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Offseason Beat

Western Conference Busts

by Tommy Beer
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Last week we highlighted some overvalued players in the Eastern Conference. Today, we examine which players in the West have the potential to bust. As a disclaimer, I’ll again point out that this shouldn’t be viewed as a “Do Not Draft” list, simply a breakdown of players who tend to be overvalued in preseason rankings…

 

Dallas Mavericks - Dirk Nowitzki:
There is no doubting that Dirk is an all-time great who will waltz into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He’s scored more points and has more career wins than every other active NBA player. However, the reality is that Nowitzki, who celebrated his 39th birthday back in June, is on his last legs. According to Basketball-Reference, there are only three players in NBA history to average more than 15 points per game in their age-39 season (Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Unsurprisingly, Dirk has seen his playing time and his production decrease dramatically over the last few years. I’ll lean towards picking players with higher upside in the 11th/12th round.

 

Denver Nuggets - Kenneth Faried:
Faried was outspoken at the start of training camp. "I’m not a bench player. I’ve been saying that for the longest. I’m a starter," Faried told reporters. "If this team doesn’t want or respect me enough to play me the minutes or whatever that I’m going to play or that I deserve to play, then I understand that. There are 29 other [teams]. Maybe I go somewhere else and do what I need to do there." That’s not exactly getting off on the right foot with your teammates and coaches. Unless the Nuggets grant him his wish and trade him away, Faried will be forced to compete for playing time with Mason Plumlee, Juan Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur and Trey Lyles. There are not enough minutes to go around, and Faried’s malcontent attitude won’t earn him any extra playing time.

 

Golden State Warriors - Nick Young:
Young was one of the NBA's more pleasant fantasy surprises last season, averaging 13.2 points and 2.8 treys, while shooting 43.0 percent from the floor and 40.4 from downtown for the Lakers. Per Basketball Monster, he ranked 107th overall in nine-category leagues. However, as opposed to playing for a Los Angeles team that desperately needed his offensive contributions, Swaggy P now finds himself on a Golden State squad that features the greatest shooting PG, SG, SF tandem in the history of the sport. Only three Warriors averaged more than eight field goal attempts per game last season: Stephen Curry (18.3), Klay Thompson (17.6) and Kevin Durant (16.5). After the big three, Draymond Green got up 8.6 shots a night. Ian Clark (5.6) was actually fifth on the team in attempts. Young, who showed up to camp out of shape, is not going to steal shots from the top four Warriors and won’t come close to matching his production from last season.

 

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Houston Rockets - James Harden:
Make no mistake, Harden is still going to put up monster numbers in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and return first-round value this season. However, with Chris Paul now in the mix, it will be extremely difficult for Harden to match the mythical numbers he posted in 2016-17, when he became the first player in NBA history to tally at least 2,000 points, 900 assists and 600 rebounds in a single season. Specifically, Harden’s assist numbers will tumble back down to earth. Before dishing out a league-leading 11.2 dimes per game last season, he had never averaged more than 7.5 assists. Even if Harden maintains his lofty averages in every other category, his drop in dimes dampens his overall fantasy appeal.

 

L.A. Clippers - Austin Rivers:
With Chris Paul exiting L.A., it was assumed Rivers’ fantasy stock would spike. However, the Clippers got back starting point guard Patrick Beverley and sixth-man extraordinaire Lou Williams in the deal with the Rockets. The Clips also signed international man of mystery, Milos Teodosic and drafted Sindarius Thornwell this offseason. Further complicating matters, Rivers is now dealing with a strained right glute that is expected to keep him out “for a while.” I’m looking elsewhere in later rounds.

 

Los Angeles Lakers - Lonzo Ball:
There’s always a temptation to reach for the tantalizing upside of an intriguing rookie. It’s as if we all want to able to brag that were fans of the fresh, new band before all the posers hopped on the bandwagon… Ball was a beast in Vegas, averaging 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals and became the first player in summer league history to post multiple-triple doubles. Still, it is also important to point out that he shot just 38.2 from the floor in Las Vegas, including 23.8 percent from 3-point territory. And, as a freshman at UCLA, he shot 67.3 percent from the free-throw line. It’s these pesky percentages that will very likely prevent me from spending the draft capital necessary to acquire Ball this year. Opponents are going to consistently go under screens and dare Ball to beat them from the outside. I don’t have faith in that aesthetically unappealing jumper. If Ball isn’t able to consistently knock down treys, he’ll have a tough time living up to the hype. In five-category leagues, Ball is worth the cost; but in nine-cat leagues, when factoring in percentages and turnovers, I’m not comfortable drafting him inside the top 60.

