Fantasy Basketball Sleepers: Guards
Ah, sleepers. Everyone loves them, and everyone wants a few of them on their fantasy rosters. Hitting on a few sleeper picks can pay big dividends later in the season.
Anyone can draft LeBron James or Russell Westbrook in the first round. That’s not what wins fantasy championships. Grabbing guys like the quartet below and getting considerable value out of them is how great fantasy rosters are made.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million more times. In today’s NBA, the guard position is the most important. That is 100% the case in fantasy basketball as well.
If you don’t have a solid core of guards, success will be hard to come by. The below four guards won’t lead your core but are great options to round it out.
Dennis Smith Jr. (PG – DAL)
On paper, this year’s rookie class looks like it’s going to be one of the best in recent years. There was plenty of buzz at the top with star guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball garnering most of the headlines, but the rookie that could provide the most value in fantasy this season is the ninth overall pick, Dennis Smith Jr.
The two main ingredients in a player’s fantasy value are talent and opportunity. Both of those are very apparent with Smith Jr.
He played one season at North Carolina State and averaged 18.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.2 APT, 1.7 3PG, and 1.9 SPG on 46% shooting. Not too shabby, right? Well, that’s exactly the kind of upside he has during his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks are an aging team, miles away from contending in the loaded Western Conference. You can even make the argument that Smith Jr. is already the most talented player on the Mavericks’ roster.
Dallas has no reason to ease him in. They’re going to have the ball in his hands a lot running the offense.
Smith’s explosiveness and playmaking abilities are going to help him rack up the counting stats this season. There’s always some growing pains with rookies, especially point guards.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with Smith. He was a subpar free throw shooter at NC State, shooting only 71.5% and scouts question how his outside shot will translate to the NBA.
Those are valid concerns, but the upside here is too big to pass up. Smith is a fantasy gem that can put up mid-round value for only a late-round price tag. Don’t sleep on him on Draft Day as he can provide just as much value as Fultz and Ball.
Avery Bradley (SG – DET)
For most of his career, Avery Bradley has been considered a defensive stalwart with not much offensive upside. Not anymore. That defensive prowess is still there, but Bradley has evolved into a reliable offensive threat over the past few seasons.
After being the second or third option at best on a spread out Boston offense, Bradley is now going to be counted on to do a lot more on the offensive end in Detroit. Last season with Boston, he averaged career highs in points (16.3), three-pointers made (2.0), field goal percentage (46.3%), rebounds (6.1), and assists (2.2). Expect a lot of those to go up this season.
Bradley consistently showed that when called upon, he can be a 20 PPG scorer in this league. With the expected added usage rate, 20 PPG is definitely within the realm of possibility this season. And with that, expect an uptick in threes made to around 2.5 per game.
The 6.1 RPG was easily a career-high form Bradley last season but don’t expect that number this year. Boston was one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA and didn’t have any solid rebounding big men. Almost by default, Bradley needed to crash the boards a lot.
Not this season. Detroit has this rebounding monster you might have heard of named Andre Drummond. When you put it all together, Bradley makes for an excellent mid-round selection.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG – NY)
During the 2016-17 season, Tim Hardaway Jr. played 79 games. Of those, 30 were as a starter and 49 were as a reserve. As you might expect, his numbers were considerably better as a starter than coming off the bench.
Hardaway averaged only 12.6 PPG off the bench last while averaging a much higher 17.5 as a starter. And guess what? He’s going to be a full-time starter this season back with the New York Knicks.
In addition to that, he’s going to be relied upon heavily as the No. 2 scoring option behind Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks are going to be a dumpster fire this season and only have Porzingis and Hardaway as legit scoring options.
Take that 17.5 PPG Hardaway averaged as a starter last season and add about four to six PPG to that. Yes, he has that kind of scoring ability.
Like Bradley above, Hardaway isn’t going to be a big contributor in rebounds or assists. But that’s not why you’re going to be drafting him. You want him on your fantasy roster for his scoring and outside shooting.
As a starter, he averaged around two makes per game from downtown. His much higher usage rate is going to vault that number closer to three per game this season.
Don’t expect much defensively out of Hardaway, but 20-4-4 with around three treys per game is solid mid-round value that can be had with a late-round flier in drafts. Go a round earlier or spend the extra buck or two on Hardaway this season. You’ll be glad you did.
Buddy Hield (SG – SAC)
This is another example of how much opportunity can fuel a player’s fantasy value. A trade deadline deal sent Buddy Hield from New Orleans to Sacramento, and his fantasy value rose dramatically.
It was a small sample size, but Hield averaged 15.1 PPG and 2.4 threes on 48% shooting in 25 games (18 starts) with the Kings. That all came on 29.1 minutes per game.
As he showed during his collegiate career at Oklahoma, Hield is an offensively gifted player that can score in bunches from anywhere on the court.
Sacramento is going to need someone to score points this season. Please tell me who on this roster has any significant offensive potential outside of Hield. I’ll wait.
Can’t think of anyone, can you? That’s because there aren’t any. Hield is undoubtedly the top scoring option on this team and should rack up some solid fantasy stats this season.
You can write down averages of 20+ points, five rebounds, and around three treys per game. Not with a pencil either. Write those down with a permanent sharpie.
Hopefully, you’re able to grab a couple of these guys to round out your guard core on your fantasy roster. Got a question about a player not covered here? Follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.