The NBA season is right around the corner and for many basketball fans, that likely means you're in the midst of fantasy basketball madness. We had our own draft last night, and as we've done the past few seasons, we asked one of our long-time readers to weigh in on the topic. Considering he's won our league three of the last four seasons (and may have played a prominent role in someone else's win the year before that), he seemed to be the perfect candidate once again to talk about the fantasy fortunes of our beloved Toronto Raptors.
Take it away Mr. Bennett!
There is only one man on the Toronto Raptors that I would be happy to draft within the first 50 players of a standard 8 category (no turnover) fantasy draft. That man is Mr. Kyle Lowry. Andrea Bargnani is a distant second, nearly squeaking into my top 75 picks. I am not touching anybody else on the squad with my first 100 picks.
Let's take a look at Lowry, Bargnani, and some other Raptors' that may have fantasy value in your league...
I am OK with taking Lowry anywhere outside of the top 30. While I personally have him lower than that on my cheat-sheet, I can see why some want to reach even more for Lowry.
Last year Lowry's per-game value in 8 category leagues was 19th. It is possible that Lowry reaches or even bests the level that he played at last year. Also, Lowry is a very safe pick in terms of his floor. There is almost no way I could see his per game value dropping out of the top 75. Even if you run all of Lowry's per-game numbers extremely conservatively at: 13 points, 1.2 threes, 3.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.1 blocks, 40%fg and 78% ft - you would get a per game return of 85th (based on league averages from last season). Most people, including myself, are expecting bigger things in all of those categories.
Now here are the reasons that I am not crazy about taking Lowry before the 4th/5th round. I am not too concerned about his groin, but it did cause him to miss significant time last year. Plus, Lowry has had a history of missing games. Jose Calderon will keep him from playing crazy minutes. His teammates really are not that good and will not help pad his stats. Most importantly, the point guard position is very deep this year. There are nearly 15 point guard eligible players that I could see posting similar or better numbers than Kyle.
As much as I love Lowry, if there are less than 10 point guards off the board within the top 40 of my draft, I am not taking him yet.
Andrea returned the 68th best per-game value last year in 8 category leagues. He could be even better on a per-game basis this year, but I doubt too much better. Given that he dodges rebounds like Ben Stiller does wrenches and "George Double-Ya" does shoes, I can not see Bargs getting too much higher than top 50 per-game status.
I do like that Andrea seems like a safe bet to put up top 80 per-game value. I also like that he is center eligible. Despite the facts that Bargnani drags down your field-goal percentage and rebounding numbers, if he were a more durable player, he'd move up on my board. Unfortunately, given his history of missing games and the Raptors tendency to play him more minutes than he can handle, Andrea is currently sitting at #86 on my cheat-sheet. The fact that Bargnani's troublesome calf is already bothering him has me wondering if I should drop him a few more spots. We should all watch for updates on Andrea and his leg up to the point of our draft.
Side Note: One great thing about Andrea if you play in fantasy leagues with people from the GTA is that his trade value tends to be overinflated when he is on a hot streak.
Let somebody else reach on DeMar DeRozn based on his name value. He returned the 158th best per-game value in 8 category leagues last year. That means DeRozan's play did not justify him being owned in many fantasy leagues last year. However, DeMar did return the 110th best per-game value in 2010-2011, so a top 100 finish this year is not out of the question. That said, why get excited about such a low ceiling. The kid is just not that well rounded statistically. I would take him in later rounds of most drafts, but he is probably long gone by then.
Two years ago, during his rookie season, Landry Fields was a very valuable real life player. Fantasy wise, he was not that valuable though, he returned the 99th best per-game value in 8 cat leagues. Last year his struggles were well documented and his fantasy value plummeted to 175th best. I expect Fields to finish this year off somewhere between 90th and 150th best. That would average out to 120th. However, lack of upside has me wanting Landry with pick 140 or later.
Last year Jose Calderon was the 64th best fantasy player based on per-game stats. His assists are sexy and his percentages are nice, but he is not exceptional in most categories even when he is guaranteed starter minutes. I expect most of Jose's stats to be at about 2/3 to 3/4 of what they were last year.
Jose will have value significant value if Lowry misses time or if the Raptors manage to find a team that wants Jose to start for them. So even though I think Calderon is likely to finish outside of the top 25 most valuable point guard eligible players, I'd be very happy to grab him late in a draft to fill a bench spot on my team.
The fact that Val is still not that physically strong/heavy because of his youth, coupled with the belief that he will often be in foul trouble is keeping me from taking the kid before most upside hungry drafters. If I were in a league that kept lots of players, I may reach a bit for Val, but even then he would not be somebody that I am targeting hard on draft day. The kid could shock me, but I am not expecting too much of him until at least next season.
I would not be surprised if Valanciunas finished the year off well, but why wait for that? Instead of drafting him, I am more likely to target him in a mid-season deal. If he has struggled a bit, but seems like he could turn the corner, I'll try to take advantage of a frustrated owner.
If you do want to draft Valanciunas, unless you are in a two-center league or one that has a scoring system that favors big men, I would not pick him any earlier than pick 120 and would feel much more comfortable getting him 20 or so picks later.
Waiver Wire Guys:
Depending on how things play out this year with injuries and the rotation, I am likely to target the following guys at times to plug into my lineup for a week or two: Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Linas Kleiza, Terrence Ross, and John Lucas III. However, none of these guys currently excite me enough to worry about when to draft them.
I wish you all the best of luck with the upcoming fantasy season. If you have any questions before your draft or during your season, hit me up on twitter: @FinalsFantasy.