The wait is over: the 2010-11 NBA season is set to tip off in just a handful of jaw-clenching, hand-wringing hours. Whether you’re a causal or dogged fan of the NBA, you know that there are plenty of reasons to get excited for the journey we’re all about to embark on. For fantasy owners, the start of the regular season means we finally get to see the true values of old and new players we’ve been trying to accurately evaluate for the past few months. While we won’t have the Allen Iverson saga to keep us occupied, there are plenty of other NBA topics to fuel fantasy basketball discussions. Below is a list of five fantasy basketball storylines (outside of South Beach) to keep an eye on as the new season begins. There are many more, of course, so feel free to share the fantasy-related plots you’ll be watching in 2010-11.
1. Sleepers or Busts: Anthony Randolph, J.J. Hickson, Nicolas Batum, Austin Daye, Jeff Teague, Leandro Barbosa and Rodrigue Beaubois – these are some of the names that have been tagged with “sleeper” for 2010-11. Who will fulfill that label? Who will continue to slumber? And how forgiving will we be of the latter group? Randolph appears to have the hottest seat in this domain of fantasy basketball, and his disappointing preseason doesn’t help things. One thing’s certain: those in normal-sized leagues will quickly realize that some of the best sleepers are still floating on their leagues’ waiver wires. A word to the wise: Don’t get too attached to your beloved sleeper picks – holding onto them too long at the expense of waiver-wire gold could be costly.
2. The wounded: Yao Ming, Carlos Boozer, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bogut headline the list of the most delicate players in the NBA at the outset of this season. While Bogut and Yao will start the season with some playing time, Bynum, Boozer and Oden might not see on-court action until Thanksgiving or Christmas. All six of these guys were likely drafted in all but the shallowest of leagues, and though Bryant, Boozer and Bogut appear set to play the majority of the season, the other three are crapshoots at best. Oh, and don’t think guys like Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Danny Granger and Marcus Camby are out of the woods yet, either. Closely monitor nightly injury reports in order to make crucial moves that could push your team to the top of your leagues.
3. The oldies: Guys like Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups have lost a lot of their fantasy shine during the past couple seasons, and not necessarily because of their production. Familiarity breeds contempt, and it’s no different in fantasy basketball. While Kidd, Nash and Billups continue to be solid second-round picks, it’s likely that Pierce, Allen and a host of other vets have gone a bit lower than they should have, mostly because they’re another year older. Fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on which veterans finally take a step closer to their ever-awaiting fantasy graves (paging Vince Carter), and which ones will continue to surprise us with their everlasting youth.
4. Rookies and sophomores: John Wall, Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins are all hogging the rookie limelight in fantasy circles, but each has their downsides. For Wall, it’s poor shooting from the field, high turnovers and a lack of threes; for Griffin, it’s a cursed touch from the free-throw line and lingering injury concerns; for Cousins, it’s the crowded frontcourt in Sacramento. Nevertheless, they’re all appealing fantasy players, and for good reasons. Just don’t forget about guys like Evan Turner, Wesley Johnson and Tiago Splitter. All in all, the rule of thumb will remain the same: most rookies will offer more disappointment than happiness for fantasy owners. As for sophomores, we all know the high expectations set for Stephen Curry, but Jrue Holiday could be the second-year player to make the biggest leap this season. Tyreke Evans, Reggie Williams, Serge Ibaka and Brandon Jennings should also make some decent progress this season.
5. More elbow room: The two guys to talk about here are Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. They’re both being drafted in the first three rounds of most drafts, which reflects optimism about their abilities to improve on their weaknesses this season. But other guys like Darren Collison, Kevin Love, Paul Millsap, Michael Beasley, Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani have all found themselves in new situations where they’ve been given more prominence than in years past. The opportunity to make good on the potential they’ve shown is there for these guys and others, but there will be more than a few disappointments.
Throughout the season, be sure to leave your questions, comments, concerns, trade offers, roster problems and more in the comments below.
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