It’s good to be back and digging into the real issues – fantasy hoops issues – and after last night’s draft extravaganza there is a ton to talk about. We’re going to go 1-15 in this edition, and in a few hours I'll post 16-30, some notables and finally yesterday’s trades in a jam-packed kickoff to the 2013-14 fantasy season.
* Note: For clarification purposes when I use the term ‘Shallow’ leagues I’m generally referring to 8-10 teams and the rest are as follows: Standard (12), Deep (14-20), Super-Deep (20-25) and Massive (25-30 teams). It’s not an exact science as you have to figure how many roster spots you have, etc.
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FIRST ROUND 1-15
1. Anthony Bennett, UNLV – PF – Cavs
I don’t think the draft could have started any better in terms of pure entertainment value, as I did not see Bennett going No. 1 anywhere and his draft stock was falling on reports of added pounds and mild shoulder concerns. There are also the concerns about his defense, which are very real, and he’s not a great rebounder for his position.
Offensively he’s a bit of a ball-hog, so don’t expect many (if any) assists and at just 6’7” (239 lbs) he is a classic SF/PF tweener which could cause problems if he doesn’t clean his act up defensively. Otherwise, he’s a superb scorer that can make shots all over the court, though he sounds like Josh Smith in that one day we may all be yelling at him not to shoot the three.
On the plus side Bennett is very athletic and if he can make strides in the areas of decision-making, conditioning and defense he has the chance to conjure images of Larry Johnson. Ideally he would debut in the NBA as a power forward, so he doesn’t have to defend athletic small forwards he can’t check, so the decision by the Cavs to pair him next to Tristan Thompson (another PF) is curious. The Cavs don’t have that many starting-level players, however, so both guys should eclipse 30 mpg barring something unforeseen.
From a fantasy perspective, Bennett leaves a lot to be desired all over the place. His shooting numbers, defense and ultimately everything but his scoring all project to be substandard for his position no matter how many minutes he gets. He looks like a decent bet for low-end value in standard 8-cat leagues, but throw in some turnovers and some high-volume, below average shooting and he could be a bit of a downer in Year 1.
Recommendation: He should be owned in all leagues for the chance he can iron out the wrinkles and show why he was taken with the No. 1 pick, and with a decent chance at low-end value he provides some degree of fantasy ‘floor’ to the equation. He’ll probably be overdrafted in many leagues, and I wouldn’t spend more than a mid-late round pick on him in standard formats.
2. Victor Oladipo, Indiana – SG – Magic
Full disclosure – I love players like Oladipo. He has a relentless motor and the ability to defend all three perimeter positions at the NBA level and do it exceedingly well. The fact that he’s bringing an improving offensive game to the big show is just icing on the cake, though without that he doesn’t go nearly this high. With an improving 3-point shot that he hit sparingly at a 44 percent clip last season, the only thing he doesn’t do is put the ball on the ground or make plays at a high rate. But with the improvement he continues to show along with his stellar work ethic, it’s just a matter of time before he becomes serviceable in that regard.
Supremely athletic, Oladipo can sometimes let all that turbo get out of control and turnovers can be an issue, but he balances that by being an unselfish player looking to get touches on cuts and offensive rebounds. Because he rarely takes bad shots, he shot a ridiculous 60 percent from the field in 36 games last season.
He’s going to get you up to 2.0 steals per game, a half a block, probably just under a three and he’ll be a plus rebounder for your squad – without hurting you anywhere else at the shooting guard position. He reminds me of Nicolas Batum from 2011-12 but with a bit less 3-point shooting and a little bit more everywhere else. Batum was a top 40-50 per-game value that year, and with very little depth to challenge him in Orlando and every reason for them to play the rookie, Oladipo is staring down the barrel of 30+ mpg even if Arron Afflalo is around. I don’t know how wise it is expecting top 40-50 value from him in his rookie year, but I like his chances at top-75 value in a reasonable upside scenario.
Recommendation: As the Magic’s roster is constructed right now, I’m not letting Oladipo slip out of the top-100 picks.
3. Otto Porter, Georgetown – SF – Wizards
There are some that didn’t like Porter as the No. 3 pick in the draft due to a perceived lack of upside, similarly to the way James Harden and Bradley Beal weren’t exactly making headlines in past years. Porter is a polished product at just 20 years of age, with the ability to shoot the three and work in the post, not to mention run sets and direct the offense.
Not the most athletic player in the draft, his lack of footspeed has some concerned that he won’t be able to defend super-athletic 3s in the NBA, but make no mistake he is an above-average defensive player. He also rebounds well (7.5 rpg) for his position and racked up 1.8 steals and 0.9 blocks per game last season for Georgetown. His pull-up game needs work and in Georgetown’s system he didn’t run much pick-and-roll, a staple of the NBA game, but there’s little doubt about his ability to pick it up with his high basketball IQ.
Outside of Victor Oladipo, he was the safest pick among the first five players drafted, and he steps into a Washington situation custom-made for him despite the presence of Trevor Ariza and potentially Martell Webster. He has the defensive ability to justify his place on the floor, and his 3-point shooting is the guarantor for his playing time. The Wizards’ trio of John Wall, Beal and Porter should be fun to watch. 25 mpg early in the year and then 35 mpg as the season goes on are relative locks.
With the potential for versatile fantasy numbers, albeit with the understanding that he’ll be third or fourth in line for touches, Potter could easily best Beal’s late-round per-game values from last year with a comparative advantage in rebounding and defensive stats.
Recommendation: He should be owned in all leagues and you’ll probably need an early-late round pick to get it done, with mid-round upside as the best-case scenario owners should be targeting.
4. Cody Zeller, Indiana – C – Bobcats
Zeller turned a few heads getting selected at No. 4 by the Bobcats, especially with Nerlens Noel and Alex Len still on the board, but solid combine numbers and a relatively safe value proposition drove the sophomore up the board.
The knocks on him include the lack of a jumper and some concern that his physical skills won’t fully translate in the NBA, setting aside the best standing vertical leap (35.5”) for a player 6’9” or taller in the last 10 years. He doesn’t have a problem getting out in transition and he’s a fundamentally sound player, but his lack of toughness and strength makes his defense suffer and it’s unclear how much it will affect his rebounding and inside play.
That said, he has solid shooting mechanics to build off of and better spacing in the NBA could easily make him a proficient inside-out player. In fantasy leagues he’s not going to wow you with his blocks or steals, but he should be good for some decent scoring and rebounding numbers – and he won’t hurt you anywhere percentage-wise. Playing for one of the thinnest teams in the league up-front, he should be a lock for an increasing 25-35 mpg and provide sustainable low-end value with very mild upside.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues and all Dynasty formats, with owners targeting him in the middle of the late rounds pending his preseason updates.