Fantasy Preview

This most likely should have gone up much earlier, but for all of you who are drafting as late as my friends I present:

10 Questions Heading into this Year’s Fantasy Season!!

For this segment I’ve brought in the expertise of my friend, and fellow leaguemate, Henry Weissberg. Henry has always been one to brag about his successes in the world of fantasy so I sent him my list of questions before answering them myself independently. For all of you who are about ready to give up on fantasy football (myself included) and start winning for a change, here’s some advice:

1.) Which fantasy stud are you most willing to overpay for heading into 2014?

HW: Steph Curry. For one thing the guy is only 26 and as awesome as he was last year, has still not reached his fantasy ceiling with some serious upside and room for improvement. Steph also has a strong edge in being more or less a pure point guard (i.e. a guy who can rack up 10 assists in a night) that also has shooting guard eligibility. SG is probably the shallowest position in the league, which makes Steph much more valuable than other 20-10 guards, such as CP3 or John Wall. Draft him accordingly.

QS: FEAR THE BROW! Next to steals, blocks are the most valuable commodities in fantasy. While great shot-blockers will have accompanying rebound numbers, not all of them can score the basketball like Anthony Davis. Not only that, but the guy is going to scratch 80% from the FT line, making him a big man with no weaknesses. Dude is going to be a monster in his third year in the league and like Steph, has eligibility to lock down two positions.

2.) Which rookie will have the biggest fantasy impact in 2014? Or, maybe we should rephrase this to, which rookie outside of Jabari Parker?

HW: Nerlens Noel will have the biggest fantasy impact of any rookie, including Jabari Parker (he’s coming for you Hen). Nerlens has already showed his shot-blocking ability. He’s an athletic big with huge bounding ability that will shoot a high percentage (alley-oops and dunks). He’s gonna be a double-double machine with a couple blocks a night. Better yet, he’s the best big man on the team and is sure to see a lot of minutes.

QS: Well now you’ve pissed off Jabari and Henry Sims, nice. I do love the answer though, because as garbage as the Sixers are, they play at a fast pace, taking (AND MISSING) a ton of shots. Noel should be good for at least 4 offensive rebounds a game. I gotta disagree, though and take my boy Elfrid Payton. PG is always a nice fantasy position that can give you points, assists, and 3s. Payton is also tall for the 1 and plays great defense so I’d wager he’s also in for an above average number of steals and rebounds for his position. Payton was the third PG taken in the draft and I’d say his situation is the most clear: Smart will be backing up Rondo and Exum will have to play with Trey Burke. Add in Oladipo being out a month and I’d say Payton gets a big chance to prove himself in Orlando.

3.) Who will be the Biggest Bust of 2014? Who will be the Breakout Star this year? 

HW: Biggest Bust has to be Victor Oladipo. To me, Oladipo just got drafted too early. Any hype that the guy might have earned comes from that #2 overall selection (in a lousy draft class at that). While he’s a fantastic on-ball defender, probably one of the NBA’s best on the perimeter, that intangible ability does not show up on stat sheets and steals can only do you so much. I see no reason why he should be drafted ahead of Lance Stephenson, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Andrew Wiggins, or Trevor Ariza- all players he is currently ranked ahead of on ESPN’s top 200.

QS: Geez, I guess someone didn’t like my American Idol comments on Victor. Hahaha. For me (HATERS GET READY) 2014’s biggest bust relative to their ranking is…. Lebron James. Is Lebron James the best player in basketball? Yes. Is he one of the few guys who can get a triple double whenever he wants? Yes. BUT, James has just moved to a basketball situation where he can rely on other players to do the scoring, and even the rebounding, for him. David Blatt has already hinted he will be cutting down James’ minutes during the regular season and I can even see him riding the bench for the entire fourth quarter if the Cavs are up, and letting Kyrie and Dion close out those games. Dude is not going to be the fantasy MVP, don’t draft him like he is.

