2018 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts for every NBA team

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We're just about ready for another NBA season, and it promises to be another fascinating one. The Warriors (somehow) got even better; The Lakers (somehow) got LeBron James; The East (somehow) got worse.

The young talent we've seen blossom around the league over the past few years is only getting better, and for Fantasy players, that means there are a ton of options at the top of the draft. You can realistically make a case for any one of five players with the top pick, and that's not even including nightly triple-double threat Russell Westbrook -- or nightly triple-double threat Nikola Jokic, for that matter.

With less than a week left until the start of the season, it's time to take one last look at the state of the NBA heading into 2017-18. And, for Fantasy players, that means one last look at players to target and others to avoid heading into the final big draft weekend of the year.

With that in mind, here are my sleepers, breakouts and busts for the upcoming season, with one for each team. Here's how I'm determining these picks, since those terms can be pretty nebulous:

  • Sleeper – Someone you won't necessarily have to draft as a starter, but who can turn into one
  • Breakout – Someone you'll draft as a starter who could turn into a star
  • Bust – Someone I wouldn't want to touch at their current draft cost*

*Based on FantasyPros.com ADP

Here are my picks for every team in the league: 

Hawks

Breakout

The Hawks are sure to be bad, but they could be the kind of bad team that frustrates Fantasy players with inconsistent and crowded rotations. John Collins showed real potential as a 20-year-old rookie in 2017-18, averaging 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game in just 24.1 minutes. He flashed range out to the 3-point line as the season went on, and even showed some playmaking ability. If he gets closer to 30 mpg, Collins could be a nightly double-double threat with a couple of assists and blocks thrown in, and he'll be a rare big man who doesn't hurt you in free-throw percentage. 

Celtics

Bust

I really love Jayson Tatum's game. I think he has legitimate superstar upside, and there were flashes of Kawhi Leonard's all-around game in his rookie season performance. However, he also benefited from the absence of Kyrie Irving and especially Gordon Hayward throughout his rookie season. I expect him to remain highly efficient, but I'm not convinced he'll be able to build on the counting stats from his rookie campaign, given how deep Boston is coming into the season. You can make the same case for Jaylen Brown, but Tatum is the one being drafted in the early fourth round on average coming into the season. He was the No. 63 player in Roto leagues in 2017-18 per BasketballMonster.com, and I would expect similar results across the board in Year Two — unless Irving, Brown or Hayward are going to take a big step back, that is. 

Nets

Sleeper

The most important thing about Caris LeVert's 2017-18 season is he was able to stay healthy, playing over 1,800 minutes in 71 games. He didn't show star potential, but he did flash the kind of all-around game that made him an intriguing prospect before injuries derailed him in college. In 21 games after the All-Star break, LeVert averaged 13.1 points, 4.6 assists and just 1.6 turnovers per game, while improving his shooting numbers across the board. And he did that in just 26.5 minutes per game. I would hope we'll see him in a bigger role this season, and something like 15-5-5 isn't out of the question on a Nets team that still needs someone to step up. 

Hornets

Sleeper

The Hornets aren't a great team for this exercise, because outside of Kemba Walker, there just aren't any standout players one way or the other. I am interested in seeing Cody Zeller get some extended run after dealing with injuries and being buried behind Dwight Howard last season. He's always been an efficient scorer, and if he can get to the 28 mpg range, there's potential for good percentages, along with solid points, rebounds, blocks and assists. There is exactly zero star potential with Zeller, but he could emerge as a viable starter, someone you don't get excited about, but someone you also don't have to worry about hurting you anywhere. 

Bulls

Bust

I'm honestly not sure about Jabari Parker's upside. In 2016-17, he emerged as a plus scorer who contributed a bit in rebounds and assists, but he wasn't really a standout anywhere else. And that was before his second ACL tear. The Bulls took a risk on a two-year deal that could be worth $40 million, but I don't see why Fantasy players have to invest in him. He has never been much more than an average shooter on middling volume, and he he stopped drawing free throws last season, while attempting his lowest rate of shots near the rim ever. Best-case scenario, you're looking at scorer who likely tops out in the high teens per game, and doesn't contribute much else — and he isn't even a significant discount on Draft Day. You can do better. 

Cavaliers

Sleeper

The Cavaliers have already announced George Hill will start for them, and here's hoping we see a bounce-back season. If you're skeptical, I get it, but he can be had with a late-round pick, and is just one year removed from averaging 16.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game for the Jazz. Injuries have been a real issue, but at this cost, all downside has been taken out of the equation. You could get a starter for essentially free with Hill, who should be asked to do much more in Cleveland with LeBron James out of the picture.

