Football is finally in full swing (sorry, David Wilson owners), the NBA is only a week or two from getting into full-news mode, and the hard-copy version of the NBA Draft Guide is in the can and at the printer. That means that it’s time to start talking hoops at Rotoworld again, once the crime report settles down. I’ve never seen an NBA offseason with so many arrests and downright depressing news reports. TMZ recently went full bore on their sports site, and you have to wonder if it’s just a coincidence. For the record, I think it is.
In case you missed it, Lamar Odom allegedly has a bad cocaine problem, is separated from his wife, was charged with a DUI, has entered and left rehab, and has probably played his last NBA game. DeAndre Liggins is facing some disturbing domestic abuse charges and has been waived by the Thunder, and Jared Sullinger and Ty Lawson are also facing domestic abuse problems, although it appears that they will survive the storm. In fact, I still see Sullinger possibly starting and racking up a ton of rebounds for the Celtics this season, and Lawson is still headed for NBA stardom. Michael Beasley, who is facing a new marijuana charge, has been waived by the Suns, but will probably get a look from another NBA team, with the Heat reportedly being his No. 1 suitor right now. J.R. Smith, whose knee surgery will likely keep him in street clothes for the start of the season, will get a five-game suspension once he’s cleared to play after failing a third drug test for marijuana. I just bumped him down to a projected 56 games played in the Guide. The Lakers signed G/F Shawne Williams, who has his own drug history to deal with, while troubled Sixers F Royce White is also dealing with a domestic abuse investigation.
Now that all the tabloid headlines regarding NBA players are out of the way, let’s dive into the fantasy goodness that is quickly coming our way. Here are five sleepers, five busts, five guys I love and five guys I’m not drafting as the NBA season approaches. Opening night is Tuesday, Oct. 29, when Orlando visits the Pacers, the Bulls play at Miami and the Lakers host the Clippers. And it can't get here soon enough!
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Jeff Green F Celtics – What’s not to love about Green? He came back and didn’t miss a game last season after missing the previous campaign following heart surgery, and put up some solid numbers along the way, in all categories. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in Brooklyn, and with Rajon Rondo sidelined indefinitely after knee surgery, someone is going to have to rack up the fantasy production in Boston. And that someone appears to be Green. It’s almost laughable to put him on a sleeper list at this point, but I don’t care. He went in Round 4 of our 12-team, expert Draft Guide Mock Draft (held in early August) and I would be surprised if he doesn’t put up that kind of value all season long, and could be even better than that. If you have to reach, do it.
Eric Bledsoe G Suns – Yes, the Suns have Goran Dragic, but the shooting guard position is still up in the air, and my guess is that Bledsoe starts at the 2 in Phoenix, while he can also back Dragic up at the point. As if I didn’t already love him enough, Dragic himself came out and called Bledsoe a “mini LeBron James” at the end of August. He’s going to rack up solid boards, blocks and steals for a guard, and can do it all. He went in Round 5 of our latest expert mock draft, which looks like an ideal time to take him, to me. And as the hype builds, if you have to reach for him in Round 4, so be it. I might be right there with you.
Thaddeus Young PF Sixers – I wouldn’t call myself a huge T-Young fan, but he seems to be worth owning, year after year. And now that Jrue Holiday is out, the Sixers are going to rely on a bunch of no-names to get it done. As long as they don’t go for a total youth movement tank-fest, Young should start at power forward and have a career season for the league’s worst team. He went in Round 4 in our mock draft and simply looks like a can’t-miss fantasy prospect, even though he doesn’t block shots or hit 3-pointers.
JaVale McGee C Nuggets – My long time readers know of my undying love for McGee, but this year is different. He’s slated to start for new coach Brian Shaw and I cannot emphasize enough how much the loss of both coach George Karl and starter Kosta Koufos (Memphis) mean for McGee. And when you add in the fact that Andre Iguodala is gone and Danilo Gallinari (knee surgery) won’t be back until well after the season starts, it’s now or never for McGee. He could lead the league in blocks and should put up very solid numbers in scoring and rebounding, when he’s not making bone-headed plays. If there is a year to draft McGee, it’s this one, and he went in Round 6 in our mock draft.
Wilson Chandler G/F Nuggets – I just mentioned the fact that SF Gallinari is going to miss serious time this season and the starting job, for as long as he’s out, appears to belong to Chandler. And with an unimpressive Randy Foye and a bunch of merry pranksters holding down the shooting guard spot, Chandler could easily slide to that position as a starter once Gallinari returns. He averaged 19 points, six boards, 1.4 steals and 2.3 triples in eight starts last season, and I see no reason why he won’t be starting and going off for most of this season, as long as he’s healthy. He went in Round 8 of our first mock draft, but I bet he’s going higher than that by draft night.
