Fantasy & Free Agent Fest: Southwest 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. Behold: The Southwest Division.

Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): F Dirk Nowitzki (1/2), G Jason Kidd (8), G Jason Terry (10/11), C Brendan Haywood (13), F Shawn Marion (14)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: C Tyson Chandler, G/F Caron Butler, G Jose Juan Barea
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: Things could be different for the defending champs as free agents Chandler, Butler and Barea might be bowled over by money elsewhere. It behooves fantasy owners to be on their toes with this group. Haywood is worth considering if Chandler walks, but the big man is risky if you are relying on him as a No. 2 fantasy center. Rudy Fernandez is now a Mav, but there is chatter that he could stay overseas. Roddy Beaubois has a chance to really take a larger role this season, but we’re in “believe it when we see it” mode. He’s coming off foot surgery. Nowitzki is no longer a top five pick. I like him at the end of the first round in most formats.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: The Mavericks should do everything in their power to keep Chandler, as heading into your title defense with Haywood at center isn’t ideal, to say the least. Mark Cuban and/or Nowitzki need to convince Fernandez to play for Dallas this year. He’s a nice infusion of energy who can replicate much of what Barea and Butler gave them.

Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G Kevin Martin (3/4), G Kyle Lowry (5), F Luis Scola (6), Chase Budinger (13)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F/C Chuck Hayes
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: One of the teams to watch during free agency. Yao Ming’s retirement and Chuck Hayes’ unrestricted status leaves a big hole at center, and the Rockets want Nene. He’d be a great fit. If they can’t land a center, expect Scola to play big minutes there, while Patrick Patterson, Jordan Hill and rookie Marcus Morris make bids for relevancy. Budinger should take a decent step up in fantasy this year as the starting small forward. He averaged 14 points, four boards and 1.5 threes as a starter last year in 22 games. Lowry will be one of the great value PG picks once the big names are off the board.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Nene makes a ton of sense for them. Not sure if it’s going to happen as this isn’t the sexiest roster, but the Rockets should put on a full court press. If they miss out on Nene, expect Daryl Morey do be creative in finding a new pivot.

Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): F Rudy Gay (3/4), F Zach Randolph (4), G Mike Conley (8), G O.J. Mayo (11/12), G Tony Allen (13/14)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F Shane Battier
Key Restricted Free Agents: C Marc Gasol
What to Look For: The Grizz will re-sign Gasol. He’s a fifth-round pick at worst. Gasol only averaged seven boards a game last year but much more in the playoffs. Eight or nine a game is more along the lines of what he should do but he’s competing with Randolph. Speaking of sharing stats, Rudy Gay was having a tremendous statistical season before he got hurt last year. Memphis made a great run without him, but he’ll be back to his studly fantasy ways this season. Mayo and Allen will probably cancel each other out at shooting guard, or at least trade off strong stat lines based on the matchups.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Memphis has done a lot right in assembling a winning team, and signing Gasol continues that run. Just get it done.

Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G Chris Paul (1), C Emeka Okafor (9/10), F Trevor Ariza (10)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: F David West, F Carl Landry
Key Restricted Free Agents: G Marco Belinelli
What to Look For: Simply put, the ugliest situation in the league and possibly in fantasy. If the Hornets fail to sign both West and Landry I shudder to think what Chris Paul will be surrounded by this season. What’s that? Paul wants out? You don’t say. New Orleans/the NBA would be wise to just get as much as they can for Paul as soon as possible and completely rebuild this team. Paul is the No. 3 pick in fantasy leagues unless we start hearing negative things about his knees. It will be a grueling schedule this year. Sleeper alert: Jarrett Jack (if Paul is traded, and a point guard doesn’t come back).
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: Ideally the Hornets get aggressive and keep West while making a run at a Jason Richardson or Jamal Crawford. It all depends on Paul, however, and the future doesn’t look like he’s in it. Trade Paul, to Golden State perhaps, for pieces and picks, don’t waste money on West or any other big name FA, and play for a top pick in next year’s draft.

Fantasy-Worthy Players Under Contract (H2H Draft Round in Parentheses): G Manu Ginobili (4/5), G Tony Parker (7/8), F/C Tim Duncan (8), C DeJuan Blair (12/13)
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: None
Key Restricted Free Agents: None
What to Look For: Owning Spurs might not be worth it this season, particularly Duncan. With such a grueling schedule ahead, he’ll be rested often. Ginobili is another candidate to take it easy, but his overall statistical numbers are so good he remains a great option in the fourth or fifth round. Rookie Kawhi Leonard has a chance to usurp Richard Jefferson at small forward, but the Spurs will really miss George Hill this year as their aging veterans try to make it through the upcoming gauntlet. I don’t see this team finishing as the No. 1 seed.
The Damn Lies Bold Recipe: This could be the last year of the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili troika. It’s been a blast for basketball purists. Duncan needs help up front, however, and he needs it this season. Blair is a nice banger, but Tiago Splitter isn’t cutting it and Matt Bonner is limited. Use the amnesty on Richard Jefferson (making around $30 million over the next three years) and grab decent big man or two (Chuck Hayes? Carl Landry?) with that dough. Timmy will thank you.


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