Central Division Fantasy Preview Part I
The Central is a tough division to handicap behind the overwhelming favorite, Indiana. Thankfully we as fantasy players don’t have to predict the outcomes of the games. The Central probably has less frontline fantasy talent than any other division this season.
There is plenty to choose from in fantasy terms in the Central, where weak competition helps a lot of players become better choices than they otherwise might be. They won’t be your first pick, but might be your last couple. For me, the Central is as it always has been… a slow and somewhat rugged division with better big-man play than anything else and a lot of halfcourt sets, always tough on fantasy production.
As before, when I speak of a player’s round I refer to a 12-team league. My ADPs (average draft positions) come from Yahoo!.
It’s really nice for fantasy players when a team returns most of its core and all its best players. That settled team is one reason I think the Pacers deliver a lot of value — there is every chance that they will charge out of the gate as a result — and there are specific skills on this team that you can make use of, as they rebound the ball on the offensive end and get to the line. None of the Pacers is a true stud and because the minutes are shared more democratically by Frank Vogel than by other coaches, Pacers will actually tend to underperform their rankings in pure skill terms. Consider them the Eastern version of the Spurs, who Kent discussed yesterday.
Best to Own
Danny Granger. An ADP of 27 is (I think) a touch high for Granger, when players like Andre Igoudala and Blake Griffin are coming in behind him. I still think he’s good to own with a lesser third-rounder (and you should leap on him if he’s there with your fourth choice in a 12-team league). My concern is always his shooting; it doesn’t take much for a .425 guy like Granger to start really struggling. Still a good source of threes and free throws (a combination I always love) and there’s no real reason he can’t shoot better, as he once did.
Roy Hibbert. Blocks shots and rebounds. The disturbing trend for Hibbert has been that he shoots less and scores less as he has matured as a player, something that sometimes indicates that a big man is physically declining. However, Hibbert’s boards and blocks are better than ever, and his overall efficiency was much better last year at both ends. They need to find him more, and I think they will.
George Hill. One of the advantages of being a settled team is that you can make changes because you want to, not because you have to, and the trade of Darren Collison to Dallas, confirming Hill’s anointment as the starter, was a change the Pacers wanted to make. Hill is a much better player although his playoff performance threw up some question marks, because he didn’t get many assists and had some trouble as the primary ballhandler. Should easily have career highs in everything and will score his share of points.
Paul George. I wasn’t sure that George had it in him to be a quality starter, but he’s proving me wrong. Like a lot of other Pacers, he plays an efficient game. Terrific rebounder for a guard-rated player and will get more assists.
Tyler Hansbrough. I think David West will get less time this year (as the senior player and the guy most likely to be rested) and I like Hansbrough despite his not having kicked on last year as I thought he should after his very fine 2011. He shot poorly last season and I think that will improve. To do this, Hansbrough must improve his passing. He’ll also be available in every league.
DJ Augustin. Absolutely the best point guard (in point guard terms) that the team has. There’s a strong potential for Augustin to play major minutes as part of Vogel’s balanced rotation.
Players to Avoid
David West. I feel terrible saying this, because I think West is a fine player, but he’s always been a much better real player than fantasy player and he’s a poor fit for their rotation. His skills are in decline, and he never did rebound quite as well as I thought he should. His ADP of 81.3 is far too high for a guy who is a tenth-round talent.
Gerald Green. If your league doesn’t penalize turnovers, Green becomes a better bench option. Most leagues do, though, and Green is turnover-prone but doesn’t add enough elsewhere to be useful.
Miles Plumlee. I don’t think Plumlee is an NBA player.
Lance Stephenson. Guard who can’t shoot.
High Risk/High Reward
Ian Mahinmi. I always thought Mahinmi had great physical gifts. He didn’t show enough of that in Dallas but he should get minutes early. Hansbrough may still be in Vogel’s doghouse as he was in the playoffs, and if so Mahinmi will get even more time on the floor. Block numbers have been disappointing but he has the potential to grab a lot of rebounds if he plays and his offensive game is much better.
Sam Young. Young had an awful season last year, dumped on the Sixers and then buried alive. There is talent there, and he too has an all-around type of game that may suit the Pacers well. Must be a better passer to do so.
Derrick Rose is supposed to be back “at some point this season”. Unfortunately, that “some point” currently appears to be March instead of January. When he returns, not just Rose but every Bull will begin paying his fantasy dividends. I wouldn’t draft two Bulls, but you might keep a careful eye on Rose’s recovery and when he is moderately close to playing, consider picking up any who have been extra disappointing.
The Bulls had a lot of churn on their roster, meaning they are tougher to handicap. They still are well-coached, still have a good interior rotation, and will still play a tough brand of basketball.
Best to Own
Joakim Noah. A superb offensive rebounder and a great passer for a big man. Noah helps in every category but I think he will improve most in his worst, which is scoring.
Carlos Boozer. Boozer and Noah could easily have flip-flopped here; Boozer combines physicality with brains as well as any player in the league (a rare compliment from me in that vein for a Duke player). He is a joy to watch play and remains a very strong rebounder on the defensive end.
Luol Deng. Without Rose, I expect Deng to do more things and see more of the ball. I’m exposed with this selection because Deng played quite poorly last season, we don’t know how his wrist will be, and the Bulls have little reason to continue to feed him so long as he keeps finding iron and being outfought. I believe in him. He should get more opportunities to shoot threes (Kyle Korver is gone) and I think that total will double.
Kirk Hinrich. I am no fan of Hinrich, but apparently nor is anyone else. An ADP of 143 (and undrafted in many leagues) for a guy who can take care of the rock and get it to the right places. And the Bulls still have a lot of right places. He won’t get many hustle stats for you but as a backup point guard you can do very much worse, and he’ll also have a licence to bomb from deep.
Nate Robinson. He and Hinrich both can’t be successful, and I can’t imagine the Bulls making Nate the starter at the point, but he should play, his offensive skills remain solid, and he will always give a solid effort.
Taj Gibson. It breaks my heart to put Gibson in this category and not one higher, when Nate freakin’ Robinson and Kirk freakin’ Hinrich are also in the sleeper category. Nevertheless, it seems clear now that the Bulls like Gibson as a complementary-only player. He likely won’t play enough to make a selection worth your while, but Gibson is undrafted in 95% of leagues. There is every chance he gets another ten minutes a game, and if he does he’ll be as good as many fulltime starters.
Players to Avoid
Richard Hamilton. Rip is aging and has lost effectiveness. Rose would (and will) allow him the floor space to make his cuts and curls that make him so effective. Hinrich and Marquis Teague (and Nate Robinson) will not.
Marco Belinelli. I know shooting guard is the weakest position, but you have to do better than Belinelli, a no-conscience guy who doesn’t help in any category except threes. I imagine my opinion of him as a fantasy player is colored by my view of him as a real player, but I still don’t think you want him.
High Risk/High Reward
Marquis Teague. Is Teague the best point guard in Chicago? Probably. But he had a brutal summer league. I can’t anoint the guy a sleeper, but I can point out that getting the ball to a fine group of forwards is the easiest way for an NBA point to learn on the job.
Derrick Rose. Yes, you will have to stash Rose on your bench all season and there’s no guarantee you’ll get him at all. I can’t call him a “sleeper” because Rose isn’t likely (even combined with whoever you pick up to replace him) to outperform his ADP of 63 unless he comes back in January. But I can advocate you taking him, hanging on, and hoping for the best. Maximizing that really good risk is the way you finish first.
Thanks to Zach Primozic for the photo of Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah.