We are a mere nine days from the start of the regular season and have yet to deploy our annual Sleepers column, the Rolls Royce of Sleepers columns, if you will. So, without any pomp and circumstance, Greg “Ambien” Fox is ready and up to the task. Remember, it was I who announced to the world to take an unknown named LeBron James last year. It was I who said back in ’89 that this Jordan fellow might be worth a mid-round flier. It was I in ’61 who implored fantasy enthusiasts to jump on Wilt the Stilt (those of the female persuasion took me a little too literally). They threw me out of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting in ’83 after I said that Edmund Sherrod would be the next Bob Cousy. I showed them back then and I’ll show you again. So without further ado…
Jarrett Jack, PG, New Orleans – The trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers has opened the door for Jack to start and play big minutes at point guard for the Hornets. The ability and toughness are there for Jack, but I have serious doubts about his basketball IQ. Regardless, there is absolutely no one else at this point to challenge him for minutes, unless Monty Williams decides to move Eric Gordon to the point and Marco Belinelli to shooting guard, a highly unlikely scenario. Jack can score and will likely average 15-16 ppg. His assists should be in the 5.0-6.0 range and he should give you at least a three and a steal per game. Not earth shattering totals, but if he is available in say the eighth round, lasso him as quickly as possible.
Ed Davis, PF, Toronto – Davis has a few things working for him as we head into the new season. First, he has lots of raw ability and works hard to get better. Next, he acquitted himself well as a rookie in ’10-11, averaging 7.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in less than 25 minutes per game and he is committed to continuing his improvement. Finally, his competition for minutes in the frontcourt will come from Amir Johnson, a decent sleeper in his own right, but one who is coming off of ankle surgery, and Andrea Bargnani, who gives the Raptors little in terms of rebounding and interior defense. Davis, who has added some bulk in the offseason, should emerge as a key for this team. I can see him averaging better than 30 minutes a night and posting double-doubles like it’s nobody’s business. I’m buying in the middle rounds.
Shawne Williams, SF, New Jersey – Yesterday, the Nets shrewdly excavated Travis Outlaw and his bloated contract via amnesty, and then signed free agent Shawne Williams, formerly of the Knicks. Williams’ career was taking a Mason Reece-esque turn for the worse before resurrecting himself in a key reserve role last season across the river. He proved he can shoot from long range and block shots, a rare combo package from a small forward, who will also likely qualify at shooting guard. The Nets really don’t have anyone of quality to challenge Williams, and once he gets up to speed, he’ll play 30+ minutes nightly. Consider him a poor man’s Dorell Wright.
Paul George, SG/SF, Indiana – I’m really not sure what Larry Bird is doing in Indiana. He’s taken a page from the Maloofs and has rostered 28 shooting guards and small forwards who all expect signifcant daylight this year. However, George is the real deal. Bird knows it and the Pacers are willing to sacrifice Brandon Rush and the long-suffering Dahntay Jones to make it work for the second-year pro. George can do a little bit of everything, kind of like teammate Danny Granger, except George isn’t a chucker. He even claims that he grew two inches in the offseason to a whopping 6-10! Target him somewhere in the vicinity of rounds 9-11 and expect a breakout.
Brandon Bass, PF, Boston – The Cs didn’t go quietly into the night after not acquiring Chris Paul. They did lose Big Baby Davis to free agency, but have replaced him with Bass, who should fill an important role up front. With the way the schedule stacks up (five games the first eight days), Bass should be set for 25-30 minutes a night. With such a hellish slate, there is no way that Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal will avoid intensive care, so there could be weeks in which Bass plays big minutes. He’s developed a nice little mid-range jumper, he can rebound, block shots and is a solid free throw shooter (82 percent in ’10-11). While others are searching for sexier names in the mid-to-late rounds, look to the Bass Master.
Additional Sleepers: C.J. Miles, SG, Utah; Tyrus Thomas, PF, Charlotte; Gerald Henderson, SG, Charlotte; Derrick Williams, PF, Minnesota
Deep Sleepers: Greivis Vasquez, PG, Memphis; Ekpe Udoh, PF/C, Golden State; Darrell Arthur, PF, Memphis; Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver; Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State