STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Nellieball is over. But will the Warriors still remain the same?
Longtime Warriors coach Don Nelson has finally retired, leaving scores of fantasy owners scrambling to find a replacement for his high-octane system that made stars out of middling players and ignored defense in all forms. Keith Smart now takes the reigns in Golden State, and by all accounts, looks to instill some sense of stability in what has long been a chaotic Warriors system.
Smart, however, may not have the pieces in place this year to make much of a dent in the losing ways of recent Golden State teams. Last year’s Warriors lacked defense and rebounding, ranking last in the league in both points and rebounds allowed. The acquisition of David Lee certainly helps the team on the boards, but Lee’s glaring weaknesses on defense make him just another Warrior who is all offense and no defense. He joins scoring guard Monta Ellis and last year’s top fantasy rookie Stephen Curry to form the Warriors’ core. All three are potential top-25 fantasy picks. Past those three however, there is little help, as no other Warrior ranks in the top 100 of any fantasy preseason rankings. This year’s Warriors are more top-heavy than Joan Holloway, and should continue to lose as a result.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
While filling in for Nelson last season, Smart showed a tendency to give starters heavy minutes, including one game in which he played three starters all 48 minutes. Given the reins this year, Smart may not make his stars play the full 48, but Curry, Ellis and Lee should all see upwards of 40 minutes per game at point guard, shooting guard and power forward, respectively. Past those three, however, there is much uncertainty. In the backcourt, Curry has no real backup, as Charlie Bell and Jeremy Lin are fringe NBA players at best. Both should see less than 10 minutes per game, with Ellis handling some point guard duties as well. Swingman Reggie Williams will back up the shooting guard spot while also playing the 3. Between the two positions, Williams should see 25-30 minutes per game.
Dorell Wright has a tenuous hold on the starting small forward spot, though Williams could snare it away at some point during the season. Look for Wright to see 25-30 as well. Vladimir Radmanovic will also see 15-20 minutes per night, and Rodney Carney 10-15. Brandan Wright will backup up Lee at power forward, but after missing all of last season, he should see less than 15 minutes a night early in the season, and up to 20 as he becomes more comfortable. Rookie Ekpe Udoh will see less than 10 minutes per game when healthy.
Andris Biedrins is in a similar position, coming off an injury, but will still start at center and see 25-30 minutes per night. He will be backed up by Louis Amundson’s 20 minutes per night, and Dan Gadzuric’s 5-10.
Andris Biedrins: Last year was something of a lost season for Biedrins, who only played 33 games while battling back, groin and abdominal injuries. During that time, the Latvian struggled mightily, scoring only five points per game and shooting a horrifying 16 percent from the free-throw line. That’s not a typo – he only made four of his 25 free throws last year. Biedrins, however, has shown fantasy potential when healthy. He’s averaged 8.1 rebounds and 8.1 points per game over his six-year career and has been a reliable source of blocks as well. He’s never been much of a free-throw shooter (only 52 percent in his career), but makes up for it with a 60 percent career field-goal percentage. He looks to be healthy going into this season and could be worth a late-round flier.
Louis Amundson: Amundson offers much more to an actual team than a fantasy team, as he was a valuable bench player for the Suns last season. His per-48 minute numbers are decent (15.2 points, 14.2 rebounds, 3.0 blocks), but he should only be considered if Biedrins and Lee are out, and even then only for blocks and rebounds.
Dan Gadzuric: The Warriors acquired Gadzuric for his expiring contract and little else. He’s a poor shooter both from the field (43 percent last season) and from the free-throw line (40 percent last year). If Gadzuric is playing significant minutes, the Warriors are in trouble.
David Lee: With his signing by Golden State, Lee has moved from one offense perfectly suited to his talents (New York) to another. Lee has two straight seasons of averaging nearly 12 rebounds per game, and he’ll have an opportunity to earn even more now that he’s on the league’s worst rebounding team. Lee also cracked the 20 points per game barrier last year, though it should be noted that he was New York’s focal point on offense and now finds himself with two shoot-happy guards in Curry and Ellis. Still, Lee makes the most of his shots (54 percent from the field last year) and makes his free throws (81 percent), so he’s still a top-25 fantasy talent. Strangely enough, Lee also has grabbed a steal per game over the last two seasons, while earning negligible blocks.
