Northwest Division Fantasy Preview (Part I)
Yesterday, Kent kick-started our week of division previews with the Atlantic. Today, I tackle the Northwest.
The Northwest is a mecca for fantasy basketball players. The division has four of the NBA’s seven highest-scoring teams, and even the fifth (the Portland Trailblazers) finished in the top half. With new a coach and point guard in Portland, I expect all five teams to continue to push the pace in 2012-13.
With all that scoring, the division gives fantasy players lots of options including three of the five consensus top picks, three more potential first-rounders and five second- or third-rounders. Plus if Ricky Rubio were healthy, you could add another top pick to that list. In addition to all the big names, there are also plenty of mid-round values and high upside selections.
Oklahoma City, as last year’s finalist, is the division favorite and boasts four top fantasy talents but adds very little depth to your fantasy bench. Denver should challenge the Thunder for the division this spring, as they significantly upgraded from the beginning of last season by adding Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried (from bit player to starter), JaVale McGee and Wilson Chandler. Utah, Portland and Minnesota are all teams in transition with Utah trying to get back to the league’s upper-crust, Minnesota on the verge of a breakthrough and Portland hitting the reset button. Despite their place at the bottom of the division, these are deep, talented squads that fantasy players need to know.
Part I covers Oklahoma City and Denver. In Part II, I look at Utah, Minnesota and Portland.
Please note that I define a ‘Sleeper’ as someone who is likely to outperform his draft cost. Anyone may outperform their ADP, the key is to find players who are likely to do it. ADP’s are taken from Yahoo! and last year’s values are from a custom spreadsheet that looks at both traditional categories and some common non-traditional ones to present a more balanced ranking than the conventional player raters.
OKC won the division and made the NBA finals taking the big step that everyone expected. Heading into 2012-13, they made no significant changes from the finals team and must hope that their young players take another step if they are to improve this year. For fantasy players, the team has is built like a typical stars-and-scrubs auction team. They spent all of their “auction dollars” on two of the top five draft picks (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), a second round option (James Harden) and the game’s best shot blocker (Serge Ibaka) and then added a bunch of $1 options mixing unexciting veterans (Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook) and untested kids (Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward, Perry Jones III, Cole Aldrich and Hasheem Thabeet).
I foresee a step back in the first half for the Thunder as they figure out what to do with their useful but limited secondary players and see if any of their kids can step up. In particular, I think the addition of Derek Fisher last year foreshadows some smaller lineups where Maynor pushes Westbrook to the 2 and Sefolosha to the bench. Also, after teams in the playoffs without a traditional center exposed Perkins, coach Brooks is likely to reconfigure the lineup limiting Perkins’ minutes and creating opportunities for Cole Aldrich, who is a better shooter and Perry Jones III, who as a stretch four adds another look and a lot more athleticism.
Because of the hype surrounding the team, there are few bargains to be had on draft day.
Best to Own
Kevin Durant both an efficient and volume scorer who contributes everywhere: rebounds (8.0), assists (3.5), blocks (1.2) and steals (1.3). Deserved #2 in ADP.
Russell Westbrook consensus #5 in ADP despite 20% fewer free throw attempts and 30% fewer assists than in 2012. Could still improve if he reverses that trend.
James Harden solid across the board SG and exceptional in FT (6 FTAPG) and FT% (85%). Current ADP in low 20’s prices in more improvement/minutes. I don’t see either and therefore he’s more of an early 30’s for me.
Serge Ibaka is an elite shot blocker at 3.7 BLKPG but rather pedestrian everywhere else. Current ADP in the mid 20’s is a big stretch for a one trick pony. I like him more in the 50’s.
None. I don’t see anyone who is likely to outperform their ADP.
Players to Avoid
Kendrick Perkins is strictly a rebounder and a below average one for a C. Team will likely move on at some point this season.
Thabo Sefolosha has poor defensive numbers (3 RPG, .9 STLPG and .4 BLKPG) for a defensive specialist. Could lose minutes to Harden, Maynor or even Jones if he doesn’t start delivering more on offense.
Nick Collison is a better real life player than a fantasy one unless you league counts charges taken, then he is fantasy gold.
Daequan Cook‘s role is purely that of spot 3-point shooter. When the shots don’t fall (34.6%), he loses minutes (only 6.4 mpg in the playoffs).
Reggie Jackson got a chance last year with Maynor out and failed to impress (32.1 FG%). Unlikely to get meaningful minutes in 2012-13.
Lazar Hayward only played 5.4 mpg in 26 games last year. I don’t expect that to change.
