Fantasy Basketball

2015-16 Fantasy Basketball: Smart Late Round Darts

I have always made it pretty clear that I like to swing for the fences in the last few rounds of drafts, because I’d rather take a shot on someone I feel could be a late round gem than a guy who is boring and I’ll want to drop in a week anyways. Well, when I say that I don’t always mean to swing recklessly, you take those shots on players you feel could breakout overall or more likely, players who could be extra beneficial in areas of need.

So, today we are going to look at players you should target according to statistical needs, that you can likely (every draft is different, never assume everyone will draft by the rankings provided) find in the last few rounds of your drafts. I’ll list a statistical category and then a couple players you should look for if/when you feel light in that specific area in the later rounds of your draft.

Remember, by the late rounds, the fate of your team’s FG% and FT% are in the books. While you can’t become a great FG or FT shooting team in the last couple rounds, you can significantly hurt a percentage. Don’t go strong in one or both percentage categories and then blow it by drafting a total percentage sinker late.


1) Rodney Hood – SG/SF – Utah Jazz – Ranked 182 on ESPN

What more can I say about Rodney Hood? He’s one of my favorite breakout candidates this season, and I have backed that up by taking him in all of my drafts thus far right in the 95-110 range. You may even be able to get him a little later because of his ridiculous ESPN ranking, but don’t get overly greedy. It doesn’t bother me a bit that Hood be coming off the bench as the 6th man for the Jazz. He’ll get 25-30 minutes a night between backing up at SG and SF, also playing SG while Alec Burks slides to PG. In the last five Jazz preseason games, Hood has played 25.6 minutes, scored 16.0 points, grabbed 3.0 rebounds, dished 1.8 dimes, hit 1.4 treys and swiped 0.8 steals. Sure, some of these games Hayward sat out, but Hood can produce with solid minutes and 14 PPG – 3 RPG – 2 APG – 1 SPG – 1.7 3PM at 46% FG and 90% FT is a nice addition at the end of your drafts. If any of the other Jazz wings have to miss time, look out!

2) Meyers Leonard – PF/C – Portland Trailblazers – 157 on ESPN

When you are savaging for breakout potential, a lot of times you can find it from when a player took full advantage of opportunity last season when playing added minutes for one reason or another, and when the next season the player has those kind of minutes opened up, you find your gem. Leonard was great in the handful of games that he started last season and he also maintained elite percentages across the board (51% FG, 42% from three and 93.8% FT). This preseason he has been terrific as well, even at just 24 minutes a night he has posted a nice 10.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 0.8 BPG and best of all 2.4 treys per game. Look for Leonard to be a more efficient (and healthy) version of Ryan Anderson.

3) Aaron Gordon – PF/SF – Orlando Magic – 148 on ESPN

Like Sam Macey said in his break out candidates article, Aaron Gordon has a lot to look forward to in terms of fantasy goodies. The uncertainty is how Scott Skiles will work the Magic SF/PF rotation/minutes. While Skiles has been notoriously unkind to young players, he’s a stickler for defense and no other magic SF/PF possesses lockdown defensive abilities like Gordon. So that could skip him to the head of the class sooner rather than later. Whether he starts or come off the bench, I can’t imagine AG playing under 20 minutes most nights and that should rise as he proves his worth. Last night I went to the Magic’s preseason game against the Pelicans, and despite the size disadvantage, Gordon made several shots really difficult from the beastly Anthony Davis. Gordon has 1+ trey, block and steal ability if he gets enough playing time. Let’s hope he does.


Alec Burks – SG – Utah Jazz – 117 on ESPN

Alec Burks missed the majority of last season due to a shoulder injury, but despite his early shooting woes, he was still putting up 13.9 points per night. This season his minutes were looking a little more iffy battling with Rodney Hood, but when Dante Exum was lost for the season, and the Jazz cut Bryce Cotton basically saying they were fine playing stints with no true PG on the court, it was a message to us that Burks is going to get his minutes. Burks is a true scorer, who attacks the rim but can also net you over one 3-pointer a night. 15 PPG should be easy for Alec and there’s room for upside if the Jazz continue to succeed with Burks running the point. He’s also a nice late round boost to good-great FT shooting rosters as he was getting to the line for 4.8 attempts last season, making over 82% of them.

