With the NBA preseason in full swing, the fantasy basketball season is now less than a week away. Unfortunately for me, it will not come quickly enough as my fantasy football team is slowly imploding with each passing week. For struggling owners, fantasy basketball may be the life from the turbulent waters of fantasy football, representing an opportunity to return to the shores of fantasy success. This means I’m turning my full attention towards fantasy basketball draft prep in order to numb the pain of my football failures.

With a majority of fantasy basketball leagues carrying a shallow bench (usually three players), it is pivotal for owners to nail their late-round picks. These selections carry added weight since these players will contribute toward the final outcome every week. In order to win, every rostered play must be in the lineup and hold enough value to warrant their spot. Backend production may seem marginal compared to a team’s aggregated weekly totals, but selecting solid backups with upside late in the draft raises the ceiling of your team.

While there are a plethora of high-upside, low investment players to consider this season, Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson is currently one of the more undervalued fantasy sleepers heading into the regular season.

The former Toronto Raptor signed in Boston this offseason two a two-year $12 Million deal in an effort to provide added rim protection to one of the worst defensive frontcourts in the league last season. Surrounded by Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and David Lee, Johnson immediately became best defensive big on the team the second he signed. Johnson saved 4.4 points per game while reregistering roughly a block per game last season in Toronto which many considered to be a down season.

Even after a disappointing year in the 6ix, Johnson, at the very least, will carve out a role as a strong rotational big to protect the paint. With so much competition in the frontcourt, the most important thing for fantasy owners to remember is that Johnson will see the court.

Owners should ensure that their sleepers have an opportunity to be successful immediately, and Johnson is currently in a battle to win the starting center job. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Celtics rotation, Johnson is unsurprisingly ranked 169 on Razzball’s current top 200 fantasy rankings.

However, Johnson has emerged on the fantasy radar after a strong showing through his performance in the first two preseason games. Averaging 12.5 points on 64.7 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks, Johnson appears to be a stat-stuffing center in Boston.

While his production dipped in his fifth preseason game (8 points, 1 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block), Johnson still has a high ceiling if he is able to break into the starting five for good. As the preseason continues to unfold, owners should continue to monitor his usage and role in Boston. It is rare enough to find a center capable of augmenting team’s output in multiple categories (especially steals and assists), let alone finding that player in the 14th or 15th round of the draft.

If he continues to contribute in multiple categories, Johnson will be a legitimate fantasy option this year.

  1. Jason says:
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    So thinking about big men to look out for I received a trade offer for Nicolas Batum for A. Afflalo and J. Nurkic. Now I know Affalo had some tightness in last nights game but I still think there is value. Thoughts?

  2. charlie

    charlie says:
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    Definitely think there is value there. Nicolas Batum I think is slightly overvalued right now due to the MKG injury, so I am not surprised to see such value in the trade return.

    That being said, I would hold onto Batum for a better offer.

    I think Aaron Afflalo has struggled this preseason and looks a lot better on paper than on the court. He is (at best) the third option in that offense and I don’t see him doing much better than Batum. He may outscore and outshoot Batum (assuming starts playing better), but Batum is a better defender and rebounder which increases his overall value to your team.

    Jusef Nurkic is a quality young big man, but I don’t think he’s ready for a fantasy breakout yet. He is a bit of an awkward fit for Denver’s traditional run-n-gun style, and is not quite an impact rim protector yet. He has only 2 blocks this preseason (5 games), but the bigger issue is his lack of minutes. Until Denver figures out their rotation, Nurkic’s upside is untenable since he won’t be seeing the court regularly.

    Batum is an easy sell at this point in the year (spot up shooter around Big Al and Kemba/Charlotte has been shooting lots of 3s this preseason) who also is probably the second best rebounder in the starting lineup. Batum will fill up the stat sheet consistently and the same cannot be said for Afflalo and Nurkic at the moment.

    • Connie Hawkins says:
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      @charlie:

      Jusef Nurkic played this preseason? maybe you have him confused with someone else.
      of course i am wrong a lot.

      • Adam

        Adam says:
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        @Connie Hawkins: Nurkic is expected back in November. I believe you’re thinking of Joffrey Lauvergne or Nikola Jokic. All Euro players though lol.

      • Adam

        Adam says:
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        @Connie Hawkins: Oops, meant that as an agreement with you.

  3. ByeFelica says:
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    Am i crazy for thinking about holding Stanley Johnson over Ty Lawson? I already have 4 PG on my team plus harden.

    • charlie

      charlie says:
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      @ByeFelica:

      Who are your other point guards??? I think Lawson will have a productive year but if he ends up being the 5th guard on your team, he is more expendable in my opinion.

