The 2010-11 NBA regular season gets underway in the hypiest of fashions, with Miami's trio of talent in Boston to take on their now slightly less trendy big three. Miami's high-profile roster is just one of the major storylines the will alter the fantasy landscape:
• How much will Kevin Durant(notes) improve in his fourth season? It's no secret that Durant is already at the top of the fantasy game - he finished the 2009-10 season as the top-ranked player and is the consensus No.1 pick by way of average draft position (1.2). His game took a giant leap forward for fantasy purposes last season, thanks to numbers like 30.2 points, 1.6 threes, 7.6 boards, 1.4 steals, 1 block, and 90-percent foul shooting on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game. What is truly frightening - and what makes him the top pick - is that we certainly haven't seen his ceiling when it comes to threes, steals, and blocks. And we'll be discussing a historic level of impact if he improves on his assist-to-turnover ratio to any extent over the next few years.
• There are "other" players in new places this season. There was plenty of non-Miami player movement this off-season. Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) in now with the Knicks and, while he remains in a fantasy friendly system, he'll now have to deliver those elite offensive numbers with someone other than Steve Nash(notes) passing him the ball. No Nellie puts the Warriors under a serious microscope, but David Lee(notes) and his ever-expanding game (3.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks post-break last season) will still produce numbers for Keith Smart. Al Jefferson(notes) is now 1.5 years removed from knee surgery, playing for a playoff team and alongside one of the game's best point guards in Deron Williams(notes) - my guess is that he'll be happy. Darren Collison(notes) was one of last season's biggest surprises (18.8 points, 9.1 assists, 1.4 steals in 37 starts), but now he's the point guard of the present and future for Indiana, and there are a lot of fantasy hopes pinned to his success (43.0 ADP). Other notable players with new addresses include Raymond Felton(notes), Trevor Ariza(notes), Michael Beasley(notes), Hedo Turkoglu(notes), Carlos Boozer(notes), Al Harrington(notes), and Drew Gooden(notes).
• The point guard position will decide a number of fantasy league championships... Collison is just one of 13 point guards being drafted in the first four rounds, according to ADP info. And with players like John Wall(notes), Aaron Brooks(notes), Raymond Felton, Brandon Jennings(notes), and Jrue Holiday(notes) following shortly thereafter, fantasy seasons are going to be made or broken by which point guards live up to expectations and which struggle or fail to deliver numbers requisite to their draft positions.
…but don't forget about those centers. There are 17 players with eligibility at center being drafted in the first four rounds, so fantasy owners are very heavily invested here. The position also features a number of injured players - Carlos Boozer, Troy Murphy(notes), Andrew Bogut(notes), Andrew Bynum(notes), Yao Ming(notes), Greg Oden(notes), and Samuel Dalembert(notes) - that will heavily influence their fantasy teams' success, based on what level of production they can deliver over the course of the season.
• What kind of impact will this year's rookies make? Stephen Curry(notes) and Tyreke Evans(notes) were fantastic as rookies, while Brandon Jennings, Marcus Thornton(notes), and Darren Collison also delivered notable rookie numbers. This season's rookie crop features John Wall and Blake Griffin(notes) - Wall will attempt to breathe new life into the floundering Wizards' franchise, while a huge pre-season has only increased the drama surrounding Griffin's second attempt at a first season. DeMarcus Cousins(notes), Evan Turner(notes), Wesley Johnson(notes), Greg Monroe(notes), and Derrick Favors(notes) also are on fantasy radars and rosters to start the season.
• Who will be the breakout performers? Everyone has their personal favorites, but some of the more notable consensus breakout candidates (via draft numbers) are: Roy Hibbert(notes), as he takes ownership of the post for the Pacers; Jrue Holiday, in his follow-up to a quietly effective rookie season; and Nicolas Batum(notes), who looks like a roto juggernaut with starter's minutes. JaVale McGee(notes), Robin Lopez(notes), J.J. Hickson(notes), D.J. Augustin(notes), Serge Ibaka(notes), James Harden(notes), Linas Kleiza(notes), Marco Belinelli(notes) and Austin Daye(notes) also fit the bill as late-round upside picks.
