I don’t use the term “sleeper” because every season fantasy analysts develop a list of sleepers, and those players tend to get over drafted, to the point that they aren’t sleepers anymore. Sleepers also tend to be young, high upside/low floor players, who are great when they hit, but usually miss. Instead, in this article I will go against the grain, and identify players who are undervalued both by the public and the experts. As these players are slept on by both noobs and experts alike, they are true sleepers. Remember these ratings are for 9 cat roto.
Terry Rozier, top 30: 22/4.5/5.5; 3.2/1.4/.3; 44/87/1.8
Scary Terry was once so nicknamed for shaky FG, which is typical of young guards. Since then, he has quietly moved up the draft board by steadily improving both counting stats and efficiency. With Miles Bridges in hot water, Rozier will likely increase in usage, albeit perhaps at the expense of efficiency. He was ranked 30 last year and does a few things well that provide sneaky value in 9 cat roto.
Only 24 players got 90+ steals last season, of whom only 12 dished 320+ assists, and of those dozen players Terry was the player who turned the ball over the least. There are few players with an A/TO ratio of 3+. Although Terry’s assists and steals don’t jump out at you, it’s difficult to find primary ballhandlers who turn the ball over less than twice per game. Although Terry’s 1.3 TO will increase if he increases usage, I still project him at under 2 TO per game, with an A/TO ratio of 3+. This is an obscure stat that only matters in leagues that count A/TO ratio and 9 cat roto. In H2H, turnovers are often tied to games played and you want your team to play more games than your opponent, so turnovers isn’t a focus. But in roto turnovers are as equally weighted as any other category.
Rozier is also a superlative scorer. 26 players scored over 1400 points last season. Of those fewer than 10 also made 200 threes, one of them being Rozier. I consider Rozier to be a top 10 scorer when you account for threes and a top 10 distributor when you account for A/TO.
Last season he averaged 19.3 ppg, 21.0 over the final two months of the season, and his scoring should go up with Bridges out. I don’t think he will take all the usage, some of it will go to Hayward (if healthy), and some to other players, but I certainly don’t see him scoring under 20 ppg.
Jrue Holiday, top 30: 19/4.5/6.5; 2/1.6/ .6; 50/78/2.5
It may appear odd to see Jrue on any sort of “sleeper” list, but the truth is that he is a perennial top 30 player who is consistently being drafted in the fourth round this year.
One of the easiest ways to ensure efficiency in 9 cat roto is to draft guards with abnormally high FG% and bigs with abnormally high FT%. If Kristaps weren’t so injury prone, he would be a true unicorn. He projects to shoot around 5/6 from the line. If you draft him as your primary center and build your team reasonably, you should win FT%. Jrue doesn’t quite provide that level of boost to your FG% but he ranks only behind DeRozan for positive FG% impact for a guard, and DeRozan is more of a wing.
Jrue does everything else well. His scoring is fine for someone taken in that range. He is one of the most consistent producers of 6+ assists/1.6 steals per game. His rebounds and blocks are good for a guard. He’s absolute roto gold and it’s bizarre watching him fall in drafts.
John Collins, top 50: 16/8/1.5; 1.2/.6/1.2; 53/80/1.3
Collins might be another head scratcher as to why I would call him a “sleeper” but I’ve seen him go past sixty in drafts, which is criminal. Part of the reason why he falls so far is that the default player rankings for most platforms are a hybrid between points, 8 cat, and 9 cat settings. Collins is unremarkable in any format other than 9 cat roto, but in that format he shines.
If you recall what I said earlier, an easy way to ensure high percentages in roto is by drafting guards with high FG% and bigs with good FT%. There were around 30 players with a z score of .85+ in FG%. Of those, the only ones with positive FT% impact were Jokic, Towns, Durant and Jonas Valanciunas (who could be a sleeper himself if people are devaluing him too much due to Zion’s return). Although Collins was just barely in the red in FT% this year, he was over 80% the previous two seasons, and I expect him to bounce back. Additionally, fewer than 40 players got a full block last season and of those under 20 also got a three. While his counting stats are unremarkable, they’re decent, and his efficiency makes him a great piece to a 9 cat roto team.
