The sun is hot on the backs of the men as they wait. They’ve been at it for two weeks now–still nothing. Doubt has crept into their minds. Some of them doubt there’s anything in this water but rocks and more water. Some of them doubt their wives will understand if they have to tell them even once more that this trip west has been for naught thus far. What none of them doubts for a moment is that they have any choice but to stick their pans in the water and keep waiting.

Until this hot morning. One of the men feels a little thud in his pan. Oh, it’s just going to be another rock. They’re all rocks. But he checks because only a fool wouldn’t check.

And there it is: a sleeper.

By God, he’s got a sleeper. This climactic moment, the one that he has thought about for every waking moment since he’s come to this river and plenty of the sleeping moments too, it’s finally happened. And what does he do?

He sticks it in his pocket and acts like nothing has happened. He knows how desperate these men around him are. Everybody came here looking for sleepers, all knowing that there wouldn’t be enough to go around. The man has gotten his, and he’ll be damned if anybody else is going to get a sniff of it.

If this all seems a tad dramatic, I hate to say it but you may not care about your draft as much as some members of your league. As nice as it feels to draft a player that should have gone ten spots earlier (or for you auction drafters, should have gone for a much higher price), there is something even more exhilarating about getting a player at his going rate when you just know that he’ll be worth so much more once the games get going. It feels like you’re committing a crime and everybody is letting you get away with it.

With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about which players you’ll want to keep your eye out for when the draft comes around. We’ll kick things off today with five players you can expect to land in the earlier part of your draft before making our way to the middle rounds, late rounds, and deeper leagues in upcoming articles.

“Early-round sleeper” may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, but the beginning of a draft is where it can feel like there is no room for mistakes. As much as I love acting like a know-it-all and saying things like “the middle rounds are where leagues are really won” or “Oh, you don’t know about this guy? Don’t worry, you’ll know about him soon”, I know as well as everybody else that the first few rounds are the most important. When your early-round picks don’t perform (or worse, get injured), it has the potential to derail your entire season.

What we’re looking at today are guys that you should be able to get in the first five rounds of your draft that are going later than they should. Obviously, most drafts are still pretty far away, so keep in mind that things may change as the season approaches. Still, this is the time to get started on your draft research. What better place to start?

Kawhi Leonard

Early indications say that Leonard will be drafted somewhere between fifth and 10th in most leagues, so there’s no guarantee that he’ll be available when it’s your turn to pick. Here’s the thing: even if you land him with the fifth pick, you might be getting a steal.

Last season, Leonard was the fourth best player according to the fantasy basketball player rater here on The projections (9cat) for this season have him expected to finish as the second-best player, trailing only Kevin Durant. I can understand how people may prefer Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Stephen Curry instead of Leonard, as those players are essentially flawless fantasy options.

After that? Leonard is going to give you solid contributions in at least eight of nine categories with as little risk as there is. For all the appeal of guys that occasionally set the world on fire like James Harden and Russell Westbrook, there is nothing quite like selecting a player in the first round that sets you up beautifully in the second. In that regard, this is your guy.

Chris Paul

If you’re worried about Paul seeing dips in production because of his new pairing with Harden in the backcourt, don’t be. There are enough stats to go around for high-caliber guards in a Mike D’Antoni offense. Paul will still give you about 10 assists and two steals every night while likely shooting more threes than ever before. I’m hesitant to say that his field goal percentage should go up considering he has been good on that front for years, but his efficiency definitely won’t be going down.

Last season, Paul finished as the eighth-best fantasy player in the NBA. He is projected to finish tenth according to FB-Ninja. So why in the world is it looking like he’ll be available in the second round of most drafts, after brilliant but flawed point guards like John Wall and Damian Lillard? Yes, Paul is quite a bit older than those guys, but if you’re expecting a major drop off for the most reliable point guard in the game, you will almost certainly be proven wrong.

If he’s sitting there in the second round of your draft, don’t get fancy. Just take him and reap the benefits.

Kyle Lowry

Lowry has been surging in the seasons where we’d generally expect to see some declines. That will happen eventually, but there haven’t been signs of it yet. On top of his already stellar counting stats, last season marked a career-high in field goal percentage for Lowry at 46.4 percent.

Last season, Lowry finished 14th among all fantasy players. FB-Ninja projections have him finishing 19th this season. As it so happens, that right around the ceiling of where he is expected to go in drafts. He is a good bet to finish in the same territory as guards like Lillard and Kyrie Irving, yet he is going almost a full round later. Do the math.

Otto Porter Jr.

It seems that Porter is set to be one of the more divisive players in drafts this year. He’s not really stellar in any category, nor does he have the name recognition of many players being drafted near him. Use this to your advantage. He is another player that does you very little harm while doing a deceptive amount of good.

He won’t score like other players being drafted in the fourth round, but he’ll get you threes and steals as a small forward without sacrificing your field goal percentage or rebounds. Most importantly, he never turns the ball over. Ever. If your league counts turnovers, you are plopping a whole bunch of statistics onto your team without giving anything up in the turnover department. It’s a statistic that many people overlook when drafting, which may account for why a player that finished 21st in turnover leagues last season should be available with the 30th pick.

Admittedly, Porter loses some of his luster if your league doesn’t count turnovers. If you’re in an eight-category league, you should probably ignore this particular tip. If you’re in a nine-category, Porter resembles the best value of all the players listed in this article.

If you haven’t try fb-ninja draft tool it’s best time to do it. Otto Porter is one the players which fit great with others players.

Al Horford

Horford is what I like to think of as an inverted big man. He doesn’t get a ton of rebounds and his field goal percentage has declined significantly each of the past three seasons. However, he hits three-pointers and gets assists like a decent forward while keeping you afloat in free-throw percentage.

Really, it may be best to think of him as a small forward that you get to plop into your center slot. He pairs excellently with early picks like Wall and Jimmy Butler that are a bit lacking in threes, or he can put you over the top in the small-guy stats if you drafted somebody like Curry early on.

Best of all, Horford will be waiting for you in the fourth round despite being projected to finish 29th among all fantasy players this season. At a position that can be as finicky as center, don’t sleep on what Horford has been bringing to the table for years.

Posted in Strategy