Mavericks

Breakout

OOK, I'm cheating a bit with Luka Doncic as a breakout, given that he hasn't played a game in the NBA yet. But if you're looking for the rookie who could make the biggest impact this season, it probably has to be Doncic. He's the most decorated rookie by far, having logged a EuroLeague MVP among many other accolades before turning 20. We've seen a flash of his all-around potential in the preseason, as Doncic has averaged 14.0 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.7 combined steals and blocks per game in three contests. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.5 combined blocks and steals in the EuroLeague last season, to boot. You'll have to invest a fifth-round pick if you want him on Draft Day, but that seems like a worthy price to pay for this kind of talent. 

Nuggets

Breakout

Jamal Murray isn't your prototypical point guard, but he might be the perfect fit for this Nuggets' roster. The offense revolves around Nikola Jokic and his generational passing skills, which means Murray's limited playmaking abilities aren't such a hindrance. Still, he put up 3.4 assists per game last season, to go along with 16.7 points and 2.0 3-pointers per game, and upped those numbers to 17.2 points and 4.4 assists in the second half as the Nuggets made a playoff push. If all Murray does is repeat his numbers from last year, he's a fine pick at the end of the fifth round. If the former No. 7 overall pick takes another step forward, he could be someone we're targeting in the third or fourth rounds next year, like C.J. McCollum. 

Pistons

Sleeper

Lingering knee issues have limited Reggie Jackson to just 97 games over the last two seasons, and his production has suffered as a result. He also had offseason ankle surgery, something that has slowed him in the preseason. He's a walking MASH unit right now. But if he gets right, we know what the upside here is -- he averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per game in 79 contests in 2015-16. Since the acquisition of Blake Griffin, the Pistons aren't built around Jackson's pick-and-roll abilities the way they once were, but there's still upside here if he can get healthy, and the price is fair enough to make it worth the risk. 

Warriors

Bust

DeMarcus Cousins is still, somehow, a top-100 pick coming into the season. A top-100 pick, despite the fact that he doesn't have a timetable to return to the court. He's coming off an Achilles injury, the kind of injury where there is no guarantee he'll ever get back to full health, let alone in Year 1, and he's playing on the one team in basketball that may not even need him at all in the regular season. Even assuming Cousins gets on the floor before 2019, what does his role look like on a team with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? I get the upside with Cousin makes him seem appealing at this point in the draft, and it's hard to let that name go by, but the upside just doesn't seem to be here. The hope is Cousins get healthy, contributes a few big games in key moments, and heads into free agency next summer ready to return to a star level. It won't happen this season. 

Rockets

Bust

Carmelo Anthony wasn't even a top-100 player in Fantasy last season, and now he's going to a team that will almost certainly ask even less of him than the Thunder did. Maybe that leads to a reinvention of his game, and Anthony becomes an efficient, high-volume 3-point shooter like Ryan Anderson at his best, and provides value. The catch is, as we'll discuss later, Anderson might be in an even better spot and is available even cheaper. Why invest a top-100 pick in someone whose best-case scenario sees him provide 3-point shooting and not much else, in an era when everyone shoots 3's? 

Pacers

Breakout

Myles Turner actually took a step back last season, but I'm betting that was just a minor setback on his path to stardom. Despite entering his fourth NBA season, Turner is still just 22, and has all of the skills you want from a potential star big man in the modern NBA. He can protect the rim and shoot 3-pointers, and he got into even better shape in the offseason. We saw Victor Oladipo take his game to the next level thanks to an offseason transformation after his game appeared to have stagnated, and I'm willing to bet Turner has the potential to take a similar leap.

Clippers

Sleeper

The Clippers might be one of those teams with too many role players and not enough stars, making them frustrating to rely on night in and night out. The good news is, nobody on this roster is especially expensive on Draft Day. Patrick Beverley might be my favorite value, coming off a lost season due to knee injuries. Before the injuries, he was averaging 12.2 points, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.2 3-pointers, and he's going undrafted in many leagues right now. In a Rotisserie league, you'll be happy to have him around. 

Lakers

Bust

Lonzo Ball's passing makes the highlight reels, but I'm not sure he's best utilized as a primary ball handler. And he probably won't have the opportunity to be one with the Lakers this season, with Rajon Rondo and LeBron James joining the team in the offseason. He'll still have the opportunity for assists, but the 7.2 he averaged as a rookie might be a big ask given the presence of two other high-level playmakers. Ball will get you some steals, rebounds and 3-pointers, but the rest of his offensive game needs a lot of work. I think this is a good situation for his long-term development, but it will likely hurt his Fantasy numbers, and that hasn't been factored into his price yet. 

