By Gabe Allen, RotoWire
Special to Yahoo Sports
What constitutes a sleeper in fantasy basketball? For this article, I've narrowed the focus to players with an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 100 or later. Examining earlier rounds and more prominent names isn’t a worthless endeavor. However, with superb players slipping outside of the top 100 — and with how much discussion there already is about options in the earlier rounds — I'll dive into the deeper sleepers.
Here are my favorite sleepers heading into the 2022-23 NBA season.
Kyle Kuzma, Washington Wizards (ADP-99.4)
Kuzma is coming off a career year. While his solid scoring production (17.1 PPG) took no one by surprise, he rounded out the rest of his game, amassing career-high averages of 8.5 boards, 3.5 assists and 0.9 blocks across 33.4 minutes. He can function as a secondary playmaking option alongside Bradley Beal when needed.
Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies (ADP-100.8)
Clarke had his coming out party versus the Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs, averaging 16.5 points, 9.0 boards, 2.7 dimes, 1.0 blocks and 0.8 steals in 29.3 minutes during the six-game series. He came crashing back to Earth in Round 2 against the Warriors. Nevertheless, Clarke makes for an intriguing sleeper based on the flashes he has shown and his solid per-minute production.
Clarke will be a valuable contributor across all fantasy formats if he leapfrogs Steven Adams in the rotation, or at least in terms of playing time. Furthermore, with Jaren Jackson Jr. (foot) expected to miss some time to begin the season, Clarke should be set to play a significant role early on.
P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets (ADP-100.9)
Apart from field-goal percentage (47.0% FG), Washington regressed in every regard during his third season. However, he’s a bounce-back candidate given his ability to collect counting stats in every category and play multiple positions. He could help fill in the void left by Miles Bridges, and Washington also provides floor-spacing at center when the Hornets want that look. Playing with a sensational passer in LaMelo Ball doesn’t hurt either.
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (ADP-102.0)
Simons stepped up and made a name for himself while Damian Lillard was injured for most of last season, averaging 17.3 points (44.3% FG, 40.5% 3PT, 88.8% FT), 3.9 assists and 3.1 threes in 29.5 minutes per game. It’s possible Simons won’t be able to replicate those numbers if Lillard enjoys a healthy season, but there’s also a chance that Portland will rely heavily on both guards, with Simons stepping into the old role of former Trail Blazer, C.J. McCollum.
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz (ADP-107.4)
Markkanen should earn plenty of playing time on a rebuilding Jazz club that doesn’t have a lot of established frontcourt talent. Although it has been a while since he has been in a featured role, Markkanen proved that he can amass quality counting stats if called upon. As a sophomore in 2018-19, he averaged 18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 threes in 32.3 minutes. A similar stat line is certainly in the cards for the 25-year-old big man.
Tre Jones, San Antonio Spurs (ADP-108.6)
With Dejounte Murray in Atlanta, Jones is San Antonio’s likely starter at point guard. For numerous reasons, young players in backup roles with impressive per-36 minutes averages don’t typically compile those same stats if they get a chance to play heavy minutes. However, there is some evidence that Jones will be among the exceptions. During 11 starts last season, Jones averaged 13.5 points (48.8% FG), 7.5 dimes compared to 1.1 turnovers and 1.1 steals in 32.6 minutes, while his per-36 minutes averages were 13.0 points (49.0% FG), 7.3 assists versus 1.4 turnovers, 4.0 boards and 1.3 steals.
Despite offering very little in the three-point shooting and blocks departments, the third-year guard has plenty of potential in all fantasy formats.
Isaiah Jackson, Indiana Pacers (ADP-116.6)
Like Tre Jones, Jackson made a significant per-36 minutes impact in a modest role last season. Jackson averaged 8.3 points (56.3% FG), 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.7 steals in just 15.0 minutes per game as a 20-year-old rookie. Even if Myles Turner remains a Pacer and stays healthy, Jackson boasts plenty of upside thanks to his ability to play multiple positions and stuff the stat sheet defensively.
As far as sleepers go, Jackson is as good as any, and arguably the best.
Bones Hyland, Denver Nuggets (ADP-132.3)
Yet another young player who turned in terrific per-36 minutes averages in a backup role last season, Hyland is a walking bucket with many ways to score. As a rookie, he posted 19.2 points (40.3% FG, 36.6% 3PT, 85.6% FT), 5.2 dimes, 5.2 boards, 3.6 threes and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes, and while Jamal Murray (knee) is set to return after missing last year, Denver traded away Monte Morris over the summer. Those stats are not realistic per-game expectations for 2022-23, but Hyland has the greenest of green lights as a microwave scorer off the bench.
Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons (ADP-140.2)
Detroit just traded away veteran big man Kelly Olynyk, and Isaiah Stewart suffered the dreaded sophomore slump last season. Moreover, recent addition Nerlens Noel had arguably the worst campaign of his career last year, while Marvin Bagley is better suited to play power forward.
In other words, it’s well within the realm of possibilities that Duren earns the starting center gig and generates a fantasy-friendly stat line even as a rookie. He showcased a versatile skillset in summer league, including impressive passes from the high post, elite lob-catching and sturdy interior defense. With a stellar passing guard in Cade Cunningham and superb floor-spacing forwards in Saddiq Bey and Bojan Bogdanovic, Duren is set up for immediate success.
Also recommending: De’Anthony Melton (ADP-118.0), Spencer Dinwiddie (ADP-123.8), Monte Morris (ADP-123.4), Isaiah Hartenstein (ADP-135.2), Thomas Bryant (ADP-141.1), Kevin Huerter (ADP-143.8), Bruce Brown (ADP-146.1)