Fantasy Forecast: Monday, Oct. 22, 2012



For those of us who love basketball, fantasy basketball is a natural progression and a sport all of its own. We don’t bump, slap, foul or shoot the rock, but we do manage, waive, acquire, and trade to make our team the best in the league. We do this not for fame or fortune, but for bragging rights until the next NBA season comes around!

There are a few things you have to consider when drafting a fantasy basketball team.

1: Know your league’s scoring system. Is it a standard 8-category scoring format (FG percentage, FT percentage, 3PT, PTS, Blocks, Rebounds, Assists and Steals), or do you have an overzealous commissioner that throws in turnovers? You can punt one stat (just ignore it and accept losing in it), and focus on making it up with the others, but that is a risky move usually reserved for seasoned fantasy veterans who know how to look three steps ahead.

2: Know the value of a name versus the fantasy value of the player. Far too many GMs try and build a basketball card collection online, instead of taking emotion out and building the best possible team. I’m sorry, but guys like Lamar Odom and Elton Brand just aren’t as sexy to fantasy teams as they are to their NBA teams. All fantasy sports are derived from stats, so ability is a word better left for the scouts and a dictionary.

3: Know the depth of each position. Center is the thinnest of all fantasy basketball positions. Don’t go crazy and take Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard with a top 5 pick in any format; but, if you wait too long you might end up looking at a starting C DeAndre Jordan or Nene Hilario.

On the other hand, positions like SG and SF often overlap. You can hold off for a round because you have a guy that dual qualifies and there is a sleeper you think has more value sitting on the draft board.

4: Know the difference between a sleeper and a guy in a coma! You have to be very careful about listening to talk shows and pod casts because these guys often make wild and crazy predictions that rarely (if ever) pan out. Seriously, if he is a 4-year veteran and has not done well in 4 years, don’t look for him to suddenly figure it out in year 5! Or, if the guy was playing when YOU were a kid (Marcus Camby), let him be someone else’s headache. I am 33-years-old and need Ibuprofen after a gym workout; Camby is 38-years-old and has a long injury history.

5: Leagues are started with the draft, but often won or lost on the waiver wire. Every league has that one guy that adds and drops player at least 5 times per week, he is the get rich quick guy. Don’t be him. Rather, pay attention to the stats I show you each week, email/Facebook/Twitter me with questions or trade advice, and make decisions with emotions taken out of the equation.

If a player is underperforming, look at the waiver wire, see who is out there, and if the move makes sense, pull the trigger. Most leagues have a Can’t Cut List to protect rookie owners from themselves, but if ever there is a question, that is what I am here for.

Now that we have some ground rules set, let’s get to the top-10 at each position and I will throw a few sleepers and busts at you along the way. Hold on to your hats basketball fans, the ride is about to begin!

POINT GUARD

Russell Westbrook – PG Thunder: Westbrook doesn’t have to look over his shoulder at Derek Fisher anymore, and that is good news for fantasy owners. Westbrook is a high scoring PG that can throw up a triple-double on any given night. I do want to see the assists increase, and I don’t think 6.0 APG is out of reach this year.

Chris Paul – PG Clippers: CP3 is an obvious top 10 fantasy pick with a supporting cast of Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan. The one drawback to Paul is his knee and thumb problems. You could swap Westbrook and Paul in any scoring format and not be wrong with either pick.

Deron Williams – PG Nets: D-Willy saw his assists dip from 10.3 in 2010 to 8.7 in 2011. But, the new-look Nets should allow him to punch those numbers back up to the 10-11 range all season long. They added Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, re-signed Kris Humphries, and Brooks Lopez looks to finally be healthy. If you miss out on the top two PGs, look at Williams or Kyrie Irving next.

Kyrie Irving – PG Cavaliers: I’ve seen a lot of big-box websites with Irving ranked at No. 3, but I have an issue that knocks him down a spot for me. He is BY FAR the best player on the Cavaliers team. A PG is a floor general; he distributes the ball and runs the offense. If you are looking around and see Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao as you option to score, chances are you will force up some bad shots and turn the ball over. That being said, Irving is going to be a stud for years to come and will be well worth a pick at the top of round 2.

