Yesterday we talked about context — especially keeper leagues vs. redraft leagues — being a significant part of any player’s fantasy value. We didn’t even mention custom scoring. There are leagues where missed free throws don’t matter, making Dwight Howard a must-own instead of a category-killer. Turnovers are also not counted everywhere; I’m in more than one league where A/T (assist/turnover ratio) is used instead. Adjust the order of any or all of these names to better reflect your league’s settings.
Tomorrow will be the unveiling of our Depth Chart, the 300 players we expect to receive the most minutes. Today let’s discuss players who at first glance, did absolutely nothing a year ago.
In the draft room, with the clock ticking, your opponents might search the available names by sorting on last year’s stats. Don’t make that mistake. In fact, you should be prepared to draft a few players who didn’t play a single NBA minute in 2011-2012.
You’ll probably have to “pay retail” — that is, select them early — to get the Can’t Miss trio. Those listed in the Middle Rounds may fall until you think they make sense, and my Interesting Possibilities are guys worth considering as last-round sleepers in 12-team leagues, especially if the alternatives are uninspiring. Finally, we look at candidates for your roster in deeper leagues.
This doesn’t include only Hero Zeros, those talented young men fresh in our minds from the NCAA tournament last March. We have the Euro Zeros, some of whom may not be completely familiar to North American fans, and even a few Zombie Zeros, attempting to resurrect their careers after serious injuries.
Three names are in this top tier, though Anthony Davis is in a class by himself. His experience on the U.S. Olympic team this summer was a crash course in becoming a superstar. You still don’t want to select him too early in a redraft league, but he’s a deserving #1 pick in the majority of keeper leagues. In many formats, I would trade an established star for the right to draft him.
- Anthony Davis has a 7′ 5″ wingspan and a passion to be the best defensive player in the league. He shot 62% from the floor and over 70% from the line for Kentucky while blocking a ridiculous 186 shots in 40 games.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the Unibrow’s teammate on a national championship squad, the #2 overall selection in the draft, and is expected to start every game. However, he now plays for the NBA’s worst team and may be worth more in a couple of years than right away.
- Damian Lillard could be this year’s Kyrie Irving. Not that I expect him to wrest the RoY trophy away drom Davis, just that he’ll contribute all season. Another Wildcat (from Weber State, not UK) who averaged 24.5 PPG his junior year, he figures to pass more and shoot less in Portland.
A little further along in your draft, you can begin to consider this group of four more rookies — one from the 2011 draft — plus a wily Russian veteran who just led his underdog team to Olympic bronze.
- Jonas Valanciunas has the size and pro experience to contribute immediately for a weak team. The Lithuanian may battle some foul trouble but will still play a lot all season.
- Harrison Barnes might become a go-to guy in the second half, if not before. He just needs to outplay Brandon Rush and what’s left of Richard Jefferson for starter’s minutes.
- Andrei Kirilenko is back from a year playing overseas and definitely worth owning in redraft leagues; I’m downgrading him slightly in keeper formats.
- Bradley Beal scored 14.8 PPG in his lone college season but may come off the bench behind Jordan Crawford, so don’t reach too soon.
- Dion Waiters is still being touted as a starter though he’s had conditioning issues and didn’t shine in the Summer League; a risk-reward pick for this year.
All of the above should be drafted in 12-team leagues, but here’s where it starts to be fun if you’re shopping for sleepers. I’m including two new Timberwolves, though the Euro Zero may not play quite as much if the Zombie Zero is healthy enough to return after more than a year away from the game.
- Brandon Roy comes out of retirement as a potential bargain in any format if his knees hold up. Early reports are encouraging. Do you feel lucky?
- Alexey Shved looked terrific in the Olympics alongside AK-47 and should be closely monitored in training camp. He can play either guard spot and Ricky Rubio won’t be ready until December.
- Mirza Teletovic was the leading scorer in the Euroleague (21.7) and at 27, is in his prime. The 6’9″ Bosnian hit 43% of his 3-pointers; as a “stretch 4″ he may even cut into the minutes of starter Kris Humphries.
- Donatas Montiejunas should share the C role in Houston at age 21; he’s a 7-footer with more skill and shooting range than Omer Asik. Not a BLK and REB kind of big man but he can hit threes.
- Thomas Robinson is one frontcourt injury away from significant minutes and as a three-year standout at Kansas, may be more mature than many NBA freshmen.
These guys are Names to Know if you play in shallower leagues and it won’t take much to vault them into a higher tier. Any of them could surprise with a slight change in their team’s circumstances. Remember that it’s still quite early in the preseason and these are guidelines, not guarantees.
- Kendall Marshall is worth more in keeper leagues, though as the backup to Goran Dragic he has some value right away in certain formats.
