I’m going to bring my lockout take later in the week, but a quick word about it as I segue into real basketball talk. Assuming the owners are not purposely trying to lose the season (a very real possibility), this NBA season is going to otherwise land right on top of us. I’ve stuck with my prediction that we will indeed have a season, despite the reports of doom and gloom, but I’m going to skip the discussion in this space. I just can’t bring myself to lay it on you guys after the last week or so of crap Billy Hunter and David Stern have subjected you to.
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Whether I’m right or wrong about the lockout, we’re running out of time for a season to be held. For every day without an agreement, the theoretic season becomes more hectic and compact. Free agency will be a blur of activity and before you know it drafts will be held during or shortly after the fantasy football playoffs (perfect timing).
UPDATE: Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the two sides are meeting tonight (Wednesday). I have long held that a deal would be done in the days/weeks following David Stern's ultimatum, so it stands to reason that I'm preparing like a deal is imminent. I am in the vast minority on this stance.
UPDATE II: Wojnarowski reported late Wednesday that the sides will resume negotiations on Friday. Both sides are reportedly only interested in a 66-game schedule starting on or before Christmas, and a deal would need to be reached early next week in order for that to happen. Cautious optimism from reputable NBA scribes has ruled the night, and I'm doubling down on my prediction that the lockout is going end. Follow the Derek Fisher news page for all details.
UPDATE III: Looking like a season. How U.
I know I won’t be speaking to the folks that play casually with this sentiment, but for those of you that play for money or are otherwise addicted to the thrill of winning – this theoretic season could prove to be a barrel of fish for aggressive and experienced owners.
The reasons why are fairly straight-forward. First, after a record year of fantasy basketball participation, it's entirely possible that the game will continue to grow despite the lockout. After all, fantasy players tend to trend toward 'hardcore' more so than 'casual.'
Owners may be drafting against more newbies in what will be one of the weirdest fantasy basketball seasons to date. The shortened schedules will cause owners to have to think about more variables on draft day and they will have less time during the season to fix their mistakes. There will also be owners that neglected to study due to the lockout. All of this obviously benefits the more experienced and committed player, so rather than mope about the absence of basketball right now – we’re going to keep the conversation moving so we hit the ground running once heads get removed from posteriors.
Over the next week in this space I’m going to take a look at a player that I’ve deemed ‘intriguing’ from each NBA team. I’ll do half of the NBA teams here, and we’ll touch on the other half in the next week. As mentioned, you can also expect a lockout review explaining in detail why I’m still optimistic we’ll have a season. In the meantime, break out whatever good luck charms you have and get to studying.
Kobe Bryant: Bean finished with low-end first round value in 8-cat formats last year, but predictably fell to third round value over the season’s last two months. We’ll definitely delve into the winners and losers of the lockout in greater depth elsewhere, but Bryant will be on the wrong side of that ledger as a candidate to rest more due to the increased number of back-to-backs. My early prediction is that he’ll get overdrafted once again this year.
Rudy Gay: The world watched Memhis surge without him in the playoffs, and some pundits even believe they're better off without him. Also coming off a major shoulder injury, the buzz he created with first round value throughout the first half of the year has all but circled the drain. Of course those pundits are wrong, and while this misplaced doubt won’t be enough to keep owners off Gay’s trail, it’ll help keep his price manageable on draft day.
LeBron James: I wrote about the choice to draft James or Kevin Durant first overall a few weeks back, and as usual LeBron will be a top story this year after suffering one of those stinging Finals defeats that virtually every champion has gone through. His motivation level should be through the roof. Kevin Durant is the truth, however, and I’m looking forward to deciding which one of them will be my top overall pick when the fantasy landscape cleans itself up.
Blake Griffin: A system guy, he had fourth round cumulative value in 8-cat leagues, but if your league didn’t penalize his free throws and defensive quirks, he had first round value. Watching him play makes me want to make a push for leagues to add a ‘dunks’ category. Seriously, how fun would that be? I’m comfortable predicting modest improvements in all of his deficient areas, but if you’re in a standard 8- or 9-cat league let somebody else take him in the first round.
Roy Hibbert: It’s amazing what a coach can do to a player’s psyche, and Jim O’Brien had Hibbert laying in the corner sucking his thumb after a solid start. It was no surprise when he was reinvigorated under Frank Vogel, and an improvement over his seventh round value last season seems elementary under a full year of Vogel. Given last year’s inconsistency, however, it's doubtful owners will reach much higher than Round 7 to pick him up.
Kyle Lowry: Lowry was typecast as ‘just a guy’ when landing in Memphis with the No. 24 pick in 2006, and playing behind Mike Conley he wasn’t given much thought in fantasy leagues. Despite the fact that Houston could barely keep the drool of their chin when trading for him, the presence of Aaron Brooks kept most analysts from seeing what we all see now – the man can play. He proved it all last season and has been on fire this summer. Over the last half of the year he racked up third round value in 8-cat leagues, but my gut tells me he won’t get third round respect on draft day. There’s value there.
