The NBA season is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about fantasy basketball. There are always new players to look out for, but keep an eye on these five guys who might be ready to break out in 2021-22.
The fantasy basketball sleepers 2021-22 is a list of players that are predicted to have big seasons in the upcoming NBA season.
You’ll need to make the most of your draft in order to place your club in the best possible position to win your league. Finding excellent values in players who will outperform their average draft position, landing at least one player who elevates his game to the next level, and avoiding players who fail horribly are all part of this strategy.
With that in mind, Andre’ Snellings, Eric Karabell, Jim McCormick, and John Cregan, our fantasy NBA gurus, give their best sleepers, breakouts, and failures for the 2021-22 season.
In standard ESPN leagues, a sleeper is a player that will significantly outperform his average draft position (ADP).
Andre’ Snellings — San Antonio Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl
Poeltl took over as the Spurs’ full-time starting last season, averaging 10.0 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 2.1 blocks per game, 2.0 assists per game, and 0.8 steals per game in his final 46 games. Poeltl should have a chance to improve on those statistics this season as the only legitimate big man on a Spurs team that also lacks an alpha scorer, despite the fact that he is still just 25 years old and in his first season as the undisputed starter.
Jarrett Allen, C, Cleveland Cavaliers — Eric Karabell
The Cleveland center begins his sixth season with high expectations of becoming a fantasy star. Allen, 23, averaged 13.6 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks per game as a starter last season, shooting 61 percent from the field, and the addition of USC standout Evan Mobley will hardly slow Allen’s progress. Because Kevin Love is still on the club and Lauri Markkanen will be hitting 3-pointers from the perimeter, Mobley can spread the floor and take his time establishing himself as a power forward. Allen is left with all of the rebounds and blocks. Only 13 players qualified for double digits in points and rebounds, and only two of them had more blocks and shot better from the field than Allen. After the first five rounds, Allen should be able to provide 15 points per game and 13 rebounds per game, making him a bargain.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, New Orleans Pelicans — Jim McCormick
Alexander-Walker, who has averaged 7.9 3-point attempts per 36 minutes over the last two seasons, might flourish as a starter for the Pelicans this season. Alexander-Walker has a career average of 19.7 points and 2.5 combined blocks and steals per 36 minutes in 14 career starts. With Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe no longer on the roster, the amount of minutes and touches available may make for an exciting fantasy season.
Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Orlando Magic — John Cregan
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Before injuring his ACL, Issac was one of the most touted fantasy players around, and he risks being undrafted in standard-sized leagues. Orlando will take its time reintroducing Issac to the team. Isaac’s health will be a factor until it isn’t. The Magic, on the other hand, have signed him to a $80 million contract and are preparing for a developmental season. Identifying Isaac’s offensive potential would be a worthwhile future endeavor. In fantasy, Isaac doesn’t need a lot of minutes or a lot of use to make a difference. Isaac will be an endgame steal if he can replicate his 2019-20 performance (11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.3 blocks, 0.9 3s, 55.2 TS percent) over 55-60 games.
Breakout: A player who, for the first time, will jump into or near to the top tier of players in his position due to a significant increase in performance over prior seasons.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker can score on anybody once he gets rolling. AP Ashley Landis/Getty Images
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, New Orleans Pelicans — Andre’ Snellings
In his third spectacular year, Alexander-Walker seems to be on the verge of exploding. Last season, Alexander-Walker was a professional scorer and offense creator who only missed opportunities because to Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe. He had 37 points, eight rebounds, and five three-pointers in his first start of his sophomore season. Last season, he had three starts in which he scored 30 points or more, and another two in which he scored at least 20. I anticipate Alexander-Walker and new colleague Devonte’ Graham to have huge seasons now that Ball and Bledsoe are no longer with the Pelicans.
