TUESDAY’S QUESTION: Who are your deep sleepers heading into the season?
It might seem foolish to choose someone from Detroit’s crowded backcourt to be a deep sleeper, but my bromantic feelings for Will Bynum know no bounds. My position is buoyed by the lack of a true point guard on the Pistons, as Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Richard Hamilton will likely share the guard minutes at first before everyone realizes this isn’t going to work. Enter Bynum, who by December will have outplayed Stuckey and possibly all three so badly in practice that they’ll have no choice but to play this sparkplug. Stash him away.
The Houston Rockets roster is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, so take your pick of sleepers from the obvious (Trevor Ariza) to the Australian (David Andersen). My guy is Carl Landry, possibly the eventual starting power forward but undoubtedly Houston’s most dynamic frontcourt player outside of Luis Scola. Landry is an energy player who just needs playing time to put up some worthy fantasy stats, and his main competition seems to be Andersen, Chuck Hayes and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Landry has averaged 12.7 PTS, and 4.9 REB this preseason in 20 minutes per game, and he is a strong percentage guy from the floor and the line. It might be hard for Houston to keep him off the floor.
I’m heaving a hail mary with this one, but Ersan Ilyasova strikes me as an intriguing guy. After refining his game in Europe the last few years, this Turkish power forward has stumbled into what he may think is a Tuesday night pickup game but is in fact the Bucks frontcourt. Kurt Thomas, Hakim Warrick, Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah-a-Moute hopefully don’t strike the fear of whatever diety they worship in Turkey into Ilyasova and he can become a decent contributor. From his tepid preseason, it looks like Ersan has to earn the trust of mad scientist Scott Skiles, meaning he must learn defense and toughness, but Skiles is giving him a long look. Things could get even better for Ilyasova later in the year if the Bucks decide to move Thomas’ expiring contract.
Legend has it that if you stand before a mirror, shut off all the lights and say “Gallinari” three times you’ll awake the next morning with a major mustache. I, for one, refuse to believe that it can do anything to improve my already perfect set of whiskers. I do, however, believe that Danilo Gallinari is well on his way to being one of the better value picks this season. As a rookie, ‘The Rooster’ showed a great shooting touch (44.8 FG%, 44.4 3PT%, 96.3 FT%) in limited run. This season I expect to see similar shooting rates from the 21-year-old stallion. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that Gallinari will likely start the season coming off the bench, but he envisions him starting at some point in the season. I’m guessing that this is a ploy to get Jared Jeffries some early PT in order to package his contract up with Nate Robinson for an expiring contract. But now I’m just making stuff up. Gallinari is going undrafted in 71.6 percent of Mock Draft Central drafts. Even though he’s coming off the bench, it’s not out of the question that he’ll see 22-25 minutes per game. With that you can expect one of the league’s top FT%, 1.5 threes, and a dozen points. Again, not bad for a guy who will most likely go undrafted in your league — not mine!
Anthony Morrow is better than at least one player on your team (12-team, standard rosters). You can be sure of that. The second-year sharpshooter has legit range (led the league in three-point shooting last season at 46.7 percent) and a knack for filling up the stat sheets on occasion. This preseason he has been one of the more impressive players, averaging 19.7 PTS, 3.3 REB, 1.3 STL, 0.83 TO, 54.8 FG%, 51.5 3PT%, and 95.0 FT%. Once the smoke clears and the Warriors figure out where Stephen Jackson is going, you’re going to wish you had jumped on Morrow when you had the chance. There’s no need in holding onto Tracy McGrady (97.0 percent owned in MDC) when you have a young scoring freak like Morrow going undrafted in your league.
DeJuan Blair knows how to use his body. Nothing sexual about that. Just the straight up truth. He’s been tearing it up in preseason play with limited action. In 18 minutes he’s putting up 14.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 0.8 turnovers, and a 61.4 percent showing from the field. In a situation like San Antonio where you have Tim Duncan (who is looking to lighten his load) and Antonio McDyess (who has had some serious knee trouble in the past), Blair is the perfect spark-plug big to come off the bench for 20-25 minutes per night to provide an inside presence. I can see him posting 12 and 8 with a field goal percentage in the upper-50s. Easily. Give Blair a look in the final round of your draft. If you’re not sold on him the least you can do is follow his progress during the first week. You might be surprised at just how good he can be.
After helping Florida to its second national championship in 2007, Corey Brewer was on everyone’s radar as someone who could step right in to an NBA system and be productive. Two egregiously bad years and some nagging injuries later, the 6-9 ectomorph is ready to assume the position. Not only is he expected to start for the T’Wolves, No. 1 scoring option Al Jefferson is coming off of knee surgery and is hindered by an achilles issue, and No. 2 option Kevin Love probably won’t see significant action until Christmas following hand surgery. Brewer can do a little bit of everything. He just needs the confidence and minutes to prove it. This is his time.
I talked about him yesterday in our impressive young big man piece and I’ll stand by it today – Roy Hibbert will have a nice year for the Pacers. The NBA hasn’t had a place of late for plodding big men, but the Georgetown product is more than that. He is skilled enough on the offensive end to potentially command a double team, and he can rebound and block shots with the best of them. If he wins enough minutes, his ceiling for this year could be extremely high. Even in the 20-25 minute range, he can be a dirt cheap source of swats.
Although he’s been in the league 15 years, James Harden is ready to turn his career around with the Thunder. Oh wait, he’s only 20? Despite a beard thick enough to make Chuck Noland in Castaway look twice, Harden enters his rookie season with Oklahoma City and will have every opportunity to make a name for himself. The only time I watched him play last season, he was pitiful in the Pac-10 championship game, but the Thunder thought enough of his talent to grab him with the third pick in the draft. After Kevin Durant, they have little in the way of offense and Harden will be expected to fire away at will. The FG percentage could be ugly, but he should emerge as a double digit scorer and 3-point threat before too long.
Who are your sleepers? Leave them in the Comments section.