Let's get ready to rumble!
The NBA season begins Tuesday, and I am so excited that I have absolutely no idea where to even begin. I'm going to take a moment to step away from fantasy basketball and just savor the fact that this year is shaping up to be a classic one for a basketball fan. We have the clash of the superteams at the top, we've got a slew of legendary players in a battle royal for best in the league, we've got young players looking to make the leap to the top, and we've got veteran superstars trying to prove they still have the juice. I always get amped for the start of the NBA season, but this year I'm just over the top. I just want to find the nearest basketball court and run onto it screaming "Anything is possibllllllllllle!!!!" in my craziest Kevin Garnett voice.
Ahem. Now that I got that off my chest, let's get ready for a great year of fantasy hoops. By now most of you have drafted your leagues, you've explored the available trade and free agency options, and your team is basically set. You know your team's strengths and weaknesses, you've looked at the league and got a feel for who the favorites are, and you are ready to rev your team's engine to see what's under the hood. About the only thing left to do now is to prepare your starting lineup(s) for the first week to get your team off to a fast start.
Some of those decisions are obvious - for instance, you're going to start your top few picks no matter what unless they are injured. You took those guys as your team's foundation, so they had better produce regardless of the circumstances. But some of the choices are a bit harder - for example, in one league with weekly roster moves I have a choice between T.J. Ford, Stephen Curry, Anthony Randolph and Travis Outlaw. In another league I am choosing between Jamal Crawford and Allen Iverson, and in yet another the choice is Brendan Haywood or Tyson Chandler. In situations like these, there are three key things you need to do to make the difficult roster decisions.
1) Get the most up-to-the-minute updates available about your player's health and position status. In the choices I laid out above Ford, Randolph, Iverson and Chandler all have health issues that could potentially keep them out of action. Curry is battling for a starting spot, and both Crawford and Outlaw have more competition for playing time than they did last year. So before I make any choices, I have to get on RotoWire to get the absolute latest word on these issues. Knowledge is power.
2) Know your schedule. Ford, Curry, and Randolph all have only two games while Outlaw has four this week. So even if I might prefer the per-game production of the first three, I have to consider starting Outlaw since he has twice as many chances to produce.
3) Know your player's opponents. This is for the true Jedi among you, as this level of preparation is subtle and requires some effort. But we have seen over the last two seasons that the Celtics and Cavs are extremely stingy defenses and very strong on the glass. As such, the fact that Charlotte plays both the Celtics and Cavs this week is a red flag for Chandler's potential production.
In this space I will give you as much as I can in answering these questions for your own teams. Good luck everyone, and let's get ready for an outstanding season.
Situations to Watch and Quick Hits
Griffin stress fractured kneecap: Blake Griffin has a stress fracture in his left kneecap and could miss up to six weeks. This is a non-displaced fracture but the team is going to take a conservative approach, likely keeping Griffin out of the lineup for about the first quarter of the season.
Granger suffers bone bruise: Danny Granger has missed the past two practices with a bone bruise in his heel. He has said that the injury isn't serious and he expects to play in the season opener, but this is still a bit worrisome as Granger had to miss several games due to injury last season.
Jefferson at practice: Al Jefferson participated in Monday's scrimmage, despite the sore Achilles tendon that has kept him out of action over the past week. His status for the season opener is still uncertain, but it is a positive sign that he was able to get through the scrimmage.
Bibby's wrist and Horford's ankle ok: Mike Bibby injured his wrist in practice on Sunday, but was able to return to practice on Monday. Al Horford said that his ankle just needed rest and that he is also ready to play. Both are expected to be in the line-up for the season opener on Wednesday.
Baron's sore foot: Baron Davis didn't practice on Monday and will be a game-day decision for the season opener. He has indicated that he expects to play, but if he can't then Sebastian Telfair would likely take his place.
Camby back at practice: Marcus Camby has been able to practice the past few days on his sore ankle, so he could see some action against the Lakers in the opener. Even if he does play, though, he is expected to be used in a limited capacity. With the injuries to Griffin and Camby, the door is open for Chris Kaman or even DeAndre Jordan to have strong starts to the season.
Howard out in Dallas: Josh Howard, who missed the entire preseason recovering from ankle surgery, does not appear any closer to a return. Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle said on Monday that Howard could miss the first few weeks of the regular season.
