Central Division Fantasy Preview Part II
In Part I we had a chance to look at the Bulls and Pacers. The Bucks are a very strange team who might make a challenge for the playoffs; the Cavs and Pistons are still trying to fit some pieces together to help them compete, especially on the road. Lots of players will be good starts against them, but both have pieces worth adding to your team as well.
I’m sorry to Bucks fans for saying this, but holy moly is this a potentially exciting team. The Bucks haven’t done much and the step forward I thought should come last year never materialized, but they play fast and have the potential to play even faster. They could be a great source of fantasy players as well, especially with a potential coaching change on the horizon.
Monta Ellis. The best offensive player on this team, which means that he’s a steal compared to his ADP of 48.8. Because he should handle the ball a lot, he should also maintain his good assist numbers. Ellis didn’t play all that well last season with the Bucks but his fantasy impact will be well in excess of his real presence.
Brandon Jennings. Probably won’t live up to his ADP of 26 with Monta Ellis in town shooting everything. It’s odd for a team to have two such similar players statistically in its starting backcourt; Jennings will likely be Mr. Outside while Ellis is Mr. Inside. I think Jennings will improve his shooting which is key for him. But he won’t be worth a third-rounder, let alone a high third-rounder. A good fourth selection.
Ersan Ilyasova. A huge increase in production last season leavs me wondering if Ilyasova can consolidate. The warning sign here was the massive bump in production; an important principle is that a guy who makes a big improvement one year is likely to decline the next, not continue that huge improvement (even if he’s a youngish guy like Ersan is). Just a tremendous rebounder for a SF qualifier. I am bullish on him retaining most of that improvement. ADP of 58.9 seems about right on.
Samuel Dalembert. The classic “consistently inconsistently consistent” player, who despite veering wildly from great to terrible from night to night, generally produces consistent seasons. The one thing you will always get from Dalembert is a full season… he’s missed three games in six seasons. Often loses floor time from foul trouble, and that could be a problem in the rugged Central, but for a center he’s good with his free throws, and with Ellis and Jennings driving, he’ll have lots of putbacks. A ninth-round pick, he can even be your top center if you’ve loaded up at power forward and point guard.
Drew Gooden. Should have the sixth-most minutes on the Bucks, maybe more if Dalembert can’t keep himself out of foul trouble. Same principles as Dalembert apply – he’ll get putbacks and dunks from two guards who can penetrate and dish, and he’ll also get to play a lot versus backups. Undrafted in 68% of Yahoo! leagues, he’s one of my favorite sleepers.
Mike Dunleavy. He had a fine year last season and qualifies at shooting guard. He may get major minutes as the likely starter. He probably won’t because he isn’t really all that good despite the late-career swansong in 2012. But he’s undrafted in 45% of leagues (a lot of fantasy players seem not to know what to do with the Bucks).
Players to Avoid
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Love the rebounds but this guy is the worst passer I have ever seen play on the wing in the NBA. For that reason he can only ever be a role player.
Beno Udrih. Won’t start unless both Jennings and Ellis are hurt.
Joel Przybilla. Please don’t pick Przybilla even as a joke. Thanks.
Doron Lamb. Lamb is unlikely to play much early but may be worth keeping an eye on during the season. He has talent.
High Risk/High Reward
Ekpe Udoh. It’s a crowded center spot but Udoh is a darned good player who is a monster in the blocks category.
Tobias Harris. Fascinating player, but odd, with a ton of skills. His lack of minutes indicate that the Bucks don’t think he’s the finished article yet, but he did get some starts and they obviously think highly of him in general. Scored when he got the chance, but remember, that was mostly against other second- and third-stringers.
The Cavaliers were a gong show last season with 21 players coming through and an unsettled rotation for a long time especially the bench. They should be somewhat stabilized this season and they have a core of good young players. Kyrie Irving is a fantasy stud who I think is worth a first-round pick in a 12-team league.
Best to Own
Kyrie Irving. I don’t know who the third-best point guard is in fantasy. It might be Kyrie Irving and not Deron Williams. His ADP of 16.7 is actually too low; I am happy taking Irving ahead of guys like Al Jefferson and Andrew Bynum with bigger fantasy reps. His playing time will go up, his turnovers should be down, his assists will increase and he is almost certain to at least double his 73 three-pointers. What he did at 19, as a point guard, on a team offering him little or no help was remarkable.
Anderson Varejao. His ADP of 80.8 seems right to me. A great source of steals from the center spot, I don’t know why Varejao isn’t better than he has played the last two years although injuries are surely the explanation. Varejao is a risk but a very fine player (better in real life than in fantasy) and should get lots of careful feeding from Irving.
Tristan Thompson. Thompson helped me a lot at the end of last season and is sure to get a ton of minutes this season. He is still very raw but is a terror on the offensive glass. He might kill your assist-to-turnover ratios is you’re not careful, but he’s very young, and his ballhandling will improve (Byron Scott will insist on it). His FG% will get much better with Irving feeding him. A real dark horse and is undrafted in 91% of Yahoo! leagues… and he should be getting more than four offensive boards a game.
