With Fantasy drafts on the horizon, we take a quick look around the Atlantic to determine which players qualify as potentials busts and which should be considered underrated value picks…
All-Fantasy First Team:
PG: Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
SG: DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
SF: Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
PF: Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers
C: Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets
* J.R. Smith – New York Knicks
Simply put, Smith was terrible over the first few months of the 2013-14 season. He was suspended for the first five games after running afoul of the NBA’s drug policy; when he returned he was still dealing with the aftereffects of offseason knee surgery. However, as his health improved, his play pick up substantially. Over his first 18 games last season, Smith averaged 10.1 ppg, while shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and 65 percent from the free throw stripe. In contrast, over the final 18 games of the season, Smith averaged 18.6 points while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 80.6 percent from the line. The production Smith offered over the second half of last year is more in-line with what we can expect going forward (especially if Smith is anointed the starter and sees an uptick in minutes). Opportunistic fantasy GM’s will have an opportunity to ‘buy low’ in drafts this month.
* Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers
After missing all of last season recovering from ACL surgery, Noel seems to be flying under the radar a bit. I’m not looking to oversell his potential (I listed him as the top PF in the division more due to the fact there aren’t any elite PF’s in the Atlantic), and the injury concerns are obviously a red flag; however, if he can stay healthy, Noel’s fantasy upside is undeniably intriguing. He was a stud in college and looked impressive during his short stint at the Las Vegas Summer league, where he averaged 12 ppg, five rpg, and three blocks in under 25 minutes per contest. His offensive game is certainly raw, but he’ll be able to contribute right away on the defensive end. It is not a reach to suggest he may be among the league leaders in steals+blocks. Yes, drafting Noel is a roll of the dice, but the rewards could be bountiful.
* Jonas Valanciunas – Toronto Raptors
Make no mistake, JV burned owners who called his name on draft day last season. There was a lot of hype surrounding Valanciunas last summer coming off a promising rookie campaign. However, despite seeing a significant increase in minutes and usage, he did not deliver to the extent many were hoping. His blocks actually decreased (from 1.3 bpg in less than 24 minutes in 2012-13, to just 0.9 blocks per game in over 28 minutes in 2013-14). His steals stagnated at 0.3 spg, and his FG percent dropped from .557 to .531. However, this means JV should be classified as a classic “post-hype sleeper.” Much like Smith, Valanciunas showed his considerable upside late last season. JV averaged just 8.5 ppg (46.8 FG percent) and 7.6 rpg over the Raps first 10 games in 2013-14. Over his final 11 games, excluding the season finale in which he only played 15 minutes, Valanciunas averaged a robust 17.1 points (59.6 FG percent) and 11.2 rebounds. Still just 22 years of age, the Lithuanian big man is just finding his footing in the NBA. I’ll be very happy if I can snag him around pick 70.
* Jose Calderon – New York Knicks
Calderon is one of just two active NBA players shooting over 47 percent from the floor, 87 percent from the charity stripe and 41 percent from behind the three-point arc for their career. Steve Nash is the only member of this exclusive club. Furthermore, the triangle offense is perfectly suited for Calderon, who should put up great numbers in New York.
* Honorable Mentions: Kelly Olynk (Celtics), Mirza Teletovic (Nets), Marcus Thornton (Celtics), Henry Sims (76ers), Jared Sullinger (Celtics), Mason Plumlee (Nets)
* Rajon Rondo – Boston Celtics
Rondo’s ADP (Average Draft Position) has obviously dipped since news broke that he’d miss the first few weeks of the season after suffering a hand injury. However, I’ve still seen Rondo go in the fourth and fifth rounds of drafts this month, and that’s way too high. Rondo is a terrific talent and one of the best point guards in the NBA, evident by the fact that he has led the NBA in assists in each of the last two seasons he was healthy enough to qualify for the league leaders. However, in nine-category leagues, his ‘cons’ often outweigh his ‘pros.’ Rondo rarely takes or makes three-pointers (he averages just 0.2 three’s per game over the course of his eight year career) and his FT percentage is horrible (62.1 percent). Rondo is also usually near the top of the league in turnovers. When you factor in the health concerns, you best bet is too late somebody else gamble on him.
* Jeff Green – Boston Celtics
Green burned owners that invested in him last season, never living up to the draft-day hype he generated. He was woefully inefficient from the floor, shooting just 41.2 percent from the field. In fact, Green was just one of two players in the NBA last season to attempt at least 1,150 FG’s, yet shoot below 42 percent from the floor (Josh Smith was the other). He also averaged more turnovers than assists and chipped in too few steals and blocks. Yes, there’s a chance he bounces back this season, but don’t reach for him until at least the ninth or tenth round.
* Michael Carter-Williams – Philadelphia 76ers
Make no mistake, Carter-Williams was a monster last season. He led all rookies in scoring (16.7 ppg), rebounds (6.2 ppg), assists (6.3 apg), and steals (1.9 spg). To put that in perspective, Carter-Williams is just the third player since 1950 to lead all rookies in scoring, rebounding and assists average. He also joined Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only rookies to average at least 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. However, much like Rondo, Carter-Williams is far better in real life than fantasy. He shot just 40.5 percent from the floor, 26.4 percent on three’s, and committed a whopping 3.5 turnovers a night. Despite the superlatives above, Carter-Williams finished ranked just 96th overall in nine-category leagues last season. Furthermore, the depressing news out of Philly is that MCW has been limited in training camp due to off-season shoulder surgery and may end up sitting out the start of the regular season. No thanks, I’ll pass.
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