NBA fantasy preview: sleepers

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Marcus Williams (PG/SG, Warriors)

There is a reason Williams was brought in by the Golden State management. If their "Monta Ellis at point guard" experiment fails, they will turn the reins of the offense over to Williams. He didn't play much in New Jersey as a result of injuries and being stuck behind a future Hall of Famer, Jason Kidd. Now in a new place with new faces, the Warriors will likely provide Williams an opportunity to show that he can run a team. With that being the case, it's up to him to show them what he can do. Keep the kid on your radar, because he still has a high ceiling.

UPDATE: Ellis is out three to four months with a torn deltoid ligament, Williams is basically no longer a sleeper ...

Ramon Sessions (PG, Bucks)

We saw a glimpse of what Sessions can do late last season, albeit against quite inferior competition. Even so, impressive per game averages of 19 points and 17 (!) assists in his last three games is nothing to scoff at. Mo Williams has moved on to Cleveland, leaving the Bucks point guard job up in the air between Sessions and Luke Ridnour, so be sure to keep tabs on the Milwaukee situation.

Steve Blake (PG, Trail Blazers)

As impressive as Jerryd Bayless was in summer league play, Blake will probably remain the starting point guard, at least at the start of the season. He should provide decent value in points and assists, as he showed he can run the offense late last season. However, he will be challenged by the likes of Bayless and Rudy Fernandez for that starting slot, both of whom are on the sleeper alert as well.

Chris Duhon (PG, Knicks)

New Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni wanted a point guard who could run his fast-breaking offense, and Duhon was signed to fill that desire (although I'm not sold on his ability to do so). Nevertheless, at this point, he looks to be the starting point guard for the Knicks. With a new up-tempo offense, including two known "chuckers" in Quentin Richardson and Jamal Crawford, Duhon could be a nice late round flier for those in need of a boost in assists.

Beno Udrih (PG, Kings)

Once the Kings traded away Mike Bibby, they handed the keys to the team over to Udrih. After being stuck on the San Antonio bench, he finally was given a chance to perform. Now that he's pretty much the lone talented point guard on the team, you can count on a decent amount of points, threes and assists. Expect much of the same as last year -- what you see is what you get with Beno.

Mike Conley Jr./Kyle Lowry/Javaris Crittenton (All PG/SG, Grizzlies)

These three guys will all be battling for the starting point guard spot for the Memphis Grizzlies. However, I think it will all come down to just Conley and Lowry, as Crittenton is more of a combo guard. Keep watch on this situation in training camp, and pick up the guy who wins out.

Marcus Banks/Chris Quinn (PG/SG, Heat)

Now that Jason Williams has retired, one of these young PGs will have the opportunity to be the Heat's starting point guard. Once again, this is another training camp battle to keep an eye on.

Francisco Garcia (SG/SF, Kings)

In just 26 minutes per game off the bench last year, Garcia put up 12.3 pts, 3.3 rebs and 1.2 steals. Now, with Ron Artest donning the Rockets red, Garcia is definitely going to get more minutes and, as a result, will offer better production. Don't sleep on this guy on draft day.

Ricky Davis (SG/SF, Clippers)

The man has always been fond of stats -- just look at his rebounding antics in search of a triple-double while with Cleveland. Now, he's very likely going to battle Al Thornton for the small forward slot. Even if he doesn't win out, he'll still get plenty of minutes off the bench with a team as a sixth man, providing scoring and passing contributions. Davis makes a great late round stat stuffer.

Mickael Pietrus (SG/SF, Magic)

The Orlando Magic's weakness last year was at the shooting guard spot. Orlando would play whichever guy it was that had the hot hand, frequently rotating Keith Bogans and Maurice Evans between the bench and the floor. With the signing of Pietrus, he will get an opportunity to play significant minutes, which is nothing but good for Pietrus' fantasy value. This guy is probably the "sleeper" who's not actually one, because everyone's looking to nab him. He'll get you some points, rebounds, threes, steals and (hopefully) some blocks as well.

Jarrett Jack (PG/SG, Pacers)

A change of scenery should do J.J. some good. In Portland, there were just too many talented players vying for playing time, and he's definitely better off in Indiana. It's likely that he'll be used as a sixth man to provide a scoring spark off the bench. Additionally, there is word that Jack and T.J. Ford will be used in the same lineup at times to give the team an extremely quick backcourt. He should do very well in the Pacers up-tempo offense. And if you're worried about Jamaal Tinsley affecting Jack, everyone in the Pacer management has said they're trying to trade him, and he won't play for them this year.

J.R. Smith (SG, Nuggets)

When this guy's on, he's really on. On Feb. 22, 2008, he scorched the Chicago Bulls for 43 points in just 33 minutes off the bench, bombing in eight three pointers. The problem is that he's not always on. He certainly has the potential to become an explosive scorer but still needs to learn how to use all the tools in his repertoire. Smith will be getting the bulk of the Denver bench minutes, and you'll want to have him active when he's hot.