Jaren Jackson Jr., PF, Memphis Grizzlies — Eric Karabell
Well, Jackson has to remain healthy one of these years! This year, why not? Jackson, still just 22, enters his fourth NBA season with a disappointing habit of missing games, but a tempting lifetime average of 1.5 BPG, 0.8 SPG, and 1.7 3PG that will entice fantasy managers. Last season, no NBA player averaged all of those statistics. Jackson must score in the upper teens for Memphis to win, and he will. With Steven Adams crowding the paint, the 6-11 Jackson may never average huge rebound totals, but with excellent shooting, he could easily average 20 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 SPG, 2 BPG, and 2.5 3PG, making him a unique fantasy asset. Fantasy managers should take the risk after first establishing a solid foundation.
Jonathan Isaac, SF/PF, Orlando Magic — Jim McCormick
This man had an insane 2.3 blocks and 1.6 steals per game the last time he was on the court. That is historically exceptional defensive output. There is considerable risk in acquiring Isaac in drafts this season after missing the whole previous season due to injury, but this risk is built into his selection position. If he’s healthy, I believe he has a chance to become the next 3-and-D fantasy superstar.
Fred VanVleet, PG/SG, Toronto Raptors — John Cregan
This is a better option for Points leagues. I’ll also presume that you’re in quite good health (say, 65-70 games played). Who else in Toronto is going to receive as much use as this? VanVleet is an albatross with a TS percent (and a player to avoid in roto). VanVleet, on the other hand, might crack the top 20 overall in volume-friendly Points leagues.
Bust: A player who, in normal ESPN leagues, is projected to be a strong starter, but who will fall short this season.
This season, Derrick Rose will be part of a crowded Knicks backcourt. Raj Mehta is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.
Andre’ Snellings — Houston Rockets PG John Wall and New York Knicks PG Derrick Rose
Does Wall qualify as a possible failure, considering that the Rockets have decided to put him on the shelf until they can move him, which seems improbable given his super-max contract? He proved last season that he could still put up good numbers if he played, but there’s a possibility he won’t play at all this season. If not Wall, I’ll choose Rose, who is coming off a great season as the Knicks’ main backcourt creator, albeit on the bench. However, the Knicks added Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier to help them create from the outside, and junior Immanuel Quickley seems to be ready to step up. There doesn’t seem to be enough pie remaining for Rose to repeat his season-long performance.
Kemba Walker, PG, New York Knicks — Eric Karabell
Moving to the Knicks was huge news, and it had fantasy managers thrilled, but playing at Madison Square Garden won’t cure Walker’s degenerative knee problems, which wrecked his time in Boston. Things aren’t likely to get much better. Walker, 31, has missed a lot of time over the last several seasons, and his on-court statistics have been dismal. The huge scoring and assist totals are gone, and Julius Randle’s dominance is unlikely to return. With Rose on the team, the Knicks will carefully limit Walker’s minutes and workload, and fantasy owners will wonder why they spent a top-50 selection on him. I want to believe in Walker, but I have to admit that reality has set in. Walker has devolved into a mediocre imitation of CJ McCollum, with a slew of upcoming games.
Derrick White, PG/SG, San Antonio Spurs — Jim McCormick
I like this guy since he has an atypically high block rate and some interesting scoring stats when he’s at his best, but considering that White is projected to be a mid-round point guard with a top-20 average draft position, I believe he’ll fall short. White’s longevity is a worry, and his use is hampered by a shaky guard and wing rotation that includes Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, and Devin Vassell.
Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors — John Cregan
You’re taking all the chances you’d take with Jonathan Isaac with Thompson. In the end, you’ll probably end up with comparable Points league results. The only difference is that you’ll have to pay a mid-round selection to watch Golden State take their time bringing Thompson back to full starter minutes (probably the first half of the season). We’re all hoping for Thompson to reclaim his form, but the more realistic assumption is that he’ll be back to full strength in time for the playoffs. The NBA playoffs, not your fantasy playoffs.
The fantasy basketball rankings are a fantasy sports ranking system that has been around for years. It is used by both experts and amateurs alike to create their own personal mock draft.
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