Pascal Siakam was a late-round gem who swung fantasy titles in addition to the actual NBA championship last season. Siakam is the type of team-altering acquisition who makes fantasy hoops such a rewarding endeavor. There is nothing quite as sweet as successfully identifying a breakout player in the later rounds of a draft.
We shouldn’t just meander through the twilight rounds of our basketball drafts, but instead, intentionally pursue players with real breakout equity or unique value that the market has overlooked. In the 2018 version of this piece, I produced my share of misses, including the likes of Malik Monk and Avery Bradley, but also some solid hits with Danilo Gallinari, Malcolm Brogdon and Spencer Dinwiddie.
In our recent appraisal of the top sleepers, breakouts, and busts for the 2019-20 campaign, I identified Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac as a choice sleeper to target in the middle rounds of drafts. The premise being this defensive dynamo has real potential to deliver rewarding fantasy results in his third season. Just last year, Isaac was one of just five NBA players to average at least 1.1 3PG, 0.8 SPG, and 1.3 BPG, joining Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Brook Lopez, and Robert Covington.
You can find Isaac deep into the 10th round in most drafts, as his average draft position (ADP) sits at 117th overall in ESPN live drafts. In addition to future “stocks” (steals plus blocks) star Isaac, I discuss more than a dozen players available around or well after pick 100 in most drafts in this appraisal of undervalued players in ESPN drafts.
Players hovering around the 100th pick in drafts
“Deep” is somewhat of a relative term in fantasy sports; late-round “sleepers” in a public 10-team league are often mid-round selections in a competitive 12-team league. That said, I wanted to mention some players currently floating around pick 100 overall in ESPN drafts who are worth acquiring ahead of their current stock.
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
Lopez isn’t a sleeper as much as he’s simply a stellar value in drafts, given an ADP of 103 overall. The Stanford product, after all, finished third overall in the NBA last season with 179 blocks and 17th overall in 3-pointers made (187). As a vital floor-spacer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lopez is worth taking as early as the fifth round in rotisserie and category-driven formats.
You’ll notice I’m a fan of defensive players when sourcing sleepers, in part because such players provide atypical value in scarce statistics such as blocks and steals and can often prove undervalued. Going 96th on average in recent ESPN drafts, Oubre was a top-50 fantasy option once he joined Phoenix last winter, thanks to slashing for 18.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.8 SPG and 1.0 BPG.
In the past three seasons, only Covington, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard have averaged at least as many steals and blocks as Oubre did with the Suns last season. Oubre’s role as a wing creator remains unique on the Suns’ roster and could see him provide immense value for managers this year.
Included in last season’s edition, LeVert is going 98th overall on average in ESPN drafts and was en route to a star campaign last season for the Nets before getting injured in the 14th game of the season. LeVert averaged 20.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.6 3PG in 31.6 MPG during his first dozen games with Brooklyn last fall. LeVert should again consume a rich and rewarding usage rate as the secondary scorer to Kyrie Irving. Deeper into drafts, teammate Taurean Prince‘s bid as the team’s stretch four could also provide fantasy profit.
Adebayo started 22 of the Heat’s final 23 games last spring, and in those contests averaged 11.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG in just 27.5 MPG, while shooting clean percentages from the floor and stripe. For some context, only Nikola Vucevic, Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged at least this many boards, assists, steals and blocks over the full season in 2018-19. Don’t let the modest scoring production get in the way, as Adebayo is an entirely worthy “reach” in the middle rounds. For a deeper sleeper on this Miami roster, Winslow is just 23, has improved each season and should serve a rewarding point-forward role for the Heat.
