I wrote this column last year and just took a look at it to see how it turned out. I had Greg Monroe as a “riser” and Antawn Jamison as a “faller,” which I felt good about. Actually, I felt pretty good about the whole column looking back on it, so let’s see if I can do it again. Just because a guy ends up on either list doesn’t mean he should be automatically added or dropped in your draft list, but you should take this information with you and make the best decision you can at your draft.
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John Wall Wizards PG – Wall is finally healthy after playing last season at 80% or less and is poised to fully break out. He’s going to be worth a second-round pick this year if he stays healthy, and my guess is he will.
Jeff Teague Hawks PG – Kirk Hinrich is hurt and prepared to play some shooting guard when he returns in about a month, to allow Teague to fully breakout. Teague’s confidence is said to be high and I see him running the point very effectively for the Hawks. Once the big-named PGs are off the board, Teague should make for a solid PG option in fantasy.
Ty Lawson Nuggets PG – Lawson will have to deal with Andre Miller in his rearview mirror, but the job is clearly his to lose in Denver. All signs point to a full breakout from Lawson this season.
Toney Douglas Knicks PG – The Knicks waived Chauncey Billups, leaving the starting job to Douglas. Mike D’Antoni’s point guards generally produce healthy fantasy numbers, and while it’s possible they add another point guard at some point, the job is Douglas’ for now.
Shooting Guards/Small Forwards
Joe Johnson Hawks SG – Jamal Crawford is going to be elsewhere this season, freeing JJ up to handle most of the minutes at shooting guard. Joe’s numbers took a hit with Crawford around, but I expect him to fully bounce back this season, making him a serious value pick in Round 4 or later.
Marco Belinelli Hornets SG – I had Belinelli as a riser...until Eric Gordon was traded to the Hornets. That should effectively crush the value of Belinelli, but he'll become a hot waiver-wire pickup if and when Gordon goes down with a injury.
Carlos Delfino Bucks G/F – Delfino is coming off a season ruined by a concussion, but was draining 3-pointers like nobody’s business before he went down. I expect him to start for the Bucks and pick up where he left off, meaning he should be a viable fantasy player if he can stay healthy. The downside is he’ll have to compete with Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson for shots, but that should also mean he finds himself open from downtown several times per game.
Damion James/Anthony Morrow Nets SG/SF – The Nets are depleted everywhere but PG and C, and James and Morrow look like the starting SG and SF this season. They should at least return solid value with late-round picks, and could help fantasy owners win a championship if they can stay healthy. Just beware that things can change if the Nets make a major trade for Dwight Howard.
Wesley Matthews/Nicolas Batum Blazers G/F – Brandon Roy is retired, leaving Matthews to start and Batum as the team’s likely sixth man. Matthews should have a great season, while Batum’s ability to hit threes and block shots should make him a very reliable fantasy player to own as well.
Corey Maggette Bobcats SF – I don’t trust Maggette farther than I can throw him. But the Bobcats seem to think he can be their primary option on offense and see him scoring 20 ppg. Maybe he will, and while I don’t see him having that kind of success, the minutes and opportunity should be there. If he’s available late, feel free to pounce, but don't blame me when he tweaks something in Week 2.
Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF – Gregg Popovich has been impressed with the rookie and there’s a decent chance he’ll be starting at SF for the Spurs sooner than later. Consider him a dark horse for Rookie of the Year.
Josh Smith Hawks F – Smith has lost a lot of weight, sworn off 3-point shots and appears to be determined to have a big year for the Hawks. I expect him to bounce back this year, block a ton of shots and become a leader in the locker room for the Hawks. That’s a lot to ask of Smith, but I think he has it in him.
Al Jefferson Jazz C – Jefferson could easily end up as the No. 1 rated center by the end of the season after averaging 21.5 points, 11 boards and nearly two blocks per game after the break last year. Draft him with confidence.