- Marquis Teague should be in the Bulls’ PG mix until Derrick Rose returns; another high draft pick from the great Kentucky team, he could pay early dividends.
- Jeff Green is fully recovered from heart surgery, making him a key piece off the BOS bench. He can also start at either SF or PF if there’s an injury.
- Royce White like all the young Rockets has an opportunity to impress in camp and earn a spot. He also must cope with an anxiety disorder that includes a fear of flying. All he did at Iowa State was lead the team in PTS, REB, BLK, AST and STL.
- Jeremy Lamb will have a surge in value if (when?) Kevin Martin gets traded. An excellent scorer at Connecticut, he averaged 20 PTS in five Summer League games.
- Terrence Jones is yet another Rockets youngster who could step up to claim a role right away. He played two years at Kentucky and tore up the Summer League.
- John Jenkins is intriguing for 3PTM off the ATL bench and the Vanderbilt product might get his chance early in the season.
- John Henson was very impressive in Las Vegas, averaging 18.3 PTS, and was a good shot-blocker at North Carolina. He should be part of the Bucks’ rotation soon.
- Austin Rivers has an excellent pedigree but may not adjust to the NBA immediately. He’s more of a SG who the Hornets hope can become a PG. They(and his fantasy owners) will need patience.
- Meyers Leonard figures to be be in the Blazers’ rotation but it may take a couple of years before he’s a fantasy asset at this level.
- Terrence Ross is a favorite of Toronto coach Dwane Casey; decent pick in deep leagues could press DeMar DeRozan for playing time in the not-too-distant future.
- Andre Drummond is another big man with a chance to play, but he just turned 19 and has to be considered a longer-term project.
- Aaron Brooks returns from China as the backup PG for the Kings but has more experience than projected starter Isaiah Thomas. Brooks averaged 19.6 PTS and 5.3 AST in his last full NBA season.
It’s always fun to have a late pick in a deep league turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Here are a few longshots who could pay dividends, and are worth watching as potential FA pickups in shallower leagues if I’ve underestimated their abilities or misread their situations. Apologies to some great players I’ve no doubt overlooked.
- Joel Freeland excelled for Great Britain at the Olympics and our colleague A.J. Mitnick was impressed. The 25-year-old might earn a backup role in Portland.
- Jared Sullinger is likely to play behind Brandon Bass, which leaves the Ohio State star one injury away from a big opportunity.
- Tyler Zeller should see limited minutes all season behind Anderson Varejao, though he may not put up huge numbers at this level.
- Andrew Nicholson has a chance to crack the Magic rotation; Canadian played four years of college ball and crashes the boards.
- Evan Fournier has good size for a SG but I’m not expecting the Frenchman to play much this season; he’s only 19 and the Nuggets have talented veterans.
- Doron Lamb was a fine shooter at Kentucky and would jump into fantasy relevance quickly if anything happens to Monta Ellis.
- Kim English could be pressed into action if any of the Pistons guards get hurt, improved his FG% dramatically in his fourth year at Missouri.
- Darrell Arthur missed an entire year with an Achilles injury; deep sleeper if he is 100% recovered but may not be ready for training camp.
- Kyle Singler played in Spain last year; don’t forget about this 2011 draftee and former Duke star in his belated NBA debut.
- Perry Jones III would receive more minutes as a rookie on most other teams. The standout at Baylor will have to play a waiting game with the Thunder.
- Jae Crowder lit up the Summer League but the Mavs are a veteran team so there may not be an immediate opening.
- Miles Plumlee has a limited opportunity because of the Pacers’ depth; if Roy Hibbert ever goes down, the Duke product would benefit.
- Kyle O’Quinn sure looked like a pro with 26 & 14 in a giant upset of Missouri and the Orlando big men are not exactly all-stars.
- Draymond Green could be a value pick in very deep formats. He improved each year at Michigan State and it was a surprise he lasted until the second round of the draft.
- Moe Harkless would be worth more once the Magic commit to a youth movement but for a while will probably be watching and learning.
- Pablo Prigioni led the Euroleague in assists; 35-year-old Argentinian provides nice PG depth for Knicks if anything happens to Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd.
- Quincy Acy is 4% owned in Yahoo leagues for some reason — he doesn’t figure to see much action this year unless the injury bug bites the Raptors hard.
- Fab Melo won’t be NBA-ready as soon as Sullinger but he’s already the biggest Celtic and will learn a lot in practice from Kevin Garnett.
We’ve altered our schedule for the next few weeks. Your daily Spin will now appear between 11:00 a.m. and noon, ideal for lunch-break reading if anyone does that sort of thing at work. We’ll return to earlier posts when there are actual games to discuss. Follow me and the rest of the Sheridan Hoops fantasy team on Twitter @SheridanFantasy and you won’t miss a thing.