SLEEPERS AND BUSTS
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
Ramon Sessions, PG, Milwaukee Bucks – A late second round pick during the 2007 draft, Sessions rarely saw the court until the final month of last season. But what an April it was. Pressed into action with starter Mo Williams hurt, Sessions averaged 13.1 ppg, 13.1 apg, 5.6 rpg and 1.7 spg over seven starts. Granted, that's not a large sample size, but anyone who can average 15.0 apg over a five-game span, which Sessions did to end last year, has to be taken seriously. In fact, the coaching staff was so impressed with Sessions' defense, they decided to trade Mo Williams to the Cavaliers during the offseason. Sessions has only Luke Ridnour to battle for the team's starting point guard spot, so the door is wide open for significant minutes. There's huge upside here.
Marcus Williams, PG, Golden State Warriors – Williams was placed on the fantasy radar as soon as he signed with the uptempo Warriors. With Monta Ellis sidelined 3-to-4 months with an ankle injury, Williams is now fully in the spotlight. He's started just seven games during his two-year career, so there's an unknown element in play, but he's impressed when given minutes. He's averaged 1.0 3pg while playing just 16:06 mpg throughout his career, so there's huge three-point potential. In a Golden State system that emphasizes offense over defense, Williams is in line to be the team's starting point guard, which should lead to a breakout season.
John Salmons, SF, Sacramento Kings – During the 41 games Salmons got a chance to start in Sacramento last season, he was extremely productive, averaging 17.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg and 1.6 spg while shooting 49.7 percent from the floor and 81.1 percent from the line. With Ron Artest traded to the Rockets, Salmons only has to beat out Francisco Garcia to become the team's starting small forward. Garcia is a solid player, but he's likely to become a free agent after the year, while Salmons is signed to an expensive, five-year deal, so expect him to win the job. Sacramento is in rebuilding mode with very few scorers on its roster, so Salmons could flourish.
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks – As a former No. 1 overall pick, Bogut has hardly been a bust, but it's fair to say he hasn't quite lived up to expectations either. He has, however, showed positive development over his three years in the Association, and last season's big improvement in the blocks department was huge. Over the final month of last year, he really came into his own, averaging 17.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg and 1.5 bpg while shooting 56.6 percent from the floor. He's not a great free-throw shooter, but few centers have his passing ability, and there aren't many big men who can get close to a steal per game. His ceiling is pretty high.
Devin Harris, PG New Jersey Nets – Harris has steadily improved during his young career, increasing his averages in points, rebounds and assists in each of his four years in the league. Now that he's the undisputed starter on the Nets, his minutes and shot attempts will continue to rise, and he's an excellent source of assists and steals. It's a young roster with Richard Jefferson no longer around, so Harris will be asked to do plenty of scoring as well.
Drew Gooden, PF. Chicago Bulls – While this sleeper list contains almost exclusively youngsters, Gooden is a veteran flying under the radar. After he was traded to Chicago last year, his numbers were up across the board – 14.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 0.7 spg and 1.3 bpg over 18 contests. The Bulls have some depth in the frontcourt, but Tyrus Thomas hasn't developed as hoped, and Joakim Noah can start at center with Ben Wallace gone, leaving Gooden as the team's starting power forward.
Spencer Hawes, C, Sacramento Kings – Hawes' rookie numbers certainly don't jump out at you, but if you examine them more closely, he was productive whenever given the opportunity, averaging 12.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.5 spg and 1.6 bpg over eight starts. Hawes isn't a rebounding machine, but he can score and is an extremely gifted passer. With Sacramento now in a full-blown youth movement, Hawes figures to see plenty of run this season, one way or the other. Starting center Brad Miller is suspended for the first five games of the year, injury-prone and a candidate to be traded.
Rudy Fernandez, SG, Portland Trail Blazers – Fernandez has yet to step onto an NBA court, but if his play during the Olympics was any indication, he's going to be a major contributor in Portland. Named FIBA's European Player of the Year last season, Fernandez has also made a good impression on coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers acquired Fernandez in a trade after the Suns selected him in the first round during the 2007 draft, and he could form a dynamic backcourt with Brandon Roy, especially now that Jarrett Jack is gone. Rookie Jerryd Bayless impressed during Summer League play, but he's more of a scorer than passer, so Fernandez could be looking at plenty of playing time this season.
Jamario Moon, SF, Toronto Raptors – Moon was one of the NBA's biggest surprises last year, getting nearly 28 mpg while throwing down numerous highlight reel dunks despite going undrafted. Only 13 players in the league averaged at least one steal and one block per game last year, and Moon was one of them. His offensive game still needs some polishing but figures to improve during his second year in the league. Starting alongside a Toronto frontcourt featuring Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal, Moon should get quite a few easy looks from inside.
Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies – Conley had a disappointing rookie campaign, but a lot of that had to do with being ravaged by injuries. Finally healthy and acclimated to the NBA game, Conley showed why the Grizzles made him the fourth pick in the draft during the last month of the season, averaging 14.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.0 spg and 1.6 3pg while shooting 48.3 percent from the field. With Mike Miller and Pau Gasol no longer around, Conley should have the ball in his hands a lot more frequently this year, and he'll get plenty of burn with the team concentrating on developing its younger players.
