For those who continue their fantasy basketball play into the playoffs, guest writer Justin Becker provides insight on potential sleepers
This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NBAandNFLInfo or on the FantasyBasketball Money Leagues Google+ Page, and for more fantasy info visit Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues today!
One of the biggest keys for NBA teams heading into the Playoffs is establishing x-factors. With the opposition working hard to take out their top players, or at least limit their effectiveness, the play of a productive bench or role player becomes huge for their success.
It’s the same story in fantasy basketball. While you’re nearing the end of your run in season long fantasy basketball leagues, the daily scene will rage on during the 2015 NBA layoffs and you’ll want to keep an eye on the top values for each series.
There will be 16 teams to roll with when the playoffs start, giving us 80 starters, 16 sixth men, and a plethora of role players off the bench. A lot of teams stick with a tight seven or eight man rotation once the playoffs hit so it’s harder than ever to find true value. Regardless, that’s precisely what we aim to do as we take a look at the top six fantasy basketball sleepers for the NBA Playoffs:
Jamal Crawford, G, Los Angeles Clippers
Crawford has returned from a calf issue just in time to get back into the swing of things. Given Lob City’s horrific bench, the team has become overly reliant on J.J. Redick, and while he’s been great, they’ll almost certainly start using Crawford more and more. He’s without a doubt their most consistent (and explosive) guy off the bench, and they’ll sorely need his scoring outbursts if they’re going to last more than a round.
Crawford was off in his return from a 17-game absence (four points in 19 minutes), but it won’t be long before the sharpshooter returns to his previous form that saw him drop 16 points/game. Crawford doesn’t do much else other than score, but he’ll be a fun guy to plug-in during the Playoffs thanks to his explosive scoring ability.
Lou Williams, G, Toronto Raptors
Williams is another volume scorer off the bench, but unlike Crawford, he’s been red hot over the past month. The Raptors are shaping up as the Eastern Conference’s three seed for the Playoffs, but if they’re going to make any real noise they’ll need a big first round out of Lou.
Due to Kyle Lowry struggling with a back injury, Williams has been thrust into a bigger role than usual, responding with 16+ points in six of his last seven contests. Williams is another guy that really only provides scoring, but he can blow up at any time, and if Lowry is limited, or misses time in the Playoffs, he’s going to get major opportunity.
Jared Sullinger, PF, Boston Celtics
Sullinger was supposed to be done for the year with a foot ailment, but Boston’s shot at a playoff spot, and the health of his foot (reportedly completely healed), convinced him to return. It’s true that Sullinger hasn’t seen more than 12 minutes in any contest since returning, but his upside can’t be ignored. Sully was enjoying a career-year before going down, putting in averages of 13.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. We might need to temper expectations if the Celtics don’t plan on giving him more minutes in the Playoffs, but due to his double-double potential in any given game, we’ll at last need to keep tabs on the big man.
Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs
It’s no secret the Spurs rest and limit their guys during the regular season so they can be fresh for the playoffs. That’s why we needn’t pay any mind to Manu’s 18-20 minutes per game going into the Playoffs. Expect a much more enhanced role in what, from the mouth of Ginobili, could very well be his final ride in the NBA.
San Antonio was looking like a sinking stone earlier in the year, but poor health across the board was the reason for their sluggish start. With Ginobili and others back to full strength, the Spurs are now riding a red-hot nine-game winning streak and will be a team no one will want to run into. He’s only been good for 10.7 points, 4.2 assists, and three rebounds per game, but that’s not bad production given his average run per game.
Fantasy gamers can bank on Ginobili seeing much more time on the court come Playoff time, making him an explosive sleeper. He’s one of the sneakiest plays you can find.
Josh Smith, F, Houston Rockets
With news that forward Donatas Motiejunas (back surgery) will miss the remainder of the season, fantasy gamers can probably expect to see an expanded role for the versatile Josh Smith. Smoove has been touch-and-go since signing on with the Rockets, but when his role is expanded he returns to a solid fantasy status. In fact, Smith has logged at least 27 minutes in each of his last seven contests, topping at least 13 points in five games during that stretch.
Smith is probably one of the more interesting fantasy sleepers due his versatility, as he can play effectively both inside and out, while helping on the boards, blocking shots, handing out dimes, and even contributing steals. To paint a clearer picture, Smoove has registered at least one steal in five of his last seven contests and has also blocked two or more shots in four of those games. With his minutes only increasing with Motiejunas on the shelf, he could be ready to explode come Playoff time.
Andrew Bogut, C, Golden State Warriors
Bogut is my favorite fantasy basketball sleeper, as he’s another guy in the Ginobili vain that has been held back to protect him for a deep playoff run. The Warriors have done a great job resting and limiting him throughout the year, and for once it’s led to the big man going into the playoffs at 100% health. It’s anyone’s guess if it will actually last, but come playoff time, it’s fair to assume Golden State won’t hold him back any longer.
Should Bogut see run in the 30-minute range, we could see a constant double-double threat. Bogut isn’t always involved in the team’s offense (as seen by his 6.4 points per game) but he does so much in other areas that it really doesn’t matter. Bogut has remained a staunch rebounder on the year (8.2 per game) despite his capped minutes, while he’s also displayed his solid passing (2.7 assists per game) and defense (1.7 blocks per game).
With head coach Steve Kerr getting him ready for a bigger workload, we’ve seen a snapshot of what we might come to expect in the Playoffs. In those two outings, Bogut averaged 30 minutes, while producing nine points, 4.5 blocks, 3.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. If he can come anywhere close to that on a nightly basis, he just might be the top sleeper to target.
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