We resume our series on NBA fantasy sleepers this week after a brief break to evaluate the Kyrie Irving trade. This week we’ll hit the Pacific Division, where the reigning NBA champions and three of the worst teams in basketball play. With the uncertainty of the Kings, Lakers, and Suns, all three teams are ripe to find some sleeper fantasy value. We kick off this week with the most difficult sleeper to find in the Golden State Warriors.
Nick Young, Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors managed to get better this offseason, which is a frightening thought for the rest of the NBA. With the amount of talent on the Warriors and their fairly set rotation, a fantasy sleeper could be difficult to come by. We look to their new acquisitions to find one, and Nick Young is a fairly easy choice there. Young, for as much as he’s criticized for his decision making, was one of the NBA’s best shooters last season. Young should step into a sixth man role for the Warriors and get plenty of minutes with their four stars.Young’s primary fantasy value will come in his scoring ability. He should provide a similar number of points this year as he did last year when he scored 13.2 per game. While he won’t be starting like he was in Los Angeles, he should have full control of the second unit and should get even more open looks when he plays with some of the Warriors’ starters. If he gets around 24 minutes per game this year, adding two made threes per game would also not be a surprise. That mixed with his volume scoring should make Young a viable option in fantasy leagues.
Milos Teodosic, Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers are going to have a different look this season with the departure of Chris Paul. Losing Paul will create an opening for Milos Teodosic to step up as the Clippers lead guard. Teodosic comes to the Clippers from CSKA Moscow, where he averaged 16.1 points per game and 6.8 assists per game in Euroleague play. He’ll step in and contribute immediately for the Clippers, utilizing his incredible court vision and passing, as well as a good shot from beyond the arc. He will be a liability defensively, but his offensive capabilities should give him high fantasy value.
Teodosic is expected to immediately step in as the Clippers’ primary playmaker, and that is a good sign for his assist numbers. Teodosic will look to create for the Clippers’ fast paced offense and that pace should help him out tremendously. Although he’s lacking in athleticism, his feel for the game will open the floor for his teammates and allow him to generate 6-7 assists per game. As a scorer, Teodosic will provide most of his value from beyond the arc, where he is a 38.5 percent shooter. As long as he adjusts to the length of the NBA three, Teodosic will be an immediate offensive contributor for the Clippers and his fantasy basketball owners.
Skal Labissiere, Sacramento Kings
After being a five-star recruit out of high school, Skal Labissiere was expected to be a star at Kentucky and a top pick in the NBA Draft. That never came to fruition and the Sacramento Kings took a chance on him with the 28th pick of the 2016 draft. Labissiere played only in 33 games last season, but he really started to show the potential he had in high school when he was given a starting role. Labissiere is long and raw but has an immense amount of talent. He should take on a full-time starting role this season for the Kings at the four.
Labissiere could fill a multitude of roles for the Kings on both ends of the floor. On offense, he’s shown the ability to hit an open jumper, occasionally extending his range to the three-point line. He’s not very strong, but he does a good job of using his length and athleticism to crash the offensive glass. He should provide up to 13 points per game, and around eight or nine rebounds per game on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, Labissiere can use his length to contribute around a block per game for fantasy owners.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
The second pick of the 2016 NBA Draft, Brandon Ingram arrived in Los Angeles with heightened expectations. He was miscast by some as a Kevin Durant-like player, and that did nothing to stall the expectations. Ingram settled into his role as the season came to a close, as an oversized playmaker who can be lethal in the PnR. He should be able to retain that role, with the addition of Lonzo Ball only improving the Lakers’ ball movement.
Ingram should start from the opening tip this season for the Lakers. Their newfound floor spacing that features Brook Lopez and Lonzo Ball in the offense should allow Ingram to operate at his best. Ingram will have the space to attack the rim and find open teammates in the PnR. It would not be a surprise to see him creep towards 15 points per game and four assists per game this season. His three-point shooting should also inch toward league average, which should be his long-term expectation. Of course, his length will allow him to rebound as well, and those numbers could reach six or seven as well. Defensively, Ingram is oozing with potential and should be able to contribute both blocks and steals.
Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns
The ultimate post-hype sleeper, Dragan Bender is poised to break out this season in Phoenix. Like Ingram, Bender was miscast by some with bad comparisons. He was labeled as another Kristaps Porzingis after the Suns took him fourth overall. Bender suffered a season-ending ankle injury in February that took him out of the spotlight in Phoenix. He should see an increase in minutes this season with Alex Len remaining unsigned. If he does, it will allow him to develop on both ends of the floor while increasing his present-day value in fantasy.
Stastically, Bender should provide value in a myriad of ways for fantasy owners. He is a capable, but not good, three-point shooter who has a lot of athleticism. His shooting could become above average because he has a smooth motion and his height will allow him to shoot over most defenders. He can contribute in the post, but with Tyson Chandler still around, he will most likely be asked to space the floor for the Suns. Bender will likely play the four which should keep him around the rim to pull down rebounds and block shots defensively. If he puts it all together, this could be the season where Bender begins to ascend to his potential as an NBA player.