Bojan Bogdanovic – SG/SF – Brooklyn Nets – 151 on ESPN

While Joe Johnson will go a few rounds earlier, another Nets starting wing is the one I am more keen on this year, Bojan Bogdanovic. I was tinkering with searches for unique Bojan stats then saw ESPN found the glory already “Per StatMuse, [Bojan] Bogdanovic averaged 15.9 PPG, 2.1 3-PPG, 3.6 RPG, 51.0 FG% and 91.7 FT% in the 24 games in which he took double-digit field-goal attempts.” Now a starter, it’s very likely that Bojan will get double digit shots most nights and while 16 PPG out of the gate may be wishful thinking, 14-15 is a reasonable bet. If/when the Nets move Joe Johnson when they realize they’re terrible, Bogdanovic will go off even more as a fantasy points and 3s specialist.

Others to consider: Jamal Crawford (153), Meyers Leonard (157)


1) Mason Plumlee – PF/C – Portland Trailblazers – 133 on ESPN

While my favorite player in the Blazers front-court is Leonard, Mason Plumlee should still see plenty of minutes to be a nice stat stuffer in H2H leagues, especially in the rebounds column. While most of the attention goes to Ed Davis who annually intrigues fantasy analysts, I think the underrated Plumlee will be the guy who gets more minutes of the two. 30 minutes a nigh should allow Plums to average around 12 points, 8.5 boards, one steal and one block. The reason I said “in H2H leagues” is because Plumlee is a really poor free throw shooter, and if he’s going 2/4 from the line every night, he’s not a roto option for me.

2) Zaza Pachulia – C – Dallas Mavericks – 150 on ESPN

I know that Zaza doesn’t bring excitement to your fantasy hearts, but he’s in a terrific situation to get big minutes and produce quality fantasy numbers. Last season with the Bucks, Pachulia played 28 minutes or more in 20 games, and in those he averaged 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals while shooting 52% from the field and 80% from the charity stripe. While those may be a tad overly optimistic in Dallas, I think 10pts – 8rebs – 2.5asts – 1.0stls with good percentages, is a pretty decent projection if he plays around 26 minutes as I’m anticipating. The points may not be consistent, but ZPac can grab some boards down, he embraces the physicality in the paint.

Others to consider: Julius Randle (112), Tyson Chandler (119, he’ll go well before this), Joakim Noah (120), Andrew Bogut (149)


Tony Parker – PG – San Antonio Spurs – 121 on ESPN

I can hear you all now, “Booooring!” I understand that Tony Parker is not a fun late round option, but once the top-25ish PGs are off the board, things get pretty murky in the draft pool. If you missed out on the late PG run, you have to take less enticing options to fill those voids, and Tony Parker is a guy who helps out in the assists category but also doesn’t wreck your FG% or FT% like Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo or Mo Williams types can. The lack of 3-pointers and steals is definitely dissatisfying, but he dishes out 5 assists a night, shoots above 48% from the field and 78% from the line.

Not every player you draft has to have big upside, you can get those throughout the draft, but it also doesn’t hurt to land a guy that you know exactly what you’re getting and doesn’t do interior damage to your core consensus stats. Last season, only 34 players averaged 4.9 assists or better. That may seem like a lot, but divide that by your 12-team league and that’s less than three for each team. Collect assists anywhere you can throughout drafts, guys.

Darren Collison – PG – Sacramento Kings – 135 on ESPN

Darren Collison was playing like one of the biggest steals of last year’s drafts until he was knocked out for the season after just 45 games. This year, the Kings made the (bad) decision to bring in Rajon Rondo on a 1-year deal to be their leading point man, and people immediately scrapped all memory of Collison playing so well last year. His minutes will drop from the 34.8 he played last season, to probably around 28-30, but he should still easily be able to deliver numbers much better than the typical player ranked in the 130s by a draft site. Collison will be the primary backup PG and I think it’s safe to believe that he’ll log a good bit of playing time at SG as well. The Kings have Ben McLemore and Marco Belinelli are the other two wings, and DC is better than both of those guys.

In 5 preseason games, Collison is killing it in his 24.6 minutes with a line of 14.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.0 trey while shooting 52.3% from the field and 87% from the line. Seth Klein predicted in our round table predictions piece that by the end of the season, DC will overtake Rondo as the starter. Rondo is definitely more than capable of coughing up that gig one way or another, and if that did happen, Collison would be incredible, but he’s fine either way.

Others to consider: Trey Burke (118, but awful FG%), Joakim Noah (120, injury risk but 4.7 APG last yr), Dennis Schroder (140), Jerian Grant (136, baller if ever takes over as starter)


Kevin Martin – SG – Minnesota Timberwolves – 128 on ESPN

Who the hell knows how the Wolves are going to run their shooting guard rotation? Not me, but Kevin Martin is too good of a scorer — fragile as he may be — to not be involved in a minimum of 24 minutes per game. In 24 minutes, the veteran wing man can definitely do damage from behind the arc and get to the free throw line to pad FT% numbers. Maybe playing a little less each night will be good for his body and he won’t get hurt so quickly, but that’s wishful thinking. If you are sitting late in your draft and need a trey booster, Kev should supply you with right about two a night with the occasional blow up night where he hits six from deep. If he does stay healthy, look for him to be traded to a contender before the deadline.

