Working the waiver wire is crucial in fantasy hoops, but it also helps to get ahead of the market by securing some intriguing assets who have the potential to become enduring values for the coming season.
In our recent appraisal of the top sleepers, breakouts and busts for the upcoming fantasy basketball campaign, we defined a sleeper as a player who will far surpass his average draft position (ADP) in standard ESPN leagues for the 2018-19 campaign. If we consider deep as something found well below the surface, then our interpretation of deep sleepers can be comprehended as players found far below the surface who can far exceed the statistical expectations of the twilight rounds.
It's undoubtedly going to happen -- several players from the final rounds in most fantasy basketball drafts will surface as true difference-makers as the season unfolds. For my long-standing home auction team last season -- Doug Moe's Misfits -- I paid up for Anthony Davis and enjoyed a brilliant campaign from "The Brow" and yet I got almost as much, if not more, enjoyment from late-round talents such as Dejounte Murray and Kyle Kuzma.
Anyone who landed Donovan Mitchell late in drafts last season knows what I'm talking about. Superstars are fun, but the entertainment and esteem that come from hitting on a sleeper is unique.
With mining for value in mind, let's delve into some choice deep fantasy sleepers for the 2018-19 fantasy basketball season.
As you enter the double-digit rounds of a snake draft or the cheap phase of an auction, you can put on the soothing sounds of his cousin Gerald Levert as you prepare to acquire Caris, a player who capably averaged 13.7 PPG, 5.0 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.4 3PG in 27.8 MPG in a rewarding 18-game stretch last spring. With a viable path to 30 minutes per night in a fantasy-friendly Kenny Atkinson scheme that should challenge for the league lead in pace (possessions per 48 minutes), LeVert is a late-round target who could force his way into your lineup early this season.
While D'Angelo Russell "truthers" (of which I was once a card-carrying member, mind you) are still waiting for the breakout, Dinwiddie's usage and production profile from last season reveal untapped upside and fantasy potential heading into the new season.
Found at 32nd among players last season with 70.7 touches per game, just behind Jamal Murray, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul, Dinwiddie was also 23rd in drives per game, just behind Jimmy Butler and Kris Dunn. A bevy of touches and drives led to a reasonably repeatable slash last season; his strong line of 12.6 PPG, 6.6 APG, 1.8 3PG and 0.9 SPG was accomplished by just six players last season -- the other five are James Harden, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, CP3 and Kyle Lowry.
As much as this is manipulating endpoints to include Dinwiddie in this group, it speaks to his uniquely diverse and underappreciated production profile found late in drafts.
Gay has averaged 2.1 "stocks" (shots plus blocks) for his career and, even on the mend from an Achilles injury, was able to tally 1.5 last season in limited minutes for the Spurs. Preseason data can be unquestionably noisy, but it still provides insight into how specific players look via the eye test. Which is to say, Gay has looked far more spry and bouncy this season, as he's further removed from a significant injury. Kyle Anderson and his nearly 27 MPG are off the roster, as is this Kawhi Leonard character, leaving a good bit of minutes and touches for Gay to consume in what could be a rewarding bounce-back effort.
While Gay is likely to play at both forward spots this season, Poeltl is a rim-protecting center who could potentially earn a sizable workload, given the Spurs' reliance on an aging frontcourt of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. Even if he's merely a rotational center, I love the fact Poeltl sported a 5.2 percent block rate (percentage of 2-point field goals blocked while on the court) last season. Joel Embiid, for some context, claimed a 4.8 percent block rate last season.
We covet "stocks" in fantasy hoops, given how scarce these statistical categories can prove, thus this duo of underpriced Spurs make for key late targets.
Harden, Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon, Lillard, Paul George and Lowry are the only players who lofted more 3-pointers per game than Ellington last season. Adept at running a maze of screens to get loose for open catch-and-shoot attempts from deep, Ellington hit on an awesome 39.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers while taking the third-most such shots in the league.
While he doesn't offer you much more than shooting volume, Ellington is essentially of the Kyle Korver ilk in that he can help buffer other spots on your roster that prove thin at shooting, such as teams that take on Ben Simmons with a premium investment.