Rajon Rondo – PF Celtics: Rondo is a stud, but the Celtics didn’t get any younger and center is still a big concern heading into the season. The big negatives for Rondo are his low scoring totals, lack of 3-pointers and horrific free-throw shooting at the PG position. The bright spot is that he could lead the league in scoring while getting you a few steals per night, so he is clearly worth taking as your starting PG.

Ty Lawson – PG Nuggets: The Nuggets added Andre Iguodala in the off-season, which will only help Lawson as they should be a running team in 2012. I see him getting you about 17 points, 7 assists and a steal or two a night this season. You could do much worse than Lawson on draft day.

Goran Dragic – PG Suns: Dragic burst onto the scene last year and became waiver wire gold to many fantasy owners with his 11.7 points, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals a night. The good news is that Goric takes over a team that used to be run by Steve Nash, so they won’t have to learn how to handle an offense under a good PG. He should bump his already impressive fantasy stats up this season, and have no problems taking him as a PG1.

Stephen Curry – PG Warriors: Curry is in a contract year, so he knows he has to be on his A game this year to get that Monopoly money this off-season. When healthy, Curry can put up big fantasy numbers (14.7 points, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.1 3PT per-game last year), but therein lies the problem, WHEN healthy. His ankles are made of spaghetti noodles and he can’t seem to keep them out of the preverbal injury water. Since this is a contract year, I expect him to play through the pain and hit the 75-game mark for fantasy owners.

Steve Nash – PG Lakers: Anyone who plays on the Lakers is always taken a round or two too high, and Nash is going to be no different. The reality is that his points are going to take a dip, but everything else should remain right in line with what we saw from him in 2011. I wouldn’t spend more than a late 3rd or early 4th round pick on him, but you are likely going to have to blow an early 3rd on him if you want the HOF PG.

Brandon Jennings – PG Bucks: Once you see Nash and Curry go, it is panic time for a starting PG. Jennings is better known for his scoring prowess than his ability to distribute the ball, so you may need to get another PG who is nothing but assists (Raymond Felton) if you take Jennings. He should get you about 5.7 assists-per-game, but the 20 points, 2-3PT’s and 1-2 steals a night is where his value lies.

SHOOTING GUARD

Kobe Bryant – SG Lakers: SG is a lot like PG, you can switch the top 2 picks and not really be wrong. I have Kobe in my top slot because he is finally playing with a great PG for the first time in his career, and the addition of Dwight Howard next to Pau Gasol is going to force teams to cover him 1-on-1 more often. Remember, the man is still 34-years-old, so there is no way I take him in the 1st round of any draft, in any standard format.

Dwayne Wade – SG Heat: Playing alongside LeBron James instantly makes anyone better than they already are, and D-Wade was already very good! His problem has been injuries (missed 73 games over the past six seasons), and that is why the Heat brought in Ray Allen to give him a breather. Someone always takes him in the 1st round; but, if he falls into round 2 for you, snatch him up.

Monte Ellis – SG Bucks: Ellis teams up with Jennings to form a dangerous backcourt for the Bucks. If you consider that there is a lot of talk around the league about him becoming a FA at season’s end, there is plenty of incentive for Ellis to try and get back to his top-3 status at SG. He has no competition for minutes at SG, and the 2012 Bucks are almost a carbon copy of the 2011 version.

Andre Iguodala – SG Nuggets: Iggy goes from a 76ers teams that was near the bottom of the league in possessions-per-game (28th), to a run-and-gun team that ranked No. 2 last year in the Nuggets. He is one heck of an athlete and that will help him in their fast paced style of offense. I think a 15/5/6/1 line (points/assists/rebounds/steals) is what we can expect from him most nights and have no problems taking him in the back-end of round 3.

James Harden – SG Thunder: What makes Harden such a great value pick is that he will be coming off the bench for the Thunder, so novice fantasy players will tend to ignore him until the middle rounds. Don’t let his sixth-man role fool you, Harden is in beast mode for fantasy teams and should be taken at the top of round 4. Remember, he is just 23-years-old and is still getting better!

