Chris Paul :: John W. McDonough/SI
The NBA season starts on Tuesday and since I just finished working on the Sports Illustrated NBA Preview issue (on newsstands now), what better time is there to go through the fantasy prospects for the upcoming season. Not to neglect those of you who are looking for fantasy football tips, scroll down to the bottom where I answer some of the queries sent to me this week via Twitter. But first, here's my NBA position-by-position analysis:
1. Chris Paul, Hornets
2. Deron Williams, Jazz
3. Steve Nash, Suns
4. Chauncey Billups, Nuggets
5. Devin Harris, Nets
6. Jose Calderon, Raptors
7. Jason Kidd, Mavericks
8. Tony Parker, Spurs
9. Derrick Rose, Bulls
10. Baron Davis, Clippers
Jose Calderon, Raptors: Widely considered one of the greatest point guards in the world during international competition, Calderon is an excellent pass-first playmaker who rarely turns the ball over and shoots 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and over 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Mike Bibby, Hawks:Once a budding star with the Grizzlies and Kings, Bibby's fantasy career has stalled and regressed to the point where he averages just 15 points and five assists per game (the latter ranked behind the outputs of Luke Ridnour and Rafer Alston).
Ready to Explode
Russell Westbrook, Thunder:Oklahoma City is assembling a young, exciting nucleus and at the heart of it is Westbrook, who averaged 15.3 points and 5.3 assists last season as a rookie. As Kevin Durant's setup man, his assists should skyrocket this season. He's a future All-Star.
Andre Miller, Trail Blazers:Miller has always been a reliable if unspectacular fantasy player. And joining a Portland team ready to emerge as one of the power players in the Western Conference should do wonders for his fantasy value. However, coach Nate McMillan is on the record saying he'll stick with his starter over the next three seasons, severely reducing Miller's appeal as more than a fantasy bench player.
Sacramento's Tyreke Evans will start and be the Kings' second scoring option to Kevin Martin.
Minnesota's Jonny Flynn needs to work on his jumper, but when Kevin Love and Al Jefferson are both playing the post, Flynn's ability to drive and dish will be deadly.
Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings barely played last season in Europe but will step right into an improved Milwaukee lineup that promises to be one of the higher-scoring starting five's in the league.
1. Dwyane Wade, Heat
2. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
3. Joe Johnson, Hawks
4. Andre Iguodala, 76ers
5. O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
6. Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers
7. Michael Redd, Bucks
8. Jason Richardson, Suns
9. Vince Carter, Magic
10. Kevin Martin, Kings
John Salmons, Bulls:After spending the better part of his first six NBA seasons as a reserve for the Sixers and Kings, Salmons finally got a chance to show what he could do with starters minutes in '08-09 when he averaged 18.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three-point range. An excellent defender, Salmons is in for another season of averaging more than 37 minutes. He should be owned in every league.
Allen Iverson, Grizzlies:Don't get me wrong. Iverson is most likely going to be giving a speech in Springfield one day, but now playing behind O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley on a team that really doesn't need him, The Answer's averages will likely slide from his career lows of 17.5 ppg and 1.5 spg.
Ready to explode
O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies:Coming off of an excellent rookie season, Mayo has the skills and opportunity to step up into the game's elite fantasy players. He wore down at the end of last year but a better offseason training program and understanding of just how long a season can be will be invaluable in his development. It would be a shock if he didn't average over 20 points this season.
Richard Hamilton, Pistons:Last season Hamilton had to deal with the presence of Allen Iverson cutting into his minutes, and this year it'll be his fellow UConn Husky, Ben Gordon, who'll sap fantasy value from the career 17.9 point per game scorer.
Golden State's Stephen Curry is a pure scorer on a team chock full of pure scorers. On any other team his defense would be a liability, but the Warriors don't worry about details like that.
Oklahoma City's James Harden has fit right in with his new teammates and should provide a defensive presence that the team sorely needs. He'll share minutes with Thabo Sefolosha at first, but should play enough to have plenty of value, especially later in the season.
