It’s time for more sleepers and busts people! I want to make a small clarification before we dive into this though: sleepers at this point in the preseason are subject to a lot of interpretation, since we have no average draft position to base the prediction on. Therefore, take these projections with a grain of salt.  These players are simply likely to improve on last year’s overall stats, and thus, their value should exceed their ADP.  At any rate, here is part two!

The Good:

Hassan Whiteside

Hassan put up some fantastic stat lines last year, and was an amazing story at the end of the season.  It gets even scarier when you realize he may not have even hit his peak yet! Hassan is an absolute athletic freak for a 7 footer, plus he has the anticipation to have record breaking blocks numbers.  I hate to make the comparison, but he reminds me a bit of Bill Russell.  Now before anyone gets their panties in a twist, let me explain! Both players are defense oriented players with extraordinary rebounding and shot blocking ability.  The thing that stands out the most with Hassan though, is his old-school style.  Unlike most centers today, who spike the ball out of bounds on a block, Hassan simply tries to get a hand on the ball and tip it to a teammate.  He runs the floor every possession, and works extremely hard, as evidenced by his breakout from obscurity.  The hardest question is where to take him.  If he is available in the third round, then he is a must own.  Especially since his ft% won’t hurt as much as certain centers who will not be named… While I’m not going to endorse it, I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking him over Ibaka and his dropping block rate.  Hassan should carry an easy 3+ block rate per game.

Nerlens Noel

Noel is a stat machine!  Last season post all-star break, he averaged 13 and 10 along with 2.1 steals, 2.3 blocks and almost 2 assists a game.  To top it all off, he also shot 65% at the stripe! While the addition of Jahlil Okafor may hurt his upside a little bit, Nerlens is not a guy that needs the ball in his hands.  Therefore, the awesome peripherals should still be there.  I’m not sure if he’s going to be a sleeper, since we don’t have an ADP to base it on, but if you don’t have to reach for him, he’s definitely a great guy to have on your team.

Terrence Jones

One of the most obvious break-out candidates of the season, Terrence Jones is a must own guy.  Last year was supposed to be his year, but an early injury – and the acquisition of Josh Smith – capped his value.  When playing full minutes, Jones should easily be able to put up 5th or 6th round value with upside to spare, given his contributions in blocks, 3s, points, boards, and percentages.  With ESPN currently projecting him outside the top 100, he should be a steal on draft day.

Isaiah Thomas

IT has been a known commodity in the league for a while now, but the move to Boston has given him a fantasy boost.  With a solid 30 minutes playing time likely – and a good chance of starting at the point – Thomas should be able to replicate the 20 point 6.3 assist average he held while starting for the Kings.  The Celtics are built to play a fairly fast paced offense, and this plays in to IT’s strength as well.  Plus, IT ranked 6th in overall usage rate last year, and the majority of that average certainly didn’t come from the crowded back court in Phoenix.  Don’t reach too far on draft day, but I would take him over guys like Ty Lawson, Reggie Jackson, Monta Ellis and Kyle Lowry, although some of those are contingent upon him landing the starting job.

 

The Bad:

Kobe Bryant

I really hope I’m wrong, but this one is just too obvious to overlook.  Kobe has had season ending injuries the past two seasons, and when he has been on the court, his percentages have been pretty bad.  I love the Mamba, but he really needs to retire.  It’s painful to watch great players falling apart due to age and mileage.  Kobe is an incredible competitor, so I’m not going to totally write him off.  However, if you do want to take a shot on him, don’t do it in the first five rounds… After that, you can afford to take a risk.

Rajon Rondo

Rondo is coming off a very rough season, and there’s little hope of a turn-around in Sacramento.  Darren Collison is the better option of the two guards so a timeshare is likely, unless Rajon can pull off some kind of miracle.  This is just another case of name being far stronger than fantasy value.  Between his injury risks, inconsistent play, and deplorable percentages, he just isn’t worth a pick anymore in many standard leagues.

 

  1. Matty says:
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    Re/ IT2 – I’d agree that he should probably be taken over Lawson, but I don’t think he’s in Lowry’s class and I’d also favor RJax & Ellis over Thomas.

    The only way I can see IT2 moving into the top-50 ranks is if there’s a significant injury to another Celtics backcourt player that clears the path to 30+MPG. Right now that team is SO DEEP with a legitimate 10-man rotation (Smart/IT2, Bradley/Turner, Crowder, Lee/Sully, Amir/Zeller/Olynyk). Yes, they’re frontcourt heavy, but there’s still only so many minutes to go around and one ball to shoot. As it stands right now I can’t see Thomas being “the man” on a team that will be the epitome of balance.

    I’ll get in the ever growing line to draft Whiteside in the top-30. I think he could be in for a MONSTER stat year and he has extra motivation (i.e. contract year alert!) to play smart, show maturity & growth, and improve on things like his FT%. He could get a huge pay raise next summer if he can continue his upward career trajectory. I think we’ll be having a discussion at the end of the year about Whiteside vs. Gobert as who was the better fantasy value relative to their draft slot (I’d imagine Rudy will be going a full round before Hassan but I don’t think their numbers will be too different).

