NBA Basketball Column: Jump Ball with Matt McCloskey
NBA Fantasy Draft Preview, Part 2
The Shooting guard position has lost a lot of its greats the past few seasons, with Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Roy, Richard Hamilton, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Jason Richardson all either diminishing or out of the league entirely. There are several young players ready to take the next step, but there aren’t many ready to fill the shoes of the players above. Having said that, there are still some quality options to choose from.
Kobe Bryant – LA Lakers
He’s one of the last remaining elite guards from the “old guard” but he’s still one of the best players in the game, even at age 34 he’s one of the best scorers in the NBA. With the revamped line-up, Bryant won’t need to do as much as he used to. In particular, he won’t be playmaking like he is used to with Steve Nash in town. Scoring will be his focus so expect at least 24 points a night. As for the rest of his stat line, it’s hard to predict, but we should still expect three or four assists and rebounds a night. He’s still the best shooting guard around, but don’t take him till the end of the first or beginning of the second round.
Ellis is one of the most exciting and dynamic scorers in the NBA, but he is constantly over looked because he is always on a losing team. That will probably continue this year, as the Bucks have a major lack in talent in the front court. The teams saving grace might be having the mega talents of Ellis and Brandon Jennings in their backcourt, but it doesn’t look good. The lack of quality scoring options on this team means that Ellis will have infinite scoring opportunities every game. He’s also good for five assists and some rebounds and steals too. He’s more of a mid-range shooter and slasher than a perimeter shooter, so look to fill your 3-point needs elsewhere. His PG/SG adds further value; he is a nice second round target but is most likely available in the third round.
James Harden and Dwyane Wade are ahead of Johnson of most lists but it doesn’t make much sense. Why would you want someone who’s a third option on their team in Harden or a player as injury prone as Wade ahead of Johnson who is the new top option in Brooklyn? Teams can’t double team him because of how good his supporting cast is, meaning Johnson will have one on one mismatches almost every night. He’s healthy, has a new opportunity and still has one of the sweetest jumpers in the NBA making him well worth passing up on risks like Wade and Harden.
Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat
While he is on the court he is one of the most dynamic forces in the league, but his knees have taken their toll making him a big risk. Still, if he can play over 65 games that would be a win for your team. I would let someone else take the risk but if you’re able to draft a quality insurance policy then he might be worth it.
The only thing holding Gordon back from being drafted higher is his injury woes. The undersized guard is an elite scorer but can’t stay on the court. The fifth year guard has career averages of 18.2 point, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 37% from 3-point range, which could have been better if he was able to stay on the court. His peripheral numbers aren’t the best but not many players can match his scoring output. IF he can stay healthy, he is one of the best scoring options in the NBA, especially since he has very little competition on the Hornets for touches.
Which Evans are we going to see this year? The rookie that put up 20 points, five assists and five rebounds or the sophomore that struggled to find his place in the offense once a true point guard was introduced? From the get go we knew Evans was a ball hog that needed the ball to be effective, but he must learn to play off the ball in order to achieve stardom. This is a team game and he isn’t good enough to be a one man show each night. Having said that he is a very good scorer and if he can adjust to playing off the ball, he could get back up to 20 points a night with a solid amount of rebounds and assists too. He is listed as PG/SG/SF in some formats, boosting his value above several other wings.
James Harden – Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder’s sixth man is an incredible scorer who would be a top option on many teams, but he happens to be on a team with the best scorer in the league and a volume shoot first point guard in Russell Westbrook. Harden runs the offense when the other two stars are taking a breather so he racks up some assists too. The best thing for Harden is to be away from Westbrook, and this may be why he and the Thunder haven’t been able to come to an agreement on an extension. He’s still good for 15-18 points a night with a well-rounded stat line to go with the points. His situation is a poor one for fantasy owners so look elsewhere for a more promising option with upside.
He isn’t the scorer he was earlier in his career, though that may change in a new offensive system that seems to be a perfect fit for him. Iguodala’s greatest strength is that he stuffs the stat sheet. He will give you double digit points and over five assists and rebounds a game, as well as being a earning his fair share of steals and some blocks sprinkled in. The Nuggets mean to use him as one of their featured weapons but the fact is they have a very deep team, and he has to contend with Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari for touches and minutes on the wing. The team likes to get out and run, so Chandler and Gallinari could slip to the power forward spot to stretch the floor and get their top weapons on the floor. He should continue to be a stat stuffer, but his scoring output may stay the same considering the number of weapons the team has, don’t invest too early if you don’t have quality scoring options from the first few rounds.
DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
I am stunned at how low he is in so many rankings considering the lack of depth at this position and the potential and skill this kid has. He also is a featured option on the Raptors, giving him the opportunity to put up over 18 points on a nightly basis. His perimeter shooting is weak, but so is Iguodala’s and Wade’s. His all-around stat line hasn’t filled out as someone of his athleticism should have, but he is only 23 and continues to improve his overall game. He will be one of the biggest steals on draft day, and is especially golden from players who gamble on the likes of Wade and Gordon’s health. Keep tabs on him on draft night, his skill; situation and draft position make him one of the best values this year.
He has enormous potential but having Danny Granger on the other wing limits his output. Pacers are a team that spreads the touches around, so he should receive his fair share, but George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert are all capable scorers too, so he may cap out at 14-16 points a night on average with some rebounds and assists. He’s a solid perimeter shooter too, as well as one of the best wing options for steals. He may disappoint on draft day, but if the Pacers either trade Granger or if there are injuries then George will be the beneficiary of the additional touches.
Rodney Stuckey – Detroit Pistons
He’s one of the top scorers on the Pistons and the competition for touches has diminished over time, making him a great fantasy option. He’s better as a shooting guard option, but he does have point guard eligibility. He shares the court with Brandon Knight and the duo seems to have a solid chemistry and are one of the few combo guard duo’s that may actually be successful, mainly because they have the size to defend the shooting guard position. Knight should take over the majority of the playmaking duties but Stuckey will still provide five assists a night to go along with 16-20 points a night. He is ranked low so take advantage of that and fill other needs instead of drafting lesser options higher.
I was skeptical of this kid's ability to be a legitimate scorer at the NBA level, but after Ellis was traded he exploded, averaging 17 points and shot 39.7 percent from 3-point range after the All Star break. His overall stat line may not be spectacular, but the sophomore will have little competition for touches throughout the season, and should be the teams 3rd option on most nights. His lights out shooting should lead to a 15 point season and he will provide over two three pointers a game. If you’re in need of 3’s, this is the guy to target.
He’ll spend the majority of his time as the Knicks starting point guard but he has shooting guard eligibility, vastly increasing his value. He doesn’t get much respect, especially after a crap year in Portland, but he is quality starting guard in this league and should be better back in New York where he enjoyed his greatest success. He should rack up the assists with such a talented roster, but he will be on a short leash with the likes of Jason Kidd, Iman Shumpert and European import Pablo Prigioni available at the point. He could spend nights over at the two spot beside one of those players on the nights he’s on and the Knicks need an additional ball handler. Expect a bounce back year from the veteran guard as most will dismiss him.
The Memphis Grizzlies will rue the day they let Mayo go for nothing. The talented guard has landed in Memphis on a two year deal and has been declared the starter. Expect a return to 17 points a night as well as some assists, steals and three’s to go along with the scoring. He is in a great situation in Dallas, and he has a low draft position, so if you miss out on the big boys, don’t freak out, because Mayo will be there to grab and provide you with a huge bargain at the end of the draft.
His stock has plummeted over the years because of how frail he is but he is still an elite sharp shooter. He isn’t the scoring machine he once was, and on a rebuilding team he might lose touches as the Rockets are taking a youth movement. He is the most proven weapon the Rockets have but they are trying to move him to free up money to extend their younger players. While he’s on the court and while he’s in Houston, expect over 16 points a night and multiple 3-pointers but not much else. He’s not worth the risk like he used to be, but if you can get him in the final two or three round of your draft, then he won’t disappoint you.
Let’s shift to the other wing. The small forward position is filled with talent that can aid you in every department, and even if you miss out on the top three in the first round, there are plenty of quality options spread throughout the draft.
LeBron James – Miami Heat
The King got his ring, and he is back for another one. Wade will be in and out of the lineup throughout the season, and on the nights he is without Wade his scoring will spike. He is the ultimate stat stuffer and is the sure fire first overall pick in the draft. His overall stat line is what puts him over Durant.
Kevin Durant – Oklahoma Heat
Being the leagues top scorer unfortunately doesn’t make you the number one pick, but it does make him the second. He provides blocks and steals, but his assists aren’t nearly as good, despite being slightly above average for a wing. He could be an even higher scorer if he had a pass first point guard.
He has always been an elite stat stuffer, but now that Joe Johnson and to a lesser extent Marvin Williams are gone, Smith becomes the main offensive option. He is a great rebounder and is one of the best shot blockers in the league, but he has also impressed us with his passing, averaging four a night. He is also in a contract year so expect a career year in the scoring department, possibly going over 20 points for the first time in his career.
Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
One of the best scorers in the NBA had a down year by his standards, and that must change if the Knicks expect to make any sort of run. The problem is that both he and Amar’e Stoudemire love to get their offense from the high post and either shoot from there or work their way in. The Knicks must find a way to spread the floor for their two stars better, but Anthony must also learn to play better off the ball. Still, he’s a great second round pick and if you see him slip to the third round for some reason then he’s an absolute steal.
