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Fantasy Basketball Rankings Analysis: NBA Sleepers and Targets for Early Yahoo! Drafters

There are some crazy people out there who get excited when the NFL season starts, simply because it means the NBA season is right around the corner. I’m one of those people. There’s nothing like a TNT Thursday night, or ABC Sunday afternoon featuring I don’t care what teams! Just give some NBA action and I’m good.

That said, the start of the NFL season also means it’s time to start preparing for NBA fantasy drafts. If you’re like me, you take pride in finding value in players that are going way later than they should be. As always, some websites have rankings that don’t really add up -- especially so early in the preseason -- and it’s up to us fantasy basketball professionals to pounce on opportunities to take advantage of.

Let’s take a look at some players that Yahoo! isn’t valuing correctly, leaving the door wide-open to peg these “sleepers” as draft-night targets in early pre-season drafts.

Note: All default ranks and position eligibility based on Yahoo! leagues as of Sunday 9/25/2016.


Fantasy Basketball Sleepers for Early Yahoo! Drafters

Myles Turner, PF/C, Indiana Pacers (Yahoo! Rank: 107)

Myles Turner was drafted 11th-overall by the Pacers in 2015, and the 20-year-old was thought to be a long-term project. Turner seemed to have a different plan for himself.  He got a lot better as the season went on, forcing himself into the rotation.

Turner averaged just over 20 minutes a game before the all-star break, but his minutes increased to over 25 a night post-break. The bump in minutes didn’t result in a lot more production numbers-wise, but he earned himself a place in former coach Frank Vogel's good graces, culminating in a huge role in the Pacers’ first-round series with Toronto.

Turner averaged 10.3 Pts, 0.7 Ast, 5.5 Reb, 1.4 Blk and 0.4 Stl in 22:47 a night last year, while shooting 49.8% from the floor and 72.7% from the stripe. Turner played roughly 28 minutes a night in the seven-game series versus the Raptors, and he averaged 10.3 Pts, 6.4 Reb and an incredible 3.29 Blk. His shot attempts per game increased from 8.8 in the regular season to 10.1 in the playoffs.

The Pacers made a lot of moves this offseason, acquiring the likes of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, but Turner will be a big part of the Indiana franchise for years to come, and you can bet he will continue to be a featured part of their offense all season. Expect Turner to improve on all of his totals from last year as he slides into the role of starting center after the departure of Ian Mahinmi. He will be a force in the rebounding and blocked shots categories as the primary rim protector, while providing reliable shot percentages as he improves his offensive game under the mentoring of veteran reserve Jefferson. It’s okay to reach for him in the middle rounds of your draft, and when all is said and done, you should have a gem on your roster.


Harrison Barnes, SF/PF, Dallas Mavericks (118)

Harrison Barnes hasn’t produced the numbers that scream out “max player”, but that’s been primarily because of the Golden State team he played on over the course of his first four seasons. Barnes has increased his minutes per game, assists per game, points per game and three pointers made per game every year, and you can count on the Mavericks showcasing the 24-year-old at every opportunity they get this year.

As long as Dirk Nowitzki is still in the NBA, the Mavericks will be his team. However, Barnes has earned the respect of Dirk and the Dallas coaching staff due to his work ethic. Barnes can be counted on to try and earn every dollar of owner Mark Cuban’s money, and the Mavs and fantasy owners will be able to reap the rewards.

While Barnes averaged just 11.7 PPG, 1.8 APG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.2 3PM on 46.6% shooting in 2015-16, those numbers could increase exponentially has his job title changes from being a role player to a franchise cornerstone. Look for Barnes to play 35-plus minutes a night, and have every opportunity to lead the Mavs in scoring while contributing a couple of assists a night, six-plus rebounds, 1.5-plus threes and some decent percentages. Barnes is much better than his current Yahoo! ranking suggests, and he will likely prove that all season long.


D’Angelo Russell, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (125)

There were times early last season when it looked like D’Angelo Russell was going to wind up being a questionable pick in the second slot of the 2015 draft. But when all was said and done, Russell produced a rookie season that saw him average 13.2 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG, and 1.6 3PM on 41% shooting. And that was in the throes of the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, where every member of the Lakers took a backseat to the legend. Couple that with ex-coach Byron Scott’s perceived disdain for younger players, and it wasn’t a bad season at all for the rookie.

Still just 20-years-old, Russell will look to take a giant leap forward under the tutelage of new coach Luke Walton. The Lakers will likely spend the entire season developing their young core, and Russell will be right in the midst of that. After the All-Star break last season, Russell averaged 15.1 PPG in just over 30 minute, and connected on 38.9% of his three-point attempts. It’s not out of the question for Russell to average 17-plus points this season, while having an outside shot at five-plus assists and five-plus rebounds a night. That alone would result in huge value for the second-year pro. If he can improve on his field goal percentage and turnover total, Russell is staring a big season right in the face with plenty of upside to land in the top 50 fantasy players. Don’t be afraid to reach a bit for him on draft night, well ahead of his current Yahoo! default rank.


Derrick Williams, SF/PF, Miami Heat (265)

Derrick Williams is currently ranked right around the likes of Jonas Jerebko and Anthony Tolliver. On the surface, his 9.3 PPG, 0.9 APG and 3.7 RPG from 2015-16 might make that ranking look accurate, but this is all about this season. Williams was initially signed as a depth guy by the Heat, but with Chris Bosh’s season and career in jeopardy, the 2011 2nd-overall pick (who is still just 25-years-old) will look to take advantage of a very big opportunity.

Williams has never averaged more than 12 PPG and 5.5 RPG in a season (he did that in 2012-13), but that could very well change this year. Williams finished the season putting up 14.2 PPG, 1.2 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.7 3PM and 50.8% FG in April of 2016, and also put up 13.1 PPG, 1.1 APG and 5.7 RPG in games he started last year for the Knicks.

Williams finds himself in a more ideal situation with the Heat, and 14-plus PPG, six-plus RPG, a decent FG% and a few 3PM are not out of the realm of possibility. He likely won’t provide many steals or blocked shots, but what he contributes in other categories could make him a monster steal as he’s going undrafted in most leagues at the moment.


By popular demand, RotoBaller has aggregated all of our fantasy basketball NBA waiver wire pickups into a running list of NBA waiver options, so bookmark the page and check back often for updates.