2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Mini Cheat Sheets
We continue the 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit with a special treat today, as James provides us with his picks for the top 10 players at every position, plus some busts and sleepers. We’ll have deeper cheat sheets and a more complete sleeper list coming shortly.
As most fantasy owners know, the most important part of any fantasy season is the draft. Right now, NBA fantasy drafts are in full swing. And, finding free and accurate rankings, with sound reasoning, is next to impossible. I am going to break down the top 10 players at each position with a little information about why the player is ranked where he is. Enjoy!
Point guard might be the most important position in fantasy basketball. We see teams moving towards “small ball,” and Chris Paul led the way last season.
1. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets: Paul is hands down the best fantasy PG in the game right now, and an argument can be made to take CP3 first overall in a draft. The Hornets have all the same faces back, plus have added James Posey.
2. Deron Williams, Utah Jazz: From what I’ve seen around the Internet, the popular pick at No. 3 is either Chauncey Billups or Steve Nash. Personally, I will take Williams over both. D-Willy signed a big contract over the summer and playing on the Olympic Team only helped him mature. If he can cut down on the turnovers, he will earn this ranking this season.
3. Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons: Billups is consistent, trustworthy and reliable. The main thing with him is his 17 point/seven assist average last season. Not much has changed in Detroit this offseason, so expect more of the same from Mr. Big Shot.
4. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns: The problem with Nash is that the team is talking about limiting his minutes and games played this season. GM Steve Kerr said he would like Nash to play just 70 games, and that is not a good thing from your first round pick. Nash already has a hole in steals and free-throws attempts for a fantasy PG, so limiting his minutes and games means his value is dropping.
5. Jose Calderon, Toronto Raptors: T.J. Ford is out, Jermaine O’Neal is in, and Calderon is locked into the starting PG role in Toronto. Calderon didn’t exactly impress in the Olympics, which means he could come a little cheaper, but make no mistake about his top six fantasy ranking.
6. Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers: Davis is always an injury waiting to happen. But, he has lost nearly 20 pounds this offseason and playing alongside the likes of Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon means another huge year is in the works. The reason he drops out of the top five is the Clippers managed just 94.3 PPG last season as a team. Slower offense means less fantasy stats to go around.
7. Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets: Some might want Jason Kidd here, but I like Harris as my fantasy PG sleeper. Yes, we all know who he is, but I think he is going to be better than people think this season. I can easily see Harris breaking the 16 point/7 assist barrier, moving him above Kidd.
8. Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks: Kidd’s days of major fantasy value are over. He is still the starting PG in Dallas, but his FG percentage is atrocious at best, his points-per-game total is going to drop below double digits and the turnovers went up last season. The assists and rebounds are the only things keeping him in the top 10.
9. Andre Miller, Philadelphia 76ers: Miller gets in the top 10 because of one man, Elton Brand. Miller’s PPG average will go down, but the assists will go up for certain. If you miss the big boys, give Miller a look as he is sure to slip.
10. Randy Foye, Minnesota Timberwolves: Okay, I am a homer…so what? Foye is healthy, Mike Miller is starting at SG, and Sebastian Telfair is Foye’s only backup. Foye lit it up over his final 10 games last season (18.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.2 3-pointers per game) and if he can continue that into this season, we’ve got a sleeper on our hands.
Shooting guards are a dime a dozen. They are typically known for their high FT percentage and they get you solid totals in 3-point shooting and steals. But, they will typically drag down your FG percentage.
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: Bryant is easily one of the top three to five fantasy players in the NBA, so what more do I need to say? If your league has FG percentage, take Kobe over LeBron James. If FG percentage isn’t counted, go with James first.
2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: Miami now has Shawn Marion (for a full season) and Michael Beasley to play with Wade, and he is finally healthy, to boot. Add in Mario Chalmers and James Jones, and Flash makes for a viable pick at No. 4 overall in just about any fantasy format.
3. Jason Richardson, Charlotte Bobcats: Richardson’s 3-point shooting helps jump him over guys like Andre Iguodala and Allen Iverson. The only problem I have with Richardson is Coach Larry Brown and how they will interact with each other. Richardson was simply awesome last season and I expect that to carry over to this season.
4. Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers: The addition of Brand will help take the double-teams off Iggy this year. Signing a six-year, $80 million dollar contract this summer will give him added motivation as well. Expect Iguodala, who also qualifies at F, to get a few more assists and better looks patrolling the paint with Brand in town.
