Here’s a list of guys I’m into drafting for the upcoming hoops season. Some of them are completely obvious, especially if you read me, some are interesting, and a few are off the wall. Unfortunately, most of the players I’m really intrigued with are point guards, but I tried to mix and match some others in there. This isn’t a sleeper list (obviously), but simply a list of guys I’m feeling the man-love for early in the process.
Russell Westbrook PG OKC – I don’t want to hear about the fact he’s not a true point guard, he turns the ball over, or that he’s selfish. I don’t care. In fact, the more people hate on RW, the more fired up I get about him. He doesn’t (ever) miss games, is a constant triple-double threat, and cares about defense as much as he does offense. He was a Top 10 fantasy player last season, averaging 23.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals, even with the 3.6 turnovers and hitting less than one 3-pointer per game – and he still hasn’t peaked. If I don’t get a Top 3 pick, I’m hoping to snag Westbrook in Round 1.
Carmelo Anthony F NYK – New York’s schedule is perfect in the playoffs, Melo has torn it up in the Olympics and the thorn in his side known as Jeremy Lin is heading to Houston. I have no idea if Melo’s still going to be healthy when the fantasy playoffs roll around, but if he is, that 4-4-4-4-4-4-2 weekly schedule to finish out the season is going to come in very handy. And don’t forget, the guy just scored 37 points in 14 minutes against Nigeria, and there’s no reason he can’t do it again this season against the Bobcats, and several other struggling NBA teams.
Kevin Love F/C MIN – I did not think Love would blow up again last season and was completely wrong. The guy is a beast and should come into this season with even more confidence after another big year and a solid run for Team USA. He was a Top 5 fantasy player last season according to Basketballmonster.com, despite missing 11 games, and was No. 4 in the league in scoring, No. 1 in double-doubles, No. 2 in rebounding, and tied for 21st in 3-pointers made with 105. He’s entering his fifth season and should continue to be a Top 5 fantasy player, despite the lack of blocks for a big man.
Josh Smith F ATL – Smoove put the Hawks on his back and carried them last season, worthy of the No. 12 pick in fantasy drafts after not missing a game, and despite hitting just 63 percent of his free throws. The Hawks traded Joe Johnson for a six-pack of Natty Light and a bag of Fritos, and also got rid of their small forwards, meaning Josh should start there this season. He’s going to get more shots per game and his numbers should easily rise with Joe in Brooklyn, meaning he could also commit a million turnovers while trying to play small forward. But the points, rebounds, steals and blocks will be there once again. If Smith is there in Round 2, there’s a pretty good chance I’m taking him, even though he may heave up seven cringe-worthy shots every night, as well as turn it over a ton.
Kyrie Irving PG CLE – Irving tore it up for the Select Team warming up the Olympic team this summer and should be fully recovered from his broken hand by the start of the season. The days of Byron Scott babying him should be a distant memory and Irving could end up being the best point guard in the league not named Chris Paul or Deron Williams. And the scary thing is that he’s entering just his second season and should fully blow up for a bad Cleveland team.
Ty Lawson PG DEN – Lawson was worth a second-round pick last season according to Basketballmonster.com, and he missed only five games. The only thing he doesn’t do is block shots, and his numbers should be even better this year for the Nuggets. Andre Miller is still around to mess with his schwerve, but is old enough that Lawson should get a ton of minutes at point guard, so much so that we might not even notice Miller hanging out in his shadow this season.
Goran Dragic PG PHX – Dragic was allowed to walk from Houston to Phoenix, where he’ll replace living legend Steve Nash. Dragic played in 66 games last season, but started in just 28 of them. And when he started, he averaged 18 points, 3.5 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.8 3-pointers (38%). He also racked up a whopping 3.2 turnovers, but hit 49 percent of his shots and 84 percent of his free throws. I have no problem living with the turnovers because he’s in line to start 82 times for the Suns.
Klay Thompson SG GSW - Thompson averaged 17 points and two 3-pointers over his last 38 games of the season, once Monta Ellis was sent to Milwaukee, and helped a lot of us win fantasy leagues with his strong play down the stretch. Thompson should start out of the gate and could be ready for a monster season, if he can stay focused and not believe his own hype.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF CHA – The No. 2 pick in the draft should start right off the bat for one of the league’s worst teams. There are concerns about his shot and he’s going to make a lot of mistakes, but he should also post solid numbers in nearly every category and challenge for Rookie of the Year. Just be sure not to overpay for him, and wait until the time is right to draft him – which will be in the later-middle rounds of your draft.