Isaiah Canaan – PG – Philadelphia 76ers – 181 on ESPN

The 76ers did very little this off-season to give us confidence that Isaiah Canaan would remain their starting point guard, after starting 12 of his 22 games as a Sixer last year. Philly had D’Angelo Russell sniped from them by the Lakers on draft day, forcing them to go with Jahlil Okafor instead. This meant Canaan dodged a major fantasy bullet, but they kept coming, just in less lethal fashion. They signed Pierre Jackson, brought in Kendall Marshall, signed undrafted T.J. McConnell (who looked terrific this preseason) and still have — albeit injured — Tony Wroten. Wroten and Marshall will not be ready to play to start the season, so Canaan will have the opportunity to lock up the job, but truth is, he’s not a great point guard and he could easily be passed up by any of these guys if he doesn’t ball out. All that said, he shoots a ton of treys and will hit you 2+ per night while he’s getting the minutes. The FG% may not be great, but if you need to pad the treys category, he’s a temporary filler there and gets a few assists on top.

Others to consider: Rodney Hood (182), Meyers Leonard (157), Bojan Bogdanovic (151), Trey Burke (118), Jamal Crawford (153), Marcus Smart (165), C.J. Miles (198)


Al-Farouq Aminu – SF/PF – Portland Trailblazers – 137 on ESPN

Having this many Blazers on a list has to be a recipe for disaster, right? Yeah, I thought so, but oh well. Even bad teams have players who we can benefit from in fantasy. Aminu is a late round guy that I like this year because of his defensive ability. In his last 34 games of last season with the Mavs, Aminu was playing 23.7 minutes off the bench, yet still managed 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks in that span. In Portland, Aminu got paid handsomely to be a starter and you’ve got to believe he plays at least 27-30 minutes a night, mostly at SF but some at PF as well. We hope he can bring up his poor FG% (shot less than 40% in that final stretch) but if he delivers 0.7 treys, 1.7 steals, 1.2 blocks and 7.0 rebounds, he should be a valuable bench option for your fantasy team. Those steals that late are beautiful.

Marcus Smart – PG – Boston Celtics – 165 on ESPN

First off, 165 is an extremely low ranking for Marcus Smart, no matter what the Celtics guard situation looks like. Smart is going to play a lot and has breakout potential once things click for him, although as of now, he’s a percentage damager. If you’re late in your draft though, and have a need for steals (also threes and assists), Marcus makes for a smart selection late in your draft. As a rookie, Smart averaged 1.5 steals in 27 minutes which both should slightly increase this season.

Others to consider: P.J. Tucker (100, usually falls a bit further), Otto Porter (111), Tony Allen (189), Corey Brewer (192)


Myles Turner – PF/C – Indiana Pacers – 115 on ESPN

I don’t need to go into crazy detail here, you already know that I am all about Myles Turner this year. I know 19-year-olds don’t have the greatest track records their rookie seasons, but this kid is poised for a nice year in at least the blocks category. Despite playing just 15.3 minutes through six preseason games, Myles has registered two blocks in each game aside from their most recent game where he put on a block fiesta with five. Early in the year Turner may hang around 17-20 minutes but as time goes by, the Pacers will have no choice but to give him more PT. He has a nice jumper, plays solid D and I don’t think the Paul George playing PF experiment will last too terribly long.

Roy Hibbert – C – Los Angeles Lakers – 122 on ESPN

Ugh, I’ve never been a big Roy Hibbert fan, even though he gets hyped up for one reason or another every off-season. This go around, it’s because he’s on the Lakers who needed a stopper in the paint and is in a contract year. How a guy over 7-foot tall can shoot under 50% within three feet of the rim will always puzzle me, Hibbs has finished each of the last three seasons shooting under 45% from the field. I can make a case though for Hibbert if you’re in need of blocks late in your drafts, because he really is a good defensive big man who gets quality swat numbers. While only 1.6 last season, the Jamaican big fella averaged over two per game the three previous seasons and should again in his first year with the Lakeshow.

Others to consider: Andrew Bogut (149), Willie Cauley-Stein (155), John Henson (193)


For more fantasy hoops analysis and to have any questions you may have answered, follow Zack on Twitter @BigZack44

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