2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Breakouts
Which NBA players are ready for the big time? Our Chris Towers lists his top sleepers to target on Draft Day.
This wasn't the most action-packed free agency class ever, with only a handful of true franchise-changing talents changing hands. Still, there was enough turnover to leave a significantly altered landscape for some teams around the league, with plenty of young players expected to slide into bigger roles as a result.
And that is where breakout candidates typically come from. Young players, thrust into the spotlight, typically on bad teams, and living up to the tremendous upside shown in their previous roles as bit players.
Thanks to what looks like a handful of teams engaging in an all-out tank for draft position, this season could see a number of young stars emerge as the leaders of their teams. None of these players are established Fantasy studs, but they are should all be on your radar on Draft Day.
Eric Bledsoe , Suns
Projection: 70 G, 13.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.90 SPG, 3.10 TPG
With his freakish athleticism -- and the "Mini LeBron" nickname it has spawned -- it is easy to see why Bledsoe is nearly everyone's favorite pick to break out this season. He thrived in a reserve role for the Clippers last season, despite being stuck behind Chris Paul in a rotation Clippers' coach Vinny Del Negro was loathe to experiment too much with.
Now, Bledsoe has been freed. Oh, he'll still have to share ball-handling duties with Goran Dragic , the established starter at point guard. But this is Bledsoe's best chance to live up to our suddenly lofty expectations, and it comes the same year he can test free agency for the first time.
Bledsoe's game isn't perfect; he struggles to run an offense, is turnover prone and has a poor jump shot. But there are very few guards in the league who can match his physical tools, and that and 35-plus minutes per game should be enough to turn him into a Fantasy standout.
Nick Young , Lakers
Projection: 66 G, 12.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.3 3PT/G
Young has been around for a while, and has a well-developed reputation for being a gunner without conscience. If, at first glance, his projected numbers don't look too far off from his career marks, keep in mind that Young may end up being asked to carry a pretty big scoring load on the perimeter for the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant is recovering from an Achilles injury, and while he has maintained optimism about his chances of returning soon after the season begins, some healthy skepticism is in order. And, if Kobe misses significant time, there are probably going to be plenty of shots available for Young, and he's not going to pass them up.
In a fast-paced offense with the green light to shoot, Young has proven he can put up big numbers; he averaged 17.4 points in just 31.8 minutes per game in 2010-11. Fantasy owners who pick Young up are definitely going to benefit from whatever absence Kobe has to endure.
Evan Turner , 76ers
Projection: 80 G, 15.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.5 TPG
Turner has been a decent Fantasy option at times in his career, but he was never someone you were all too thrilled about adding to your roster. And, for anyone who has to watch what is sure to be a disastrous season in Philadelphia, it might be hard to think of Turner as big-time Fantasy option.
Still, if you close your eyes (and that League Pass window) and just focus on Turner's stat lines this season, you're likely to be pleasantly surprised. Turner has not evolved much as a scorer in his three seasons in the league, but his rebounding and assist numbers took another step forward last season as his role continues to grow.
The 76ers traded their lone All-Star this offseason, leaving Turner as the most accomplished perimeter player on the roster. This could be a historically poor Sixers team, but I expect Turner to take advantage of that and put up solid numbers ahead of his first foray into free agency.
Jeremy Lamb , Thunder
Projection: 75 G, 9.3 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 3PT/G
This is one where my official projection does not scream “breakout”, despite Lamb's inclusion here. Frankly, we don't know what to expect from Lamb, after he played just 147 minutes a year ago. We do know the 21-year-old has pretty big shoes to fill, with the departure of Kevin Martin coming a year after Lamb was acquired for James Harden .
For all intents and purposes, Lamb is a rookie. He played largely in garbage time when he wasn't in the D-League, and he didn't even see the floor. Based on his college resume, Lamb should be able to fill it up from the perimeter, and he could have every opportunity to do so as a sixth man.
Lamb is no sure thing, but as a late-round flier, his potential could pay off in a big way this season.
Gordon Hayward , Jazz
Projection: 75 G, 15.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 3PT/G, 1.9 TPG
Anyone who follows me on twitter (@CTowersCBS) knows I have been hitting Hayward hard as one of my favorite breakout candidates this offseason. The former No. 9 pick has improved in each season in the league, and quietly put up tremendous per-minute numbers a year ago.
He has had to fight for playing time at times, having started less than half of the games in his career. Despite that, Hayward averaged 17.4 points per-36 minutes a year ago, with impressive efficiency. He can draw fouls and shoot threes, two skills that should help him manage the transition to what we hope is a larger role this season.
