After posting my first Big Board earlier this month, it's become clear Rajon Rondo is one of the bigger debates in fantasy basketball. Like Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin, his value obviously depends on format, but even so, the majority seemed to think I had him ranked too low, and that's certainly defensible when you consider he led the NBA in assists with 11.7 per game last year (next best was 10.7), finished top-five in spg for the fourth straight season and led all points guards with 4.8 rpg. Rondo is clearly an elite NBA player who continues to only get better - he handed out 13.2 apg after the All-Star break last season and is coming off a playoff series versus Miami in which he averaged 20.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 12.7 apg. Still, it must be pointed out Rondo was only the 96th most valuable player on a per game basis last year according to Basketball Monster. Guys like James Singleton, Carlos Delfino and Courtney Lee were higher. While it's probably safe to expect a bounce back in FG% this year, he's still likely to be a real drain in five categories. If Rondo isn't the toughest player to rank, he's at least in the conversation.
There's no doubt DeMarcus Cousins comes with a knucklehead factor, but he just finished his sophomore season averaging 18.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.5 spg and 1.2 bpg while playing just 30:30 mpg. Of course, he's partially at fault for the lack of playing time thanks to his fouling issues, although that did improve slightly over the course of the season. According to Hoopdata, Cousins attempted the most shots at the rim in the NBA last season, although he made just 56.7 percent of them, which is well below the league average (63.1 percent). Even a modest improvement there could lead to big things from the big man who just turned 22 years old and averaged 19.8 ppg in the second half last year. Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Cousins were the only players to average 18+ ppg, 10+ rpg and 1+ bpg. Cousins could be an absolute monster this year.
Ryan Anderson was the eighth most valuable fantasy player last year, but I bumped him down to 37 on the big board, and I would love your opinion if that was too crazy of a drop or if I should have went even lower. His increased production was based primarily on seeing 10 more minutes per game, but there's no reason not to expect similar playing time in 2012/13 as part of a rebuilding New Orleans team with few scoring options. However, a change in scenery certainly brings an unknown factor, especially for a non-elite talent, and more importantly, he won't be shooting as many open threes with Dwight Howard no longer a teammate. Maybe Anderson isn't a bust but don't draft him off last year's stats.
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What do we do with Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry? Lowry was an absolute stud last year before suffering a bacterial infection that essentially ruined the rest of his season. He was the 26th ranked player on a per game basis and was equally as impressive after taking over PG duties for Houston the year prior. He's now with a new team in Toronto with Jose Calderon as competition, but it certainly appears the Raptors traded for him to be their guy, as it's entirely conceivable his new management actually has more confidence in him than Houston's brass did…After replacing an injured Lowry, Dragic averaged 18.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 8.4 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.8 3pt while shooting 49.0 percent from the field and 83.9 percent from the line over 28 games as a starter. He'll now join a more uptempo offense in Phoenix as the unquestioned starter after signing with the Suns for $30 million during the offseason. Point guard looks deep this year, but Dragic (and Lowry) is going to be drafted aggressively.
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What a crushing injury to John Wall. As a 21-year-old who averaged 1.4 spg and 0.9 bpg last season, his fantasy potential was high, although he ended as just the 87th ranked player thanks to a high TO rate and an utter lack of three-pointers. In fact, Wall went just 3-for-42 from behind the arc. He also hit just 29.0 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet (league average is 38.8 percent), so it's clear he needs to improve his jump shot. But that's often the final piece to the puzzle when it comes to highly athletic guards like Wall. Derrick Rose averaged 0.2 3pt over his first two seasons in the league, only to get 1.6 and 1.4 the following two. Wall supposedly worked hard on his jumper during the offseason, but that optimism has been quelled by the recent news he's expected to miss up to eight weeks with a knee injury. While he reportedly doesn't need surgery, the patella injury is somewhat vague, and there's just no telling how close to 100 percent he'll be even after missing the first month of the season, so he needs to be bumped down cheat sheets accordingly. There's no obvious replacement for fantasy owners, and although Jordan Crawford will likely see his minutes increased in the short term, his efficiency was directly tied to playing alongside Wall last year.
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Stephen Curry is one of the highest risk/reward picks there is. Slowed by a persistent ankle injury in 2010/11 that limited his minutes and eventually required offseason surgery, the problem became even worse last year, as he missed 40 games with recurrent ankle/foot issues. Curry again had surgery on his ankle this offseason to clean out loose debris, and the good news was there was no structural damage. Still, he's clearly one of the bigger health risks moving forward. Having said that, Curry was the 14th most valuable player last year while playing just 28:06 mpg, revealing unreal upside. Still just 24 years old, the Warriors are now unquestionably Curry's team with Monta Ellis shipped out of town. Curry led the NBA by a wide margin last season by making 59.0 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet, is fully capable of leading the league in 3pt and is a career 90.1% shooter at the line. In fact, he, Steve Nash and Mark Price are the only players in league history with a career 40+ 3PT% and 90+ FT%. With Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut, he also has some sneaky good options at his disposal. It's something of a gamble, but Curry offers top-five overall upside at typically a much lower price.
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James Harden was the 20th most valuable player last year despite continuing to come off the bench. Sometimes starting is just a meaningless title, and he obviously gets enough run to be plenty productive, but there were 72 players who were given more minutes per game, so it's scary to think of what he could do with increased PT. Harden's stats don't necessarily jump out playing alongside two superstars, but he's the classic "won't hurt you in any category" player who continues to get better each year in the league and will be playing for a massive contract this season. Harden's "True Shooting Percentage" (66.0%) was fourth best in the NBA, and he was attempting a lot more shots than any of the others who finished in the top 12. Don't let his 4-for-20 stretch over Games 3 and 4 in the Finals last year leave a bad taste in your mouth or the fact he comes off the bench sway you, as Harden is a top-20 fantasy asset in 9-cat leagues.
Staying healthy and seeing by far the most PT of his career last season, Andrew Bynum finally lived up to his huge potential and became a fantasy monster. He got 18.7 ppg and 1.9 bpg while grabbing 11.8 rpg despite sharing the paint with Pau Gasol. His move from Los Angeles to Philadelphia presents an interesting dilemma for prospective fantasy owners. On one hand, Bynum will be the unquestioned centerpiece of an offense for the first time in his career and should shatter his previous career high in FG attempts, which was set last year. On the other hand, with a huge downgrade in teammates, Bynum will be looking at many more double teams, something that's plagued him in the past. When doubled last season, Bynum saw his TO% increase from 9.5 to 24.8 while scoring just 0.77 points per post-up, which remarkably were the fewest in the entire league. Still, he'll likely improve in that area with more experience, as it's easy to forget he's still just 24 years old. Bynum's shaky injury history shouldn't be suddenly overlooked after one healthy season, but his upside is undeniable.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dwight Howard
- Andrew Bynum
- Rajon Rondo
- Kyle Lowry