• How much rest will the title contenders give their vets? We've already heard about Kobe Bryant(notes) seeing fewer regular season minutes, and there are a number of veterans on the prohibitive playoff teams that could also get the same treatment and affect the stretch run for fantasy owners. The Lakers (Bryant, Pau Gasol(notes)), Celtics (Kevin Garnett(notes), Paul Pierce(notes), Ray Allen(notes)), Spurs (Tim Duncan(notes), Manu Ginobili(notes), Tony Parker(notes)), and Mavs (Dirk Nowitzki(notes), Jason Kidd(notes)) could all employ the practice at some point.
Let's take a closer look at the teams involved in opening night's three-game slate.
Miami @ Boston (7:30pm ET)
MIA: Dwyane Wade(notes) played just three minutes of one preseason game (hamstring), so our first extended look at the Heat's trio will come on opening night. We know that Wade, LeBron James(notes), and Chris Bosh's(notes) numbers will be affected by their new team setup, but the question remains as to how exactly they will be affected. The thin roster got even thinner was Mike Miller(notes) was lost until January (thumb), and the question remains as to which players can/will accomplish anything for fantasy purposes beyond Wade, James, and Bosh. As it stands, Carlos Arroyo(notes), James Jones(notes), Eddie House(notes), Udonis Haslem(notes), and Joel Anthony(notes) will see the majority of the non-superstar minutes for this team.
BOS: The Celtics have not changed much since they took the court on opening night last season. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen comprise the veteran core will attention firmly fixed on the playoffs. Rajon Rondo(notes) is the engine for the team and its fantasy stud - a further progression of skills in 2010-11 would put him in the first-round conversation for next season. Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Jermaine O'Neal(notes) will comprise the veteran center platoon for the majority of the season, as Kendrick Perkins(notes) works his way back from a major knee injury. When healthy, each O'Neal will simply serve to limit the fantasy impact of the other. Glen Davis(notes), Nate Robinson(notes), Marquis Daniels(notes), and Delonte West(notes) are Boston's role players.
Phoenix @ Portland (10:00pm ET)
PHO: The Suns will be a different team this season. Amar'e Stoudemire is a Knick and his replacement at power forward - at least to start the season - is Hedo Turkoglu, a small forward coming off a massively disappointing season with the Raptors. Steve Nash still leads the charge, and he'll have Jason Richardson(notes) on the wing and Robin Lopez in the middle, but how exactly Hedo, Grant Hill(notes), Channing Frye(notes), Josh Childress(notes), Jared Dudley(notes), and Hakim Warrick(notes) are regularly deployed for the new-look Suns still remains to be seen.
POR: It's all questions of levels when it comes to the Blazers. As in, can Brandon Roy(notes) stay healthy and get his fantasy impact back to the Round 1 level? What level of play can Marcus Camby(notes) maintain at age 36? And what about Andre Miller(notes) at age 34? LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) has been very good for the past three seasons, but can he take his overall game to the next level? To what level with Nicolas Batum rise with starter's minutes at small forward? To what level will Greg Oden be involved in the 2010-11 season?
Houston @ LA Lakers (10:30pm ET)
HOU: The one overriding question in Houston is how Yao Ming and his 24-minute allotment will affect the rest of this team. Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola(notes) thrived in Yao's absence last season, and they've also got Kevin Martin(notes) here from the outset, so they aren't lacking for talent past the big guy. Brad Miller(notes) will see the majority of the non-Yao minutes at center and would step into a much larger role if Yao struggles at any point. Shane Battier(notes), Kyle Lowry(notes), Chase Budinger(notes), Jordan Hill(notes), and Courtney Lee(notes) will round out Rick Adelman's regular rotation.
LAL: Kobe Bryant's pain threshold was established as very, very high as he played through a variety of ailments last season. He's a bit less likely to do so in 2010-11, and there is already talk of his minutes being limited to start the regular season. Nobody is expecting a drop-off in production, given his resume. Should we be? Pau Gasol has been as good as any big man in the game since joining the Lakers, and that goes for fantasy and reality. With Andrew Bynum (knee) on the shelf until at least Thanksgiving, Lamar Odom(notes) will have a starting role initially and will play plenty all season as the Lakers figure to be very judicious with Bynum's minutes when he does return.
We're wrapping up the pre-season and shifting into regular season mode, just as you are. Here are links to our pre-season content, if only for posterity's sake. Good luck this season!
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