Monday, October 21, 2013

Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 Undevalued and Overrated

Dirk's Revenge
In which I try to regift my prep work from my draft into useful nuggets of goodness. As always, take with a shaker of salt.

Top 10 Undervalued

1) Dirk Nowitzki
. This year has got a lot of Forgot About Dirk about it, as he's been all kinds of solid with the poor health fading in the distance, and has had all kinds of rest with the lack of playoffs in 2012-13. He's also going to love having Jose Calderon feed him, and after watching Dwight Howard play Mark Cuban like a rube, knows that any good free agent help is going to have to see him back at full effectiveness to avoid a late career of meh. And from a fantasy standpoint, you have to love a high percentage guy at PF/C, with threes, and high minutes. Look for a Tim Duncan-ish bounce back to All-NBA levels of production.

2) Kyrie Irving. This is the year he stays healthy, because this is the year where Cleveland goes to the playoffs. Coincidence? Anthony Bennett in the mix in the front court means one more pair of legs running with him, and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt also means that he's got a more effective running mate than coltish Dion Waiters. The only way this fails is if Andrew Bynum actually comes back and starts dominating the ball in a slow down game, but betting against Bynum would have made you a lot of money for a while now. This is your starter in the East at PG, and the trigger man for the conference's breakout team.

3) Andre Iguodala. In pre-season, has looked like a perfect fit in the Dub attack. While the offense is never getting back to the high teens level in scoring -- he's simply not good enough from the free throw line anymore, and it looks like it's a permanent yips problem to me -- the defense is going to be nice. Going from Denver to Golden State might be the only possible way to increase your tempo, too. He'll be on a lot of winning fantasy teams, where he'll give them another point guard, but with board and FG percentage.

4) Larry Sanders. Last year's breakout defensive stud still has some edges to his game and room to grow, but all of that is going to happen. He'll hurt you at the free throw line, but not terribly, since he doesn't get there very often. Also, he's not going to get whistled for as many ticky-tack fouls as last year, nor come off the floor for the now-departed Samuel Dalembert. With minutes comes growth, and Milwaukee knows they need him to get past the 8th seed and stuffed treadmill.

5) Thaddeus Young. Someone's got to score for the tanking Sixers, and Thad's going to have any number of opportunities at the rim from misses, and more happily, passes from point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Any close game, he's not coming out, and he's too good of a soldier to not try, or get dealt. The Sixers are going to be a secret little treasure trove of fantasy goodness from trying to get more tempo in their games this year, and from not having anything close to a professional bench. Oh, and they're all going to hustle and sell out on defense, because the new regime isn't going to give minutes to anyone who isn't trying. (Lavoy Allen, report to Wilmington...)

6) Derrick Favors. Unlike fellow frontcourt mate Enes Kanter or the hyped Gordon Hayward, Favors has actual game and hops, and won't get exposed on defense with more minutes. My only worry here is foul trouble, and his game is pretty heady for a young guy. Potential for very strong defense and board numbers here, and it's not as if the Jazz have anyone else to take minutes off him. Expect a ton of athletic minutes in a featured role. That way lies profit.

7) Ricky Rubio. A bit of a feel play here, as the percentages are still cover your eyes awful from time to time, and I get the feeling that he's always going to be more fun to watch than to own. But the plain and simple of the Wolves is that Kevin Love isn't going to have a waste year again, they've got better management now, and more of those Woo! passes are going to get converted. Also, he's just going to get more minutes, since he'll be further past the injuries, and the Wolves are highly interested in ending that playoff drought.

8) DeMarcus Cousins. Every year in the NBA, a guy who was formerly known more for being a head case turns it around and becomes the star that everyone was hoping for. This year, that's Boogie Cousins, who will benefit from the settling impact of the Maloof Goofs not being involved in the Kings any more, along with a far more competitive backcourt situation of guys that will get him the rock and not brick a billion balls. It also doesn't hurt that one-trick charging pony Tyreke Evans is gone, actual point guard Greivis Vasquez is here, and Ben McLemore will keep Jimmer Fredette from getting on the floor. Things are looking up for the Kings.

9) Eric Bledsoe. Looking for an under the radar fun club to fill up your late night NBA League Pass nights? Look no further than Phoenix, where Bledsoe combines with Goran Dragic to form a wildly fun backcourt of speed and craft, where the littles penetrate and the bigs make threes. (Speaking of such things, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris are going to be good candidates for deep leagues.) Bledsoe is going to give you one of those 15/5/5 lines with defense and threes that's the backbone of championship teams, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he breaks out puts more than a few monster games on the board. Phoenix is also going to be one of those perfect fantasy teams -- speed, no defense, no bench -- that you're going to want to get a part of, both for and against. Dig in.

10) Victor Oladipo. My pick for Rookie of the Year, not because he's the best player, but because he's in the best situation. Oladipo has insane athleticism for a point guard, mostly because he isn't one, but the Magic are going to want to try to force him into that role to get the aging and smurfy Jameer Nelson off the floor. Which means more minutes and the ball in his hands, and a host of opponents that he can muscle into defensive goodness. On the offensive end of the court, he'll have Nicola Vucevic to pad his assist totals, Arron Afflalo back to make some threes, Tobias Harris to run with, and a rebuilding team bench to make sure that he stays on the floor too often. Counting stats abound.

Top 10 Overvalued

1) Deron Williams.
Every year, people overpay for the Net guard in the hope that with more talent around him, everything is going to snap back to the good times, when he was a top-tier option. Hell, I did last year, too. But the plain and simple is that he's never getting back to full health, point guard is a terrible place to be limited athletically, and noobs Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are going to dominate the ball in half court and slow the game down. When your best option to get out in the open court and run is 33-year-old Andrei Kirilenko, you are not going to rack up big-time assist numbers.

