Group 1: Can you still be a sleeper if no one is sleeping on you?
You’ll have to burn a high draft pick on these two guys because they are being pimped up more that Darius Miles’ Chevy Impala. Still, they’ve shown amazing talent in short bursts and have the opportunity to break out in a huge way this year.
Darren Collison (PG – IND) – The 23-year old Collison joined the Pacers in a 4-way trade which sent Troy Murphy to the Nets and Trevor Ariza to the Hornets. He becomes the team’s starting PG after channeling Chris Paul while he was injured last season. Collison averaged an incredible 18.8 points, 9.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1 three a game in 37 starts for the Hornets. He also averaged 4.1 turnovers in those starts, so it’s not all gravy. Expect a few growing pains as he transitions into a starting role.
Anthony Randolph (PF/C – NYK) – Some consider him a bounce back candidate since he was pegged as a breakout candidate last year (and failed miserably), but I’d like to see him put together a season before proclaiming that he’s arrived. What Randolph does have is both talent and athleticism in spades (think Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom’s love child). The fact that he’s freed from the shackles of Don Nelson and playing in a Mike D’Antoni offense means that if he doesn’t put it together this year, he probably never will. Randolph could end up starting at center for the Knicks come opening day and will deliver points, rebounds and a ton of blocks.
Group 2: Will be in the starting lineup on opening night
These guys aren’t as hyped as Group 1, which means you can get better value for them in most drafts. Expect these guys to enter the season in the starting lineup for their teams.
Jrue Holiday (PG – PHI) – In March and April last year, the rookie averaged 11.6 points, 6.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Doug Collins is crushing on the guy and that probably means you should too.
D.J. Augustin (PG/SG – CHA) – The departure of Raymond Felton opens up the starting PG spot for Augustin, provided be can beat out Shaun Livingston (who would be in a better spot if he weren’t already having knee problems). The third year player had a huge drop-off his sophomore season, in which he only averaged 18 minutes a game off the bench. Larry Brown is attempting to mold the shooter into more of a traditional PG. The historical success rate on that transition is iffy, but he should be able to average 14-15 points and 5 assists per game provided he’s the starting PG for the Bobcats all year.
Rodrigue Beaubois (PG/SG – DAL) – As displayed by his 40 point outburst against the Warriors last season, the speedy 22-year old combo guard has shown he can score in bunches. Word is that Shawn Marion may move to the bench this year so that Beaubois can start, well, that is if Beaubois’ foot actually heals in time for the start of the season.
Marco Belinelli (SG – NOH) – Belinelli is starting at SG for the Hornets in the preseason over Marcus Thornton because he actually plays a little defense. Belinelli can also hit the three (he’s a career 39% three point shooter) and if he were to get 28-30 minutes of run a game would hit 2+ threes a game in that offense. Consider Belinelli if you’re looking for threes at the end of a draft.
Nicolas Batum (SF – POR) – The 21-year old was injured for half the year and really didn’t get going until the end of the season. However, Batum can do a little bit of everything, including score, rebound, hit the three and block the occasional shot. He also shot 52% from the field and 84% from the line last year. Consider him the Matrix Reloaded, which if you saw the movies know is a far cry from the original, but definitely more fun than the horrific Matrix Revolutions.
Linas Kleiza (SF – TOR) – The departure of Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu means that the Raptors are going to need a few players who can step up on offense. Enter Kleiza, whose stock is rising off a 19.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg performance in the World Championships this summer for the Lithuanian National team. He’s not going to have quite that ceiling for the Raptors this year, but he will score, rebound and hit a ton of threes.
Dorell Wright (SF – GSW) – Wright is a very good three-point shooter (he shot 39% from three last year), can rebound, and is a solid defender. He has been starting at SF for the Warriors in the preseason. Expect Wright to earn some decent run with the GSW and be late-round sleeper material as a guy who will knock down a lot of threes this season.
Amir Johnson (PF – TOR) – The Raptors handed Johnson a $34 million dollar contract this off season because they liked his hot motor, among other things. He is a very good defender who can rebound and block shots. The one thing holding Johnson back from greater heights are the fouls: he’s averaged 6.5 fouls per 36 minutes over his career. Wackiest stat of the post courtesy of ESPN: Johnson averaged 17.8 points and 8.0 rebounds during a five-game stretch last April when Bosh was injured.
Josh McRoberts/Tyler Hansbrough (PF – IND) – Thanks to the departure of Troy Murphy, one of these guys is in line for serious minutes at PF for the Pacers. Hansbrough actually flashed a little fantasy potential last year, while McRoberts has the ability to walk in a straight line. After taking a shot to the head from Dwight Howard McRoberts is currently out of the lineup, which may be just the push that Hansborough needed to win a starting spot out of camp.
JaVale McGee (C – WAS) – The Wizards’ center averaged 1.7 blocks in a hair over 16 minutes last year. The arrival of Yi Jianlian mucks things up a little for McGee, but even a modest increase in minutes up to 25 a game means we could see over 2.5 blocks a game from McGee this season.
Tiago Splitter (C – SAN) – Splitter was originally drafted by the Spurs in 2007, but opted to play in Spain the past few years. That decision may have paid off for the big man as he was named MVP of the Spanish League in 2010, averaging 15.7 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. Now he joins the Spurs when they are desperate need of some youth. As for his game, Splitter is 6-11, can run the floor and has a solid set of offensive and defensive skills. He will need some time to adjust to NBA life in the paint, but considering the Spurs other option at center is Antonio McDyess, the Spurs may be able to live with the growing pains.
Group 3: Minutes off the bench
This group is not quite the sure thing that Group 2 is because they will probably not be in the starting lineup to begin the season. But there are plenty of minutes off the bench for these guys or a spot in a starting spot that is begging to be taken.
Jeff Teague (PG – ATL) – It’s only a matter of time before Teague becomes Atlanta’s starting PG over Mike Bibby. And if the preseason is any indication, that time could be sooner rather than later. If you’re looking for a PG with some upside potential at the very end of a draft, Teague is totally your guy.
Reggie Williams (SG/SF – GSW) – On a per game basis, Williams finished last season ranked #40 on the GMTR player rater. Yes, he only played in 24 games, on a Don Nelson “led” team, where the rest of the lineup was recovering in a mash unit, but that’s still impressive for an undrafted player. While Dorell Wright is expected to start at SF for the Warriors, Williams should be the first SG/SF off the bench for the team and will excel at hitting threes and scoring.
J.J. Hickson (PF – C) – Hickson may get off to a slow start this season because he’s behind Antawn Jamison on the depth chart. But it makes all too much sense for the Cavs to move Jamison as soon as they can find a partner at the dance, eventually opening up a spot this year for J.J. Hickson to roam the paint pulling down double-doubles.
Greg Monroe (PF/C – DET) – No, Monroe is not going to be the rookie of the year or even the best rookie for fantasy purposes. Not even close. However, the Achilles injury to Jonas Jerebko opens up additional playing time for Monroe on the Pistons. Monroe has a nice collection of fantasy friendly offensive skills, he just needs to work on the thing Jerebko brought most to the table: a hot motor.
DeAndre Jordan (C – LAC) – Based on his 2009-10 stats, if Jordan were to start for the Clippers and get 30 minutes a game, he’d come close to averaging a double-double with 2 blocks. For now, he’s behind Chris Kaman on the team’s depth chart. But being a Chris Kaman injury away from big minutes is not a bad thing and I would not be surprised to see Jordan in the starting lineup before Christmas 2010.
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