Brand still not all the way back: Two years after suffering a ruptured Achilles' tendon, Elton Brand still isn't completely back to the level of health and athleticism he enjoyed before the injury. He showed flashes during the preseason, but has still not been fully effective in the Sixers' new offense. He may improve, but hopes of Brand returning to his former dominance as a first round fantasy contributor should be tempered to start the year.
Big Baby's sore thumb: Glen Davis injured his right thumb in a non-basketball related altercation, and could miss a significant amount of time depending on how his X-rays and other tests turn out. His absence could mean a few more minutes for Kevin Garnett or Rasheed Wallace, but more likely it means that Shelden Williams will see the court for a few minutes per game.
Curry and Derozan to start game 1: Warriors coach Don Nelson named Stephen Curry the starter for Wednesday's season opener against the Rockets. This does not guarantee he remains the starter, nor that he starts every game, but it's a positive indication that Curry should be playing starter's minutes on at least a semi-regular basis. Fellow rookie DeMar DeRozan is also expected to open the season as the starting shooting guard in Toronto, with similar questions about whether he will hold onto the job as the season progresses.
Flynn the man in Minnesota, but has flu: Jonny Flynn missed Monday's practice due to flu-like symptoms. He will likely be able to go in the season opener on Wednesday, but keep an eye out. Flynn is expected to start at point guard for the Wolves this season, and with the lack of talent on the team Flynn should put up big numbers early on.
Randolph's sore back: Anthony Randolph practiced on Monday, but his status is still up in the air for Wednesday's opener against Houston due to his sore back. Right now Randolph looks like a game-time decision, and if he can't go Corey Maggette is likely to start at power forward. Some reports suggest that Randolph may come off the bench at the start of the season even after his health clears, which further limits his early season potential.
Ford returns to practice: T.J. Ford (hamstring) practiced on Monday, which bodes well for his chances to play in the season opener. Of course, with the Pacers only playing two games this week this might not be the best week to start Ford anyway.
Iverson's sore hammy: Allen Iverson took part in some non-contact drills on Monday, but Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins doesn't think Iverson will play in Wednesday's regular season opener. There is a chance that Iverson is cleared to fully practice Tuesday, but that still probably wouldn't give him enough time to prepare for Wednesday.
Swapped big men Chandler and Okafor on road to recovery: Tyson Chandler got a second preseason game under his belt and looked solid as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. He still has a ways to go to get back into game shape, but it appears he'll be contributing right from the start. Emeka Okafor (toe) also practiced almost completely on Sunday, and plans to be in the lineup in the season opener against the Spurs.
Batum torn labrum: Nicolas Batum will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum on Friday. He was set to start at small forward for the Blazers, so his absence will open up some minutes for Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw.
West domestic violence: A domestic violence report has been filed against Delonte West, the latest in a string of difficult off-court issues. West attended practice Monday, but did not play in any preseason games and may not be active for Tuesday's season opener against Boston.
Anderson likely starter at PF for Magic: Ryan Anderson is expected to be Orlando's starting power forward on Wednesday. His strong preseason won him the starting spot over Brandon Bass, who initially was expected to get the job.
Big Ben still tolls in Detroit: Ben Wallace is expected to be in the starting lineup for the Pistons on Wednesday night. This makes him a sneaky source of boards and defensive stats if the Pistons opt to give him significant playing time, though his days as an impact fantasy producer are likely long gone.
Foster out in Indy: Jeff Foster is expected to miss Wednesday's season opener due to a sore back, and it's uncertain when he'll be ready to return. This opens the door for Roy Hibbert to see extra time to start the season.
The Celtics, Cavaliers, Clippers and Trailblazers are the only teams in the NBA with four games during the first week. Meanwhile, the Warriors, Pacers, Bucks and Jazz only have two games each. The number of games played is a good tie-breaker for tough roster decisions.
The Cavaliers, Spurs, and Celtics were the top three defenses in the NBA last season in terms of points per game allowed. This week the Bobcats, Bulls and Hornets all play two games against one of these three defensive stalwarts. Obviously you still start your studs no matter the opposition, but in the case of fringe choices you might consider playing the guy with the easier defensive opponent.
It's showtime, everyone. This should be a big season, and I look forward to sharing it with you on our way to many fantasy championships.
Article first appeared 10/27/09