Sunday is a good time to catch up on items of interest in the world of fantasy hoops. As a nod to Mike D’Antoni, one of fantasy’s greatest coaches, we’re calling this Seven Topics or Less.
There’s even homework. Be sure to study yesterday’s excellent advice on strategy by Jeff Nichols. Over the next few weeks, readers will learn exactly how to take advantage of loopholes in common formats, categories and rules. There will be a test — in your draft room.
According to John Denton, who covers the team for NBA.com, Glen Davis “figures to be” the starting PF, which clears up one thing. Big Baby and Gustavo Ayon are in the wrong positions on my tiers lists. It’s OK, because they are both PF-C for our purposes.
Ayon is presumably battling Nikola Vucevic for a starting role at C and both can be owned. Because Al Harrington (knee) will not be available in training camp, rookie Andrew Nicholson will have an opportunity to make an impression. A 4-year starter at St. Bonaventure, the 6’9″ Canadian is a few years older than many others making their NBA debuts. There’s a decent possibility that Orlando will be looking to trade veterans and go with a full youth movement, making Nicholson a deep sleeper.
Suns Backup C
I’d been called out by a reader for ranking Channing Frye at least one tier too low. Even before we learned about his enlarged heart, I wasn’t sure he would play as much this season, with Luis Scola starting and Markieff Morris developing. Perhaps I’m now rating Jermaine O’Neal too high. The doctors in Dusseldorf treated his knees and J.O. feels great. He’s gone from third string center, left off our original Depth Chart, to regular minutes and deserves consideration in deep leagues.
Nobody knows exactly when Ricky Rubio will return to the court. Reportedly healing well after knee surgery, he’s been mentioned as a possible Christmas present to Wolves fans. That leaves Luke Ridnour as the temporary starter at PG, and in H2H leagues he can provide eight or nine good weeks for a minimal draft-day investment. Even after Rubio returns, Ridnour isn’t the worst backup to own.
It’s more confusing at SG, where Brandon Roy is pain-free (so far) in his comeback attempt. One of the ultimate risk-reward picks, he could be a tremendous bargain or completely disappoint. An overlooked newcomer in Minnesota is Alexey Shved, who was very impressive in the Olympic tournament. The young Russian is my pick to back up at both guard spots, and if Roy’s minutes are limited (which seems logical) Shved could play 25 minutes a game.
What does this mean for J.J. Barea? Last April, he became the starting PG by default, averaging 16 PTS and 9.3 AST as a hot FA pickup. However, Barea is six inches shorter than Shved and not as creative. Especially if Roy is able to play well, J.J. might see backup minutes until Rubio returns, then become irrelevant.
Think of this note as comic relief, illustrating why you shouldn’t believe everything you read in preseason. An upbeat announcement — promoting a free event to Cavs fans — says Tyler Zeller “will compete for the starting center spot.” That’s news to Anderson Varejao. Don’t bump Zeller up your cheat sheets based on this type of non-information.
O.J. Mayo is getting the full star treatment from coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. He’s been “guaranteed” a starting job, worked out with new backcourt partner Darren Collison in L.A. over the summer and has been in Dallas for weeks, getting to know Dirk Nowitzki better on the practice court.
Cuban is also excited about Rodrigue Beaubois, who might see more consistent minutes this year as Mayo’s backup. “He’s been working out; he’s bigger, he’s stronger. He’s going to have a chance to compete, just like everybody.”
Such pronouncements are commonplace at this time of year, and fantasy owners must read between the lines before drawing conclusions. I’m targeting Mayo this year and will consider Roddy Buckets in deep leagues. If he gets enough of the minutes that used to go to Jason Terry, Beaubois will be exciting.
Best NBA Teams, Fantasy Division
Tomorrow, the Atlantic leads off a six-day series that examines one division at a time, to identify the NBA teams that are most fantasy-friendly. It’s not an attempt to pick division winners; fantasy owners don’t care about the standings. We’re looking at each team’s coach, style of play, pace, scoring and rotation. You’ll see why Nuggets players are so great to own, and how the Spurs, a tremendous organization on the court, can be very frustrating in your fantasy league.
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