Alonzo Gee. He’s at the right age and experience level to make the next step up, and the Cavs don’t have an overabundance of wing players. Would need to improve his passing and ballhandling to get there, but no one is picking Gee and he seems like a good guy to stash as a result.
Players to Avoid
CJ Miles. I am only down on Miles because I think Gee will get his starting spot. This is a straight man-on-man battle for time and I think Gee is actually the better player. Miles is showing signs of physical decline and he disdains the hard work that a small forward needs to put in on both ends.
Donald Sloan. Kyrie Irving’s backup. He’s also inconsistent.
Omri Casspi. You fooled me once, lad. Like Gee and Miles, Casspi might benefit from the Cavs’ lack of wing players but he can’t shoot from outside or score inside, so he’s unlikely to provide you with much fantasy benefit.
Daniel Gibson. Shooting guard, no shot.
Tyler Zeller. He will need time to adjust to the physical beating he’ll take in the NBA.
High Risk/High Reward
Dion Waiters. A clear path to a starting spot, and a player of serious skills. But while he has serious offensive talents, he is not yet a consistent outside shooter and he will not have licence to drive the lane with his head down under Scott, certainly not with Irving. Waiters has a lot of “bad risk” and his ADP of 122 makes me nervous. Of course, he might be the Rookie of the Year. I don’t know what to do with him.
Samardo Samuels. He’s still young enough that he may make the step up in basketball intelligence that will allow him to better use a fine NBA body. He’s got some skills — he can score a bit. The key will be to adopt some of Varejao’s love of rebounding.
Like the Pacers, the Pistons return a lot of their core, it’s just that it wasn’t a very good core. Charlie Villanueva is back from his injured ankle (if such was really the case), and Andre Drummond has arrived to challenge him. Greg Monroe will take this team as far as he can. That won’t be far this year, but Monroe is already threatening to develop into a fantasy stud.
Best to Own
Greg Monroe. By the end of this season, he may be in the conversation for first-rounders in 2014. Surprisingly poor at blocking shots last season, he did everything else quite well and he should get even more shots and minutes in year three. He’s gifted with the ball out of the post, it’s just that the Pistons don’t have the weapons to let him take advantage. Yet.
Brandon Knight. A player I believe in, eventually. His ADP of 96.5 is a trifle high but Knight, despite a pretty poor rookie year in non-fantasy terms, got lots of time and did show improvement (especially on defense) as the season went on. The Pistons believe in him too, and I think he should improve as a point guard. He has real potential as a dangerous three-point shooter, and that will open the floor for him. A good draft in a keeper league.
Rodney Stuckey. A better player in fantasy than on the floor, but I’ll take it anyway. His poor jumper means that he’ll never join the best fantasy guards, but he faces little competition for his minutes and he should be a better assist man than last season’s aberration. Brandon Knight’s near-certain improvement should help his backcourt mate.
Tayshaun Prince. I would love to know what happened to Tayshaun Prince last season; for years the most consistent player in the league, he suddenly lost it and although he’s 32 I see no reason why his floor-based game can’t survive into his early 30s. But Corey Maggette seems to have been brought in to replace him, and so it’s doubtful that Prince will get the minutes he needs to re-establish himself. A deep sleeper, though, rather than someone to reach out and grab in the first ten or eleven rounds.
Charlie Villanueva. Wait, wait, hear me out. He’s been working out (I am hearing “best shape of his life” comments, and those aren’t always puffery) and he has always been a good player even at his most frustrating. He has a clear path to playing time. He’s a deep sleeper, but if he can discover a love of beating on people (he’s been boxing this summer) he might become the good rebounder that he has the skills and size to be.
Players to Avoid
Corey Maggette. It’s understandable that the Pistons, faced with a fading Prince, would want to replace him. Why they’d want to replace him with Maggette, who is older and less suited to an older man’s game, I can’t explain. Maggette still has a fine stroke but no longer clears himself enough space to get it off, and Knight and Stuckey aren’t likely to give it to him either.
Jonas Jerebko. He might lose almost all his time to Drummond and Villanueva, and he doesn’t really do anything outstanding that might help you in any particular category. I’m not down on Jerebko, who is what he is, but what he is is a bench player for a bad team.
Austin Daye. Can’t really play and is a bad rebounder for a guy his size. He’ll lose all his minutes.
Jason Maxiell. If Charlie V doesn’t end up playing and Drummond isn’t ready, Maxiell might play and get you some rebounds. Otherwise he doesn’t help you.
Will Bynum. One reason Knight is a good pick despite iffy numbers, is that his backup isn’t up to much.
High Risk/High Reward
Andre Drummond. Another guy who could be Rookie of the Year, but I do think he’s likely to be learning rather than playing at the start of the season.
For the division overview, Pacers and Bulls, see Part I.
Thanks to Erik Daniel Drost for the photo of Kyrie Irving.