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2014-15 NBA Fantasy Focus: Sleepers

While crafting your draft-day strategies, we encourage you to strongly consider these sleeper picks.

Susan Bible

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Forget pumpkins, fall festivals and football. This is the time of year to get your fantasy basketball strategy in order. Those who play the game have already made a mental list for draft day of their favorites in all positions. After the initial critical rounds have flown by, the field is open to round out your roster. Before automatically reaching for the obvious intermediate-type players, consider taking a chance with an unexpected pick. Basketball Insiders is here to help you analyze those sleeper picks that can potentially yield a surprise advantage while assembling your team for the 2014-15 NBA season.

As always, when we talk fantasy basketball here, it is based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

These are our sleeper picks to seriously contemplate this season:

Gorgui Dieng – Minnesota Timberwolves

We’re not talking household name for the 6’11 center, but fantasy owners had sure better know his name. For a host of reasons, Dieng is positioned to make a mark, even break out, in the world of fantasy basketball. Disregard his rookie numbers last year (4.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and .9 blocks in 13.6 minutes), and instead concentrate on what happened at the end of last season and how it should translate for the upcoming season. With a nagging ankle injury that sidelined starting center Nikola Pekovic, Dieng started in 15 of the last 18 games last year. He logged double-doubles in nine of those 15 starts, averaging 12.2 points and 12.0 rebounds. Dieng has been busy in the offseason. He turned in a nice performance at the Las Vegas Summer League (11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.9 steals), revealing abilities to contribute in many areas. Plus his free-throw shooting (79.2 percent) was much improved. Playing for Senegal in the FIBA World Cup tournament, Dieng averaged 16.0 points and 10.7 rebounds and was key in a couple upsets. With coach Flip Saunders planning to dial back Pekovic’s minutes this year (and his always-present injury concern in general) along with the departure of Kevin Love, minutes should open up for Dieng. His scoring may not be consistent this season, but he will definitely add measurably to your rebound and block (2.2 per-36-minutes) categories and perhaps others.

Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics

Typically we would advise you to stay away from a rookie projected to back up a point guard who logged 9.8 average assists last year. We’re making an exception for the former Oklahoma State standout, Marcus Smart. There’s a lot going on here to consider. To start with, said starting point guard, Rajon Rondo, appeared in just 30 games last year and 38 games the year before that. He suffered an offseason injury (broken hand) that may keep him sidelined well into December. Add to this the incessant Rondo trade chatter, and you’ve got a sneaky sleeper opportunity in the making. Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens praises the 20-year-old Smart, giving him the starting nod during the preseason. It’s been shaky at times, but he should get plenty of minutes which may turn into a longer gig, depending on the Rondo situation, i.e. lingering injuries or a mid-season trade. Smart, the Celtics’ No. 6 draft pick, has the very real ability to fill up multiple stat categories for fantasy owners. Last year at OSU, he averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 1.6 in three-pointers and 4.8 assists per game in 31 contests.

Jordan Hill– Los Angeles Lakers

With fantasy potential abound, owners need to remember power forward/center Jordan Hill on draft day. Lakers’ coach Byron Scott has penciled him in as the starting center this season and projects double-doubles from him all season long. He even indicated Hill would get good minutes at the center position. Those are words owners really like to hear. However, if Hill doesn’t exhibit improved conditioning (he reportedly concentrated on this in the offseason) and improved defense, teammates Ed Davis and Carlos Boozer may take minutes away. Now let’s talk numbers. He just averaged 20.8 minutes last season and posted 9.7 points per game and 7.4 rebounds. Hill’s per-36-minute numbers were eye-catching: 16.7 points and 12.8 rebounds (4.7 of those were hard-to-get offensive boards). His 54.0 percent field goal shooting will help in a big way. Hill’s numbers were quite impressive after the All-Star Break at 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 24.3 minutes per game. This is all very promising. Scott demands much from his players and already, it seems as if Hill is one of his favorites. His abilities seem well-suited to Scott’s system. With a new hefty contract now in place, Hill should get all the opportunity in the world to shine.

