Marco Belinelli SG Hornets
Belinelli is a restricted free agent, meaning he’ll be playing for a contract, and he’s also the best shooting guard in New Orleans, as Marcus Thornton was shipped to the Kings last season. Willie Green may offer a little competition for Belinelli, but I really get the sense a breakout season is coming. He played in 80 games and averaged 10 points and just under two 3-pointers per, but I could see those numbers coming closer to 15 and 2.5 this season.
Serge Ibaka F/C Thunder
Can we call this guy a sleeper? No, not after last season. We can’t. So where do you draft him? Round 5 of your draft sounds about right to me.
James Harden SG Thunder
Harden played in all 82 games last year, as well as 17 playoff games, but started just five times, none of which included the playoffs. But as much as Scotty Brooks feels the need to run Thabo Sefolosha out there for tip-off, Harden is the guy the team needs on the floor for a majority of each game. I’ll be shocked if Harden isn’t starting this year, and even if he doesn’t, you can bet he’ll get more than the 26 minutes he got last year. I think his 3-pointers can rise from 1.4 to 2.0 per game, and that his scoring average will hit 15 ppg.
J.J. Redick SG Magic
Redick has been biding his time for the last five years on the Orlando bench, playing behind guys like Vince Carter and Jason Richardson. But Vince is in Phoenix and J-Rich is an unrestricted free agent, and if he goes, Redick just might be your starting 2-guard in Orlando. Maybe Gilbert Arenas will get his act together and rain on Redick’s parade, but I finally think this is the year you can plan on making Redick a late draft pick if you need a 3-point shooter.
Spencer Hawes C Sixers
Hawes is a restricted free agent and somebody has to play center in Philly, right? Yes, he’ll be as inconsistent as always, but will be worth grabbing late, especially in leagues where you start two centers. He’ll be “battling” with Nikola Vucevic and Marreese Speights for minutes.
Jared Dudley G/F Suns
With Vince Carter nearly as old as me, and Grant Hill an unrestricted free agent, Dudley could very well be the starting shooting guard in Phoenix this season. In fact, we’ve already got him penciled in there, as long as he can beat out Vince and Mickael Pietrus. Dudley is a true fantasy sleeper and he can hit threes, score and rebound. If he is named the starter, he’ll be a great way to use a late fantasy pick.
Wesley Matthews G/F Blazers
I am of the opinion that, much like Peyton Manning, the Brandon Roy that we knew and loved is gone. Roy will play next season, but I’m not expecting much more than what we got last year, which means Matthews is going to fill the void and have a nice season.
Greg Oden C Blazers
Oden has had a lot of time to recover from his latest horrific knee injury, meaning he’s worth a flier in all fantasy drafts. It would be foolish to think he can stay healthy, become consistent and live up to any of the hype that followed him was drafted four years ago. But you never know, and his shot-blocking ability alone makes him worth grabbing once the better centers are off the board.
Gary Neal G Spurs
Neal will qualify as a deep sleeper with George Hill residing in Indianapolis now. He’ll likely back up both guard spots and could even start at shooting guard if Gregg Popovich decides to bring Manu Ginobili off the bench.
J.J. Hickson PF Kings
Hickson will have to battle with Jason Thompson for the starting gig, but my guess is JT will end up backing up DeMarcus Cousins at center. Samuel Dalembert is likely gone as an unrestricted free agent, clearing the way for Cousins at C and Hickson at PF. But whether Hickson will be better in Sacramento than he was in Cleveland remains to be seen. He should at least be able to match last season’s 14 points and nine boards, while more blocks and better free throw shooting would push him to a new level.
C.J. Miles G/F Jazz
Andrei Kirilenko is an unrestricted free agent, meaning Miles could end up being the primary option at small forward. He averaged nearly 16 points in 19 starts last season, and while the rest of his numbers were somewhat anemic, I’d expect more production across the board if he wins the job full time.
I’ve played in a fantasy hoops league with Mark from Explosions In the Sky for a few years now, but had never met him in person until Thursday night when the band played at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. Man, what a show and what a great group of people. I knew Mark and I would hit it off, but had no idea the rest of the band were all fantasy hoops addicts as well. They also travel with a ping-pong table, which means we were all pretty sweaty when it was time for them to take the stage.
If you don’t know much about the band, here’s a quick history. They’re from Texas, did the music for the movie Friday Night Lights, don’t use any vocals live or on record, and rock three or four guitars and a set of drums. Their latest record is called Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and I think you should check it out.
I saw Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks on Sunday night, which was highlighted by an interesting cover of Radio Free Europe, as apparently requested by Peter Buck’s brother. The new album is fantastic, the live show sounds phenomenal, and fantasy football chatter dominated the day. They all wanted my take on when the NBA season would start, but I was pretty wishy washy with my answer. And after Monday’s “setting the table” meeting, it sounds like Tuesday is the biggest day in negotiations so far. If they don’t have the outline for a deal agreed upon by tomorrow night, things are going to get ugly.
Next on the music schedule is Wild Flag and Sebadoh, although I might not be able to make it if this lockout ends soon.