The NBA season tips off in less than a week and I’m here to break down each conference for you so you have a little more knowledge of the teams and players going into the season. I started with the Eastern Conference and comes the Western Conference which has an pretty even balance of teams for the first 8 or 9 spots. Unlike the East, which is very top heavy.
Utah Jazz – The Jazz made no signifigant moves in the offseason and losing Andrei Kirilenko to free agency will not help them as they move forward. They drafted Enes Kanter, who is a work in progress as well, to go along with last year’s pick #3 pick Derrick Favors. While the frontcourt may be overloaded, with the likes of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the backcourt that has struggled since the trade of Deron Williams. This looks like a rebuilding year for the Jazz and it will show in their record at the end of the year.
Fantasy Upside – Al Jefferson is a double double machine. Look for the Jazz to go to him a lot this year and he would be a very nice addition to your team in the second round.
Sacramento Kings – The Kings could be the feel good story of the year or the most disappointing story of the year. They have two possible up and comers with Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins but finding enough shots for these two seems to be a problems. They lost probably their best defender in Chuck Hayes to a heart irregularity and replaced him with a 3 point shooting no defense forward in Travis Outlaw. Now, you add the “Jimmer” to a bench of J.J. Hickson and John Salmons and you can get even more scoring on the court but, again, no defense either. If this team can stop some people then look for the Kings to make the biggest jump from last year to this year.
Fantasy Upside – Tyreke Evans is probably your best bet to be the first King off the board but you don’t have to look for him until the 4th round. He will give you solid points and steals for a PG but don’t look for him to carry you if fg% is involved.
New Orleans Hornets – Everyone on the planet knows that they traded away their best player in franchise history in Chris Paul but what went under the radar for the Hornets was also losing their second best player in David West to free agency. Granted, they took a lot from the Clippers, Gordon, Kaman, Aminu and future 1st round pick, but replacing these two may be more than coach Monty Williams can handle in a condensed season.
Fantasy Upside – Eric Gordon is a premier scorer and with not many other scoring options on the court, should be called upon quite a bit. But, I see no reason to pick him up until, at least, the 3rd round.
Minnesot Timberwolves – Oh, you didn’t know, well I got one word for ya……….Rubio. That’s right, Ricky Rubio is here and playing alongside Kevin Love and rookie Derrick Williams this could be one of the more entertaining teams to watch this year. New head coach Rick Adelman likes to move the ball up and down the court creating a lot of scoring oppurtunities for his players. Look for better play, offensively, from Michael Beasley and the addition of J.J. Barea coming off the bench could set the T-Wolves for a run at a lower playoff spot.
Fantasy Upside – Kevin Love comes into the season looking a little buffer. He is always gonna get you a double double and is a very strong late 1st round or early second round pick. He also comes up very big in 3 pointers.
Golden State Warriors – After making a run at the Clippers DeAndre Jordan, the Warriors stepped up and paid $7 million for Kwame Brown, yes that Kwame Brown. With Brown, David Lee and newly acquired Brandon Rush making up the frontcourt for the Warriors and the talented backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry the Warriors could present some matchup problems to teams. That is, until foul trouble, schedule fatigue or standard subbing off the bench. Basically, after these 5 the Warriors turn into a pick up game at the Y. Look for the Warriors to start out strong but fade as the season goes on.
Fantasy Upside – With Stephen Curry’s sprained ankle and rebounding going down for David Lee, the smart fantasy pick for this team is to take Mona Ellis somewhere in the 2nd round. Good fg%, points and every now and then an assist make him a solid pick.
Phoenix Suns – The Suns are where old players go to and retire. Steve Nash and Grant Hill headline a team that didn’t make any signifigant upgrades to the starting lineup but aslo didn’t lose anyone to free agency. Thus, once again, the Suns sit in the horrible position of not being bad enough to get a lottery pick but not good enough to secure a playoff spot. 3 point shooters are everywhere on the floor from the PG to the PF and when they are cold, then it is behind the wood shed time. Nash needs to be traded for draft picks or younger players this year.
Fantasy Upside – Steve Nash is the ony vialbe option on this team and unfortunately you can get him probably in the 3rd round. His assists should go down again as the Suns will need him to score more points. His fg% should fall a little with more shots but, as always, he is good for assists and 3 pointers.
Houston Rockets – The Rockets were heavily invested in the vetoed trade for Chris Paul, looking to get Pau Gasol, but after the veto, “no comment” is all we have heard from the Rockets. At this point the Rockets have no Center and possibly the worst player in the league in Hasheem Thabeet. Kevin Martin is a solid SG and Luis Scola is an underrated PF for the Rockets. They are also right on the cusp of being a lottery team of lower playoff team and that comes down to if Kevin McHale can get this team to play a little defense this year.
Fantasy Upside – If you are need a SG after the first couple rounds don’t be afraid to snag Kevin Martin. He will put up solid numbers down in Houston and picked late enough could be the steal of the draft.
8. Portland Trail Blazers – A healthy Greg Oden would have been the ultimate Christmas gift for the Blazers but the 50 year old looking Center is on the IR again. Combine that with the early retirement of Brandon Roy and you are probably wondering why they are even a playoff team. The reason is they have two All-Star calibur players in LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace. They also brought in Jamal Crawford to help carry the scoring load and the never aging Kurt Thomas to solidify the bench and give Aldridge must needed breaks. The Blazers will soldier on becasuse that is all they know how to do and don’t forget the gave the Mavericks their toughest matchup in the playoffs last year.
