2014-15 Fantasy Basketball: Top 15 Undervalued Players
If you happened to miss my Top 15 Overvalued column that went live yesterday, you can check it out right here. For those unfamiliar, for the purposes of this column, the ADP data will be focused on Yahoo. For context, ADP data from FantasyPros will also be included. You’ll see each players respective ADP to the right of their name. Without further ado, here are the 15 most undervalued players as of right now.
Kawhi Leonard – (19.7 Yahoo ADP/32.3 FantasyPros ADP)
While Leonard is currently out with a “strong strain” of virus in his eyes that will cause him to miss the rest of the preseason and perhaps the San Antonio Spurs home opener against the Dallas Mavericks next Tuesday, this may actually be great news for shrewd owners who take advantage of his falling ADP thanks to worry amongst other owners. Folks, the 23-year-old is fresh off winning his first Larry O’Brien trophy and NBA Finals MVP award after going toe-to-toe with LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Not to say that Leonard lacks confidence, but knowing he came out on top against the best player in the world might just be the thing that makes him even better this year. Don’t overlook the fact that after returning from his hand injury last year, Leonard was a top-10 9-cat value after the All-Star break. Even after getting off to a slow start last year and dealing with the aforementioned hand injury, he was still the 15th ranked player.
Am I suggesting that you should take Leonard in the first round? No, because his ADP dictates you won’t be forced to spend a first-round pick on him, but it wouldn’t be a bad choice if so. If you’re able to get him in the late-second or early-third or somehow later, it’s going to be a highway robbery. Head coach Gregg Popovich has made it known that Leonard will be more of a focal point for the Spurs offense so an increased usage rate is great news for his fantasy outlook. Last year, Leonard set career-highs in points (12.8), REB (6.2), AST (2.0), BLK (0.8), and FG% (52.2%) while matching his career-high in steals (1.7), and he looks poised to take another step forward this year. His effective field goal percentage ranked seventh in the NBA. While steals may be the one category he excels at, it’s his across the board contributions that make him a great fantasy commodity, particularly in Roto formats. Pop’s penchant for the random DNP can be a nuisance and naysayers will point to Leonard only playing in 188/230 games (82 percent), I’m willing to bet on the talent here.
Projections – 16.2 PTS, 7.1 REB, 2.5 AST, 1.4 3PM, 2.0 ST, 1.0 BLK, 1.5 TO, 51 percent FG, 81 percent FT
Chris Bosh – (23.6/20)
With LeBron James back in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade still dealing with his inability to stay on the court, Bosh is primed to post some monster numbers akin to his glory days back with the Toronto Raptors. Even while playing third fiddle to both James and Wade last year, Bosh still was the 27th ranked player in 9-cat formats thanks to his sterling percentages and development of a three-point shot (0.9 3PM). Bosh has talked extensively about how he plans to play more like a big man than the spot-up shooter role he had been relegated to and this is great news for his rebounding numbers. While projecting 10+ rebounds may be wishful thinking, he has accomplished the feat three times in his career, most recently in his last season with the Raptors in 2009. Projecting between 9-10 boards per game is probably the safer bet.
Averaging 20-10 may be out of the question, but only due to the rebounds because Bosh is a cinch to get back to averaging between 20-22 points a game. Lets not forget the fact that during his seven seasons in Toronto Bosh averaged 2.2 assists and with LeBron no longer dominating the ball, look for him to get back to that threshold. When you factor in more points, rebounds, and assists to go along with at least 50 percent shooting from the field, 80 percent from the charity stripe, and one steal/3PM/block per game, you have yourself a fantasy star. In case you were wondering, Wade has missed an average of 19.3 games the last three seasons and it would be foolhardy to expect him to play in 70+ games for the first time since 2010. When he sits, Bosh is going to be even more of a fantasy monster than he already is. He will likely end up providing first-round value and you can get him in the late-second or early-third. Thank you, come again.
Al Horford – (26.7/30)
Before he went down with a torn pectoral last season, Horford was the 14th ranked player in 9-cat leagues on a per-game basis as he was establishing career-high numbers in points (18.6), blocks (1.5), and field goal percentage (56.7%). While he may not average a double-double, his career averages of 14.0 and 9.5 rebounds suggests he will come very close to doing so. Look the caution towards drafting him with an early-round pick is justifiable due to the two pectoral injuries in three seasons, but in his other five seasons he’s played in 93 percent of possible games. It may not be a complete fluke he suffered the same injury, but it would be a cruel and surprising twist if suffered the fate a third time. While the Atlanta Hawks still haven’t fully unleashed him in the preseason, he put up a 10-5-4 line with two steals in 27 minutes in his most recent preseason game. He may get off to a slower start than expected as he works his way back to full strength, but patient owners can hang their hat knowing his excellent production will win out in the end.