Monta Ellis: No player generated as much controversy as he did in the early days of the summer when he was semi-dangled on the trading block. The most talked about scenario had the Warriors acquiring Andre Iguodala and his bad contract for Ellis and his good contract. Everybody had a take, and depending on who you listened to he was either the 16th best guard in terms of FG% or he was Allen Iverson reincarnate (or Lou Williams as this Philly blogger regrettably published). Nevertheless, his No. 7 overall fantasy value last season says the latter group didn’t watch many late-night Warriors games. Ellis’ value will be determined heavily by the likelihood for a trade, but as a lifelong fan and hardcore critic of the Warriors I had no problem with his performance last season, defense included. He was asked to perform a role and he did it as well as anybody in the league.
Brandon Knight: The No. 8 overall pick for the Pistons has stayed under the radar this summer, and nobody in Detroit is sure if he can pick up the starting job and run with it. Rodney Stuckey, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Gordon are all roadblocks to his fantasy value, but none of them are deal-killers for Knight’s value. I’ll be following his progress closely to see if he warrants a late round flier pick.
Arron Afflalo: Alf was traded to Denver for a song, and ended up becoming a key cog in what could have been a contending team if given the time to gel. Aside from his ninth round cumulative value in 8-cat leagues, he also solidified his role as a late-game scoring option. I don’t particularly care about the potential returns of J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler. I believe Afflalo has earned his role and will be leaned upon heavily this year, though I don’t know how much, if any, he can improve his fantasy production in a crowded situation. With the confusion and lack of name-value, I’m willing to bet that he is underdrafted this season.
Tyson Chandler: His banner year resulted in seventh round fantasy value in 8-cat leagues, and the question for him will be whether or not he re-signs in Dallas. Injuries and inconsistency have been the bugaboo for him, and while the latter isn’t concerning me the former is. Add to that increased perceived value after winning a ring and I don’t like his chances of landing on my teams.
Kyrie Irving: On draft day I thought that Irving wouldn’t last in fantasy drafts until the late rounds where I would like to target him, but now that his toe has become an issue I may just get my wish. I have no doubt that he will end the season playing starter’s minutes, so drafting him and stashing him makes too much sense. The problem is eating the early months of poor production when selecting him with any pick before the 10th round. As long as his toe checks out, I’m ready to take him between the 10th and 12th rounds, though, depending on team needs and available players.
Derrick Rose: After averaging just 0.2 threes per game in his career, I wrote in our bold predictions section of the draft guide that he would hit 1.0 threes per game last season. He blew away even my lofty standards with 1.6 threes per game on his way to No. 4 overall value in 8-cat leagues. He also attracted some detractors when Tom Thibodeau did his best Scott Skiles impression by running the same ineffective sets over and over again during the playoffs, causing Rose to stall out, but I don’t think his playoff struggles will matter one bit in fantasy drafts. Rose will likely go as high as No. 3 overall, and he won’t slide out of the first round. Draft positions have yet to solidify in that realm, but I can say that I won’t be shying away from Rose.
Bismack Biyombo: The No. 7 overall pick had a few disastrous workouts that hit the Internet this summer, and a lot of the pre-draft hype surrounding him dissipated into dismissive talk about him being a project. Add his overseas buyout issues, questions about his age, and funny sounding name, and he’ll probably be dismissed on draft day, too. What those folks will be missing is that Biyombo will be joining a frontcourt that is among the league’s worst. If he’s even three-quarters of the player people think he is right now, he’s a lock to play 30-plus minutes per game no later than two months into the season. A threat to triple-double with points, rebounds, and blocks, I love the idea of drafting him with my last pick. After a close evaluation of him in international play, he’s nowhere nearly as raw as most people think.
Kevin Garnett: It’s usually wise to bet against aging players with knee problems on contending teams that are going to rest their players throughout the year. KG blew that theory out of the water with third round value in 8-cat leagues while appearing in 71 games. Like with Kobe, the lockout is going to help shorten the season for him, but he won’t be able to hide from the increase in back-to-back games. For those scoring at home, the lockout is only going to help younger players coming off injuries impacting the beginning of their seasons.
Josh Smith: Let’s just say he’s in our office pool of who may show up after the lockout looking most like Shawn Kemp did in 1998-99. He finished with second round 8-cat value last season, and made a bit of history when he ignored pleas from his coaches, teammates, and 15,000 home fans to stop shooting during a 69-of-171 stretch from the field in the playoffs. Instead, his shot selection worsened, as if to say to everyone ‘shutup or I’ll do it more.’ The biggest concern for me is that his athleticism seemed to wane as he dealt with injuries throughout the year, and even if the offseason isn’t a disaster for him I have real concerns that we may have seen his most athletic days come and pass. For a guy whose game is not built on skill or decision-making, a precipitous drop shouldn’t be ruled out. I may swing and miss on the prediction, but I’ll be shying away from him on draft day even if reports are positive coming out of the ATL.