It may be the middle of summer, but it's never too early to start thinking about the NBA fantasy ahead. Next up, the perennial Eastern Conference finalists, the Pistons.
The Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for an impressive sixth year in a row, but they lost there for the third year in a row, and Flip Saunders got fired as a result. Joe Dumars has done an incredible job crafting this team, and they will continue to contend in the East thanks to their emerging young talent. Their Pace Factor of 87.3 was dead last, but they still managed to rank 17th in ppg.
Key additions:Kwame Brown, Walter Sharpe, Will BynumKey losses:Jarvis Hayes, Theo Ratliff, Lindsey Hunter
In a surprising (and somewhat disturbing) move, Dumars decided to sign former the former No. 1 draft picks and current bust, Kwame Brown to a two-year, $8 million contract. I can understand a team wanting to sign him as their backup center, but not Detroit, and not for eight million dollars (if you can make any sense of this move, please contact me). Bynum had a cup of coffee with the Warriors a few years ago, and now he'll try to replace Hunter as their No. 3 PG. I don't know anything about Walter Sharpe, other than that he's NOT a three-point shooter, which is what Detroit lost when Hayes signed with New Jersey.
Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton will be holding down Detroit's backcourt for the seventth year in a row. Last year, however, their minutes hovered around 32-33 mpg instead of the 36-37 mpg they averaged the year before. They got more rest than usual because youngsters Rodney Stuckey (19.0 mpg) and Arron Afflalo (12.9 mpg) proved to be more than capable backups. There have been rumors about Billups being moved to open up more PT for Stuckey, but it looks like they'll keep the former Finals MVP around for now. So expect the veterans to play 30-plus minutes once again while Stuckey's minutes get bumped up to 22-24 and Afflalo plays 14-16.
At small forward, Tayshaun Prince's minutes (32.9) were down and his fantasy stats were very mediocre. However, I'm expecting Prince's minutes to shoot back up to 34-35 now that Hayes is gone. ... Antonio McDyess (29.3 mpg) started 78 games at power forward last season, but there's a lot of young talent behind him waiting to steal his minutes. For starters, Jason Maxiell (21.5 mpg) is an athletic beast who I'm expecting to take over the starting PF spot this season (more on that below), and he is strong enough to guard centers. Amir Johnson and Walter Herrmann are also very skilled players, and despite having power forward size, one or the other might actually backup Prince at SF this season. ... Rasheed Wallace's 30.5 mpg in '07-08 was his lowest average in nine years. Surprisingly, his stats were almost identical to the year before, but he'll have trouble duplicating them again if his minutes fall any more. ... Kwame Brown is good for six fouls. ... Cheick Samb is a talented shot-blocker, so the Pistons have plenty of big men at the moment.
Jason Maxiell and Walter Herrmann
Maxiell stands just 6-feet-6 with shoes on, but there are plenty of things to like about him. Let's start with his 7-3 wingspan, excellent leaping ability and surprising quickness for such a beefcake. He gets off the floor in a hurry to block shots and he attacks the rim with a vengeance that few players possess. Maxiell is more than just a physical specimen though, as his mid-range jumper has improved drastically and his low-post moves are pretty solid as well. Want more? He's entering his prime (25 years old) and he posted Detroit's third best Roland Rating (a number representing the difference between a team's net points with the player on the floor per 48 minutes versus the net points with the player off the floor per 48 minutes) in last year's playoffs (while shooting 62.5 percent from the field). His playing time (and thus, fantasy value) was limited in '07-08, but I'm expecting a breakout season of sorts for Mad Max.
Herrmann was everyone's favorite "sleeper pick" in '07, but after averaging just 8.2 minutes and 3.4 points per game, none of those people are going to go near the guy in '08. At least, not until he starts playing big minutes and dropping threes left and right. Which is more likely to happen than you think. Hayes cramped his style last year, but Hayes is no longer in Detroit, which means that Prince has no clear-cut backup. With Juan Dixon and Hunter likely gone as well, that's a lot of three-point shooting to replace. Stuckey and Afflalo are going to play more this season, but they combined to shoot just 20.3 percent from beyond the arc last year (ouch). Enter: the finger-rolling Fabio. Herrmann has proven that he can knock down threes, and if Prince ever gets hurt, he could have serious value. People are going to be sleeping on this guy, but I suggest you watch him closely.
Antonio McDyess and Rodney Stuckey
I've always been a fan of the Dice Man, but not this year (at least fantasy-wise). He turns 34 in September and the statistics indicate that his production is rapidly declining. After posting a solid 18.1 PER in '06-07, that number plummeted to just 14.1 in '07-08. Additionally, his -3.2 regular season Roland Rating was actually the WORST among all Pistons regulars last year. To top it off, his 10.8 points and .8 blocks per 36 minutes were the lowest marks of his career. Someone in your league is going to draft him based on his 8.5 boards per game, but McDyess is going to be a fringe fantasy player at best in '08-09.
It feels weird to warn people about Stuckey, because the guy is clearly a future star in the making. Unfortunately, some fantasy sites are hyping this guy up WAY too much. I'll tell you right now, if you target him in the "early-middle rounds" then you're asking for trouble. For starters, Stuckey is a guard with limited three-point range. In his senior year in college, he made 1.5 treys per game, but he shot just 26.7 percent from three (very poor). As a rookie, he attempted just 16 threes (making only three) in 1,081 total minutes. For non-three-point-making guards to have serious fantasy value, they must either get a ton of assists (Andre Miller) or a lot of steals and shoot an excellent percentage from the field (Monta Ellis). Sure, Stuckey is capable of racking up steals and assists, but that's pretty tough to do in under 30 minutes per game, which is where his minutes will likely be unless Billups gets traded. I have no problem swooping up Stuckey with a late-round pick, but if you're using an "early-middle round" pick on someone based on the assumption that the guy ahead of him will be traded, well ... good luck with that.
(Where you should draft these guys in an eight-category roto league with 12 teams and 14-man rosters)
Billups: Late 3rdHamilton: 6th-7thWallace: 6th-7thPrince: 10th-11thStuckey: 12th-14thMaxiell: 13th-14thMcDyess: Don't draft (I told you to be careful)Herrmann: Don't draft (but pickup if Prince goes down)Johnson: Don't draft (but watch if you need blocks)