NBA FANTASY SLEEPERS 2009-2010
By Dalton Del Don
RotoWire Staff Writer
J.R. Smith, SG, DEN - Smith has had his share of off the court troubles, but coach George Karl is expecting big things this season and has already named him Denver's starting shooting guard. Smith put up respectable numbers last year, and that was while starting just 18 games. He's a perfect fit for the Nuggets' uptempo offense, and with Chauncey Billups replacing Allen Iverson, there are far more shot attempts to go around. Smith averaged 17.9 points and a whopping 2.9 three-pointers made while shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 83.2 percent from the line during 29 games after the All-Star break last year. And it's easy to forget he's still just 23 years old, so further growth is in store.
Trevor Ariza, SF, HOU - Ariza is no longer a secret after playing a role in the Lakers winning a championship last season, but he only averaged 8.9 points (which was a career-high) while doing so, hardly making him a great fantasy option. However, Ariza also averaged 1.7 spg, tied for sixth best in the league, and that was while playing just 24 mpg. He might not be worth the contract Houston gave him, but Ariza immediately becomes the Rockets' best player with Ron Artest gone, Tracy McGrady still battling a knee injury and Yao Ming (foot) likely out for the season. As a result, don't be surprised if his ppg more than double this year, and with increased floor time, he could also challenge for the league lead in steals.
Louis Williams, PG, PHI - With Andre Miller now in Portland, Williams is the new point guard in Philadelphia. As a natural scorer with limited passing skills, he's not an ideal fit, but his minutes are sure to increase as a result. Williams won't rack up the assists like Miller used to, but any point guard can get 5-6 with starter minutes, and Williams is also capable of scoring 15-plus ppg and is a nice source of steals too. He's a fine target after the more well-known point guards are off the board.
Jason Thompson, PF, SAC - While some questioned the Kings selection of Thompson with the 12th overall pick of the 2008 draft, it appears the team knew what it was doing, as Thompson is the franchise's future at power forward. During the final month of last season, he averaged 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks - not bad for a rookie coming from such a small college as Rider. With a starting spot locked up and on a team lacking many scoring options, Thompson could be in store for a big sophomore campaign, and at age 22, he's only going to get better.
Andrew Bogut, C, MIL - Bogut is coming off a disappointing season in which he was unable to build off a breakout 20007-08 campaign, as his year ended prematurely with a serious back injury. In fact, as of late August, he was still unable to participate in basketball activities. Still, as long as he's healthy come October, all this means is that Bogut will be a bargain, as his rebounding numbers increased for the fourth straight season last year (10.3 rpg). While his free throw shooting remains a problem, he's one of the best passing centers in the NBA and has also improved his shot-blocking ability, averaging 1.5 bpg over the last two seasons. With Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva gone, Bogut will also have to take on a greater offensive load, so there's plenty to like here.
Anthony Randolph, PF, GS - Randolph is hardly a deep sleeper, so don't expect a big discount. Still, he's worth targeting nevertheless, despite coach Don Nelson's frustrating habits. As a 19-year-old rookie last year, here's what Randolph did during the final month after finally given ample minutes (32 mpg): 15.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.9 bpg. He carried that strong finish over to the Vegas summer league, where he absolutely dominated. Golden State is in a full-blown youth movement, and it wouldn't be a stretch to call Randolph the team's future. The Warriors hit a home run taking him with the 14th pick of the 2008 draft.
Jonny Flynn, PG, MIN - If Ricky Rubio signs, all bets are off, but if not, Flynn is in position to get a ton of minutes right away on a Minnesota team lacking many alternatives. The team is building for the future, so there's no reason not to throw Flynn right into the fire. Expect plenty of turnovers and inconsistency, but Flynn could be a cheap source for assists running the young Timberwolves' offense.
Boris Diaw, PF, CHR - After coming over to Charlotte last season, Diaw averaged 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists 0.9 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.2 threes while shooting 49.5 percent from the floor. He won't be a secret come draft day, but the 22 games he played in Phoenix before the trade take down his overall numbers some, and there's no reason not to expect similar production with the Bobcats again this year. Diaw is no longer center-eligible, but few players at any position offer that kind of across-the-board production.
Marc Gasol, C, MEM - After the Grizzlies used the No. 2 pick on Hasheem Thabeet during this year's draft, Gasol's fantasy value has taken an obvious hit. However, that just means he'll come cheaply, and he's still an excellent late-round flier. Thabeet is extremely raw offensively, and while he should immediately be a help on defense, don't be surprised if his minutes are quite limited this year. As for Gasol, this is a center who averaged 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks as a rookie last year, and he improved as the season progressed, so it won't be easy taking him off the court.
Michael Beasley, PF, MIA - With Jamario Moon headed to Cleveland, Miami's small forward spot is Beasley's for the taking. (Beasley played largely at PF last year). While he may struggle at that position defensively, it's safe to expect a big increase in minutes this season. After being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley's rookie season was pretty disappointing, so he won't be a hot commodity at this year's draft table. Still, there's plenty to like, as he averaged 16.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks during the 19 games he started last season, and even then that was in somewhat limited action (30 mpg). Since that also came with strong shooting numbers (47.6% FG, 80.7% FT), Beasley is a fine target now with a starting job locked up. Although for someone who averaged 12.4 rpg during his last year in college, some more boards would be nice.
UPDATE: The day this article was posted, news broke that Beasley has checked into a rehabilitation facility to combat depression, among other issues. There aren't enough details yet to know how this will affect his 2009-2010 season, but this certainly isn't positive news for Beasley's fantasy status. Perhaps the story has been overblown, but until we know more, Beasley comes with a lot of risk.
Article first appeared on 8/24/09