Hasheem Thabeet is a better shot-blocker than Aldrich but is even worse offensively than Perkins. Merely a practice player at this point.
High Risk/High Reward
Cole Aldrich took some baby steps last year. Could he emerge like fellow Thunder alum Byron Mullens if Perkins is traded or marginalized?
Eric Maynor only played 9 games last year and wasn’t particularly good in them but he has some skills and in addition to backing up PG might push Westbrook to SG for a couple of minutes a game to give the team a different look.
Perry Jones III disappointed in college but is a talented stretch 4 who could get some run in the second half as the team could use another scoring option off the bench.
The Nuggets had a solid season in the lockout-shortened 2012 but couldn’t break through like many had expected. They were the league’s highest scoring team last year and played at its second-highest pace. With Iguodala, McGee and Chandler now in the fold, they are primed to keep pushing that envelope in 2012-13. The Nuggets are also built like an ideal Roto-style team — a perfect blend of positional and categorical skill and redundancy.
In fact, if you plan your draft correctly, you could win your league simply by drafting Denver’s rotation (In a 12-team league: Rd. 2 Ty Lawson; 3 Andre Iguodala; 5 Danilo Galinari, 6 Kenneth Faried; 7 Javale McGee; 8 Wilson Chandler; 9 Andre Miller) and filling out your bench with their upside plays like Anthony Randolph, Quincy Miller and Kosta Koufos.
In addition to how to build a roster, the team is also a shining beacon to fantasy players on the three examples of winning fantasy trades: 1. Trading your overrated star into an instant rebuild (Carmelo Anthony for Gallinari, Chandler, Raymond Felton and Faried); 2. Trading a player who has peaked for one that is peaking (Nene Hilario for McGee); and 3. Trading mediocre players for a great one (Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington for Iguodala).
I hope to own multiple Denver Nuggets on all of my teams this year.
Best to Own
Ty Lawson contributes across the board, especially with his above average FG% for a PG. ADP of 20 is about right.
Andre Iguodala provides PG-like stats from the SG/SF position. Should see an increase in PPG moving from slow-paced 76ers to fast-paced Nuggets. ADP of 35 is fair but he could easily exceed that value.
Danilo Gallinari is a 3PT specialist with above average FTA (4.9) and FT% (87.1). ADP of 60 is right on the mark but can beat that by reversing the 4-year downward trend in his 3p% (44.4% to 38.1% to 35.2% to 32.7%).
Andre Miller is still dishing dimes (6.7 APG) and doesn’t hurt you anywhere. Late 130’s ADP is a relative bargain considering he produced 100-level numbers last year with no sign of slowing down in his passing.
Javale McGee, finally playing with a real coach and professional teammates, could explode in Denver’s system. Even if he doesn’t, the C stats (REB, BLK) are there and he will outperform his early 90’s ADP. An FT% killer though.
Kenneth Faried finally got minutes after the trade of Nene and maintained his efficiency with the increased workload. A classic breakout candidate, his late 80’s ADP is hardly expensive.
Wilson Chandler Don’t be fooled by last years 8 GP. He is a perfect fit for Denver’s system and should return to his 2010-11 numbers (12.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.6 APG, .7 STLPG and 1.1 BLKPG), which easily betters his mid-110’s ADP.
Players to Avoid
Corey Brewer Poor shooting and high turnover rate are toxic in fantasy. Also, unlikely to keep seeing 20 MPG with Iguodala and Chandler in the fold and Jordan Hamilton, Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller lurking.
Timofey Mozgov is the back-up C and a serviceable one at that, but I expect him to get passed by the more talented Randolph and Koufos on Denver’s depth chart.
Evan Fournier is more of a slasher than a shooter and is more likely to wear a suit than a uniform to games this season.
Julyan Stone might be the best 3rd PG in the league but 3rd PG’s aren’t useful in fantasy.
High Risk/High Reward
Anthony Randolph Every year he is on sleeper lists and routinely gets over-drafted but he is now playing with a top organization after unsuccessful stints in Golden State, New York and Minnesota and this time he could finally blossom.
Kosta Koufos played surprisingly well in limited minutes last year as he averaged a rebound every 3 minutes on the court and shot 60% from the floor. He should pass Mozgov to become Denver’s top big from the bench this year.
Quincy Miller is unlikely to get meaningful minutes this season, but many said the same about Faried last year. Likely fell in the NBA draft due to concerns about his knee, not his play. Could be this year’s DeJuan Blair.
Jordan Hamilton is nothing but a spot shooter but Gallinari is the only other player on roster with consistent 3P range, so the opportunity is there for him to carve out a meaningful role as a 3P specialist.