JaVale McGee Wizards C – McGee has triple-double potential and could lead the league in blocks if his head is screwed on straight. He’s going to have his ups and downs, but will have some mind-blowing fantasy lines this year for the Wizards. I’m going all-in on McGee in all of my leagues this season and while I suspect his scoring will be inconsistent at best, am expecting enough ridiculous stats lines to make him worth the ride.
Marcin Gortat Suns C – He averaged more than 15 points, 10 boards and 1.5 blocks after the break for the Suns last season and remains unchallenged for the job in Phoenix. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason to think he won’t repeat those numbers again this year. He could even end up being a Top 3 center when all is said and done.
Boris Diaw Bobcats F/C – If the season started today, Diaw would start at center for the Bobcats, but can also play both forward spots. He’s a great passer and can hit threes, and could be an extreme value pick after the middle rounds of your draft. As long as he stays in Charlotte, he should quietly have a big year.
Anderson Varejao Cavaliers F/C – The Cavaliers are very thin in the middle and Varejao is finally healthy. Expect a double-double per game along with some blocks. He should be a value pick at the center position this year as long as he stays healthy.
Greg Monroe Pistons F/C – Monroe is unchallenged to start at center for Detroit and averaged a double-double, along with 1.6 steals and nearly a block per game after the All-Star break last year. There’s no reason he shouldn’t pick up where he left off and have a big year.
Kendrick Perkins Thunder C - Perkins lost 30 pounds and is finally healthy for the first time in a long time. He’s not going to provide a lot of offense in OKC, but should be a solid fantasy center, focusing on boards and blocks. Target him late in your draft when you need a center to fill a void.
DeJuan Blair Spurs PF/C – Antonio McDyess is out of the way and Tim Duncan is not only another year older, but playing in a compact season that will require a lot of back-to-back games (meaning Duncan should get some nights off). Blair should command a lot of minutes at both the PF and C positions and be a solid fantasy play every week. And based on last year’s mediocrity, should be available at a bargain price in the later-middle rounds of your draft.
Chris Paul Clippers PG – I was kind of down on Chris Paul until Wednesday night, when he was finally traded to the Clippers. And that trade changes everything. Paul is now the starter in L.A. and has two studs to throw lobs to on a nightly basis in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. He should have a monster year if healthy and will likely lead the league in assists. I have bumped Paul up to the No. 3 fantasy player going into the season.
Kirk Hinrich Hawks G – Hinrich will miss a month after surgery to remove a cyst from his shoulder, while Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson might render him useless even after he’s healthy. I say stay away until very late in your draft, and won’t be surprised if he’s floating around on fantasy waivers for much of the season.
Baron Davis Free Agent PG – Davis is sidelined with a back injury that could be a herniated disc. There’s talk he could be out a couple months and I see no reason to draft him this year. He’s also been waived via amnesty by the Cavs, and his career is in jeopardy. Let someone else deal with him.
Mo Williams/Eric Bledsoe Clippers PG – The Clippers made a bold move by claiming Chauncey Billups off waivers and are then traded for Chris Paul. Williams is now the back up to both Paul AND Billups, while Bledsoe recovers from knee surgery. I'd ignore both of these players come draft day.
Rodney Stuckey Pistons G – Rookie Brandon Knight has looked great in early practices and Will Bynum is still around, meaning Stuckey could find himself in a battle for minutes, let alone production this season. Irving could easily end up having equal value to Stuckey, making him a pretty risky player to rely on in a stable of point guards this season.
Beno Udrih Bucks PG – Beno was solid for the Kings last year but will be backing up Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee this season. Unless Jennings goes down, I see no reason to draft or own Udrih right now.
Jimmer Fredette Kings PG – No backcourt is as confusing as the Kings’ and Fredette is going to have to play behind Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and possibly Jamal Crawford. Keep an eye on him, obviously, but I doubt he’s worth owning on a long-term basis this season in Sacramento.