5. Kevin Martin, Sacramento Kings: There is nobody on the Kings better equipped to score. And, with Ron Artest gone, Martin is the only sure thing in Sacramento. Expect more points, more 3s, more free-throw chances, at the expense of added turnovers and a slightly lower FG percentage.
6. Allen Iverson, Denver Nuggets: The Answer has learned to be more of a team player in recent seasons. The Nuggets lost Camby this offseason, but that means Nene has a chance to really emerge. I would venture to bet that Iverson puts up very similar stats to last season’s totals.
7. Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks: Losing Josh Childress won’t change the fact that Johnson is the MVP of the Hawks. A slight increase in PPG and TOs can be expected, but other than that, more of the same.
8. Stephen Jackson, Golden State Warriors: The Warriors lost Davis and Monta Ellis will miss a good chunk the season. Jackson (who will also qualify at F) should see a jump in PPG and FG percentage, so feel good about snagging him in the fourth round of your draft.
9. Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers: Vince Carter should be here on most lists, but he tweaked his hamstring (although he seems okay right now) and the Nets will lose more than they win. Roy has a great, young team surrounding him and Greg Oden will dominate the Rookie of the Year voting. The Blazers lost Martell Webster for two months, but Roy has enough around him to justify this ranking.
10. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: Yes, I left Carter out of the top 10 altogether. Durant showed signs last season of being an amazing talent and I fully expect him to score more, shoot more accurately and even snag an extra rebound per game. Jeff Green should mature, making Durant a viable top 10 fantasy SG.
If two guards are a dime a dozen, small forwards are a baker’s dozen. James is the name here, but I could count 25 or so SFs worth taking in the draft.
1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers: Again, James can be selected anywhere in the top three and you could easily justify the pick. Other than adding Mo Williams, not much has changed in Cleveland, so expect James to do what he has done since his rookie season — dominate.
2. Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns: I saw one ranking with Marion above James and I wanted to upload a virus to their server! I have a feeling that Marion isn’t going to do what he is supposed to do because of a healthy Wade and new additions Beasley, Chalmers and Jones. The Matrix is still the second best SF, but don’t be surprised if he disappoints.
3. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers: I think Granger will really explode this season. He wants a contract extension and that is normally motivation enough for a career year. Add the fact that Jermaine O’Neal is gone and Jamaal Tinsley will not stealing shots, and you have a shot at fantasy stardom from Granger.
4. Caron Butler, Washington Wizards: Butler is without Gilbert Arenas yet again this season, so he will be a very valuable fantasy SF. Antawn Jamison is there, but Butler should see stats very similar to the ones he put up last season.
5. Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic: The Magic lost Kenyon Dooling and Maurice Evans (nothing important), but brought in Mickael Pietrus to go with Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu. Expect Lewis to be a big 3-point threat and help out a little in rebounds, steals and FG percentage, but know that his nightly stats can be erratic at times.
6. Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets: Anthony goes below Lewis because Lewis will get you the long ball on top of the regular stats. Melo will lead the Nuggets with 28 to 30 points each night, while snatching eight or so rebounds and a steal, so don’t worry if you miss on Granger or Butler, Anthony is still available to score in bunches.
7. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: People want to rank Pierce in their top five and he just isn’t that player anymore with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo in town. The Truth was dealing with a laundry list on injuries last season and losing Posey might be more of a problem than people think, although once he returns from his drug suspension, Darius Miles should help out if he can be consistent. Rookie J.R. Giddens may be a headache, but because of his presence Pierce might see a slight dip in his overall stats this season.
8. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies: His dunks aside, Gay has the skills to be huge in fantasy leagues this season. He is locked into a starting job with nobody to push him for minutes, and he made the most of his PT last season by putting up 20 points, six rebounds and a steal per game. Expect more of the same with a possible slight bump in points and boards.
9. Corey Maggette, Golden State Warriors: Some might want Turkoglu or Josh Howard here, but I like Maggette’s scoring ability over that pair. Maggette signed a big deal with the Warriors this offseason, but his injury concerns are always present. With Davis gone and Ellis hurting, Maggette and Jackson will be asked to carry a big role with the team.
10. Josh Howard, Dallas Mavericks: I would rather put Turkoglu here, but only because Howard has made some ignorant comments about players and their drug habits. Howard could easily put up 20 points and seven boards per game as he did last year, if he could keep the sticky icky out of his body long enough to play his game on the court.
