Fantasy sleepers: Northwest Division

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My NBA fantasy sleepers tour concludes with a spin through the Northwest Division. I'm targeting the players likely to perform well above the level that they'll be selected in fantasy drafts. This stop is backcourt-heavy, with guards comprising four of the five nominations. Take a look:

Luke Ridnour – Seattle hopes they have the second coming of Steve Nash in Ridnour, who has been awarded the starting point guard role. The Sonics also are trying to tweak their offense so that the ball is in the hands of the point guard more often. Ridnour only played 30-plus minutes in two games as a rookie, but averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, 4.0 boards and 1.5 steals in those contests. He has bulked up this season to help endure the rigors of more playing time, and he can expect something in the neighborhood of 28-33 minutes a night. Keep him in mind as one of your late-round gambles.

Carlos Arroyo – Arroyo recently received praise from head coach Jerry Sloan, who stated that Arroyo appears to be in better shape than he was a year ago and is more confident. Given that Sloan doesn't hand out a lot of compliments, his comments shouldn't be taken lightly. Arroyo does appear ready for a breakout season. He's coming off an Olympics that saw him pace Puerto Rico with an average of 18 points per game. On the Jazz, he's running unopposed for the starting point guard role as backup Raul Lopez is battling a knee injury. The platoon of a year ago appears a thing of the past. That means that Arroyo can expect at least a boost of 5-10 minutes on his minutes-per-game average, which was at 28 last season. Don't be surprised if he produces 15 points, 7 assists and solid shooting percentages. If he does that, he's easily a top-15 fantasy point guard.

Voshon Lenard – Lenard may go undrafted in fantasy leagues, but he's likely to be picked up for a few roto "10-day contracts." When teams find themselves lacking in scoring and, particularly, treys, Lenard will be the name they call for help. He averaged 14.5 points in 70 games as a starter for Denver last season, and he also threw in 1.5 three pointers. Lenard is one of the more streaky players in the league, so pay him close attention. He averaged 19.6 points for the month of December. If you see him top-20 points a couple times in a week's span, pick him up and enjoy him while the ride lasts.

Derek Anderson – Anderson already has a few positives to offer fantasy owners. He can be expected to deliver 14 points, 4-5 assists, 1-1.5 steals and treys and a free-throw percentage in the .850 range. If he can move a field goal percentage that sat at .376 last season north of .420, he'd likely be a top 20 fantasy shooting guard. He's capable, having shot .427 two years ago. He's recovered from a herniated disk problem that limited him to 51 games last season, and a return to health could mean a return to a more palatable shooting percentage.

Eddie Griffin – Griffin chose to sign with Minnesota so that he could play with Kevin Garnett. It was a wise choice for the much-maligned 22-year old. He couldn't ask for a better mentor. Griffin's many off-the-court problems can be largely attributed to a lack of guidance and maturity, and Garnett's work ethic and commitment to the game could finally be what puts Griffin's career back on track. Griffin has had a strong preseason and is in line to secure a backup role. But he'll be more talented than most backups in the league. He can do just about anything on the court, from blocking shots to stepping out and knocking down three pointers. If he can ultimately carve out 25 minutes a night, fantasy owners will want to pay him attention. He's averaged that for his career and has been able to manage 1.6 blocks and 1.0 treys with those minutes.

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