Fantasy Basketball: Five sleeper free agents who could boom on a new team
Written by Ameer Tyree on June 23, 2022
The hustle and bustle of NBA free agency is approaching and several players could be looking to move to more ideal destinations this summer. Some could leave in the pursuit of more money, while others might be chasing more team success or opportunity. We’ve compiled s shortlist of five significant names to watch ahead of the 2022-2023 league year, which begins on July 1st. Here are some names to know ahead of draft season.
Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks (unrestricted)
Brunson might not qualify as a legitimate sleeper after the year he had, but he certainly seems poised for a career year. The Dallas Mavericks could’ve offered him a four-year, $55.5 million extension ahead of the 2021-22 season and didn’t think he was worth the money. They could regret that decision this summer. The combo guard was a top-15 fantasy player at his position despite playing alongside a top-five overall scorer in Luka Doncic. Brunson can demand more money on the open market and become a full-time starting point guard in 2022. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per night as a starter last season.
Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers (unrestricted)
Nurkic has dealt with significant injuries over the last three seasons and is entering free agency with a Portland Trail Blazers team that essentially cleaned house last season. Free agents won’t be clamoring to join a team that finished 13th in the Western Conference with a 27-55 record in 2021-22. Portland wants to build around Damian Lillard, but overpaying to retain Nurkic could limit incoming talent. The big man has averaged 14.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game through 272 appearances with the Pelicans and could be a valuable piece for a new team with an underdeveloped frontcourt. Nurkic has played at least 70 games in two of his last five seasons and was a top-10 fantasy center in both.
Ricky Rubio, Indiana Pacers (unrestricted)
Some thought that Rubio’s Value was shot when he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the veteran point guard thrived despite having to compete with Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. He matched his all-time high in points per game while posting better assists numbers than the Chicago Bulls’ Lonzo Ball on six fewer minutes per contest. Recovering from a torn ACL won’t be easy and the Cavaliers are interested in re-signing Rubio. Taking his talents elsewhere could result in plenty of success for the Spaniard, though. He was more a productive fantasy asset than Derrick White, Mike Conley, and Spencer Dinwiddie on a per-game basis last season.
T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers (unrestricted)
Warren’s fantasy potential is shrouded in mystery. The Indiana Pacers swingman missed all of last season with a lingering foot injury that carried followed him after the 2021 NBA Playoffs. He’s never had a problem filling it up when healthy and boasts career averages of 15.5 points and 4.1 rebounds during the regular season. The “Bubble TJ” that posted 20.3 points per game against the Miami Heat in the postseason nearly two years ago could resurface. Warren could be one of the bigger late-round steals of 2022 if he returns to game shape and maintains his shooting touch. Warren was a top-15 small forward in two of the last four seasons he’s participated in and cracked the top eight in 2020.
Victor Oladipo, Miami Heat (unrestricted)
Oladipo played for pennies with the Heat last season and only saw action in eight regular-season games. His playing time was limited early in the postseason, but he was ready to answer the call in the first round when Kyle Lowry went down with an injury. Oladipo tallied 23 points with three assists and three rebounds in 36 minutes by the end of his lone start of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. There are a lot of mouths to feed with Kyle Lowry running the point and Tyler Herro fresh off a Sixth Man of the Year Award-winning season. It wouldn’t be surprising if a healthier Oladipo sought out a larger role for a team that can pay him a little better. Oladipo averaged 20.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per 36 minutes in 2021-22.
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