By Tyler Dalton
Welcome to the first of six division previews covering the fantasy impact of the 2013 off season. In each of these previews, I will be giving you 3 winners, 3 losers, and 1 rookie to look out for this upcoming season. Let’s start off with the Atlantic Division, who arguably had the busiest off season in the NBA. If you’re looking for more details pertaining to the Celtics-Nets and 76ers-Pelicans deals we already have a great piece posted on the site. However, the Atlantic Division is more than just about what the Celtics and Nets have done so far. The Knicks didn’t make a big splash but did acquire Andrea Bargnani and re-signed J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin. Jason Kidd retired (and is now coaching division rival Brooklyn), while Camby and Novak were sent out by trade. Even with a bit of player movement, Carmelo Anthony is still the center of the franchise. North of the border the Raptors are still…the Raptors. They made a couple quiet signings by adding D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough, but after that? Their moves don’t give them that big of a push for a playoff spot or that big of an impact on your fantasy team. If you’re currently having sleep issues just read one of their team previews and you’ll be out of it in no time.
Jeff Green, F, Boston Celtics - In the two years Jeff Green has played for the Celtics, he’s been behind Paul Pierce at the SF position and never really considered a main option on offense. His first year was definitely an adjustment period for him, especially scheme wise, as he averaged less than 10 points per game and saw his average minutes per game drop from 37.0 to 23.5, basically a 2nd half of the season to forget. After missing the 2011-2012 season due to a heart condition Green stepped back on the court last season and was quite impressive down the stretch. If you look at his numbers after the All-Star break Green averaged 17.3 PPG, 1.2 3PM, 5.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.8 SPG and 1.1 BPG with a definite spike in MPG at 33. Now with the last of the “Big 3” gone these numbers could be a nice projection for Green entering next season. He will be the go to guy on offense and if Rajon Rondo is able to come back healthy, look for them to hook up quite a few times per game. What’s even more impressive with Green is that he even took his game to a whole new level in the post season averaging 20.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and his 3P% jumping from 38% to 45%, with the rest of his numbers about the same. The Celtics will likely be a lottery team, but there are still some players worth looking at when the draft rolls around. Write Jeff Green down on your list of players to target, he has great potential as a breakout fantasy player.
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets – A drastic team change can go one of two ways. Either it will help a star player and statistically, we see an improvement or the team cracks and their stats go down with the ship as well. In the case of Deron Williams, the additions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett should help. He now has two future hall of famers as teammates and will make life a little easier for the star PG. Williams did pretty well last year averaging almost 19 PPG and 8 APG, but his FG% hasn’t been what we had been accustomed to since he left Utah. While Williams won’t return to being a 20 PPG scorer, the additions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will likely get him back into the high 40s FG% which would be a great boost for his fantasy value. We know the assists will rise and more efficient scoring should further solidify him as one of the first PGs off the board.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors – The Raptors drafted Valanciunas with the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft. After spending a year in Europe, he joined the Raptors in 2012 but was blocked at Center by Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, and Amir Johnson. With Davis traded to Memphis and Bargnani jacking up threes on Broadway, Jonas has the center position all to himself (with Amir starting at PF). His 2012 stat line of 8.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 55.7 FG% and 78.9 FT% in 23.9 MPG may not be earth shattering but Valanciunas is projected to get more minutes, a bigger role on the team as the everyday starting center. With increased minutes, 15 PPG, 10 RPG and 2 BPG with good percentages is attainable. Valanciunas showed that upside by averaging 18.8 PPG, 10 RPG while shooting 56% from the field and 89% from the line being named Summer League MVP.
He will have every opportunity to increase his numbers and will become a trendy sleeper pick for this season. If you’re worried about a Sophomore slump, don’t be. Valanciunas has been playing pro basketball overseas for years and now with some talent on the wings for a full season (Demar DeRozan and Rudy Gay) we could see an even higher spike in numbers. If there was one word to sum up the Lithuanian’s forecast it would be, opportunity.
Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics – Oh hey, another player involved in the Celtics-Nets trade, I promise this is the last one. But, can you really blame me? Obviously this is in large part to do with Rondo losing his two best teammates: Pierce and Garnett. He’ll still get his numbers, even if there might be a slight decline, because he’s one of the better passing PGs in the league and does a remarkable job setting up his teammates. What I am worried about is his injury and just exactly how he’ll come back from it. There is currently no timetable on a return date even though many people close to the Celtics believe he’ll be back in time to open the season. Owners will not only have to worry how this recent ACL injury will impact him this season but also start to question whether he’s going to bring it every night or just hit the cruise control button like the Celtics have famously done for the regular season. With the team not competitive this seasons, I can see the Celtics giving him a few extra days rest during the season, not as many minutes, and certainly not playing him much in blow out wins (or more likely losses). Even though we will probably see his PPG go up and be more of an offensive threat, I still don’t see him finishing top 10 at his position. He’s a more valuable real life option than fantasy one. He doesn’t shoot threes, is a terrible FT shooter for a PG, and his usual stellar FG% will likely plummet without Pierce and Garnett to attract attention. He has value in the mid rounds, especially if your in a H2H league and can punt specific categories, just don’t expect “playoff Rondo” much at all next year.
Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, PF, New York Knicks – Let’s start with the basic knowledge, they both play the same position and they have extremely different skill sets. Amar’e is the better rebounder of the two and can produce more in terms of non scoring stats than his new teammate. Bargnani is a stretch 4, the only problem is…lately, he can’t shoot. He also doesn’t rebound well and rarely racks up any other counting stats. His career numbers of 15.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG at your PF spot are pretty pathetic. Now to his credit, his career 3P% is at a surprising 36% and even though he may be more enticing in a better role with the Knicks, I don’t see him getting 30 MPG like he has been in Toronto. He’s also been very injury prone, having played only 31 and 35 games the last two seasons.
As far as Amar’e goes there have also been reports of a minutes cap for him to start the season but until that’s confirmed we really can’t speculate. He’s had a roller coaster of a career so far that’s been riddled with injuries and his numbers have already taken a significant dropoff because of his knees issues. Best case scenario for these guys is they both stay healthy, become more efficient splitting time with each other, and in an offense with Melo as a star they feed off him and produce their typical numbers despite the reduced roles. Do we really think those pieces are really going to fall into place? There are a lot more PF’s out there with less risk and greater upside, these guys can be solid players off your bench who can fill in from time to time. Temper your expectations despite their big names.
The Philadelphia 76ers – Yes, I can pick an entire team as a loser instead of an individual player, right? I make the rules here so let’s get crazy! Looking over the 76ers roster no one really appeals to me as a guy I just have to have next year. I mean even the Knicks with their lackluster off season still have players I want; okay Melo may be cheating but still. Toronto has Rudy Gay and DeRozan, both players who may increase their stats playing for a team looking to make a playoff push. Then we come to the 76ers, a team filled with solid role players who you better not count on to win or else, well, just don’t expect much winning. The two guys that pop out to me the most are Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. Both of these guys aren’t great in any single category but may be a bit more valuable if you play in a league that counts for head to head categories since they can both do a little bit of everything (and you can punt on FT% for Thad). Other than those two guys I would stay away from the rest of the roster unless you’re confident in Michael Carter-Williams to lead the team at PG (I’m staying away) or you think Nerlens Noel can recover and develop a well-rounded offensive game throughout the season (solid player to stash on your bench esp in keeper leagues).
Rookie to Watch:
Nerlens Noel is the obvious choice here but hey everyone and their mother already knows about Noel and his issues so let’s change it up a bit and go with Kelly “The Hair” Olynyk. Okay maybe I made that nickname up but have you seen it? If the Nuggets could give out arm sleeves that looked like Birdman’s arms, then surely Boston can give out a few wigs with a head band. Okay but back to his game, he’s already well developed on offense with a nice repertoire of moves both in the post and outside the paint. He can bang down low and score in a variety of ways or he can stay outside and hit shots from the perimeter. He’s going to be battling for playing time but considering the Celtics are nowhere close to finished tweaking their roster we could see Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass, or both gone before the beginning of the season leaving only him and Jared Sullinger. If you’re looking for a low risk, high reward guy to stash Olynyk is definitely one of the players high on my list. If you’re not totally convinced yet, I know you’re still hung up on his hair, he averaged 18 PPG (led all of summer league), 7.8 RPG, and hit 58% of his shots. His offensive game is ready; the question is will he get enough minutes to really impact your team?