Southeast Division Preview Part I
When we discussed this idea and sought volunteers for each division, everyone wanted to do the Southeast. I can’t speak for Kent or Bruce, but I wanted to review this division because I just don’t understand what these teams are doing and thought some closer analysis would shed some light. This includes the NBA Champion Miami Heat, who somehow feel like they weren’t old enough last year and decided to add 37-year-old Ray Allen, 33-year-old Rashard Lewis and gave away their first round draft pick.
But this is nitpicking compared to the other four teams in the division, who are all undergoing a major transition. The Atlanta Hawks, with a new GM in place and just one year after deciding to break the bank on Joe Johnson to keep the team together, have decided that the team was going nowhere and moved Johnson and Marvin Williams for the ephermal cap space. The Washington Wizards, on the other hand, decided that cap space isn’t all that it is cracked up to be and have tied up theirs for the next two off-seasons to add the declining and overpaid Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. The Charlotte Bobcats, coming off one of the worst seasons in NBA history, replaced their head coach and then stalled the rebuilding process by using cap space and minutes to the thoroughly mediocre Ben Gordon, Brendan Haywood and Ramon Sessions so they can lose games by 10 points instead of 15. And lastly, the Orlando Magic, the perennial winner of the worst NBA offseason decision, and despite a new GM and coach, outdid even themselves by sweeping the podium this year with the Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson trades and Jameer Nelson contract.
As a result of all of this insanity, the Southeast Division presents a lot of interesting dilemmas for fantasy players. What impact will the management/coaching changes have their team’s style of play? Will the division’s woeful teams play their veterans or give the kids a chance? Are there any breakout candidates? Hopefully in this preview, we can help you sort through all of that murk. In Part I, we will cover the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks and in Part II we attack arguably the three worst organizations in the NBA (with apologies to the Sacramento Kings).
Most championship teams usually have a eureka! moment. A turning point from which the whole becomes greater than the parts and the players come together as a team. I believe that Miami’s eureka! moment was the decision to move LeBron James from the 3 to the 4. The smaller lineup not only allowed the team to increase its pace and take advantage of the athleticism and open court play of James and Dwayne Wade, but became a way to put the team’s five best players on the court together and solidified everyone’s role.
James and Wade stopped chucking three’s (easily the weakest part of their games) and played to their respective strengths, posting up smaller players and driving past the slower ones. Chris Bosh went from offensive afterthought to match-up nightmare as a C, especially with the new 3P weapon he unveiled in the playoffs. His ability to drag the other team’s C out from under the basket also created openings for James and Wade. Mario Chalmers stopped forcing the play and focused on hitting open jumpers, dramatically increasing his FG% in the process. And, Shane Battier played the glue guy who can hit a wide open 3 (though he missed pretty much everything else) and share the key defensive responsibility with James and Wade.
The Heat’s offseason can best be explained from this light. They are going all-in with the smaller lineup. Ray Allen doesn’t handle the ball like he used to but he is still as good as ever hitting open jumpers and 3P shots and should compliment Chalmers. Rashard Lewis and Josh Harrellson can rebound a little but their role will be to support Battier and Bosh and drag larger players away from the basket with the threat of their long range shooting.
Best to Own
LeBron James got even better last year by improving his shooting, raising his FG% from .510 to .531, 3P% from .330 to .362 and FT% from .759 to .771. The bulk of that improvement came from better shot selection as he shot one 3 less per game. The deserved first overall selection in almost all formats.
Dwayne Wade despite seeing a drop of 4 minutes per game, he put up even better per game numbers in AST, BLK and STL while holding his PTS rate in 2011-12. Ranks just behind Russell Westbrook on most draft boards due to the potential injury risk.
Ray Allen is still an elite 3P shooter both in makes at 2.3 pg and % at 45.3. In addition, he is excellent for your FT% with a career .894 with a solid in FG% at .458. Just don’t expect his historical PPG and AST rates, which are in steep decline.
Mario Chalmers improved his shooting last year to a very useful .448 FG%, .388 3P% and .792 FT%. Even if he regresses a bit in 2012-13, he should make up for it with increased minutes as he went from from 28 mpg to 35.5 mpg in the playoffs.
Chris Bosh since arriving in Miami has seen his ADP drop from around 10 to the mid 40′s, where he is now a bargain. I am hoping a full season in his new role and his confidence surge from the playoffs will help him regain some of that lost value.
Udonis Haslem looks to be a bit of a forgotten man because his normally stellar shooting betrayed him last year (down from 51.2% to 42.3%). Everything else stayed the same and shooting numbers tend to bounce back.
Players to Avoid
Mike Miller has battled injuries for the past two seasons and can no longer be trusted to stay on the court. The arrival of Allen effectively puts the fork in him.
Shane Battier, in his heyday, was an efficient player who provided above average BLK for an SF, but over the past three years his efficiency has declined dramatically and is now a serious drag on your rate stats.
