Fantasy basketball sleepers to target in drafts

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Yahoo Sports Fantasy Staff
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By Juan Blanco, RotoWire

Special to Yahoo Sports

Every NBA season, there are multiple players initially overlooked in drafts who emerge to play key roles on many successful fantasy rosters. While there’s often risk attached to investing some draft capital in these types, they can also pay off handsomely and give your team a leg up none of the competition sees coming.

As the 2020-21 campaign gets set to tip off, here are some sleeper candidates worth targeting!

Tristan Thompson, BOS

Given that Thompson projects to start the season on the second unit, he’ll likely be available at a discount in drafts this season. However, projected starter Daniel Theis has never averaged more than last season’s 24.1 minutes per game, and the 28-year-old is also coming off October knee surgery. Thompson is a proven commodity who will offer solid per-minute production in scoring and rebounds, and he ultimately could end up splitting time close to evenly with Theis as the season unfolds.

De’Andre Hunter, ATL

Hunter impressed as a rookie a season ago, averaging 12.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while shooting a respectable 35.5 percent from distance. The fourth overall pick drained just 41.0 percent of his shots overall, but in the wake of a two-year college career at Virginia where he shot 50.9 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three, the ceiling is there for a big leap in Year 2. The big question is whether Hunter will maintain a heavy workload after the Hawks beefed up their roster this offseason. It’s a valid concern, but I’m betting on Hunter’s defense keeping him solidified in the rotation.

Isaac Okoro, CLE

The rookie was impressive during his one season at Auburn, averaging 12.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists while shooting 51.0 percent across 31.5 minutes over 28 games. Okoro has also logged heavy minutes in each of the Cavaliers’ first two preseason games, and given his status as the fifth overall pick on a rebuilding team, he’ll likely have a fairly long leash during the regular season. Cedi Osman and second-year man Kevin Porter are quality competition for minutes, but if Okoro can prove to be even a decent three-point shooter, he’ll be tough to keep off the floor.

PJ Washington, CHA

Washington had an up-and-down rookie year, but he still finished with solid contributions of 12.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, while falling just short of averaging a block and steal per game. Hornets head coach James Borrego is already on record about his plans to deploy Washington “a lot” as an undersized, floor-spacing center in addition to his customary power forward role this season. If Washington can seize the opportunity at center, his combination of scoring, rebounding and three-point shooting could prove valuable for fantasy managers.

Chris Boucher, TOR

Boucher’s time to shine may finally have arrived in his third season in Toronto, given the offseason departures of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. The 27-year-old is capable of filling both frontcourt spots, and he could be set for a de facto starting center role, even if veteran journeyman Aron Baynes technically remains ahead of him on the depth chart. Now 34 and sporting a lengthy injury history, Baynes is unlikely to exceed last season’s career-high 22.3 minutes per contest. Boucher, who the Raptors have been grooming for a bigger opportunity, has the much higher upside of the two.

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25)
Chris Boucher looks poised for an even better fantasy season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Other Notables

Nemanja Bjelica, SAC: Marvin Bagley’s injury history and Bjelica’s multi-category upside make the floor-spacing big man a worthy consideration.

Alec Burks, NYK: If the sharpshooting veteran holds onto a starting role, he could see big minutes under Tom Thibodeau

Killian Hayes, DET: He’s looked shaky during the preseason, but Hayes is already penciled in as the starter for perhaps the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

Delon Wright, DET: Should be in line for the best fantasy situation of his career after failing to live up to expectations in Dallas.

Deeper-League Sleepers

Eric Paschall, GSW

Conventional wisdom might dictate Paschall is in for a downturn after a solid rookie season in which he saw a greater-than-expected opportunity for the injury-riddled Warriors. Paschall’s 137 games of college experience paid off when he was thrust into expanded opportunity from the jump, enabling him to average 14.0 points (on 49.7 percent shooting), 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists across 27.6 minutes (60 games). The return to health of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green — plus the offseason addition of Kelly Oubre — will push Paschall to the bench, but he should still see plenty of opportunity on one of the league’s most top-heavy rosters.

Troy Brown, WAS

Brown made across-the-board improvements in his second pro season, finishing with averages of 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals across 25.8 minutes over 69 games. The 2018 first-round pick took advantage of Davis Bertans’ decision to opt out of the Orlando bubble, putting up 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over 32.9 minutes in eight seeding games. He’s projected to back up the newly re-signed Bertans at small forward again, but Brown could work his way into the starting five if the Wizards opt for a more spacing-friendly lineup.

Glenn Robinson, SAC

Like his former teammate Paschall, Robinson parlayed the Warriors’ rash of injuries into strong numbers before finishing the 2019-20 campaign with the 76ers. The Michigan product started a career-high 48 games in Golden State and averaged 12.9 points (on 48.1 percent shooting, including 40.0 percent from three-point range), 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists over 31.6 minutes per game. Robinson signed a one-year minimum deal in Sacramento this offseason and will operate as Harrison Barnes’ primary backup. That’s not the most exciting job in the NBA, but the Kings are not a deep team, so Robinson should find himself in a consistent role.

Hamidou Diallo, OKC

Diallo worked his way into a nice boost in playing time during the 2019-20 season, logging 19.5 minutes per contest after seeing just 10.3 minutes per game during his rookie season. On a rebuilding Thunder team, Diallo now projects to open the season at the top of the shooting guard depth chart. Diallo has some holes in his profile — he’s a poor free throw shooter and struggled from three last season — but minutes are king in fantasy basketball, and he should see plenty of them.

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