Halloween, Thanksgiving, cooler weather. How can you not love this time of year?
What’s that? Oh, that’s right. I could care less about that when we have football, playoff baseball, hockey and soon enough, the return of another game that should draw a ton of attention.
Now, I’m going to be honest. Fantasy basketball wouldn’t be my first choice among the list of games. However, I am a fantasy sports columnist, and last time I checked, basketball was a sport, no? Say what you want about it, but fantasy hoops, just like all of the other games, is pure fun. It’s as simple as that. So, with the season rapidly approaching, I thought it would be a good time to start previewing the fantasy aspects of some of the teams in the league, starting, of course, with my favorite team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
And yes, I am being biased. Sue me.
Kyrie Irving, PG
Slowly but surely, Cavaliers fans are forgetting about LeBron James. I’ll admit, after drafting him, I was a bit hesitant about Kyrie, seeing as he was banged up for the majority of his final year at Duke. But boy, was I wrong? This 21-year old has superstar written all over him. During his first two seasons, Irving is averaging 20.6 points per game, 5.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals. He’s won numerous awards, such as Rookie of the Year, Rising Stars MVP and was named to his first All Star Team last season. Of course, many people would like some more assists out of their starting point guard, but consider the supporting cast around him has been subpar at best. This year, that should change. The Cavs landed the number one overall pick, selecting Anthony Bennett, signed center Andrew Bynum, as well as veteran Jarrett Jack. Keep in mind they already have capable scoring guard Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, who was one of the most improved players last season. Their depth in their frontcourt should give Irving a much better opportunity for helpers this season, and considering they have some tremendous offensive rebounders, we could see some more second-chance points for him as well. Irving is a star in the making, and has all the tools to become one. Of course, the only concern is health. He’s averaged just 55 games played during his first two seasons, and has experienced his fair share of bumps and bruises. However, he is still only 21-years old, so perhaps it will just take some time for him to develop a full NBA body. Still, look at some of the weekly production he provides fantasy owners when he is on the court (courtesy of the great people at CBS Sports).
Fantasy Points Per Week
Kyrie averaged about 90 fantasy points per week, but imagine what that number would look like if he could have stayed on the court consistently (missed six weeks). I mean, just look at what he did in January last season; 25.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 2.4 SPG, 48.0 FG%, 89.5 FT%. Those are elite numbers, in my opinion. Again, he’s only 21-years old, the team around him is much improved, so as long as he can stay on the court, the upside is through the roof. Clearly a top-three pick among point guards.
Tristan Thompson, PF
Thompson showed last season that when given the opportunity, he can produce for fantasy owners. When Anderson Varejao went down with an injury (shocker), Thompson filled in admirably. The sophomore improved his PPG (11.7), RPG (9.4), FG% (.488) and APG (1.3) during his second year. Tristan was a guy who could get you a multiple of categories, but especially points and rebounds. In fact, Thompson finished 16th in the league in double doubles with 31, and keep in mind that Varejao played 25 games before being sidelined. The increased role allowed Thompson to prove that he is more than capable of starting, and even with Varejao still in the mix, Thompson may still have himself a starting job. Still, Bennett and Bynum’s presence could result in a bit less playing time for Thompson, but I think he starts the season as the top power forward. There’s definite upside for a guy who can provide owners with a double double each night.
Andrew Bynum, C
The good? Bynum got rid of that frightening hairstyle. The bad? He missed the entire 2012 season with a knee injury, and is hardly practicing right now. The Cavs took a risk in signing the big center this offseason, but if (and that’s a major if) he can stay on the court, there is no reason to believe he can’t produce. During his last season with the Lakers (before going down), Bynum averaged a very impressive 18.7 points per game, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Those numbers, especially with an improving nucleus, are very repeatable. And while the Cavs are no 2011-12 Lakers, Bynum still serves as one of the best post presences in the league. He should easily average a double double if he can stay on the court, but that risk is far too high, especially when there are other, high-upside centers in the game. Your best bet is to pass on a guy who would be lucky to play 50 games this year, and look elsewhere.
Anderson Varejao, C
Speaking of injuries, Varejao hasn’t played more than 31 games in each of the last three seasons. That’s just upsetting, because when on the court, he is a very valuable fantasy commodity. During 25 games last year, he averaged 14.1 points per contest and 14.4 rebounds. And over the first six weeks of the season, he finished every week with over 100 fantasy points all but twice. The guy is a walking double double, but this season, his value my hinge on the health of those around him, rather than himself. The Cavaliers may end up bringing him in off the bench, which will make it more difficult for Varejao to pile up rebounds. However, you’d have to expect Bynum to miss some time this season, so Varejao is still very much worth a draft and stash. Heck, I know this isn’t fantasy football, but consider pairing Bynum with Varejao, because when Bynum goes down, Varejao’s value will skyrocket.
Dion Waiters, SG
A Syracuse product, Waiters is one of my favorite players in the league. His playstyle reminds me so much of Dwyane Wade, a smaller guard who plays bigger than his size, has a killer instinct and can put the ball on the floor at any time. His rookie year was a solid one, averaging 14.7 points per game. However, he was a bit inconsistent for the Cavs at times, and considering all the talent they brought in, this could be an important season for Waiters. However, he did improve during the summer league, averaging 17.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest. He’s slimmed down a bit, looks a bit more explosive, and with other talent in the starting lineup around him, he should see much more scoring looks this season. I’d like to see him show more versatility in the stat sheets, however. Consider him a sleeper for now.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.