Cynicism is a must-have characteristic in fantasy sports, though. It's as important to know which players to avoid as it is to know which ones to target. As RotoExperts, it's our job to let you know specifically which players could crash your championship hopes.
To help compartmentalize the various situations of the NBA's 450-plus players, I'll assign a bust for each of five categories: rookies who will hit a wall sooner than expected; perceived up-and-comers who are still too raw; free agents/trade acquisitions who don't fit; veterans who will get lost in his team's roster shuffle; and, of course, the Olympians who battle the Olympic hangover. Let's get to it.
Russell Westbrook (PG, Thunder)
As he gets ready to suit up for his first NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook will find out soon enough that his 180-pound body will be tested to the max over an 82-game season. He might not handle the rock much anyway, with Kevin Durant sure to dominate the ball for stretches of games. With fellow ex-UCLA Bruin Earl Watson potentially playing significant minutes at point after he returns from his current injury, Westbrook could find that his real fantasy value won't be realized until the 2009-10 season.
O.J. Mayo (PG/SG, Grizzlies)
He's going to be very good eventually, but he could also attempt a ridiculous amount of shots. Expect ugly field-goal shooting and three-point shooting.
D.J. Augustin (PG, Bobcats)
He can't play shooting guard, so are we to believe that he will supplant starting PG Raymond Felton (PG/SG, CHA), who's a lock for 14 points and seven assists every game?
Thaddeus Young (SF/PF, 76ers)
The rookie delighted 76ers fans and fantasy owners alike by showing off his potential in '07-08. Young averaged 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 21 minutes per contest, so he looks like a sure-fire double-double player once he gets full-time duty, right? Ugh. No, not really. The 76ers were on their way to becoming sort of a Golden State Warriors-east type of squad, running and gunning with point guard Louis Williams, shooting guard Andre Iguodala and the versatile Young shaping the future. But the acquisition of power forward Elton Brand changes their playing style. He's a post-up forward who could shift Young back to small forward, where the 20-year-old's speed and quickness doesn't appear to be as big of an advantage offensively as it does at the four-spot. He'll likely continue to come off the bench, so it's tough to think of him improving his scoring and rebounding averages until he gets a starting role. Think of him as a sleeper pick for '09-10.
Tyrus Thomas (SF/PF, Bulls)
He'll be on the floor more often than he was last year, but he hasn't had much on-court time to develop his game yet.
Yi Jianlian (PF, Nets)
Jianlian simply hasn't displayed the sort of aggressiveness and mature attitude that it takes to become a consistently productive NBA player.
Ron Artest (SF, Rockets)
Sorry, but I'm not buying the argument that Artest will score 20-plus points every contest with shooting guard Tracy McGrady and center Yao Ming logging time on the court. In fact, I think he'll have to work to duplicate his '06-07 average of 16.9 points-per-game. The Rockets offense, as always, will run through Yao, and McGrady is a pure scorer. Power forward Luis Scola could also be a double-digit scorer, and Shane Battier still has to log playing time. One also needs to account for Artest's natural craziness. Can you really trust this guy to bring his "A" game every night? I can't.
Richard Jefferson (SF, Bucks)
Scored a career-high 22.6 points-per-game for New Jersey in '07-08, but now he gets to find out what NBA life is like for a full season without Jason Kidd.
Lamar Odom (SF/PF, Lakers)
Odom will turn 29 years old in November, so it's time to eliminate any discussion involving his potential -- he is who he is. He's a higher-level role player whose impact goes beyond the numbers. But since we care only about numbers in fantasy play, it's worth noting Odom's 14.2 points and 10.6 rebounds-per-game from last season. With power forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum slated to play with each other for the first time, Odom becomes the fourth scorer. Additionally, Gasol and Bynum should combine for around 20 rebounds per game, ultimately decreasing Odom's average by a board or two per game.
Al Harrington (PF/C, Warriors)
The young frontcourt talent behind Harrington could see more playing time as the Warriors struggle to make the postseason.
Kirk Hinrich (PG/SG, Bulls)
Top overall pick in the "real" NBA draft, Derrick Rose, has a shot at taking over the starting point guard duties. Larry Hughes, and Ben Gordon could hold down the fort at shooting guard. Where exactly does Hinrich fit in those plans?
Jason Kidd (PG, Mavericks)
The increased vulnerability to injury afflicts at least a couple players after every Olympics (see Odom and Tim Duncan in '04; Antonio McDyess and Vince Carter in '00). Kidd, who's already started to slow down at age 35, has played 80 NBA regular season games in each of the past three seasons, plus 28 playoff games and two international tournaments, including the Olympics. His statistics are already in danger of falling in Dallas, as he looks less and less to score. He could easily average less than 10 points-per-game, and it wouldn't be shocking to see his assists fall, as he plays with scorers such as Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, both of whom are adept at creating their own shots.
Kobe Bryant (SG, Lakers)
Hardly a flat-out bust, but his scoring numbers could drop as he plays with the Bynum/Gasol frontcourt duo. Not to mention the fact that he turns 30 this year.
Carmelo Anthony (SF, Nuggets)
Again, I'm not really saying he'll be a flat-out bust, but 'Melo has battled assorted injuries the past couple of seasons, and the uncertainty of his future in Denver could affect his consistency.