Joe Johnson – SG Nets: The Nets changed their whole team it seems, and Johnson is one of the members of the new cast. The great thing with him is that he won’t hurt you in any one category, which is what will make him a safe pick at SG in the 4th round.

Klay Thompson – SG Warriors: Warriors coach Mark Jackson is Thompson’s biggest supporter, so the minutes are his to lose. The drawback to Thompson for me is that he gives you points, but doesn’t really help you anywhere else. You could see an increase in scoring to around 15-17 points a night, but you will need to make sure you get other guys to make up for the rebounds and assists you will miss out on.

O.J. Mayo – SG Mavericks: The move from the Grizzlies to the Mavericks takes Mayo from a rollercoaster role with the Grizzlies to a starting role with the Mavericks. The move should allow Mayo to see 32-plus minutes a night while scoring 17 points a night. If you don’t take a SG here, the decline in talent is steep from here.

Marcus Thornton – SG Kings: Thornton has the ability score nearly 20 points a night, but he too offers little else in the way of stats. Thornton is going to lose touches to PG Isaiah Thomas, and Tyreke Evans is still hovering around, but Thomas is still figuring out the NBA and Evans is clearly not the same Rookie of the Year we saw back in 2009.

Paul George – SG Pacers: I will admit I expected more consistency from George last year, but he did show improvement and that is a good thing. This year I expect more of the same with an increase up to about 14-15 points a night with 5-6 rebounds, 1-2 steals and a 3-pointer or two mixed in. SG’s typically go off the board fast, so target him in the 4th round, but don’t be afraid to grab him after Mayo or Thompson go.

SMALL FORWARD

Kevin Durant – SF Thunder: Durant is easily my No. 1 overall pick for just about any scoring format. Durant is going to be right up there with the league leaders in scoring, and he will contribute across the board in other stats, so taking him No. 1 or No. 2 is a lock.

Lebron James – SF Heat: James or Durant, who do you take 1st overall? You can’t go wrong with either pick, and neither player has any holes in their games to hurt you with. The reason I take Durant over James is because James is likely to see more rest as the NBA season closes out (historically speaking), and that means he will see fewer minutes when your fantasy playoffs roll around. Not to mention he may enter the season a little tired after his Olympic performance this off-season.

Carmelo Anthony – SF Knicks: As much as I hated making this pick, I have to slot Melo in the No. 2 spot this year. The Knicks brought in Jason Kidd, and is motivated to secure the starting SG spot this year. Anthony is a black-hole when he gets the ball (it comes in, but doesn’t come back out), but he does score 20-plus points a night to go with 6 assists and a steal. The FG percentage could be better (43.0 last season), but sometimes you have to give a little to get a little in fantasy sports.

Rudy Gay – Memphis Grizzlies: Gay is someone that goes overlooked as a top-3 fantasy SF because he isn’t flashy and won’t make many highlight reels. But, Gay gives you about 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1-2 steals and a block most nights. In terms of overall performance, Gay is an extremely complete fantasy basketball player, and should be the 3rd SF off the board in your draft.

Paul Pierce – SF Celtics: Pierce is getting older, but the Celtics brought in new-used talent to help with the loss of Ray Allen. Pierce has been as healthy as one can be while playing professional sports, and his basketball I.Q. is as high as anyone in the NBA. He gives you 19-20 points a night, along with 4 assists, 5 rebounds a few 3’s.

Danny Granger – SF Pacers: Granger does a little bit of everything for fantasy owners, but he comes in at No. 5 because his shot selection really needs some work. The good news is that he isn’t jacking up 7-3’s a night anymore, but his FG percentage still hovers around the 42 percent range. His 20 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal and 2-3’s a night are great stats for the 3rd round.

Nicolas Batum – SF Trail Blazers: Batum tried to leave Portland and head to Minnesota, but the team matched his offer sheet. You would have to assume that the team is committed to him now that they have given him his payday right? If he can get up to the 35 minute mark nightly, we may finally see the breakout season we’ve been waiting so long for. 15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block are realistic numbers from him most nights this year.

