Every year around draft time, and then again when season previews start popping up, we are warned to “not sleep on [insert player name].” Players in both fantasy and real life drafts are even called “Sleepers.” But if there are players that we shouldn’t “sleep on” then wouldn’t that mean there are players we should “sleep on?”
It would be too easy to pick on players like Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, or Deron Williams whose All-Star days are behind them, but this is a different list. Players that we should “sleep on” fall into one or both of these categories:
- Seem to be good
- Paid like they are good
That doesn’t mean the players on this list cannot play basketball well — there are several players on this list that are or have been All-Stars recently. But they do not fit what the NBA game demands now. There are also players on this list that may be able to play but they just might need more time or a different situation. Also, not all terrible contracts will make this list. Allen Crabbe has one of the more bloated contracts in the NBA in comparison to his production but his game lends itself very well to the NBA game—same with Otto Porter.
These are the players we should “sleep on” for the 2017-18 season. Mavericks scouts, adjust your scouting reports accordingly.
Can Play, Just Not Ideally
Andre Drummond both seems to be good and is paid to be good (4 years $105 million remaining on his deal). But what is he good at?
Rebounding may be Drummond’s only elite skill (and he’s the best in the league) and other essential aspects of his game are lacking. Drummond is a positive defender but still only ranks 27th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (1.55) among centers — good, but not elite. Then, of course, the biggest knock on him is his horrific free throw shooting which may seem overstated but it limits his game significantly.
Not to mention how few $20-million-players averaged less than 30 minutes per game last season (Steven Adams, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson). Drummond is the perfect example of a guy you should sleep on.
There is no doubt he can score with the best of them, but DeMar DeRozan’s game is also limited by two big things—three point shooting and defense. DeRozan is a bad defender whose 77th ranked DRPM among Shooting Guards (-2.04) is worse than James Harden’s. He’s also a 28 percent career three point shooter. While only 8 percent of his shots came from beyond the arc that is still a crippling quality in the post season. And by the looks of his average distance per Field Goal Attempt, he pretty much gave up trying to extend his range after 2014.
DeRozan Distance Per FGA
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Again, DeRozan is a good NBA player but to be a max contract franchise player with those limitations is enough to sleep on.
Highly paid, highly flammable, and on his 5th team in 7 years, Dwight Howard’s place in the NBA is a lot like his place in an NBA offense—misunderstood.
Holiday is another good player but in an impossible situation: near-max contract and will now be sharing the backcourt with Rajon Rondo. As if that wasn’t enough to sleep on, he’s also only played 67, 65, 40, and 34 games over the last four years.
He’s ranked 61st out of 64 centers in DRPM (-1.24), only played 21 minutes per game in the regular season, and this video paints the whole picture. In the playoffs against Houston, Billy Donavan seems to say “can’t play Kanter.”
Might Be Able to Play
Besides being robbed of the Dunk Contest title in 2016, what else has Aaron Gordon done? He seems to be the shinning hope for Magic fans, and as a restricted free agent next offseason it’ll be easy to tell whether he is or not.
Another piece in a “young core,” but more often than not Clarkson is just lumped into the rest of the Lakers core that has more potential. Clarkson is already 25 (same age as Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes) and he ranked 77th out of 79 point guards in DRPM (-3.4) in front of only D.J. Augustin and Isaiah Thomas.
Another example of a player that both seems good and is paid to be good, but the combination of the two becomes a “salary dump” player. Oladipo isn’t a bad player but now he’s back in NBA purgatory with a rebuilding Pacers team who considered Lance Stephenson a point guard.
Can’t Stay on the Court
This whole section should be self-explanatory. As Mavs fans well know, Parsons has only played 66, 61, and 34 games over the past three years and gets paid almost as much as his teammate Marc Gasol.
If that list of games played wasn’t bleak enough then shield your eyes, Noah has only played 67, 29, and 46 games over the past three years and only played 20 minutes per game in the last two years. Nearing on an untraceable contract and unplayable player, Noah fits the bill exactly.
Heading to his fourth team in five years, it’s not that Gay can’t stay on the court — the problem is which court? Add an Achilles injury to a player who is turning 31 in August to that mix and the Spurs might have a problem.
But of course, it’s the Spurs so he’ll probably be an All-Star… *rolls eyes*
The final name on the list didn’t have a health issue but somehow couldn’t see court time after the acquisition of Nerlens Noel. After Noel joined the Mavericks on February 25, Powell had five DNP-CDs (Did Not Play-Coaches Decision).
How hard is it for a $9-million-player to get minutes on a 33-win team with injury issues? While Powell has redeeming qualities, he is also the 64th (out of 82) ranked power forward in DRPM (-0.51) which is probably a big reason he DNP.
Like many others on this list, Powell is still relatively young (26) but he still has a lot to prove and a contract to live up to.