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Twas the night before tip-off
We are now one day away from the opening tip, and I am absolutely pumped. A few last minute thoughts before we get started...

Which perimeter player is king this year? Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Chris Paul took 3 of the top-4 votes in the NBA MVP vote and also occupied the top of the roto heap as well. Who takes the top spot this season? I think LeBron is in the pole position for the actual NBA MVP, but I look for Dwyane Wade to sneak back into the mix and perhaps land the top year-end roto ranking of the group if he really can stay healthy. Before his injury two seasons ago Wade was a 30/7/7 player with more than three combined steals/blocks and excellent percentages...that is an absolutely scary roto threat with no glaring weaknesses.

Which young player has the biggest impact? Between the last two NBA drafts, the league has seen an infusion of potential big-name players. Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Al Horford, and Derrick Rose could all be in for big seasons this year. I have gone back and forth over who I think will do the best, but right now I think that Oden is well-placed to win Rookie of the Year with Durant as the best bet for roto stardom. If the Blazers make the playoffs with Oden as the main guy, he wins the ROY. And Durant after the All Star break last year was deadly, averaging well over 20 points on excellent shooting with decent boards/steals/blocks. If he builds on that this year, he's a potential top-20 roto player.

Who is the dominant big man this year? While the perimeter guys like LeBron and Kobe get the attention, the vast majority of the time it is the big men that take home the championship (9 of the last 10 champs have prominently featured Duncan, Shaq, or Garnett). So, who is the key big for this year? We are at a transition point between the "old guard" like Duncan, Garnett, O'Neal, Nowitzki and the up-and-comers like Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, and Amare Stoudemire. In the actual NBA I think that Duncan and Garnett are not quite ready to relinquish their spots at the top of the heap, and that one of them will add another championship ring this year. But fantasy-wise, Stoudemire should reign. After the Shaq trade he averaged pretty close to 30 and 10 on ridiculous shooting percentages, and threw in solid blocked shots to match. If he can replicate that for a season, even with the goofy Kareem goggles, Amare could be the roto MVP.
Posted by Professor at 10/27/2008 7:55:00 AM
Comments (1)

Roto Experts draft Tuesday, 8:30 PM EST
For anyone interested, I will be representing Rotowire in an experts draft tonight, 10/14, at 8:30 PM EST. The draft will be held on MockDraft Central, and anyone interested can follow along using this link.
Posted by Professor at 10/14/2008 4:29:00 PM
Comments (2)

The Next Big Things
Weíre at an exciting time in the NBA for many reasons, not the least of which is that we appear poised to usher in a crop of young centers with more collective potential than any group since Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson in the mid-to-late 80s. Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Greg Oden all have a chance to slide into those big shoes as the next Big thing. But which of them do you want on your fantasy team THIS year, and how much should you be willing to give up to get them?

Howard is most established of the trio, and the one most likely to put up huge numbers on any given night or for the season. Heís also the one most likely to put a cape on in public and call himself Superman, but that isnít a fantasy category. Howard used his unworldly athleticism to average an absurd 14.2 rebounds per game last season as a 22 year oldÖmore than Kevin Garnett, Shaquille OíNeal, or Tim Duncan have ever managed for a season. He also scored more than 20 points, blocked more than two shots, and shot 60% from the field. And Howard is also ridiculously durable, having never missed an NBA game in his career. Since he should still be getting better, he should be a top-5 pick in fantasy leagues, right? Not so fast, though. Howard also shot a paltry 59% from the line on a whopping 11 free throw attempts per game, which can absolutely kill your teamís free throw percentage in a Shaq-like way. Thus, while the upside is beautiful, Supermanís Kryptonite should be enough to give roto owners pause before calling his name in the first round. Iím not saying donít take him at the end of the first, Iím just saying to think long and hard before you do.