Dwyane Wade SG Heat – Maybe Wade’s knee problems aren’t as serious as they appear to be, but for a guy you’re going to have to take in Round 2 or 3 of your draft, the risk seems to outweigh the potential reward. Yes, I took him with the first pick in Round 3 in our mock draft (which you will see in the Draft Guide), but it doesn’t mean I trust him. Wade has the potential to play in 75 games and put up big numbers for most of the season, but the fact he’s coming off OssaTron shock treatment, has hired trainer Tim Grover, and basically didn’t touch a ball this summer, has me worried. Sure, getting the 31-year-old Wade in Round 3 probably makes the potential reward outweigh the risk, but I would not draft him in Round 1 or 2, nor would I be surprised if he only makes it through about half the season. He’ll have value, but the question is, how many games will he make it through? We’ve got him playing 65 games in the Guide, and I’m just hoping that’s not too generous.
J.R. Smith SG Knicks – Smith has apparently been “hitting the pipe” this summer and will serve a five-game marijuana suspension once he’s cleared to play. And that means we don’t actually know exactly when the suspension will take place, because he was already likely to miss some time while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Given the failed drug tests and injury, the colorful history, and the fact he just got paid, it should be a very interesting season for Smith and the Knicks. Sure, he’ll be fun to own once he’s up and running, but I wouldn’t spend a valuable draft pick to find out when that will be, nor would I be surprised to see the love affair between he and Mike Woodson come to a sudden end at some point this season.
Ryan Anderson PF Pelicans – Anthony Davis is ready to step into the spotlight in New Orleans, while Anderson is dealing with the tragic loss of his girlfriend over the summer. As if her loss wasn’t bad enough, the circumstances under which it happened are very likely to stick with Anderson for a long time. I’m not going to delve into the details here, but unless Davis ends up playing exclusively at center this season (which is unlikely to happen), it’s quite possible that Anderson could become nothing more than a 3-point specialist off the bench. He’s still worth drafting and could end up being a value pick, but this is not the year I’d plan on drafting him in hopes of racking up a ton of points, rebounds and 3-pointers. The threes will be there, but I think Round 5 (where he went in our mock) is just too high this year.
Greivis Vasquez G Kings – Vasquez signed with the Kings, who still have starting point guard Isaiah Thomas on their roster. At best, that means a timeshare, and at worst, it means Vasquez splits his time between point guard and shooting guard off the bench. Add in the fact that they have rookie Ben McLemore and veteran Marcus Thornton locked in at shooting guard, and things don’t appear to be looking up for GV this year. He was a super-sleeper last season in New Orleans, but it’s hard to see him coming close to last year’s numbers in Sacramento. And the fact he fell to Round 9 in our mock draft is an indicator that last season’s success will fade into a distant memory this time around.
Serge Ibaka PF Thunder – Look, I love Ibaka as much as the next guy, but there’s only so far I’m willing to go for blocks. He added a 3-point shot to his repertoire last season (still only 0.3 per game), which was nice, but I’m looking for more than 13 points, 7.7 boards and 3.0 blocks out of my second-round pick. I will still draft Ibaka with confidence this season, but not until the third for fourth round rolls around. The fact of the matter is that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the offensive firepower in OKC, and I can get blocks later in my draft, without picking up an offensive hole with such a high pick. He was taken with the 17th pick in our mock, which just seems too high to me.
Five Guys I Love
John Wall PG Wizards – He had a big second half last season and should emerge as one of the best point guards in the league this year. The position is deep in fantasy, but I still don’t mind blowing a late first- or second-round pick on Wall. Maybe he’ll pull a Derrick Rose and start hitting 3-pointers this season, and if he does, the sky’s the limit. He was taken with the 15th overall pick in our mock draft, and he’ll go a little earlier than that in many drafts this October. Don’t sleep on him.
Al Jefferson PF/C Bobcats – Jefferson was a borderline first-round talent last year in Utah and will be uncontested for the starting center job and minutes in Charlotte this season. Yes, his defense leaves something to be desired, but he makes up for it with scoring, rebounds, blocks, and shoots it well from both the field and stripe. And now that he won’t have to deal with guys like Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter for points, boards and minutes, he should simply go off. Don’t hesitate to take him in the first round, which is exactly where he went in our mock (12th pick).
