Analyzing Pacers' fantasy draft prospects

Dec. 23, 2011


All-Stars Danny Granger and David West are the Pacers' top fantasy draft prospects. (NBAE/Getty Images)
There has been no shortage of casualties in this scramble season. Player conditioning, scheme implementation and team chemistry building all have -- and will continue to -- suffer well into the season due to the lack of preparation time.

But perhaps the greatest loss of all (or not) has been felt by fantasy owners. Not only has there been precious little time to figure out who's where doing what, but try fitting a draft into the schedule of 12-16 folks around the holiday weekend.

I will make no attempt to present myself as an expert in this field, not with my history of humble results. That will not prevent me, however, from offering my opinions -- at least as they apply to your favorite players when your draft rolls around.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the ESPN.com fantasy rankings, since those are the ones being used by our Mothership (NBA.com) and are therefore semi-official for my world.

Danny Granger (No. 6 at small forward, No. 27 overall): Not that long ago, Granger was a fantasy monster but as the team has improved around him his numbers have settled down a bit. They're still on a nice level (ESPN projects averages of 20.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists) and it's quite possible the addition of David West inside will actually create space for a bit of an upward climb. Small forward is a surprisingly thin position once you get beyond the big three so be wary of waiting too long.

David West (No. 19 at small forward, No. 58 overall): The strategy here is to talk up the knee surgery, how he may not play as much early in the season until he regains his conditioning, in order to devalue his draft status. And then ignore all of that noise when we snag him no later than the fourth round because when it's all said and done West will have his usual 18 points and nine rebounds and his assist number might climb a bit this year.

Roy Hibbert (No. 21 at center, No. 68 overall): My sizeable gut tells me Hibbert might just be undervalued among centers (ESPN has Serge Ibaka, Greg Monroe, Javale McGee and Marcin Gortat, among others, ahead of him) but there's also a little rumbling in there. It's either the combination of stale hot wings, shrimp and spinach dip from last night's dinner (hey, it's the holidays) or uncertainty about what to expect from The Big Fella. I suspect the Pacers will still try to run the offense through Hibbert, so he will get his touches. That means his projected numbers (13.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) are reasonable. Just be careful and don't try to look like a genius by over-drafting him. The better play is to try a late-round steal.

Darren Collison (No. 22 at point guard, No. 80 overall): This ranking really hit me because it implies Collison is in the lower third at his position. But it also illustrates how incredibly deep the league is with point guards these days. It's possible D.C.'s numbers will not climb because the presence of George Hill (and even Lance Stephenson) could keep his minutes down. It's important to remember, however, this is still a very young player on his way up on the league so it's reasonable to project a statistical climb.

George Hill (No. 30 at shooting guard, No. 33 at shooting guard, No. 116 overall): Multi-position players take on disproportionate importance -- or should -- in fantasy leagues, which enhances Hill's value. As long as you don't over-draft him, he's a guy that could prove extremely rewarding as a mid-to-late round choice because there's always the chance he winds up as the starter at either guard spot. Even if not, he's the sixth man and will play enough minutes to see an increase in his solid all-around productivity.

Paul George (No. 30 at small forward, No. 36 at shooting guard, No. 128 overall): Another guy whose versatility will be worthwhile, he could prove to be a major sleeper. He enters the season as the starter at shooting guard and has given every indication of being more assertive offensively. His preseason numbers (15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds) might be deceiving -- then again, they might not. They certainly aren't out of reach of a young player with so much talent.

Tyler Hansbrough (No. 42 at power forward, No. 133 overall): West's arrival will push him down most draft boards, as indicated by the ESPN rankings. Like Hill, however, Hansbrough is going to play close to starter's minutes and his numbers could actually benefit from his role as a go-to scorer on an otherwise offensively challenged second unit. Because of his cult-hero status, don't be surprised if some UNC alum in your league over-drafts him but if you're surrounded by Dukies, he could be yours to steal in the latter rounds.

The rest of the roster's draft prospects depend upon the size of your league. Stephenson is a possible sleeper, because it appears he's going to find his way into the rotation, and Dahntay Jones will at least open the year as a second-unit regular. Newcomers Jeff Pendergraph and Louis Amundson are winning basketball players but not fantasy stat-stuffers. Jeff Foster figures to be a mid-season pickup for owners looking for rebounding.

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