Andre Drummond – (30.1/24.7)
There’s no way around it, if you’re punting FT% in a H2H league, Drummond will be worth every penny of a second-round pick and you can make an argument about taking him in the first. Lest I remind you that as a 20-year-old, the Detroit Pistons center averaged 13.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.6 blocks, and a 62.3 percent mark from the field. Wow. Yes, it came with a ghastly 41.8 percent mark from the charity stripe on four attempts a game, but if you’re taking Drummond you’re more than likely punting. At least that’s the logical course of action. While yours truly isn’t a big proponent of the punting strategy, it can no doubt be a viable one when applied correctly.
If you’re still not impressed, consider the fact that Drummond recorded 58 double-doubles last year, including nine consecutive double-doubles to end the season. Additionally, Drummond had seven 20 rebound games and two 20 point-20 rebound games, including a monstrous 26-26 line. The sky is the limit for the 21-year-old out of Connecticut and he’s an unstoppable force on the hardwood. Averaging 15-15 with 2+ blocks, 1+ steal, and at least 60 percent shooting is not out of the realm of possibility. Target him in the early-second and don’t look back.
Tim Duncan – (44.1/55.3)
You may be rolling your eyes after seeing two Spurs listed on an undervalued list knowing all the issues that come along with drafting them, but hear me out here. Duncan was the 36th ranked played in 9-cat formats last year and on a per-36 minute basis, he was just as good as he’s ever been. While detractors will point out Pop’s tendency for random DNP (not without merit), Duncan still played in 74 games last year. Unlike his fellow veteran teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Duncan has never elicited proclamations of being injury prone. Over his 17-year career, “The Big Fundamental” has displayed remarkable health as he has played in 1,254 of 1,346 regular season games, coming out to 93.2 percent. Durability and effectiveness are definitely not issues for TD. His deft passing touch as a big man makes him one of the best big men to own in that area as he career average of three assists per game would attest. Considering that Duncan will likely provide fourth-round value at minimum, he’s a steal if you can get him in the fifth-round or later. Remarkably consistent over his HOF career, Duncan is one of the safest selections on draft day.
Jrue Holiday – (53.3/47)
While a stress fracture ended the season for Holiday after only 34 games played in 2013, he had been very durable in his four prior NBA seasons, playing in 95 percent of possible games. His last month of games before he was injured saw him post some gaudy statistics as he averaged 16.3 PPG, 1.1 3PM, 9.0 AST, 4.6 REB, 1.4 steals, 47.8 FG% and 80.8 FT%. Those are certainly very useful numbers. Holiday was the 58th ranked player on a per-game basis last year and he definitely has the upside to barge into the top-50. If you notice in your draft that Holiday is starting to slide and he’s available in the fifth-round or later, it’s an easy call.
Wesley Matthews – (56.5/69.7)
Matthews is one of the most criminally underrated players come draft day year in and year out in fantasy basketball, and it’s no different in 2014. After coming in at rank 47 in Y! 9-cat formats last season, there is a tidy profit for owners to make judging by his current ADP. Matthews set career-highs in points (16.4), rebounds (3.5), and 3PM (2.5) while also providing nifty averages in steals (0.9) and FT% (83.7). He had averaged over one steal a game his last three years so look for him to improve in that department. Much like Duncan, Matthews has been an ironman throughout his five-year career, missing only 13 games total. You know what you are going to get out of Matthews and he’s an excellent target in the middle rounds for owners looking for three-pointers, points, and steals.
Isaiah Thomas – (67.3/88)
The Pizza Guy may longer be a starter but don’t let that detract you from selecting him as he has landed on the Phoenix Suns, a team whose uptempo style fits Thomas’ strengths perfectly. Obviously the shine of owning him isn’t as bright compared to last year as he will be behind both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, but there is still plenty of value to be had if taken at the right price. IT2 was the 31st ranked player last year as a starter when he averaged 34.6 MPG and the 99th ranked player in 2012 when he averaged 26.9 MPG as the Kings sixth man. Thomas averaging 30 minutes per game isn’t out of the question with grumblings that head coach Jeff Hornacek fancies himself a three-guard lineup and that could lead to top-50 value. Thomas is an elite free throw shooter as he’s shooting at an 85.7 percent clip for his career. 1.5 3PM, 4.5 assists, and 1.1 steals are all realistic projections. When you factor in that Bledsoe has had injury issues in the past, Thomas would be an elite fantasy option if either him or Dragic were to miss time. I think the FantasyPros ADP is more reflective on where Thomas is actually being drafted based on drafts I’ve seen and he will be a great value in the seventh round or later.