Paul Millsap PF Hawks – Josh Smith is in Detroit and Millsap won’t have to deal with Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors in Atlanta this season. We’ve been waiting for him to get his own solo gig for years, and he finally won’t be a second or third fiddle this season. I get the sense he’s going to quickly gel with Al Horford and Jeff Teague in Atlanta, and should be poised for a monster season, along with a career high in minutes. He went late in Round 3 in our mock and should be a beast from that spot.
Jonas Valanciunas C Raptors – Andrea Bargnani is gone (Knicks) and there is no reason that Valanciunas won’t go off this year. He’s coming off a big Summer League performance and will be unchallenged for the center job in Toronto. There should be plenty of points, rebounds and blocks coming his way, as word on the street has the offense running through JV in Toronto. He went in Round 3 of our mock, which is probably earlier than he’ll go in your draft, and if you can get him in Round 4 or 5, he should reward owners handsomely.
Derrick Favors PF/C Jazz – Al Jefferson (Bobcats) and Paul Millsap (Hawks) are gone, leaving the power forward job in Utah in Favors’ capable hands this season. I see no reason why he’s not going to be a beast and if you’re fired up about Andre Drummond’s promising future, Favors looks like more of a sure thing to me. Like Drummond, he is not a good free throw shooter, but is a proven commodity and should be lined up for a career season in Utah. And if you can get him in Round 4, which is where he went in our mock, he should deliver a ton of points, rebounds and blocks, and be out there every night for the Jazz. Simply stated, Favors looks like a can’t-miss fantasy player this season.
Five Guys I Won’t Draft
Danilo Gallinari SF Nuggets – He’s coming off knee surgery and there’s not really a timetable for his return. Maybe he’s back in December, but then again, maybe he’s not at full strength until January or February. And on draft night, that means he should sit on the board until you’re desperate for 3-pointers. He went in Round 11 in our mock, but that owner is going to have to display a lot of patience to hang onto him as hot free agents fly off waivers over the first couple months of the season. I’d much rather spend a mid-round pick on his replacement, Wilson Chandler.
Rajon Rondo PG Celtics – New coach Brad Stevens won’t put a timetable on Rondo’s return from knee surgery and we all saw what happened with Derrick Rose last year, who didn’t play in a single game. I think Rondo will play this season, and be good when he does, but he doesn’t have much to work with. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry are all in Brooklyn, and it looks like it will be a long year in Boston. Rondo went in Round 6 of our mock draft, which is way too rich for my blood.
Danny Granger G/F Pacers – Yes, Granger is back and should be ready for the start of the season. But his minutes and conditioning are in serious question, Paul George, George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert are the leaders of this team, and Granger could quickly become an afterthought. Even when he was the main cog for the Pacers, his game was more “stand outside and bomb threes” than anything else, and I just don’t like his outlook for the next 12 months. He went in Round 9 in our mock, but the fact he went in front of a guy like Carlos Boozer seems like a bad joke. Let someone else deal with this oncoming headache.
Eric Gordon SG Pelicans – When Gordon is healthy he’s as good as any shooting guard in the league. The problem is, we never see him healthy, and I’ve lost all faith in him making it through a season. He’ll eventually prove me wrong, but I’ll let someone else be the guinea pig and just wait for it to happen. Add in that the Pelicans added Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, and it’s possible that Gordon and his bum knee (ankle, groin, etc.) could become a role player. He went in Round 8 in our mock, but I’d rather have a guy like Marcin Gortat or DeMar DeRozan instead. At least we know they’re going to be in uniform on most nights.
Andrew Bogut C Warriors – Here are Bogut’s games played over the past several seasons, as he’s dealt with elbow and ankle issues: 32, 12, 65, 69, 36. That’s a lot of missed games and there’s nothing to make me think he’ll be able to stay healthy this time around. He’s not a good free throw shooter and averaged just 5.8 point per game for a talented Warriors’ team last season. I’d rather roll the dice on journeymen like Chris Kaman (Lakers) or Samuel Dalembert (Mavericks) this year, who should be available at the end of your draft.
If you ever wondered how I ended up at Rotoworld, here's the story.
I am playing in various fantasy leagues with guys from Pavement, My Morning Jacket, Built To Spill, Guster, Explosions In the Sky, Gaslight Anthem, Kings of Leon, MGMT, The Whigs, Quasi, Everest and celeb chef David Chang. The reason I mention this is that I still get a lot of questions as to why I don’t write about music as much these days. One answer is that I’m getting old, but another is that I basically just listen to these guys, as there is a reason I'm in leagues with them - They churn out great jams. And you should listen to them too. Built To Spill and The Whigs are touring right now, while two of my all-time favorites, Sebadoh and Quasi, have new records coming out, and are also on tour. Check ‘em out.