In our never-ending search for maximizing the production on our fantasy basketball squads, today we’re on the hunt for power forward sleepers.
A lot of it comes down to whether or not the player qualifies for power forward, and what statistical fit they make on the team. With Point Guards, it’s assists and steals. With shooting guards, it’s efficiency and Three Point Rate. Forwards, non-scoring metrics. A lot of top forwards are drafted early and often, given that the best players in the league are often three-tiered forwards.
Power forward sleepers in this context can be specialists or fourth guys: overlooked in the context of top picks but quality in reference to contribution.
Potential Energy Forwards: Power Forward Sleepers
Ranking the power forward sleepers based on draft position and viability.
- Aaron Gordon
- Daniel Gafford
- Kevon Looney
- Aaron Nesmith
Aaron Nesmith, Indiana Pacers (ADP, 667.8/Undrafted)
Nesmith took a major leap after getting traded to the Indiana Pacers. Clearing the double-digit points mark, the former Vanderbilt guard has found himself a home in Indianapolis. After starting 60 games, Nesmith has shown his ability to do the one thing he was drafted to do: shoot. Although 36.6% on threes is not the rate a bonafide shooter would qualify under, some history on how he got to this point. At Vandy, Nesmith’s short season was composed of movement shooting coming off of off-ball screens, and shooting 52.2% on 8 attempts per game before getting drafted. Although his rate has not been anywhere close to that, there have been surprisingly large sample sizes to it near that level of production.
First, his post-All-Star Break vs. Pre-All-Star Break splits. Before the break, Nesmith played 53 games and started 77% of them. He shot 41.8 FG%/35.7% 3P%/86.6% in that time. After the break, he started nearly 100% of his games, with 45.1/39.1/77.8. Although his free throws were worse, 39.1% three-point shooting is great! Finally, he shot 39.2% in games the Pacers won last season. The Pacers want to take a step forward, and having shooters around Tyrese Haliburton will pay dividends. Especially when Nesmith shoots 38.3% from the corner.
Daniel Gafford, Washington Wizards (ADP: 104.2)
A general rule of thumb over the last few seasons has been not to take Washington Wizards. This pick could be problematic if they remove the PF designation and make the big man a strict Center. If he is not, having him on a fantasy team is a good idea. As of now, he is the starting center for the Wizards. The two key categories he’ll provide are FG% and Blocked shots. In 20 minutes per game over the last two seasons, he’s averaged 1.35 blocked shots per game. This number should be larger in a starting role with closer to 30 minutes. Essentially, this is a good support beam to hold up your fantasy house.
If the draft position puts you in a bad spot for top-tier starting bigs, having Gafford as that option will be better than having a player like Isaiah Steward or other flex big men. He will not hurt for rebounds either. The Wizards surprisingly have a good rebounding team with Kuzma, so the focus on box outs will be spread out.
Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors (ADP: 135.2)
Looney has started more than 70 games over the last two seasons. Although not a scorer, his rebounds, assists, and FG% make him a viable candidate for late-round selections. The Golden State Warriors use him pretty consistently for a player who only plays 20-25 minutes per game. Honestly, there is not too much to say about Looney that is not at face value. His total rebound percentage (percentage of available rebounds a player can grab) is good, his overall assist rate for a big is good, and he doesn’t take unnecessary shots. Theoretically, the Warriors are underusing him, but their play structure does not incorporate post-play at all.
He has played 164 of 164 total games in the last two seasons, so having him on the bench to ensure the accumulation of stats or in a deeper points league should provide the most value. Shallower leagues are not going to see much use from him, especially with the lackluster defensive counting metrics like blocks and steals.
Personally, this next player will be an overall better selection than Looney or Gafford.
Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets (ADP: 114.7)
Aaron Gordon was a wonderful pickup in many leagues last year. Especially with how badly the offense needed more playmaking with the absence of Jamal Murray; Gordon stepped up. Relatively to the three above, Gordon has the best line and is in his age 28 season. A career-best 16.3PPG/6.6RPG/3 APG on 56.4/34.7/60.8 shooting splits. Although incredibly efficient within the arc, Gordon could be better from the free throw line, being 8% off his career average. The Nuggets need Michael Porter Jr. to take a leap forward to take a run at back-to-back titles, but having Gordon’s efficiency within the arc and ability to make the extra play will definitely provide play-developing depth.
The Nuggets have played four out with Gordon, and his ability to pass has been demonstrated throughout most of his career too. Having those assist rates sets him aside from the others on the board, even with the bad free throw percentage. Overall, his numbers may drift south a little given the circumstances. That does not necessarily make this a bad pick, and can often further his descent down the draft board. Personally, I’ve had Aaron Gordon on many teams, often as a late-round pickup or free agent. He really does a good job of playing long streaks of games and does not get docked for bad shot-taking.
This year’s power forward class is a little weak relative to the other positions but contains a few diamonds in the rough. Basically, take Aaron Gordon in a later round. He has the least amount of risk relative to the other players listed. Aaron Nesmith has the highest risk, but potentially the highest reward if your team needs shooting. Don’t sleep on these sleepers!
Got a few power forward sleepers of your own? Don’t be greedy! Drop some names in the comments below! In the meantime check out all the great analysis in our 2023 Fantasy Basketball Draft Kit!