I want guys with PH.D.s (Poor, Hungry, and Driven)
I once had a boss that once said that and a lot of similar things, kind of like Joe Pesci on crack, but the words make a ton of sense. Players fight to get to the top, and players that are at the top lose their fire. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s something. Here I’m going to take a look at younger guys with an upward arrow next to their name.
Rudy Gay has all the talent and athleticism in the world, and shoulder concerns and a crowded situation will probably scare owners away. LaMarcus Aldridge was a first or second round talent last season (9-cat/8-cat), but he didn’t even make the All Star team. He could fly under the radar. Though he made the All Star team, ditto Al Horford.
I warned folks about Eric Gordon’s wrist injury, but surely there were those that were burned last season. He turned a corner in real life, but didn’t in fantasy. There’s value there. David Lee’s contract sucks but he’s a hard worker in a great situation. Chris Bosh was everybody’s whipping boy, but he could easily be given a heavier workload to re-establish his authority and also to keep the season light on options 1A and 1B.
A bust last year, Tyreke Evans could also be undervalued in this year’s drafts. I’m out of Sacramento and the reports aren’t just good, they’re great. To me, there was more going on than just his foot last season, but as long as he’s at the right weight I’m optimistic. Serge Ibaka has the chance at a breakthrough season but Scott Brooks’ constant misuse of him (and others) might leave folks wondering where he stands this year.
Speaking of Russell Westbrook, everybody’s favorite scapegoat is heading toward a max-contract and only has the entire world to prove wrong following last year’s playoffs. It’s scary to think that he’s still learning the point guard position. Combining experience and slowly improved shooting with the elite physical advantages he has will be a thrill to watch.
And no, Scott Brooks’ vanilla offense won’t be an issue when teams aren’t game-planning for them in a seven-game series. NBA scouts and executives decried their playoff offense as not just bad, but embarrassing. Westbrook took some bad shots no doubt, and the 22-year old lost his cool at times. But holding that against him when he was carrying out his coach’s orders and executing a non-existent game plan was just a wee bit misguided.
Holding it against him in fantasy leagues this year will be done to your own detriment. Consider thyself warned. And if Scott Brooks doesn’t show better in this year’s playoffs, no amount of writers seeking to justify or rationalize their 2009-10 Coach of the Year selection will be able to save him.
Joakim Noah has had tastes of high-level basketball, but not nearly enough to satisfy his demands at this point. Jrue Holiday was slightly derailed by point-forward Andre Iguodala, but who thinks he won’t be better with another year under his belt? Rajon Rondo is a bit of an injury concern, but he’s in the prime of his career and approaches the game with KG-like intensity. He has plenty of doubters to prove wrong himself. Brandon Jennings is another young talent with nowhere to go but up. He can’t shoot any worse, right? Dorell Wright came out of nowhere (for some), and has more chance of improving than regressing in Golden State’s uptempo offense. Mike Conley proved that he belonged in the club, particularly after last year’s playoffs.
John Wall was a highlight reel this summer, but his rookie season was a mixed bag. In 8-cat leagues he had a fourth round per-game value, but dipped to seventh round cumulative value due to injuries that cost him 13 games. In 9-cat leagues he fell to tenth round value on a cumulative basis. His shooting in general (41.0/29.6/76.6) and his 3.8 turnovers per game were what held him down, but I’d be willing to bet that he improves straight across the board. He’s a special talent that won’t be undervalued, but he won’t be so overvalued that he cannot be targeted.
And how high can Blake Griffin and Kevin Love go? Love was a first or second round talent depending on format, while Griffin ranged between fourth and seventh round value. Asking Love to improve on the 20 and 15 he got every night is probably a bit much, but theoretically he could get some more assists passing out the corners in Rick Adelman’s offense. With such a high bar to meet, however, will he be able to meet it with a new coach and a log-jam of talent in the frontcourt? I certainly wouldn’t pooh-pooh the idea.
Griffin is a different beast. Free throws and a lack of blocks, steals, poor field goal percentage, and high turnovers are all culprits. I see all of those areas improving for a number of reasons, with none as important as him settling down and the Clippers starting to resemble a real basketball team. As they improve, he won’t need to take as many spinning, back-to-the-basket flip shots, and the like. His free throw mechanics are actually better than most who struggle shooting free throws, suggesting he has hope. He’ll learn to be more aggressive without fouling. And with better shot selection he’ll cut down on the turnovers. Griffin is the ultimate scoring system fantasy player – adjust accordingly.
As always, your strategy is going to come down to average draft positions and your ability to maximize value throughout the draft. Some of these guys could be too expensive to justify picking them up, but they’re among those that I’ll be looking at first when ADP reports start to gain traction.
What’s the opposite of poor, hungry, and driven?
Rich, full, and lazy? I’m sure there’s an Eddy Curry joke in there somewhere. But let’s broaden the point and simply look at players on the downside of their careers, fantasy or otherwise. They range from elite fantasy contributors to all sides of the fantasy spectrum – but the common thread is that their best days have come and gone. The only way you’ll want to target them is if the risk creates an overreaction in the market place dropping their ADP to a justifiable position. More times than not, though, people can’t get enough of the name value.
Manu Ginobili is just a couple of years from retiring. He, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan were all a mess with Gregg Popovich caring little about the regular season. What in the name of Ginobili’s bald spot is going to make things better this year?
Kevin Garnett is an example of somebody that outproduced his draft position, finishing with first or second round value no matter how you sliced it. Limping down the court for the last two years, his contributions across statistical categories pushed him up the rankings. Situations like his are going to be the exception and not the rule, but versatility and not being a killer in any one category can go a far way if you’re trying to find value in this group.
Consider Elton Brand a poor man’s KG in this respect, as he surprised everybody with second or third round value. Is betting on two years of health too much to ask? I’ll be going with ‘yes.’
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen seem ageless, but you have to wonder when Doc Rivers will start operating from the same playbook as Popovich does in San Antonio. Rivers has been known to play it safe with injuries, but there’s still a bit of a ‘play through injury’ credo that exists in the Celtics camp. I’m betting Rivers plays it more safely than he ever has with all of them, including Rajon Rondo.
Pau Gasol is 31 years old and has barking hamstrings. Andrew Bynum is 23 years young and has iffy knees to go with a mean streak that should help him most of the time, but gives him a little bit of a knucklehead factor, too. Ironically, it could be 31-year old Lamar Odom that picks up the slack if either go down, but are you going to bet that he replicates last year’s fourth and fifth round value? I’ll do that as soon as his wife stops rotting human brains.
Pick your poison, but high-end older and injury-prone teams are going to hurt fantasy owners more often than not