A constant problem many fantasy basketball owners face is which sleepers are for real, whose breakout games are legit, can players return to form after an injury, and who should be ignored on the waiver wire? These are all valid questions, and often times, players breakout with legendary stat lines. We have seen one hit wonders in the likes of Lester Hudson and James Anderson, but have also seen players emerge from nowhere to become a consistent force for your fantasy teams, including Jeremy Lin, Nikola Vucevic, and Nikola Pekovic. Rather than having to take a gamble on certain players, we do the work for you and simplify things, telling you which trending sleepers are legit, and which are not.
Editor's Note: This article also appeared on The Sports Corner, a partner fantasy sports blog.
NBA Sleepers & Waiver Wire - Who To Target
Derrick Williams - SF/PF, Sacramento Kings - 19% owned
The former University of Arizona star, and second overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011, has been a major disappointment thus far. He was traded to Sacramento earlier this season, and with the Kings clearing room for him to play meaningful minutes, it is a fair question to wonder if he will become fantasy relevant. In his last game, Williams played over 35 minutes for the first time as a member of the Kings, exploding for a career high 31 points on 12/16 shooting with 5 rebounds, 5 steals, and 3 three pointers. Obviously, Williams had the talent to go second overall, and he has proven before that he can go off at a moment's notice. While this is just a small sample, Williams is going to start seeing an uptick in minutes at the Power Forward position, and this fantasy sleeper needs to be owned off the waiver wire in all fantasy basketball leagues with 10 or more owners. His upside and his ability should not be sitting on the waiver wire.
Sleeper Verdict: For real!
Jordan Crawford - PG/SG, Boston Celtics - 68% owned
I'm not quite sure why Jordan Crawford is not a more heralded name amongst fantasy enthusiasts. All Crawford does is produce when given an opportunity, whether it be as a star at Xavier University, as a fill-in guard for the Wizards, or as a go-to player for the Celtics. In three December games this year, Crawford is averaging 23.3 points on a ridiculous 61% shooting, including 4 threes a game on 52.2% shooting, with 6.7 assists, and 3.3 rebounds. To make things even better, he is just turning it over a microscopic 1.3 times in over 34 minutes. He may not help much in steals or blocks, and his numbers will most definitely take a hit when Rondo comes back, but even still, there are no guarantees Rondo comes back fully healthy, or comes back to Boston at all. Crawford's season rank in 9 category leagues is 27 right now, rewarding owners with high third-round value.
Sleeper Verdict: For Real!
Jon Leuer - PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies - 5% owned
Many college basketball enthusiasts will remember Leuer from his Wisconsin days, as he was one of the best Badgers players over the last decade. His transition to the NBA has flown under the radar, mostly because of his career 3.7 PPG average over 74 career NBA games prior to this season. However, over his last four games, the former Buck and Cavalier has averaged an impressive 15 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 steals and blocks. The 28 minutes per game over his last four are also easily the most he's seen in the NBA. While there are reasons to get excited over Leuer's mini breakout, the reality is Marc Gasol is nearing a return, and Zach Randolph is getting back up to speed. With Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos sure to take more minutes going forward as well, it is hard to see Leuer continuing what he has done. Unless you are in a very deep league, leave Leuer on the waiver wire, especially if your league has a maximum pickup limit.
Sleeper Verdict: Fake Hype!
Danny Granger - SF, Indiana Pacers - 46% owned
It is quite remarkable how Danny Granger's fantasy outlook has changed over the past two years. Just a couple years ago, Granger was a lock to be selected in the first three rounds of any fantasy basketball draft, and if you go back a year or two, he was a lock to go inside the top 10. Today, he is only owned in 46% of Yahoo leagues. To be fair, Granger played in just five games last year, and has yet to make an appearance in 2013. With news surfacing recently that Granger is targeting a return on Friday December 13 against Charlotte, many fantasy owners will likely be running the waiver wire to grab him. But is this really a good idea? I mean, if you have someone you're dying to drop - sure, go for it. But the reality is, Granger is now 30 years old coming off a serious injury, and is no longer the top option for the Pacers. In fact, it will be hard to envision a scenario in which Granger will start again, barring an injury. Furthermore, the Pacers are one of the top teams in the NBA right now, so there is no reason to assume they are going to change what they are doing to give a 41% shooter over the last three years his shots. A trade is a possibility, but Granger's days as an elite fantasy option are surely over.
Sleeper Verdict: Fake Hype!
Amar'e Stoudemire - PF/C, New York Knicks - 39% owned
When I started writing about Granger, I knew that I had to include Stoudemire in it as well. Like Mr. Granger, Stoudemire was once considered an elite fantasy option, but thanks to injuries, he has fallen off the fantasy basketball map. His production has been downright awful, averaging just 6.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 0.6 assists in just 15 minutes per game. His knee is too hurt to play in back-to-back games right now, and his age is catching up to him. If there was a silver lining, it would be the fact he is shooting over 50% from the field, and is only taking 5.2 shots per game, but it is fair to wonder if Amar'e will ever get back to playing 30+ minutes a night. At this point, Stoudemire is just a big name NBA player putting up Adam Morrison type numbers, and should be left on the waiver wire, or added by another owner who will waste a bench spot on the former all-star.
Sleeper Verdict: Fake Hype!
Terrence Ross - SG/SF, Toronto Raptors - 8% 0wned
Unless you have been living under a rock the past couple days, you would know that Rudy Gay was traded from Toronto to Sacramento, freeing up a good chunk of minutes, and plenty of shots for the Raptors. Ross, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, has failed to live up to his draft status thus far. However, Ross has shown glimpses of his potential, and with Gay out of town, Ross could finally get his chance to play consistent NBA minutes. In his first game as a Raptor without Rudy Gay this season, Ross put up 11 points along with 2 threes, 2 steals, and three rebounds in 28 minutes. If he can carve out a significant role with the Raptors the rest of the way, there is no reason why he can't put up 14 points, 5 rebounds, nearly two steals, and two threes a game. Ross is an uber-athletic guard/forward who is learning how to take his potential and put it on the court. He is worth a look as a sleeper in most standard leagues based on his upside, and his opportunity to play more minutes going forward, especially if Toronto continues to "tank". Feel free to take a flier on Ross off the fantasy waiver wire.
Sleeper Verdict: Sorta Real!
Louis Williams - PG/SG, Atlanta Hawks - 22% owned
Every fantasy basketball enthusiast knows Louis Williams. Once a player with the potential to put up crazy good fantasy numbers in Philly, Williams has resorted to being a sixth man type player in the NBA over the past few seasons. He was actually producing solid numbers before tearing his ACL last year, which many thought would stunt his growth as a player, and leave him as a career role player. However, Williams has proven he can score when he gets hot, and he will have that opportunity in Atlanta now that he is fully recovered from his knee injury and his minutes restrictions are no longer an issue. Right now, Williams is the Hawks top bench option, and will see steady minutes playing behind Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague. Should one of them get injured, Williams will enter must-start territory in fantasy leagues. For now, owners can expect 14 points, 2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1 steal, and 1.5 threes per game. This sleeper should be owned in all formats due to his upside and scoring ability, and should be picked up off the waiver wire.
Sleeper Verdict: For Real!