Norris Cole is a back-up PG who can’t pass (1.27 A/TO) or shoot (.393 FG%, .276 3P%) and therefore won’t help your fantasy team.
Joel Anthony is the big loser of minutes with Miami’s smaller lineup. Will stay play against legitimate centers but Andrew Bynum is the only one of those in the Eastern Conference.
James Jones has been made redundant by Allen and Rashard Lewis.
Terrell Harris is a high energy guard who can excel in spurts but you will never be able to anticipate his next one.
Dexter Pittman/Mickell Gladness are both depth big men and unlikely to see any more minutes than last year.
High Risk/High Reward
Rashard Lewis do you believe in the rejuvenation machine? Going from Washington to Miami can change a man’s outlook and work ethic.
Josh Harrellson is probably next in line if Lewis and Haslem are in fact cooked. Could be a cheap source of 3P and Reb.
The Atlanta Hawks present a real danger for fantasy players. Despite beginning to tear down a solid if unspectacular team, they still look like a playoff contender, with many interesting fantasy plays heading into the season. My concern is that the Johnson trade is just the first step. Josh Smith is their best player and a free agent at the end of the season. It would not surprise me if he is suddenly traded and the team goes into full tank mode. The rumour is that they are setting up to make an all-out push for Dwight Howard. While a noble goal, it looks awfully unlikely. I can’t imagine Superman taking less money to leave the Lakers for the Hawks, nor how the Magic would have turned down any trade offer from Atlanta involving Al Horford if one was in fact made. (OK maybe I can, please see Part II.) So far Smith has made it clear that he won’t sign an extension, making a trade more likely. If Smith is traded, this team starts to look a lot worse.
On top of the tear-down risk, with a new management team in place and quite bit of player turnover — only five players return from last year’s team and four of them are in the front court — there is little certainty as to how the team will play. The Danny Ferry teams in Cleveland and San Antonio tended to play a slower defense first style — will that carry over to these Hawks? Will they go small with three of Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Louis Williams, Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver on the court, or will they go big with Smith, Horford and Zaza Pachulia? Will the players on expiring deals like Harris, Morrow, Korver and DeShawn Stevenson get significant run or will management order Larry Drew to play the kids like John Jenkins and Mike Scott?
Because of all this uncertainty and despite some quality players, I am downgrading most Hawks for my drafts.
Best to Own
Josh Smith is a fantasy beast with one character flaw. He loves shooting 3′s and long 2′s despite ugly results (25.7 3p%). With new teammates whose livelihood depend on getting those shots, a new management team that might not accept such foolishness and the motivation of a free agent payday, I expect him to cut back on the number of these bad shots and for his fantasy value to climb. I have him in my top ten.
Al Horford steadily improved until last year when he lost the bulk of the season to a torn pectoral muscle. He returned for the playoffs and should be healthy to start the season. Expect another all-star campaign. His ADP of 23 reflects a full return.
Jeff Teague is a solid second PG with good a FG%, low turnover rate (2 pg) and a healthy amount of STl (1.6 pg). He doesn’t add enough in the way of 3′s (0.8 pg) or AST (4.9 pg) to be a number one. ADP of 69 is in line with his value last year.
Louis Williams was covered in detail here though I think the analysis misses the point. He is simply an excellent source of PTS (14.9), 3P (1.3 pg), FT (3.7 pg), AST (3.5 pg) and STL (0.8 pg) because he does it without the dreaded TO (1.1 pg). Mid 80′s value from a 103 ADP.
Zaza Pachulia produces when he plays, delivering 131 value last year. A decent source of FG%, FT% (for a C) and REB. Question is how much will he play in 2012-13? I say a lot more than his 212 ADP prices in.
Players to Avoid
Kyle Korver contributes absolutely nothing but 3PM and 3PT%. He is also at risk at being crowded out of Atlanta. His ADP of 168 is a significant premium to his fantasy value.
Anthony Morrow see Kyle Korver above. Even his ADP of 169 is the same.
DeShawn Stevenson has more defensive value than Korver or Morrow but negative offensive value. Shouldn’t be on any fantasy team regardless of how deep your league is.
Ivan Johnson surprised many with some helpful minutes in Horford’s absence but is unlikely to get the same opportunity this year.
Johan Petro is a back-up C with a 41.9 FG% last year. You don’t want any part of that.
High Risk/High Reward
Devin Harris gets another new lease on life but this time as a back-up to Teague. His ADP of 153 prices in a significant loss of value. If Atlanta is playing for the playoffs, he will exceed it, if they are playing for the lottery, he will fall below.
John Jenkins is another perimeter-only shooting option for the Hawks but can probably be had with your last round pick. Will pass Morrow, Korver and Stevenson on the depth chart if Atlanta opts for the lottery.
Mike Scott consider this pick as a hedge in case Smith is traded mid-season.
Thanks to Keith Allison for the photo of Nene.