2 guard sleepers to target in drafts this NBA season

Last week, I wrote about my fading players in fantasy basketball drafts for the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season. Now, let’s dig deeper into finding the sleepers – those players outside the top 100 in average draft position who can make an immediate impact on your fantasy team. In this first installment, I’ll focus on the guards who I believe are underrated gems that will emerge as steals from the later rounds of drafts.

Before we dive in, I want to highlight two players who just missed the criteria for sleepers, but I’m still really bullish on. Tyus Jones and Markelle Fultz are both strong candidates to outperform their draft positions this season.

The Chicago Bulls have a notable void in their backcourt this season. Lonzo Ball will be out for the entire season, and former starting point guard Patrick Beverley has moved on to Philly. This opens up opportunities for several players to compete for the starting point guard role in Chicago. Based on what I’ve seen, Coby White seems to be the frontrunner for the job. The competition is tight, with Ayo Dosunmu performing well and Jevon Carter also in the mix. However, White’s combination of playmaking, shooting, and on-ball defense makes him an intriguing sleeper in the later rounds of drafts. Additionally, the Bulls showed confidence in White by giving him a three-year, $40 million extension this offseason, which demonstrates their commitment to him beyond this season, second only to Zach LaVine.

During the preseason, White has started in all three contests for the Bulls, including two starts at point guard. He has been impressive, averaging 14.0 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.7 threes with shooting splits of 57/39/71 in 22 minutes per game. On a per-36 basis, this translates to 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.7 threes, and 1.1 steals. While I don’t expect White to maintain a 23-point average, his career numbers when playing at least 30 minutes per game suggest that he can achieve around 16 points, four rebounds, and five assists. Furthermore, don’t be concerned about his low free-throw percentage in the preseason, as he is an accomplished 85% shooter from the charity stripe throughout his NBA career.

As we approach the start of the season, it’s crucial to pay attention to the coaching staff and players’ insights on the situation. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has spoken positively about White’s development this offseason, highlighting how the game has slowed down for him, his improved ball-handling skills, and his ability to initiate the offense.

Additionally, Zach LaVine has mentioned his rapport with White more than his other teammates. While there’s a slight risk of Donovan making changes to White’s starting role at the beginning of the season, it’s evident that White will still be an integral part of the rotation and is poised to receive increased minutes and usage this season, which could be his best yet in the NBA.

The Indiana Pacers are an exciting young team with a lot of talent, and one player who I predict will emerge is Mathurin. He came off the bench last season and averaged an impressive 16.9 points per game, which ranked second in the NBA for bench players who appeared in at least 30 games. What stood out the most about Mathurin was his ability to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line as a rookie. He and Paolo Banchero were the only rookies to average over five free-throw attempts per game. With Mathurin expected to receive more playing time, I anticipate his numbers in this category to increase. Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle has already stated that Mathurin will get the opportunity to start at shooting guard during the preseason, and his performances so far have been excellent. In the first two games, Mathurin has led the Pacers in scoring with 16.0 points per game and is averaging the third-most rebounds (6.0) in just 20.1 minutes.

Mathurin’s development as a rebounder is crucial for his fantasy value because last season, he primarily focused on scoring and contributed little in other categories. He finished 245th in per-game value and 180th in total value (benefiting from playing 78 games). Assuming he remains in the starting lineup, Mathurin could easily become a player who averages at least 18 points, five rebounds, and a couple of assists per game. In terms of upside, Mathurin’s second season could resemble Jaylen Brown’s fourth NBA season, where Brown made a significant jump from outside the top 150 to inside the top 70.

Given that Mathurin is being drafted in the 10th round of most drafts, selecting him as a late-round flier is a move you won’t want to miss.


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