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:
Yao Ming (C)
Helps: Points, Rebounds, Blocks, FG%, FT%
Hurts: Himself, often.
In an earlier post explaining my method for rankings players, it was noted that Yao is among the top five most productive fantasy players. He helps generously in every category big man should as well as giving an outstanding FT%. Yao commits too many turnovers, but so do Lebron and Kobe.
The only thing that will keep Yao from being a top 5 pick this season is his questonable to stay healthy. Be honest, he’s gotten hurt so many times you don’t even know what season the photo above is from, do you? Don’t worry, me neither.
Yao has played in 57 games or less in each of the last three seasons. That means he has missed 35 percent of the last three seasons, hardly a first round value.
If he stays healthy, Yao’s scoring will likely dip to around 20-21 points per game with the addition of Ron Artest. But he’s still immensely valuable as he will average a double-double along with two blocks per game.
When to take him: In the late first or early second round.
Ron Artest (SF)
Helps: Steals, Points, 3-pointers
Hurts: FG%, FT%
Artest’s arrival in Houston means he will have the ball less than he did previously. This will likely mean a decrease in his scoring average, but he will still be a beast in collecting steals and has potential to help in rebounds and assists, although it is not likely.
Artest is a mixed bag. He will average around 20 points and two steals per game, which is a nice combination, but he is a career 42 percent shooter from the floor and just .720 from the line. Even if he shoots less than normal, those are damaging., and he does not rebound nearly enough to offset the difference.
As a result, it seems my value for Artest is a lot lower than most. Hopefully, he doesn’t find out where I live.
When to take him: In the fifth round.
Tracy McGrady (SG)
Helps: Points, Assists, Steals, 3-pointers
Hurts: FG%, FT%
To tell you the truth, McGrady has more upside as a pick than Artest, but it just nearly impossible at this point to have any faith in the guy. He is already complaining about his arthritic shoulder and knee, the worst kind of sign from a player who has not even played in a preseason game yet.
Since a healthy first season in Houston, he has missed 62 games in the last three seasons combined. And he is often banged up and not playing 100 percent, perhaps perfect health does not exist for McGrady anymore.
Even when healthy, McGrady is a bit overvalued. He is no longer the scorching offensive force he was in his days with Orlando. Last season he averaged a shade of 21 points per game along with 5.7 assists, 1.3 3-pointers and one steal.
Those are valuable numbers from any small forward, but his awful FG% (only .419 on nearly 20 attempts per game) and first-ever sub-.700 FT%, are hard to overlook. Even with an 82-game guarantee, I wouldn’t be taking him in the first three rounds.
When to take him: In the fifth round, although a big higher if you have faith in his health.
Rafer Alston (PG)
Helps: 3-pointers, Assists, Steals
Hurts: FG%, FT%
Alston went from marginally valuable to an absolute must-have after Yao went down last season. He averaged more than 15 points and five assists per game as well as 1.4 steals and more than two 3-pointers per game in February and March.
Don’t be fooled.
Not only is Yao back, but the addition of Artest means Alston will be the fourth option at best offensive. Since McGrady basically runs the offense anyway, Alston can viewed as a 3-point weapon who collects some assists. It wouldn’t be surprising if he falls below five assists per game.
Alston also follows his higher-profile teammates in the trend of crappy percentages. He has just under 40 percent in each of the last three seasons and is a career .725 free-throw shooter. Ugly.
When to take him: In the 10th round.
Shane Battier (SF)
Helps: 3-pointers, Blocks, Steals
Hurts: FG%, FT%
Battier derives his value from his ability to give you three sought after categories in once package. He buried 1.7 3-pointers and had more than one steal and one block per game last season, a combination very few players offer.
In keeping with the Rockets theme, his percentages a poor. He is a career 45 percent shooter from the floor, which actually is not too bad for a player who gets most of his points from the 3-point line. Battier does not go to the line enough to worry about his .747 career FT%.
In the late rounds, it’s usually best to look for breakout candidates, but there are always players who provide backup insurance in key categories and Battier provides it in spades.
When to take him: In the 10th or 11th rounds.
The Rockets have immense frontcourt depth with Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry, all of whom could be double-double threats with playing time. But where will they play? Yao, Artest and Battier provide a solid frontcourt and there are not many minutes to go around. Scola should be drafted in the last couple rounds of pretty much every league and a case could be made for Hayes and Landry, especially in deeper leagues. If Houston gets hit with the usual injury bug, all three will have some value.
Be sure to check your league rules for specific position eligibility rules.