One of the best things for us here at the HQ this time of year is not just Howland and I’s October birthdays. Nor is it simply the start of basketball, both NBA and college. It’s also the start of all things basketball, including fantasy ball.
Fantasy basketball, and fantasy sports for that matter, have always been a prominent feature in Howland and I’s daily chats and so we figured that this year, we’d occasionally touch in to talk some fantasy hoops, especially with respect to the value of the team we discuss the most – the Toronto Raptors. Our talks unfortunately won’t have Rick Kamla jumping up and down about the "free-flowing-funkafied-fantasy-dunk-of-the-night," but it won’t have suspect "fantasy experts" like former NBAers Eric Snow and Steve Smith either. (How does NBA.com decide on their expert panelists? Seriously, this never ceases to blow my mind!)
So without further ado, we bring you our preseason edition of Raptors’ Fantasy Stock Watch.
1) Jose Calderon:
So far this year, Howland and I are in a three NBA Fantasy pools. Last night we participated in a new one, an "All-Media" league made up of NBA enthusiasts from The Score, TSN, CBC Sports, Hoopsaddict and various other establishments. You may recall this league last year from Michael Grange’s blogging however unfortunately Grange won’t be participating this season. The league still should make for some good blog banter as the season goes on and Howland and I are feeling pretty confident about the team we constructed.
So the consensus top picks so far in these leagues?
Well, the obvious ones are the Lebrons, Chris Pauls and Kobe Bryants.
However in one of our leagues which really begins in the fourth round (this is a keeper league where all 10 teams keep three players at the end of each season), the first overall pick was actually Elton Brand. Brand was then followed by Rudy Gay, Jose Calderon, and Joe Johnson. (Incidentally it was Howland who took Jose, with me following up by taking Joe Johnson.)
Yes, Jose Calderon is suddenly the talk of the fantasy basketball world, so much in fact, that in the recent ESPN magazine that arrived at my doorstep last week, Jose is their fantasy preview’s poster boy and main discussion piece!
Jose is being drafted in the early third round of most leagues on average and is the second Raptor being taken in most fantasy drafts.
And really why not. Of all the Raptors, Jose has the biggest fantasy upside this year as his numbers could very well approach those of Steve Nash from recent fantasy seasons. He’s not a huge rebounder, and of course doesn’t block many shots, but scoring, assists, steals, 3’s, percentages…he does just about everything else and does it well. And of course with TJ Ford out of the picture, he’s free to run wild.
2) Jermaine O’Neal:
JO from what we’ve seen is going after both CB4 and Jose in about round five of people’s drafts, or sometimes even later. Of course there are many questions about JO’s health but if he can play at least 70 games this year for your fantasy squad and average double figures in scoring and rebounds with decent percentages, then that’s a pretty good deal this late in the draft. Throw in two blocked shots a night and suddenly you could have a major steal on yours hands.
I’m not advocating trying to grab JO much earlier than this accept in super deep leagues, but people forget that at one point only a few seasons ago, it was always a tough choice on fantasy draft day between Mr. O’Neal and Mr. Brand. The two posted virtually identical numbers from about 2001 to 2004 with Elton usually having slightly better percentages shooting-wise, and O’Neal the edge in blocks and on the boards. Therefore a healthy and mobile season from the former Pacer could be something that vaults your fantasy team to a championship trophy.
3) Andrea Bargnani:
Andrea is going much later than O’Neal and in some leagues not even being drafted.
I think that’s a mistake for a few reasons.
First off, it’s incredibly hard to find a player who is "center eligible" with his range of abilities. To finish off his rookie season Andrea shot over 80 per cent from the line, had nearly a block a game, had over a 3 a game and scored in double figures.
Second, already this preseason he looks like he can at least duplicate his rookie numbers, and be less of a liability on the boards.
Bargs is currently ranked 155th on ESPN.com’s fantasy basketball listings however I’d much rather take Il Mago than a few of the guys listed just before him. Names like Ben Wallace, Larry Hughes and Brendan Haywood just don’t have the same upside in my opinion and considering the fact that you’re likely taking Andrea after the ninth or tenth round, I’m not sure what you’ve got to lose.
