Draft Guide Preview: Sleepers

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Hello and welcome to my 4th annual list of fantasy sleepers for NBC Sports Edge! Last season was another massive success for our readers, and below is brief outline of just how well we did:

Michael Porter Jr. (ADP of 74) finished 26th

Richaun Holmes (ADP of 89) > 32nd

OG Anunoby (ADP of 79) > 34th

Chris Boucher (ADP of 135) > 39th

Mikal Bridges (ADP of 82) > 41st

Lonzo Ball (ADP of 61) > 47th

Robert Williams (ADP of 140) > 68th

Dejounte Murray (ADP of 70) > 66th

Norman Powell (ADP of 114) > 73rd

Malik Beasley (ADP of 139) > 88th

Jarrett Allen (ADP of 107) > 87th

Keldon Johnson (undrafted) > 12th round value

Kevin Porter Jr. (ADP of 142) > strong finish, but too late and poor efficiency

De'Anthony Melton (ADP of 152) > 135th in 20 mins, Taylor Jenkins betrayed us

Of course I had some flops too, and below you’ll find a few examples of that:

Darius Bazley- His percentages were straight out of a Stephen King novel.

Cam Reddish- Couldn’t stay healthy and regressed since his rookie season, but did look good in the playoffs which gives me hope.

Lu Dort- I had him as a “mystery box” late-round flier. He improved tremendously on offense which I’m happy about, but his stat set didn’t translate to much value. He and Al Horford got some nice reps on the golf course late into the season though as the tank picked up speed.

Brandon Clarke- He won’t be sending Kyle Anderson a Christmas card.

For the full list of over 25 players, be on the lookout for the NBC Sports Edge Draft Guide that will be dropping in early September. But since I’m feeling generous, he’s a FREE preview of five players that I’m excited about this season. I’m writing this on August 25th which means we don’t have much ADP data just yet, but based on some mock drafts that I’ve been a part of I know for sure that the guys on this list offer massive upside at their projected ADP. And as always, drop me a follow on Twitter here for fantasy analysis and Jaren Jackson Jr. stats.

Jaden McDaniels

I’m expecting a huge leap from Jaden McDaniels in year two and I’m not the only one, as Wolves head coach Chris Finch is clearly just as high on the two-way wing. “This is obviously a stretch goal for anybody, but he can be Scottie Pippen-esque,” Finch said. Jaden was considered “raw” coming out of college, but it didn’t take long for him to establish himself as a regular in the rotation. In the 18 games that he reached 30 minutes, he showed plenty of potential with 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.2 blocks and 1.6 triples despite a microscopic usage rate.

During the Summer League, the Wolves intentionally put him out of his element and used him as a secondary playmaker which yielded surprising results. He was head and shoulders above the competition, putting up 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.3 triples. I kept calling him the next Jonathan Isaac last season for his shot-blocking ability, but I’m now convinced that his offensive upside is going to be considerably higher as he looked very comfortable putting the ball on the floor. A true two-way player, Jaden has all the tools to leave his projected late-round ADP in the dust.

Nic Claxton

Despite the “power of friendship,” it’s in Brooklyn’s best interest to dump DeAndre Jordan against the wishes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. He was absolutely washed last season and was racking up DNPs for a reason. Jeff Green, who played a lot of small-ball center, joined the Nuggets and leaves a sizable hole in the rotation. The Nets are returning Blake Griffin, but he needs an ice bath every 15 minutes at this point in his career and can’t handle full workloads. This is where Claxton steps in.

When he entered the stage last season, Brooklyn’s defense completely turned around and his ability to run the floor meshed well with the Big 3. His net rating of +12.3 comfortably led the team which speaks volumes, and now he’s added some muscle to his frame to handle the bigger centers which could make him matchup proof. It’s not a hot take to project him as the starting center, and I think he’s going to play big minutes right out of the gate. With a mouthwatering per-36 line of 12.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.7 dimes, 1.4 steals and 2.4 blocks, there’s so much to like here.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

The thing I like the most about Alexander-Walker is that it doesn’t matter who is on the court with him, as he’s going to get his touches no matter what. Call it the Dillon Brooks mentality, except NAW knows better than to take no-look fadeaway 27-footers a few seconds into the shot clock. The Pelicans moved on from Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe, replacing them with Devonte’ Graham and Tomas Satoransky. That means NAW has a shot to start and a clear path to 30 minutes.

NAW finished strong in 2020-21 with averages of 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 dimes, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.9 triples with a 23.7 usage rate in his last 15 games, though he did shoot poorly from the field (43%) and line (60%). He is a career 71% shooter from the line however, so some positive regression is expected.

Daniel Gafford

Thomas Bryant is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered back in January and won’t be ready for the start of the season, and no concrete timetable has been set yet. My best guess would be around Christmas. The Wizards did add Montrezl Harrell, but he’s coming off a disastrous season with the Lakers when he looked about as motivated as Kevin Love did on the Cavaliers.

Coach Scott Brooks is also no longer around and is likely on a beach somewhere drawing up plays for Robin Lopez and Alex Len, so that’s exciting news for the fantasy value of Gafford. It’s a travesty that Gafford only reached 20 minutes in nine games last season, but in those games he showcased his upside with 12.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in only 23 minutes. And did I mention that he hit 73% of his shots in that span? An above-the-rim monster, Gafford is a no-brainer in fantasy drafts and it’s no wonder Bradley Beal keeps talking him up.

Mo Bamba

Some will look at the acquisition of Robin Lopez as a bad thing, but The Athletic’s Josh Robbins said the move was made with Bamba’s development in mind. I still think Bamba plays a big role with the Magic in 2021-22, and in my opinion he offers way more long-term upside for the franchise over Wendell Carter who just can’t seem to put it together. Over his last 12 games when he finally got an opportunity, Bamba led the Magic in fantasy value, ranking 60th with 11.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.4 dimes, 0.7 steals, 2.1 blocks and 1.0 triples in only 24 minutes. Meanwhile, WCJ ranked 240th in his last 12 games. I know who I’m rooting for.

A truly elite rim protector, he ranked in the 93rd percentile for block rate and the 91st percentile for rim contests. He’s only a career 32% shooter from deep, but if he takes another step in that regard then Magic will have the ideal big man for the modern game. The biggest knock on Bamba has always been his durability, but with the strength and conditioning he's added for the past year I'm quite optimistic.