Fantasy Hoops: The Uncertain List
At long last, the start of the 2012-13 NBA season is truly just around the corner. As teams prepare for on-court battles, those individuals who engage in fantasy basketball are waging battles of their own. And it begins on draft day as owners focus on building a team that puts them in the best position to win their league’s championship.
Diehard fantasy basketball players have been analyzing players and stats for some time now. Most likely, they have already compiled lists of targets which include proven fantasy stars and those with potential jump status. They’ve considered this years’ crop of rookies, still-relevant veteran players, sleepers and busts. Then there’s that list of players whose contributions are not easily identified; these might include injury-prone players, sliding players or players who have landed on different teams in the offseason.
HOOPSWORLD wants to lend a helping hand by breaking down certain players who present uncertain numbers. Owners need to take a good, long look at the risks, on both sides of the coin, before pulling the trigger on draft day.
STEVE NASH (Los Angeles Lakers):
This presents one of the more curious fantasy picks for the coming season. Nash will turn 39 years old in about three months and is entering his 17th NBA season – those two factors are intriguing enough – but what happens to his numbers in Los Angeles? He’s now sharing the ball with the famously hands-on Kobe Bryant, who led the league in Usage Percentage (35.7) last year. Nash logged 12.5 points per game/10.7 assists per game last season in Phoenix with no superstar sidekick. He admits the Lakers’ use of Princeton concepts are the opposite type of offense he knows. There will be an adjustment period as he gets used to playing in a system where he isn’t the trigger man. In general, the 0-8 preseason record means little, but you have to be a bit concerned when Nash says all five starters are struggling with not being the man. His long-established shooting efficiencies should remain, but look for a drop in assists akin to his 7-8 range during his last few years in Dallas. And, without a doubt, there will come a time when his body breaks down.
ERIC GORDON (New Orleans Hornets):
When Gordon hits the court, he contributes nicely for owners. Problem is, he’s played in only 127 games of a possible 230 over the past three years. He had knee surgery in February – only logging nine games in New Orleans last year – so you would think things would be looking up by now. Unfortunately, he had lingering offseason knee soreness which caused him to miss training camp. That led to poor conditioning in the limited preseason games, so his status when the regular season tips off is unknown. He could return in good shape giving you 20 points per game and lots of trips to the free throw line with steady steals, assists and rebounds, or the knee could be a real problem. And hopefully, there’s no evidence of an attitude situation.
TYREKE EVANS (Sacramento Kings):
After a stellar rookie season in 2009-10 (20.1 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game and 1.5 steals per game, along with a Rookie of the Year title), hopes were high for Evans becoming a top fantasy mainstay. Alas, that didn’t happen. His numbers decreased in nearly every category the following season and even more last season. He battled injuries, conditioning issues and coach run-ins. As talented as he is, he can’t seem to find his position on this team. Evans reportedly returned to camp in better shape than usual and worked on his shot in the offseason. It’s a contract year so this could go either way – he could successfully focus on impressing or woefully crack under pressure.
RAY ALLEN (Miami HEAT):
With 16 years of NBA experience behind him, Allen can still shoot the ball. Last season, he helped fantasy owners in free throw percentage (.915), three-pointers (2.3 at .453) and double-digit scoring (14.2) in 34.0 minutes. Now as a member of the Miami HEAT, he will get the opportunity, but how many minutes will he see? That’s the uncertainty. However, he should garner plenty of open looks when he is on the court, so the threes should keep coming. At 37 years of age, Allen missed 20 games last year after missing just seven over the previous three seasons.
BLAKE GRIFFIN (Los Angeles Clippers):
The athletic Griffin is undoubtedly a beast on the basketball court, but his fantasy value is hindered by a considerable injury history and dismal free-throw and blocking efforts. Don’t forget he missed the entire 2009-10 season due to surgery for a broken left kneecap. He played two full seasons afterwards, but had surgery again over the summer (which caused him to withdraw from the Olympics) to repair a torn meniscus on the same knee. He’s a double/double machine (20.7 points, 10.9 rebounds last season, down from 22.5 points/12.1 rebounds in 2010-11), but he kills you in blocks (0.7) and steals (0.8) with a beyond dismal .521 free throw percentage. Among the power forward position, Griffin ranks second in free throws attempted (7.1) yet had the worst percentage. Granted, he’s concentrating on this area by working with the Clippers’ new shooting coach, Bob Thate, and he’s been cleared to play, but there are no guarantees from a fantasy standpoint on either front.
JAVALE MCGEE (Denver Nuggets):
Will coach George Karl give McGee more than the 20.6 minutes per game he saw last season in Denver? If so, expect some big numbers. McGee averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, but in a Per 36 Minutes format, that turns into 18.0 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks per game. His free-throw efficiency was awful (.373), but we know he can do better (.660 in his rookie year). McGee worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon, who says he should dominate the league, over the summer; he may make the leap if he gets minutes.
DANNY GRANGER (Indianapolis Pacers):
Granger has been an early-round, must-have fantasy guy for a number of years with his ability to contribute meaningfully in multiple categories. He took a dip last year (18.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a career-low field goal percentage of .416) compared to averages over the previous three years (23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists). Granger admits he’s playing through knee pain. It was painful to watch him trying to get through preseason games. The positive news is that it’s not the kind of thing where he has to rest; it’s a matter of breaking up scar tissue while in use. Pacers coach Frank Vogel says it will take time for Granger, 29, to recapture his rhythm and timing. Not good. His ability to elevate may be in jeopardy, and in turn, his shooting percentages may decrease. Another worrisome consideration surrounds the growth of 22-year-old Paul George and the likelihood of him getting some of Granger’s minutes and touches.
KRIS HUMPHRIES (Brooklyn Nets):
Are Humphries’ double/double days (13.8 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game) in jeopardy? With Brook Lopez returning and the hybrid Gerald Wallace surely inserted in small ball and Andray Blatche available at the position (even Reggie Evans and Mirza Teletovic, too), Humphries won’t see the 34.9 minutes per game he enjoyed last season. Nets coach Avery Johnson says no rotation has been set.
Who makes your uncertain list in fantasy basketball this season? Let us know in the comments section below.