Fantasy Basketball Sleepers and Busts
CHICAGO -- Fantasy basketball’s version of Christmas Day, your fantasy draft, is just around the corner and Santa’s bag is full of both diamonds and coal. Which will you be getting? I’ll walk you through some things to look out for this year along with five sleepers and five busts.
Off-season acquisitions, trades, and the draft will of course be major factors that change your strategy for the upcoming season. But there’s another attribute that must be kept in mind – position changes. Be sure to do your homework on this topic. A few examples include Dirk Nowitzki listed at F/C and Lebron at G/F last year. But with Erick Dampier being on the Mavs and the Larry Hughes going to the Cavs, Dirk is now a PF and Lebron is a SF. These top tier fantasy players now do not have the luxury of being listed at 2 positions.
Speaking of losing luxury, my advice is to stay away from all players in South Beach this year. The Heat are flooded with talent which means the stats will be spread out up and down the roster. Sure, that’s great for big slick Pat Riley, but not for a fantasy GM. Jason Williams will be running the point which means D Wade won’t have the ball in his hands as much. One of the best all around players in the league, Antoine Walker, will be coming off the bench to relieve Udonis Haslem and/or James Posey. The combination of Walker’s size and Alonzo Mourning’s passion will allow Shaq Diesel to refuel more often which will limit his statistics. Did I mention Gary Payton will also be coming off the bench? Enough said.
The key to any fantasy draft are the middle rounds. This is where your sleepers and busts come into play which make or break each team in your league. Look for players that are not injury prone and have the ability to play 75-82 games during the season. Healthy players will give you options in the middle and at the end of the season. Below are my Top 5 Sleepers and Top 5 Busts for the 2005-2006 NBA season.
Top 5 Sleepers
1) T.J. Ford, Milwaukee Bucks – Hibernation will have a new meaning when TJ Ford proves he’s the #1 sleeper in the upcoming season. His absence from the hardwood will turn him into a tenacious point guard. He knows he still has to prove himself, but will have the entire city of Milwaukee backing him one hundred percent. With Simmons and Redd being the marksmen they are, Ford should average somewhere around 8 assists per game.
2) Tyson Chandler, Chicago Bulls – Tyson still hasn’t had a breakout season for Chicago yet. His back problems can be blamed for that, which should be over with. Chandler played in 80 games last year and that number should be similar this year. Expect Chandler to pull down 11-12 boards a game while dumping in 12 points. The departure of Eddy Curry will also make Tyson the center of attention down low.
3) Shaun Livingston, L.A. Clippers – Again, a full season for this future star will be all he needs to earn the respect of us fantasy GMs, as well as the NBA. Without Marko Jaric, Livingston has a full time gig for the Clipshow. His passing ability and defense will please his owners.
4) Josh Howard, Dallas Mavericks – Howard is just barely a sleeper. It’s pretty much guaranteed that Howard will score around 15 a game, dish out 2-3 assists and grab 7 boards. Howard’s “D” will also be key for steals. He’s a hard worker on both sides of the ball which has been a rarity in Dallas the past several years.
5) Nenad Krstic, New Jersey Nets – Krstic proved to be solid for the Nets last year, especially down the stretch. Between that and the experience he gained, his 26.2 minutes per game should rise to 31-32 minutes. In last year’s regular season, the import averaged 10 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 0.8 bpg. His playoff numbers were remarkable – 18.3 ppg and 7.5 rpg. Krstic has nothing but upside.
Top 5 Busts
1) Antoine Walker, Miami Heat – When you look at Walker on your draft sheet, follow the orange signs that say “Detour.” One of the best all around players in the league is now coming off the bench for a team that is saturated with great players. ‘Toine’s numbers are certain to drop. It’s as simple as that.
2) Chris Webber, Philadelphia 76ers – 19.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 4.7 apg looks great, right? Sure it does. Playing in only 67 games last year is a (reoccurring) nightmare for his fantasy owners though. On some nights, you need to flip a coin and determine for yourself if Webber will play. He’s too much of a risk and odds say he will be injured for a significant amount of time.
3) Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks – If you check Marvin’s itemized cell phone bill at mid-season, you will see a lot of outbound calls to Detroit. Williams will be asking Darko how he dealt with the dramatic lack of playing time and different ways to cope with it. Atlanta has too much depth at the forward position. Josh Childress is really emerging and will be on the court more than 30 minutes per contest. Al Harrington and Josh Smith will also be barriers for the rook.
4) Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks – No, Joe Johnson will not thrive in the dirty south. His surrounding company will keep him from doing so. Steve Nash isn’t there to serve him jump shots on a fine piece of china any more. He also doesn’t have Amare or Marion to take away attention. Johnson will start as the Hawks’ shooting star but will hit reality in the form of a crater.
5) Damon Stoudamire, Memphis Grizzlies – Stoudamire posted career bests last season, but expect them to trail off. His efforts came during a contract year and most of his teammates weren’t playing to their potential. This is frustrating for Mighty Mouse fans, especially since he has the talent. It’s the desire and willingness to win that lacks.
So whether your franchise player is Garnett, Lebron, Duncan, or Amare, keep your attention focused on the middle rounds. Keep tabs on players like Jamaal Magloire, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden and Caron Butler. Players of this tier are what makes or breaks a team. I cannot stress that enough. Put together your wish list, then focus on the things you really need.
Comments are welcome. Submit them to me at markNBAgundersen@yahoo.com