On Tuesday, the Eve of Halloween, the NBA season will be upon us and many fans have Fantasy Basketball on their minds. Everybody knows that guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams can be interchangeable in your drafts Top 5, but who you draft in the mid-to-late rounds will most likely determine whether you win or lose your league.
Here are my picks of sleepers and rookies and also the guys that you should avoid. Draft correctly or you may wind up being the pumpkin at the ball. In the spirit of Halloween, let’s proceed….
O.J. Mayo (Dallas Mavericks)
O.J.’s namesake might scare you into not drafting him, but that would be a mistake. This is not Orenthal James, but actually Ovinton J’Anthony (you can see why he shortened it), and he may be looking at a career year.
Since being drafted by Memphis in 2008, he has seen his numbers gradually decrease. His rookie year stats of 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists were very good. He even made 1.8 3-pointers a game to boot. Actually they were good enough to garner him enough votes to finish second only to future-MVP Derrick Rose in the Rookie of the Year balloting.
Unfortunately for Memphis fans after that breakout season his game faded. Last year he finally adjusted to the sixth man role that he was given the previous season and flourished, hitting key 3-pointers and also improving his defensive game. Eventually though the welcome had worn out in Tennessee.
He is now with Dallas, who brought in some new players to a team that has already made the playoffs 12 years in a row. Figuring to be the starting SG alongside PG Darren Collison, Mayo has breakout potential. His competition for the position is very lackluster and once Dirk Nowitzki is back and healthy he should draw many double-teams that will give O.J. many open looks. His quickness may be what the Mavs need to reenergize their offense. USC has been known to breed slasher-type players, and O.J. fits this role…Mayo, not Simpson…but now that I mention it…
Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls)
Like many horror stories of yore, Carlos Boozer has been a name many have forgotten since the Bulls acquired him before the 2010-11 season. Stuck in a rotation featuring MVP Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and a dearth of front-court talent (Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Omer Asik), Boozer has simply not gotten the minutes to make a fantasy impact.
Excluding his rookie season, he averaged the fewest PPG and RPG of his career in 2012. Many people drafted him last year hoping he would turn around the mess that was ’10-11 campaign, be he wounded their hearts by playing below his talent level.
This year will be different for the Alaska native. With Derrick Rose gone until at least March, or possibly the entire season, and Asik earning a freakish $25 million (?!!) in the Lone Star State, Boozer will have to shoulder a lot of the scoring load, as well as play more minutes inside, which should garner him more rebounds.
He has never been a shot blocker, but is a good passer for a big man, so three assists per game and possibly one steal per game could be likely. Look for his scoring and rebounding averages to creep back up into the 20/10 range. Especially with the possibility of earning the much coveted center eligibility, drafting him in the middle rounds could be less trick and more treat.
Raymond Felton (New York Knicks)
Two of the issues that have always haunted the Knicks’ newly-acquired point guard have been his consistency as well as his fluctuating weight. When management decided to do a sign-and-trade for Felton it pretty much squashed any chances of them re-signing media and fan sensation Jeremy Lin, but in doing so the Blue & Orange have brought in a more prototypical floor general.
This is good news for Knicks’ fans and fantasy owners who draft him. He had a forgettable one-year stint in the Pacific Northwest, but should enjoy another quality year in the Big Apple, much like he did in 2010-11 before he was shipped to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade. His numbers that year in New York were the best of his career and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t produce similar stats across the board.
His rapport with Amar’e Stoudemire that year using the pick-and-roll became one for the ages. Amar’e looks to be out for a month or more, which is a little unnerving, but Felton should have no trouble accumulating assists with jump shooters like ‘Melo, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak draining shots.
There has been some hubbub about his propensity for, let’s call it “rotundness”, but he seems to be in shape coming into camp this year. Having played most of his career injury-free, taking a flyer on him in the middle rounds could be a fang-tastic move for you.
Others to consider:
Luke Ridnour (Minnesota Timberwolves): With Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love out due to injury, look for “Cool Hand Luke” to conjure up some points and assists.