Jimmy Butler – (67.5/77)
Butler is dealing with a sprained thumb ligament that is dampening his outlook for the short term as he might not play the season opener next Wednesday, but his season long value isn’t in question. Prior to the injury, Butler was averaging 15.8 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 58.8 percent field goals, and 79.1 percent from the line. His putrid 39.7 percent mark from the field last year was the biggest detriment to his value but with Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol added to the mix, it’s hard to fathom how his efficiency won’t improve. He’s a 78 percent shooter from the charity stripe in his career and owners will be glad to know that he has a chance to average two steals a game after averaging 1.9 thefts a game a season ago.
Butler also averaged a three a game last season so owners can safely pencil him in for a similar output this year. He played 38.7 minutes a game last year and while that may fall a bit, he’s their best perimeter defender and head coach Tom Thibodeau is notorious for playing his starters long minutes. More minutes on the floor means more chances for fantasy production. He will have no problem posting top-60 value and is an excellent target at his current sixth to seventh round ADP. He may slip farther than that as well so be ready to pounce if he falls further than he should.
Kyle Korver – (73.1/89.3)
If you’re drafting Korver it is likely for his prowess in three-pointer department, but don’t overlook the fact his contributions across the board make him a terrific fantasy player to own as evidenced by him finishing as the 33rd ranked player in 9-cat formats. For starters, Korver set an NBA record by hitting a three-pointer in 127 games in a row, an especially stunning feat considering that Korver is the third or fourth scoring option for the Atlanta Hawks most nights. The 33-year-old may lack the upside of players taken around his ADP range, but there is something to be said for getting consistent production on a nightly basis. In the 2013-2014 season, he set a career-high in assists (2.9) and FT% (92.6), while also putting up the second-highest rates of his career in points (12.0), steals (1.0), rebounds (4.0), FG% (47.5), and 3PM (2.6).
While he is unlikely to see 34 minutes per game again as the Hawks signed Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore to back up the wing position in addition to Horford’s return, he will still see 30+ minutes so owners should have no worries about playing time. His statistical output may drop off a hair in scoring and assists, but he will have no problem being a top-50 player. If you find yourself in need of a sharpshooter around rounds seven to eight, Korver remains an excellent value pick based on his ADP.
Robin Lopez – (76.5/91.7)
It’s quite shocking to see RoLo have such a low ADP after he finished as the 43rd ranked player last season but owners who are able to snag him this late won’t be complaining. Unlike his brother, Robin has been rather durable over the course of his career as he has played in 85.3 percent of games so no reason to fret over health issues for the 7-footer from Stanford. In fact, he’s played all 82 games in each of the last two years. RoLo is a much better target in fantasy drafts compared to Brook at the moment because of the aforementioned health issues and he won’t cost you nearly as high of a draft pick.
2013 was a banner year for Lopez as he set career-highs in MPG (31.8), FT% (81.8), REB (8.5), AST (0.9), and BLK (1.7) and to say he experienced a breakthrough would be an understatement. While he probably won’t be averaging a double-double, he will come close. When you factor in him being a career 52.5 percent shooter from the field to go along with his excellent percentage from the charity stripe, you have yourself one of the most underappreciated big man values in the fantasy basketball landscape.
Larry Sanders – (78.9/91.3)
Fantasy owners who were burned by Sanders after his cataclysmic campaign last year will probably be putting Sanders on their do not draft list in all caps this season, but I’m here to explain why that may turn out to be a fatal mistake. It’s worth mentioning that Sanders did have an undisclosed “minor outpatient surgical procedure” on October 17 and was ruled out for the Milwaukee Bucks final three preseason games, but he’s fully expected to be back for the Bucks’ regular-season opener on October 29. Don’t let this minor blip in the radar scare you off, he was averaging 10.7 points and 10 rebounds in the preseason before he went down as he is locked in as the starting center in Milwaukee. The Bucks aren’t paying Sanders bundles of cash to ride the pine. Fantasy owners seem to be forgetting the fact that the youngster is only 25 and back in 2012 he averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks a game. Statistics like those are why Sanders still remains a coveted player.
His career 46.6 percent mark from the field could use some improvement seeing that he is a center, but it’s passable. Beware that if you draft Sanders that he will likely provide a heinous percentage from the charity stripe as he’s only hitting them at a 55.9 percent clip for his career. If you’re using the punt FT% strategy, Sanders remains an excellent target in those instances. Sanders will also garner close to a steal per game and averaging 1.7 blocks in his nightmarish season from a year ago, it will be no surprise to see him swat two or more shots per game this season. Picking him definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but taking the risk could lead to a huge return. Targeting him anywhere from rounds 7-9 is the advised course of action.