The Jazz cleared the decks of a couple of long-time offensive centerpieces, and Hayward is the most obvious choice to build the offense around this season. Even with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson around, Hayward put up 15.1 points and 3.7 assists per game after last season's All-Star break.
A Paul George-like breakout season wouldn't shock me at all from Hayward, and that isn't as farfetched as it might seem. Hayward was nearly George's equal on a per-minute basis a year ago.
Derrick Favors , Jazz
Projection: 78 G, 13.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG
Like his teammate, Favors is another likely beneficiary of the team's offseason departues (and he won't be the last Jazz player you see in this column.) Favors was a lot of people's favorite breakout candidate last season, before the Jazz inexplicably held on to both Millsap and Jefferson through the trade deadline.
Favors is a former No. 3 overall pick, and he has shown nothing in his three seasons as a mostly-reserve player to make us think that was a wasted pick. Favors averaged 14.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per-36 minutes a year ago, and should see something close to that workload this season.
Favors is going to be a defensive game changer, and that alone should keep him on the floor for what could be a bad Jazz team. The only problem with targeting Favors on Draft Day is he won't come cheap. His potential is no secret to even less savvy Fantasy owners; Favors is going 51st overall in CBSSports.com leagues so far.
Jeff Green , Celtics
Projection: 75 G, 16.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 TPG
This is less of a breakout for Green and more of a return to form, as he was producing this kinds of numbers back in his Oklahoma City days. OF course, that was four season ago at this point, so he still definitely fits here.
It took Green a while to find his footing last season while recovering from heart surgery that cost him the entire 2011-12 season. Once he got comfortable, however, Green was a star. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game after the All-Star break, while working at times as the team's top offensive option.
Frankly, that projection is probably underselling Green's potential this season. As with so many on the list, Green is likely to be one of the lone reliable options on a suddenly barren roster. The Celtics have talked about using Green as a shooting guard, small forward and power forward, which speaks to his versatility as much as it does the state of the Celtics' roster from top to bottom. Green might see his efficiency dip in a larger role, but he could be a Fantasy star as the Celtics' primary focus.
Tobias Harris , Magic
Projection: 70 G, 13.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 TPG
Harris has found a home in Orlando, after he failed to find much playing time in a season and a half with the Bucks. And, at least for a month or two, it looked like the Magic might have found a long-term answer in Harris, who emerged as a starter towards the end of the season.Harris put up 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game over the final 20 games of the season, as he emerged as the team's starting power forward. He should be in that same role this season, which is why he is one of the more popular breakout options this season.
And while I believe in Harris' abilities, the makeup of the Magic's roster scares me a bit. This team has invested a lot in their young frontcourt over the last two seasons, with some combination of Harris, Maurice Harkless , Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn set to possibly see time at power forward, along with the inevitable return of Glen Davis from a season-ending foot injury. If you could guarantee 35-plus minutes per game for Harris, I'd gladly take him as early as the fourth or fifth round this season, due to his upside. Unfortunately, a possible glut of options makes Harris something less than a sure thing.
Enes Kanter , Jazz
Projection: 70 G, 8.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.6 BPG
I told you we weren't done with the Jazz. This roster is loaded with high-upside recent lottery picks, and Kanter is just another in a long line. But he could end up being as valuable as anyone on the roster, based on the sort of massive potential he showed in his second season.
Kanter was the fourth big man in the rotation a year ago, and as such, managed just 15.4 minutes per game. He put up very impressive numbers even in his limited role, however, averaging 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per-36 minutes. In two chances to start last season, Kanter did more than enough to show he can be an impact player; the 21-year-old averaged 20.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in this two games.
We're not sure if Kanter can take on a huge minutes load, after being limited to a reserve role the last two years and not playing his lone season in college. I wouldn't draft Kanter with the expectation that he will be my one of my starters throughout the season, but he's got enough upside to emerge as a No. 1 center if things break right.
Jonas Valanciunas , Raptors
Projection: 70 G, 12.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 BPG
Putting a second-year player on this list is kind of cheating; we expect a big improvement from them, just through natural improvements in skill.
Still, the buzz for Valanciunas is so high, I can't possibly do this column without mentioning him. Valanciunas' per-minute numbers were extremely solid for a young big man last season, as he put up 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per-36 minutes. And the 21-year-old kept getting better as the season went on, averaging 14.9 points per game in the month of April, while learning leverage his size and athleticism into a sky-high free throw rate. Valanciunas attempted more free-throw attempts in April than shots from the field.
And all Valanciunas did this offseason is go to the Las Vegas Summer League and dominate, winning the MVP award and looking very much like a young building block. With little standing in his way in terms of playing time, Valanciunas should take a big leap forward. Don't be surprised if he is a top-15 Fantasy center this season.