The 2010-11 NBA season is here and hoops lovers everywhere are ready to rejoice like they just won the lottery. OK, maybe not at that level of rejoicing, but close. In addition to the joy of a shiny new thing comes curiosity, and, naturally, questions about it arise. In this case, we're talking about the new NBA season and its fantasy implications. Below are group of questions that have to be buzzing about in every fantasy basketball manager's brain. Luckily, I'm here to put on my pointy Nostradamus hat and give possible and less-cryptic answers.
Chris Bosh is a star player and he completes the trio known as The Big Three in Miami, but, the conversation of who will have the better overall numbers is solely between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Obviously, there is only one ball in play during games, so who will touch the ball the most between LeBron and Wade? It's already been hinted that James will play a Magic Johnson-type of role, and because of that, as well as the value of assists, especially from the small forward position, James would seem the safer bet for better numbers. He'll score less than he has in the past, but it's not out of the question that James averages something like 20-plus points, 10-plus assists and 8-plus rebounds, which is obviously close to averaging a triple-double. Add the defensive stats and ability to hit the three and James could even end up being the best fantasy basketball player this season,
Actually, the question should be, how will you do as frustration sets in and you wonder why Yao is on your fantasy basketball team. Yao is on a 24-minute limit per game, as well as missing the second game of back-to-backs. Yao will be as efficient as ever, shooting the ball with very nice percentages from both the field (52.5 percent career) and the foul line (83.2 percent), but his total statistics from week-to-week and throughout the season will leave one cursing out Yao's injured feet. He'll do well during his time on the court, but because he won't get as many opportunities on the hardwood, he won't produce better than a reserve center. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking that Yao will do better than that, and while hope is a good thing to have, I'd rather win a fantasy basketball championship with a surer bet at the center position.
This past offseason saw a lot of players change addresses -- LeBron, Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, David Lee, Carlos Boozer, and a slew of others. However, I like the potential of what Al Jefferson can do with the Jazz. Jefferson is entering his seventh season in the NBA, will be another year removed from ACL surgery and is still only 25-years old. Since playing consistent minutes the past four seasons, he's put up some eye-catching double-double seasons (16.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG in 2006-07; 21.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG in 2007-08; 23.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG in 2008-09) and barely missed out on a fourth consecutive double-double in 2009-10 (17.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG), his first back from major surgery. Jefferson will have a better supporting cast around him this season, including one of the best point guards in the game, Deron Williams. A potential 23-plus points, 11-plus rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game with a good shooting percentage from the field could be ahead.
Several names come to mind. Robin Lopez without Amar'e Stoudemire, but tons of shooters to create space for him down low should do well, and not just offensively, but with what is really his forte -- blocking shots. Paul Milsap finally gets his opportunity with Boozer gone to the Windy City. Remember what Milsap did as a starter during the 2008-08 season when Boozer was injured -- 16.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in 38 starts. Be wary, though, that Mehmet Okur could eventually take some time away when he returns from injury. The Toronto Raptors will be Andrea Bargnani's team with Bosh out of the country. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison will get tons of opportunities to chuck with LeBron taking his talents to, well, you know. D.J. Augustin should get a lot of run with Larry Brown since Raymond Felton headed north to New York during free agency. Kevin Love can really flourish now with Jefferson taking up space in Utah and not in Love's box. Terrence Williams should amaze the way he did in March and April last season (14 points, five assists, seven rebounds) with Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jarvis Hayes, and most of the 12-70 team gone.
But the player to gain the most will be J.J. Hickson as the Cavs are forced to turn to the future, and that future is HIckson, who did well during the preseason (8 games; 14.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, one block in 24.5 minutes). Hickson will never have people asking, "LeBron who?" However, potential could turn into production this season, and just to prove the former King wrong, Hickson will get every chance to succeed. Dan Gilbert demands it.
John Wall was all the hype before and during the 2010 NBA draft and with good reason. He's as talented as anyone, quicker than most and he has been handed the keys to drive the Washington Wizards back to success. DeMarcus Cousins will be playing with a chip on his shoulder and has looked beastly at times during the preseason (14.3 PPG and 8.0 RPG in 25.9 minutes of play in seven games). In fact, Cousins seems so angry, it's easy to feel like you stole money from him and he wants it back. Evan Turner is too talented to ignore, and although he put up interesting overall numbers in seven preseason games (7.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 86.7 FT%), he shot 31.1 percent from the field.
All the above said, the best rookie will be Blake Griffin, who was a dominating force during six preseason games (17.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.8 SPG, and 59.7 FG% in 29.5 minutes per game). On-court talent aside, Griffin will have the advantage of having lived the NBA life off-the-court for a year and will only have to worry about adapting his game to the NBA level. Right now, he's making adapting look easy.