UPDATE: Sanders got in a non-contact practice earlier today and still anticipates being ready for the opener.
Tobias Harris – (97.4/97.3)
There is still plenty of room aboard the #TeamTobias bandwagon, come along for the ride before you miss out! Even as injuries limited Harris to 61 games played last season with the Magic, he still managed to be a top-100 value (96th). With a 97.4 ADP as of now, there is nowhere but room for profit for fantasy owners who select him. Harris has come into the 2014 season with improved conditioning and physique and as a starter who will see minutes at SF/PF this year, he will have no problem playing 30+ minutes on a nightly basis.
I won’t discount naysayers who point to him only playing in 158 of 230 possible games (69 percent), but I’m willing to take a gamble that the 22-year-old can play in 70+ games. If he does, he has a great shot to produce top-50 value. Harris has been adamant that he spent countless hours practicing his three-point shot this summer and the added likelihood of more treys is great news for his fantasy value. He has increased his points and rebound totals each year since 2011 and I expect that trend to continue this year. Additionally, Harris is a career 46.2 percent shooter from the field and 79.1 percent clip at the line. He doesn’t turn the ball over much and also has a knack for posting some numbers in the steals and blocks department and when you combine these variables with the other items, you have yourself a draft day steal.
Projections: 16.8 PTS – 8 REB – 1.6 AST – 0.9 ST – 0.7 BLK – 1.5 TO – 46 percent FG – 81 percent FT – 1 3PM
UPDATE: Victor Oladipo suffered a facial fracture from an inadvertent elbow during practice and is out indefinitely. This likely means that Harris and other Magic starters may receive a slight uptick in fantasy production considering Oladipo is such a vital part of their offense.
Markieff Morris – (108.5/88.3)
Go ahead and pencil it in, Morris is going to end up being a top-50 value and will end up being one of the biggest draft day heists for fantasy owners lucky enough to acquire his services. It baffles me that the starting power forward playing for one of the most fantasy friendly teams in the NBA isn’t getting more love amongst fantasy owners. He finished as the 97th ranked player last year primarily coming off the bench behind Channing Frye, so it will be awfully hard for ‘Kieff not to gain substantial value when you factor in that he is the starter and is likely to see 30+ minutes a night for the Suns after seeing 26.6 MPG in 2013. Morris put up career-best numbers in the following categories in 2013: PTS (13.8), REB (6.0), AST (1.8), FT% (79.2), and FG% (48.6). He also managed to put up nifty averages of 0.8 steals, 0.6 blocks per game, and 0.4 3PM and you can see how his well-rounded game will translate into major fantasy value.
Replacing Frye as the designated stretch four in the Suns high-powered offense, Morris should have no problem averaging right around one three-pointer per game. Projecting 16 points, 7-8 rebounds, and two assists with solid percentages is definitely within the realm of possibility and considering that he will likely be a top-50 value, don’t be afraid to reach for him. If you’re still not sold on ‘Kieff, consider the fact that he was the 38th-best player in 9-cat formats after the All-Star break last season. The proof is in the pudding.
Jared Sullinger – (118.7/97)
After a mini-breakout in 2013, Sullinger is ready to take the next step in 2014 as he tries to join the upper echelon of fantasy bigs. If his preseason play is any indication, it looks like that time is quickly approaching and Sully has been on an absolute frenzy. After shooting 42.7 percent from the field and making 0.8 3PM last year, it appears he put in extra work in regards to his shot as he has been drilling everything in the preseason. It’s going to be awfully hard to stop the hype train based on his averages in his last five preseason games: 15.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.2 3PM, and 57 percent shooting. Yowza.
Even with his sub-par field goal percentage from a year ago, Sully still managed to check in as the 119th-best player in 9-cat formats last year. More three-point attempts may harm his efficiency somewhat, but I’m willing to wager that his FG% rises from last year. Even if it doesn’t go up by much, owners shouldn’t be complaining about a PF/C type hitting over at trey per game. Additionally, his career averages of 0.5 steals and 0.6 blocks suggest he will be able to contribute to the box score in other ways if his shot isn’t falling. While increased efficiency this year isn’t a given, owners can probably bank on him providing top-75 value.
Honorable mention: Paul Millsap, Nicolas Batum, Dirk Nowitzki, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, George Hill, Jose Calderon, Draymond Green, Jordan Hill, Timofey Mozgov, K.J. McDaniels, Mirza Teletovic, Rudy Gobert
Thanks for reading and be sure to comment below with any questions, remarks, or corrections you may have concerning the article. You can follow me on Twitter @MattMoczy.