Charlotte got a steal in Gerald Henderson, who'll play a major role for Larry Brown's squad to compensate for the loss of Raja Bell. He's not someone to put in your weekly lineup from November, but could be by midseason.
1. LeBron James, Cavaliers
2. Danny Granger, Pacers
3. Kevin Durant, Thunder
4. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
5. Caron Butler, Wizards
6. Paul Pierce, Celtics
7. Rashard Lewis, Magic
8. Ron Artest, Lakers
9. Rudy Gay, Grizzlies
10. Hedo Turkoglu, Raptors
Caron Butler, Wizards:Over the past two seasons combined, only two players have averaged over 20 points, six rebounds and four assists: fantasy MVP LeBron James and Butler. The return of Gilbert Arenas could lower his scoring a bit, but all of his other numbers should rise across the board.
Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz:AK-47 has a world of talent across every fantasy category, but he no longer does enough to justify the value fantasy owners place upon him. With Paul Millsap and Carlos Boozer expected to spend time together on the floor, Kirilenko's minutes -- already down to under 28 minutes per game in '08-09 -- will decrease even further.
Ready to explode
Michael Beasley, Heat:His offseason off-the-court troubles were well documented and served as a wake-up call to the second-year man and his team. He should be a fixture in Miami's frontcourt from here on out and, with enough time on the floor and enough support off of it, he'll average 18.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg.
Shawn Marion, Mavericks:In each of the last three seasons, Marion has seen a dip in his scoring average, field-goal percentage, blocked shots and three-pointers made. And now on an aging and undersized Dallas squad, there's little to indicate a bounce-back season.
Phoenix is short on size, which should open up some time for Earl Clark who, at 6-foot-9, has the ability to run the floor with Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Amare Stoudemire when Grant Hill or Channing Frye needs a breather.
Houston's Chase Budinger has been drawing comparisons to former Rockets' sniper Steve Novak, but I think he'll be much better than that, especially with plenty of minutes to go around on the injury-plagued franchise.
1. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
2. Amare Stoudemire, Suns
3. Chris Bosh, Raptors
4. Kevin Garnett, Celtics
5. Tim Duncan, Spurs
6. Josh Smith, Hawks
7. Antawn Jamison, Wizards
8. David West, Hornets
9. Pau Gasol, Lakers
10. Carlos Boozer, Jazz
Jason Thompson, Kings:Playing in virtual anonymity last season, Thompson ranked in the top 10 rookies in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocks all while dealing with foul trouble. This year, the refs won't be as eager to whistle the rookie, which should lead to fantasy starter numbers.
Kenyon Martin, Nuggets:One of the most misguided top overall draft picks during the last decade, Martin is a solid player who does a little bit of everything for a fantasy team, but is the master of nothing. His 11.7 ppg is hard to carry in your lineup without an abundance of another highly coveted skill.
Ready to explode
LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers:The best thing to happen to Portland's fourth-year man will be the emergence as a low-post threat by Greg Oden, which should ease the double-teams that the highly-skilled Aldridge has been facing over the last three seasons. He's already an 18 ppg scorer and 7.5 per game rebounder, but those numbers are on the verge of skyrocketing with a little help from his friends.
Kevin Love, Timberwolves:The second-year big man was primed for a huge second season but a broken hand has sidelined him for at least the first month or two of the season. Unless you have unlimited injury slots, it's never a good idea to try to stash an injured player from the get-go, since you'll have other players injured during the year who'll need protection.
Although it seems like there's a logjam in the Clippers frontcourt with Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby, you can be sure that Blake Griffin will get starters' minutes. He's the overwhelming favorite for Rookie of the Year honors.
The Bulls are deep upfront since the emergence of Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas, but Taj Gibson will play his way into the lineup. He's got double-double potential and is excellent insurance for Thomas owners.
