By Tyler Dalton
Well, here we are at the halfway point of our series of NBA offseason previews, with our third division preview after already covering the Atlantic and Central divisions. Obviously, when thinking of the Southeast division the first team to comes to mind is the Miami Heat, but the division is so much more than that.
In Washington, the Wizards will be a fun team to watch with their young core lead by John Wall. With their roster intact and the addition of rookie Otto Porter, the Wizards are making a push for the postseason. Former Utah Jazz players headline additions for the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats, as Paul Millsap moves to Atlanta and Al Jefferson becomes the focal point at Center in Charlotte. Down in Orlando, the Magic are still in rebuild mode but Victor Oladipo will be the guy to watch this season. The two time defending champions stayed quiet this offseason, and why not with that roster? The Heat only made a couple of acquisitions but one of them, Greg Oden, will be one of the most talked about players this season. So with that, let’s take a closer look at guys that will help and hurt your fantasy roster in the Southeast division.
Paul Millsap, F, Atlanta Hawks – A change of scenery will be great for Millsap and his fantasy owners. Millsap is leaving a crowded frontcourt in Utah for a starting position that’s all his in Atlanta. Even in a less than ideal situation Millsap still averaged, 14.6 PPG 7.1 RPG 2.6 APG and 1.0 BPG last year in Utah. Doing all of this while averaging just 30.4 minutes per game, his lowest average since 2009. With an increase in minutes, the opportunities for Millsap will also increase and his box score will continue to grow. The 28 year old is entering his prime years and Millsap could be in for a breakout season. In 2010, Millsap logged 34.2 minutes per game and 17.3 PPG 7.6 RPG 2.5 APG and shot 53% from the field. We could see numbers very similar to these this season and wouldn’t be surprising if he averaged a double-double.
John Wall, G, Washington Wizards – When healthy, John Wall is an elite talent in the NBA. In his first 3 seasons, Wall’s stat line has been consistent, consistently good. He’s never averaged less than 16.3 PPG, 7.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, or 1.3 SPG. While setting a pretty high floor, he’s increased his field goal percentage every year starting at 40% his rookie year to now 44%. The Wizards didn’t make a big splash this offseason, but with the addition of rookie Otto Porter and the surrounding cast of 2nd year budding star SG Bradley Beal and experienced bigs Nene and Emeka Okafor (if healthy), Wall will have a lot of weapons at his disposal. Coming off a 5 year, $80 million extension, the Wizards are confident Wall can be the player we saw after the all star break when he put up 20.7 PPG 4.5 RPG 7.8 APG and 1.5 SPG. The Wizards are hopping on the Wall bandwagon and so should you.
Al Jefferson, F/C, Charlotte Bobcats - Jefferson’s move isn’t as impactful as Millsap made signing with Atlanta but it certainly is a positive for his fantasy value. Jefferson was already averaging 33 MPG last season in Utah and while his minutes could go up a tad we already know what to expect from the offensively skilled big man. In Charlotte, Jefferson should enter the double-double club since he’s really the only talented frontcourt player on the team. Opportunities shouldn’t be hard to come by and he’ll be a rebounding machine. At his statistical peak he averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds (2008) in Minnesota, which isn’t a huge jump from last year’s 17.8 and 9.2. Don’t underestimate this guy, in his 9 seasons he’s shot at least 49% from the field, is a quality shot blocker and has increased his steals in recent years. In Charlotte, there’s little holding him back from posting those numbers again.
Greg Oden, C, Miami Heat - Yes, I am going to rag on the guy who hasn’t played since 2009 but trust me you will thank me later. Oden is a big name, on the winning team, and plays a position where there aren’t that many great players at the top. This mind of reasoning could ruin some fantasy teams if you don’t take the necessary precautions. If you select Oden this year, make sure it’s the third (or more) Center on your roster. The last thing you want for your fantasy team is counting on a guy with such a significant injury history. He’s also on a team that has plenty of talent already, so even though Oden can be a valuable player when it comes to rebounds and blocks he’s not going to be given many opportunities to score outside of put backs. Save yourself the trouble and either stay away or select him late in the draft and stash him. Now, if he had selected a team with no expectations and a far less talented roster, I would be slightly higher on him because he could have a larger role, but as long as the big 3 are in Miami, there will never be enough room for another guy to emerge as a go to fantasy player.
Jan Vesely, F, Washington Wizards - The once promising 1st round draft pick, known more for his girlfriend on draft night than anything on the court, is now finding himself lower and lower on the depth chart. With the Wizards drafting Otto Porter and reports of Nene healthy, the chances of Vesely playing significant time again will depend on who else goes down with an injury. This may seem like an obvious choice to put in the loser category, especially since he’s never averaged 5 PPG in either of his 2 seasons but Vesely did look pretty impressive in summer league. He averaged 11.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.6 blocks all while shooting 58% from the field. Vesely may become a trendy deep sleeper, if the injury to Emeka Okafor, out indefinitely with a neck issue, lends itself to Vesely getting some more minutes. However, keep in mind that being a brutal free throw shooter, his upside is limited even if the minutes get ramped up.
Jameer Nelson, G, Orlando Magic – There really is no winner in Orlando, it’s looking like tank city for the Magic and no one on their roster catches my eye except for Nikola Vucevic who saw a big boon moving from Philadelphia to Orlando last season. As for Nelson, he’s always been a solid player but fantasy wise it’s hard to argue he can play a significant role on your team. Orlando made no moves that increased Nelson’s value and on a team that’s expected to do really well in the lottery again it’s safe to just stay away. His 14.7 PPG and 7.4 APG average last year in a career high 35.3 minutes per game was solid and he hit a career high 2.2 threes per game, but his FG% was a killer and he’s only played more than 64 games twice in his 9 year career. Look past last year’s career numbers and draft a PG with a lot more upside.
Rookie to Watch
Otto Porter, F, Washington Wizards – I’m not selecting Porter with a lot of confidence, looking at all the rookies in the division no one is really in an ideal situation. Cody Zeller is behind Jefferson in Charlotte, Oladipo’s offensive game isn’t developed enough to make a big impact in Orlando, leaving Porter who has to compete with Trevor Ariza and the aforementioned Jan Vesely for playing time. In Washington’s offense led by Wall, he’ll have plenty of chances to make a name for himself. As a sophomore, Porter averaged 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, 42% from the 3pt line, and 48% from the field at Georgetown, so there is plenty of fantasy upside for this talented rookie.