Living the Fantasy: 10 Things for 2006-07Also see: Vegas: Volume I | Vegas: Volume II | Vegas: Volume III | Vegas: Volume IV | Vegas: Volume V
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
When I got the email about a mock draft for NBA.com's fantasy magazine (second season), I knew it was time to start thinking about fantasy hoops again.
If you're like me, you drift farther and farther away from fantasy hoops as the playoffs move toward The Finals, and then I'm ready for a break from the exquisite fantasy grind. Yeah, you follow the draft and free agency and NBA news on a nearly daily basis, all the while keeping a rough fantasy score in your head, but it's a lot more laid back than the regular season. And when it's 85 and sunny and the kids wanna go to the beach, that's quite all right.
Then July turns to August and you start wondering who the No. 1 overall pick should be? Who's the top forward? Where do I rank the rookies? Is Dirk Nowitzki still center eligible?
Whose summer of aches and pains will morph into a regular season replete with DNPs? Through the process of both asking and answering these questions, and dozens more, I was able to pick out 10 things I can't wait to see in 06-07.
10. The Hawks flying high with a real point guard
Close your eyes and imagine Speedy Claxton running the break with Josh Smith on one wing and Marvin Williams on the other. Think of all the dimes Claxton will generate simply by passing the rock to Joe Johnson. If Josh Smith finally puts two halves together, Speedy stays healthy, and Marvin lives up to being the second overall pick, the Hawks could sneak into the playoffs. Yes, I'm serious.
9. Toronto becoming a blend of Phoenix West and Euroleague East
As directed by former Suns exec Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors are gonna run, run, run this season, which is why they traded Charlie Villanueva for TJ Ford in a deal that was panned by "those who know more". The two most important positions are center and point guard, and the Raps got a one for a four. Plus, TJ is just what this offense needs to scoot because he's arguably the fastest PG in the league.
I also can't wait to see Toronto's quintet of Euroleague veterans. C/F Andrea Bargnani (first European taken No. 1 overall), G/F Anthony Parker (back-to-back Euroleague MVP), F Jorge Garbajosa (All-Euroleague in 05-06), PG Jose Calderon (backup to Ford), and C/PF Uros Slokar (former second-round pick) form what amounts to a Euroleague All-Star team. Not unlike Flip Saunders playing all four Pistons at the same time in the All-Star game, Sam Mitchell needs to give the world a lineup featuring Slokar at center, Bargnani at power forward, Garbajosa at small forward, Parker at shooting guard, and Calderon at point guard. C'mon, Sam, give it a try in the preseason and see how it goes.
8. Tim Duncan trying to reverse his statistical slide
Over the past three years, Duncan's numbers have slowly dropped. Points have been reduced from 23.3 to 22.3 to 20.3 to 18.6; rebounds have bounced from 12.9 to 12.5 to 11.1 to 11.0; blocks have dropped from 2.9 to 2.7 to 2.6 to 2.0; and field goal percentage has dipped from .513 to .501 to .496 to .484. The 30-year-old Duncan isn't getting any younger, so he'll have to dig deep to reverse this alarming trend.
7. Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming playing together again
6. Brandon Roy vs. Randy Foye for ROY
I saw these young warriors destroy the competition at the Vegas Summer League and there isn't a doubt in my mind that they are the most NBA-ready players from the 2006 draft. They were taken with the sixth and seventh picks, they play the same position, and they play in the same division. Let's get ready to rumble...
5. Chris Paul's ascension from ROY to USAB guard to All-Star to MVP candidate
After threatening the playoffs in CP3's first season, the Hornets added Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, Bobby Jackson, Hilton Armstrong, and others to help the team get over the hump. Not that Paul needed the help, but the Hornets are now long, athletic, and deep. Just the way Byron Scott likes it. Not only will Paul get his first taste of playoff action, he'll get a feel for what it's like to play on Sunday at All-Star weekend. We are watching a Hall of Famer in his salad days. Enjoy.
4. 82 more games from the Suns, plus playoffs
Who's more fun to watch than the Suns? They run, they jump, they score. A lot. My offseason call is for the Heat to beat the Suns in six games in the Sunscreen Series, but I reserve the right to alter that prediction based on the health of Amare Stoudemire. If he's rocking, no one's beating the Suns. But if he isn't ready to rock, the Suns can't win it all. Hold that thought...
3. The triumphant return of Kevin Garnett
It tore my heart out to see KG rested for the last two weeks of the 05-06 season. I didn't agree with the way that was handled and I never will, but life goes on, and explosive guards like Foye and Mike James are added in the offseason, restoring confidence and competitiveness to a once proud franchise. (I still can't believe my beloved Wolves have missed the playoffs two years running.) With Foye and James giving the Wolves a desperately needed shot in the arm, you're going to see a lot more of KG howling at the moon after and-ones and emphatically telling the Target Center faithful "this is my house". When KG believes, he morphs from beast to monster.
2. LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade for MVP
With sincere apologies to back-to-back MVP winner Steve Nash, I don't see him winning three in a row. But don't worry, Steve, as the letters BTB and MVP should earn you a spot in Springfield. As the 2006 version of the Men's Senior National Team was dominated by James and Wade, so too shall be the regular season, with James taking home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. The voting will be tight as 2004 when Nash barely beat Shaq.
1. Amare's comeback
I know it's still 100 degrees outside, but it's never too early to get your Christmas list to Santa. My family is on the beat-the-rush plan, as my kids want Thomas the Train everything, my wife wants diamonds and pearls, and Daddy wants Amare averaging 20 and 10 by the New Year. I want rock-star Amare! Is that too much to ask? It would be great for Amare, great for the Suns Nation, and great for the league. But will it happen? Will we see rock-star Amare in 06-07? I'm hopeful...but hope doesn't pay the bills in fantasy basketball.
During the regular season, NBA TV fantasy expert Rick Kamla writes a weekly column, Living the Fantasy, on NBA.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org