    • Adam

      Adam says:
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      @Matty: With IT2, there is no other other point guard on the team aside from possibly Evan Turner. Smart and Bradley simply aren’t point guards, and the Celtics have recognized this. IT is clearly the man in Boston, watch a few games and you will see all the players defer to IT when he’s on the floor. This is shown in his sky high usage rate. Is he a guarantee? No, there are no guarantees with sleepers, that’s the point. I would rather have Lowry over IT if he could stay healthy, but Lowry is never able to put up a full season. With Reggie, the back-court situation is a bit in flux with Jennings still on the team, plus Van Gundy has never been one to use his PG as much more than a spot up shooter, especially when he has a dominant big (Drummond). As for Ellis, he has never played well with others, he has to have the ball in his hand, and I don’t think he’ll do well alongside a super star. That was a bad comparison by me anyway, since Ellis is a shooting guard. At any rate, my IT conclusion is drawn primarily based on his usage rate, which always bodes well for stat production.

      As for Whiteside, I definitely agree that he and Gobert are in the same conversation. Personally, I will be targeting both of them in all my drafts. Hopefully 3rd and 4th round, but I wouldn’t be mad at 2nd and 3rd round either. I love extremely athletic players that hustle and constantly try to improve. The sky’s the limit for him, and I think his upside is higher than Goberts, just due to athleticism.

      Thanks for the great thoughts!

      • Matty says:
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        @Adam: Lowry’s inability to stay healthy is a bit overblown IMO. Since his rookie season he has missed more than 14 games only once (2011). He’s played at least 68 out of 82 games seven of the last eight years. By comparison, look at someone like Ty Lawson who doesn’t get the “injury prone” label (so far as I can tell) and he has played 65 or fewer games three out of his six seasons in the league. IT2, similarly, has not yet played a full season (GP: 65/79/72/67 in his four years) so he’s no ironman himself. Point being – Lowry has seemingly been labeled a moderate to high injury risk but history doesn’t necessarily support it.

        I’m actually more concerned about Lowry’s potentially combustible relationship with Dwayne Casey. They didn’t end last year on the best of terms with both guys taking not-so-subtle shots at one another in the media. Couple that with Masai bringing in hometown boy Cory Joseph and looking for a more balanced team approach, I could absolutely see Lowry (and his reasonable contract – $12M per for next three years) getting jettisoned at or before the trade deadline.

        Anyways, predicting injuries and predicting trades is darn near impossible so it’s all just speculation. But if you want to take IT2 over Lowry for any number of reasons, I encourage you to do so. At the very least I find IT2 more exciting to watch which is sometimes enough of a tie-breaker for me since this whole fantasy thing is about fun and value-added to watching NBA games, right? Cheers.

        • Adam

          Adam says:
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          @Matty: I definitely agree with you that Cory Joseph could eat into Lowry’s production, plus he never has looked comfortable in Toronto (I really liked him on the Rockets). The one thing that stat doesn’t show, is how many times Lowry plays while he’s banged up. This happens a lot, with many sub par lines as the result. I would definitely label Lawson as injury prone… He pretty much has a DTD tag on him all year. I think Lawson and Lowry both have issues being in good enough shape to last a whole season. Rumor has it that Lowry lost a lot of weight this offseason, so we’ll have to see if that impacts his health any.

          You’re right about the value-added from watching. In the end, It’s all about drafting the team you’ll be happy with.

  2. Matty says:
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    Oh, and I should mention about Nerlens…

    I owned him last year in my main league and enjoyed the defensive stat contributions as well as the improvement from the FT line as the season wore on. Definitely helped out my squad in a few cats. That being said, he scared the ish outta me every time he was on the floor. His build and his awkwardness (movement and positioning is unconventional and gets himself in weird spots at bad times) are begging for rolled ankles or a broken foot. And as was evidenced last year, Philly will sit him with even minor tweaks because they aren’t playing for a darn thing anytime soon and the Embiid debacle will have them uber-cautious with any of their other valuable assets.

    Also…I think Nerlens is just as likely to regress to 55% FTs as he is to continue improvement to the high-60’s. His stroke is broken and it’s not a repeatable motion. Unless he can show that he’s put in a TON of work with a shooting coach this summer, I’d bet dollars to donuts his year end FT% starts with a 5, not a 6.

    I think I’ll be passing on Nerlens this year as there are some other bigs I like better than him a bit later in the draft.

    • Adam

      Adam says:
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      @Matty: Like I said, Nerlens is only a sleeper depending on his ADP. I have a soft spot for him though, because he won me a lot of leagues and draftkings events. It’s rare for a big man to have that kind of production in both the steals and blocks categories. I agree with you, that they may play it cautious with him, but he should still provide solid value as long as he isn’t drafted in the top 4 rounds. I’m not sure I’ll take him this year, but his trajectory is definitely going up as he continues to work on his post and mid range game. Definitely a fun guy to own though.

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