Fantasy Upside – LaMarcus Aldridge is developing into quite the stat sheet stuffer in Portland. He can score, rebound, pass and shoot from the line, all valuable assests on a fantasty team. Picking him up in the 2nd round will no way hurt your team.
7. Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are this year’s team of basicall no names that play well together. Re-signing Nene and Arron Afflalo play along the side of probably the most unselfish team in the NBA, as long as J.R. Smith stays in China, and play something called defense in the NBA. After the Melo trade last year, this team ranked first in defensive efficiency. They have a great coach in George Karl and with a determined bunch of no name players, anyones night in Denver will be exhausting.
Fantasy Upside – The Nuggets don’t give their fans too many options of fantasy gems to choose from with the unselfish play but the Nene would be a great 5th or 6th round pick for anyone needing rebounding. He is not a scoring option but his fg% is decent and he will drop in 10-14 points for you a game.
6. San Antonio Spurs – Basically, I am going to take the Boston Celtic review and replace names of them with Spurs. Eventually age catches up with everyone. This year, age may finally catch up with the
Celtics Spurs. The lockout about took a demoralizing blow out of Kevin Garnett Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce’s Manu Ginobili’s careers, and unless they can muster the strength to compete in a tighter, smaller schedule, I fully expect the Celtics Spurs to fall off this season.
Fantasy Upside – There’s no one “must have” player off the
Celtics Spurs team, but Rondo’s Parkers’s assists make him a nice asset for any team devoid of a good passing guard on their team.
5. Los Angeles Clippers – Those who know me are probably shocked that I don’t have the Clippers higher. They are at five because they are the most difficult team to figure out. A total overhaul was done and how will the new players interact with the remaining Clippers. I have a feeling, like the Miami Heat, the start will be a little slow but once they figure everything out “Lob City” will be must see TV. If they get it together sooner rather than later then they could be even higher than a 5 seed. All the pieces have been put in place and now it is up to Vinny Del Negro now to mess this up.
Fantasy Upside – CP3 will be at the top of the fantasy boards with the assists, points, steals, 3’s and FT%. After Durant and LBJ come off the board, CP3 is a solid pick for your team.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Oh boy, if I wasn’t such a Clippers fan, this could my team of the future. They pretty much have it all: A talented Center in Marc Gasol, an above average PF in Zach Randolf, one of the best SF’s in the game with Rudy Gay, a compitent SG in O.J. Mayo and a very solid PG in Mike Conley. Bring Tony Allen off the bench to guard any perimeter player and you have the makings of a very solid NBA team. And remember, the bounced the Spurs out of the playoffs last year and gave the Thunder everything they wanted without Rudy Gay in the lineup.
Fantasy Upside – If you don’t get a SF in the first couple rounds and Gay is still available in round 3 or beyond……TAKE HIM. He does a little bit of everything on the court and doesn’t hurt your squad in any area of stats that your league records. They are just so many SF’s in the league that it pushes him back to a 3rd round selection but don’t let that fool you.
3. Los Angeles Lakers – Yes, I know they did not get CP3, they traded Lamar Odom for a bag of balls and have no bench. But, they do have Mr. Kobe Bryant, you know the guy who was going to be the next Michael Jordan. About the only thing “like Mike” for Kobe is the desire to win. He will NOT let this team be a bottom feeder and I am expecting the Lakers to make a play on someone to help the bench other than Metta World Peace. If that is the guy you want coming off the bench to be your difference maker then you better be in the shopping mood. The Lakers are the Lakers and playoffs are their given right.
Fantasy Upside – Kobe is the attention grabber but somehow people still don’t get how good Pau Gasol is. This guy is a steal in the 2nd round and what he brings to the table is pretty amazing. He can score, rebound, FT%, and is one of the best passers for a big man in the game today.
2. Dallas Mavericks – Last year’s champions lost a key ingredient to their formula. Tyson Chandler standing at the rim to play D was one of , if no the biggest, the reasons the Mavs won the NBA title. Lamar Odum and Brendan Heywood are just not the same as Chandler at protecting the rim. Although Lamar does bring a championship pedigree to the table, he fed off of Kobe’s ability to get to the rim and kick it out to him. Do we really see Vince Carter or Delonte West doing this for Lamar? Me neither. With that said, the Mavs still have more than enough to make it to the Western Conference Finals and possibly the NBA Finals again. Dirk, Kidd and Terry supply the offense while Shawn Marion and Haywood supply the defense.
Fantasy Upside – Dirk will put up his solid numbers again this year but everyone else is a crap shoot on this team. They could excel in the offense or age might catch up to them with the back to back to backs. Getting Dirk in the 2nd round would not be overpaying.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder – It would be nice to see one of the smaller markets make it into the Finals. They are doing it the right way in OKC by keeping their stars and surrounding them with affodable role players. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the headliners but signifigant minutes are produced by James Harden, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. These players are young and hungry enough to push through the condensed season and no one wants to play them at home or on the road.
Fantasy Upside – Kevin Durant is a possible first pick in most drafts but I don’t see how anyone could pass on LeBron. If you wind up with Durant at the #2 pick you will not be dissappointed. He scores every night and shoots the most free throws in the league at a very high percentage. I bet his assist numbers will go up this year along with his rebounds as he tries to be a more complete player.
So, if everything works out correctly we have a NBA Finals matchup of the Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder. I don’t know about you, but I would watch that!!!