April 01, 2010

Are you already preparing for your draft next year? Well Tamer and Trevor lend a hand by evaluating three players who could be first-round picks in the fall.

Tamer: Well Trevor, we have reached the finish line. This week's edition of MLFG will be our last of the season. We have evaluated a lot of players this year from a variety of different angles. To keep up with tradition we thought we would introduce one more angle before heading into the offseason. In the "season finale", Trevor and I are going to take a look at three players to determine if they are first-round draft picks next season. One of these guys was a mid-first round pick this year while the other two are trying to make their debut in the first round next year. So Trevor it's time to get the Delorean ready and take a ride into the fall to see where these guys are going to end up on draft day.

Trevor: I can't believe we have found ourselves at the end of the season. It's bittersweet as I am not looking forward to the end of the fantasy season but also can't wait for the playoffs to start. Looking back, Tamer and I have evaluated players stretching from the Top 10 all the way down to the guys sitting at the bottom of the waiver wire. On most, occasions we have been on opposite sides of the fence when it came to our evaluations, but I respect Tamer's opinions and have to congratulate him on a fantastic season. Hopefully over the course of the season we have given out some solid advice that has helped our readers, which is really what we are here for. Fittingly, this final column will take a look into the future, and I'm about to hit 88 miles per hour. Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads!

Tyreke Evans, PG, SAC (Through 65 games: 37.3 MPG, 20.2 PTS, 46.1 FG%, 74.9 FT%, 33 3PM, 5.7 AST, 5.2 REB, 1.5 STL, 0.4 BLK)

What a first season for Evans. Not only is he going to win Rookie of the Year, but he has also been a revelation for fantasy owners that on average drafted him late in the 11 round of standard 12-team Yahoo! leagues. Can Evans jump all the way from the back end of the draft to a first-round pick?

Tamer: Evans went from an enigma on draft day to the best performing fantasy rookie this season (though Stephen Curry is a very close second and could surpass him by the end of the year). Unfortunately, I don't think that Evans will or should break into the first round next season. While Evans' numbers are strong especially for a rookie, they are not first round caliber in several areas. His free-throw percentage is not great for a guard and it significantly impacts fantasy owners because he gets to the line almost seven times per game. He also only makes about a half a three per game, which again is subpar for a guard. Evans could make up for these deficiencies with exceptional assist totals but he is only slightly above average for a point guard in the assist category. Now you could say that Evans is worthy of a first round pick because he will improve in his second season. This argument doesn't fly with me because I don't see Evans improving much if at all in year two. He may score a few more points per game but I don't see his percentages or threes per game increasing because he is not a good shooter. He is also not a pure point guard, so the best-case scenario is that he averages six and a half assists per game in 2010-11. On top of all this, he got injured at the most inopportune time for fantasy owners. Owners will remember this on draft day, as they should, since reliability is a big factor in being a first round pick. Evans is a late second or early third-round pick next year so he gets a Fool's Gold from me.

Trevor: I am a huge Curry fan, but even I have to admit that the Rookie of the Year award belongs to Evans. Analysts can argue all they want about whether he is a PG or a SG, but the bottom line is that Evans is a star. The way he gets to the basket reminds me a lot of a smaller version of LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, which is clearly good company to be in. Unfortunately, just like LeBron and Wade when they were rookies, Tyreke's outside shooting is a bit suspect. Otherwise there really isn't much about his game that you can complain about. Tamer is absolutely right that based on this year's stats Evans looks like more of a second or early-third round pick, but based on potential I would be very tempted to snag Evans around the end of the first. Typically I want a sure thing with my first pick, but if it's a snake draft and I know I'm going to get another pick early in the second round, I can play it safe with that one and take Evans with the first pick. It's a risky strategy, but if Tyreke ends up becoming a Wade or LeBron level player it will be well worth it. High risk, high reward, Mother Lode.

Danny Granger, SF, IND (Through 55 games: 36.9 MPG, 24.1 PTS, 43.3 FG%, 85.4 FT%, 143 3PM, 5.6 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.6 STL, 0.9 BLK)

Granger, on average, was the seventh pick in the first round last year in standard 12-team Yahoo! leagues. A bout of plantar fasciitis early this season has put his durability in question since he will play in less than 70 games for the second year in a row. Is Granger simply not reliable enough to be a first-round pick in 2010-11?

Tamer: Granger will be a fascinating player to watch in fantasy drafts next year. How much trust Granger has lost with fantasy owners will decide if he slips into the second round. When you take the injuries out of the equation and look purely at Granger's numbers, he is absolutely a first-round pick. He is a game changer in points and threes. He also has the rare ability to average at least a block and a steal per game (he is not quite there this season but he accomplished this feat in each of the last two years). Finally, his free-throw percentage gives fantasy owners a big boost since he gets to the line almost seven times per game. You could do without his field goal percentage this year but he should be able to get back into the mid 40's next season. As far as the injuries are concerned I look at the last two years as more of a fluke then a revelation that Granger is injury prone. While the two injury's that cost him the most time over the last two years were to his feet, neither injury involved a fracture or a break that could lead to long term problems (see: Yao Ming). In addition, Granger was a reliable NBA player before last season missing only six games in his first three seasons. While many fantasy owners may shy away from Granger in the first round next year, I think he will be able to stay healthy and continue to put up first-round production. Whether he is drafted in the first round or not I view him as Top 10 material so he gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: The old saying is that you won't win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. Thanks to Danny Granger a lot of owners learned that lesson all too well this season. Granger is a fantastically talented player, but injuries are starting to become an issue. In addition, he became a liability from the field this season, taking and missing a lot of shots. He has caught fire recently, which is encouraging to fantasy owners but devastating to Pacer fans hoping for the number one pick in the draft. I'm really torn on whether or not I would burn a first round pick on Granger next year though, as the past few seasons have shown that the talent is there but the reliability might not be. Even if he manages to stay on the floor we have seen that Granger struggles to play through injury and his field goal percentage drops tremendously. To me, I think that's what seals it. While I would be sorely tempted to take Granger if he was still on the board near the end of the first, I'm just not confident enough in his ability to deal with injuries. I want my first-round pick to be someone who I am confident will be in my lineup for most of the season. I can't say that about Granger, so I have to give him a Fool's Gold.

Brook Lopez, C, NJN (Through 74 games: 36.9 MPG, 19.1 PTS, 50.6 FG%, 81.5 FT%, 8.9 REB, 2.2 AST, 1.8 BLK, 0.7 STL)

Lopez was a mid-third round pick this year but he has put up first round production in his second season in the league. Will he make his first round debut next season?

Tamer: While Evans and Granger are debatable first round picks, Lopez looks like he will easily make it into the first round next year. He slots right behind Dwight Howard as the second best center on the board and should be picked in the end of the first round. Lopez is simply a player without a weakness. He scores efficiently, he rebounds, blocks shots, gets steals, and even throws in a few dishes a game as well. You could make a case in turnover leagues that Lopez is a better pick than Howard since the new Superman (sorry Shaquille O'Neal) turns the ball over too much. Lopez is also a much better free-throw shooter than Howard. The best news for fantasy owners is that Lopez could be even better next year. I see no reason that Lopez can't become a 20-point, 10-rebound and 2-block center in his third NBA season since he showed great improvement between his rookie and sophomore campaigns. The only concern I have with Lopez is how the makeup of the 2010-11 Nets will affect his value. If the Nets get John Wall in the NBA draft, trade Devin Harris for a quality player and sign one or possibly two high profile free agents, the focus of the Nets offense could move away from Lopez. Chances are that all of this does not happen but there is no disputing that the Nets will have more talent next year. I don't foresee Lopez's value being affected because he is big part of the Nets future. A better supporting cast could actually be good for Lopez because it should take some of the offensive burden off of his shoulders. This could lead to a higher field goal percentage and more assists. No matter what happens this offseason, Lopez is a first round pick next year so he gets a Mother Lode from me.

Trevor: It's the final evaluation of the season and we are going to end it on a positive. I completely agree with Tamer about Lopez. The New Jersey Nets may currently be the laughing stock of the league but Lopez is legit. Maybe this is just me, but I would take him as the first center off the board, yes even ahead of Howard. Lopez won't put up the gaudy numbers in rebounds and blocks that Dwight does, but he won't kill you from the line either. In fact, he is actually a pretty solid contributor from the stripe, which is rare for a center. The scary thing is that next year, with more talent around him and hopefully less blowouts, Brook will very likely see his numbers increase. 20, 10, and 2 isn't out of the question for him, now factor in the great percentages and you have a dream come true at the center position. Without a doubt Lopez is a first rounder and gets a Mother Lode from me.

*All Stats up to date as of 3/30/10

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Do you have a different opinion from Tamer and Trevor? Do you need help with your fantasy basketball team? Get in touch with them at tamer@rotoexperts.com and mailto:lane@rotoexperts.com

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