A brand new NBA season is about to commence, tipping off Tuesday, October 29th, with three games to whet your appetite. This of course means that we have until then to bone up on all the players that will fill our fantasy basketball rosters. Whether you’ve already drafted, have yet to draft or are simply scouting for daily fantasy games, fantasy sports enthusiasts everywhere know there is never too much information you can soak up.
This is a six-part series that will cover the NBA’s six divisions for the next six days, leading all the way up to the start of the season. It will be a brief breakdown of the key elements and fantasy expectations for all 30 teams and their players, starting this Wednesday and ending next Monday, giving you adequate time to stock your fridge full of beer for Opening Night.
SOUTHEAST DIVISION PREVIEW
(In alphabetical order)
We have Horford ranked 17th overall, so it’d be wise to Al-locate a draft pick for him
2012-13 Record: 44-38 (finished 2nd in division; lost in 1st round of playoffs)
Projected Starting Five: Jeff Teague (PG), Kyle Korver (SG), DeMarre Carroll (SF), Paul Millsap (PF), Al Horford (C)
Fantasy Stud: Al Horford
Fantasy Dud: Lou Williams
Breakout Player: Jeff Teague
Sleeper Pick: Dennis Schröder
The Hawks are not a team that wows you. They’ve been a model of consistency, for sure, and their win totals are proof of that (44, 40, 44, 53 and 47 wins over the past five years), but they’ve also never made it past the conference semifinals in any of those seasons. Gone is the dynamic Josh Smith, and in his place is former Utah Jazz(-man, -er, -erciser?) Paul Millsap, who will be happy to be out of that clogged frontcourt in Salt Lake. Without Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter siphoning his minutes away, he’ll be fine pairing up with Al Horford. Horford himself (17.4 PTS, 10.2 REB, 1.1 STL, 1.1 BLK), should enjoy having bricklayer Josh Smith out of the picture, and Jeff Teague won’t complain either. This may be the year Teague takes the next step in his blossoming career. He may have wanted to go to Milwaukee, but apparently Atlanta wanted him more, because they matched the Bucks’ 4-year, $32 million offer sheet. Each year in his career the Hawks’ point guard has increased his numbers, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top the 14.6 point and 7.2 assists-per-game he tallied last season. Kyle Korver (4th in the NBA in three-pointers made) can shoot the lights out and backup point guard, rookie Dennis Schröder, has some some serious ball handling skills. Both, along with backup big man Elton Brand, have potential in the late rounds of fantasy drafts.
2012-13 Record: 21-61 (finished 4th in division)
Projected Starting Five: Kemba Walker (PG), Gerald Henderson (SG), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF), Cody Zeller (PF), Al Jefferson (C)
Fantasy Stud: Al Jefferson
Fantasy Dud: Ben Gordon
Breakout Player: Kemba Walker
Sleeper Pick: Josh McRoberts
For years the Bobcats have been bottom dwellers in the NBA — and that trend will continue this year. They are getting a little better, I’ll grant them that, but they’re still a couple years away from having playoff potential. That quest started in the right direction when they completed what could possibly their biggest free agent signing ever, luring in Al Jefferson with a 3-year, $41 million deal. Big Al will be a huge fantasy commodity (he’s 11th in our rankings) while playing in Charlotte, and a 20-and-10 average should be quite attainable for the 6’10″ center. The ‘Cats are also getting productive young talent through the draft. Kemba Walker is poised to breakout this year after truly coming into his own last season. He’ll need to work on his shot (42.3 FG%/32.2 3PT%), but having a legit big man will help things a lot, and fantasy owners can’t complain too much about his 5.7 assists and 2.0 steals-per-contest.
Will the Heat three-peat?
2012-13 Record: 66-16 (finished 1st in division; won NBA Championship)
Projected Starting Five: Mario Chalmers (PG), Dwyane Wade (SG), LeBron James (SF), Udonis Haslem (PF), Chris Bosh (C)
Fantasy Stud: LeBron James
Fantasy Dud: Michael Beasley
Breakout Player: Norris Cole
Sleeper Pick: Greg Oden
If you want to see LeBron James play in Miami, this may be the last year. There’s a good chance he’ll pick up his option and remain in South Beach, but he will be able to test the market this summer. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are in the same boat, but until then, their sole mission will be to win a third-straight NBA Championship. The superlatives are endless for LeBron, he’s the #1 or #2 pick in fantasy drafts, but there are questions surrounding Wade and Bosh. Not to say that they aren’t great fantasy players, but Wade’s getting older and his knees aren’t getting any younger. He produced a new career-high in field-goal percentage (52.1%) and averaged his most steals (1.9) since he swiped 2.2 in 2008, but he also missed 13 games, and could stand to miss even more this year if he needs the rest. Bosh is a great player, but his fantasy allure shouldn’t be as high as it is. He’s no longer the 20-and-10 guy he was in Toronto, and as the third option in Miami his counting stats have declined in three-consecutive years, averaging only 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds last year. Norris Cole is an intriguing option if you’re looking for help on the waiver wire. Starting PG Mario Chalmers is in the final year of his contract and will most likely not be re-signed, so it makes sense for Coach Spoelstra to see what he has in Cole. Greg Oden is closer to being a charity case than he is to being a star, but if he can return to even being a shred of his pre-injury form, there are worse options on the waiver wire.