Jerryd Bayless (Memphis Grizzlies): He’s stuck behind Mike Conley and Tony Allen on the depth chart, but there is little talent after that. He’s an injury away from playing big minutes. In four years he has averaged 16.3 points and 5.2 assists as a starter, thus making his potential to put up big numbers enchanting.
Arron Affalo (Orlando Magic): He will pretty much be THE offensive spark in Orlando. As the “prize” of the Dwight Howard trade massacre, there is no reason for Jacque Vaughn to not have him log big minutes. He is coming off a career year in Denver where he averaged a frighteningly good 15.2 points on 47 percent shooting. His 1.4 three’s per game should actually increase. Could be the steal of the draft.
Byron Mullens (Charlotte Bobcats): The Bobcats are rebuilding (aren’t they always?) and this is one of the pieces they plan on getting them there. He is eligible at center and can shoot the three, which is a rare commodity. Analysts have had a bone to pick with his inside game, but some big rebounding performances in the preseason may be signs of him turning the corner.
Anthony Randolph (Denver Nuggets): Now this is a DEEP sleeper, like comatose, but still only 23-years old, he is still on that “breakout” list. The classic “hype” player, his lack of focus has over-shadowed his amazing athleticism. He is on the Nuggets now which features the “Manimal” Kenneth Faried, but is also rostering sluggish ogres like Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee who has talent, but lacks intuitiveness. He’s not draft worthy, but keep an eye on him in free agency if any of those other players should become George Karl’s black cat.
Michael Beasley (Phoenix Suns): The former No. 2 overall pick has never fully come into his own. After only two seasons in Miami he was jettisoned to the Great North to make room for LeBron and Co. His first season in Minneapolis was a success, averaging career high in points per game. However last year, with a much more limited role, he failed to meet the expectations that had been bestowed upon him after coming out Kansas State as the Big 12 record holder in many categories.
This is a fresh start for Beasley in the desert. He is pretty much guaranteed lots of minutes on a Suns team that will need his scoring. His streaky shooting can be spine-chilling, but if he can be consistent on more of a regular basis he could be a find.
More under-the-radar guys that could put a spell on you: Brandon Knight, Devin Harris, George Hill, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward, Evan Turner, J.R. Smith, Wesley Matthews, Derrick Favors, Nikola Pekovic, J.J. Hickson
The Plague (Avoid these guys at all costs)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors): Yes, I know how much talent this kid has, and many people are drafting him in the first couple rounds, but the fact of the matter is that he has way too many issues with his gimpy ankle that are worth stressing about all year long. When healthy he has put up great all around numbers, but he missed 40 games last year and has already had another mishap with the same surgically repaired ankle in the preseason. Bury him on your draft list. Let him be someone else’s problem.
Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets): see “Curry, Stephen”. Same deal here, just a knee problem instead of an ankle problem. Put a nail in his coffin.
Jason Richardson/Dorell Wright/Nick Young (Philadelphia 76ers): All three of these guys essentially play the same position and will eat into each other’s time on the court. Not bad fillers in free agency on a daily basis if you’re desperate for scoring categories (namely 3-pointers and points), but their field goal percentage’s will be murder on your in the long run.
Anyone in the Sacramento Kings backcourt: This list would include: Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons. While many of these players are talented there are too many of them to go around and most of them will hurt your team in specific categories. While Evans and Thornton will see more consistent minutes than the others, their shooting percentages will give you nightmares!
Andrea Bargnani (Toronto Raptors): While many had doubted the former No. 1 overall pick over the past few seasons he has really turned out to be a great scorer. But scoring is mainly what you’ll get from him. Being center –eligible is nice, but five boards, a sub-par FG% and almost no blocks or steals to speak of is not what you’re looking for on a daily basis. He’s basically like teammate DeMar DeRozan, just taller and speaks better Italian. Chronic injuries are a problem with him as well. With Bargnani you never know if you’ll get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, don’t take the risk.