As a 76ers fan, I can say that Olynyk was impressively agitating in the playoffs last season. As a fantasy basketball nerd, I can say he helped me win a few leagues last season with an awesome finish that unleashed some stellar stretch center production (Olynyk averaged 14.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1 SPG and a gaudy 2.1 3PG in 24.2 MPG the final 14 games last season).
With Hassan Whiteside's injury history and the team's intent to include Olynyk in some closing lineups, given the gravity he provides, Olynyk is worthy of a final-round selection.
Dwight Howard was sixth in the league with 20.9 rebounding chances per night last season (defined as being within 3.5 feet of an available board). With Howard off the roster, Hernangomez could consume nice opportunity rates off the glass this season, especially as he's outplayed Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo in the preseason. Word is Willy hit the weights this past summer in preparation for a bigger role, and this might finally be the season that this sleeper wakes up.
Monk began to flash some of the scoring and shooting prowess he made famous at Kentucky late last season. The most encouraging part of the team's new coaching hire, James Borrego, might just be the breakneck pace the team is scheduled to play this season. With additional possessions and an up-tempo style suited to Monk's free-wheeling ways, he's a fine candidate to become a shooting specialist with potential for much more if Kemba Walker is eventually dealt.
With Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson now in Phoenix, they took with them 801 3-point attempts from last season. Tucker, meanwhile, is averaging an absurd 9.5 3-point attempts in the preseason, second only to Harden of players with more than one game played this preseason. With an expectation for a worthy leap in 3-point volume and an already strong steal rate in place, Tucker is essentially a free 3-and-D pickup at the end of drafts.
Ennis, meanwhile, is slated to fulfill the defensive wing role Ariza served. Pretty much any inclusion into the Houston rotation is meaningful for fantasy purposes, thus my interest in Ennis as an overlooked wing.
The crowd is already far too hip to John Collins' potential breakout this season, but the hype hasn't yet influenced Prince's pricing much. Only 15 players averaged as many as the 14.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 2.1 3PG Prince did last season in a forgettable overall campaign for the Hawks. With an expectation for heavy minutes and potentially an uptick in defensive rates, given the shift in coaching philosophies, Prince could be a royal value this season.
Let your league mates take on Kevin Knox (and his learning curve), and instead, get affordable shares of these confident veteran scorers. After the All-Star break last season, Burke averaged 15.9 PPG and 5.8 APG. Even if he comes off the pine at times, there are plenty of shots and potential assists for Burke on what is still one of the thinnest guard depth charts in the NBA.
Per Hardaway's sleeper status, he's being overlooked in drafts this season, but he is likely to mimic the rich usage (15.8 shots per game in 34.3 MPG) he enjoyed during his final 17 games last season. Kristaps Porzingis could miss most, if not all, of the season, leaving Hardaway with a real shot to top 20 PPG for the first time in his career.
Maybe it's a Michigan thing -- these two Wolverines could pay off for those looking for cheap scoring options.
While I adore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's game and believe he could eventually emerge as a meaningful fantasy option if the team reshuffles a crowded backcourt, there is just too much usage overlap with Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic to trust the rookie in lineups. I'm far more comfortable taking the chance that one or both of Bradley and Gallinari can finally enjoy some healthy basketball.
Injuries have felled the real and fantasy value for both in recent seasons, but we can appreciate the solid shooting and steal rates Bradley posted back in Boston and the deft scoring touch Gallinari flashes whenever he's on the floor. These guys used to cost you a valuable mid-round pick despite the obvious durability concerns, but now it's merely house money.
Last season was mostly lost to injuries for Brogdon, while this season we could see him thrive as an efficient scorer and capable playmaker on what should be a far more efficient and fantasy-friendly scheme in Milwaukee under new coach Mike Budenholzer. I'm all about getting as many shares of Eric Bledsoe this season, as I've proved in almost every staff mock this offseason, but it's Brogdon who truly qualifies as a sleeper, given how the market has essentially forgotten his ability to provide solid 3-point, assist and steal rates.