All previews follow the same format, I’ll be going in depth only on the players worth owning in a standard 12-team league, followed by players who you might consider as injury handcuffs/deep sleepers. As always, it starts with the most valuable player on the team:
Lebron James (SF)
Really, how much do I have to say? Even in a league with insane anti-Lebron bias, he should go no lower than fourth overall. (Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Amare Stoudemire are all worth top three picks). Lebron can do it all, and normally has to for a Cavaliers team that gives him little support.
The most drastic improvement in his game the last couple of seasons has been his commitment to defense and a developing outside shot. He averaged 1.8 steals and a career-high 1.1 blocks last season and posted a career-best .484 FG%.
The only area James hurts you is at the line. He is a 73% percent free-throw shooter and takes as many free throws as any player in the game. Just be sure to draft some FT% studs to counteract the 250 or so free throws he will miss.
Where to take him: In the top four.
Mo Williams (PG)
Helps: Points, Assists, FT%, 3-pointers, Steals
Lebron finally has a solid second banana in Williams, who is a strong all-around point guard that can score, shoot and defend. Williams is an underrated fantasy asset – not many players get you 17 points and six assists per game.
It is hard to project how playing with Lebron with affect Williams, who was able to share the ball with Michael Redd effectively. But I expect his scoring and assists to rise slightly to give him perhaps his most fantasy value ever.
However, it has to be noted that Williams has a propensity for turnovers (nearly three per game the last two seasons) and has struggled to stay healthy, playing in more than 68 games only once in five NBA seasons.
Despite the injury risk, he should be a player ready to finally provide the Cavaliers with a significant second option.
Where to take him: In the fifth round.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C)
Helps: Rebounds, Blocks, FT%
After being left for dead following a dreadful 2006-07 campaign, Ilgauskas returned to form last season, averaging 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and solid percentages. His drop off was so sudden and precipitous two seasons ago, it seems to be more of a fluke than an indicator of a career in decline.
Ilgauskas played 30 minutes per game last season and now seems comfortable alongside with Lebron. Most importantly, he was actually at his best in the final two months of the season while Ben Wallace handled the tougher defensive assignments. His numbers won’t decline much, if at all, because Wallace in the frontcourt frees Ilgauskas to do less on the defensive end.
When to take him: In the seventh or eighth rounds.
Daniel Gibson (SG)
Helps: 3-pointers, FT%
With enough minutes, Gibson will provide a ton of 3-pointers. With the addition of Williams, Gibson no longer has to be a playmaker and can stand around and shoot. He’s good at that, burying 2.4 3-pointers per 36 minutes last season.
As with most great 3-point shooters, he has a low FG% (.432 last season) but shot .810 from the line. The bottom line is he could be a surprising source of a tremendous number of 3-pointers for a late pick.
When to take him: In the last couple of rounds.
Ben Wallace (C/PF)
Helps: Blocks, Rebounds
Hurts: FG%, FT%
A shell of his former self, Wallace can still help you in blocks and rebounds but played less than 30 minuter per game after getting traded to Cleveland. The Cavaliers will use him for his physicality against great offensive post players, which doesn’t help you fantasy-wise. If fouls are good in your league, go nuts.
When to take him: In the very last round of 13-round draft.
Anderson Varejao (aka Sideshow Bob) always provide solid per minute numbers but will get less minutes than Ilgauskas or Wallace. If either of those old bastards gets hurt though, Varejao is the guy to have for rebounds and blocks. Delonte West, Sasha Pavlovic and Wally “World” Szczerbiak are intriguing perimeter options if James, Williams or Gibson are lost for any period of time.
Be sure to check your league rules for specific position eligibility rules.