John Salmons (SG/SF, Kings)

The other guy who'll be significantly impacted by Artest's departure is Salmons. He has always been a talented player, but having to back up Artest hasn't been good for his growth. Just to show you the significant difference, here are two sets of stats:

Big difference. Get this guy on your team if you can.

Matt Barnes (SF, Suns)

After being in Warriors coach Don Nelson's doghouse for much of last year, Barnes looks like he could be an excellent addition Phoenix. He can handle the ball, rebound, and shoot the three well. Look for per-game averages around 10 pts, five rebs, two asts, and one three-pointer per game.

Al Thornton (SF/PF, Clippers)

This guy will definitely be looked upon to pick up the scoring slack after the team lost Elton Brand and Corey Maggette to free agency. Hopefully, Thornton builds on what he started last season, when he averaged 16.0 pts, 5.7 rebs, 0.7 stls, 0.8 blks, and 0.7 threes in 34.4 mpg during the latter half of the season. His value will be somewhat diminished if Ricky Davis wins the starting SF slot, so be sure to see how it plays out before deciding what Thornton can do for you.

Thaddeus Young (SF/PF, 76ers)

Young is currently slated to be the starting SF for Philly. He played well last season despite playing out of position at power forward. With now a full season under his belt, I fully expect some nice improvement in his game and stats.

Nenê (PF/C, Nuggets)/Kenyon Martin (PF, Nuggets)

These two guys will be looked upon to fill the big shoes of Marcus Camby in the post. When Nenê has been healthy and able to play, he's shown why Denver management was willing to throw $60 million at him. The caveat is that he hasn't been healthy for the past few seasons. Hopefully, this will be the year he breaks out. The opportunity is certainly there. As for Martin, he's always been one of the best individual post defenders in the league. While he is a tad overpaid, he's got the same golden opportunity to shine as Nene. I never thought I'd say this, but both these guys are definitely worth a look in the later rounds.

Ryan Gomes (SF/PF, Timberwolves)

This guy is passed over every single year in drafts, and I expect it to be the same deal this time around. He had a really solid fantasy line last year -- 12.6 pts, 5.8 rebs, and almost a steal per game, along with good percentages. If you're looking for solid late round sleeper, go with Gomes.

Julian Wright (SF/PF, Hornets)

Hornets coach Byron Scott wants to use Wright in a point-forward type role this year. While he struggled in summer league, with one of his roles being a primary playmaker, he could have a nice overall line this year coming off the bench. I can definitely see Wright getting somewhere around 8-10 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block per game.

Andrea Bargnani (SF/PF, Raptors)

Everyone was saying that last year was going to be Bargnani's breakout season. I believed it, too, but what a disappointment! So this year, I'm going to be smart and temper my expectations for the guy. While I do expect modest improvements, I'm not expecting a breakout season or anything ... C'mon Bargs, I dare you to prove me wrong ...

Charlie Villanueva (SF/PF, Bucks)

Last season, Charlie V. competed for minutes with Yi Jianlian, but now he's pretty much the lone power forward on the Milwaukee roster since Yi was traded to New Jersey on draft night. Hopefully, Villanueva can use the opportunity to his advantage and give us fantasy owners something to smile about.

Nenê (PF/C, Nuggets)

See above.

Jason Maxiell (PF/C, Pistons)

If Rasheed Wallace gets traded, this guy's fantasy value will go up a lot. But at this point, it looks like the Pistons want to take another crack at a championship run with their current squad. Maxiell will still be good for a handful of rebounds and blocks, regardless of what happens with 'Sheed.

Joakim Noah (PF/C, Bulls)

The Bulls have always been deficient in the frontcourt, and Noah is a frontcourt player. While some of his play from last year was inconsistent, he has the potential to take a step forward this year. He'll likely be starting at center, with Drew Gooden manning the power forward slot. I'd suggest staying away from most of the Bulls players, but if you want to take a low risk gamble, Noah wouldn't be a bad choice.

Troy Murphy (PF/C, Pacers)

The Pacers have officially begun their rebuilding in trading away Jermaine O'Neal and picking up T.J. Ford. Murphy has always been a unique combination of size and shooting. His ability to hit the three from the center position has been valuable throughout his career. Now, with O'Neal gone and only Jeff Foster, Rasho Nesterovic and rookie Roy Hibbert as other options in the pivot, Murphy is in a great position to deliver great value, given where he'll be taken in many drafts this season.

Marc Gasol (PF/C, Grizzlies)

Isn't it kind of ironic that the elder Gasol was traded to the Lakers last year for his younger brother? Regardless, let's just say he doesn't have very stiff competition in Memphis for a starting frontcourt spot, so he'll definitely be getting plenty of PT. Don't expect him to put up numbers like his brother right away, though ...