Fantasy sleepers are players that end up performing much better than their draft position warrants. Some fantasy basketball sleepers are solid contributors that will not be drafted in fantasy leagues at all, some are players that have changed teams introducing them to a new system or environment, or some can be players that present a draft risk because of past injuries.
Shawn Marion, DAL, SF/PF
Just a few years ago, Marion was a first round fantasy pick and was putting up monster fantasy numbers in every category. Playing with Steve Nash certainly helped get those numbers to where they were. Marion suffered in Miami and Toronto where he never really found a comfortable fit. In Dallas, he will once again play with an elite veteran point guard that loves distributing the rock to scorers. Jason Kidd will find Marion often with easy alley-oop dunks and hopefully, with Dirk still the focal point of the offense and whether he is on the wings or in the post, Marion will find room to roam and finish garbage plays that made him a fantasy stud in Phoenix. Marion should be able to contribute points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and above average shooting percentages. Marion will be a force to be reckoned with if he can relocate that odd-looking 3-point shot that surprisingly went in with relative consistency.
Trevor Ariza, HOU, SF
After a breakout season last year with the Lakers, Ariza was essentially traded for Ron Artest as Artest signed with the Lakers and Ariza signed with the Rockets on the same day. Ariza signed with the Rockets for two reasons. One, they were offering him more money than the Lakers. Two, the Rockets promised to make him a focal point of their offense. With Yao Ming sidelined because of his foot injury and Tracy McGrady due to miss at least the first part of the season while still recovering from knee surgery this past February, Ariza will be looked upon to shoulder a big chunk of the load for Houston. His numbers across the board should increase due to getting more playing time. Ariza can a league leader in steals and look for his points, 3’s, rebounds, and assists to all increase. His shooting percentages may suffer, since he will have to work for his shot instead of letting Kobe and Co. do the work while Ariza just spots up for open shots.
Anthony Randolph, GSW, SF/PF
Randolph is another player who will put up much better numbers because of the opportunity given to him and the additional minutes. Randolph will provide steady numbers in points, rebounds, and blocks without killing you in either shooting percentage category. Randolph averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, and over a block per game late last year when we was allowed to start. Randolph has clearly put in a ton of offseason work as he was dominant in the summer league.
Joe Alexander, MIL, SF/PF
Alexander was denied the chance to prove that – white men CAN jump – as the fans voted in Rudy Fernandez as the last participant instead of Alexander in the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest. That leaping ability and potential talent allowed the Bucks to trade away Charlie Villanueva. That trade opened the door for Alexander to get more minutes. Alexander could be a good addition late in the fantasy draft. His only competition for playing time will be Luc Richard Mbah a Moute whose offensive game is very raw. Alexander was the leader on the Bucks’ summer league team and if given the minutes, should be a solid contributor in points, rebounds, and blocks.
DeJuan Blair, SAS, PF
Another deep late round sleeper, Blair was passed up on draft day by many NBA teams because of his history of knee injuries. Blair fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round with the 37th pick. In college he was dominant in the paint leading the Pitt Panthers deep into the NCAA Tournament. In individual matchups against Hasheem Thabeet (3rd overall pick in the same NBA draft to the Memphis Grizzlies), Blair would take advantage of the 7’3″ Thabeet on the defensive and offensive end even though he is 8 inches shorter. Thabeet was an elite defensive player in the NCAAs. The Spurs have Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess ahead of Blair on the depth chart but their age could provide some opportunities for Blair to see the court. So far in the preseason, in 2 games, Blair has averaged 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in just 16.5 minutes per game.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com via http://games.espn.go.com/fba/tools/projections?display=alt and NBA.com via http://www.nba.com/spurs/stats/