 

Memphis Grizzlies - Chandler Parsons:
You don’t need me to explain this one to you. You already know the deal. If Parsons is somehow able to get close to even 80 percent healthy, he has a chance to post impressive all-around stats. Back in 2013-14, he finished in the top 35 and ranked in the top 60 the following season. But in the years since he’s undergone two surgeries on his right knee and one on his left. He appeared in just 34 games last season and was a shell of his former self when he was on the floor. He’s said he hasn’t felt any pain in his knees during training camp, but the risk remains undeniably significant.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves - Gorgui Dieng:
As I've written previously, Dieng has been a fantasy favorite of mine, as he has been annually undervalued the last few years. He’d typically be drafted in the middle-to-late rounds and routinely return fifth-round value. However, this season Dieng is unlikely to produce such a favorable fantasy profit. The Wolves have overhauled their roster, meaning Gorgui likely won’t have the same opportunities to match his previous production levels. Not only did the Wolves add offensive-minded guards Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford, in addition to Jimmy Butler, they also signed power forward Taj Gibson to a massive two-year, $28 million contract. Head coach and president of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau, never hid his love for Gibson's game when they were both with the Bulls. It is extremely unlikely Dieng will match the 32-plus minutes per game he logged last season. The durable and dependable Dieng can still be counted on to post solid all-around stats with favorable percentages, but he won’t crack the top-60 overall in standard leagues as he had done each of the past three seasons.

 

New Orleans Pelicans - Jrue Holiday:
With the news that Rajon Rondo will be sidelined 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his sports hernia injury, Holiday’s fantasy value definitely receives a boost. However, I’d caution not to shoot Jrue too far up your cheat sheets. Assuming Rondo misses only the first month of the season, he should be back for the final 70-plus games of the regular season. And Rondo running point means there will be far fewer assists for Holiday to dish out. With DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis expecting to be force fed, Rondo (who led the NBA in assists three of the last six seasons) will dish out plenty of dimes while he’s on the court. The Pelicans backcourt also features Ian Clark, Tony Allen, E'Twaun Moore (who started 22 games for the Pels last season) and Jordan Crawford, who averaged over 23 minutes per game off the bench in 2016-17.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder - Paul George:
George was the unmistakable focal point of the Pacers last season. He led the team, by a wide margin, in minutes, field goal attempts, 3-pointers, made free-throws, points, PER, VORP, and usage rate. George will now share the floor with Russell Westbrook, who set the all-time record for usage rate, as well as Carmelo Anthony, who has the “the man” on his team his whole career. PG-13 is far too talented not to stuff the stat sheet, but I don’t see him matching his top-15 overall ranking from last season in Indy. In fact, I think there’s a strong chance he finishes outside the top 30.

 

Phoenix Suns - Eric Bledsoe:
Bledsoe's ceiling is undeniably attractive. He averaged over 21 points and six assists per game last season, to go along with 1.4 steals and 1.6 treys. However, Bledsoe was once again bitten by the injury bug. Over the previous two seasons, he's missed a total of 67 games. And while he was sidelined late last season, Tyler Ulis stepped in and stepped up, showing he was serviceable NBA point guard. Devin Booker also played some point over the final month of the 2016-17 campaign, and Phoenix coaches said they would like Booker to facilitate the offense more frequently in the future. Thus, while Bledsoe will still post impressive numbers as long as he is on the floor, the Suns may look to limit his minutes in order to improve his chances of staying healthy, especially since they have other intriguing options to turn to when Bledsoe is out of the game.

 

Portland Trail Blazers - Al-Farouq Aminu:
Admittedly, labeling Aminu a “bust” candidate is a stretch, as he’s only considered a late-round flier in deep leagues. However, I think Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic are all solid picks based on their current ADP, and Moe Harkless is one of my favorite sleepers. Thus, I’ll settle on Aminu, as he generated a little buzz once it was announced that Noah Vonleh would miss 4-5 weeks with a shoulder injury. Aminu will likely start at the four, but Caleb Swanigan has been terrific in the preseason and will eat into Aminu’s minutes. Zach Collins, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis may also see playing time at power forward. In addition, Vonleh is expected back on the floor by late October or early November.

 

Sacramento Kings - George Hill:
Hill was a fantasy stud last season, averaging a career-high 16.9 points and 1.9 triples, to go along with 4.2 assists and 3.4 rebounds. However, a significant reason for Hill’s success was his high usage rate (23.5) and averaging a career-high 12.4 field goal attempts in 31.5 minutes. Hill will not be afforded the same luxury in Sacramento. The Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft and clearly view him as their point guard of the future. In addition, the Kings spent a second-round pick on NBA-ready Frank Mason, who scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds in 22 minutes in the Kings’ preseason opener. Hill will still post solid per-minute averages, but he simply won’t see the playing time necessary to match his numbers from 2016-17.

 

San Antonio Spurs - Tony Parker:
Parker is ahead of schedule as he works his way back from a severe quad injury. Coach Gregg Popovich said Parker might make it back to the court by December. However, don’t be tempted to draft TP. Even when fully healthy last season, Parker was often unimpressive. He finished the year ranked 253rd overall. Once he returns to the floor this season, Coach Pop will inevitably limit his minutes in hopes of keeping him fresh for the postseason. With Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills and Derrick White able to handle point guard duties, Parker will have very little fantasy value.

 

Utah Jazz - Derrick Favors:
Like many other players listed above, Favors lands on this list due to his worrisome injury history. He was sidelined for 20 games in 2015-16 and missed 32 contests last season. He also started just 39 of the 50 games he appeared in last year, averaging under 24 minutes a night. Favors has said all the right things in training camp and has actually looked quite impressive in preseason action, showing surprising burst. Still, when you’re on the clock in the eighth or ninth round, there will be players on the board who possess less upside, but also don’t come with the same medical concerns as does Favors.