If you're lucky, your fantasy draft is right around
the corner. (If you're extra-lucky, your first fantasy draft is right
around the corner, with several more in the weeks to come.) Anyone can
grab Kobe, Lebron,
or CP3 with their first-round pick, but you'll make or break your team
with what happens in the subsequent rounds. Here is the first of what
could be several compilations of likely sleepers and busts for
2008-09. None of these predictions are guaranteed, but they're all
worth a spare thought when you're wavering between a proven stud or an
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland – Greg Oden will get the
attention, but Aldridge might grab the numbers. Since he'll be
available in the later rounds of your draft, he's worth a long look as
a potential 18-8 producer.
Ronnie Brewer, Utah – He improved immensely last
season, becoming one of the league's top thieves and displaying a knack
for efficient scoring. If he's developed an outside shot over the
summer, he could make enough threes to round out his production enough
to be your team's starting two-guard.
T.J. Ford, Indiana – The ball will be his in Indiana,
and he'll have two efficient scorers flanking him in Dunleavy and
Granger, plus a few big men to finish his dribble-and-dishes. Ford's
health, always a question mark, is the only thing holding him back from
averaging a solid 18/10. He's worth taking as your starting PG if CP3,
Deron, Nash, Billups, et al are off the board.
Drew Gooden, Chicago – He came alive after the
trade-deadline deal that landed him in the Windy City, averaging a
near-double-double. He's a likelier bet than young 'mates Joakim Noah or Tyrus Thomas, even if his on-court mental lapses drive Bulls fans to distraction.
Al Horford, Atlanta – He's young, talented, efficient, and likely to get better. He's in the next power forward/center tier right behind Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Amare, Nowitzki, and the other usual suspects. Seriously, wouldn't he be a better bet than David West or Tyson Chandler? And he'll probably slip to the sixth or seventh round of most drafts.
Ray Allen, Boston – His impressive Finals showing may
have vaulted him into several top 50s, but there are easily 20 shooting
guards who will outperform Ray this season. He's served fantasy owners
well over the past decade, and now he may be gracefully fading into
Jose Calderon, Toronto – Before you hammer me
with angry e-mails composed of capital letters and misspelled
profanities, let me make this clear: I am a huge Calderon fan, and he
carried one of my teams last season. I think he will be an even more
effective basketball player
this season. From a fantasy standpoint, though, I always worry about
guys in the year after their breakout season. Calderon was a
10th-round-and-beyond pick last year who ended up surprising everyone.
Will he have the same effect now that he's a known commodity? I
wouldn't spend a first-or-second-round pick on him, is all I'm saying –
he's been extraordinarily fortunate and healthy, and one or the other
of those may run out this season.
Antawn Jamison, Washington – Nobody's counting on the
former Tar Heel to save their fantasy season, but he's rated in some
Top 50s, which is a little high for someone who just had the best
season of his career at age 32. Jamison's advantage is that he doesn't
rely on athleticism, so he has a good chance of maintaining his
production, but it's always scary to have someone during their "I've
lost it" season.
Andre Miller, Philadelphia – Oddly enough, all the
same comments from Jamison's section could apply, right down to the
top-50 ranking. Just substitute "former Ute" for "former Tar Heel."
Michael Redd, Milwaukee