At power forward you want scoring, FG percentage and rebounding. Some even provide solid blocks and FT percentage too. A lot of the top PFs also qualify at centre, so they provide a multi-position bonus.
1. Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns: Any PF that logs 24 PPG, 10 RPG, one SPG and two BPG is worthy of the top slot in the rankings. I’ve heard crazy talk of people taking Stoudemire No. 1 overall, but that is overdoing it in my opinion. Top five? Yes. Top three? No.
2. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics: Garnett got the monkey off his back last season by winning the title, but the days of taking KG No. 1 overall are long gone. Garnett can easily put up a double-double each night, while adding a steal and block. The Big Ticket is great for a fantasy team, just don’t jump too high to draft him.
3. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: Disco Dirk is rock solid and he offers stats good enough to justify a late first round pick or an early second rounder. His 3-pointers have gone down in recent seasons and his defense is lacking at best. But, bad defense aside, Nowitzki offers 24 points and eight boards a game.
4. Elton Brand, Philadelphia 76ers: Moving to the East will be a huge boost for Brand. I’d say we could see 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks a game, with a steal and a few assists thrown in. Simply put, Brand signed a huge deal and the East isn’t exactly a powerhouse.
5. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: Duncan would have once been the top overall PF pick, but those days are finished and he is too nice of a player. Coach Gregg Popovich likes to play Duncan no more than 34 minutes per game, he is now 32 years old and his free-throw percentage is iffy at best. Add all that up and Duncan is not worthy of a first round pick.
6. Al Jefferson, Minnesota Timberwolves: The only thing that kept me from putting Jefferson above Duncan is The Big Fundamental’s blocking ability. Since Jefferson qualifies at both forward and centre, he is a high second round pick. Simply put, Jefferson is a fantasy stud!
7. Carlos Boozer, Utah Jazz: With Williams in line for a big season, Boozer too should enjoy a great year. Did I mention Boozer is in a contract year? Not to put too fine a point on it, but Boozer should put up huge numbers in order to secure a max deal next season.
8. Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors: The addition of O’Neal knocked Bosh down the rankings a bit. Calderon is coming into his own and J.O. demonstrated in Indiana that he demands his fair share of shots per game. O’Neal is an upgrade over Rasho Nesterovic, which means Bosh’s scoring will take a hit.
9. Antawn Jamison, Washington Wizards: With Arenas gone for most of the season, Jamison should enjoy those 21-point, 10-rebound nights again this season. Nothing has changed from last year for the Wizards, Arenas is injured again and nobody has left or been added worth mentioning. So, more of the same is in line for Jamison.
10. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks: Smith signed an offer sheet with the Grizzlies, but had it matched by the Hawks, so he should step up his numbers knowing that he’s coveted in Atlanta. Childress is gone and Smoov is logging nearly 17 points, three blocks, eight rebounds and three assists per game these days. Look for all the same with an addition point or two a game.
This is by far the hardest position to find quality fantasy options. Once you get outside the top 10 fantasy centres, you officially waited too long to draft one!
1. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic: Howard was a fantasy monster last season, making him an easy pick as the No. 1 fantasy centre this season. Getting 21 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks a game is what I see for Howard. Just be prepared to pretty much punt FT percentage and turnovers in your rotisserie league.
2. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets: The main problem with drafting Ming is you know he will miss about a quarter of the season with some kind of injury. I’m kind of getting tired of being burned by Ming and his fragile body, so I am not drafting him unless he is available in round three and the PFs that qualify at C and Howard are all gone.
3. Marcus Camby, Los Angeles Clippers: Cotton Camby has been surprisingly healthy the last two seasons. The Nuggets gave the Cambyman to the Clippers for nothing more than salary cap relief, so he may have a chip on his shoulder. Camby is going to see a drop in rebounds playing next to Kaman, and that is one of the two categories he contributes in. Now, expect 10 boards and three blocks a game with sporadic scoring.
4. Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks: Bogut signed one of the biggest contracts in franchise history, so you know he will be the starting centre for years to come. If he can keep up last season’s impressive block jump, he should post 15 points, 10 boards and one to two blocks per game this season too.
5. Greg Oden, Portland Trailblazers: It is very risky for me to give a true rookie this high of a ranking. But,
Robert Parish, Oden (separated at birth?) is set to put up 10 points, 12 rebounds and two or more blocks per game. Get that kind of production from a centre and you’ve got a fantasy stud!
