The dog days of August are best built for getting your fantasy football team ready (get our award-winning draft guide here), but there is still a little bit of news over the past few weeks to keep the NBA inmates from rioting. If there is a silver lining to this dead spot for basketball news, it’s that it gives us a window to do the hardcore research while the chess board is relatively stable.
In related news, the print version of our fantasy basketball draft guide will be hitting newsstands soon and the online version will be released within the next month or so.
In the meantime, you can click here to follow me on Twitter and soon enough we’ll be knee deep into draft season.
Jeremy Lin told a crowd in Taiwan that he felt the Rockets coaching staff had lost confidence in him last season, and we saw the same exact thing. How much of that was related to his knee is debatable, at best, and the reality was that he was pushed for playing time by Patrick Beverley, among others.
Now Lin was still able to post a ADP-beating top 30-60 value on the year – a testament to how friendly both Lin and Houston can be to fantasy owners – but again we saw what he saw last year. And that was a player whose name was bigger than his game, and this writer will be all over Beverley as a late-round upside pick this year (the secret is out now). As for Lin, he’s still worth drafting and probably not just as a throwaway pick. If he can hold off Beverley there’s a lot of room to produce, as you can see by last year’s values in a down year.
The Bucks signed Larry Sanders to a four-year, $44 million extension and that cements his status as a big-time fantasy factor again this season. I have yet to do an extreme analysis befitting of a player whose name typically ends in exclamation points, which is important because he played behind notable swinging gates Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis last season, and that helped contribute to his 2.8 blocks per game (while still averaging 9.5 boards). The Bucks don’t have any defensive stoppers in their new backcourt, but they don’t profile as charter members of Gamblers Anonymous like their predecessors did. Right now I have Sanders pegged as an early round pick no matter what, and the question for me will be how high does he go? A big step forward can’t be ruled out.
DOWN IN DENVER
The Nuggets have had a rough offseason. The one Nuggets fan I know won’t return my texts that usually consist of some form of derision, and I thought the firing of George Karl would be enough to pick him up through the dark times. Apparently not. Things got worse when Ty Lawson was arrested last week for criminal mischief and harassment for allegedly pushing his pregnant girlfriend. The rule of thumb here is to wait until all the facts come out until one forms an opinion, and this most certainly won’t have an impact on his fantasy value.
UP ON KOBE
Send your hate mail my way, Kobe fans. He’s on my list of regrets for last season, as I simply blew it evaluating him and I had him way too low. He released pictures of himself running on an anti-gravity treadmill and all signs point to him being ready for the start of the season. In a lineup that lacks talent to put it nicely, it’s going to go against everything most of us stand for in terms of aging players coming off a ruptured Achilles, but right now I have him hovering around the end of the first round. All I can say is that it’s better to come around late than to not come around at all.
Staying in Laker-land, Mike D’Antoni said that Steve Nash and Pau Gasol might have minute restrictions this season and that shouldn’t be surprising. Particularly for Gasol there has been some early summer hype because he’ll once again be the man down low, but in late August he still remains one of the most slippery players in my top 150. Owners need to approach both players with great caution this year.
Beat writer Brian Schmitz posed the question this week of whether or not Glen Davis would regain his starting PF job from Tobias Harris whenever he returns from his foot injury, which should be at some point during regular season. I kind of snickered reading this, as it’s clearly a case of a plugged-in writer wondering how the enormous personality of Davis would take to being minimized after what Schmitz called “a career year.”
But let’s be real. Was Davis really that good last year or was he simply demanding the ball on a team with no veterans to challenge him? In fact, wasn’t that a problem last season once the team pivoted away from the Davis-led attack? The fact is that Davis was paid a big money deal to appease Dwight Howard, and novel’s worth of pages have been turned since then. Davis isn’t a particularly good teammate and he’s certainly not in the Magic’s long-term plans, and there is no guarantee that he returns in good enough shape to play at the level he was playing before the injury.
On the flip side Harris didn’t just play well he outright dominated some of the games he played in last season. He also impressed with his leadership and tenacity and along with Nic Vucevic and Victor Oladipo he forms the core the Magic are going to build with going forward. While it’s fine to wonder what impact Big Baby will have on the rotation, I’ve simply made Harris’ minutes off limits when considering Davis – which I think the Magic will do when the rotund one makes his way back on the court.
Much is being made of Dwight Howard’s willingness to play some power forward now that he’s paired next to Omer Asik, but really none of this should be big news. Asik is a quality interior player and there was no way he’d be limited to just 12-14 minutes per game as Howard’s strict backup. With enough offense in the 1-3 slots, the Rockets may actually carry a strategic advantage using a twin tower lineup for stretches as both bigs move well enough laterally to not get murdered. Look for Asik to play in the 23-26 minute range while the power forward group of Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Greg Smith deal with a smaller bucket of playing time.
THE GREEN CROSS
Beat writer A. Sherrod Blakely predicts that Rajon Rondo (knee surgery) will return one month into the season, and having torn his ACL on January 25 of last season owners have to wonder how hard he will push things in a rebuilding year. He’s a bit of a card, so I wouldn’t rule out a hard-core push on his part, but I’d still bet he plays it safe. Owners in playoff leagues can be more aggressive here, but otherwise be ready to take ‘games played’ into account when you draft. Phil Pressey is currently the projected opening day starter and he’ll be worth a look if you’re scrounging for an early season option at the point.
Jared Sullinger appears to be leading in the race for the starting power forward job, but this is a fluid situation and he comes with plenty of injury concerns. Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace are all threats to his playing time, and a committee is likely the end result here.
Jason Kidd might have taken a big step toward at least mitigating some log-jam issues in Brooklyn by saying that Kevin Garnett “probably” won’t play in back-to-backs this season. That’s a distinct blow to KG’s fantasy value, but it sneakily helps the rest of the group in the aggregate sense. Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche all get a bump with this news, and in particular it means I’ll be looking at Pierce and Kirilenko to see if owners slide them too far down draft boards.
It’s hard to talk fantasy value when something occurs that is as tragic as the suicide of Ryan Anderson’s ex-girlfriend last week. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Gia Allemand and Anderson, who I’ve found to be very well respected in his hometown of El Dorado Hills, CA.
Regardless, we’re in the business of measuring fantasy value and this is going to be an extremely rough year for Anderson. He was the first on the scene to find Allemand, who had hung herself with a vacuum cleaner cord. Everybody deals with death in their own way. Some people go off the grid and others become hyper-focused on their craft. Owners should simply widen their projections and pay attention to preseason reports, but definitely realize there is some potential for inconsistency after a year where consistency wasn’t exactly his thing.
UPDATE - WROTEN TRADED TO PHILLY
Tony Wroten was traded to Philly for a second round pick and that just goes to show how little Memphis valued him. In fact, he was going to have a hard time making the roster. Still, there are some analysts out there that haven't given up on him and I am somewhere in between. The only reason that we're having this conversation, though, is that he lands in a place with just rookie lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner as point guard competition. MCW is still heavily favored to start and get big minutes, but there is always potential for a low-lottery pick to struggle in their first year. Put Wroten on your position battle watch list and be ready to move if the change of scenery works in his favor.