Grizzlies

Sleeper

The per-game numbers won't blow you away, but Jaren Jackson Jr.'s freshman season at Michigan State showed incredible Fantasy upside. He flashed undeniable defensive upside, racking up 21 steals and a whopping 106 blocks in 35 games, despite playing just 21 minutes per game. He showed off a smooth 3-point stroke and a very good mark at the free-throw line. With the exception of passing, there looks to be a complete package here, and it wouldn't be a total shock to see him do something like what we used to see from a young Serge Ibaka -- a ton of blocks and enough 3-pointers to make up for potential limitations elsewhere. He's a perfect choice as your last starting forward, or first bench big. 

Heat

Sleeper

Bam Adebayo's role is still very much up in the air, mostly because of the potential for a Jimmy Butler trade to Miami. If that rumored trade goes down and Hassan Whiteside is included, Adebayo becomes a potential Fantasy starter for the Heat. He needs to block more shots than he did as a rookie to be a real difference-maker, but Adebayo showed off a surprising feel for the game, dishing out 2.7 assist per-36 minutes, and generally looking like a more natural fit in Miami's ball-movement-heavy offense than the lumbering Whiteside. Snag him with the last pick in your draft and hope Tom Thibodeau gives in to Butler's trade demands and takes back Whiteside as his consolation prize. 

Bucks

Sleeper

There is really nothing very exciting about Malcolm Brogdon's game. I know that's a strange way to start a blurb talking him up, but it's true. Even when he won Rookie of the Year, nobody was particularly thrilled about him. However, there are also very few flaws in his game. He averaged 13.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 3-pointers, and just 1.4 turnovers per game, while shooting 48.5 percent from the field in 2017-18. That may sound unexciting, but he was a top-100 player in Roto leagues last season, and can be found outside of the top-140 right now. Chase upside with your early picks, and settle for Brogdon late as someone you know you'll never have to worry about if you need to slide him into your starting lineup. 

Timberwolves

Breakout

This obviously depends on the Butler situation and how that plays out, but I find myself drafting a surprising amount of Andrew Wiggins. His development didn't just stall out in 2017-18; he started rolling back down the hill. Wiggins is such a frustrating player, because he's blessed with incredible athleticism, but puts it to use less than just about any player in the league -- according to ESPN.com, Wiggins was tracked "running fast" just 4.8 percent of the time he was on the floor last season, one of the 10 lowest marks in the league. He glides through games, rarely impacting them unless the ball is in his hands within 15 feet of the rim. In 2016-17, he showed signs of being a more capable outside shooter, and there's no question he has the potential to be more impactful as a defender and rebounder than he has been. Maybe the Butler saga -- the veteran teammate reportedly showed up to practice this week and ripped into his teammates -- will light the fire Wiggins needs to finally live up to the potential. If not, hopefully Thibodeau accepts a trade that lands Butler elsewhere, and Wiggins can at least go back to scoring 20-plus points per game. 

Pelicans

Bust

Julius Randle is a ton of fun to watch. He's a big man with just about every skill you'd want on offense in the modern NBA with the exception of a reliable jumper; he's able to punish mismatches in the post or on the perimeter, can create when the ball comes to him on the pick and roll, and he can even run the break. His 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game last season were great numbers, but here's the problem; he didn't do anything else. He hit just 10 3-pointers all season, averaged 0.5 blocks and steals per game, and had more turnovers than assists. Despite the solid scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers, he ranked 139th overall in Roto scoring, because his game was so lacking elsewhere. In points leagues, he's a fine second or third forward, but he isn't worth anywhere near this price in Roto. 

Knicks

Sleeper

The Knicks made a savvy move this offseason in snagging former lotto pick Mario Hezonja on a one-year, prove-it deal after Hezonja started to show some signs of figuring things out in the second half of his final season in Orlando. Hezonja hasn't been great in the preseason, and I worry he could be lost in the shuffle on a Knicks team that will do plenty of experimenting with young guys as they continue to rebuild. However, if rookie Kevin Knox struggles, it wouldn't be a surprise if Hezonja slides into the starting lineup before long, and he averaged 14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 3-pointers per game as a starter last season. 

Thunder

Sleeper 

Dennis Schroder just didn't develop the way the Hawks hoped he would in two years as a starter, proving too erratic to be someone they wanted to rely on long term. However, he certainly wasn't bad for Fantasy purposes, averaging 19.4 points and 6.2 assists per game, ranking as a top-100 player in Roto leagues. He'll come off the bench for most of the season, but could start with Russell Westbrook still recovering form preseason knee surgery. And, with Andre Roberson still struggling with injuries, Schroder could see plenty of time in dual-PG lineups even when Westbrook is healthy. Schroder has value on his own, but as an insurance policy for Westbrook, he's well worth a pick in the 10th-round range. 