Tim Duncan doesn't need much help behind him, but DeJaun Blair has shown in the preseason an ability to play for and with the future Hall of Famer. A good rebounder and scorer, Blair could press Antonio McDyess for minutes and more than compensates for the loss of Fabricio Oberto.
1. Dwight Howard, Magic
2. Al Jefferson, Timberwolves
3. Andrew Bynum, Lakers
4. Nene, Nuggets
5. Brook Lopez, Nets
6. David Lee, Knicks
7. Samuel Dalembert, 76ers
8. Shaquille O'Neal, Cavaliers
9. Andrew Bogut, Bucks
10. Andris Biedrins, Warriors
Andrew Bogut, Bucks:He's been injury-prone throughout his career, but Bogut is the quintessential big man, capable of averaging a double-double with two blocks per game. He's going to be helped offensively by the return of Michael Redd and defensively by Hakim Warrick, who allows Bogut to stay at home more in the paint.
As a Tyson Chandler owner the past two seasons, it's hard to describe the frustration of deciding whether or not to play the fragile pivotman. Now with the Bobcats he's is being looked at to replace another fantasy disappointment, Emeka Okafor, but unless he's all of a sudden putting up Ben-Wallace-in-his-prime numbers, take the pass on Chandler.
Ready to explode
Roy Hibbert, Pacers:The former stud from Georgetown has earned the starting job in Indiana and will be a force on the boards and shot-blocking. He's should be good for around 12 points per game, but that's all you'll need when he's averaging 10 rebounds while placing in the top 10 in swats.
Shaquille O'Neal, Cavaliers:It's never a bad thing to have Shaq on your team, however playing with one of the league's elite teams at age 36 -- and with the likes of Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas demanding minutes each game -- coach Mike Brown will certainly limit O'Neal's time on the floor to keep him fresh for the postseason.
The only two rookies who may have an impact in the middle are Houston's David Andersen, an import from Australia who is being asked to compensate for the loss of Yao, and Hasheem Thabeet, the Connecticut shot-blocking machine who settles in behind Marc Gasol with the Grizzlies.
Here are a few questions I've received this week on Twitter and an opportunity to answer them in more than 140 characters.
Who to drop: [Terrell] Owens, [Jeremy] Maclin, Pierre [Garçon], [Percy] Harvin or [Kevin] Walter?
Bye weeks make you cut good players all the time and this is a case of having to bite the bullet to let someone go. Out of this bunch, there are two uncuttables to me: Harvin, the outstanding multi-skilled rookie from Minnesota, and Garçon who has become one of Peyton Manning's top receivers. I'd also eliminate Jeremy Maclin from the conversation since the Eagles have an explosive attack even if they got shut down by the Raiders. That leaves Walter, a steady possession guy for the Texans, one of the league's top passing teams, and Owens, the underachiever playing in a run-centered offense and with one of the league's worst quarterback situations. The logical move is to try to trade Owens, but barring that you can be bold by just cutting the future Hall of Famer loose. If you get cold feet, Walter should be replaceable later in the year.
Need RBs bad (Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush, Tashard Choice, Derrick Ward). Have WRs (Andre Johnson , Greg Jennings, Nate Burleson, Eddie Royal, Lance Moore). Offered Mendenhall/Thomas Jones & WR for Andre? Too much, yes
When you have a player like Andre Johnson you have to make sure to maximize his value if you're trying to trade him. Three weeks ago you would've scoffed at anyone offering you Mendenhall for Johnson and although now it's not a ridiculous offer, it's asking too much to give up a player who is one of the top three players at his position for someone with three games of starting experience. I would push for both running backs for Johnson at the very least, or offer Jennings for Mendenhall straight up.
Don't forget to send me your questions and comments on lineups, trades, pickups, etc., through Twitter at @SI_DavidSabino. I'll be answering them throughout the week and will be there for you each fantasy football Sunday from 11 to 12:30 p.m. ET prior to early kickoffs.