, it is the sleepers that are often key to a fantasy championship. Here are 10 sleeper candidates to watch heading into this year’s fantasy draft, featuring players from the top to the bottom of the Big Board that are either undervalued or poised for a breakout season. That is followed by five deep sleeper picks that should either be considered for a later draft pick or track on the waiver wire following the draft.

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

Big Board Ranking: 28 Turner became a full-time starter in his sophomore season and responded to the increased role with solid numbers – 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 assists in 31.4 minutes per game. He shot 51.1 percent from the field and showed his 3-point range by going 40-115 (34.8%) from beyond the arc. With Paul George and Jeff Teague gone, Turner should get even more touches in his third season. While we have him ranked at No. 28 on the big board, he may slide in some drafts, which means you could get a steal.

Al Horford, Boston Celtics

Big Board Ranking: 56 Horford’s first year in Boston saw his points and rebound averages take a slight hit, but its what he added in his 10th year that makes him such an intriguing fantasy pick. Horford averaged a career-best 5.0 assists (nearly two more assists per game than any of his previous nine seasons) and also knocked down a career-best 1.3 3-pointers per game. He added the 3-point shot to his offensive repertoire in his final season in Atlanta, but shot the long ball more frequently and more accurately in Boston. While Horford does not dominate any single category, he contributes across the board, which can be very useful in fantasy.

Dwight Howard, Charlotte Hornets

Big Board Ranking: 58 Howard was traded from Atlanta to Charlotte shortly after last season as he joins his third team in as many seasons. Last year, Howard put up solid numbers in his only season in his hometown – averaging 13.5 points on 63.3 percent shooting to go with 12.7 rebounds (his highest average since his final season in Orlando), 1.2 blocks and 1.4 assists in 29.7 minutes per game. The 31-year-old says he still has plenty left in the tank and has been penciled in as the starting center entering training camp. While he doesn’t block as many shots as he did in his Defensive Player of the Year prime, Howard is still a solid rim protector and a walking double-double.

Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings

Big Board Ranking: 63 After a slow start to his rookie season in New Orleans, Hield was traded to Sacramento as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade at the All-Star break. The change of scenery did him well as Hield saw a significant increase in minutes (20.4 to 29.1) and his production soared in the process. In his 25 games with the Kings, Hield averaged 15.1 points while knocking down 2.4 3-pointers per game. His 42.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc would have ranked sixth in the league over a full season. While he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet – 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals – if you need a 3-point shooter and scorer, Hield can help.

Willy Hernangomez, New York Knicks

Big Board Ranking: 76 When Joakim Noah had to have knee surgery last February, the door opened for rookie Willy Hernangomez to see an increased role for the Knicks and he took full advantage. In 22 games as a starter, Hernangomez averaged 11.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the field. And with Noah set to serve the final 12 games of a suspension to open the season, Hernangomez should get plenty of minutes to start the season.

Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

Big Board Ranking: 80 Hood is coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him limited to 59 games and saw his production drop off from his previous season. Now that he’s healthy and poised to assume a larger role in the Jazz offense thanks to the departures of Gordon Hayward and George Hill, Hood is a prime candidate for a breakout season. Look for major improvements on his 12.7 points, 1.6 assists and 40.8 percent shooting from a year ago.

Justise Winslow, Miami Heat

Big Board Ranking: 105 Winslow played in only 18 games last season as his second season in the NBA came to an abrupt end back in January when he underwent surgery for a torn right labrum. All indications point to a healthy return at training camp for the Miami Heat. The question is how will he look once he steps back on the court? Will he put up the 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals that he did last season in limited action? One thing Winslow won’t want to see return is the inefficient shooting - 35.6 percent from the field, 20 percent from beyond the arc – from last season. Increasing his efficiency and scoring will help Winslow get back in the mix for a Heat team that went 30-11 in the second half of the season without him.