Bynum is arguably the most talked about young player in the NBA right now, because many see the 7-foot 20-year old as the missing piece to ushering in a new Lakers dynasty. While these Lakers obviously belong to Kobe Bryant and also sport talented players like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, Bynum tantalized the Lakersí faithful as well as fantasy owners with a strong first two months of the season before his year got cut short by a knee injury. Specifically, over his last 14 full games before the injury Bynum averaged about 17 points, 11 boards, almost 2.5 blocks, and shot a ridiculous 70% from the field. Also, Bynum is at least a non-toxic free throw shooter that hit almost 70% of his free throws last season. But Bynum is a bigger fantasy risk than Howard because of the uncertainty of his recovery from knee surgery, and also the uncertainty of his role now that Gasol has joined him and Odom in the frontcourt. Plus, Bynum has never shown that he can put up those big numbers over the long haul. So while Bynum has NBA elite potential, you should be able to get him in the early-middle rounds, after the less-risky elites have already come off the board.

And then, there is Oden. Oden has been generating mega NBA hype since he was in middle school, well before people were talking about Bynum or even Howard. He was the most sought after big man to enter the NBA draft since Tim Duncan more than a decade ago, and people expect him to quickly lead the Trailblazers into championship contention. But Oden has still never played a minute in the NBA, and his rookie season has been delayed by a year due to the dreaded microfracture knee surgery. Despite that, Oden has ridiculous upside. He has all of Bynumís height, most of Howardís explosive leaping ability, is bigger than either one of them, and has defensive instincts that just canít be taught. If he is healthy, it would not be at all surprising for Oden to average 15 and 10 with around three blocks per game as a rookie. And Oden looks healthy thus far in the preseason.

Overall, I expect Howard to put up the best numbers of the crew. But if I could get elite non-centers with my first two picks, I would be happy to get Bynum or Oden several rounds later who have similar upside at a higher risk, and at the least should give elite defensive big-man stats at the hard-to-fill center position. And setting fantasy aside, I can not WAIT to see how these three young giants make their mark on the league over the next several seasons.
Posted by Professor at 10/14/2008 1:14:00 PM
Comments (7)

The Real Season is Coming
As much as I love football, for me the real season will always be the NBA. And since NBA camps opened this week, it is time to start getting ready for the upcoming fantasy basketball season.

I believe that in order to be good at fantasy basketball, you have to understand real basketball. You need to know who's going to be good and why, who's going to be bad and why, and how there can be fantasy gold found among both good and bad teams. You need to keep up with the storylines, and think about how they are likely to affect player output. So today, I'm just going to throw out a few of the bigger storylines to get us back to thinking about the NBA again as we start prepping for the tip-off at the end of the month.

*The Celtics are the champs. Besides the fact that I'm overjoyed that Kevin Garnett finally has a ring, this is also a huge fantasy plot. Because Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are all north of 30 it is likely that the Celtics limit their minutes this season in preparation for another long playoffs run. The offense should be more efficient this year since everyone knows their roles, but look for Pierce and Allen to play closer to the 32 mpg that Garnett played last season than the 37 mpg that they played, which would limit their fantasy output. On the other hand, look for youngsters like Rajon Rondo to play a bigger role with more minutes on a daily basis, which makes him a good candidate to see a big boost in this, his magical third season.

*The Lakers add Andrew Bynum to what was already a championship caliber team. While this makes the Lakers a favorite to get back to the Finals this year, it could have a poor effect on several fantasy mainstays. Bynum's points and rebounds likely eat into Pau Gasol's totals, and Lamar Odom's numbers (especially boards) likely fall even further as he is either pushed out of position to small forward or out of the starting line-up completely. Even Kobe Bryant could see his scoring decrease, as Bynum, Gasol, and Odom all will need to get their shots as well.

*The Seven Seconds or Less era is over in Phoenix, with Shaquille O'Neal and Terry Porter replacing Shawn Marion and Mike D'Antoni to start this season. This year's Suns look to be more about half-court offense and defense than run-and-gun, which bodes ill for the number production of Steve Nash. Shaq and Grant Hill are both past their primes and are expected to concentrate more on defense than offense, which limits their output as well. And then, there is Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire projects as the number one fantasy prospect overall, because he should be the primary scorer (30 ppg potential) that also shoots near 60% from the field and 85% from the line. Add in decent rebounding and blocked shot numbers, and Stoudemire looks to be fantasy gold this year.
Posted by Professor at 10/2/2008 9:45:00 AM
Comments (4)