13 Early Fantasy Basketball Sleepers (2022)
Where are you going, Kevin Durant? Did the Indiana Pacers ruin the Phoenix Suns’ dream of landing one of the best players of all time?
What about you, Donovan Mitchell? Is New York really a lock to land the dynamic — but flawed — guard?
OK, that last part is exaggerated, but the rest is valid. And it’s why we are at a standstill right now.
Even still, we have a good idea of the landscape for a lot of teams with the moves — or lack thereof — that they made with the NBA Draft and free agency.
So while yes, we have pieces we are still waiting to fall into place and we are a couple of months away from training camp, it’s never too early to prepare for the upcoming fantasy season by taking an early look at some possible sleepers.
Not only did the Nuggets trade away Monte Morris for KCP, but they inked him to an extension, too.
On a fully healthy squad, he may be the fifth option — perhaps fourth since I’ve made my feelings about Aaron Gordon very well known. But the thing is, we are assuming that Michael Porter Jr. is fully healthy. We are assuming that Jamal Murray is fully recovered from his ACL injury.
The Nuggets are one of the eight teams or so who have a legitimate shot at the title this year, so even if Porter and Murray are healthy, expect the focus to be on the playoffs for Denver and for them to give both players maintenance days.
Enter KCP, who will not only be starting for the Nuggets but will bring a needed three-point presence for them, too. He’s inconsistent, but he’s going to help you in scoring and three-pointers.
On the flip side, we have Morris — as well as Will Barton — going to Washington. Washington signed Bradley Beal to a max deal, which was a damned if you do, damned if you don’t move. Now that the franchise is hamstrung again, they’ll need to count on big contributions from their role players.
Enter Morris, who should start alongside Beal at point guard.
Now, he didn’t have a big role for Denver in the playoffs, but he gives Washington a true point guard to play with Beal.
It’s only Summer League, of course, but rookie Johnny Davis didn’t do anything to instill confidence that he’s a Game 1 option for Washington, which clears the path for Morris to take on a big role in D.C.
They do have a trio of impressive rookies — Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley — but we know the track record when it comes to the Spurs and rookies playing. I’d argue that Sochan is ready defensively, but his offensive game has a ways to go.
So the Spurs are going to need someone to man the offense and set up the scoring options they do have. Enter Jones, who is in his third year out of Duke.
Granted, he’s still more of a deep-league guy until we really see something from him, but he’s the de facto option for San Antonio. They aren’t having Wesley or Romeo Langford run the offense.
Speaking of Spurs, Vassell is one of the bright spots on the team and a player I expect to take a big step forward in his third year.
In Year 2, we saw Vassell’s scoring, field goal attempts, and usage all climb, and we saw his defensive wins shares go up from 1.1 to 2.0. If we know anything about Coach Pop, it’s that he needs his young guys to play good defense to stay on the court.
Vassell and Johnson should lead the way for fantasy managers for the Spurs.
A rookie? A non-lottery rookie?
What do we always talk about, class?
That’s right — opportunity.
That’s what Kessler has awaiting him in Utah after the Rudy Gobert trade. Kessler isn’t necessarily a great player, but at 7-foot-1, he’s going to rack up the blocks — he’s an elite shot-blocker — and rebounds when he’s on the court.
The offense has a ways to go for Kessler, but getting those much-needed blocks raises his stock for fantasy right out of the gate.
Last year was a bad year for Green. There’s no way around that. But that led to the Warriors scooping him up. And if we know anything, we know that the Warriors are going to get the most out of their players — especially rotational role players.
Step on down, Green. He’s going to fill the Otto Porter role from last year, and while we are expecting second-year players like Moses Moody (one of my favorite sleepers) and Jonathan Kuminga (so talented) to take steps forward, Green is viable as a late-round pick in 12-team leagues.
This isn’t just about the Summer League where he showed out — but it’s about ushering in the next Golden State generation. Kuminga gets most of the headlines — and rightfully so — but don’t forget how highly-touted Moody was heading into the draft last year.
He has a locked-in rotational role for the Warriors, and 2022-2023 is going to be the start of the breakout for Moody.
I like Jake LaRavia. I like David Roddy. I like Kenneth Lofton Jr. But Williams is going to be the player for the Grizzlies to count on with the departure of Kyle Anderson and the injury to Jaren Jackson Jr.
Williams played a big role for the Grizzlies down the stretch and was able to get some playoff experience, as well.
Last year, he said he was content if he just sat in the corner for spot-up three-pointers, but as we saw as the season went on, he became a pivotal piece for the Grizzlies’ open-court, fast-break attack.
He’s still young. He’s still developing. But we’re going to see the development take the next step this year. The Grizzlies need him to repeat their 2021-2022 success.
- Isaiah Jackson (C – IND)
- James Bouknight (SG – CHA)
- Alex Caruso (SG – CHI)
- Patrick Williams (SF/PF – CHI)
- Jalen Williams (SG – OKC)
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