Fantasy Basketball Sleepers Vs. Their Rookie Counterparts

Dallas Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo

Apr 15, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks shooting guard O.J. Mayo (32) drives the ball past Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen (9) during the first quarter at the American Airlines Center. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In the eternal quest to edge out the competition ever so slightly, sleepers become a hot commodity in fantasy basketball. Edges are their livelihood.

People are of the oft-accepted understanding that rookies can sleep among the sleeper giants. That can be true as we saw last year with Damian Lillard who turned in a year that would be glorious for even multi-All-Stars. In ESPN’s assessment he finished 15th overall and expect him to land somewhere between veterans Josh Smith and Al Horford in this one.

It makes sense that rookies who land on bad teams churn out such tantalizing numbers. Bad teams tend to draft well (even if just based on standings) and there’s plenty of wiggle room for the rooks to operate within. Try, for instance, being a rookie Jimmy Butler in Tom Thibodeau’s competitive but vicegrip-tight rotations. Doesn’t work out so well.

Then-rookie Bradley Beal also impressed, finishing third in Rookie of the Year rankings. His numbers: 13.9 Points Per Game, 3.8 Rebounds Per Game, 2.4 Assists, 0.9 Steals, on 41.0 percent shooting from 2-point range, 38.6 percent from three, and 78.6 percent from the stripe. O.J. Mayo is said to have had a bad year, yet, especially in fantasy terms, he put up a better stat line: 15.3 Points Per Game, 3.5 Rebounds, 4.4 Assists, 1.1 Steals, on 44.9 percent shooting, 40.7 percent from long-range, and 82.0 percent on the freebie line.

The point? People tend to overestimate the value of a potential good-to-great rookie campaign. So let’s see if any of this year’s high-valued rookies can edge out the sleeper competition.

O.J. Mayo vs. Victor Oladipo

Mayo is by no means a slouch and adds extra value as one of a few good options in a depleted shooting guard role. So, he’s not quite a sleeper but is someone who tends to get overlooked or picked in rounds with lesser players like Raymond Felton.

ESPN has the Orlando freshman Oladipo ranked higher than the 6th-year vet. But does the math add up?

Mayo 2012-13

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

44.8

82.0

2.6

1.7

1.1

0.3

4.4

3.5

15.3

Mayo (Projected – ESPN)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

N/A

N/A

N/A

2.3

1.2

0.4

4.6

3.9

18.3

Mayo (Projected – XN Sports)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

44.0

81.1

2.3

2.3

1.3

0.4

4.5

3.9

17.2

A consolidated look at the former Grizzly shows that even at modest projections he should end up with a better year than in 2013-14. Meanwhile, Oladipo, even at high expectations, only sees himself beating out Mayo in two categories: steals and blocks. Mayo had a better rookie year than the wildest Orlandian dreams could hope for their star draftee.

Oladipo (Projected – ESPN)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

N/A

N/A

N/A

1.1

1.8

0.7

3.7

4.9

14.9

Oladipo (Projected – XN Sports)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

42.8

75.3

2.2

1.1

1.7

0.5

4.0

4.7

15.0

As you can see, Victor-O can turn out to be a nice bench player in a shallow league but most likely won’t be the contributor Mayo will be in the coming season.

Oladipo (Projected – Consolidation)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

42.8

75.3

2.2

~1.1

~1.8

0.6

~3.9

4.8

~15.0

2014-15 might be a whole other case.

Carlos Boozer vs. Cody Zeller

Boozer’s style of play can be blood-curdling to see but is an underappreciated fantasy asset. Yahoo Fantasy Sports has him understandably ranked about 50 spots, eight in the power forward spot, over newcomer Cody Zeller. Yet the Bobcat is hovering five places above the Bull in ESPN’s top-200 list.

The numbers speak for themselves.

Boozer 2012-13

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

47.7

73.1

2.2

0.0

0.8

0.4

2.3

9.8

16.2

Boozer (Projected – ESPN)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.0

0.9

0.4

2.2

9.1

14.5

Boozer (Projected – XN Sports)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

51.0

73.9

2.0

0.0

0.9

0.4

3.0

9.0

15.0

With Rose back and the rise of Butler adding to point totals, it’ll be hard for the power forward to breach the 15.0 PPG plateau. He’s always been a nice passer though and will find plenty of cutting wing players to hand off to which will result in a nice assists elevation.

Zeller (Projected – ESPN)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.0

0.9

1.0

1.2

6.5

12.1

Zeller (Projected – XN Sports)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

48.0

71.9

2.4

0.0

0.8

1.0

1.0

7.2

12.0

Zeller (Projected – Consolidation)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

48.0

71.9

2.4

0.0

~0.9

1.0

1.1

~6.9

~12.1

Zeller will find his minutes but it might be a few years before he can put averages in Boozer’s realm. Yahoo got this one right.

 

Reggie Jackson vs. Trey Burke

Folks expect Jackson’s minutes to drop once Westbrook returns but it won’t be quite as dramatic as they might think. OKC is desperate for a fourth or fifth scoring option this season and Jackson can be either or. On good nights, he can even be the main attraction.

His last year numbers were bleak.

Jackson 2012-13

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

45.8

83.9

0.8

0.7

0.4

0.2

2.4

1.7

5.3

Jackson (Projected – ESPN)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

N/A

N/A

N/A

0.8

1.0

0.3

3.9

4.6

10.8

But as we project, should look closer to what they were during the Western Conference Playoffs.

Jackson (Projected – XN Sports)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

46.4

82.1

1.4

0.8

1.2

0.5

4.0

5.0

13.2

Burke can do a bit of everything but his field goal percentages are a major detriment, especially in a roto league. Though injured now, he should be back in time to be worth keeping on any deep league bench. But does he edge out Jackson by 20 spots as they claim?

Burke (Projected – ESPN)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

N/A

N/A

N/A

1.2

1.1

0.1

5.5

3.2

12.0

Burke (Projected – XN Sports)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

39.7

73.0

3.2

1.1

1.2

0.2

5.3

3.1

11.3

Burke (Projected – Consolidation)

FG%

FT%

TO

3PM

STLPG

BLKPG

APG

RPG

PPG

39.7

73.0

3.2

~1.2

~1.2

~0.2

5.4

~3.2

~11.7

As a starter, he’ll have more minutes to distribute the ball. He looks to have nice steals numbers too. But any hint of shooting – his 1.2 three-pointers made per contest – is essentially derailed by his low field goal percentage.

This one’s a lot closer than the other two comparisons but Jackson is still the safer bet. Proven players, even if sleepers, usually are.

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Bogar Alonso is a dedicated student of the hardwood, soccer pitch, boxing ring, and tennis court. He is a regular NBA contributor to XN Sports. His work, involving more than just sports, has appeared on The Creators Project, A&E Networks, XXL Magazine, and others. Follow Bogar on Twitter @blacktiles
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