Digging for Fantasy Basketball Gold
There was an enormous reason I came away with Aldridge, Batum, and Lillard in last year’s fantasy draft. I knew all of those players would have to log major minutes and produce because Portland’s bench was absolutely atrocious. The Trailblazers quickly addressed their gaping weakness in the offseason, and now, it is up to us to discover this year’s weakest benches in the NBA.
Although it seems like these teams would be extremely easy to identify, we must navigate with caution. Just because a team is bad does not mean that their bench is necessarily weak. There must be a major discrepancy in talent between the starters and benchwarmers. We must avoid time shares at all costs and seek out players with durability, great talent, and no backup options. Let’s analyze a few NBA teams that look eerily similar to the Trailblazers of last year.
1. Utah Jazz – I absolutely love the Jazz this year! I remember picking John Stockton in the 5th round at the tail end of his career in my first fantasy season. That guy was my hero. Excuse my sentimental moment. There are multiple reasons to love the starting lineup of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, and Trey Burke. First of all, the Jazz are committed to their young core. Bench players like Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Andris Biedrins will not penetrate the young core’s minutes. Secondly, these guys are talented. You don’t let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk and receive nothing in return without a tremendous amount of confidence in the remaining players. I will be targeting these players aggressively on draft night. Mark my words…You will be picking Gordon Hayward in the 2nd or 3rd round in your 2014-2015 fantasy draft. Favors and Kanter won’t be too far behind him.
2. The overall favorite in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes…The Philadelphia 76ers – The Sixers are going to be starting Michael Carter-Williams (rookie), Evan Turner, ThaddeusYoung, Lavoy Allen, and Spencer Hawes. Yikes! If you thought that the starting lineup was obscure, take a look at their bench. While Lavoy Allen, Moultrie, and Nerlens Noel (Moultrie and Noel are out until probably January) will share time at the PF and C, everyone else is entrenched for major minutes. Look for Turner, Young, and Hawes to springboard significantly this year. In addition to a depleted roster, they will have the ball much more often this year thanks to the departure of Jrue Holiday.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Lou Williams is out indefinitely. Elton Brand has aged considerably. Do you want to hear the rest of the bench? Try Gustavo Ayon, Dennis Schroeder, Jared Cunningham, Mike Scott, and Pero Antic. That leads me to believe that Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver will all have career years. Did I mention that Josh Smith, Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia, and DeShawn Stevenson are gone? Believe it or not, they all played over 20 minutes a game last year. With Millsap being the only notable addition, minutes will be in high supply for the starters. If you nab Al Horford in the 2nd round, throw a party. I’m expecting him to be an absolute monster this year. Bump up Millsap, Teague, and Korver in your Pre-Draft rankings as well. You will not be sorry.
4. Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry does not have to battle Calderon this year. DeRozan and Gay surprisingly coexisted fairly well. Jonas Valanciunas appears poised for an all-star career barring injury. Weezer predicted his emergence on the intro track of the blue album almost 20 years ago. I am not as bullish on Amir Johnson as many seem to be judging from the mock drafts currently taking place. I see the scrappy Tyler Hansbrough intruding and battling for minutes. I don’t believe Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Austin Daye, Steve Novak, or anyone else on the bench will wrestle many starters’ minutes away this year. While Millsap replaced J-Smoove in Atlanta, no one replaced Bargnani in Toronto. Look for Lowry, DeRozan, Gay, and Valanciunas to shoulder the load this year.
Weak Bench Honorable Mention Teams include the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls.
Log into facebook, and LIKE Alpine Fantasy Basketball. You will receive a notice when my new articles appear. Up to this point, we’ve covered position shortages, scheduling, and opportunity importance. Tune in next time when we will analyze individual players ready to make the big leap to fantasy relevance. I guess you can call them SLEEPERS. See you Friday!