By Alex Rikleen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
Sometimes the best sleepers aren’t the players that no one else knew about. No — sometimes the best sleepers are the ones everyone knew about all along, but for whom they decided “not this year.”
For example, consider the case of Myles Turner in 2018-19. Turner showed promise as a rookie and jumped into fantasy’s top 25 in his sophomore campaign. His ADP rose to 28 ahead of his third season, 2017-18, but he hit a wall. His minutes and his per-minute effectiveness dropped. He fell outside the top 50, and his 2018 fantasy ADP fell accordingly.
But all of us knew what Turner was capable of, and he rebounded, rewarding those who invested even after the hype had faded. His fantasy ADP was 59 last season, and he went on to lead the league in blocks per game and once again finished on the edge of the top 25.
Finding the right post-hype sleeper can be season-defining. Here are a few of this season’s best candidates:
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
Did the Rockets sign a great new center, and I just missed it? Because otherwise, I don’t understand why Capela’s ADP is so much lower this year (46 on Yahoo) than last year (37). Technically the Rockets added 37-year-old Tyson Chandler, but I can’t imagine his arrival has any impact on Capela’s workload. Capela is just 25, entering his sixth season. He has improved every year. He’s likely to remain a top-10 rebounder — even with the addition of Russell Westbrook – and one of the best field-goal impact players in the league. He finished inside the top 30 in 8-cat last season, and inside the top 25 in 9-cat. Capela is still a top-30 fantasy producer at the beginning of his prime and without meaningful depth chart competition.
Al Horford, Philadelphia 76ers; Marc Gasol, Toronto Raptors; Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
It was only a couple years ago that all three of these guys were getting drafted inside the top-35. While they’ve all dropped a little since then, this is the year the fantasy community has collectively decided that all three of these similarly skilled big men really fall off a cliff. All three veterans are decent scorers, excellent passers, efficient from both the field and the free-throw line, and provide some defensive contributions. They finished last season inside the top 30, 50 and 85, respectively, yet their ADPs on Yahoo are 61, 77 and 113.
Of course, they are all getting old (33, 34 and 34). Horford and Millsap are in worse fantasy situations than last year, and Gasol is a significant injury risk. But at these depressed ADPs, I expect all three to provide meaningful value.
Horford already played tons of power forward minutes in Boston, and as he proved during the 2019 playoffs, he’s still able to be one of the best players on a playoff team. Injuries and the presence of Serge Ibaka are a concern with Gasol, but he’s played at least 73 games in the past three seasons, and gradually took over more and more minutes through his first half-season as a Raptor.
The Nuggets’ addition of Jerami Grant is the biggest threat to Millsap’s production, but Millsap was already averaging just 27.1 minutes and producing for fantasy. Also, the Nuggets have talked repeatedly about the possibility of using Grant at small forward. It’s an important “if," but if Millsap can stay above 25 minutes per game he should easily exceed his ADP.
Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
Based on their respective buzz and their similar names, you can be forgiven for forgetting than Mikal was drafted ahead of Miles Bridges in the 2018 draft. Mikal also finished about 90 spots above Miles in fantasy in 2018-19. And then the Hornets used their 2019 lottery pick to select P.J. Washington, who plays the exact same position as Miles.
The Suns, on the other hand, traded away multiple players who would otherwise have competed with Mikal for minutes. So why does the higher-drafted player who was better as a rookie and whose depth chart situation improved over the offseason have a lower ADP? Well, that’s my point. He shouldn’t. The fantasy community is right to be excited about the prospects of a sophomore named M. Bridges, but they chose the wrong one. The Suns have shown their commitment to Mikal in several ways, and the addition of Ricky Rubio should elevate the entire offense.
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Sometimes the hype fades on a player because they’ve yet to realize their immense potential. While the players listed above all have track records of fantasy success, Brown has yet to warrant a season-long spot on a standard league team. But as the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, he’s been a name on fantasy radars his entire career.
Furthermore, the best run of his career came during the 2017-18 playoffs, when the Celtics took the Cavaliers to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, reminding everyone on a national stage of his potential. In those playoffs Brown averaged 18.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 2.4 threes and he shot 47 percent from the field. That playoff run came when the Celtics were without Kyrie Irving, and Brown was forced to take on a greater role. The Celtics will need their wings to step up this season, but most of the excitement surrounds Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward. As an end-of-draft flier, it’s worth a shot to see how big Brown’s role can be.
Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons
You want post-hype? How about some hype that peaked eight years ago. Rose isn’t going to win your league for you, but he’s a great value at his current ADP and could be a valuable bench piece. He missed almost all of 2017-18, but his production in the seasons before and after were nearly identical: 18 points, more than four assists, great free-throw shooting, better than 47% field goal shooting, and a mild smattering of rebounds, threes, and steals.
Importantly, that was on two different teams: The Knicks and the Timberwolves. Though Rose probably won’t start for the Pistons, he’s likely to play more than Reggie Jackson in crunch time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rose ends up playing more minutes than Jackson. The way drafts are shaking out this season, assists are drying up very early, and Rose is one of the last players on the board likely to provide meaningful help in that category.