Everyone’s favorite part of fantasy sports is assuredly the “sleeper”.
It doesn’t take much to know to draft Giannis, Jokic, Durant or other stars. Even in the middle rounds of drafts, it’s reasonably difficult to TOTALLY screw it up.
But being able to find later round players that can be true contributors to your success that your opponents are not considering drafting is arguably the easiest way to catapult to the top of the standings. Especially in Best Ball tournaments that utilize a Playoff Format, like on Underdog Fantasy and DraftKings, if you can find the right later round players who break out during those critical playoff weeks, it can be the difference between a decent profit and the big bucks.
The below players are our favorite “under the radar”, “breakout”, or of course “sleeper” options in fantasy basketball for 2022-23, with a particular emphasis on Best Ball tournaments.
Fantasy Basketball Sleepers
Viewed as the biggest steal of the draft in a survey of GMs, Tari Eason has the perfect combination of skillset and situation to burst onto the fantasy scene this season. After transferring from Cincinnati to LSU, Eason had an insanely productive and efficient season in the SEC. In just 25 minutes per game, he averaged 17 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block per game on 52% shooting (36% from 3). There were few players as efficient as Eason in all of college basketball, and the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft offers the versatile skillset at 6’8 215 pounds that all NBA teams are looking for.
He should come off the bench for the Rockets, but he projects to be super efficient and could benefit from a more ball dominant bench role. And we know that the Rockets are still in rebuild mode, so we should see the roles of young players like Eason grow over the course of the season. Particularly late in the year when we make our money in Best Ball, Eason, who already put up a 21/10 line on 9/13 shooting in just 20 minutes of his first preseason game, could be a true tournament winner with extended late season minutes on a “tanking” team.
Sochan’s numbers at Baylor last season were not quite as eye popping as Eason’s, but the 9th overall pick in this year’s draft brings another versatile skillset on a team with tons of opportunity available. The Spurs will likely be one of the biggest “tanking” teams in the entire league after trading away Derrick White and Dejounte Murray. They’re near the beginning of their rebuild, and Sochan’s role should only grow over the season.
That’s something we saw happen at Baylor and Sochan only continued to get better, culminating in double figure scoring in 6 of his last 8 games and a double double in his final game. He was a stat sheet stuffer averaging 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals + blocks in just 25 minutes per game.
He’ll need to continue to develop his scoring and shooting touch, but one of the biggest cheat codes in fantasy are these types of versatile guys who can produce fantasy points even when not shooting the ball super effectively. When you add in the draft pedigree that should allow him to carve out a big role on a Spurs team that has almost no competition for touches and playing time… and no incentive to play their veterans later in the season.
Since draft night, we’ve heard countless stories about just how much the Pistons loved Jalen Duren, and coach Dwayne Casey has said he will be a “jewel” for the Pistons. Another rookie, Duren was hyper effective at Memphis, averaging 12 & 8 with 3 steals + blocks per game in just 25 minutes per game.
The Pistons are trying to figure out how to deal with both Duren and Isaiah Stewart in their frontcourt, and while both should play plenty to start the year, including some alongside each other, if I’m betting on an upside play over the course of the season, it’s absolute Duren.
He does most of his work on the boards and with steals and blocks, which should set him up perfectly in Detroit alongside Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. Those two guards will be the engine of the offense, and that should allow Duren to do what he does best on the glass and around the rim. With his athleticism, he should also present more of a rim running threat (as opposed to Stewart) for those guards in the pick and roll.
He’s a similar player to the two above where he can be useful in a bench role thanks to the combination of his efficiency and productivity, as well as the opportunity available on his “rebuilding” team. The Pistons should be a lot more competitive than the Rockets and Spurs this year, and their core should be continuing to grow together over the course of the season, and I expect Duren to grow into a big role on the interior very quickly in Detroit.