Friday, July 25, 2008

New World Order: Fantasy Landscape

I like Fantasy Hoops. It's one of the few things that's kept me interested in the league after the Ewing era in New York came to a close. The NBA generally sucks on any given night, and most of the games and teams are unwatchable. That said, the fantasy arrangement is a way to imagine that something truly exciting and remarkable is happening, because it totally invests you in each night's action. It separates myth from reality and sweeps the ugly reality under the carpet. Mythical hoops is always played in an ideal world.

Mr. West and I play in a competitive Yahoo league together with the came core group of lunatics year in and year out. I won the whole enchilada a couple of years ago, but Mr. West is pretty much the All-Time king. He has some competition, but the end of every year sees him at or near the top, vying for the title with a well built team. He has a good head for drafting. I follow his lead in terms of style, but I'm stupid enough to play a few risks here and there. I drafted Walter Herrmann in the 6th round last year, or something like that, reaching for a possible big splash. That didn't turn out so well for me.

In the spirit of fantasy hoops and a slow few weeks of the off-season, after the Baron/Brand affair died down, it's time to look at a few guys I think might be on the radar for next season. The criteria for this little game is that the players have to be rookies, 2nd year, or 3rd year players. Beyond that anything's fair game. I chose players for this list based on a couple of factors. Obviously, past performance gets you a spot on the list. Projected playing time is also important, and really the combination of other players occupying your position dictates that more or less. The final factor I weighed a bit when looking over rosters was the likelihood the coach would employ a deep rotation, or worse, and unpredictable one. We're talking Golden State and Chicago, if we look at recent years. Maybe Memphis. This season things look a little more open though, so here goes...(players ranked in order of value):


Brandon Roy (3rd Year)
Derrick Rose (Rookie)
Rajon Rondo (3rd Year)
O.J. Mayo (Rookie)
Jerryd Bayless (Rookie)
D.J. Augustin (Rookie)
Rudy Fernandez (Rookie)
Randy Foye (3rd Year)
Marcus Williams (3rd Year)
Eric Gordon (Rookie)

This list is dominated by 3 or maybe 4 players. Brandon Roy is probably a quality 2nd round pick in most leagues these days. He's going to have a lot of help this year, but he's gifted and experienced now. Derrick Rose can flat out play and deserves an pick somewhere in the early-middle rounds. He's a risky pick as a rookie, but he didn't go #1 for nothing. Rajon Rondo may still sit in the middle rounds somewhere, but there's little doubt about his ability to throw up a triple-double here and there and steal a ton of balls during the season. He's the classic, "Oh Fuck. I still don't have a point guard and he's left. Better grab him now."

O.J. Mayo is a personal favorite. He didn't live up to the NCAA challenge really, but he's not a structured player. He won't be a winner in the NBA for sure, but he will put up numbers. I liken him to Baron Davis in a lot of ways. He shoots too much and he isn't the best decision maker, but he's better than most of the players on the floor. I think he'll be worth a late-middle round pick at this point. Someone may reach on him though. The last noteworthy guy on this list is Jerryd Bayless. He adds to a SICK Portland roster this year and has been absolutely destroying the Vegas Summer League. He was the MVP there. He will struggle for looks, but could run the show with Roy on the wing and Oden down low. Worth a look.

To briefly mention the rest of the players on this list, D.J. Augustin is highly thought of, but I'm not ready to put him in a draft situation now. He's a desperation PG pick if you already have one and it's getting late on a 2nd. Rudy Fernandez seems like a decent late round flyer, since his upside would seem to be Kevin Martin, and Kevin Martin is a top 25 player when he's on. Randy Foye has no place on my team. He kills your shooting% and turns the ball over like a madman. He's undersized and overmatched, but could find a spot in the last round or two if your league is deep and you need insurance for an injury prone scorer (Gilbert Arenas, Dwayne Wade?). I like Marcus Williams here. He probably shouldn't be drafted at all, but he's a guy to watch. He could put up big numbers in Golden State if he gets any burn next to Monte Ellis. He's got talent and he's still very young. Eric Gordon does nothing for me, but he's a hyped rookie and Baron Davis always presents a risky injury selection. He's likely to be the guy to get minutes if Davis pulls up lame.


Rudy Gay (3rd Year)
Kevin Durant (2nd Year)
Michael Beasley (Rookie)
Tyrus Thomas (3rd Year)
Jamario Moon (2nd Year)
Al Thornton (2nd Year)
Yi Jianlian (2nd Year)
Russell Westbrook (Rookie)
Anthony Randolph (Rookie)
Thaddeus Young (2nd Year)
Sean May (3rd Year)
Danilo Gallinari (Rookie)
Kevin Love (Rookie)
Wilson Chandler (2nd Year)
Joakim Noah (2nd Year)
Adam Morrison (2nd Year)

To be honest, the top three players here at the forward position are all extremely tempting. The ranking reflects my own sense of their value, since Gay is a legitimate fantasy stud now and could be a late 2nd round or early 3rd round pick. In a deep league, he could press the earlier part of the 2nd. Durant isn't there yet. Too many holes in his game. The upside is huge though and he's probably about two years away from real value. That said, he'll build on what he did as a rookie and should be watched for an early-middle round pick. Beasley could be more talented than Durant. He could put up bigger and better numbers and probably should given his supporting cast. With Dwayne Wade getting all the attention, Beasley should be clear to do the board work and score all over the floor. Jamal Mashburn put up 19, 4.5, 3.5, and a steal as a rookie. Beasley could do that with more boards.

