Every year, players undervalued in the fall end up playing critical roles for fantasy teams throughout the season. Following an offseason with serious personnel movement across the league, many players are set to see expanded roles in place of big names that have been traded. Some young talents have earned bigger opportunities on their squads.
Let's look at six players far from household names that could prove to be sharp selections.
Sengun offered a glimpse of what he could provide with an expanded role as a rookie last season, putting up 12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 blocks across 29.7 minutes over 13 starts. The Turkish big man is prepped for what should be an unquestioned starting role with Christian Wood now in Dallas.
Sengun is only 20, so there's plenty of development in store. He'll usurp last season's fantasy value based on increased minutes alone, but the potential for growth combined with that boosted role makes Sengun especially intriguing. Houston's youthful, fast-paced style will also benefit him.
On one hand, Jones has garnered some attention considering he's tasked with replacing Dejounte Murray now that the latter is in Atlanta. However, the 2020 second-round pick may still be undervalued fantasy-wise, as he's relatively unknown after averaging only 12.0 minutes per contest over his first two seasons while stuck behind Murray and Derrick White.
But what little we have seen of Jones as a starter is encouraging. He put up 13.5 points on 48.8 percent shooting, 7.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals across 32.7 minutes over 11 turns with the first unit last season. Jones now has a chance to play a primary ballhandler role on a rebuilding squad that should afford him plenty of minutes.
Smith is a talented young big that showed well with expanded opportunity last season and projects for a starting power forward role on the rebuilding pacers. Smith re-signed with Indiana on a two-year deal this offseason after proving a good fit following a trade from the Suns, averaging 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks across 24.7 minutes in 22 games with the Pacers.
The athletic third-year pro shot 50.3 percent overall between his time with both clubs, and he spaced the floor some by putting up 2.4 three-point attempts per contest that he drained at a 32.8 percent clip. Smith also upped his free-throw percentage to 76.5 percent from his 71.4 percent rookie-season figure, and it's worth noting he shot 36.8 percent from distance during his second and final college season at Maryland.
Core and shoulder injuries limited Little to 42 games last season, yet the 2019 first-round pick was still able to churn out career highs in points (9.8), rebounds (5.6) and assists (1.3) across 25.9 minutes per game. The Blazers being down Damian Lillard certainly opened up some usage, but the fact Little averaged 11.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocks across 29.5 minutes in 21 starts is encouraging nonetheless.
Little is projected to open the season as the Trail Blazers' starting small forward. He'll be surrounded by an abundance of talented options requiring a heap of defensive attention – Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic. While that quartet will naturally garner plenty of usage, Little's solid efficiency – career 46.1 percent shooter – and ability to sink the occasional deep shot could make him a sneaky source of value in deeper leagues.
As the 2020 second overall pick, Wiseman isn't exactly a forgotten man. However, after missing the entirety of the Warriors' 2021-22 championship run due to a knee injury, he's lost some momentum and has trepidation surrounding him. In the 2020-21 campaign, Wiseman managed an encouraging age-19 rookie season, averaging 11.5 points (on 51.9 percent shooting) and 5.8 rebounds across a modest 21.4 minutes in 39 games.
Wiseman began working his way back into game shape during Las Vegas Summer League by generating 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just under 20 minutes per game. By all accounts, his surgically repaired knee responded well. While he projects to open the new campaign behind veteran Kevon Looney, his draft pedigree and upside give him the potential to usurp Looney at some point.
Mann will open the season with the second unit. Still, he's shown improvement in that role year over year and should continue to be trusted by coach Tyronn Lue despite John Wall's arrival and Kawhi Leonard's return. The 2019 second-round pick is coming off a career-best 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists, plus a 48.4 percent success rate from the field.
Mann averaged a career-high 28.6 minutes per game while drawing 34 starts, and that level of opportunity may not consistently be there this season. However, Mann's ability to play either wing spot helps his cause, and Lue will likely look to preserve the legs of both Paul George and Leonard whenever possible in anticipation of a postseason run.
Other sleeper candidates to consider:
Thomas Bryant, Lakers
Bones Hyland, Nuggets
Bruce Brown, Nuggets