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:
Kobe Bryant (SG)
Helps: Points, FT%, Steals, Assists, 3-pointers
It’s not that Kobe helps in so many categories it makes him valuable, it is HOW MUCH he helps in those categories. He’s always one of the league’s top two or three scorers, gets around two steals and two 3-pointers per game, makes well over 80 percent of his free throws while getting to the line around 10 times per game and provides assist numbers better than some second-tier point guards.
Kobe is also one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA and his FG% has been over 46% in each of the last two seasons – a perfectly acceptable number considering his 20-plus shots per game. His only negative are his turnovers and even those are looking better as the Lakers assemble more talent.
Don’t expect his stint at the Olympics or his much-needed finger surgery to affect his value for the season, but be aware that Phil Jackson promised to reduce the minutes of all his major players this season.
It’s hard to make an argument to pick Kobe over Chris Paul, but he would be an extremely strong pick anywhere in the top five.
When to take him: No lower than fourth overall.
Pau Gasol (C/PF)
Helps: Points, FG%, FT%, Blocks, Rebounds
Part of the most ridiculously lopsided trade in NBA history, Gasol filled the void left by an injured Andrew Bynum and flourished as Kobe’s second banana. He averaged 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 58 percent from the floor and 79 percent from the line.
Gasol no longer rebounds like a double-double threat and the return of Bynum won’t help that situation, but he excels in providing points and great percentages for a center as the Lakers primary offensive option inside. He also posted 3.5 assists per game with Los Angeles (his career best for a season is 3.4) and that number could go up if Lamar Odom is shown the door.
Unlike a traditional center, grabbing Gasol won’t help you dominate rebounds or blocks, but his unique combination of categories at the position make him the most valuable bearded Spaniard on the board.
When to take him: In the third round
Andrew Bynum (C)
Helps: Blocks, Rebounds, FG%
In regards to fantasy analysis, Bynum is stuck somewhere between the next Messiah and guy who had only 18 good games before getting hurt last season. Therefore the question is: do you have faith?
Bynum should not be drafted as a center who is going to average 17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game as he did in nine January games. The points and rebounds will dip because he has yet to play alongside Gasol and it makes for a cluttered frontcourt situation.
But 14 points, 10 rebounds and between 1.5 and two blocks per game are acceptable expectations for Bynum, who may exceed those numbers wildly. He will be a force inside for the perimeter-oriented Lakers and will provide a Dwight Howard-like FG% as well.
Tempering the excitement over the guy, Bynum is likely a low-end number one/excellent number two center. But it’s easy to see why many think he will emerge into an elite center option this season.
When to take him:In the fifth round, unless your faith is infallibly strong.
Lamar Odom (SF/PF)
Helps: Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks
Odom might be held in higher esteem coming into the season if his situation were less foggy. First, he may be coming off the bench or switching to shooting guard (with Kobe moving to small forward), depending on which L.A. newspaper you read.
Secondly, Jackson has already promised reduced minutes for the key Lakers and Odom’s minutes have already decreased in consecutive seasons. Thirdly, Odom has come into the preseason out of shape, irking Jackson and the Lakers’ staff. And finally, Odom has been the subject of rampant trade rumours, which always clouds a player’s prospective fantasy value.
What we do know is that Odom provides rebounds, assists and a combo of steals/blocks while playing both forward positions. He is prone to disappearing for long stretches and has never played with Bynum and Gasol at the same time, which only adds to the list of questions surrounding the upcoming season.
It appears safe to say Odom will have his least valuable fantasy season in quite a while and it’s hard to get too excited about his prospects.
When to take him: In the late fifth or early sixth round.
The Lakers have a talented young group of bench players, but Jackson’s desire to reduce everyone’s minutes makes it tough to forsee who will emerge. We know Derek Fisher is an always-surprising value providing 3-pointers and FT% and Vladimir Radmanovic and Sasha Vujacic are for the desperate for 3-pointers-only crowd. Luke Walton took a step back after a promising 2006-07 season and probably should not be drafted, but the key reserve to be drafted is likely Jordan Farmar.
Farmar averaged 16 points, 2.4 3-pointers, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes last season and will see his minutes increase as the primary point guard off the bench. He could be worth a late flier in the last couple of rounds.
If you’re thinking about Chris Mihm, please do not play fantasy basketball this season.
Be sure to check your league rules for specific position eligibility rules.