My big sleeper is Tyrus Thomas. When he gets 30+ minutes he looks a lot like Shawn Marion. Make no mistake, he's not Shawn Marion. He won't shoot as well, and he'll turn it over more. He'll fill up the rest of the stats though, and he should be a steal in the late-middle, early-late rounds. He'll barely be on people's radar this year, so wait on him and pick him late. (Looks like my classic risky selection of the year.) Jamario Moon isn't going to be slept on this season. He's not great, but he is efficient and makes a great 4th forward. He's the guy that you want to plug in when he plays 4 times and you want to compete in blocks and turnovers, not to mention FG%. Late-middle rounds ought to get you Moon. Al Thornton may be a better draft selection than either Thomas or Moon. He won't have Maggette or Brand taking his minutes and Camby doesn't score. Thornton, almost by default, is a 20 point scorer this season. His boards may suffer though and it's doubtful that he'll do much else. Yi Jianlian is better than his 2007-08 season. He's going to get some shots in NJ and he'll be protected by Vince Carter's slashing style. I doubt he's worth more than a late round pick, but he's going to get an opportunity in New Jerz.

Russell Westbrook and Anthony Randolph probably shouldn't be up so high on this list, and they probably don't get the minutes or the looks they'll need to be worth a fantasy damn, but their talent puts them there as players to watch. Thaddeus Young would have been much higher on the list, but Brand and Dalembert complicate his playing time. An injury to either one of them will necessitate a Young pickup, even if there's no reason to draft him. Sean May is also a guy that probably shouldn't be drafted (maybe the last round) but his stats translate to Elton Brand if he gets 30-35 minutes. He's always hurt though so why bother. Who wants a guy with huge upside that sits most of the year. If he's on the floor and playing, maybe worth a waiver wire pickup, but leave him for someone else.

Gallinari is intriguing to me. No reason to draft him, but he could get the ball a lot for the Knicks if he can do anything. Defense be damned, if he can shoot, he'll play for D'Antoni. That's worth a look in any league. Kevin Love is a stiff in my book, but I could be wrong. He's a huge injury risk too, so keep him on your deep, deep, deep radar. Deep. Wilson Chandler is a guy that could be fun. Not really draft-worthy, but D'Antoni loves him and he has some skills. Poor man's Shawn Marion potential at 10-12 points, 6-7 rebounds, a steal, and a block? Jamario Moon territory, no? Joakim Noah. Nothing to say. Adam Morrison? Could be a shooter, and plays on a shit team, so there's always a chance they need him for minutes.


Greg Oden (Rookie)
Al Horford (2nd Year)
Luis Scola (2nd Year)
LaMarcus Aldridge (3rd Year)
Spencer Hawes (2nd Year)
Andrea Bargnani (3rd Year)
Sean Williams (2nd Year)
Brook Lopez (Rookie)

I want to put Al Horford first on this list, cause I rode him down the stretch last year and he can play. He should be in the 2nd tier of centers considered in the draft and needs to be on a team by the middle rounds. Oden may go earlier and has that huge Shaq-ish upside, so he gets top billing. I don't love him that way though. He has to play to get that kind of respect. At this point, I don't think you can take him before the 5th round. Even that might be a stretch. He's an enigma, because he could be a monster, but he's coming off a major injury and has never played against NBA players. Selecting him as anything more than a #2 center is foolish, and he's probably best as a #3 center and backup PF at this point. Luis Scola can play. I also had him down the stretch last season and he won't hurt you. He won't be great on a lot of nights, but without Yao he was shooting a lot more, scoring a lot more, and still holding his own on the glass and with the FG%. He'll slide back into a secondary offensive role with Yao back, but he could be the kind of player that good teams have on their bench, waiting for the 4 game week when he wins you boards and FG%.

LaMarcus Aldridge is interesting. If he still qualifies at C this season, he has value. He'll lose points, boards, and blocks to Oden. Plus, he's got Bayless, Fernandez, and Outlaw looking good on the team. If I were the Blazers, Aldridge might just make for good trade bait that brings back a top flight defender. His value is high right now, and he should really be on a team that runs and that can use his offense. Portland can still be that team, but there have to be some question marks coming into this season with the depth and the competition at the F slot. On the other hand, I like Spencer Hawes. He's not as good as Aldridge and actually is behind Brad Miller in Sacto for playing time. He should start stealing that playing time as the season goes on and Miller breaks down. I expect the Kings to shop Miller at some point, and he would seem to make sense for a contender somewhere. Hawes is not draftable as things stand right now, but if he's named the starter at any point, don't miss him.

Andrea Bargnani was the #1 pick. Let me type that again. Andrea Bargnani was the #1 pick. Still doesn't feel right. I think the day will come when people will view the Bargnani pick for what it was. Brad Lohaus as the top pick overall. Sigh. He's center eligible and shoots the three which is a nice gimmick if you're punting the big man categories, but any wise GM will flip the bottom of their chin at Bargnani and try someone else. Sean Williams of the Nets is an intriguing player this year. Will he play or won't he? Will Josh Boone get the burn, or are things going Williams' way? He's not draftable, and he's the classic Stromile Swift overhyped, athletic big man with no real skills except freakish athleticism, but he blocks TONS of shots and might be worth a pick up during the season if the choice is between him and Erick Dampier, say. His teammate Brook Lopez might actually be worth watching though, since the Nets would like to get something out of the center position and they didn't take Lopez just to have him gather dust on the bench. Not draftable, but an early candidate for a November waiver wire pickup for the center deficient teams in your league.

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