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8 deep sleepers for fantasy basketball this year

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The NBA season starts tomorrow and don’t let it start without these guys on your fantasy team.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

With basketball starting tomorrow (YES!), let’s take a look at eight players who are currently under 31% owned on ESPN (the reason will become clear shortly), and whose Average Draft Position (ADP) is post-130.

Jerami Grant, SF/PF, Denver Nuggets

30.5% owned on ESPN, 140+ ADP

Jerami Grant is listed as the backup power forward to Paul Millsap on the Nuggets depth chart. However, Millsap is the oldest player on the Nuggets (the only player over 30 years old; Millsap is 34), and perhaps the team would like to cap his minutes so they can keep him spry for the eventual, mayhaps inevitable postseason run.

Grant was 69th on the ESPN Player Rater last year. He’s too good to just stash on the bench. Jerami Grant averaged 13+ Points Per Game (PPG) last year, 5+ Rebounds Per Game (RPG), 3+ 3-Point Attempts (3PA), and shot 49.7% from the field. Only five other players in the NBA equaled or exceeded those numbers: Al Horford, Kevin Durant, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and LeBron James. Jerami Grant is good, and he should be the heir apparent to Millsap’s PF job, either this season or next. If you’re in a dynasty league, I’d trade an arm and a leg for Jerami Grant. He’s less owned than Bobby Portis! Get real.

P.J. Tucker, SF/PF, Houston Rockets

14.7% owned, 137 ADP

P.J. Tucker is a starter. He was the 100th best player in ESPN Basic last year. He’s one of only 18 players last year to average 7+ PPG, 5+ RPG, 1+ Assist Per Game (APG), 1+ Steal Per Game (SPG), and 4+ 3PA. And, only NINE of those 18 also averaged half a block a game (BPG). Tucker gives you a little bit of everything, including minutes if you count those in your league (because, again: HE’S A STARTER). He’s less owned than Kevin Durant (who’s out for the year), Jabari Parker (who isn’t a starter and is on a team with multiple high draft pick players), Tyler Herro (a rookie who isn’t starting), and Ancient Taj Gibson (who is one of four or five or a trillion power forwards on the New York Knicks because: Knicks).

P.J. Tucker amassed the 7th most steals in the NBA last year. That’s pretty good for a tough stat category to fill. Tucker is exactly the kind of player you want on your fantasy team, a guy who gives you counting stats in most categories when you’re plugging him in off your bench, and a guy who can help you dominate a single stat cat, as well.

Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Boston Celtics

12.2% owned, 140+ ADP

Marcus Smart had the third-most total steals in the NBA last season with 143 (Paul George had 170, and James Harden had 158). If you don’t need steals in your fantasy basketball league, then I don’t think you’re playing in a fantasy basketball. Steals are one of the toughest stat cats to fill out, and Smart was the third best player at doing that last season. Oh, and HE DID THAT IN 600 FEWER MINUTES THAN PAUL GEORGE OR HARDEN. Even if Smart doesn’t start this year (which he might!), he’s probably going to play more minutes overall this season. That means more steals. Maybe that means he’s first in steals this year?

Also, his three-point shot was/is better than people think. That could improve this year, as well. Smart is currently less owned than Michael Porter, Jr., who won’t start, and Darren Collison, who retired from the NBA. Smart was the 70th best player in ESPN Basic last year. Why would he get worse?

Taurean Prince, SF, Brooklyn Nets

10.4% owned, 139 ADP

Taurean Prince is listed as the starting power forward on the Brooklyn Nets depth chart. That’s enough for me! He should be drafted in the top 125, at least.

Do you know how many players shot at least 5 threes per game last year, and had a 44+ FG% and a 39+ 3PT%? Twelve players! Joe Harris, Danny Green, Steph Curry, Danilo Cincinattus Gallinari, Buddy Hield, Bryn Forbes (another sleeper on this list), Malik Beasley, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, JJ Redick, Joe Ingles, and Taurean Prince. That’s efficiency!

I know, I know: the Nets are replete with talented players, and Prince is merely a placeholder for Kevin Durant. But, he’s also in a contract year. To me, that screams TRADE CHIP. I think the Nets will want to put Prince in a position to succeed, because it means he’ll be a more valuable asset to trade later this season. And, I think Prince will play like he’s auditioning for every other team to give him a big contract, and Brooklyn might not want to match a big restricted free agent offer sheet.

So, he’s efficient, he’s on a good team, he’s in a contract year, and he’s young so he should improve as a player. I love Taurean Prince this year.

