October 28, 2008
Finally! As of this post going live, we are approximately 4.5 hours from the start of the first game of the NBA regular season (CLE @ BOS, 8pm ET). While there are only two other games on tap (MIL @ CHI, 8:30pm ET, and POR @ LAL, 10:30pm ET), there isn't exactly a dearth of story lines with the potential for far-reaching fantasy implications...
CLE: The per-game average for the Cavs' second-leading scorer has declined in each of the past three seasons (from 16.9 to 15.6 to 14.9 to 14.1) - can Mo Williams put a stop to that trend? Delonte West appears to have won the Cavs' starting SG job - can he hold it and (once again) pack a sizeable fantasy punch? Can LeBron James raise his FT% this season, vaulting him into a 9-category stratosphere all to himself? And how much worse can Ben Wallace's numbers get?
BOS: What is the script for "The Big Three, Part II"? Health is the overriding concern, as it's a fairly safe bet that Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen can stay around their per-game levels of production from last season. Will Rajon Rondo develop an offensive game... ever? Will someone else on the roster* emerge as a reliable fantasy option? *When I say 'someone else on the roster', I of course am referring to Kendrick Perkins.
MIL: Ramon Sessions, everyone's favorite late-round PG in early drafting, clanked his way out of the starting PG spot in the preseason (.296 FG%), and it got to the point that even consistent minutes as the backup are sketchy. Will he emerge as a fantasy X-factor at some point in the season, or will Luke Ridnour (questionable for tonight because of a back injury) play well enough to eliminate it from consideration? Michael Redd raised his scoring average in six consecutive seasons to begin his career, a streak that ended last season (22.7) - will he re-emerge as a near-peerless source of offense, or will Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut need too many touches for that to happen? There's a chance that Scott Skiles starts Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at PF over Charlie Villanueva tonight, mainly due to what he showed on defense in the preseason.
CHI: All that is left to figure out with the Bulls is how the minutes get divvied up at essentially every position. Larry Hughes' shoulder injury was nowhere near as extensive as originally feared, so he should be back to muck things up even further in relatively short order. Sweet. What we do know for sure is that your game 1 starting lineup is as follows: Derrick Rose, Thabo Sefolosha, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, and Drew Gooden. If Thomas is still available in your league, now is the time to grab him. Even as a starter, Sefolosha doesn't figure to play quite enough to matter much.
POR: Things are set at SG (Brandon Roy), PF (LaMarcus Aldridge), and C (Greg Oden), but then all bets are off. Nicolas Batum is the current starting SF, in part because all he'll be asked to do is play defense and in part because Nate McMillan doesn't want to remove Rudy Fernandez or Travis Outlaw from the team's second unit. There are lots of names (Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez, Fernandez, Batum, and Outlaw) in the mix for only so many available minutes, and Martell Webster will be back in the mix a month from now, as well. If you are going to pin your hopes on one of those players, make it Fernandez - he's got the talent and versatility to rise above the rotational fracas.
LAL: Kobe Bryant enters the season still dealing with the lingering effects of hyperextended right knee suffered last Tuesday and having never had that surgery to repair the torn ligament in his right pinky - should we be concerned? I happen to think that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will flourish as a pair, and tonight will be our first clues as to whether or not that will be the case. Lamar Odom is the team's sixth man to start the season - how long will it last, and can he truly be relied on in fantasy as a reserve?
Programming note: While we're only looking at three games tonight, there is a full slate on tap for tomorrow. I'll be doing a quasi-live blog over the course of the evening, much in the same way the Sunday Scene goes down for fantasy football - hope to see you all there.