Mario Chalmers – Miami HEAT

In case you haven’t heard, LeBron James won’t be playing in Miami this season. For fantasy owners, this means Mario Chalmers will be handling the ball more than he’s done in years, so look at Chalmers for increases in assists and three-pointers, plus plenty of steals. Last season he averaged 9.8 points, 4.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 three-pointers in 29.8 minutes. He embarked on a different conditioning program over the summer which has led to a weight loss of 10-15 pounds. With doubtful eyes cast upon a LeBron-less HEAT team, Chalmers will be determined to prove his worth, especially in light of his woeful postseason offering (6.4 points, 3.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 threes). He always tended to shine more when James and oft-injured Dwyane Wade missed playing time, so owning Chalmers could be a real coup. He may well set career highs in steals and assists while his shot-taking will surely increase. The threat of Norris Cole, and to a lesser degree rookie Shabazz Napier, taking valuable minutes does exist, but with the viable chance that point guard Chalmers will also see shooting guard time, he’s worth it.

Tim Hardaway Jr. – New York Knicks

Hear us out. We know the Knicks have shooting guards in J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, but this season could be significant for Tim Hardaway Jr. As the group settles into the triangle offense with new coach Derek Fisher, Hardaway has the chance to contribute meaningfully in fantasy formats, including different categories we’ve not seen from him yet. Shumpert with his injury history along with Smith and his antics means Hardaway Jr. may play. A lot. There’s no question he can shoot the ball (averages last year of 10.2 points and 1.6 three-pointers) and shoot it well (42.8 percent in two-point field goals, 36.3 percent in threes and 82.8 percent in free throws). If assists and rebounding increase as would appear to be the case under the new triangle, Hardaway Jr. could end up contributing all across the board. Bonus: Fisher loves his defensive effort, which typically translates to a good amount of playing time.

QUICK HITS:

Jeremy Lin – Los Angeles Lakers
Steve Nash is the starting point guard for the Lakers, but let’s point out the obvious: injuries limited Nash to appearing in just 65 games out of a possible 164 over the past two seasons, and he’s turning 41 years old in less than four months. The door will open for Jeremy Lin who figures to see plenty of time on the floor. Lin can drop numbers around nicely (points, assists and steals) and provide solid shooting percentages.

Solomon Hill – Indiana Pacers
When a player like Paul George goes down for the year, fantasy owners must always analyze the affected team to consider who will benefit from the loss. In this case, Solomon Hill is the leading candidate to assume starting small forward duties, and thus, increased playing time. He’s already demonstrated strong defensive skills; this year, he will have to prove offensive improvement to get good minutes. His last two years at Arizona provides a glimpse at what he can do – he averaged 13.2 points, 1.4 three-pointers, 6.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.7 assists.

Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors
We’re willing to bet a lot of folks have forgotten what Draymond Green did in last years’ playoffs. Don’t be one of them. The now-third-year player was nearly a revelation, logging averages of 11.9 points, 1.1 threes, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. He should have a bigger role this season, perhaps even joining the starting lineup.

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Draft Kings

DraftKings Preview: Best Value Plays 4/13

Cody Taylor shares his list of top bargain players (under $6,000) on DraftKings tonight.

Cody Taylor

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Each Wednesday, we help you build your DraftKings lineups for the upcoming night of action. The point of these articles is to highlight relatively cheap players who are poised to do well given their recent success and upcoming matchup.

Tonight features 14 games on the schedule as most teams wrap up their regular season. With nearly every team in action tonight, you will have plenty of options when building your DraftKings rosters. Everyone wants superstar players in their lineup, but in order to afford those players, you’ll need some of these value plays on your squad as well.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our DraftKings league before 7 p.m. ET tonight. It’s FREE for new users! Here are six bargain players to keep an eye on tonight – all of whom will cost you less than $6,000:

PG: Seth Curry, Sacramento Kings – $5,000

With the Kings shutting down five of their top scorers for the rest of the season, look for Curry to continue to see plenty of playing time. Curry is coming off of his best game in the NBA in which he recorded 20 points, 15 assists, three rebounds and three steals on Monday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Curry’s career night was good for 54.3 fantasy points. Since March 25, Curry has seen a much bigger role with the Kings as he’s averaging 28.7 minutes per game after playing sparingly before that. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from three-point range during that time frame.

