You won’t see me write too much about sleepers. There’s two reason for that. First off, I don’t like the term. When you hear the term “sleeper”, final-round picks who become top-50 players and swing leagues are usually the first thing that comes to mind. Players like that pop up every year, and obviously drafting one of those players will be a huge boost to your championship aspirations, but it’s just as important to focus on finding value in the middle of the draft. These mid-round players usually won’t be accompanied by the sleeper tag. However, drafting a player in the seventh round who returns fourth-round value can win you your league too.
The second reason I don’t place too much focus on sleepers is that sleepers will differ from build to build (Note: This is for mid-round sleepers only. In the final rounds you should focus on upside first and fit second). A player who may be a great sleeper in one punting build may have limited upside in another. When compiling your own personal sleeper list or reading others’, make sure you keep team build in mind. Team build is everything in fantasy basketball.
Stay tuned for part 2. In my second article on sleepers/undervalued players, I’ll be looking at players currently ranked outside of the top-120 on Yahoo that have a very good chance of being relevant to standard league owners.
All rankings and comments are for nine-category H2H leagues unless otherwise noted.
Y! – Current Yahoo Fantasy Basketball Ranking
EFB – Current Elite Fantasy Basketball Ranking
Y! – 29 EFB – 16
Drummond is an elite fantasy asset in H2H leagues. Last season, he was a top-nine player in the punt FT% build. There are plenty of players currently ranked in the second round that do not have that kind of upside, even in their best builds. Many of those players can’t match Drummond’s floor either. He’s a been a first-round player in the punt FT% build four of the past five seasons, and in his one “down” year, he was a top-20 player in fantasy basketball’s most popular punting strategy. Drummond is still only 25-years-old and it is very possible that he hasn’t hit his ceiling yet. His play over the second half of the 2017-2018 campaign backs up this theory. Over the those final three months of the season, Drummond averaged 2.0 BPG and was the fourth-most valuable player when FT% was ignored. If he can maintain that block rate in 2018-2019, he could be a top-five player in the punt FT% build.
Y! – 35 EFB – 20
Yahoo’s ranking makes absolutely no sense. Love was a top-25 player last season and is looking at a major spike in usage now that LeBron James is in La La Land. Last season, without LeBron on the floor, Love sported a usage rate of 30.4 percent. That was well above the 24.8 percent usage rate that he had when playing alongside The King. Love’s FG% (45.8 FG%) could dip due to increased defensive attention, but it is very unlikely that any drop isn’t more than offset by an increase in counting stats. He has first-round upside in the punt assists, punt blocks, punt steals, and punt FG% builds.
Y! – 38 EFB – 22
This one is inexcusable. Capela was a first-round player in the punt FT% build last season despite only playing 27.4 MPG. The Rocket is also only 24-years-old and has plenty of room to grow. I’ll chalk this one up to PPG bias. Capela is not a big-time scorer (13.9 PPG), that’s not his role, but that doesn’t stop him from being an elite option in H2H leagues. Are the Donovan Mitchells and Bradley Beals of the world going to score a lot more than Capela? You know it. But are they going to be more valuable than Capela in their best builds? Nope, and it may not be close either. Capela can be a top-five player if you are punting both points and FT% or both points and assists.
Y! – 52 EFB – 36
I’m not sure what else Covington has to do to earn the respect he deserves. He’s been a third-round player two seasons in a row and produces elite numbers in some of harder categories to find. I know some people are worried about a fully-healthy Markelle Fultz eating into Covington’s minutes, but I don’t see it happening. Lord Covington is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. His 2017-2018 NBA All-Defensive First Team was well deserved and arguably overdue. He ranked first among small forwards in DRPM in 2017-2018 and was a top-five small forward in that measure in 2016-2017. You don’t play a player of that caliber less than 30 MPG. Covington is an especially potent weapon in the punt FG% build and punt assists build. He’s been a top-25 player in both builds two seasons in a row.
Y! – 59 EFB – 41
The Magic’s starting center has been a top-30 player three of the past four seasons and hasn’t finished outside of the top-50 since the 2011-2012 season. Mo Bamba landing in Orlando is bad news if you own Vucevic in a dynasty league, but Bamba shouldn’t drag down Vucevic’s value too much in 2018-2019. Vucevic was a top-25 player last season in only 29.5 MPG. That relatively low minutes mark means that Vucevic could maintain early-round value even if Bamba was given a fair amount of run. There’s also been talk of playing both big men together so Vucevic is a safer investment than his Yahoo ranking suggests. The big man is one of the primary mid-round targets for both the punt FG% build (47.5 FG%) and the punt blocks build (1.1 BPG).