      In my opinion, Stanley Johnson has a very high ceiling if he can develop into a 3-and-D wing in Detroit. If Reggie Jackson plays well, Johnson will see many open 3 pointers. With Ersan Ilyasova projected as the starting power forward (minus rebounder), Johnson has an opportunity to post good rebounding numbers as well.

      I don’t know the full story behind your team, but I think Lawson is going to have an awesome year in Houston and feel much more confident about it than I do for Johnson developing so quickly on a rebuilding Detroit team.

      • ByeFelica says:
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        @charlie: Westbrook
        Lowry
        Mudiay
        Clarkson
        Harden
        Paul George
        Wiggins
        Trevor Ariza
        KAT
        Pau Gasol
        Mirotic
        Miles Leonard
        Porzingis
        Stanley Jo

        Im stacked bro

        • charlie

          charlie says:
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          @ByeFelica:

          Looking good my man. Only one I’m a little sheepish on is Porzingis, but either way I irrationally love him as a player so I totally approve!

  4. TheJohn says:
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    okafor or robin lopez??

    okafor seem to have much more upside… but lopez seem safer…

    • charlie

      charlie says:
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      @TheJohn:

      Definitely Okafor. Lopez has more impact on the court than in your fantasy box score. Outside of 2013-2014, he has never averaged over 7 rebounds per game, and the ability to score near the basket. Lopez does post over a block per game, but Okafor’s ceiling is too much to ignore.

      Philly is going to feed Okafor the ball and I think he will post similar rebounding numbers to Lopez. Okafor’s field goal percentage will increase as the season goes on and develops more chemistry in the offense.

  5. SheriffMcRawDawg says:
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    what’s going on Charlie?

    what do you think of this squad? definitely not sexy. 20-team, 9 cat H2H. 5th pick:

    PG – CP3 (1, #5)
    SG – Hill (4, #76)
    G – Jack (6, #116)
    SF – Waiters (9, #165)
    PF – Favors (2, #36)
    F – Leonard (5, #85)
    C – Gortat (3, #45)
    Util – Aaron Gordon (7, #125)
    Util – Myles Turner (8, #156)
    Bn – Wroten (10, #196)
    Bn – Nitro Robinson (11, #205)
    Bn – Capela (12, #236)

    • charlie

      charlie says:
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      @SheriffMcRawDawg:

      For a 20 team league you have a surprising amount of depth. Definitely love Capela as your last pick. I think he has a high ceiling (in the event Howard misses significant time). But between Gordon, Turner, and Leonard, one of those guys should make a solid fantasy impact this year. Not sure how I feel about Waiters (I apologize to all residents of Waiters Island), Gortat (Wizards will shift more to small ball which I think hurts his value a bit), Jack (Distrust of all things Brooklyn), but overall, not bad given the challenges of drafting.

      • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
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        @charlie: thanks man! yeah I totally F’d up at SF. People just kept grabbing my targets right before I was up. Hoping all the big guys start out well so I can flip someone.

        these are the SF eligible guys on the wire – Singler, Shumpert (out for a while I know, but..), Hardaway, Lamb, Bazemore, Snell.

        Should I drop Waiters for any of them? Or who would you try and move for a SF? any deep sleeper guys you would target at the position?

        Thanks a ton man

        • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
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          @SheriffMcRawDawg: some owner didn’t draft a SG haha and made contact with me over a trade. He’s got Giannis, Ilyasova, Stanley Johnson, and Marcus Morris eligible at SF – any of those a good target with the guys I’ve got?

          • charlie

            charlie says:
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            @SheriffMcRawDawg:

            If the other owner is interested, I think Waiters for Stanley Johnson would be a good trade for you. Make sure you really sell hard on Waiters (OKC Working on extension and has a defined role as a bench scorer).

            As for waiver wire, keep an eye on Hardaway and Bazemore. I think one of the two will likely ascend into a permanent role in the Hawks rotation this year. But if Lamb is still available, by all means, add him!! Charlotte is going to give him plenty of opportunities to shoot and score and his ceiling is higher than any of the other players.

            • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
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              @charlie: awesome exactly what I needed man. appreciate it!

              • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
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                @SheriffMcRawDawg: Lance Stephenson is also available on the wire… still go Lamb over him?

                • charlie says:
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                  @SheriffMcRawDawg:

                  Still go with Lamb. Lance shot 33% from the field in the preseason and didn’t even average 5 PPG.

                  Lamb has a much higher chance to yield an immediate impact. I think there’s a chance Lance ends the year as either a starter or the first wing off the bench (if he finds his old IND form) but Lamb will help you right now.

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