If you somehow managed to get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on your fantasy squad last season, you probably either won your league or finished very close it. If you somehow land those three players on your fantasy team this year, your success might not be so guaranteed.
The 2010-11 Miami Heat’s roster, as incomplete and thin as it might be right now, looks like an absolutely terrifying fantasy team on paper – and for any of the past several years, it would be. Yet despite the word that accounts for half of the name of the game we love, fantasy basketball is helplessly tied to reality. We are reminded of this every time one of our players gets injured, decides to sit out the last few games of the regular season or makes punishable decisions in the locker room.
The Miami Heat will make for an intriguing NBA drama to watch during the course of the season, but the team’s new composition also has some potentially huge fantasy implications. Three elite fantasy studs from last season are now placed on the same real-life team, which would appear to dampen each of their values. The question is, how much?
There is good reason to knock the former king of fantasy basketball down in your pre-draft cheat sheets this fall. Many will point to his elite teammates and forecast smaller stats from James; others will refuse to take him early out of pure spite for his polarizing decisions this offseason. Either way, the fact is that James will take a hit in production this season, thanks to his much-improved help. While many are already dubbing LBJ the Pippen to Wade’s Jordan, Kourtney to his Kim, Weasley to his Potter, Michelle to his Beyonce, Affleck to his Damon – there’s more, but you get the picture – it’s nowhere near a certainty that he’ll take that much of a step back for the sake of No. 3. Sure, James will see his points dip, but that just means he’ll have more energy to fill up the other columns on the stat sheet, and if you’ve been following the NBA at all for the past few years, you know that’s a scary thought. His field-goal percentage could creep higher than last year’s 50-percent mark thanks to Wade and Bosh, though his free-throw shooting will remain his Achilles heel. As for his other numbers, is 22/9/10 along with 2.0 threes, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks out of the question? Probably not. That said, James is no longer a consensus candidate for the first overall pick in fantasy drafts right now (Kevin Durant seems like the lone king of that hill right now), but that doesn’t mean he should slide out of the top three or four spots in your pre-draft rankings. If you’re bold enough to take him at No. 1 based on the prospect of triple-doubles and a sexy mix of threes/steals/blocks every night, let the naysayers have their chuckles – you might end up having the last laugh. (Projected draft position: 1-4)
When Paul Pierce welcomed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the Celtics in the 2007-08 season, his scoring dropped 21.6 percent (to 19.6 from 25.0 per game) from the previous season, his rebounding dipped 13.6 percent (5.1 from 5.9), his assists rose 9.8 percent (4.5 from 4.1) and his turnovers dropped 12.5 percent (2.8 from 3.2). Pierce’s shooting from the field has remained above 45 percent during the three seasons since KG and Allen showed up in Boston (an achievement he only accomplished in three of his previous nine seasons) while his free-throw shooting hasn’t dropped below 83 percent (a mark he never reached pre-Big Three). While his situation is different from Wade’s, we can expect similar things to happen. Wade’s always shot well from the floor, but could crack the 50-percent mark for the first time in his career thanks to the pressure James and Bosh will relieve him of. Wade won’t have to crash the boards as often, which probably means his rebounding will decline a bit, but his assists are harder to predict. You can make the case that he hands out more assists with reliable scorers flanking him, but you can also make the case that since James will likely handle more of the ball-handling and distributing duties, the extra assists will fall into his lap instead of Wade’s. Whatever the outcome, the good news is that No. 3 should turn the ball over fewer times per game. In the end, 23/4/5, along with 50+ percent from the field and 3.0 turnovers per game sounds reasonable for Wade in 2010-11, along with his good mix of steals and blocks. The one obvious risk to his fantasy value is the minutes he might have to play. Wade only played 36:17 per contest last season, the lowest since his rookie year. Though he’ll get plenty of rest during blowouts (which might be aplenty), the Heat’s roster will be pretty thin, which could mean heavy minutes for Wade on most nights. His style of play and injury history makes it easy to fret about his health down the stretch of the season, so take that into account when you think about where to draft him. (Projected draft position: 10-14)
He’s coming off of two straight seasons of 22+ points and 10+ rebounds for the Raptors, but the chances of that happening in Miami are as good as the chances that Mel Gibson enjoyed “Precious.” That said, there will be nights when Bosh benefits from the attention drawn to James and Wade. Add to this the fact that Bosh could be one of the very few viable big men on the Heat’s roster and it’s pretty clear that he won’t lose all of his fantasy value this season. If the team manages to sign at least one other big man who can fight underneath the basket with opposing bigs, that would be great news for the lean Bosh, who sported a worrisome knee brace last season and would benefit from shouldering less of a physical load for his team. However, it remains to be seen how he’ll fare as the third banana on a team, which is something wholly foreign to him. Will he be able to remain engaged on both ends of the floor despite not getting the touches and shots he used to? Chances are he will, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Averages of 19/9/2, along with 1+ blocks and 54+ percent from the field are well within reach for Bosh. (Projected draft position: 22-28)
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