NBA Fantasy: Breakdown of Yahoo's top 5 rookie and sleeper picks

Sep 30, 2013; Tarrytown, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Andrea Bargnani answers question during media day at MSG Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports


With only a couple of weeks to go until the 2013-14 NBA regular season tip-off, NBA fantasy team owners should be polishing their rankings and doing research for the upcoming drafts. The best place to start is usually to turn to the experts, who provide interesting picks and suggestions during the preseason month.

Yahoo Sports’ NBA writer Marc J. Spears recently published his top 5 sleepers and rookie lists. After going through Spears’ picks, I was able to talk to him and pick his brain a little bit. You can find his lists and our Q&A below.

Spears’ Top 5 NBA fantasy sleepers

5. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz

4. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

3. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic

2. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

1. Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks

Spears’ Top 5 NBA fantasy rookies

5. Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers

4. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

3. Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

1. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics


Q&A with Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo)

In your sleeper picks you suggested gambling on Andrew Bogut in the early rounds. While Bogut is undoubtedly a versatile center, his numbers have declined for three straight seasons as he has struggled to stay healthy. With so many scoring options on the floor, it would seem that the Warriors wouldn’t rely on Bogut offensively even if he was healthy. Could you elaborate further on why you think he’s worth the gamble when significantly safer picks should be available in the early rounds?

Marc J. Spears: When Andrew Bogut was last healthy he was an All-NBA third team center in 2010. One of the Warriors players, who I trust, told me he was playing like a Top 5 center during preseason workouts. This is the first time in a while that Bogut is entering training camp healthy. Keep in mind that scoring is just one category, but with the high-scoring Warriors he should be able to average at least 15 points with the aid of fast break, post and put back buckets. He rebounds, blocks shots, makes free throws and also gets assists. He is one of those rare centers that can fill a lot of categories, which is why I am so high on him.

While we’re on the topic of center sleepers that could slip down to late rounds, two names come to mind. First of all, we have Spencer Hawes, who will own the center position until Nerlens Noel comes back. Another interesting name is Samuel Dalembert. While he is past his prime, he will also be the lone man in the middle and should see a significant rise in minutes. What is your take on these two players as potential late-round sleepers?

Spears: Spencer Hawes is definitely an interesting name. Michael Carter-Williams is a great passer who could make it easier for him to score as he continues to grow through the rookie grind. Spencer is a decent scorer, little better than average rebounder, blocks shots, but doesn’t shoot too many free throws. Probably a No. 2 center, but in deep leagues he could be valuable because there are not a lot of true centers out there.

Samuel Dalembert will likely get some good minutes in Dallas, but he is not a big scorer, doesn’t shoot many free throws and often has health issues. I see him more as a third center or second center if you have a bad draft position in a deep league.

Your rookie picks seem pretty spot-on. There are at least three other rookies that could potentially pay off as late-round picks: C.J. McCollum, Trey Burke and Nerlens Noel. What is your take on the three rookies?

Spears: I almost put C.J. McCollum on my list of Top 5 Rookies. It was between him and Anthony Bennett, the top pick by the Cavaliers. I opted for Bennett because of the need for Cleveland to give an opportunity since he was pick top overall and the long list of guards McCollum had to compete with for playing time. Unfortunately, McCollum recently broke his foot. I didn’t have Burke in my Top 5 because he played awful in summer league, which is a really bad sign. As far as Nerlens Noel, he is still overcoming off-season knee surgery and he also has to get dramatically stronger to be a factor in the NBA. Think Nerlens at least a year away physically from being a major factor.

I must admit, one of your sleeper picks baffled me — you had Andrea Bargnani ranked at No. 1. As you mentioned, he has been injury prone over the last few seasons, but he also has a lot of other flaws. He is a seven-footer who has a career-average of 4.8 rebounds per game and it would be a surprise if he grabbed more than that, as his primary role offensively should be that of a stretch-four. He is also not much of a passer (1.3 APG career-average) and has just barely shot over 30% from beyond the arc combined over the last two seasons. What makes you confident that Bargnani can improve these numbers, even if healthy?

Spears: I always like to take a chance on someone that has potential for big things. Prior to last season, he averaged about 20 points and 5 rebounds while shooting about four free throws per game and nailing at least one 3-pointer. I think the Italian is very versatile and will get much better looks playing with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. The pressure will be off. Think Andrea can finally be the player we expected him to be in New York. It’s a gamble, but one I think I will be right one.


Looking across the board, most of Spears’ picks seem solid. Personally, I am not sold on Bargnani being worth an early gamble. I’d expect him to slip down quite low in most drafts and I like him a lot more as a late-round steal, if he does slip that low.

The most exciting player on the sleepers list to me is Derrick Favors. With Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson out of town, Favors is bound to have a breakout year. He improved his free throw percentage last season and is quite efficient. With more minutes and touches, Favors could prove to be a massive sleeper this season. Enes Kanter could also be worth a gamble, as he will join Favors in Utah’s frontcourt and will undoubtedly play more minutes this year.


Do you agree with Spears’ picks? Why? Why not? Let us know in the comment section down below.

You can follow me on Twitter: @VytisLasaitis

You can also follow Marc on Twitter: @SpearsNBAYahoo


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