Honorable Mention: Tim Frazier – $5,900

SG: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers – $5,000

Before you laugh at this selection, consider what we know going into Bryant’s last game. It’s been reported that Lakers head coach Byron Scott plans on letting Bryant play as much as he wants and Scott stated on the record that he’s instructing other players to “get KB the ball.” Knowing the type of player that Bryant is, he’ll want to play big minutes and go out with an impressive performance. Field goal percentage isn’t factored in for DraftKings’ scoring system, so Bryant can shoot it as much as he wants without negatively impacting your team.

He has flashed some vintage Kobe performances a couple of times already this month, as he dropped 35 points on the Houston Rockets on Sunday and he scored 34 points against the Boston Celtics back on April 3. The Utah Jazz desperately need a win tonight (as well as a Houston loss against Sacramento in order to make the playoffs), and Bryant would love nothing more to player spoiler one last time in front of the home crowd at Staples Center. It’s also worth noting that Utah will be without their defensive anchor Rudy Gobert. This is the final time you can have Kobe in your lineup and he may be a steal at $5,000.

Honorable Mention: Evan Fournier – $5,100

SF: Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks – $5,100

Bazemore has been arguably one of the best fantasy players over his last four games for the Hawks. Over this stretch, Bazemore is averaging 17 points, eight rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, which has translated to 41 fantasy points per game.

Bazemore has proven this season that he can contribute on both ends of the floor and make his presence felt in a variety of ways. On April 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he scored only seven points, but added 12 rebounds, six assists and three blocks, which was good for 36.5 fantasy points. The Hawks should continue to play their starters with playoff seeding on the line heading into the final night of action.

Honorable Mention: Maurice Harkless – $4,600

PF: Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets – $5,300

Williams is another starter who you can count on playing since the Hornets are still fighting for playoff seeding. Some of the league’s best players could be getting some rest tonight with playoff positions already locked up, but Williams seems likely to play as he normally would.

Williams has been very consistent over his last six outings, as he’s scored at least 24 fantasy points in each of those games. The Hornets are up against the Orlando Magic tonight, and Williams went off for 26 points, nine rebounds, two assists and a block the last time the Hornets and the Magic faced off on March 16.

Honorable Mention: Jabari Parker – $5,900

C: Mason Plumlee, Portland Trail Blazers – $4,700

Plumlee has been very productive over the past several weeks. Since March 1, Plumlee has scored fewer than 20 fantasy points just twice (in a span of 21 games). He’s a guy who comes in at price lower than $5,000 and he seems likely to give you at least 20 fantasy points.

He has proven that he can do a little bit of everything, as he’s averaging 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals in five games during the month of April.

Honorable Mention: Jonas Valanciunas – $5,000

UTIL: Toney Douglas, New Orleans Pelicans – $5,500

The Pelicans have been ready for the offseason for quite some time now given all of the injuries they have endured this season. Douglas has been a direct beneficiary of those injuries, starting in 17 out of the Pelicans’ last 18 games.

Douglas has turned in four-straight outings with at least 30 fantasy points and has been one of the team’s leading scorers in each of those games. Look for that production to continue as the Pelicans face off against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that ranks 26th against opposing point guards.

If you are taking our advice tonight, let me know how your team did by reaching out to me on Twitter, @CodyTaylorNBA.

*****

We encourage you to give these players a look as you build your starting lineups for tonight. Here are contests you can enter now:

Sharpshooter:
– Last chance to play before the playoffs start
– Prove your NBA knowledge
– Make every game more exciting
– FREE for new users
– Must join by Wednesday, April 13th at 8:00 pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

Giant Double Up:
– Last chance to play before the playoffs start
– Prove your NBA knowledge
– Make every game more exciting
– Must join by Wednesday, April 13th at 8:00pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

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Draft Kings

DraftKings Preview: Best Value Plays 4/6

Who are the best value players on DraftKings? Cody Taylor gives his top options cheaper than $6,000.

Cody Taylor

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Wednesday in the NBA is typically one of the busiest nights of the week as most teams are in action. There are eight games set to tip off tonight, leaving you with plenty of options when building your DraftKings lineups.

