I normally like to wait until mid-training camp before drafting my fantasy basketball teams. That gives me time to accumulate a little more information about which players are healthy and in shape to start the season, and which players might have increasing or decreasing roles with their teams. But many people are already starting to draft, and since I have nothing pleasant to discuss on the Warriors front, I’ll drop a few pre-training camp thoughts on the upcoming fantasy season.
This is Part One. Look for an update (Part Two) midway through training camp.
I use Basketball Monster as my stat service: they are the source of all the projections referred to below. If you use a different service such as Yahoo or CBS, your projections might differ greatly. Please keep this in mind while reading the following. All of my opinions are price sensitive, ie. directly correlated to where players are projected.
Jrue Holiday: I’m seeing Holiday forecast at #41, up slightly from his #49 performance of last season. I think this positive forecast might still be too low, particularly since he is not forecast to improve at all in assists (6.3) and fg% (.444). Something tells me that Doug Collins might be very disappointed if Holiday’s assist totals don’t increase dramatically now that his team features Andrew Bynum in the middle. Bynum is a beast of a finisher, something Holiday’s never had before. And Holiday’s three-point shooters (JRich, Nick Young, Dorell Wright) will be more wide open than ever before, with defenses focused on Bynum. He’ll have targets all over the floor.
Another factor affecting Holiday’s assist totals this season will be the departure of Andre Iguodala. Iggy is a terrific offensive initiator, who was often played as a point-forward in Philly’s system. With him gone, Holiday should have the ball in his hands more often.
I have to think Holiday’s scoring efficiency will improve as well due to these same factors. Whom will opposing defenses target in the pick and roll, Bynum or Holiday?
Dorell Wright: While we’re focusing on the Bynum effect, why not bring DWright into the discussion? I show Wright projected at #115, based on getting 26 min/gm. I think that is ridiculously low.
Two years ago, DWright finished as the #29 player in fantasy basketball. A mid-third rounder in value. I think there is a distinct possibility that he could return to those levels under Doug Collins.
There was a lot of talk in the Bay Area media that the league made an adjustment to DWright last season. That he was being guarded more closely at the three point line. I think that talk was BS. DWright came into the lockout season way out of shape, and never succeeded in winning the trust of Mark Jackson. And Mark Jackson proved himself one of the most incompetent coaches in the league, who refused to let the Warriors — and DWright in particular — play their uptempo game.
That won’t happen this season. First of all, you can forget about that “adjustment:” DWright is going to be back in shape, and as wide open on the three point line as he has ever been, playing with Andrew Bynum. And unlike Mark Jackson, Doug Collins believes in getting his team out into the open court, which is where Wright goes from being a mediocre player to one of the top players in the league.
One important factor degrading DWright’s current fantasy value is that Evan Turner is currently ahead of him on the depth chart at SF. I’m not convinced that won’t change as the season goes on. (Note that Turner is projected at #124, getting 35 minutes! He is not a very good NBA player.) Collins needs to spread the floor around Bynum. He already has non-shooters at center and power forward. Can he really afford another non-shooter at the three?
One thing I am convinced of: If Wright gets 30+ minutes a game this season, he will be one of the steals of the fantasy draft. Scoop him in the late rounds.
Kawhi Leonard: Not sure why Leonard is only projected at 26 minutes. With the departure of Richard Jefferson, I can easily see him getting a significant bump in minutes, including some at small-ball power forward.
Word out of San Antonio is that Popovich loves this guy, and is looking to get him more involved on the offensive end.
That 10.4 ppg projection could easily wind up 5 points too low. And I’ll wager that #79 projection is significantly too low as well.
Monta Ellis: Two seasons ago Ellis finished as the 8th ranked player in fantasy. The year before that, 12th. Last season, starting the season for an incompetent coach, and dealing with a midseason trade that drastically curtailed his value, he finished at #32.
So why in the world should he be forecast this season at #49? And 19 points on .440 shooting? Seems awfully low to me. Particularly in a contract year.
Monta will not be as deferential to Jennings in his second season on the Bucks. And if Skiles wants to make the playoffs, he will give Monta the keys to the offense. Jennings is simply not in his league as a basketball player (but he’s ranked #22!).
This analysis comes with a caveat: The Bucks are highly likely to trade Monta at midseason, which could affect his usage.
But if he somehow lasts to the third round in your draft GRAB HIM. I’d draft him in the second round, myself.
David Lee: Lee is projected at #37 this season, while finishing last season at #27. The decline is of course to be attributed to the acquisition of Andrew Bogut, who is expected to take away many of Lee’s touches and rebounds.
I’m not so sure. If Bogut plays, he might actually wind up creating a few high quality touches for Lee because of his unselfishness and terrific passing ability. And I don’t buy the rebounding argument. I think weak-side rebounders like Lee are actually helped by the presence of a great defensive center. (See Rodman, Dennis.)
