The NBA’s 68th season is just around the corner and fantasy league players are, as early as now, starting to dust off their guidebooks and closely monitoring developments around the league. While most fantasy addicts already know their top 10 picks, they usually look for other players who are not on the list, the sleepers, players who are on the cusp of having a breakout season. Here are my top five players who will definitely make waves next season:
1) Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns – After playing under the shadow of the NBA’s best point guard in Chris Paul, Bledsoe is headed for a breakout season in Phoenix, a team that has no legitimate superstars and little in terms of offensive options. With his athleticism and ability to play both guard positions, he is capable of becoming an All-Star. Despite limited action, Bledsoe managed to get decent averages (8.5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and nearly 40% from beyond the arc) in Oklahoma. Expect him to double his averages across the board.
2) Jeff Green, Boston Celtics – With mainstays Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett taking their wares to the Brooklyn Nets, Green is now the Celtics’ primary offensive option. Guard Rajon Rondo is still on the mend and we don’t expect him to get to full strength until December or January 2014. With his size and his ability to make plays from the wing, Green is a defensive nightmare. Look for him to average nearly 20 points for the rebuilding Boston Celtics.
3) Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls —With his impressive performance towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, Butler will become the starting shooting guard for the Bulls next season. Butler introduced himself to the NBA when Luol Deng got sidelined in late January.
He showed his defensive prowess by guarding and slowing down players like LeBron James and Rudy Gay. He is a complete package who can knock down shots, finishes strong, and outworks most everyone. By the way, he is efficient too making 47% of his shots from two-point range, 38% for his threes and 80% on his free throws.
4) Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs—With Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan a year older and relatively ancient, Leonard is expected to become the new face of the Spurs franchise. At this stage, Leonard’s potential is yet to be realized playing behind San Antonio’s stars but already he has consistently shown his versatility always guarding the opposing team’s best scorer while taking contact and finishing on the other end. He will receive more minutes this season and will have a bigger role as the team transitions.
5) Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic – Harris was arguably the biggest surprise last season. After a trade that sent him to the Orlando Magic from the Milwaukee Bucks where he was used sparingly, Harris broke out and was averaging about 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds by April. Harris is a good combo forward who has the size of a power forward but a skill-set of a small forward. He will be the Magic’s go to player next year and will have a strong case to be part of the All-Star game come February 2014.