4) Jason Kapono:
Much like O’Neal, there’s not much place for Kapono to go but up so on that basis alone, he gets placed in our "stock up" category.
He’s looked good in preseason and already everyone seems to understand the importance of getting the lethal shooter more involved in the offence. I drafted him with my last pick in our keeper league and even if he’s simply my hired gun, that’s not bad for where I grabbed him. At his best, Kapono can get you at least a 3 a game with great percentages across the board, especially valuable if the guys who are leading your team are duds at the line.
1) Chris Bosh:
Bosh is the first Raptor being drafted on average and was a keeper in our one league. In last night’s Media League draft he went in the second round. While I do expect a few of his numbers to dip slightly, I think others will be on the upswing with the addition of Jermaine O’Neal and therefore I’m not sure you’ll see much change in terms of his value.
2) Anthony Parker:
Like Bosh, I don’t see Parker’s stock moving that far either.
He’s a great option like Kapono for percentages and 3-point shooting, and he’ll also at times provide a nice source of steals and even rebounds. However if he loses minutes to Kap-One or Joey Graham this year, that might change. For now though I expect about the same from him fantasy-wise as I did the last two seasons.
1) Jamario Moon:
Moon was one of last year’s biggest fantasy sleepers as he posted ridiculous block totals for his position, was a huge source of rebounds and steals, and even drained the odd 3-pointer. He was essentially a slightly lesser version of his once arch-rival from Alabama, Gerald Wallace.
However this year with uncertainties in his role at present, I can’t see Moon reaching last year’s fantasy numbers. Perhaps things will become more clear once the season starts but right now I expect Moon to be waiver wire fodder instead of fantasy starter material. He may still be worth a look in deeper leagues because of his rebounding, steals and blocks, but for now I think he’s a late pick at best and may not get much time off your bench.
After these six players it’s pretty slim pickings however there are three other Raptors worth keeping an eye on fantasy-wise.
The obvious is Joey Graham.
Graham started a number of games this preseason for the Dinos and it sounds like Sam Mitchell is going to give him more free-reign this year. With Toronto’s shallow bench, it’s inevitable that Joey will see more minutes however who knows whether Good Joey or Bad Joey shows up.
The point here though is that if he could ever get some consistent minutes, Joey might be a great source for multiple stats, from scoring and rebounding, to steals and free-throws made.
It’s the latter stat that’s of greatest interest to me as our keeper league features that category as well as offensive boards as added wrinkles to your standard 8-category type system. Joey could be a great source for both even in limited minutes so he’ll definitely be someone we keep an eye on.
From Joey, the obvious perhaps, we go to the less-obvious, whoever backs up Jose Calderon.
The fact of the matter is that a lot is riding on Calderon this year. Even if he misses a few games, it could really be detrimental to Toronto’s season.
However for fantasy players, whoever grabs the eventual back-up for Jose could reap big rewards. Will Solomon has hardly looked like a 10 assist a night guy but it’s not unreasonable to think that if he was forced to play 30 plus minutes a night, that he couldn’t give you at least five or six assists along with a few steals and 3’s. (Think a poor man’s Antonio Daniels right now in Washington.) No, not Jason Kidd stats here, but if you’re a team in need of some of these type of stats, it’s a nice short-term boost.
The same of course is applicable to Roko Ukic, who one would think would put up even better assist numbers than Solomon if he started, but not offer the same scoring benefits.
Of course right now no one knows who exactly the main backup will be and Sam Mitchell could end up using a platoon. As fantasy football players know, this is a nightmare situation and usually one best avoided if possible.
Tomorrow we’ll be kicking off the regular season for the Raptors’ with a preview by one of our newest additions to the HQ team, Kinnon Yee. Some of you may remember Kinnon from his work with HoopsAddict.com and we’re very extremely excited to have him on board.
Best of luck to all this fantasy season, and stay away from drafting Eddy Curry…