Dorell Wright: Wright is penciled in as the Warriors’ starter at small forward, but doesn’t bring much to the table from a fantasy perspective. His main asset is his shooting ability, as he’s shot 46 percent from the field over his career. He offers little other statistical contribution and shouldn’t be a fantasy consideration.
Brandan Wright: Had the Warriors not signed Lee, Wright may have been an interesting fantasy sleeper, but unfortunately, Lee does everything Wright can do, and much better. Wright is also hampered by the fact that a shoulder injury forced him to miss all of last season. When healthy, Wright displayed a decent low-post game and recorded more than 2.5 blocks per 48 minutes. If Lee misses time, Wright could have the opportunity to show that potential again, but until then, his contributions will be negligible.
Vladimir Radmanovic: Radmanovic has always been regarded as a long-distance shooter, but threes rarely fell for the Rad-Man last year, as he only made 28 percent of his shots behind the line. While he does grab more rebounds than you’d expect (9.6 per 48 minutes), Radmanovic provides little else.
Rodney Carney: Carney has always been long on talent but little on production, and that trend should continue this year with the Warriors. He relied far too heavily on his three-point shot last year, with 48 percent of his shots coming from three. Unfortunately, he only made 30 percent of those, a number which should serve as a metaphor for Carney’s fantasy value.
Ekpe Udoh: Udoh will miss the first six months of the season with a wrist injury. Even when healthy, Udoh is a project at best, and is at least two to three years from making much of a fantasy dent.
Stephen Curry: Many wondered whether Curry could play point in the NBA heading into last season. They wonder no more. Curry has quickly become one of the league’s top lead guards and a fantasy first-rounder heading into his sophomore campaign. Curry gives you production across the board – excellent scoring, top-10 three-point shooting, nearly two steals per game, and near 90 percent free-throw shooting. We expect those numbers to only improve this year in Smart’s offense, and David Lee will give Curry a true big man to set picks and receive dump-offs for assists. The only category that Curry kills you in is turnovers, as he gave the ball away more than three times per game last year, which ranked among the league’s ten worst. But with a year under his belt, that number should improve, making Curry an even more valuable fantasy threat.
Monta Ellis: Ellis was given the green light to shoot last season, and boy did he use it. Taking more shots per game than anyone in the NBA, Ellis averaged 25.5 points per game, good for sixth in the league. Ellis also provides fantasy owners with elite-level steals, ranking second in the league with 2.2 per game. He was also good, but not great, in assists, shooting percentages and rebounds. However, there are some points of concern with Ellis. His turnovers are most worrisome, as he led the league by far last year with 3.8 per game. Also, Ellis was run ragged last year, averaging 41 minutes per game, including 28 games of 45 minutes or more, and 12 playing the full 48. Finally, the presence of David Lee gives the Warriors another scoring threat, reducing Ellis’ shot opportunities. We’d still draft Ellis for his talent, but buyer beware.
Reggie Williams: Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans may have been the league’s most talked-about rookies last year, but Williams was easily the most surprising. He parlayed a March call-up from the D-League to an average of 15.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in the big leagues, becoming one of fantasy’s top waiver wire pickups in the process. Williams gives you scoring in bunches, but also grabs rebounds, earns steals (0.9 per game) and takes smart shots (50 percent field-goal shooting). He did have some odd numbers, including 48 percent three-point shooting in wins, but 29.5 percent in losses. Overall, Williams has certainly earned his role in the NBA and should be deserving of a last-round flier or waiver wire pickup as well, especially if he earns the starting small forward spot.
Charlie Bell: Bell was acquired as expiring contract filler in the Corey Maggette trade and should contribute little. From a fantasy perspective, Bell really only contributes three-pointers, as he shot 37 percent beyond the stripe last year. He doesn’t give you much else, however, and shouldn’t be on your radar.
Jeremy Lin: This year’s Summer League star wasn’t John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins, but rather an undrafted point guard from Harvard, of all places. Don’t expect much production, however, as limited athleticism and a large learning curve from the Ivy League to the NBA will prevent Golden State’s fan favorite from being fantasy-worthy.
Andris Biedrins: Biedrins is only a year removed from being an 11-11 player and will have David Lee around to take some heat off him in the post. If he’s fully recovered from last year’s injuries, Biedrins could be a steal.
Monta Ellis: Ellis won’t see the same amount of shots as he did last season, and the improvement of Curry will take away further from Ellis’ offensive opportunities. His turnover numbers can also help sink your fantasy team.