Landry Shamet, SG, LA Clippers

4.1% owned, 140+ ADP

Landry Shamet averaged 5+ 3PA last year. He had the 7th best 3PT% of players who took at least 5 threes per game. He made 167 threes last year. Only 27 players in the NBA made at least that many. Shamet was the only player to make that many threes in under 2100 total minutes.

And, under 2000 total minutes.

And, under 1900 total minutes.

Shamet made 167 threes in 1802 total minutes. Terrence Ross, the closest player in minutes out of that group of 27 players played 348 more minutes than Shamet. Shamet is now the starting shooting guard on a team with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Do you think he’ll get open shots?

To the folks who say that Sweet Lou Williams will eat into Shamet’s minutes, I’d just like to say that Shamet averaged 27+ minutes per game after getting traded to the Clippers last year, and he shot 45% from three on 6+ 3PA after the trade. NO ONE, not even Steph Curry, averaged 45 3PT% on 6+ 3PA per game last season. Only four players averaged 40+ 3PT% last season on 6+ 3PA: Curry, Buddy Hield, Klay Thomson, and Kyrie Irving. Seems pretty good.

Ed Davis, PF, Utah Jazz

2.8% owned, 140+ ADP

Ed Davis was 17th in total rebounds last season, and he was the only player in the top 25 of total rebounds to do it in less than 1500 total minutes. That is ALL I need to know. Ed Davis GETS BOARDS. He costs nothing and he could give you top 20 production in a stat cat, maybe even top 10 if given the minutes? And, he’s replacing Derrick Favors, who had a large role on Utah. There are minutes available on the Jazz, especially if Davis can adequately defend the paint while Rudy Gobert rests.

PJ Washington, PF, Charlotte Hornets

2.6% owned, 140+ ADP

This is my rookie sleeper. Why?

  1. He’s listed as the starting power forward on Charlotte’s depth chart.
  2. Here’s the Hornets starting five: Terry Rozier, Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, and Cody Zeller.

This is merely a volume and right-place/right-time move. I think PJ, the 12th pick in the draft, will be the wing foundation along with Miles Bridges. I don’t think anyone else on this team truly matters to the future of the franchise. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it would be nice if Malik Monk turned into the long distance assassin we all hoped he would be; and it would be nice if Terry Rozier were as good as he was in the playoffs two years ago; and it would be nice if Dwayne Bacon and Cody Zeller were solid rotation players.

But, who cares. This team is all about the kids, and that’s Miles Bridges and PJ Washington. I think PJ could see time at center in small ball lineups, too.

Bryn Forbes, SG/PG, San Antonio Spurs

1.5% owned, 140+ ADP

Is Bryn Forbes the starting shooting guard for the Spurs? Cuz, if that’s true, and if his elite long distance shooting efficiency holds (he was top 20 in total 3PM last season), then he’s in for a sensational year. Remember, the Spurs are EXCELLENT at shooting guards. DeMar DeRozan had a career year last season for the Spurs, and he hardly shot threes!

This season, Bryn Forbes will be one of the key offensive players for the Spurs. San Antonio’s two best players, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeChozan, are mid range shooters who loathe to shoot from downtown. That’s fine! Because the Spurs will surround them with players who can shoot threes. Last year, the Spurs attempted the lowest amount of threes in the NBA, but they made them at one of the best rates. And, the Spurs always shoot more threes when DeChozan or Aldridge sit. This team doesn’t need to take threes in order to win; that’s what’s so impressive about them. Their defense will improve with Dejounte Murray back, but Bryn Forbes will be a long distance elite weapon no matter which lineup is out on the court. Last season, only three players took at least 700 field goal attempts, and shot 42+ 3PT%, 45+ FG%, and 88+ FT%: Steph Curry, Buddy Hield, and Bryn Forbes. That’s some nice goddamn company for Mr. Forbes.

Honorable Mention

Y’know, Glenn Robinson III is 0.1% owned on ESPN. He’s also the starting small forward for the Golden State Warriors. Now, GRIII has been nothing special in the NBA, but he’s a Michigan Wolverine and I love him, and I think that anyone who plays off of Steph Curry, D’Angelo Russell, and, uh...hmmm...well, he’s playing off of Curry and DAR, and so I expect GRIII to get a lot of open looks. He’s 6’6” and may be asked to play PF in small ball lineups, but for right now, I think there’s value in a young player (he’s 25 years old) who’s in an offense with the best shooter of all time. I don’t know what that value will be, but it’ll be worth more than 0.1% ownership suggests.

All numbers courtesy of ESPN.com and NBA.com. Thank you, as always!