Rudy Gay – Memphis Grizzlies
He’s just a step below the men above him, but he is a great value considering where you get them (top two rounds) and where you get Gay (fourth round). Will he break 20 points this year? The talent is there, but he has Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to contend with. He is a great scorer and he has improved his perimeter shooting. He also contributes solid rebound totals and go is above average in steals while also adding almost a block per game. He is a very safe pick if you miss out on the other four, and still has room for more.
Danny Granger – Indiana Pacers
He’s not the elite option he once was because of the depth on the roster, but Granger is still a great option to have. He will lead the team in scoring on most nights, and contribute in rebounds, three pointers and steals too. He is also eligible at the shooting guard and power forward spots through the season, further increasing his value. Granger is also in his contract year, so he will be playing his best to get another max extension.
Nicholas Batum – Portland Trailblazers
On a young team without many options he should thrive in the scoring department, but his true value is in his overall stat line. He rebounds the ball well and gets a solid amount of steals, but he is a terrific 3-point shooter as well as one of the best wing shot blockers in the NBA, averaging a block per game last season. He begged for the Blazers not to match the Timberwolves contract offer but there was no way that Portland was letting him walk away for nothing. Expect to hear constant trade rumors about Batum for the foreseeable future. He’s a quality pick with tons of upside.
Derrick Rose is out until 2013, maybe even till next season, so it will be Deng’s team for the foreseeable future. He is a player that flirts with being an All Star, but this season he may make that jump. He averages 18 points and eight rebounds a night, but he could average over 20 points this season with the extra touches that will be coming his way, especially if Carlos Boozer continues to decline. He is a steal for his draft position so make him a priority target on draft night.
Pierce’s overall stat line continues to keep him a marquee fantasy asset. He will have competition for touches now that Jeff Green is healthy, but he is such a well-rounded player that even if his scoring dips he is still an important guy to look out for. He often provides five rebounds and assists a night, which greatly helps owners that have weak point guards. Rajon Rondo doesn’t have a backup, so when Rondo is off or injured, expect the majority of the playmaking duties to fall on Pierce’s shoulders.
Jeff Green – Boston Celtics
He has shown everyone this preseason that he is ready to have a breakout season. Despite missing last season due to a heart issue, Green has been superb thus far and will ease himself in as the new go to guy for the Celtics as Pierce and Kevin Garnett age. On top of being a player that can line up at either forward spot, he spreads the floor with his jumper and provides solid rebounding totals. His shot block and steal totals are subpar, but he is such a talented scorer for someone of his late draft position.
Leonard was one of the biggest surprises in the draft last season, showing a perimeter game the no one thought he would be able to add so quickly. He is a freak athlete that has a nose for the ball defensively, which leads to terrific rebound, steal and block totals. He will also become more of a focal point on offense according to head coach Greg Popovich. Big things are expected from him this season and he is in a terrific draft position for what he is capable of producing.
Ersan Ilyasova– Milwaukee Bucks
Ilyasova is one of the few fantasy relevant players on the Bucks roster. He will spend the majority of his time at the power forward position, but the Bucks will need to put him on the wing to get him his minutes while also letting rookie John Henson play. He averaged 13 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and he shot a sparkling 45.5% from the 3-point arc. He just signed a big extension in the off season and figures to be a big part of the Bucks plans, so make him a target in the middle rounds. He is a perfect pick to make to go along with weaker rebounding centers like Andrea Bargnani and Brook Lopez who give you elite scoring.
The former second overall pick has worn out his welcome in two spots, but he should find a home in Phoenix, who are in much need of his scoring talents. He will fit in as the starting small forward and be a featured option for the first time since being in Miami. He has holes in his game, but he will be a much improved fantasy asset this season because of the opportunity he will be receiving. Flag him as a late round asset that should provide over 16 points per game and five rebounds.
Gerald Wallace – Brooklyn Nets
Players like Wallace don’t generally age well, but there is still gas in the tank for Wallace. He no longer will give you a double double almost every night, but he will still be good for 13-16 points and 6-8 rebounds a night to go along with over a steal a night and some blocks. He is drafted pretty high for the limited potential he offers, and he has never been the healthiest of players. He provides solid totals but it’s better to look elsewhere for small forward production.
Danilo Gallinari/ Wilson Chandler – Denver Nuggets
Both players figure to play enough to provide solid totals on a nightly basis, but one of these two is going to come off the bench, and it most likely will be Chandler because of his versatility. Gallinari has been injury prone in his career, so Chandler will get his time through the season. Gallinari will provide more 3-pointers while Chandler will bring more rebounds. Chandler often is given eligibility at shooting guard and power forward over the course of the year while Gallinari will play at the power forward position at times too. These two are 15 point scorers at the very least, providing you solid scoring depth on the wings with some steals and rebounds to fill in the stat sheet.
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