HW: Yikes. Instead of commenting, on to BIGGEST BREAKOUT. My candidate this season is Giannis Antetokounmpo (editor’s note: Apologies to Giannis for the many ways I will misspell your name during this season). Swift-footed like famed Achilles, the Greek Freak has all the workings to be beastly this season. Jason Kidd even plans on playing Giannis, the now 6’11” wing (with an even bigger wing span) all over the floor, including giving him touches at point-forward. A budding star on a team without much talent, I see increases in all statistical categories and you can expect big numbers in assists and rebounds from the SG position.

QS: LINSANITY IS BACK!! RIP to Steve Nash who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the nicest dudes in the league. However, this opens the door for what was going to happen eventually: Jeremy Lin earning the right to start and play minutes next to Kobe Bryant. As a Knicks fan, our little window of Linsanity was not a fluke: this guy can really play and now has the opportunity to do so. Coach Byron Scott has talked about the importance of attacking the basket, and Lin is actually very effective in finishing around the rim. Also, as long as Bryant doesn’t murder him in his sleep, he is going to improve BIG TIME playing next to the Black Mamba.

4.) Which “Move” of the Offseason was best for a player’s fantasy output? 

HW: Lance Stephenson to the Charlotte Hornets. Now paired in a back-court with the equally swaggy Kemba Walker, Lance is finally on a team where he is a core piece and not a complementary one. The Hornets are going to depend on Lance to score buckets and set up his teammates. I also wouldn’t be too afraid of a dip in shooting percentages due to his increased role. From what I’ve heard in interviews, he seems excited to play team ball and win some games.

QS: I’m actually gonna go the other way on this and say the Rockets jettisoning Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin is going to cause a big uptick in James Harden’s already-high usage rating. Harden already spent a little time as the de facto playmaker last season and now this team has no legitimate 1 guard after Patrick Beverley (who they use more for his defense than anything). No one really wants to watch it, but Harden’s gonna have to will his way to the charity stripe a lot more this season to make up for his lost teammates.

5.) PG is arguably the deepest position in the league. Which floor general are you most excited about from a fantasy perspective?

HW: Darren Collison. Once a starter for the Pacers some years back, Collison is finally put back in a starting role and given the reigns to the Sacramento offense. After a season playing back-up for Chris Paul, I’m really excited to see what Collison can do. There is some serious upside for his assist totals to take a real jump this season after learning from the best floor-general out there. Jump on him in the later rounds, but don’t pick him before the tried-and-true Jeff Teagues and Mike Conleys.

QS: While I’m probably not shelling out big money or a 1st round pick on a PG, I am too excited about John Wall going into this season. The dude has been taking some huge strides over his career and getting dangerously close to that 20-10 status. He’s also gained some maturity after a trip to the postseason (and winning a series there) and seems more willing to set up his teammates and play quality, winning basketball. Also, don’t underestimate Bradley Beal’s absence in Wall feeling the need to put the team on his back and put up 30 points every couple of nights.

6.) Which team is “fantasy poison” for its players? 

HW: Those would be the deepest teams in the leagues, those with good backups. However, to me this question also becomes about position. The Suns have an incredibly skilled guard rotation, with three players who could be starting at PG for quality teams. On the other hand, Utah is going to have a great frontcourt with French wonder Rudy Gobert stealing minutes from Derrick Favors. If I have to choose one team, though its the Denver Nuggets who always seem to field a team going 12 deep and sharing minutes so generously pretty much all of their players are fantasy undraftable.

QS: I’m glad you mentioned Gobert, who is one of my favorite deep sleepers. However, HOW COULD YOU MISS THE SPURS?? Not only does this team boast the deepest bench in the league, but it also has a coach who lets these guys pummel the NBA’s best. Seriously if you’re drafting Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, or any of those other dinosaurs, you are committing to the fact that Popp will have them sit out at least 20 games this season to watch his bench beat up on other playoff teams. Kawhi Leonard also rated way too high on ESPN, jus sayyinn…

7.) Who will enjoy the fantasy side effect of being “the good player on a bad team”? 

