Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Everybody likes a bargain.
Whether it's at the supermarket, the mall or with an insurance company, everyone likes to think they're getting a good deal.
That extends to the world of fantasy sports.
Not many things can beat drafting a player late or picking him up off the free agent list and having him put up elite numbers.
Or bidding $1 on a player and having him turn out to be priceless.
That type of luck (or foresight) can often swing leagues, especially if the players you grab early on play up to expectations.
The crazy, condensed fantasy basketball season is coming to a close this week, and most leagues have already been decided.
Let's take a look at the players who defied expectations and refused to accept their low preseason rankings. Here is the NBA all-bargain fantasy team for 2011-12 (all statistics accrued through Tuesday):
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 98) - Jennings seems like a player who would be overvalued, but owners shied away from him this season. On average, he was the 22nd point guard drafted and the 83rd overall pick in Y! leagues. In auctions, he went for an average value of $6. Jennings far exceeded expectations by turning in his best pro season, averaging 19.2 points, 5.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and two 3- pointers a game to grab the 13th overall ranking, third among PGs behind Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 194) - Dragic was such an afterthought in the preseason that he wasn't even drafted in the top 150. However, when Kyle Lowry went down with a bacterial infection, Dragic was there to pick up the pieces of the Rockets' offense and produce admirably when it mattered most for fantasy owners. In the past 30 days, Dragic is the No. 10 overall player, averaging 19.6 points, 7.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.8 3-pointers per game, all while shooting 48 percent from the field and 84 percent from the foul line.
Honorable mentions: Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks; Lou Williams, Philadelphia 76ers; Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 62) - Harden was ranked higher than some of the other players on this list in the preseason, but that he's still considered a bargain is a testament to just how well he played this season. Harden was the top-ranked shooting guard and 12th- overall player despite carrying an ADP of 67 and an average value of $11, after players like Eric Gordon, Kevin Martin, Raymond Felton, Chauncey Billups and Jason Richardson. Harden also played most of his games off the bench, making his averages of 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.8 3- pointers all the more amazing.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 107) - Despite being drafted 117th overall, George has managed to be the fourth-best fantasy SG and 21st-overall player, two spots ahead of superstar Dwyane Wade. George has filled the stat sheet with averages of 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 3-pointers. He also shot 80 percent from the free-throw line. Not too bad for someone who cost a measly $2 in auction leagues.
Honorable mentions: Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors; Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs; Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 186) - Talk about being off the map entirely. Ilyasova wasn't drafted in the top 150 of Yahoo! leagues yet was the 37th-best fantasy player as of Tuesday. The Milwaukee big man plays mostly power forward but was eligible at both forward spots, making him the biggest small forward bargain. Through 60 games, Ilyasova has put up 13 points, 8.8 boards, 1.2 assists and one 3-pointer a game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 78 percent from the free-throw line.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 181) - The former Butler standout carried an average draft position of 131 in Yahoo! leagues, which wasn't really unfounded in the preseason. After his rookie year, Hayward was still more known for almost hitting a half-court shot at the buzzer in the national championship game than for his fantasy prowess. However, he's morphed into a legitimate scoring guard/forward combo in 2012, especially down the stretch. Through Tuesday, Hayward was the 59th-overall player in Yahoo! leagues, averaging 12 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists while carrying solid shooting and free-throw percentages. In the past 30 days, Hayward has elevated his play, coming in at 26th overall, 12th among small forwards, with averages of 16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 3-pointers per game.
Honorable mentions: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs; Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers; Nicolas Batum, Portland Trailblazers
Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 103) - Anderson was perhaps the biggest bargain of all in 2012. He was drafted with the 118th pick on average -- costing auction league owners $3 -- but has managed to rank in the top 10 overall. The reason? Anderson's ability to take and make 3- pointers. The Magic forward took advantage of Dwight Howard clogging the paint to make the most 3-pointers in the league with 164, 38 more than the next- closest player, Steve Novak. But the deep ball was not the only skill Anderson brought to the table this season The 6-foot-10 Anderson averaged 15.9 points and 7.6 rebounds and shot an elite percentage from the foul line (87.8 percent).
Kris Humphries, New Jersey Nets (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 93) - That Humphries was grabbed with just the 97th pick on average has me thinking that there was a strong Kardashian bias against the Nets big man coming off his October divorce from Kim. How else can you explain his average cost off $4 in auctions? Either way, those who picked Humphries were rewarded in a big way, as he averaged 13.8 points, 11 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 blocks while shooting 75 percent from the free-throw line.
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 91) - Chandler signed with the Knicks in the offseason coming off an NBA title with Dallas, but fantasy owners weren't buying his limited offensive game this season. The 6-11 Chandler was picked with the 85th pick on average in Yahoo! leagues while carrying an average cost of $5 in auctions, well behind Washington knuckleheads Javale McGee (now with Denver) and Andray Blatche. What did Chandler do in the wake of that disrespect? He managed to register the highest field-goal percentage in NBA history of anyone not named Wilt Chamberlain, hitting on 68 percent of his shots. While knocking down most of his attempts, Chandler averaged 11.3 ppg with 10 boards per game. He also blocked 1.4 shots per contest and didn't kill your team with his free-throw shooting unlike some people (cough, Dwight Howard, cough), claiming the 34th-overall ranking.
Andruw Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers (Yahoo! preseason ranking: 65) - I had to do a double take when I saw where Bynum was drafted. Clearly, owners didn't have much faith in the Lakers big man to stay healthy for a full season, especially during this condensed campaign. Bynum proved everyone wrong by becoming a monster, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.9 blocks while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and 69.2 percent from the foul line. Bynum played in 60 games (through Tuesday), coming in at 27th overall. Not too shabby for a player drafted 66th overall on average ($11 in auction leagues).
Honorable mentions: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings; Samuel Dalembert, Houston Rockets
Together, these 10 players would have cost you $42 in the preseason, with Dragic, Ilyasova and Hayward costing zilch. What a deal!
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