2) Josh Smith. Do you want to buy in to the glorified hustle forward who just cashed in on a huge free agent contract to go to a new team that expects instant playoff goodness despite mismatched talent and weak backcourt play? Me neither. I look for No J Smoove to lapse back into bad habits of thinking he can shoot 3s, then alternate between trying too much and not trying enough as not a point guard Brandon Jennings jacks up more ill-advised shots. Unless you are in his posse and enjoying that new contract, stay away.

3) Dwyane Wade. Let's say, for fun, that he's healthy, even though he isn't. Let's also say that the Heat aren't going to explore bench options while winning their usual 60 to 65 games, and that they won't be primarily locked down into making sure that everyone is healthy for the Threepeat Assault. And finally, let's say that point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole won't take more of a role this year, or that they won't give burn to Michael Beasley in an attempt to get some value out of that troubled asset. Roll that all together, and what do you get? A multi-cat shooting guard who will shoot over 50% from the floor, and give you 21/5/5 with great defense numbers... for about 60 to 65 games, with increasing shakiness from the FT line, and next to no threes. Which means you'll have to make up those bombs from somewhere else. Oh, and if you play in head to head leagues with an April championship on the line, enjoy him sitting out on the bench to make sure he's rested for the playoffs. When your best case scenario is a massive roster complication that's not good enough to win with, you don't want to see what the worst does to you. Let someone else make this mistake, unless he's still out there after the first 50 picks come off the board. Or maybe 60.

4) Dwight Howard. I know what you are saying; it's a bounce-back year. Even last year, the worst in his professional career, he gave you a ton of boards, blocks, scoring and FG%. You don't have to like him; hell, no one does, and this is a fake squad. All of which is fine, if you someone can manage the tire fire FT%, don't believe that the moodiness or injuries will return, or aren't concerned that he doesn't really fit in with the rest of the run and fun Rockets now that he's older. I can see going for Howard if he's giving you 25 points, 14 boards, 1.5 steals and 3.0 blocks a game... but he's not. It's more like 18/12/1/2.5, and there are any number of guys with lesser names that will get you close to that without murdering you at the line. There's a reason why this guy doesn't show up on championship rosters, both in real life and fake.

5) Russell Westbrook. If you are in a keeper league and can get him for low money due to the injury, that's awesome. You will be a monster in 2014. But for redraft leagues or if your league mates are still in love with his talent, this season isn't going to be profitable. Assuming that the comeback is fast and trouble-free -- never a good assumption to make, and one that fantasy guys do all the time -- he's still going to see fewer minutes in the future, because OKC is going to be paranoid about making sure he's right for the playoffs. Also, back-up Reggie Jackson is actually good and will give them more time and cushion, and the club is also going to want to see about other bench options. The Thunder won a ton of regular season games; they are going to care more about playoff wins now. That doesn't mean 40 minutes a game for Russell any more.

6) Eric Gordon. Is anyone still convinced that he's going to be special, or that the Clippers didn't win that Chris Paul trade hands over fists? I was never really in love with his game -- too empty calories for me -- and that was before injuries robbed him of any margin for error. Now that the Pelicans have shiny new toys in Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday in town, along with a very strong need to make the playoffs and avoid having that draft night trade with Philly blow up in their faces, they are going to be far less patient with shoot your way out of it efforts. Let someone else take the new Allen Houston.

7) JR Smith. Do you want the career knucklehead in Manhattan in the post-paid year, with calming influence Jason Kidd long gone? I certainly don't, and even in his good soldier mode, he's a black hole on assists and prone to stinkburger nights that kill you in head to head. On a club where Amar'e Stoudemire isn't going to take looming obsolescence lying down, Ray Felton isn't getting any younger, and the whole franchise is about to enter Free Agent Melo Drama... danger, Will Robinson. Oh, and you've also got those games against the Nets for possible fights and suspensions. Let someone else buy into this circus.

8) Zach Randolph. Do you know that Zebo is secretly old, and has been in the NBA since the Jail Blazers were a thing? Also, that Memphis just ran the only coach that had actual results, has a stable of other bigs who aren't limited to below the rim old man craftiness, and that he's horrible on defensive counting numbers? It was a great late career story while it lasted, but Randolph is going to become a role player pretty soon, and it should happen on someone else's roster.

9) David West. Is this any way to treat a free agent that takes a hometown discount? West resigned with the Pacers to fill out his post-peak years, only to see them bring in Luis Scola from Phoenix -- in other words, a vet who is incredibly similar to him -- as well as the return of small forward and former big man on campus Danny Granger. There's no way that he sees the minutes and touches that he did when he was a sneaky good source of points, boards and defense while not hurting you at the line. What might be good for the real team isn't good for your fake one. Unless you are in a deep league, West is no better than free agent fodder now.

10) Jeremy Lin. Everyone's favorite novelty act vagabond point guard is sure to benefit from Dwight Howard coming to town, right? Well, sure... if the Rockets slow it down and he can play a pick and roll game with him, and have the center erase his gambling mistakes and inability to stop speed guards on the perimeter. But I think the Rockets limit Howard's minutes for all kinds of reasons, then remember how much more dynamic they were with beasty back-up Patrick Beverly in there. Or to just let James Harden go alpha dog and dominate the ball, and bring in someone else with more D and 3 potential than Lin. When your top end is 12/3/6, and point guards are plentiful, Linsanity is an easy mental problem to dodge.

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