HW: Demarcus Cousins. Looking at the Kings’ depth chart, there simply isn’t another big man who will threaten Demarcus for rebounds, minutes, or post looks. He plays next to two out of three undersized power forwards in Derrick Williams and Carl Landry and in front of weak back-up centers in Ryan Hollins and Reggie Evans (Note to Reggie Evans who LOVES Knicks at Night, we’re sorry we love you too). Cousins is going to fill up all the major big man categories. If you ain’t drafting him, you ain’t winning this season.

QS: How about that? I also picked Boogie for this category. Also, implicit in the Kings exchanging Isaiah Thomas for Darren Collison is that they wanted a more pass-first PG who could give Cousins and Rudy Gay even more looks on offense. Also, Reggie Evans how you doing man? We’ve gotta get dinner one of these days, lemme know when you’re in town playing the Knicks.

8.) Are you anticipating a better bounceback season from Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose?

HW: Kobe Bryant. Maybe its because I wouldn’t draft either and Kobe goes later in mocks. Maybe it’s because he’s been acting cocky all preseason and his mind control powers are starting to have their way with me. If healthy, Kobe is going to be great; there is just no evidence to argue otherwise. He’s been injured before and always come back the same Mamba. You don’t lose your footwork or shooting if you get injured at 36. Draft Kobe because he’s a living legend available in the fourth round.

QS: Yeah, how much is this just a question of which one of them can stay healthy? But I gotta go with Kobe again. Going back to your point, snagging a guy who can play SG is just so much more valuable than one of the league’s dozens of high-quality 1s. Also Kobe is a much better 3 point shooter than Rose and has also shown that he can rack up 10 assists in a night if he wants to be the set-up man instead of the scorer. The only thing I’d worry about is if the Lakers really, truly suck (a real possibility), then Kobe may not want to be out there if he feels a little banged up.

9.) Bold Prediction Time. What is one thing you think will shock everyone this season, from a fantasy perspective? 

HW: Andre Drummond will be the top scorer in head-to-head points leagues. Before Lebron, CP3, AND D12. The “Big Penguin” will lead points leagues. The guy could break Kevin Love’s 53 continuous double-doubles this year. He’s going to get big numbers every game. He’s also going to miss a ton of FTs, but these don’t really matter as much in points leagues. His numbers were HUGE after the All-Star Break last season, and as a young gun on a team that will play its 3 bigs together much less under Stan Van Gundy, his numbers will improve. Hold me to it.

QS: WOW, I love your prediction. Way bolder than mine. I’ve picked Blake Griffin as this year’s fantasy MVP, because Griffin will start shooting 3s (and making them!). Griffin has evolved into a better shooter every single season in the league and I think this is the year that he starts spreading the floor. I watched a preseason game where Blake just took like 5 jumpers in a row to start the game and made them all. Including a 3. I think this guy is motivated by all the shit people give him and is going to put together an MVP type campaign in 2014.

Annnd, most importantly: 10.) Are any Knicks players fantasy-relevant outside of Melo?

HW: Of course there are! This wouldn’t be Knicks at Night if I answered no. In 10-12 person categories leagues, JR, Shump, and Calderon should all be own-able this season (although I wouldn’t draft JR). I say because under a new coach and a new system, its hard to say where all the minutes are going to go on this team, but I’d say these guys are a safe bet. In 10-12 person head-to-head leagues, JR and Calderon should be owned again. And potentially Dalembert for his upside as a double-double guy. Keep your eye on Amare too. I may be really biased as a Knicks fan, but I really want this guy to have a good season.

QS: You may be even more biased than myself towards these guys. I would take a flyer on Calderon in deeper leagues, but there are just too many 2 guards on this team for any of them to have a real fantasy impact. Also, JR has looked like a nightmare in preseason and has confessed to not understanding the triangle yet. However, you know who has looked great: DALEMBERT!! The dude has been one of the leaders throughout the entire league in preseason blocks and showcased his killer rebounding ability in his homecoming Montreal game. If his midrange jumper stays consistent and he gets 25-30 minutes night, he could be a sneaky good backup center.

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