With Jeff and Tom’s positional breakdowns now completed (Check Recent Posts for their rankings), it’s time for someone to cherry pick their fine work. I’m like a modern day Chief O’Hara, rounding up the already beaten criminals after the Caped Crusader handled all of the dirty work. The boys put together lists that would make Oscar Schindler proud, but what’s a few tweaks among friends?
I’ve always been a big proponent of drafting players a little higher than they would normally go who help in areas in which there is category scarcity. I’m also prone to going after guys coming off injuries, who are nearing full health and seem hungry to recapture the spotlight. By using these techniques, let’s see what we can come up with.
Top 25 Point Guards
Assists are without a doubt a tough category to come by these days and there are only a handful of lead guards capable of generating at least 8.0 per game. I think Jeff and Tom may have been peaking over each other’s shoulders as their biggest difference was Jeff grabbing Mike Bibby at #14 while Tom absorbed him at #19. Bibby enjoyed a bit of a resurgence last season, but I strongly suggest staying away until at least the eighth round. Deron Williams ranks up with Chris Paul in real life, but in fantasy he doesn’t steal the ball often enough or attempt enough threes to warrant a high first round selection. Taking Devin Harris as the #3 PG, at casual observation, makes Jeff seem like he’s on the sauce. But at closer inspection, this is where the talented Net point guard belongs. He no longer has to find shots for Vince Carter, but even when paired with the constipated-looking chucker, Harris found a way to produce big-time numbers. Chauncey Billups has been one of the league’s game-changing point’s for the past eight or nine years, but at 33, and with the mileage adding up, I’d drop him below Derrick Rose. The same could be said for Jason Kidd, who has looked 35 years of age since he was 19. I think he has one more year of solid assists, steals and threes left in him. The Knicks have barely been an NBA franchise the past six or seven years, but to leave Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson out of the top 25 may be erroneous. Finally, despite a season of god-awfulness for the ages, Baron Davis is young enough, talented enough and prideful enough to get back to his monster-stat ways. Well, maybe not monster, but Nos. 17 and 16 are too low for him.
Sleepers: Davis, Will Bynum, Robinson, Tyreke Evans, Monta Ellis
Busts: Mike Conley, Chauncey Billups, Ramon Sessions
Top 25 Shooting Guards
As is typically the case, this position is loaded with guys who can score and knock down threes, but don’t offer much else – at least after the top six are off the board. Speaking of those top six, they include a few all-world players who will be taken very early. It seems as if the consensus heading into the season is that it will be Paul and King James one-two in any order. I assume people are basing this on 2008-09, and Paul and James are sensational, but how on earth is Dwyane Wade not the top overall choice? 30.2 points, 7.5 assists, 2.2 steals, 1.3 blocks, and most surprisingly, more than a three per game? I know he’s missed plenty of time in the past, but he did appear in 79 last year and it takes something serious to keep him off the court. Oh, has anyone seen his supporting cast? The ’72-73 Sixers are giggling. Yakhouba Diawara may be the Heat’s second leading scorer. Wade’s numbers aren’t going to change much. Both Tom and Jeff have Vinsanity at #7, too high for the 32-year old former high-flyer. The new team and new situation will be too much for him to deal with, as will the fact that he is no longer option #1. John Salmons is an interesting choice in Jeff’s top 10 and J.R. Smith is more than ready to disappoint in the top 15. Both of our experts have Randy Foye in the top 25, obviously appealing to this author’s sense of love and nostalgia for the talented hybrid, but his playing time is now in question in his current situation behind Gilbert Arenas and Mike Miller. If I can throw my two cents in on how Allen Iverson will affect O.J. Mayo, just read my August 10 column. I wouldn’t trust AI with my house plant let alone the maturation of a young team.