Magic

Bust

Death, taxes and Nikola Vucevic putting up good numbers on a bad Magic team. You might not get a ton of upside from Vucevic, but there's value in someone who will show up every night and produce. Are we sure Vucevic is going to be there every night, though? He missed 35 games last season and 17 in 2015-16, putting a dent in one of his biggest selling points. Add in the depth in Orlando -- the Magic have to find playing time for Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba in the frontcourt in addition to Vucevic — and he's no sure thing. If this Magic season goes the way every other season does, Vucevic is a prime trade or rest candidate in the second half of the season, but he's still a top-50 pick heading into the season. Not exactly safe. 

Sixers

Sleeper

This is the free space on the board in any Fantasy hoops column this season. Markelle Fultz struggled through one of the most bewildering rookie seasons in recent memory. Either a shoulder injury or a Knoblauch-ian case of the yips robbed him of his jumper, and he was essentially a non-factor for the Sixers as they made their return to the playoffs. When he was on the floor, he did showcase a knack for getting to the rim and dishing out assists, despite his limited range. I'm not convinced the jumper is back -- he's 1 for 5 in four preseason games from 3-point range -- but if he has even a semblance of it, there's obvious star potential with the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. He may even start out the gate. 

Suns

Sleeper

You might not be able to keep him on the floor in the playoffs, but something tells me that won't be an issue for Ryan Anderson with the Suns. Anderson is an ideal fit for top pick DeAndre Ayton, and he should see healthy minutes spreading the floor for this Suns' team. Expect him to contribute solid point and rebounding totals while hitting two-to-three 3-pointers every night. A Roto specialist, Anderson is available for free on Draft Day. 

Blazers

Sleeper

The Blazers aren't overflowing with young talent, and the presence of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard limits how much anyone else in the backcourt can contribute. However, the last time we saw Seth Curry he was putting together a breakout season for the Mavericks, averaging 12.8 points and 2.7 assists per game in 2016-17. A fractured leg kept him off the floor all of last season, but he could be a great fit in Portland, as a backcourt mate off the bench for both Lillard and McCollum, while also capable of running the offense on his own when needed. 

Kings

Breakout

You'll have to be patient with Bogdan Bogdanovic, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the preseason, but he should be back within the season's first month, and I love his game. Bogdanovic does a bit of everything, coming off a rookie season in which he averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 3-pointers in 27.9 minutes per game. The 26-year-old may not have much room to grow from here, but I could see him turning into a kind of poor man's Khris Middleton, a valuable Fantasy player available in the later rounds on Draft Day. 

Spurs

Sleeper 

I'm a big Jakob Poeltl fan. I'm not exactly sure what the statistical upside is here, but he made big strides in his second year with the Raptors as part of the Raptors' killer bench units. On a per-36 minute basis, he averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, showing a real knack on the offensive glass. He'll likely begin the season off the bench in San Antonio, but the ancient Pau Gasol isn't a huge stumbling block if Poeltl needs more playing time. He isn't a perfect fit next to LaMarcus Aldridge, but the Spurs could use his rim protection and rebounding, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him emerge as a starting Fantasy option. 

Raptors

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Raptors are a tough team to do this exercise with. If they stay healthy, there isn't much question about how they're going to play: Heavy doses of Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard, enough Jonas Valanciunas to lock him into your lineup, and not much else left for anyone else. They're deep, but not in a way that seems likely to help Fantasy players -- assuming health. Lowry and Leonard have missed enough time in recent years that it wouldn't be a surprise if either did so again, and if that happens, you could see breakouts from the likes of OG Anunoby, Normal Powell, Fred Vanvleet or Delon Wright. Any one of them would be a fine late-round stash, but you might also find yourself dropping them before November. 

Jazz

Bust 

This one pains me. Ricky Rubio is a delightful player, and he figured out how to play off-ball in the Jazz offense as the season went on, even hitting 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers after the All-Star break last season. Per Basketball Monster, he was even a top-40 player in the second half of the season, averaging 15.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. If he does that, he's a value at his current draft price. Which is exactly what we said after Rubio averaged 16.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game in the second half of 2016-17. At 27, Rubio isn't exactly old, but he's seven years into his career, so you'll understand if I'm not buying second-half breakouts at this point. 

Wizards

Bust

I usually like pouncing on a star player coming off an injury, but John Wall's value hasn't taken as much of a hit as I would've expected coming off a season that saw him miss 41 games and decline across the board. Wall put up dominant numbers in the playoffs after missing time, a good sign that he should be fine. Still, there's a lot of risk here, and I'm not sure the upside is as high as it's appeared in the past. 

So what Fantasy basketball sleepers should you be all over? And which guard will come out of nowhere to be one of the top Fantasy options? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy basketball cheat sheets from the proven model that powered all three Fantasy sites and find out.

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Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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