Stefan Anderson previews a list of NBA candidates who are due for breakout fantasy seasons.
The featured players aren’t household names like Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard, but are peripheral fantasy stars that could provide sneaky value during your draft.
Here are the top five.
Klay Thompson (SG, Golden State Warriors)
Thompson stepped in admirably after Monta Ellis was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks last February and averaged 18.1 points, 3.0 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 29 starts.
The sophomore now enters the 2012-13 NBA season as the undisputed starting guard for the Warriors and will have plenty of opportunity to score in a high-octane offence. He has all the right tools to be a breakout fantasy candidate.
Goran Dragic (PG, Phoenix Suns)
Steve Nash may be gone but Phoenix found a suitable replacement who is 12 years younger and is arguably entering the prime of his career.
Dragic was outstanding as a starter for the Houston Rockets last year with averages of 18.0 points, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 49 per cent shooting from the floor – a big reason why he was inked to a four-year $30 million contract.
The 26-year-old Slovenian contributes in all fantasy categories and is a No. 2 option, if not No. 1, at point guard.
J.J. Hickson (C P/F, Portland Trail Blazers)
Hickson, once a supposed building block of the rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers, was a vagabond and played for three teams over the past two seasons.
This is how finding a new home with the right circumstances can do wonders for your game.
The 24-year-old is now the starting centre of Portland thanks to his valuable contributions last season when he averaged 15.1 points (on 54 per cent shooting), 8.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks and a career best 31.6 minutes per game.
At 6-9, Hickson is still undersized for a centre, but is a quality big man to draft in later rounds considering the razor thin depth of the Blazers’ frontcourt.
Nikola Pekovic (C, Minnesota Timberwolves)
Before an unfortunate ankle injury, Pekovic was the darling of fantasy waiver pickups and emerged as the starting centre for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Montenegrin averaged 15.4 points (on 54.7 per cent shooting), 8.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 47 games played and can be a great value pick in the mid rounds. If he can stay healthy, the 26-year-old is capable of posting regular double-doubles, especially considering the absence of All-Star power forward Kevin Love.
Don’t hesitate to draft the big-bodied centre prematurely – last season wasn’t a flash in the pan.
Paul George (SF, Indiana Pacers)
The former Fresno State Bulldog finally showed signs of his potential last year when he averaged 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 three pointers made.
George has improved in every aspect of his game from rookie to sophomore and he will improve in his third year.
The Pacers do have a tendency to distribute scoring, but the 22-year-old is productive in most fantasy categories and can solidify the role as the primary scorer.