The NBA off-season stretched on so long due to the lockout that this scribe signed up for fantasy hockey for the first time in several years to get his fantasy fix.
Thankfully, the season is only days away, so here’s some last minute advice prior to your drafts.
- A 66-game, heavily compacted schedule means going heavy on veterans could be a big mistake.
True, any player can break down, but the odds say those 33 and over should be avoided at all costs, with a few exceptions. Dirk Nowitzki should be OK, but a number of excellent “greybeards” might be candidates to pass on in favour of younger, more durable talent (see chart).
On the flip side, look for players who will benefit when the old guard goes down. Keep this in mind all season when looking at the waiver wire.
For example, Boston is old, the bench will play a lot. The Suns’ backups probably will get a lot of time too.
- So, you drafted Dwight Howard. Now what should you do? You can try to win free throw percentage anyways by adding two or three of the elite free throw shooters to your team, but that won’t be an easy task. Instead, surround Howard with complementary pieces. Blake Griffin is the best bet, but he might not be on the board when you pick again. DeMarcus Cousins could work with Howard. Nene, Andre Iguodala, Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith, Andris Biedrins, David Lee and Jason Kidd are other good matches.
- Besides Howard, who are some other players who really hurt you in a specific category? Monta Ellis (turnovers), Steve Nash or Russell Westbrook (turnovers), Brandon Jennings or Trevor Ariza (turnovers).
- Rookies usually don’t provide big returns for NBA fantasy owners, but this year, a handful should be decent. These include Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving (who will have to beat out Ramon Sessions for the starting point guard job) and Tristan Thompson (who will provide blocks and rebounds from the bench. Derrick Williams should put up scoring and rebounding numbers and might be able to step out and nail some threes. Kemba Walker could flourish in Charlotte but don’t take him if you value field goal percentage and low turnover numbers. Other intriguing freshmen include Jimmer Fredette; Bismack Biyombo and Klay Thompson. In deep leagues, Nikola Vucevic; Kenneth Faried; Markieff Morris, Tobias Harris, Iman Shumpert and Jordan Hamilton could be of interest.
HERE'S MY FANTASY TOP 15
Kevin Durant; Chris Paul; LeBron James; Kevin Love; Derrick Rose; Dirk Nowitzki; LaMarcus Aldridge; Dwyane Wade; Dwight Howard; Pau Gasol; Stephen Curry; Russell Westbrook; Deron Williams; Carmelo Anthony; Al Horford.
TAKE A CHANCE ON
Paul George (This guy has big-time potential. So much so that the Pacers might be wise to deal Danny Granger and let George play heavy minutes).
Jeff Teague (Not too high in your draft, but Teague should be solid. He was excellent in the playoffs for Atlanta and will start at the point. With Jamal Crawford gone, Teague will fill it up).
Derrick Favors (Sophomore seems poised to make a massive leap especially if Utah clears logjam. Had 25 points and 12 rebounds in pre-season opener).
James Johnson (Should get a lot of time and is a threat in multiple categories, including blocks and steals. Says he has added a three-pointer to his game. If so, he should be a solid contributor).
Rod Beaubois (Just do it late. With J.J. Barea gone, Beaubois should step in and bring a lot of scoring to the defending champions).
Gerald Henderson (Team isn’t deep at guard and Kemba Walker and D.J. Augustin probably are too small to play together).
Rip Hamilton (Chicago was a great landing spot for him. Will get a ton of open shots).
Josh Smith (He’s in great shape and ready to have a dominant season. As long as he doesn’t shoot from outside).
Arron Afflalo (Half of Denver’s team is in China, so if Afflalo re-signs there, he’ll get an opportunity to play a large role).
Nic Batum (We say this every year and Gerald Wallace needs to play, but Batum is poised for a breakout season. He was ridiculous in Europe).
Shane Battier (Few players in the league will be as wide open as Battier will find himself this season).
BEST TO STEER CLEAR OF
Kobe Bryant (He’s got a ton of mileage on his body and took a dip in the overall rankings last season. The Lakers might rest him on certain nights so best to avoid him in the first round).
Paul Pierce (Like Kobe, has been around. He’s already banged up and nobody expects him to come close to his 2010-11 finish, which was 8th overall in the Yahoo! rankings).
Manu Ginoboli (He usually doesn’t stay healthy in normal seasons, hard to see him holding up for this marathon).
Kevin Garnett (Nice comeback season last year for the former fantasy king, but Doc Rivers will spot him and that will cost owners).
Al Jefferson (Not old, but Utah’s frontcourt is awfully crowded. Likely won’t be close to 9th overall again).
Danny Granger (Indiana has a lot of offensive talent, so Granger’s touches will go down. Another guy who struggles to play a full season).
Landry Fields (He’ll be overvalued based on a great rookie season. The Knicks have so many options he won’t score as much and Tyson Chandler’s presence might lower his rebound totals).
Kevin Martin (Great when healthy, Martin never seems to hold up and this grind might be too much for him).
Wilson Chandler (He’s stuck in China. At least until March).
Toney Douglas (He can’t really shoot and Baron Davis is going to take the bulk of his minutes).
Boston’s Jeff Green is lost for the season due to a heart issue that will be corrected with surgery; Chuck Hayes failed a physical due to a heart ailment of his
own, but might return to play for the Rockets; Kobe Bryant is sore from a fall but intends to play through it; Toronto’s Leandro Barbosa has a couple of nagging
issues; Atlanta’s Kirk Hinrich should miss some time; Remember Charlie Villanueva is suspended for the first four games of the season; Memphis guard
Xavier Henry could miss a month or two. He was hurt for most of his rookie season; Milwaukee’s Stephen Jackson is either hurting, angry about his contract
status, or both.