The season is finally almost here and while SI did a good job with its own list of NBA storylines, fantasy hoops has its own set of plots that are making hard to wait even one more day for the season to start…..
Andrew Bynum teaming up with Fu-Schnickens
OK, so maybe he’s not exactly like Shaquille O’Neal, but with the return of Bynum from January’s season-ending knee injury, a major fantasy asset is being unleashed. Or not. Really, it depends on who you ask. He’s either the next dominant fantasy center or Emeka Okafor Part 2.
Personally, I think the former is more likely than the latter and watching his progress with a stacked Lakers team is a lot to be giddy about.
The Junior Celts
Everyone knows what’s coming from Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (and Brian Sacalbrine, of course), but the real excitement surrounding the Celtics this season from a fantasy standpoint is how their younger players will develop.
Rajon Rondo is clearly the best of the group and a solid fantasy player, but Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Leon Powe and Glen Davis are all youngin’s with great per minute numbers. Seeing which – if any – prove they are legitimate heirs to aging Garnett/Pierce/Allen throne will be fun to watch.
The Toronto Raptors have a number of intriguing fantasy situations, starting with Jose Calderon finally being only point guard running the show. In 56 games as a starter last season, he averaged 13 poits, 9.1 assists and collected 68 3-pointers and 68 steals. He also shot .531 from the floor and .911 from the line.
It boggles the mind the kind of numbers he could put up this season … think Steve Nash with a little less scoring and better defensive stats.
The Raptors also have tremendous upside in their frontcourt with the acquisition of Jermaine O’Neal and the emergence of the fantastically-named Jamario Moon.
O’Neal hasn’t played close to a full season since 2003-04 but if his minutes are kept in check and he stays healthy, he could be a double-double machine opposite the more well-rounded Chris Bosh. And Moon displayed immense defensive ability and an occassional touch from long range as a rookie last season. His potential as a fantasy player is yet untapped.
The only thing that can really screw up Toronto’s chance of having multiple fantasy beasts is the ineptitude of coach Sam Mitchell, who always seems to do the opposite of logical.
Madison Square Garden Turning Into Little Italy
With Mike D’Antoni at the helm, the Knicks are now going to be running all over the place and flinging shots without discretion. Even though that sounds an awful lot like the old Knicks, it’s fair to assume this season it will at last be entertaining and fantasy-stat-inducing.
Under Larry Brown and Isaiah Thomas the rotation was never constant. Hopefully, D’Antoni will at least commit to an eight-man scheme and the style of play could help each of those men increase their fantasy value. It even makes Stephon Marbury and Quentin Richardson viable gambles.
It also means that much like when D’Antoni was with the Suns, ALL fantasy players will have value when their teams play the Knicks. A nice thought for those short-term pickups and borderline keepable players sitting on your bench. For one night against New York, they will be fantasy All-Stars!
The Birth of A Multi-Category Monster
Jermaine O’Neal is longer a black hole swallowing the ball in Indiana and Mike Dunleavy may be out for quite a while with a knee injury. This is Granger’s team and assuming Dunleavy misses extended time, he is set to be the team’s leader in points, 3-pointers, steals, blocks, rebounds and FT%.
Often times the best fantasy players are on the crappiest teams. The Pacers are on pace to be crappy but Granger as a fantasy option is looking sweet.
Feasting on the East
The last time Elton Brand played in the Eastern Conference, the best frontcourt players consisted of Ben Wallace, Jermaine O’Neal and Marcus Camby entering their primes, a young Kenyon Martin, Dikembe Mutombo when he was still good, old but still effective players like Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Antonio Davis, etc.
Now, upon his return, other than when he plays the Magic and Celtics he’ll be facing the ghost of Ben Wallace and an endless of soft/defenseless interior players, aging tall guys and nobodies (see the froncourts of New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Chicago, Washington, and Miami).
Yes, there is also Bosh and Okafor and Horford …. none as good as Brand. Watching how he handles transferring conferences with a super-talented and young lineup around him will be a treat.
Matrix and Wade
One NBA prediction I can guarantee is there will be a number of times this season we will see Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion run a 2-on-1 break and be amazed at the result. These guys are tied together in regards to their basketball success – both in the NBA and fantasy leagues.
Wade has always been at his best with weapons around him and he’s never really had a teammate as good as Marion. Meanwhile, Marion always scored a large amount of his baskets off assists from Nash and needs Wade’s athleticism and passing ability to generate numbers. I can’t wait to see these guys play together.
No matter if you are talking about fantasy basketball or the real thing, is there anyone NOT excited about watching the developing Trail Blazers?
A hopefully healthy Brandon Roy, with the rookie season of a hopefully healthy Greg Oden, interior scorer LaMarcus Aldridge, some added flavor from Rudy Fernandez, do-it-all swingman Travis Outlaw, token white little guy Steve Blake, token white big guy Joel Pryzbilla … al fantasy-relevant players who could just happen to form one of the best emerging teams in the league.
If they are the ESPN late game every Friday night, I won’t be complaining.
Needless to say, less 15 hours away from the start of the season, i’m starting to get the shakes. It begins with a Boston/Cleveland rematch. Only three games tonight. Time to check my rosters and see how many I’ve got going!