NBA season tips off Tuesday
Published: Friday, October 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013 00:10
As baseball season comes to a close, and as the NFL season continues to frustrate you because you can never pick the winners correctly, there is still hope for the sports fan in distress. NBA basketball starts in less than a week. And although more attention is paid to fantasy baseball and fantasy football, fantasy basketball also begins shortly.
If you don’t know anything about fantasy basketball — or even if you think you know everything about fantasy basketball — we’ve got you covered. The Daily spoke with Dalton Del Don, the lead basketball expert for Yahoo! Fantasy Sports.
Del Don, who started his career by writing a fantasy blog in an age before everybody had blogs, was eventually picked up by fantasy site Rotowire, which partnered with Yahoo!. Del Don became familiar with the fantasy community at Yahoo!, and when former lead basketball expert Matt Buser left Yahoo!, Del Don seized the opportunity to take over his role.
Earlier this week, Del Don offered his insights on the upcoming 2013-14 season from a fantasy basketball perspective.
Before we start analyzing which players are likely to be breakout fantasy stars, it’s important to first break down what happened in the offseason.
In short: a lot. The “Dwightmare” finally ended for the Lakers as center Dwight Howard packed his bags for Houston, giving the Rockets a title-worthy duo formed by Howard and all-star guard James Harden. Besides the Rockets improving vastly, the Western Conference saw several middle-tier teams do some surprising tinkering. The Nuggets chose not to bring back star defenders Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer and added very little.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans traded the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft and their first-round, top-five protected pick in next year’s draft to acquire star point guard Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans also added former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans to give them a dynamic backcourt of Evans, Holiday and Eric Gordon.
In the East, Miami is still number one, but the Bulls should provide a challenge after getting Derrick Rose back after a year off due to a torn ACL. Those two teams likely won’t be joined by the Celtics atop the standings for the first time in a long time. Boston traded away beloved players Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets, who hope to take the Celtics’ spot alongside the league leaders.
Real-life stars vs. Fantasy stars
As for fantasy basketball, most of the aforementioned changes are still significant, but as Don noted, the fantasy game is viewed very differently than the game in real life. The “turnovers” statistic provides a unique conundrum.
“Turnovers are an interesting thing, because they punish the league’s best players,” Del Don said. “The guys who have the ball in their hands the most are going to turn the ball over, so it’s kind of a weird thing.”
Therefore, players like Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, although exciting to watch, don’t help as much as one would think, due to their turnover rates. Meanwhile, middle-of-the-road players can turn into fantasy studs.
“And then you have three point specialists like Ryan Anderson, who finished one year as one of the top fantasy players in the game, but you would never think of him like that in real life,” Del Don added. “He just never turns the ball over and hits a lot of three-pointers, whereas Dwight Howard last year, in a nine category league, literally finished outside the top 200, because he is such a train wreck shooting his free throws.”
When examining this upcoming season, it is important to separate fantasy from real life. Although Howard may help Houston to the title, he will only drag your fantasy team to the bottom of the standings.
Looking at the NBA this year, many of the same teams will be on top: Miami, Oklahoma City, Chicago and San Antonio, to name a few. So who will rise to the occasion to challenge these behemoths? In the West, look for the Minnesota Timberwolves to provide an interesting story with a healthy Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio for the first time in a long time.
In the East, Cleveland should be an exciting young team. The Cavaliers feature Kyrie Irving, one of the best players in the league, and also added center Andrew Bynum on the cheap. If healthy, Bynum can be a 20-10 post player. Those two will be accompanied by solid role players like Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack and Anderson Varejao.
In fantasy, this is an exciting year for sleeper picks, as there are numerous young players who appear poised for a breakout.
“[Pelicans big man] Anthony Davis is going to make a huge leap this year,” Del Don said. “He is not considered a sleeper, but I think he could finish in the top five this year. He bulked up in the offseason, and centers like that who can get steals and blocks are so rare.”
Del Don also mentioned Wizards guard John Wall as another good young player who could take his game to the next level.
Sleepers can also be found on teams with few scoring options, where average players can become stars.
“Gordon Hayward is a boring real-life player, but Utah has nobody else there,” Del Don said. “Also, Jeff Green on Boston [could break out]. Paul Pierce is gone and KG is gone, so he can be the man there.”