Southwest Division Fantasy Preview Part I
The difference between an NBA team’s real ability and its importance in fantasy leagues can be enormous. In the Southwest, there’s one truly great team that actually frustrates fantasy owners. Two other teams with virtually no chance to be contenders on the court are potential sources of fantasy bargains.
This is the fourth installment of our week-long series. I examined the low-scoring Atlantic on Monday, Jeff looked at the high-powered Northwest on Tuesday and Bruce visited the mighty Pacific yesterday.
Again, we are not attempting to predict division winners. The standings that matter so very much to everyone else — fans, players, the media — are irrelevant in fantasy hoops. This series attempts to highlight the best (and worst) players from each team to target in your drafts.
San Antonio fans may be offended at being listed fourth — see Part II of this article for the Rockets, Spurs and Hornets — but I prefer the consistent rotations in Dallas and Memphis to the incredible depth and flexibility of the Spurs, and some of my favorite sleepers this year play for Houston.
Are the Mavs an elite NBA team? Maybe not. Will Dallas players help their fantasy owners? Absolutely. They have a new point guard, shooting guard and center, so it’s hard to project how the team will play compared to previous seasons. Replacing Brendan Haywood in the middle can only improve the offense.
With six players on my “avoid” list, this may seem like a lukewarm endorsement. It’s the eight in the other categories that make me put Dallas ahead of Memphis as a team to consider. In particular, O.J. Mayo has a lot of positive indicators and I expect to “reach” for him in more than one draft.
Best to Own
Dirk Nowitzki Between celebrating a championship, the lockout and a ridiculously short training camp, Dirk wasn’t mentally or physically prepared to start last season. He’s more focused and ready this year, according to various published reports.
O.J. Mayo From a backup role in Memphis to a starting gig in Dallas is one of the most positive moves a player can make. Look at his first two seasons in the league, scoring 18.5 and 17.5 PTS and averaging 140 3PTM per year. His Yahoo ADP is a ludicrous 98.1 so far. If you’re in a league with me, he’ll be long gone by then.
Chris Kaman The best offensive center Dallas has ever had, before he plays a minute. Nowitzki’s teammate on the German national team is good for his career averages (12 PTS, 8 REB, 1.5 BLK) or better.
Shawn Marion The Matrix, while a shadow of his former fantasy-superstar self, still has a versatile game. His ability to do whatever his team needs (scoring, rebounding, passing) pays off for his owners.
Darren Collison After losing his starting job with the Pacers while recovering from an injury, Collison gets a new lease on life. Because there are so many good PG in the league, he may fall in fantasy drafts.
Players to Avoid
Delonte West Will see minutes at both guard spots and fill in capably if anyone gets hurt. I’ve owned him at least once each year since about 2006 without ever drafting him.
Elton Brand Started and played 29:00 per game for the Sixers last year but will see a fraction of that time on the floor this season. Might be overdrafted based on reputation.
Vince Carter Like many of us, not the man he once was. Actually started 40 games a year ago, but scoring fell to 10 PPG and he is unlikely to play as much this season.
Dominique Jones It’s possible, though unlikely, that Jones will have a great camp, win the backup SG job and put up career numbers. I think Rodrigue Beaubois will win that battle.
Jared Cunningham scored almost 18 PPG at Oregon State and adds to the backcourt depth. All he lacks is an opportunity to play on this veteran team.
Dahntay Jones Won’t be relevant unless the injury bug bites often.
Brandan Wright There isn’t a ton of depth up front and while some expect Elton Brand to back up both PF and C, I’m expecting Wright to play 20 minutes and earn his fantasy keep in deep leagues.
Jae Crowder It would be surprising to see the Mavs give any rookiemajor minutes, but if anything happens to Marion, Crowder could jump into the mix. Worth considering as a very late pick or in certain keeper formats.
High Risk/High Reward
Rodrigue Beaubois. Slow to gain the trust of Rick Carlisle, Roddy has amazing speed. He can fill it up if given the green light, and looms as the leading contender to replace Jason Terry as a bench scorer.
So consistent they are almost boring. The same starting five, predictable substitution patterns, a moderate pace and middle-of-the-pack efficiency. That makes their regulars just fine to own, but the backups aren’t as interesting because they don’t play as much as other teams’ second units.
Best to Own
Marc Gasol Does absolutely everything well without leading the league in anything. I’m always glad to have a C who doesn’t hurt in FT% and TO while helping in other categories.
Rudy Gay One more reminder to consider the scarcity at SF (after the two super-duper-stars) and Gay is one of the best. In my SF Tiers article, there’s a chart comparing him to Josh Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Danny Granger. Like Gasol vs. other elite centers, Gay isn’t the “best” of that quartet in most stats, but he has no weak category.
Mike Conley Whether it’s the influence of Lionel Hollins or a coincidence of personnel, all the Grizzlies seem to complement each other. Less flashy than other PG and not a prolific, Conley is a great mid-round pick.
Zach Randolph is not known for a sculpted body or athleticism. It took a very long time for him to recover from a knee injury last year, and he’s kind of an “old” 31. He looked good enough in the playoffs to consider in any format.
Tony Allen pales by comparison to most starting SG offensively, but makes up for it in STL, where he’s among the league leaders.
Jerryd Bayless More of a combo guard, he may back up both spots and carve out extra minutes. Ankle injuries bordering on chronic prevented him from doing more in Toronto.
Players to Avoid
Tony Wroten isn’t expected to see enough action as a rookie. If I’m completely wrong about Bayless, he could carve out a role.
Quincy Pondexter Limited minutes behind Gay, average skills, not a significant factor.
Hamed Haddadi Gasol plays big minutes and his giant backup is, to be polite, unskilled.
Josh Selby The Grizz drafted Wroten and signed Bayless. Hardly a ringing endorsement of Selby.
High Risk/High Reward
Darrell Arthur was an unheralded key contributor two years ago. Still recovering from an Achilles injury, he suffered a leg fracture yesterday. There’s no chance he’s ready for opening night; still an interesting stash in very deep leagues.
Marreese Speights Could pay off for owners early in the year but might lose his job if and when Arthur returns healthy. Drafting Mo Speezy and keeping an eye on Arthur’s progress as a FA is one solution.