NBA: Fantasy Basketball Sleepers & Busts
By: Steven Jones
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 Michael Finley-dom.
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