Shooting Guards/Small Forwards
James Harden Thunder SG – News broke on Tuesday that Harden is not only comfortable coming off the bench, but thinks it’s a good idea for Thabo Sefolosha to start in front of him. This is some of the most disappointing fantasy news to come along this season and I’m not happy about it. Harden is still going to have a nice season, but as long as he’s coming off the bench, he’s going to be too inconsistent to rely upon every night. Instead of reaching for him and hoping for the breakout, I'd let him slide until the sixth round or so.
J.J. Redick Magic SG - Jason Richardson re-signed with the Magic and immediately provides a buzzkill on Redick’s potential breakout season. Feel free to take Redick in the last round of your draft, but expect Richardson’s presence to crush those dreams.
Evan Turner Sixers SG – Like Harden, word broke on Tuesday that Jodie Meeks, and not Turner would likely be starting at SG for the Sixers. Another buzzkill. Turner could still produce enough off the bench (or start) to be worth drafting, while Meeks now deserves a look as a 3-point specialist. But Turner’s sleeper buzz quickly died when we posted that blurb about him coming off the bench on Tuesday.
Jared Dudley Suns SG – I’m still a Dudley fan, but the return of Grant Hill and arrival of Shannon Brown in Phoenix don’t do him any favors. I am still kind of high on Dudley as a sleeper pick, but he’s going to need some luck to live up to the hype he was getting a week ago, before Hill and Brown were in the picture.
Jordan Crawford Wizards SG - I am a Jordan Crawford fan, but unless something changes he’s going to be in a timeshare with Nick Young, and could be coming off the bench. It’s a fine idea to blow a late pick on him, but he’d be a bona fide breakout candidate if Young was playing elsewhere. Young is a restricted free agent and could go to the Hornets, which would reverse everything I just wrote about Crawford.
Austin Daye Pistons F – Daye is another guy I was really high on a couple weeks ago, but Tayshaun Prince is surprisingly returning to the Pistons and is expected to start at SF over Daye for new coach Lawrence Frank. I still like Daye’s ability to score, board, block and hit threes, but he’s not going to offer a ton of value unless he’s starting. A trade of Prince would obviously change Daye’s outlook.
Al-Farouq Aminu Hornets SF - Aminu was dealt to the Hornets, and while he'll no longer have to compete with Caron Butler for minutes, Trevor Ariza looks like the starting shooting guard in New Orleans, which should mean Aminu's coming off the bench. Unless he replaces Ariza in the starting five, he won't be worth owning.
Michael Beasley Timberwolves F – Beasley has looked great in camp but will have to sacrifice minutes to rookie Derrick Williams this season, one way or another. He also faded down the stretch last year and I think he might be fool’s gold this year. Feel free to take him late in your draft, but expect a full timeshare with Williams for the young Wolves.
Brook Lopez Nets C – Lopez’s six boards per game were a buzzkill last year and there’s no thought that he’s going to ever be a big rebounder in the NBA. But keep in mind that the Nets are VERY thin at PF and C, which will work in Brook’s favor this season, but he’s still not a guy you’ll want to take before Round 4 in most instances.
Tyler Hansbrough Pacers PF – Hansbrough’s value took a hit when the Pacers signed free agent David West. West is coming off major knee surgery, leaving Psycho T with a glimmer of hope, but as long as West is playing, Hansbrough will take a back seat.
Chris Kaman Hornets PF/C – Kaman's outlook has changed since this article was published and now looks like the starter at PF or C for the Hornets. He has some injury concerns, but should be a solid source of points, boards and blocks starting in New Orleans, instead of backing up DeAndre Jordan for the Clippers.
Ryan Anderson Magic PF – Glen Davis is in Orlando and figures to get the starting nod over Anderson. Ryno will still hit plenty of threes and play a big role, but he’s not the sleeper candidate he was a few weeks ago with the addition of Big Baby in Orlando.
J.J. Hickson Kings PF – Hickson could start, but will likely be in a timeshare with Jason Thompson, who is a very effective player for the Kings. Keep an eye on this situation throughout training camp, but we have lowered expectations on Hickson due to the presence of Thompson in Sacramento.
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