Adam Levitan

The Daily Dose

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Playoff matchups are set

Thursday, April 26, 2012


With an ugly thud, the NBA’s lockout-condensed regular season ended on Thursday. Just about everyone took the night off as we get set for the start of the playoffs on Saturday. It’s a reminder that if you play head-to-head, you have to end your playoffs a week early -- just like everyone does in fantasy football.

I must say that it feels weird not to think about how Thursday’s news will affect fantasy production going forward. It’s an empty, lonely, sad kind of feeling. From all of us here at Rotoworld, we sincerely hope our blurbs and columns helped you to a successful season. If you can think of anything we can do better next season, don’t hesitate to email me/us. I can say without a doubt that I’ll miss the glorious grind that is the fantasy hoops season.

Looking ahead, I will be participating in a postseason fantasy league with the Rotoworld team. So let’s look at the playoff matchups:

EASTERN CONFERENCE
1. Bulls vs. 8. Sixers: The Sixers have actually won three of the last six meetings, but the Bulls have the edge at literally every starting position. Bulls in six.

2. Heat vs. 7. Knicks: Miami’s “maintenance program” will have the Big Three plenty fresh. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have yet to click together this season and Baron Davis is one of the worst starting point guards in the NBA. Heat in five.

3. Pacers vs. 6. Magic: Dwight Howard (back) is out and Glen Davis (ankle) is questionable for Game 1. With George Hill now entrenched as the starting point guard, the Pacers are a force. Pacers in six.

4. Celtics vs. 5. Hawks: The Celtics may be too old to win it all, but they can certainly still defend with the best units in the league. Note that the Hawks will have home-court advantage here even though they're the lower seed. Still, Celtics in seven.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
1. Spurs vs. 8. Jazz: When Utah puts Devin Harris, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson on the floor together, they’re a scary team. But the Spurs are just too deep. Spurs in six.

2. Thunder vs. 7. Mavericks: A very scary matchup. The Mavs excel in half-court execution using Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki on pick-n-pops. The Thunder often settle for jumpers instead of getting to the rim. Should be a wild series. Thunder in seven.

3. Lakers vs. 6. Nuggets: The Nugs are going to need JaVale McGee to actually step up and go toe-to-toe with the Lakers’ twin towers. But they know that’s not going to happen -- he’s been playing off the bench behind Kosta Koufos for the last three weeks. Lakers in five.

4. Grizzlies vs. 5. Clippers: Remember that the Grizz knocked off the top-seeded Spurs last year without Rudy Gay. Now they have Gay, a vastly improved Mike Conley and a Zach Randolph who might be rounding into form. Big-time sleeper. Grizz in six.


READY FOR NEXT YEAR?

It’s not a very practical or useful exercise to think about next year’s top-10. But it is fun. And I’m all about a good time, so let’s dive in here. Obviously, everything will change based on free agency, the draft, trades and offseason injuries.

1. Kevin Durant: Only player to average at last one block, one steal and one 3-pointer this season. Also led the league in scoring (28.0) and set a career-high in rebounds (8.0). Perhaps most importantly, his 86.0 percent free-throw shooting on high volume changes the category for owners. Scariest part is that Durant will turn just 24 in September and has missed a total of four games in the last three seasons.

2. LeBron James: Since coming to Miami, James has taken his fantasy game to another level by simply taking better shots. His 53.1 field-goal percentage on 18.9 shots per game while also making 77.1 percent of free throws is unheard of. A top-two lock.

3. Chris Paul: Kevin Love’s stats might be more eye-popping, but Paul’s game is slightly more fantasy-friendly. He showed no signs of knee issues this year and will turn just 27 in May. Paul will finish the year in the top-five in steals, assists and effective free-throw without breaking a sweat.

4. Kevin Love: Owners might have a sour taste in their mouth after Love missed the final seven games of this season, but it’s not like he had a knee injury. He’s already been cleared from that ugly concussion. Just know that the paltry block/steal stats leave holes in lineups.

5. Russell Westbrook: I really don’t understand all the criticism Westbrook gets. He’s done nothing except markedly and tremendously improve his jump shot while becoming one of the most unstoppable scorers in the league. He’s also never missed a game in his four-year career and is entering his prime at age 24 next season.

6. Andrew Bynum: It’s scary to think, but we’re only scratching the surface here. As Kobe Bryant gets older and Bynum matures more mentally, the Lakers will lean even more on their center. He has the potential to improve on this year’s blocks (1.9), rebounds (11.8), points (18.7) and free-throw percentage (69.2). Bynum is entering his age-season and hasn’t had any knee issues since December of 2010.

7. Deron Williams: We don’t know where Deron will land in free agency, but I suspect it will be Dallas. But it doesn’t really matter because he’s such a dominant talent. Williams has averaged at least 1.0 steals, 8.8 assists, 1.0 3-pointers and 18.7 points in each of the last five seasons.

8. Derrick Rose: None of the injuries that caused Rose to miss 27 games this season were overly serious. The bigger concern is Rose’s non-elite steal rate from the point guard position and declining field-goal percentage. Still, the floor here is high.

9. Dwyane Wade: I don’t think I could ever bring myself to draft Wade because he’s not a warrior. He’s missed 126 games in his nine-year career and I get the feeling that he could have played in a lot of those. Additionally, he’ll be 30 in January. Still, the ridiculous defensive stats are difference-making.

10. Al Jefferson: The knee injury is ancient history as Jefferson has missed a total of 12 games over the last three seasons. He’s also improved his free-throw shooting tremendously, topping out at 77.7 percent this season while blocking at least 1.5 shots per game for the fifth time in the last six seasons. The Jazz are a team on the rise as a whole and Jefferson remains their focal point.

* Note that these rankings are for Rotisserie leagues. Therefore, we can’t accept a “one” in free-throw percentage by taking Dwight Howard. In head-to-head, I’d rank Howard fourth and punt free throw.

Next five: Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry



Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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