SleepersJanuary 18, 2009

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Sleeper Watch

By Phil Londen

With half a season under their belts, the 2008 NBA Draft Class is already making a case to be the strongest group since the fabled 2003 NBA Draft Class that featured elite talent, including players such as Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. In such a deep draft, the Sacramento Kings turned more than a few heads when they selected Jason Thompson with the twelfth pick overall.

Many observers felt that Thompson could have been had later in the first round of the draft. But with the Kings not picking again until the 42nd pick overall, they did not want to risk missing out on Thompson and used their first round pick to select the 6-foot-11, 250 pound forward out of Rider University.

Like many rookies in the NBA, Thompson’s transition from college to the pros has been marked by inconsistency. Recently, though, Jason has been heating up, as evidenced by his last four games. Over this stretch, Thompson has averaged 14.0 points on 56 percent shooting and 91 percent free throw shooting, 0.0 threes, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.8 turnovers in 27.5 minutes. Thompson’s free throw shooting has been lights out (20 for 22 from the line over the past four games) but he is averaging 69 percent on the season. Expect his free throw percentage to come back down to earth over the next few games. According to Basketballmonster Player Rankings, over the past week Thompson is ranked 94th in per game value (again, partially due to his inflated free throw percentage).

The Kings’ upcoming schedule looks to be highly favorable toward Thompson maintaining or building upon his recent production. The Kings play three out of their next four games next week on the road against Denver, Milwaukee, and Toronto. The Kings’ only home game next week comes against fellow underachievers, the Washington Wizards. Strangely enough, the Kings’ and Thompson’s averages, in general, are better on the road than at home this season so this road trip against relatively weak competition bodes well for Jason.

Finally, the Kings’ team situation in general this season provides favorable situational circumstances for an increased role for Jason Thompson. With a record of 10-31, the Kings are completely out of the running for a playoff berth this season with nine teams already in a heated competition for the eight coveted spots in the West. Thus, they are more or less committed to the youth movement and are focused on restoring their franchise to the winning ways of earlier this millennium (see, for example, the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings).

As they spent a highly valuable lottery pick on Thompson, look for the Kings to try and accelerate his development by increasing his role and ratcheting up his playing time over the course of the remainder of this sub-par season. Thompson is currently available in seventy-five percent of Yahoo! fantasy basketball leagues. If you are looking for points on quality shooting from the floor, boards and low turnovers, pick him up knowing that he has the opportunity to continue his recent production.

Phil Londen is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Phil in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of plonden.
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