With the Lockout over, Fantasy Basketball leagues are gearing up for their drafts, be it snake, auction or Miller Genuine, and everybody is looking for the next Kyle Lowry, Dorrell Wright, or Channing Frye. Could the next breakout fantasy basketball stud be on the Sixers? It's unlikely, mostly because of Doug Collins' confidence and reliance on, to take a page out of the Andy Reid/Charlie Manuel dictionary, "his guys".
Last year, the big waiver wire find was Jodie Meeks, who came on around midseason as a reliable 3's and steal's guy in roto leagues without gutting your team shooting percentage from the field. He went undrafted in almost every league except for the ones where you can only draft shooting guards named Jodie and leagues in which Jodie Meeks was a manager, and came on to be a decent backup option. I believe Jason Kapono was picked in one of my drafts last year. I also believe he was promptly dropped.
Who do I think breaks out for fantasy owners in 2011-12? Hit the jump to find out.In what I think will be a surprise to some, my fantasy sleeper for the Sixers is rookie Nikola Vucevic. Despite the widely held myth that Doug Collins doesn't play young guys (often perpetuated by yours truly), he does, and a polished, unathletic, low-upside center like Vucevic is right in Doug's wheelhouse, making him ripe for the fantasy pickin'.
Spencer Hawes, despite any preseason rah-rah's and training camp double takes, is the player he is - a soft, defensively-challenged jump shooting big who isn't all that great at jump shooting. Elton Brand, offensively, is at his best when he can play high-low and work his midrange game in with a reliable and extremely simple low post game from his front court mate. It won't take long for Collins to see that Hawes isn't getting any better and Vucevic is ready to step in right away and fill that spot.
While I'm not confident in saying Vuce will be a starter by year's end, I'm fully expecting him to play more minutes than Hawes the second half of the season in what will be known as The Ervin Johnson Complex. I'm banking on a very quiet, garbage pail, dirty work, easy buckets 10 points and 8 boards from the USC kid. And for a guy currently owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues and a pre-ranking of 441 (lower than Lavoy Allen, though rookie rankings in the Y! system is usually slop), he would definitely qualify as a sleeper.
This isn't meant to be my ringing endorsement of Vucevic as a player or as the draft pick he was, it's closer to my assessment of how Collins will view and prioritize the skill sets of he and Hawes. With Marreese Speights inching towards the door, Tony Battie gouging my eyes out with needles, and Lavoy Allen destined for the D-League, it's Vuce vs. Hawes in a battle of who can become the sub-par center next to a declining Brand. Since, for the purposes of this article, we're concerned with base-level statistics rather than efficiency, positioning, and athleticism, Nikola is my pick. I'd certainly consider taking a flyer on him in the last round when you're filling out your bench with players who have the funniest names (Chukwudiebere Maduabum), rookies (Tanguy Ngombo), and both (Bojan Bogdanovic).
For the record, I sure hope I'm proven wrong and Evan Turner is the clear, obvious selection here. But I've thrown my support behind ET enough times this early in his career and i wanted to back (and subsequently, condemn) a dark horse in honor of the new year. So there's that.
Any other fantasy sleepers I'm missing? Is Fantasy Basketball really the ugly stepsibling of its higher-achieving Football and Baseball brethren?