Hedo Turkoglu (Orlando Magic): Hedo has had his good years, but those years are behind him. He is starting for the Magic now, but don’t let his projected minutes fool you into selling your soul for this guy. Once the Magic start 3-20 he’ll most likely be traded to a contender where he’ll move back to a bench role and be a non-factor. Tread lightly with this Turk.
Nene (Washington Wizards): Nene is a highly talented player who is good for career averages of 12 points and seven rebounds a game. The problem is that over a 10 year career, out of 804 possible games, he has only played in 457 of them, which translates to 57 percent. Draft this guy and you’ll be heading to an early grave.
More guys you’ll feel have put a hex on you if you draft them: Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette, Nate Robinson, Gerald Henderson, Andrew Bogut, Amar’e Stoudemire, Robin Lopez, DeMar DeRozan, Marvin Williams, Metta World Peace, and Caron Butler
Fresh Blood (Rookies)
Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers): He had a great rookie camp and is the starting PG on a team really lacking in depth. New coach Terry Stotts will give him lots of minutes and he does have some formidable scorers (LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews) that can help him pad his assist totals. He should be given a very long leash. Drink this potion and you’ll find yourself a sneaky point guard pickup in the later rounds.
Jae Crowder (Dallas Mavericks): He had a great career at Marquette, but rarely do you see a second round pick blossom so quickly. He has impressed coach Rick Carlisle in preseason and is a tweener big man who hustles a lot. He will see minutes because he brings youth to a team that desperately needs players that aren’t on death’s bed. He should also fill a big role while Nowitzki continues to nurse a bad knee.
Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers): The Cavs are bad. Aside from the otherworldly Kyrie Irving they have very few players who are legitimate scorers. Waiters will be shooting and shooting a lot. Don’t expect good percentages, but the points will be there.
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards): The highly regarded SG from Florida will take no time to get on the NBA map. With franchise player John Wall out for a few months they will need to rely heavily on Beal’s scoring ability. What have they got to lose by playing Beal, after all they are the Wizards, and unless they perform some kind of voodoo, they are going to be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Brian Roberts (New Orleans Hornets): No, this is not the Brian Roberts who plays second base for the Baltimore Orioles. This Brian Roberts is a 29-year old rookie who has made heads roll during training camp. I don’t think Greivis Vasquez is suited for a full time role as the starting PG in ‘Nawlins and Austin Rivers is more of shooting guard, which leaves Roberts as the potential rock handler for the Hornets.
Perry Jones III (Oklahoma City Thunder): What is it with Baylor guys and the “III” after their name? Robert Griffin “Tres” has mightily impressed in his rookie year as the Washington Redskins QB so why can’t Jones III do so in OKC? Well, he might. With the trade of Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets, the Thunder will need more punch off its bench. Harden’s ghost may not haunt Chesapeake Energy Arena for long as Jones III is a very athletic big man who could easily supplant the older and slower Kendrick Perkins in many crunch minutes.
Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons): A very, very, very raw talent, but Drummond possesses a lot of upside. A defensive minded beast, he could get you sufficient rebounding and blocked shot numbers in your fantasy league. The Pistons aren’t very good and have no reason not to play their first-round draft pick.
Others: Marquis Teague, Harrison Barnes, Thomas Robinson, Moe Harkless (when he returns from injury), Jonas Valanciunas
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats): I think it might take a while for him to find a position that is best suited for his abilities and then he may finally rear his fangs, but for now he’s a deer in headlights.
Tyshawn Taylor (Brooklyn Nets): Stuck behind D-Will and C.J. Watson in the depth charts. His fantasy season can rest in pieces.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets): I think that the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft will be a great player one day and I’m not saying he’s not a great player now, but I think his game is limited with the players that are currently surrounding him. If Gordon has made a deal with the devil and can stay healthy I can see myself changing my tune on this, but for now he’s at best a late round pick.
Kendall Marshall (Phoenix Suns): Newly acquired PG Goran Dragic got paid the big bucks and will log most of the minutes. Though he is sound defensively, Marshall’s offensive game still has cobwebs on it.