Kevin Garnett, PF, Boston Celtics – Leading the Celtics to an NBA Championship during his first year in Boston, Garnett is hardly overrated. Still, he's in decline as a fantasy factor, but he continues to be treated like an elite option with an ADP of seven. Now 32 years old and with plenty of mileage accrued, KG has missed an average of eight games per season over the past three years. More alarmingly, his minutes per game dropped all the way to 32:47 after coming to Boston, as the team is now more focused on the long haul, which doesn't figure to change this year. Moreover, Garnett now has solid teammates around him, which led to a drop in ppg, rpg, apg and the lowest bpg (1.3) mark of his career last season. His work on the glass dropped dramatically, and at his age, it's likely the beginning of a trend. He's still very good, but just not great anymore.
Marcus Camby, C, Los Angeles Clippers – Camby has managed to play in at least 70 games over the past two years, including a career-high 79 contests last season. Still, before last year, he had averaged 23.4 missed games over his previous five seasons in Denver. Maybe he's learned how to stay healthier later in his career, but that's still an awful lot of risk from someone being drafted so high (ADP 13). Camby is an extremely valuable asset when on the floor, but another aspect to consider is the trade from the Nuggets to the Clippers. He fit Denver's high-paced system perfectly, and because the Clippers will almost assuredly see fewer possessions on a nightly basis, Camby's numbers will suffer as a result. He won't have to battle Elton Brand for rebounds, but Chris Kaman is a bigger threat on the boards than any former teammate in Denver.
Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs – Ginobili could very well be a top-10 NBA player, but in fantasy leagues, his early ADP of 29 is simply too high. For one, he's missed an average of 9.7 games per season during his six-year career and just underwent ankle surgery that could sideline him into the regular season. Additionally, it's never a great idea to invest heavily in someone coming off such a clear career-year, especially if that player is more than 30 years old. Since he'll likely be eased back into action, and the Spurs will be more concerned with the postseason than getting there, expect Ginobili's minutes to drop back down to his previous career levels this season.
Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas Mavericks – After being traded to the Mavericks last season, Kidd's numbers, with the exception of steals, were down across the board. Of course, some of that can be blamed on him learning a new system, but on a team with plenty of scoring options, he's not going to be as heavily involved in the offense as he was in New Jersey. Moreover, Kidd has lost a step and is now a liability defensively. Now 35 years old, the decline is in full force. He's also a pretty big negative in the field-goal percentage and turnover departments.
Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Orlando Magic – Maybe Turkoglu can repeat last year's career-best performance, but is it really worth a top-50 draft pick to find out? Last season Turkoglu set a career-high in points, rebounds, assists and three-pointers, and it's not like there was any change in his situation that could have predicted it. He's 29 years old and played in the same Orlando system for the last four years. Dwight Howard's development combined with the addition of Rashard Lewis certainly has helped Turkoglu's stats, but you'd be buying high betting on a similar campaign this time around. Also, there's a chance the newly signed Mickael Pietrus cuts into his minutes.
Chris Kaman, C, Los Angeles Clippers – Kaman had a breakout campaign last year, averaging 15.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg and 2.8 bpg. Injuries cut his season short, but the 12.7 rpg was the third highest total in the NBA. Still, he was able to dominate the glass thanks in large part to Elton Brand missing significant time, and though Brand's gone to Philadelphia, the Clippers brought in Marcus Camby, who finished second in the league in rebounds last year, so a drop in production should be expected. With an ADP of 43, it appears most are drafting based on last year's numbers, something that can often turn into a mistake.
Tracy McGrady, SG, Houston Rockets – No longer a first round pick, McGrady still has major name recognition, evidenced by his ADP of 50. He's still a solid contributor in points, rebounds and assists, but he's no longer asked to carry the scoring load, and he's a pretty big negative in the percentage categories. Last year's 1.0 spg was his lowest mark since his rookie season and reveals an aging body in decline. He's still only 29 years old, but since he entered the league straight out of high school, he's accrued a ton of mileage throughout the years. Additionally, Ron Artest was brought in, and if Yao Ming could ever stay healthy for a full season, McGrady's scoring would take a big hit.
Mike Miller, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves – Miller has been fantastic over the past two seasons, but it remains to be seen just how much that had to do with Memphis' system. Now playing for the Timberwolves after an offseason deal to Minnesota, it shouldn't automatically be assumed that Miller will put up the same type of production, especially since he'll have to share the ball with quite a few young options. He'll still be a nice source of three-pointers, but it wouldn't surprise us if his other numbers returned to his previous career levels. He's also missed 24 games over the past two seasons, so he's no lock to stay healthy either.
Kirk Hinrich, PG, Chicago Bulls – Hinrich's ppg, rpg, apg, spg, 3pg and field-goal percentage all dropped last season from the previous year, and he's falling out of favor in Chicago with a new coaching regime in town. In fact, Hinrich saw just 24 mpg over the season's final month, averaging a paltry 6.4 points in the process. He's a solid defender but struggles shooting the ball and initiating the offense. Most worrisome of all, the Bulls selected point guard Derrick Rose with the No. 1 overall pick during the draft, making Hinrich a possible trade candidate. Even if he remains in Chicago, a steep drop in minutes could be in store.
Article first appeared on 9/22/08