But the real reason why I put him here is that he and Jonas Valanciunas represent the last two bigs who produce anything noteworthy without killing your FT%. If it’s the 5th round and you need a second big, you’re compelled to pick one of them.
Concern over him losing value to Dejounte is overblown. He was once a 20/10 candidate who already lost rebounds to Capela and usage to Trae. In other words, he’s already lost whatever value he was going to lose. He could be a third rounder on another team, top 60 is his floor.
Klay Thompson, top 60: 21/4/3; 3.6/.8/.6; 47/84/1.5
This is another name you likely thought you’d never see on a sleeper list. But the truth is that the public is overvaluing him. Last season he finished 59th in 9 cat roto, coming off an injury, and I routinely see him being drafted in the 7th round.
Klay was once considered a third-round pick, back when threes were scarcer. Since then, the average for threes has inched up from 1.1 to 1.7. Yet Klay also shoots more threes than he did before, he averaged 4 threes per game the last two months of the season.
His injury clearly impacted him. The entire last two months of last season he got fewer than 10 steals. Combined. I expect that to climb back up to his historical average. He shot at a 43% clip last season and again I expect him to return to his historical average. He doesn’t need to improve at all to be a top 40 player, he just needs to be healthy.
D’Angelo Russell, top 60: 19/3/9; 3/1.1/.3; 43/83/3
This might be one where I go with the consensus view. Minnesota had one of the best offenses last year, at the fastest pace. They nearly upset Memphis, their main weakness being interior defense, and Gobert is the best defensive big of this generation. Mitchell was notoriously frugal passing to Gobert last season, but Russell won’t be. PatBev is out of the way so Russell will be the primary point guard. ANT and KAT will both soak up some usage, but Gobert needs to be set up, whether through the pick and roll or otherwise, and Russell projects to be the primary ball handler on the team that projects to be the fastest pace team.
A good offensive team can average 25-30 assists per game. KAT will get 4, ANT should improve to 5, Kyle Anderson will get a few either starting or off the bench. That leaves 12-15 for the rest of the team and Minnesota doesn’t have anyone who can really take opportunity from DLO.
The sky is the limit for how many assists Russell can get. He’s quick and can often get to the rim, although he is a poor finisher. He’s a good ball handler, a good passer, and the opportunity will be there. Russell can play off ball as well and is a solid if unremarkable three-point shooter. This is the season for young DLO, the Wolves have a heap of expectations on their shoulders, and he’s the primary ballhandler for a team who could make a deep run.
Gordon Hayward, top 75: 19/6/4; 2/1/.4; 46/84/2
This guy can’t stay healthy, so it’s easy to see why he has fallen under the radar. On the other hand, he put together two top fifty seasons prior to this one, and Bridges will be out. That pushes everyone in Charlotte up. The person who should benefit the most from this is Hayward and this is his golden opportunity to prove himself.
Two bigs I’m confident will exceed their ADP are Kristaps Porzingis and Myles Turner. But you can hardly call them sleepers, with them their missed games is not an if, but a when. Losing your third or fourth player to injury sucks. But Hayward is taken in what I call the dart throw rounds, where you throw a dart at your draft board, and just hope it hits a top 50 player. If he gets injured or sucks, you just bench him.
Lauri Markkanen, top 75: 16/6/1; 2.5/.8/.5; 46/87/1
Lauri’s progression has come full circle. A few years ago, you could find him on sleeper lists, but he just hasn’t turned into what analysts hoped he would be. He isn’t that unicorn who can block shots. He plays SF now and is in danger of losing playing time.
But he put out a good season last year and still has room to grow. If you stop thinking of him as a big and think of him as a forward, he’s a remarkable player. Six boards and half a block isn’t good for a big, but it’s excellent for a forward you can take in the 8th round.