Swapped for Jimmy Butler as part of another dramatic roster overhaul in Philly, Richardson is going 105th overall on average in ESPN drafts despite a valuable “3-and-D” profile. Ranked 31st in the league in initiating pick-and-roll sets last season, Richardson should enjoy career highs in shooting volume and scoring with the Sixers, given the easier looks he should earn from Ben Simmons and Al Horford, all while maintaining stellar defensive rates. Since 2017-18, Richardson has averaged 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 1.9 3PG and 3.4 APG, something only Harden, Leonard, Victor Oladipo, Bradley Beal and DeMarcus Cousins have matched during this sample. For those in deeper roto leagues, Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle‘s absurd defensive rates in the preseason merit attention, given they mimic his historic collegiate rates.
Robert Covington, Minnesota Timberwolves
Often among the league leaders in deflections and steals with an atypically high block rate, health is the only factor in the way of Covington providing top-50 fantasy value for managers. With a current ADP around pick 112, “RoCo” is absolutely worth acquiring several rounds earlier.
Players found after pick 120
Increased competition at the wing in Denver from Malik Beasley and Will Barton, combined with Harris’ long injury history has him going around the 140th in drafts. Only about 18 months removed from being considered a rising two-way star, Harris produced 17.5 PPG, 1.8 SPG and 2.3 3PG in 2017-18. During the past two seasons, only Paul George and James Harden have produced as many steals, 3-pointers and points per game as Harris did in that breakout 2017-18 campaign. Harris looks spry in the preseason thus far and is ready to return to his former production pattern.
Per Grant’s inclusion as a sleeper, he’s an ideal understudy behind Paul Millsap and provides that unique blend of shooting (1.4 3PG last season) and defense (2.1 stocks per game). Thus far in the preseason, Grant is second on the Nuggets with 13.7 PPG while proving efficient from deep and deft on defense. Minutes won’t always be plentiful for Grant, but his ability to provide worthy two-way results could drive real value for fantasy managers.
The Bulls are experimenting with Satoransky as the lead point guard in the preseason. The talented combo guard produced five dimes and respectable steal and shooting rates in a busy role with Washington last season and is essentially a free square in later rounds for those in need of some passing potential. Young, meanwhile, is the grizzled vet the market has overlooked; his steal rate and rebounding production should translate in Chicago.
In 864 minutes with both Prince and Dewayne Dedmon off the floor last season, Len slashed for per-36 rates of 20.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 2.2 combined blocks and steals. Oh, yeah, Len also made 36.3% of his 4.7 3-point attempts on a per-36 basis in such scenarios. Dedmon was uniquely valuable for fantasy purposes with Atlanta last season, given his Lopez-like blend of blocks and 3-pointers, while Len seems primed to enjoy tons of rebounding, defensive, and spacing opportunities as the primary center for the up-tempo Hawks.
Another potential 3-and-D savant, Bamba’s rookie season was mired by injuries and underwhelming play. This preseason, however, Bamba is taking and making 3-pointers at an impressive clip while also providing notable rim-protection rates. A crowded frontcourt in Orlando could curb Bamba’s opportunities, but he’s the rare archetype who can provide fantasy utility in just over 20 minutes per night, given his potential on defense.
A quietly stellar second year in the NBA saw Bogdanovic provide strong shooting (1.9 3PG) and creation (3.8 APG). Impressive international play at the World Cup saw Bogdanovic thrive once again as a versatile creator. The Kings are De’Aaron Fox‘s team, but Bogdanovic has real potential to break out in a high-usage sixth man role in a Luke Walton system that celebrates his versatile skill set.
Saric could revive his production on offense to the impressive rates he reached in Philadelphia now that he’s on a team that will value his playmaking and spacing. Bridges, meanwhile, is yet another worthy 3-and-D weapon capable of topping two 3-pointers and two stock per game (a feat he almost accomplished as a rookie).
Bazemore has averaged at least 1.3 3-pointers, 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks per game in each of the past four seasons and now should earn unfettered opportunities on a Portland team that is starved for wing production. Collins produced stellar playoff rates last spring when extrapolated to a per-36 clip: 14.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.9 SPG and an impressive 2.9 BPG. Given Hassan Whiteside‘s injury history, Collins could step into a big role at times this season.