Gerald Wallace – SF Nets: Wallace looks like the starting SF, with MarShon Brooks and Josh Childress coming off the bench. The problem with the Nets this year is not the talent level on the floor; rather, it will be if there are enough shots to go around with all the shooters the team has now (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Wallace, Brooks, Brooks Lopez, Kris Humphries, etc.). If he could get a few more assists (2.8 APG last year), he could jump up a spot in the rankings.

Luol Deng – SF Bulls: This is where the talent level at SF really drops off. Derrick Rose is going to miss most, if not all, of this season, which means Deng will run the floor with Kirk Hinrich at the helm. That means you can expect him to score more, but his FG percentage to be in the 42-43 percent range. There is plenty of risk here as the Bulls will struggle without Rose in the line-up.

Andrei Kirilenko – SF Timberwolves: AK comes back to the NBA locked and loaded after a good run in Europe and the Olympics. Kirilenko can shoot the 3-pointer and score from inside the arc, as well as get you some steals, blocks and rebounds. Because of his injury history (missed 57 games since 2009), he should be a nice sleeper in the middle rounds of your draft.

POWER FORWARD

LaMarcus Aldridge – PF Trail Blazers: Aldridge will get you 21 points, 8 rebounds and a block, while shooting 50 percent from the field. With no real holes in his fantasy game, and nobody to challenge him for minutes at PF, I see him going off the board in round 2.

Josh Smith – PF Hawks: Smith will score 20 points, grab 9 rebounds and dish out 4 assists, but his FT percentage is what kills you (63.0 percent last year). As a PF, I would like to see him stay around the basketball more and do less shooting via the fade away. But, in the end, Smith does exactly what I need him to do at PF and is worthy of a 2nd round pick.

Pau Gasol – PF Lakers: The Lakers are reloaded with the additions of Nash and Dwight Howard, so there is plenty of motivation for him all season long. The only real problem I see for Gasol is his rebounding and blocks taking a dip with Superman clogging up the middle. The good news though is that Gasol doesn’t hurt you anywhere, and will be a fine staple for any fantasy team. You can bet on someone taking him in Round 1, but I wouldn’t target him until round 2 of my draft.

Dirk Nowitzki – PF Mavericks: I remember when Nowitzki was the No. 1 PF off the board, my how times have changed. At 34-years-old, and the addition of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman, you can be sure to see a dip in his minutes this season. Nowitzki will still get you 21 points, 7 rebounds and a 3-pointer of two a night, but he doesn’t help in blocks or steals. I’d look to grab him in the late 2nd round or early 3rd round.

Kevin Love – PF Timberwolves: Mr. Double-Double steps right back into his No. 1 ranking at PF again this season. Because he will score about 25 points a night, to go along with 13-14 rebounds and a few 3-pointers, you could see Love go as high as the No. 3 pick in most formats.

The broken hand knocks Love from No. 1 to No. 5 in draft rankings because he will miss a month or two.

David Lee – PF Warriors: Lee is finally going to be healthy and there are not many guys left that can get you 20 points and 10 rebounds most nights. Yes, his FT shooting is low (77.8 percent), and he doesn’t block a shot unless it accidentally hits his hand (0.4 BPG last year), but I am looking for points and rebounds in my PF, not blocks and FT percentage.

Blake Griffin – PF Clippers: Griffin is a human highlight reel, but his fantasy holes are a lack of blocks (0.7 BPG) and FT shooting (52.1 percent). The good news is that he will put up 21 points and grab 11 boards, so he is a fine pick as long as you understand you have to compensate in other areas for his shortcomings. Because of his name, someone is going to overpay and take him in the late 1st or early 2nd round, and I would just let them have him at that price.

Kris Humphries – PF Nets: Humpty Hump finally looks to be over his off-season drama that headed up TMZ’s front page for what seemed like months. He is fully capable of scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds a night, but the Nets aren’t the same team they were when he had all the chances in the world to succeed due to lack of surrounding talent. I still think he is a great value pick, but be aware and beware of the bust potential here with all his personal drama.

Zach Randolph – PF Grizzlies: Randolph is healthy and one of the more consistent players in the NBA. You know Z-Bo is going to give you about 20 points and 10 rebounds a night, but he is not going to get more than an occasional block or steal for you. All said, Randolph is underrated from a fantasy perspective and you shouldn’t let him slide further than the 5th round.

