Fantasy Hoops: Sneaky Plays
Thinking outside the proverbial box is an asset to any fantasy basketball owner on draft day. We all want a roster full of proven stars, but as the rounds fly by, owners are charged with weighing risks, then taking risks, in making those late-round decisions. Wise owners don’t immediately discount rookies, veterans and the wide-or-narrow implications of injuries without deep analysis.
HOOPSWORLD decided to take a different approach in identifying certain players who are probably nowhere near the top of fantasy owners’ cheat sheets. These are guys that have real potential to contribute this season; it may work out, it may not, but they are worth consideration. We call them sneaky draft plays.
As always, when we talk fantasy basketball here, it is based on nine-category fantasy scoring leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
Here are our sneaky fantasy draft plays for 2013-14 season:
ALEC BURKS – UTAH JAZZ
Fantasy owners should view Burks in a new light given the injury of his teammate, Trey Burke; in fact, this holds true even without the Burke injury. Burks figures to get plenty of minutes and contribute in multiple areas, including steals, points, three-pointers, assists and rebounds. His ability to add numbers up and down the stat sheet is music to fantasy devotees’ ears. He got physically stronger over the summer while training with John Stockton, and his confidence is soaring. The all-around skills he possesses are leading many to label him Utah’s “x-factor” this season. Burks, now entering his third year, didn’t record head-turning field goal percentages (.329) in the preseason, but this should improve. In 23.9 minutes per game, he averaged 10.0 points (third-highest on the team), 2.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals in seven preseason outings. Keep in mind, this is a Jazz team void of Al Jefferson, Mo Williams, Paul Millsap and Randy Foye. Translation: Burks will benefit by taking a larger piece of the offensive pie, perhaps assuming starting shooting guard duties or serving as the sixth man. Coach Ty Corbin is still sorting it all out. Trey Burke may not return to action until early 2014, giving Burks plenty of time to gain favor with his coach.
ARCHIE GOODWIN – PHOENIX SUNS
Goodwin isn’t a name heard in many fantasy circles. He was a stand-out at the Las Vegas Summer League (13.1 points, .500 in field goal shooting, 3.3 assists), and he may get an opportunity for meaningful playing time in Phoenix. He has the distinction of being the youngest American, then 18, taken in the 2013 NBA Draft (29th pick). At Kentucky, he averaged 14.1 points, 2.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals. The rookie makes no secret of his belief he should have been drafted way earlier, and he’s set on making those passing teams regret their decision. He already has a strong supporter in new Suns coach, Jeff Hornacek, who compares Goodwin to a young Kobe Bryant coming in the league. The two are alike, Hornecek noted, in the way they are constantly absorbing everything thrown at them and their unexpected confidence at such tender ages. There will be plenty of growing pains as Goodwin finds his way, namely on the defensive side. If Hornacek employs a baptism by fire method, expect to see a speedy, athletically gifted, albeit raw, player logging good minutes. He’ll get to the free throw line and give you numbers in many other categories. At 6’5 with a near 6’10 wingspan, the shooting guard might be thrown in with the ones on a consistent basis. This is a team searching for a new direction with new faces and no particular rotation set in stone.
KEVIN SERAPHIN – WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Not exactly a household name, Seraphin’s lack of recognition could work in your favor. Put him on your radar. Now entering his fourth year in the league, Seraphin passed on joining his French national team in EuroBasket 2013 during the offseason specifically to stick around in town to work with the team’s staff at the training facility. He views it as making a sacrifice for a chance to take his NBA game to the next level. This smells of determination to get on the court and stay there. His concentrated preparation may pay off well for owners who take a chance. Seraphin looks to get a real shot with Emeka Okafor out indefinitely with a herniated cervical disc. Okafor’s return date has not been determined; as we know, such condition is an extremely unpredictable situation. In seven preseason games, Seraphin averaged 8.4 points, 1.4 blocks and 6.3 rebounds in 25.9 minutes. He started in two, and figures to have a real opportunity to capture that starting role when the regular season tips off. In eight starts last season (30.8 minutes per game), he averaged 13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. He doesn’t kill you at the foul line (increased to .765 in the preseason from .693 last season) or in shooting efficiencies (.461 in field goals last year). With a new resolve to succeed and the opportunity opening up to him, along with teammates outspokenly devoted to helping him improve on the defensive end, keep Seraphin in mind.
STEVEN ADAMS – OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
The Thunder significantly tested Adams in the preseason, and he was deemed a pleasant surprise. Typically a seven-foot rookie with one season of college ball (Pittsburgh) under his belt would largely remain a project destined to travel back and forth to the NBA Development league in his first year. We predict this will not be the case for 20-year-old Adams. By all accounts, he is far more NBA-ready than previously believed. In seven preseason games, starting in two, Adam averaged 7.9 points, 8.0 rebounds (3.7 offensive) and 1.1 block in 23.4 minutes. With centers Kendrick Perkins sidelined (injured finger in first preseason game), Daniel Orton waived and Hasheem Thabeet not quite living up to his number two draft pick, Thunder coach Scott Brooks turned to the New Zealander to assess his handling of center duties. Turns out, Adams is a multi-talented, athletic freak. He gives the Thunder what they’ve been lacking for so long: someone to catch-and-finish around the rim and to grab offensive boards. Those abilities alone suggest Adams may be firmly introduced into the rotation, perhaps taking Thabeet’s backup spot. Brooks’ exact plans for him once the regular season starts are not clear, but with everything Adams showed, coupled with Oklahoma City’s need at the position, expect to see him on the floor a lot this season. Hopefully, Adams will learn the art of guarding without fouling sooner rather than later.
JOHN HENSON – MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Little attention was given to Henson, the Bucks’ 14th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, last season. His averages of 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 13.1 minutes were nice, but under the Per 36 Minutes test, the numbers jump to 16.5 points and 12.9 rebounds. Those are certainly eye-catching stats, but what are the chances Henson will ever reach anywhere close to those type of minutes? We say yes to at least doubling his previous playing time. The Bucks are on a mission to change the culture. The youth movement is in full swing, and Henson is firmly ensconced in those plans. Coach Larry Drew has been experimenting with various line-ups during the preseason; it’s quite clear Henson’s contribution will be counted on during this season. Whether Henson starts (for the injured stretch four Ersan Ilyasova, who has an unknown return date) or comes off the bench, we expect a sharp increase in minutes. During the six preseason games (Henson started in three), he averaged 10.0 points, 6.7 rebounds (2.2 offensive), 1.8 assists and 1.0 blocks in 25.0 minutes. The 6’11 player with a 7’6 wingspan has upside written all over him. Remember his record line of 25 rebounds, 17 points and seven blocks in 41 minutes last April? There’s just too much to like here.
Other sneaky plays to consider when drafting include: Corey Brewer, Gary Neal, Michael Beasley, Amir Johnson and Dennis Schroder.
We hope spotlighting these players will be helpful in your fantasy draft. Good luck!
Who are your sneaky fantasy draft players this season? Tell us in the comments section below.
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