Fantasy & Free Agent Fest: Central Division

In the days leading up to the start of free agency on Dec. 9, Damn Lies & Statistics will be taking a look at each team’s potential moves, top fantasy players and more. Here’s a look at the Central Division squads.

CHICAGO BULLS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G Derrick Rose (1), C Joakim Noah (4), F Carlos Boozer (6/7), F Luol Deng (7)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: None
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: Chicago is close, very close. They will try to add a shooting guard who can be an upgrade over Keith Bogans. Jason Richardson or Caron Butler are options. Boozer is a risky pick in fantasy as he just can’t stay on the court, so Taj Gibson is a necessary handcuff. Rose can make a case for the No. 4 pick in drafts. While his minutes might be more in check during a 66-game slate, he remains an unstoppable offensive player who is young and eager to win a championship, not to mention try like heck to get the No. 1 seed in the East over Miami.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Richardson and Butler are decent but aging options who aren’t built for the kind of schedule we have coming up. They might be a little pricey. If the Bulls miss out on them or decide to go a cheaper route, they should make an offer for Golden State’s Reggie Williams – he’s restricted, but the Warriors might not have him in their plans. He could really stretch the floor and spot up to receive kickouts from Rose.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): C Anderson Varejao (8/9), G Kyrie Irving (8/9), F Antawn Jamison (9/10), G Baron Davis (13)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: G Anthony Parker
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: Ummm… well, hopefully Irving getting a chance to run the team from day one. Davis is the perfect candidate for the amnesty clause in the new CBA, and he could easily head to a contender in a backup role. Regardless, he’s a very risky fantasy pick and should only be taken as a reserve. There’s not a huge sample size on Irving so he could end up returning great value or being a bust. Varejao should produce big numbers on a bad team, at least in terms of rebounds. Rookie Tristan Thompson could help fantasy teams by midseason, or by the first Jamison and/or Varejao injury.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: The Cavs are in long-term rebuilding mode. They will have a ton of cap space once Davis and Jamison are off the books, so the best thing to do is just take lumps for another year and get another high draft pick. Bold, eh?

DETROIT PISTONS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): F/C Greg Monroe (5/6), G Rodney Stuckey (10/11), F Austin Daye (11), G Ben Gordon (11/12), F Charlie Villanueva (12/13), G Brandon Knight (13/14)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Tayshaun Prince, G/F Tracy McGrady
Key Restricted Free Agents: G Rodney Stuckey, F Jonas Jerebko
What to Look For: It will be interesting to see what the Pistons do. Despite Prince and McGrady (and Chris Wilcox) coming off the books, this roster is still a mess. Knight gives them the point guard of the future, so it wouldn’t shock us if they let Stuckey walk. There is talk the Pistons will bring in another big man like Glen Davis, further clouding the values of their forwards. Only Monroe is a fantasy asset we can count on. He’s looking like the sleeper who is no longer a sleeper. If you are in a league where no one pays attention, you can get him on the cheap. He’ll be very solid at worst.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: There’s a lot to be done here, and using the amnesty on Gordon or Villanueva might be at the top of my list if I were Joe Dumars. Let Stuckey walk – he doesn’t really have a position and is better suited as a sixth man somewhere else. Give Knight the keys, then work on bringing in a true center to pair with Monroe. For some reason I imagine Andrew Bynum as a great fit here, but I’m not sure how that happens. A Jerebko-Monroe frontcourt is intriguing but a shot blocker is needed.  Move Knight up several rounds if Stuckey goes elsewhere.

INDIANA PACERS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): F Danny Granger (2/3), C Roy Hibbert (5/6), G Darren Collison (8/9), G/F Paul George (12),
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: G/F Mike Dunleavy, G T.J. Ford, F Josh McRoberts, C Jeff Foster
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: Indiana has plenty of cap room and they will be makes some moves. David West is the likely target, but Carl Landry is also an option. West has strong fantasy value but coming off knee surgery in a year with so many back-to-back games? I’m being cautious. Collison should improve in his second season with the club, but his ceiling is as a No. 2 fantasy guard on this team. Granger struggled last year but still does enough to be considered in the second round. I’m more comfortable in the third round. Hibbert is one of the better fantasy centers in the game, combining strong percentages with blocks, a great combination that makes up for him being an average rebounder. George is an up-and-coming player who will see a lot more playing time. He still might end up the fifth option in this lineup, limiting his value.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Why spend your cap space on a player like West who doesn’t sell tickets, has a questionable knee and is a limited defender? There are rumors the Pacers covet Rajon Rondo, someone who could jumpstart this franchise. Give Boston whatever they want for him out of Collison, George, Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. The Pacers could then go hunting for a free agent such as Nene or Tyson Chandler, and sign Landry to play power forward or re-pursue a trade for O.J. Mayo depending on who is left on the roster. A Rondo-Mayo-Granger-Landry-Nene starting five? That’s intriguing.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): C Andrew Bogut (4), G Brandon Jennings (7), G Stephen Jackson (7/8), G/F Carlos Delfino (10)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: G Michael Redd
Key Restricted Free Agents: F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
What to Look For: I love both Bogut and Delfino this year, but worry greatly about the ability of Jennings and Jackson to coexist. Has a starting backcourt ever combined to shoot less than 40 percent from the floor? It could happen here. Neither will be deterred by statistical ugliness and will keep firing. Drop both a round or two in rotisserie leagues. Bogut’s boards and blocks should be off the charts, and here’s hoping for a 100% healthy season for the big Aussie. The Bucks will probably try to keep defensive stalwart Mbah a Moute. Beno Udrih is here and should play a decent role, but not enough to gain fantasy value unless an injury occurs. I’m getting my popcorn for the Scott Skiles-Stephen Jackson Show.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Drew Gooden is a decent player who gets hurt too much and shouldn’t be starting at power forward anywhere at this point in his career. The Bucks actually look like a great fit for David West, if they don’t have to overpay. They probably will, but West would give this team an efficient offensive player they can run their offense around. Be bold, Bucks.

ATLANTIC DIVISION PREVIEW

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