Sleepers: Courtney Lee, Michael Redd
Busts: J.R. Smith, Ray Allen, Carter, Mayo
Top 25 Small Forwards
Perennially, one could count on the small forward position to land several multi-category monsters, but not in 2009-10. This position is no longer what it once was and owners may want to consider targeting a big-time SF early as the pickings will get slim in a hurry. You’ll get no argument from this author regarding Jeff and Tom’s top 5, but after that it becomes a free-for-all. Just glancing at their lists, there are nothing but disappointments from last year – Caron Butler, Rudy Gay, Luol Deng, Rashard Lewis, Ron Artest, Corey Maggette, Francisco Garcia – to name a few. Standing out on Tom’s side of the ledger are Danilo Gallinari at #19, Marvin Williams at #12 and Luol Deng at #10. Gallinari, who recently hit puberty, has Wilson Chandler in his way and I don’t see him receiving any kind of consistent time to warrant this spot. Jeff interestingly has Kelenna Azubuike at #21. He is going to have to jump about three other swing players in the highly congested Golden St. rotation to have any relevance. The Celts are talking about limiting Paul Pierce‘s minutes, which could help him in the long run (but not in fantasy) and we’ll see what kind of effect the move to Toronto will have on Hedo Turkoglu. He will certainly not be in control of the ball as much as he was with the Magic and will have to defer to Chris Bosh ahead of jacking up shots at will. Turkoglu’s numbers should suffer.
Sleepers: Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Chandler
Busts: Pierce, Turkoglu, Richard Jefferson
Top 25 Power Forwads
Suddenly and surprisingly, the power forward position has some depth as well as some sneaky-good contributors who can be had late in your drafts. Blocked shots are always at a premium, and if you can find an eraser at this position, you may not have to waste a high pick on a mediocre center who will help you in this all-important category. Jeff shook things up a bit by listing Troy Murphy as his #3 PF. The Notre Dame product had underwhelmed through much of his career, but put together an impressive and consistent season in ’08-09 in which he was a beast on the boards (11.8 rpg) while knocking down an unheard of 2.2 threes per contest. Even a slight dropoff would warrant him consideration among Bosh, Antawn Jamison and David West. Speaking of Jamison, is this fella ever going to slow down? In his age 33 season and with Arenas back in full ballhog mode, I’m finally expecting a dip in production. I think Tom and Jeff are little too bullish on Kevin Garnett, who not only has been hobbled by a serious knee injury, he is now 33 years old, has Rasheed Wallace stealing some of his stats, and his minutes will continue to be reduced. I’m expecting pedestrian numbers this year from the fantasy hall of famer. I think the boys are also missing the boat on Blake Griffin. He will be sharing a frontcourt with Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman, but if the Clips are smart, and we know they are far from that, they will insert Griffin in the starting lineup and by December start running the offense through him. 18 and 10 with 1.5 blocks are reasonable expectations for ’09-10 and those should be his lowest totals for the next 12 years. Is Zach Randolph really part of that mess in Memphis? That’s just what they needed, a black hole to go along with Iverson, Mayo and the talented but overrated Gay.
Sleepers: Luis Scola, Kevin Love, Griffin, Anthony Randolph
Busts: Garnett, Randolph
Top 25 Centers
There is some pretty good depth at the center position, though there is a pretty significant dropoff after the first six or seven. Dwight Howard dominates in three categories, but you can more or less wipe one of them away because of his horrifying FT percentage. The hope for Amar’e Stoudemire is that the Suns will revert to their patented shoot first and ask questions later offense and that he will be the main beneficiary. His supporting cast is average at best and he should bounce back from a disappointing ’08-09. Al Jefferson is claiming that he is nearly 100 percent healthy and we’ll see if Andrew Bogut‘s back can hold up. If it does, we could have a nice sleeper on our hands. Tom is high on Andrea Bargnani. He did revert back to rookie year form in ’08-09, but I personally think he is a dog and wouldn’t waste a pick on him in the top 10 rounds. Spencer Hawes could be ready to take it to the next level as could the underrated Kendrick Perkins, despite the presence of Wallace. Look for Brook Lopez to vault himself into the upper tier as he forms a great one-two punch with Harris. I don’t see Shaq producing the same numbers in Cleveland as he did in Phoenix, but it was surprising to see him not crack Jeff and Tom’s top 25. Same goes for Chris Kaman, who is young and talented enough to post a 14 and 9 with more than a block per game.
Sleepers: Hawes, Bogut, Lopez, Robin Lopez, Chris Andersen, Roy Hibbert, Kaman
Busts: Bargnani, Shaquille O’Neal, Camby