But the real reason I think Lee may be projected too low is that I am highly sceptical of Bogut’s ability to play healthy for a full NBA season. (see Busts, below).
Derrick Favors: I have no reason to suspect that Al Jefferson or Paul Milsap will get injured this season, except that they have been injury prone in their careers. Favors is a physical monster, and you could see the light bulb begin to turn on for him late last season. He has expressed a desire for more minutes, and just may wind up getting them. Currently projected at #129 and 27 minutes, I might risk one of my last picks on him.
Dwight Howard: Howard finished his injury-marred last season ranked 35th. The two years before that he ranked 15th and 28th.
So is he really deserving of his #7 ranking this season? I understand the virtues of playing with Steve Nash, but don’t forget he’s also playing with the most selfish player in the league, Kobe Bryant.
And no one seems to be taking that back surgery into account. For a 6-9″ player who relies strictly on super-human power and athleticism for his effectiveness, I am not willing to assume that he will automatically return to playing at the same level as past seasons. Heck, there’s not even a time-table set for his return yet. How certain can we be of that 76 game projection?
I wouldn’t touch Howard in the first round, and even taking a flyer on him in the second round could cost you your season. Too risky for me.
Andrew Bogut: Bogut is projected at 73 games and 32 min/gm this season. Seriously? If you haven’t already done so, read my “The Truth about Andrew Bogut” piece for the reasons why I think this projection is absurd.
Bogut is simply too risky to draft where he is projected, at #66. If you can pick him up with one of your last three picks, mazeltov. You might hit the lottery.
Anthony Davis: I show Davis ranked at #39, which strikes me as way too high. Consider that Dirk Nowitzki is ranked #40, and Blake Griffin is ranked at #74!
I’m going way out on a limb here, because I’ve only watched Davis play for about a minute, in the NCAA tournament. But that minute was enough to make me fear that he might have a far more rocky transition to the NBA than many think. He strikes me as being a little weak for the NBA power forward position. I think he’ll struggle with the pounding, struggle shooting the ball, and I think he’s an injury risk.
I will probably revisit this analysis mid-training camp, but for right now I’m willing to state unequivocally that anyone who drafts this guy ahead of Nowitzki needs his head examined.
OJ Mayo: Currently penciled in as the Mav’s starting shooting guard, Mayo is a completely overrated player, even at #84, where he is projected. Mayo is too undersized and unathletic to comfortably get his shot off at the NBA level. His 42% shooting will hurt you.
And his execrable defense will hurt Rick Carlisle’s brain. I’m already projecting the Mavs to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league, what with that Kamanosaurus – Nowitzki front line. I have severe doubts that Mayo even survives the season in the starting role.
There’s no one better on the roster. (Vince Carter? Monsieur Beaubois?) But there’s always the D-League.
John Wall: Ranked last season at #33, projected this season at #19, largely because of a projected increase in his shooting percentage from 42% to 44%. Really?
Not a believer.
Jeremy Lin: Projected at #30, ahead of point guards like Mike Conley and Jrue Holiday. Seriously?
Lin finished last season ranked 49th. But he was playing most of that time in Mike D’Antoni’s system, on the New York Knicks.
Who will Lin’s targets be on the Houston Rockets? Who will he run pick and roll with? Asik? Motiejunas? Patterson? Good luck with that 7.5 asst/gm projection. He averaged 6.7 over the last two months FOR THE KNICKS.
And what about that .437 shooting % projection? Over the last two months of the season, Lin shot .414%. Ouch. If he shoots that for your fantasy team, you’re dead.
And 18 ppg? Hmmm.
Lin at #30 is one of the most absurd projections I’ve seen this year. I think there is even a significant possibility that Lin winds up a complete bust. He’s on a lousy team, so opponents will be able to focus their defense on stopping him. And the entire league has the book on him now: force him left, go under the picks and let him heave.
I also don’t think Lin can survive long playing the style he played last year: all-out recklessness every play, throwing himself into 7 footers to draw contact. It resulted in a knee surgery last season, and if he keeps it up, it won’t be his last.
I’m leaving Lin completely off my board.
The above is obviously an incomplete list, off the top of my head. Stay tuned for my mid-training camp update, which will include analysis of an additional crop of players. I would in particular like to generate an opinion of Dion Waiters, currently projected #144 after a lousy summer league. I was highly impressed with some college tape I saw of him, and just have a funny feeling he’ll make an exceptional pro, running with Kyrie Irving.
If you have particular sleeper/bust candidates you’re interested in getting my opinion on, let me know in the comments.
Check out Part Two in this Series: More 2012-2013 Fantasy Sleepers and Busts.