Fantasy Basketball Sleepers: Late-Bloomers

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Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee. Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Though it’s sold as a below-the-radar science, the art of picking sleepers in any fantasy basketball draft or early in-season moves isn’t all that difficult. You pick trends on an incline and hope the ride goes up past the clouds. If you miss, people will simply find their own inclines to pursue.

What’s much harder is picking late-blooming sleepers. That is, players past the mid-season point that can still turn it around, or will take advantage of a big break in play, and who aren’t hogging social media traffic…just yet.

Here are the XN Sports late-blooming fantasy basketball sleepers.

Courtney Lee – A lead-heavy contract saw him booted from Beantown. Ever since, he’s been a fairly reliable double-digit scorer with a nice stroke.

Since becoming a Grizzly, Lee has almost doubled a few of his first-half-of-the-season stats:  His rebounds went from 1.6 to 2.8, his blocks 0.3 to 0.5, his three-pointers made from 0.8 to 1.4, and his points from 7.4 to 15.4. As one of Memphis’ best offensive options at the moment, he’s providing little else in the terms of stats. Plus his success must be quantified within the large absence of Tony Allen. But Allen isn’t quite the shooter that Lee can be, which doesn’t factor all that well into Memphis’ spacing issues, and we have yet to see Marc Gasol feel comfortable on the court.

With the Spanish Paul Bunyan operating at maximum efficiency once again, both co-facilitating the offense from either elbow or drawing more defensive assignments, Lee can make up for any offensive droppage by contributing in some rebounds, steals, and even a block here and there.

Greivis Vasquez – A change of scenery can benefit a player’s career but it can also cripple it. Vasquez went from a triple-double threat lat season to an underachiever in Sacramento, to Kyle Lowry‘s sidekick in Toronto.  Throughout the many transitions, Vasquez has never been a quality fantasy option.

But that can change due to a few developments.

First, Vasquez has mentioned that he feels fully healthy for the first time this year. His game doesn’t largely depend on speed or agility but a nagging ankle issue can curtail a point guard’s effectiveness, especially one of Vasquez’s size.

Since that revelation – or around the same time – Dwane Casey has elected to play Vasquez more alongside speedster Lowry. He’s had two fluke games but also went for 17-7-2, 15-9-7, and 11-8-5 in three consecutive games.

Ryan Kelly – D’Antoni’s praise for his players is a well that runs as deep as the problems affecting this year’s Lakers. Except, of course, when it comes to matters of Dwight Howard. But in Kelly’s case, he seemingly has found a high-effort guy who can spread the floor, play quality minutes at the 4, rebound decently, get to the line, and plug in a defensive stat or two. Though Kobe is due back soon, Kelly will likely remain a strong option for a fluid D’Antoni offense who needs to start focusing on the youth over the record books.

In the last five, Kelly has gone for 14.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 1.4 three-pointers, while shooting 50.0 from the field.

Norris Cole – Cole can play. Though his shooting has been off, he remains a nightly bench weapon for the Heat who are going through a bit of an identity crisis presently. It happens.

Even with limited playing time and shooting struggles, Cole is already a viable fringe fantasy option averaging 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in the last seven. They’re not necessarily off-the-page numbers but are a good template for what’s to come as Wade misses more time and the Heat ultimately decide to rest their stars as the season starts to wane.

Mirza Teletovic – The Nets are scoring, protecting the ball, pilfering the rock, and shooting threes like never before (in terms of this season). The increased tempo has helped Teletovic’s game who went off for 34 big ones the other night. Like with Lee, Teletovic isn’t going to provide the juicy defensive stats certain shooters are coveted for but is an above-average rebounder for a marksman, can shoot as it’s been clearly stated, and can remain a nice fixture in a Brooklyn system who has seen its three-ball attempted a whole 7.6 more times per game since November. Half of those are going to, guess who, Teletovic.

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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