To the Victor go the spoils
2012-13 Record: 20-62 (finished last in division)
Projected Starting Five: Jameer Nelson (PG), Arron Afflalo (SG), Moe Harkless (SF), Tobias Harris (PF), Nikola Vucevic (C)
Fantasy Stud: Nikola Vucevic
Fantasy Dud: Arron Afflalo
Breakout Player: Tobias Harris
Sleeper Pick: Victor Oladipo
Last year was not pretty for the Magic, and although they finished with the NBA’s worst record, things are starting to look up. They took guard Victor Oladipo with the 2nd pick in the draft and he didn’t waste a minute making them look like geniuses. The former Indiana Hoosier has averaged 14.4 points, while playing 27 minutes-per-game during the preseason. Right now he’s the Magic’s shooting guard, but he’ll eventually take over the much more valuable point guard spot with Jameer Nelson almost guaranteed to be traded. Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic, who are 21 and 23-years-old, respectively, are also key parts of the youth movement in Orlando. Both were basically handed to the Magic on a platter last year, with Harris coming over from Milwaukee in the J.J. Redick deal, and Vucevic flying south from Philly in the blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to L.A. After only 1 1/2 seasons in Milwaukee, the Bucks inexplicably gave up on Harris and his 4.9 point scoring average, but once in Orlando he turned it around big time, posting a line of 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.4 blocks and one three-pointer in 27 games. He is one of the few fantasy players who can put up a complete stat line like that on a nightly basis and he’s available in the 6th round of most drafts. Vucevic is quickly becoming one of the best fantasy centers in the league. In his first full season he averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds, and his 46 double-doubles were good for 3rd in the NBA. Averaging only 1.0 block-per-game is frustrating, but if he can improve that by even the slightest margin, you’ve got yourself fantasy gold. Moe Harkless (13.1 PTS, 4.9 REB, 1.7 STL in March/April) is another player to consider when searching for a sleeper towards the end of your draft.
Fantasy owners can expect some un-Beal-ievable stats from Bradley this season
2012-13 Record: 29-53 (finished 3rd in division)
Projected Starting Five: John Wall (PG), Bradley Beal (SG), Trevor Ariza (SF), Trevor Booker (PF), Nenê (C)
Fantasy Stud: John Wall
Fantasy Dud: Otto Porter
Breakout Player: Bradley Beal
Sleeper Pick: Kevin Seraphin
It might come as a surprise, but the Wizards have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs this year, and it’s because of the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall is healthy and coming off an outstanding finish to last season, having averaged 23.0 points, 7.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals during the months of March and April. Though I have him ranked 13th right now, he’s making a strong case for being a 1st-round pick in 12-team leagues, depending on your needs. Beal, the excellent shooting guard from Florida, was off to a tremendous rookie year before a slew of injuries cut his season short. Smartly, he opted for surgery earlier in the year, so he’s fully recovered and ready to rock, as his 21-point average during the preseason would suggest. The Wizards employ a number of category specialists that could come in handy for your fantasy team. Martell Webster (12th in 3-point %) drains from behind the arc and Trevor Ariza can hit threes (1.4 per game) as well as rack up steals (1.3 per game). Good old Al Harrington (remember him?) is also in the mix, and has chance to flash his three-point-shooting prowess (1.8 per game from 2006-11) while possibly playing big minutes for an injury-prone frontcourt.
By Seth Klein (@SethDaSportsMan)
Seth is a writer for FantasyTrade411.com, specializing in fantasy baseball, basketball and football. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, but has been a die-hard New York Giants, Knicks and Yankees fan since birth. He has been playing fantasy sports since 1997 and has since developed a real knack for daily streaming and “working the wire”, which can be attributed to his keen analysis of in-season trends. He is also a writer for BucketsOverBroadway.com, a New York Knicks website, and you can find his “expert” fantasy basketball rankings on FantasyPros.com. If print is not your thing, let his angelic voice soothe you on @ThaSPORTSKRIB, a weekly podcast dedicated to sports. Seth attended the University of Arizona, where he majored in “tardiness”, and is now a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. Feel free to send all your fantasy sports questions to Seth on Twitter: @SethDaSportsMan