What an offseason. I mean seriously. If drama’s your thing, we had it. If comedy’s your thing, we had that too. If overthinking fantasy rankings is your thing, we have that in spades. The Damn Lies & Statistics bloggers have been a little incognito lately, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t assuming The Thinker position and contemplating the new landscape before us. Finally, I cornered Greg Fox and Tom Lorenzo and demanded answers to some burning questions. They recommended I see a doctor. So you can see why we haven’t posted much.
Instead of rambling, why not get on with it? The first of many roundtables coming your way this preseason will be the query: Who were the biggest offseason winners in fantasy? We each picked three, and blurbed from there. The envelopes please…
Darren Collison, PG, NO – This one is a no-brainer. Collison goes from being the back-up point guard behind Chris Paul — the best in the game — to the starting point guard for a team who was in desperate need of his services. We know what Collison can do when he’s gets starter’s minutes (37 starts, 18.8 points, 9.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.0 treys, 48.5 FG%, 85.2 FT%). Running alongside Danny Granger should help him stay near the top of the leader board in assists. His trade to Indiana moves him from a late-round pick to a possible 5th rounder. Not bad.
Raymond Felton, PG, NYK – It’s hard not to love the starting point guard in Mike D’Antoni’s system. We know what Steve Nash did under D’Antoni, but there’s also something to be said about Chris Duhon dishing 7.1 assists in their first season together. He also, at times, had Nate Robinson looking like anything but selfish. I think Felton will fit perfectly into this up-tempo system. Having played in Charlotte over the first five years of his career, where Coach Larry Brown slowed the tempo, the change of scenery should benefit Felton in a major way.
Al Jefferson, PF/C, UTA – How about going from playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves to being the starting center for the Utah Jazz where Deron Williams will be looking to distribute the ball some 10-11 times per game. Not a bad deal for Jefferson. There’s something to be said about playing inspired ball. The Jazz are going to contend and that should make for a happier Jefferson, which should translate into a more effective Jefferson. This may be the season we actually see Jefferson provide his owners with a nice return on their investment.
Darren Collison, PG, Pacers – The trade to Indiana should undoubtedly thrust Collison into a starting role at point guard in an up-tempo offense. As a long-suffering T.J. Ford owner last year, it became painfully clear that Jim O’Brien wanted nothing to do with him as he was sat in favor of the highly inconsistent Earl of Watson. O’Brien should display a higher tolerance for the hard-working Collison, who put on a show in Chris Paul’s absence for much of the final two-and-a-half months of the 2009-10 season. I wouldn’t say that Collison would be buried if he remained in New Orleans, but this new situation appears pretty tasty. If you’re looking for sublime assists (8.8 apg over final 36) and steals numbers with a chock full ‘o threes to boot, look no further.
Luke Ridnour, PG, T’Wolves – Go figure that a team that drafted two point guards in the lottery in 2009 and then signed Ramon Sessions would be desperate for a floor leader. Such is life for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The underrated Ridnour went from being a backup on an up-and-coming playoff threat in Milwaukee to a starter on perhaps the worst franchise in all organized professional sports. But from a fantasy perspective, how can we not love lil’ Luke this year? His main competition for minutes, Jonny Flynn, is out for at least the first three months of the season following hip surgery, and even when Flynn does return, those three or four T’Wolf backers will recognize that Ridnour right now is the more solid player. In just over 21 minutes per game last season, he averaged 10.4 points, 4.0 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.8 threes, while knocking down 48 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range. If we prorate those to starter’s minutes, we’re looking at some pretty fancy totals. And did I mention who his main competition is until Flynn returns? You guessed it, none other than Bassy Telfair. Nuff said.
Travis Outlaw, SF, Nets – Since Devin Harris evacuated on my frontal lobe as my second-round pick last year, I liken drafting Nets to an evening at the Bates Motel. However, Outlaw is worthy of mid-round consideration. He is a talented and athletic player who has exhibited glimpses of his ability as a reserve the last six years in Portland. Still only 25 years old, this is his chance to play big minutes and shine. He can do it all – from stealing the ball, to blocking shots, to knocking down the three – a poor man’s Danny Granger, if you will. Avery Johnson will do plenty of experimenting with his lineups and for him to commit to Outlaw for 30+ minutes a night, he’ll have to do it on both ends of the floor. Mikhail Prokhorov is not paying his new small forward $35 million over five years to sit on the bench, so the leash on him could be a little longer.
Amir Johnson, PF, TOR – When searching for winners, my eyes naturally took their retinal talents to South Beach, where the gathering of divas sent ripples throughout the NBA. If you follow the bloody trail of destruction, it takes you to Toronto, where Chris Bosh is out and Amir Johnson is in. Seems fair. Okay, forget that the Raptors are going to challenge for the designation of worst team in the NBA. Somebody’s gotta do something here, and by signing Johnson to an unseemly $34 million contract, the Raps are saying: here, person with barely any significant NBA experience, you play a lot. Johnson is a very athletic player who can rebound, block shots and shoot a high percentage. Unless rookie Ed Davis is the steal of the draft, Johnson will see a lot of minutes. He’s on this list because his numbers are going to skyrocket from what we’re accustomed to.
Anthony Randolph, PF, NY – Randolph. Name sounds familiar. Oh yeah, he’s the cat who every fantasy analyst blubbered about in glowing terms last year ’round this time, and with good reason. Randolph is capable of being a multi-category beast, and now that he’s free from Don Nelson’s shackles, and presumably healthy, we have our eye on him again. Call it Blubberfest ’10, but we’re back on board with Randolph now that he’s in New York and playing for Mike D’Antoni. There isn’t much competition in the frontcourt for him and his fantasy forecast is off the charts as a result. Playing with Amar’e Stoudemire, he’ll have ample opportunity to grab rebounds and play defense, and no, that’s not a compliment, Amar’e. Sorry. Back to Randolph: in a lost year, he averaged 11.6 points, 6.5 boards and 1.6 blocks in under 23 minutes a game for the Warriors. If he can just stay healthy, he’ll clean up for the Knicks.
Darren Collison, PG, IND – No self-respecting Offseason Winners List would be complete without Collison. I can’t say much that my esteemed colleagues haven’t said above. Here’s a player who proved without a doubt that he belongs in the NBA, and Indiana is the perfect place for him to put up monster meaningless fantasy numbers for geeks like me who have suffered under the T.J. Ford/Earl Watson/Jamaal Tinsley/Travis Diener reign of error. Is it crazy to consider Collison as high as the fourth round? One thing’s for sure: he’s back on the fantasy map, and with his monster numbers in Chris Paul’s absence fresh on fantasy owners’ minds, you are going to have to pay to get him.
Coming soon: The Offseason Losers