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers

Big Board Ranking: 118 Ingram’s rookie season saw flashes of brilliance and a lot of up-and-down play from a player oozing with raw talent, but still transitioning to the NBA game. The 20-year-old enters his second season as one of the key pieces in the Lakers’ rebuilding effort and should once again get plenty of minutes that will help him improve over the course of the season. Looking at last year’s numbers, Ingram’s scoring and shooting increased dramatically after the All-Star break – points up 5.2 per game and field goal percentage up 11.2 percent. Expect more of the same this year – especially with rookie point guard Lonzo Ball and his excellent court vision running the show.

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

Big Board Ranking: 122 Gordon’s role with the Magic has steadily increased during his first three years in the league and his production has grown alongside it. His scoring average has gone from 5.2 points as a rookie to 9.2 points as a sophomore and 12.7 points a season ago. But Gordon’s production peaked in the second half of last season after the Magic traded Serge Ibaka to Toronto. That move opened up more minutes for Gordon and he put up promising numbers over the final 24 games of the season – 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 50.3 percent shooting and five double-doubles. If he can mimic that production going into his fourth year, he’ll be a great asset to the Magic and fantasy owners alike.

Rudy Gay, San Antonio Spurs

Big Board Ranking: 124 There are plenty of red flags pointed directly at Rudy Gay entering the 2017-18 season. The 30-year-old forward is coming off a rupture of his left Achilles tendon in January and while reports say he will be able to return by training camp, it remains unknown how he’ll respond back in NBA action following such a devastating injury. There’s also the fact that he will likely be coming off the bench for the first time in over a decade – he last came off the bench during his rookie season in Memphis – as he sits behind Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge at the two forward spot. However, there’s a chance Gay can thrive in a sixth man role for the Spurs. While he likely won’t put up the 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 3-pointers that he did in his 30 games in Sacramento last season, he can still be a productive fantasy option in times of need.

Five Deeper Sleepers To Watch

Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic

Big Board Ranking: 148 Acquired from Toronto in the trade deadline deal for Serge Ibaka, Ross immediately jumped into a starting role for Orlando, getting more minutes per game than he ever had before (31.2 compared to 23.8 for his career). While his scoring rose with the added minutes, his efficiency did not as he shot just 43.1 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from three (his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2012-13). Ross should benefit from having a full training camp and preseason with the Magic heading into this season.

Skal Labissiere, Sacramento Kings

Big Board Ranking: Not Ranked After spending most of the first half of his rookie season playing in the D-League (now the G League), Labissiere was brought up to the Kings roster after the team traded away starting center DeMarcus Cousins at the All-Star break. In the second half of the season, the Kings turned things over to their younger players to give them the opportunity to prove themselves with major minutes against NBA talent on a nightly basis. In those 25 games, Labissiere showed flashes of brilliance that point to a bright future in the NBA. During that stretch he averaged 22.4 minutes per game and put up 10.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and shot 54.1 percent from the field. While Sacramento brought in veterans like Zach Randolph this offseason, that should cut into Labissiere’s minutes by much as they need to continue his development for the future of the team.

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

Big Board Ranking: Not Ranked With Paul Millsap now in Denver and Dwight Howard now in Charlotte, there are plenty of minutes to be had in the Atlanta frontcourt. Enter rookie John Collins, who averaged 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks during his sophomore season at Wake Forest before entering the NBA Draft. The 6-10 forward/center should have plenty of opportunities to earn minutes in Atlanta this season. How quickly he develops will go a long way to determining his real and fantasy value this season.

Glenn Robinson III, Indiana Pacers

Big Board Ranking: Not Ranked In his first full season in Indiana, Robinson averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc in a career-best 20.7 minutes per game. With Paul George now in Oklahoma City, Robinson’s workload appears set for another increase this season. The question is will his production rise along with the increased opportunities.

Josh Richardson, Miami Heat

Big Board Ranking: Not Ranked In his sophomore season, Richardson played in just 59 games (34 starts) and struggled with his shot as he dealt with injuries. After shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 46.1 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie, Richardson’s percentages dropped to 39.4 percent and 33.0 percent, respectively in 2016-17. If he is able to find his shooting touch again, he could prove to be a solid contributor for the Heat and a fantasy sub as needed.