Paul Millsap – PF Jazz: Millsap could be coming off the bench this season behind Derrick Favors, which means his numbers are likely to take a dip. That being said, he should still get you 14 points, 8 rebounds, a block and a steal each night. Make sure you remember that Favors is there and he is going to eat into Millsap’s stats before you draft him.

CENTER

Andrew Bynum – C 76ers: Bynum moved from the west coast to the east coast to play in Philadelphia. The two main concerns with Bynum are his knee and his attitude. But, if he can get both of them right, he should be able to finish the season with an average of 21 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks a night.

Dwight Howard – C Lakers: What keeps Howard out of the No. 1 spot for me is his worrisome back and atrocious FT shooting (49.1 percent last season). What he does well is rebounding (14.5 RPG) and blocks (2.1 BPG), while scoring enough points (20.6 PPG) to keep owners happy. I do see his points dipping with Kobe, Nash and Gasol in the mix for shots, and health is a MAJOR concern for Howard.

Al Jefferson – C Jazz: As with Millsap, Favors’ presence is going to eat into his stats a little bit, but not enough to knock him down the fantasy rankings. Jefferson is best at scoring, rebounding and blocking shots, all things I want in my center. I see him getting about 19 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks most nights, and is well worth being your No. 1 center. DeMarcus Cousins – C Kings: Cousins comes with plenty of risk off the court, but is a rock on the floor as he missed just two games last season. If he can keep his head down in the real world, and put in the mental work in the NBA world, I see no reason why he can get you 19 points, 11 rebounds and a block and steal each night.

Marc Gasol – C Grizzlies: Gasol is coming off a strong Olympic performance where he won a silver medal for Spain. He has missed just two games over the past two seasons, and would be a steal if you can get him in the 3rd round. 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks are within reach for Gasol this season.

Roy Hibbert – C Pacers: Hibbert is one of the tallest men in the NBA (7-foot-2), so rebounds (8.8 RPG) and blocks (2.0 BPG) come naturally for him. His problem is consistent scoring (12.8 PPG) and fouls (No. 7 in NBA last year with 195). He plays defense with his hands and doesn’t move his feet enough, and that causes him to sit on the bench more than we would like. That being said, Hibbert is still unchallenged for minutes in the middle and should be able to put up 13 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks most nights.

Greg Monroe – C Pistons: Monroe is a rock for the Pistons, missing just two games in his NBA career. His 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds last year were great value for those who took him, but the 0.7 blocks were a disappointment. I think he mirrors his 2011-12 stats, so make sure you get blocks from somewhere else (Serge Ibaka).

Marcin Gortat – C Suns: Gortat is going to see a lot of new faces around him in Phoenix (Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson and Luis Scola), but I don’t see any reason why his stats should change from last season. He should get you 15-16 points, 10 rebounds and 1-2 blocks a night, and someone I would have no problems sticking in my starting center slot.

JaVale McGee – C Nuggets: What keeps McGee back has got to be whatever is going on in his head. He makes some of the most boneheaded plays I’ve ever seen in NBA history, but is also extremely talented as testament to his 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per-game last season. His FT shooting is as bad as anyone in the NBA (46.1 percent last year), so understand you have to make that up somewhere else if taking McGee.

Brook Lopez – C Nets: Lopez will not have to worry about being traded anymore, so his mental health should be as good as his physical health this season. The thing that really keeps Lopez from being higher on draft boards is his lack of rebounding (6.0 RPG in 2010, down from 8.6 in 2009). If he can bring that number up to his career average of 7.7, and score 18 points and block a shot every night, Lopez will be a solid center to own. But, that is IF he can do it.

There you have it fantasy basketball nuts; your 2012-13 fantasy basketball top 10 rankings are complete! After 8 pages and 4,500-plus words you are ready to hit your draft with all the knowledge you need to survive the most anticipated day of the pre-season for many of us. Remember that there is a difference between a sleeper and a guy who is in a coma, and 2nd place is just the first loser!


For more fantasy basketball advice throughout the season, follow James Morris on Twitter or contact him at nolimitallstars1@hotmail.com. For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.