The key to winning in DraftKings is having some cheaper players on your rosters who will perform well and allow you to afford players like James Harden, Kemba Walker and Paul George (among others). We’re here to help you set your lineups by highlighting several cheaper players who seem poised to do well given their recent success or upcoming matchup.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our DraftKings league before 7 p.m. ET tonight. It is FREE for new users! Click here to draft your team. Here are six bargain players to keep an eye on tonight – all of whom will cost you less than $6,000:

PG: Tim Frazier, New Orleans Pelicans – $4,600

Frazier seems like a safe bet to have in your lineup for the remainder of the season. The Pelicans have been battered by injuries this season, and Frazier will be relied on heavily. Frazier began the season with the Portland Trail Blazers, but averaged less than eight minutes per game — he’s averaging 28.1 minutes in 11 games with the Pelicans.

Frazier has proven that, when given an opportunity to play extended minutes, he can contribute all across the board. He’s averaging 13.5 points, 6.3 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game during his brief stint in New Orleans, which has translated to 30 fantasy points per game. He’s been on a tear lately, as he’s averaging 37.9 fantasy points over his last four outings.

Honorable Mention: Shane Larkin – $4,300

SG: Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic – $4,500

Fournier should be a player you can count on for at least 20 fantasy points or so. Outside of a few players like James Harden, Victor Oladipo and C.J. McCollum, there are really not a lot of the top names in action tonight at shooting guard, so this may be where you opt to go cheaper.

Since the beginning of March, Fournier has been a consistent fantasy option as he’s scored fewer than 20 fantasy points only four times (in a span of 17 games). He’s shown that he can get hot as well as he recorded 22 points, three assists and two rebounds on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Honorable Mention: James Ennis – $3,500

SF: Maurice Harkless, Portland Trail Blazers – $4,100

Harkless is another player who has greatly benefited from an increased role. After playing sparingly for most of the season, Harkless has started the past eight games in a row for the Blazers and has been a solid fantasy option in the starting lineup.

Harkless is coming off of his best fantasy performance of the season after recording 20 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, two assists and two steals last night for the Blazers, which was good for 48.5 fantasy points. In 11 games as a starter, Harkless is averaging 13.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and nearly one block per game. During his current stretch as a starter, he’s averaging 29.1 fantasy points per game.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Hamilton – $4,200

PF: Thomas Robinson, Brooklyn Nets – $4,700

We’re seeing many teams having to go with some of their deeper role players and Robinson fits that bill. He’s seen a huge spike in playing time over the past week or so as he’s earned the start in three out of the Nets’ last four games. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 12.3 rebounds during that stretch, which has been good for 36 fantasy points per game.

Robinson is a good candidate to earn the bonus points DraftKings hands out for double-doubles as he’s turned in four-straight double-double performances. It seems like a safe bet to continue to ride with Robinson in your lineups until he cools off. With just five games remaining for the Nets, keep Robinson on your radar as the regular season winds down.

Honorable Mention: Markieff Morris – $5,300

C: Cody Zeller, Charlotte Hornets – $4,200

Zeller has been playing very well over the past week or so for the Hornets. He’s turned in four-straight outings with at least 20 fantasy points, including back-to-back performances with over 30 points last week.

He turned in one of his better all around performances of the season on Sunday, recording eight points, six rebounds and five steals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With several of the top centers in action tonight, you may want to slide Zeller into your utility spot.

Honorable Mention: Mason Plumlee – $4,400

UTIL: Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic – $5,600

Payton has been playing better in recent weeks after having an up-and-down season. Payton has scored at least 25 fantasy points in each of his last seven games. During that stretch, Payton recorded his first triple-double of the year, scoring 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, which was good for 53.5 fantasy points.

Given his ability to rebound and distribute the ball, he can go off on any given night and come close to notching another triple-double. If you are in need of a utility player or another guard, Payton could be your guy.

 

If you are taking our advice tonight, let me know how your team did by reaching out to me on Twitter, @CodyTaylorNBA.

 

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Draft Kings

DraftKings Preview: Best Value Plays 3/30

Who are the best bargain plays on DraftKings? Here are a number of guys cheaper than $6,000 to play.

Cody Taylor

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Wednesday in the NBA is typically one of the busiest nights of the week as most teams are in action. There are nine games set to tip off tonight, leaving you with plenty of options when building your DraftKings lineups.