Lauri was top 40 in FT% impact. Of those players, only 8 grabbed more boards than him. The players who grabbed more boards than him AND had a better FT% impact AND made more threes were just James Harden, Jayson Tatum, Paul George, and LaMelo Ball. That’s good company to keep. Remember what I said about forwards and bigs who shoot well from the line? Throw him into you PF spot and win FT%.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, top 75: 16/4/3.5; 3/1.1/.3; 44/85/1.2
This is another example of the public overreacting to a trade and him not being sexy enough to be notable to the experts. He’s been top 70 for two seasons now and finished the last two months of last season hot, top 30. Atlanta added Murray but have little depth. It would make sense for him to come off the bench as a super sixth man. He can play three positions and even handle the ball, so he should have no problem getting 28-29 mpg. Granted, there are many three-point specialists in this range. Few can quite hit his scoring, threes, assists, and steals averages though.
Josh Hart, top 100: 14/6/4; 1.5/1.1/.3; 50/76/1.5
Hart is a guy who often goes undrafted but is one of the first players off the wire. Last season he went bonkers when Portland was tanking toward the end of the season. With a full cadre, Hart will not be nearly as good as he was late last year when he put up top 60 numbers. But Portland believes in him enough to trade for him and give him a big contract. They’re trying to make the most of Lillard’s precious time and believe Hart is a solid veteran who gives them the most potential. While he doesn’t hit as many threes as other late round wings, that buffers his FG%. He’s one of the best rebounding wings in the league and a good ballhandler.
Brandon Clarke, top 125: 12/6/1.5; .5/.8/1.2; 63/70/1
With JJJ out, someone in Memphis will step up, and Clarke is probably the best player in real life to do so. Nothing screams spectacular about him, but anyone capable of getting over a block should be drafted.
Dart Throws: Jonathan Isaac, Tari Eason
Isaac is obvious. If he plays, he should return top 50 value. The last few rounds should be used solely for players who have the highest upside, particularly in roto where you only start ten players.
Eason is bigger, stronger version of Lord Covington. I think he will be a good player but with rookies you never know. He could be fail to get playing time this year, he could turn it on toward the end of the season, or he could be good. While being a rookie carries risk, he’s a good grab and stash for roto. If he gets playing time then you play him, if he doesn’t then he can sit on your bench all season, and at least you deny someone else the opportunity of grabbing him off the wire.
Will Barton 15/5/5; 2/1/.4; 43/80/2
Kyle Anderson 12.5/6/4; 1.5/1.2/.8; 47/78/1.5:
I listed this pair as honorable mentions because there is no big secret about these two. Both Anderson and Barton have put up top 75 seasons when given the opportunity.
Barton moved to a Washington team without a top point guard. Morris was one of the best bench PGs last season, maybe he starts, or maybe the Wizards think he’s better off the bench. Beal is more of a scorer than Barton, so Barton could be the primary distributor. If it was the 10th round and I needed dimes, I would pick Barton over any of the lower tier point guards as I trust Barton more than lower tier point guards and I think he will put up more counting stats.
The problem with Barton in 9 cat roto is that usually you can use your 10th slot to make up some ground in turnovers, while Barton is a bit of a FG/TO drag. I’d likely prefer Eason or Isaac for upside as a stash and hold in roto, even though I think Barton has a higher floor, and I think he will finish in the top 100. I would love to have Barton in H2H because he puts up counting stats.
In roto Anderson has more upside than Barton due to his stocks and a higher floor due to being more efficient, although Barton will put up more counting stats. We don’t know if he will start or not, but it really doesn’t matter if he gets 25mpg. Although the Gobert trade was the biggest move of the offseason, Minnesota gave up depth in the deal, making the Anderson signing one of the underrated pickups. I see him go undrafted in some mocks, but he should be picked up. The ability to grab a guy like Barton or Anderson for a couple bucks is a good motivator to go Stars n Scrubs.
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