6. Andris Biedrins, Golden State Warriors: Ronny Turiaf is now a Warrior, but he is little more than a breather when your real centre is tired. Biedrins should offer a double-double with a block or so per game, so you could do worse. Just don’t wait much longer to get your starting centre.
7. Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers: Bynum really emerged last year before an injury ended his breakout season. He remains a huge injury concern with that gimpy knee, but he is turning 21 this month and with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom on the roster, Bynum can sit back and let the game come to him.
8. Samuel Dalembert, Philadephia 76ers: It is hard to see how the addition of Brand will affect Dalembert’s numbers too much. Sammy-D averaged a double-double with two blocks last year, so take off a point per game and a rebound per game and that is what to expect from him this season.
9. Mehmet Okur, Utah Jazz: Nothing has changed in Utah, so look for Okur to put up 15 points and seven boards per game again this season. The real added beauty in Okur is that he can hit the 3-pointer, which is a rare feat to see in a true centre. Now if Okur could only get his blocks up, we’d be in business.
10. Tyson Chandler, New Orleans Hornets: I am going to pick the Hornets to win the title this season, so I wish I could rank Chandler higher than this. I’m giving Chandler around 11 points, 12 rebounds and one to two blocks per game this season. The FG percentage is awesome at 60 per cent, but having a matching FT percentage is what is holding him back here.
Here’s my list of proven players that I don’t think will live up to the expectations this season.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers: I know, I know, but the Lakers are a very good team with Bynum back. Very good teams tend to have a lot of blowout games, and that means Kobe will sit more in the fourth quarter. His finger is all messed up, his legs have run more than a Kentucky Derby horse. Bryant is no longer a one-man fantasy league winner.
Marcus Camby, Los Angeles Clippers: Cotton Camby has moved to the Clippers from the Nuggets, and that means he goes from the 102.3 PPG offense in Denver down to the 94.3 PPG offense in Los Angeles. Camby will also have to battle Kaman for rebounds and he is always one breath away from a long injury absence. Don’t take Camby as your No. 1 centre; look at some of those PF/C guys first.
Andre Miller, Philadelphia 76ers: I know I ranked him in the top 10 for PGs, but it was more because of Brand than Miller. I am giving him a bust ranking too because Miller is going to be 33 years old in March, history has shown that he’s not a very good shooter, and the offense is sure to run more through Brand than him. The assists will jump a bit, but everything else will go down.
Mo Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers: Here is the one I feel good about. Williams moves to Cleveland to play alongside LeBron and everyone assumes that means fantasy greatness. Wrong! The offense starts and ends with King James and Williams is a shoot-first type of player, so don’t expect him to bring it up court and dish it off to anyone. Williams is going to be someone’s No. 1 PG, just make sure he isn’t yours.
Here are some names that will be ranked at a level lower than I expect them to perform.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: Yes, Durant has the low FG percentage/high TO rate that makes him shaky in a lot of leagues. But, Durant is the LeBron James of Oklahoma City and he looked better in the second half of last year than he did in the first. He has no off-court problems and the emergence of Green will help take some of the pressure off him. Don’t aim too high, but expect more than last year.
J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets: Now, this is the ultimate sleeper pick. Problem is, Smith could easily slip into a fantasy comma. Look, his stats increased each month from February to April in MPG, FT percentage and defensive rebounding, while his 3-point shooting percentage took a hit. If Smith can keep his flaky personality in check, his playing time should spike and that means this sharp-shooter could be a great late round pick for you.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: I wanted to find a way to rank Conley in the PG top 10, but I am not going to get crazy with him. Last season he missed big chunks of time with injuries, he had a high turnover rate, and being 20 years old in the NBA is hardly ever a good thing. Any time a team burns a high pick on you, they are certain to give you more than enough chances to prove yourself. His main problems are Kyle Lowry and that Shaq-esk FT percentage he brings to the table.
Earl Watson, Oklahoma City Thunder: What will scare most fantasy players away from Watson is that he has never truly lived up to his hype and the Thunder took Russell Westbrook in the draft. But, Westbrook isn’t a true PG and I like the fact Luke Ridnour is finally out of the way. I don’t think Westbrook is going to make a viable starting PG in the NBA, so the job is Watson’s to lose.
I know the top 10 players at each position can be a bit of an obvious call for those seasoned fantasy veterans. But, some of you tend to overthink your picks and hopefully this cleared up a lot of those questions. Should you have more, feel free to e-mail me and I will answer your question.