The key to winning in DraftKings is having some cheaper players on your rosters who will perform well and allow you to afford players like Stephen Curry, Hassan Whiteside and Kawhi Leonard among others. We’re here to help you set your lineups by highlighting several players who seem poised to do well given their recent success or upcoming matchup.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to enter our DraftKings league before 7 p.m. ET tonight. It is $3 to play (or FREE for new users) and it has a $10,000 first-place prize (and a $100,000 total prize pool). Click here to draft your team. Here are six bargain players to keep an eye on tonight – all of whom will cost you less than $6,000:

PG: Toney Douglas, New Orleans Pelicans – $4,900

It seems as though just about any player you can get your hands on from the Pelicans could be a safe bet. The team announced on Tuesday that Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee will miss the rest of the season, which leaves the team with seven players on the injured reserve out for the rest of the year.

Douglas comes in as a solid option for you tonight and he won’t break your budget. In his increased role, he’s become a very reliable fantasy option as he’s scored at least 20 fantasy points in 10 out of his last 11 outings. If you’re looking for a cheap option at point guard, Douglas could be your guy.

Honorable Mention: Shelvin Mack – $6,000

SG: Josh Richardson, Miami HEAT – $4,700

Richardson has benefited from an increased role with the team in recent weeks. His minutes per game have increased from 15.7 in January to a season-high 29.1 minutes per game in March. He’s averaging 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists during the month of March.

He earned his second start of the season for Miami on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets in place of a sick Goran Dragic. Richardson would be in line to earn the start again tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers if Dragic can’t go, but Richardson should still be a great option for you even if Dragic does play. Miami has Dragic listed as questionable for tonight’s game, so keep an eye on his status closer to tip off.

Honorable Mention: J.J. Redick – $4,700

SF: Mirza Teletovic, Phoenix Suns – $4,700

With only a couple of the top small forwards in action tonight, Teletovic could be an option for you if you want to go cheaper here in order to save of your money for some other players. Teletovic and the Suns face off against a Milwaukee Bucks team that ranks 29th against opposing small forwards.

He’s been a reliable option over the past week or so as he’s turned in five-straight outings with at least 20 fantasy points. During that stretch, Teletovic has averaged 15 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Suns.

Honorable Mention: Matt Barnes – $5,300

PF: JaMychal Green, Memphis Grizzlies – $5,000

Green is another guy to target tonight on a very favorable matchup against a Denver Nuggets team that ranks 28th against opposing power forwards. Green has proven that he can contribute big games, as he’s turned in some performances with over 20 points for the Grizzlies.

There are a lot of the top power forwards in action tonight, so Green may be a guy you want to put in your forward or utility slots. The Grizzlies have been decimated by injuries this season so Green will have plenty of opportunities during games to contribute.

Honorable Mention: Patrick Patterson – $3,900

C: Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors – $5,100

Valanciunas has put together a solid week of performances as he’s scored at least 20 fantasy points in four-straight games. He’s a prime candidate to earn the bonus points DraftKings hands out for double-doubles as he’s recorded 19 double-doubles this season.

Valanciunas faces a great matchup tonight as the Atlanta Hawks are the fourth-worst team in the league against opposing centers. He could be a great option for your team as a utility player as well.

Honorable Mention: Bismack Biyombo – $4,300

UTIL: D.J. Augustin, Denver Nuggets – $4,700

If you took our advice on Augustin last week, he turned in a solid outing for you. Last week against the Philadelphia 76ers, Augustin recorded 22 fantasy points after having nine points, five assists, two assists and two steals for the Nuggets.

After that outing, he turned in performances with 39.8 and 41.5 fantasy points. If you are in need of a cheap utility guy, Augustin could be your guy since he’s been playing so well as of late.

If you are taking our advice tonight, let me know how your team did by reaching out to me on Twitter, @CodyTaylorNBA.

*****

We encourage you to give these players a look as you build your starting lineups for tonight. Here are two contests you can enter tonight:

$100,000 Hot Shot:
– Make every shot and rebound more exciting
– $10,000 first-place prize and a $100,000 prize pool
– $3 to play or FREE for new users
– Must join by Wednesday, March 30th at 7:30pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

$5 Double Up:
– Make every shot and rebound more exciting
– $5 to play – finish in the top half of the contest and you double your money for a $10 prize
– Must join by Wednesday, March 30th at 7:30pm EST
– Salary cap style drafting: $50,000 to select PG, SG, SF, PF, C, G, F and Utility

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