We are less than two weeks away from the tip off of the 2013-14 NBA season, which means your fantasy basketball draft is likely just around the corner. There have been plenty of drafts already held on big time sites like Yahoo, and there are a few disturbing trends that I’d like to help you avoid before you end your fantasy season before it even begins.
Draft Damian Lillard (Yahoo! ADP 32.8) over John Wall (20.3)
I expect the two to put up very similar numbers but Lillard to be significantly better from distance (both in volume and percentage). The Portland Trail Blazers have more scoring firepower around Lillard than the Washington Wizards do Wall. Lillard made more shots at a higher percentage after the All-Star break last season, once he adjusted to the speed of the NBA game (averaged 20.4 points and 6.5 assists, nearly identical numbers to those of Steph Curry in the first half of last season). He was remarkably consistent (a word that has never been used to describe Wall) for a rookie last season, averaging at least 17.6 points and 5.5 assists in every single month. C.J. McCollum (broken foot), the Trail Blazers’ 2013 lottery selection who was supposed to spell Lillard at times or handle some of the shot taking, is out indefinitely. Lillard is likely to again approach 40 minutes per game this year, giving him more opportunities to star for your fantasy squad than a player in Wall who has missed significant time in two of his three NBA seasons.
Draft Andre Iguodala (63.4) over Kobe Bryant (32.7)
When it comes to fantasy basketball, points are generally not that hard to find (DeMar DeRozan wasn’t drafted very high and finished 11th in the NBA in total points scored). Iguodala has averaged at least five rebounds, five assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in each of past four seasons, numbers that Bryant has tallied just once in the last decade (2007-08 season). The Laker legend is probably still the better basketball player, but last I checked “skill” is not a category in fantasy leagues. Let someone else take the risk on the injured superstar while you make the savvy fantasy move and select the well rounded Iguodala.
As far as the uproar over Kobe being ranked 25th on ESPN’s #NBARank, I have zero problem with it. The committee was asked to rank players in terms of “the overall level of play for each player for the upcoming NBA season.” Past championships, MVP awards, and scoring titles mean absolutely nothing. Is Kobe an all-time great? Of course, but he turned 35 in August and is coming off of Achilles surgery that has sidelined him since late last season. He is on pace to miss a little time at the beginning of the season, and his health must be factored into this ranking. There is limited upside with Kobe and considerable downside. Look at the players ranked just above him, and while you won’t see as impressive a resume, you’ll see extreme potential (players 21-24 have an average age of 26.5).
Draft DeMarcus Cousins (41.8) over Joakim Noah (31.3)
Noah is the heart of the Chicago Bulls and has as much to do with the team’s success with anyone, but again, that isn’t going to help you. Take the emotion out of it (we all love the passion he plays with in a league where some players take night’s off) and you’ll realize that his top 25 ranking from a season ago had a lot to do with the absence of Derrick Rose. Noah’s minutes (+21%), points (+17%), field goal attempts (+23%), rebounds (+13%), and assists (+60%) all increased in a significant fashion from 2011, when Rose was doing his thing in the Bulls back court. As far as Cousins goes, he is a versatile big man who can produce solid percentages and above average assist numbers much like Noah. DCuz, however, is more physically gifted (both stand 6-foot-11 but Cousins carries an extra 38 pounds of muscle… okay, most of it is muscle) and will have a much greater role when it comes to scoring. In my opinion, the Sacramento Kings center has superior ball skills, thus making him a tough matchup. The addition of Shaquille O’Neal to the Queens (err… um… Kings) organization can only benefit the 23-year old Cousins on and off the court, allowing him to tap into the potential we have seen glimpses of over the past few seasons. Noah’s fantasy value peaked last season while we have yet to see the best of Cousins, upside that gives him the edge from a fantasy perspective this season.
Have some questions that you need answered? I’m happy to take questions at @unSOPable23