With our new preseason ranks up, it's clear I'm higher on Raymond Felton than most. He's coming off a year in which he was ranked 143rd on a per game basis, but I'm banking on a change of scenery helping in 2012/13. For what it's worth, he recently admitted he showed up out of shape coming off the lockout last season and appears to be much better prepared this year (of course, not all "best shape of his life" puff pieces are created equal. But I think there's something to this one). Another part of the problem last year was his disconnect with Nate McMillan, but once the coach was let go Felton thrived. Now with the Knicks, Felton should be the clear starter over Jason Kidd, who will turn 40 years old this season. The last time Felton played for New York, he averaged 17.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 9.0 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.6 3pt while shooting 86.7 percent from the line. He was the 44th most valuable fantasy player that year, and that was with him not being nearly as productive over his 21 games not in a Knicks uniform. While this offense might not be quite as uptempo with Mike D'Antoni gone, New York still ranked tied for fourth in PACE last season. I probably have him ranked too high, but with an ADP of 121, I think it's safe to say Felton is an undervalued commodity at draft tables right now.
So while Felton's move to New York should boost his fantasy value, what will be the ramifications for Jeremy Lin moving to Houston? While Linsanity went anything but under the radar last season, it's worth repeating just how productive he was after entering the starting lineup: 18.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 7.7 apg, 2.0 spg, 1.0 3pt, 44.5 FG%, 79.6 FT%. Of course, thanks to an absolutely mind-boggling 4.7 tpg, his value took a major hit in 9-cat leagues. Lin obviously has ball security issues and is a poor defender, but he's no false media creation either, as his ability to drive to the hoop at his size as a PG is highly impressive. He can clearly play and should get a ton of run with Houston after they signed him to a huge contract and with few alternatives on its roster. Lin scored the third-most points per play of the 91 players with at least 75 isolation plays last season, shooting 48.5 percent off the dribble (only Steve Nash and Stephen Curry were better). But while the Knicks ran the most isolation plays in the NBA, the Rockets ranked 22nd, so unless Houston makes a major system adjustment thanks to its new personnel, it could be a hit to Lin's value. Still, he's such an exciting player who's still in the improvement phase, and it doesn't seem like last year's crazy hype has inflated his price tag all that much (67 ADP).
This little person is better at basketball than me (and probably you).
After J.J. Hickson averaged 16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 0.7 spg and 0.7 bpg after the All-Star break at age 22 in 2010/11, he looked primed to break out last season, so it was curious to see Cleveland trade him away for Omri Casspi, especially since the team's once unwillingness to include him in deals might have ultimately cost them LeBron James. It was equally as surprising to see Sacramento give him just 18:23 mpg after joining the Kings before freely shipping him off to Portland. The Trail Blazers then gave him an opportunity, and he responded with 15.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 0.6 spg and 0.9 bpg on 54.3 percent shooting (and those numbers are suppressed since he didn't immediately become a starter). Hickson is a poor free throw shooter and lacks elite shot blocking ability for a big man, but he's the favorite to start over Meyers Leonard (who's a project) and sure looks like an intriguing sleeper.
An extremely interesting read about a gambler's grind in the NBA.
Andre Iguodala was the 32nd most valuable player last year while scoring just 12.4 ppg and shooting only 61.7 percent from the line, which isn't easy to do. While it's safe to expect his FT shooting to bounce back close to his career level of 73.7 percent this season, the bigger reason to like him is his move to Denver. After playing for a Philadelphia team that ranked 27th in PACE last year, he now joins a Nuggets squad that ranked second, and their Offensive Efficiency ranked third. Iguodala's 10.2 FGA last year tied for 105th in the NBA, and it's pretty safe to expect that to increase in Denver's offense. With a squad that continues to get even more athletic, the Nuggets will to try to run teams out of the gym, and Iguodala will be a big beneficiary.
Pair banned from all-you-can-eat restaurant for eating too much.
Paul Millsap was the seventh most valuable fantasy player last year despite not standing out at any particular category. Well, he did get 1.8 spg, but even after doing so, he's still got just 1.1 for his career, so I wouldn't exactly bank on that happening again. Don't get me wrong, you don't have to be an NBA superstar to be an elite fantasy option, and I like Millsap's game, and he's now put up back-to-back top-25 seasons. However, he's not even guaranteed to keep his starting role this year, as Derrick Favors will be given every opportunity to unseat him at power forward. It makes sense for a rebuilding Utah team, as Favors was the No. 3 pick in the 2010 draft, is just 21 years old and showed plenty of promise when given an expanded role last season. Millsap could see some time at small forward and would likely still get plenty of minutes off the bench should he lose his starting job, but it's at least something to consider for someone who will no doubt cost a high draft pick.
Not that this is some abnormality, but small forward is an especially shallow position this year. It's probably worth using as a tiebreaker if you're debating between two similar players. There are plenty of interesting options in the middle rounds, like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Michael Beasley, J.R. Smith, Evan Turner, Andrei Kirilenko, Gordon Hayward and Harrison Barnes, etc, but they all have some question marks that start earlier at this position than any other. Even center looks deeper right now. It's probably not a big deal and certainly not as important as other fantasy sports, but still something to keep in the back of your mind at drafts. As if LeBron James and Kevin Durant needed added value.
Restaurant gives discount for being the "best looking" and having the "best butt."
I'm interested to see how high Anthony Davis goes in drafts this year. His offensive game needs some work, although that's not totally his fault, as he was incredibly only fifth in usage rate on Kentucky last season. This should actually INCREASE in the NBA. He should be competent at the line, committed just 1.0 tpg last year and should immediately be a major asset in the defensive categories. In fact, he's a threat to lead the league in blocks as a rookie and could also be among the leaders in steals among big men. Davis' uncanny ability to block shots 10+ feet away from the basket is so impressive, and he's now got a taste of what it takes while working with the USA Olympic team. How high are you willing to take The Unibrow?
Here's the most drawn out showcase bid in the history of "The Price Is Right."
And here's a classic scene from quite possibly the worst (best?) player in the show's history.
I'm going to bump Kenneth Faried up during my next ranks. He averaged 11.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 0.9 spg and 1.1 bpg with a 58.4 FG% in modest minutes over the final month last year as a rookie, and with Al Harrington gone, is looking at a big jump in minutes. Plus, anyone who's watched him knows he looks like a future star. Faried led the NBA in ORR (Percentage of offensive rebounds grabbed by a player while on the court) last year, revealing quite a bit of upside. Playing for such an uptempo Denver team doesn't hurt either, especially with a clear path to more playing time now. Even in just 22:36 mpg as a raw rookie last season, he was the 88th most valuable player, ahead of Tyreke Evans and Rajon Rondo in 9-cat leagues. Go get him.