With the lockout already having killed the season’s first 100 games (and counting?), trying to preview the season of 30 teams that might not actually have one seems about as worthwhile as raking leaves on a windy day. But I love raking and the wind only makes it last longer. Razzball has you covered, even if you didn’t want to be covered. That’s love. You’ll appreciate it when you’re older. Look at it like this, the only way any of this stuff can be disproven is if the season ever actually starts. So go ahead, NBA, make me a fibber! I dare you. Until then, consider this fantasy basketball gospel. From now until the start of the season, we’re bringing you the 2011 Fantasy Team Previews, which will focus on each team in order to paint a clearer fantasy picture. Who’s starting? Who might surprise you? And who (besides the league’s owners) might make you want to hurl yourself off a bridge in a few months … or years? Next up – The Portland Trailblazers ( whom I believe have made a deal with the devil and been touched by an angel – which would explain so, so much).
Gained – Raymond Felton, Jon Diebler, Nolan Smith
Lost – Andre Miller
Probable position depth –
PG – Raymond Felton, Armon Johnson, Nolan Smith, Patrick Mills*
SG – Wesley Matthews, Brandon Roy*, Elliot Williams
SF – Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum, Luke Babbit, Jon Diebler
PF – LaMarcus Aldridge*
C – Marcus Camby*, Greg Oden*, Earl Barron*, Chris Johnson
* free agent
Surprising Team Fact From Last Season – It’s somewhat remarkable that the Blazers earned the sixth seed in the West considering they a) played the slowest paced game in the league and b) were in the bottom half in FGA, FGM, FTA and FTM. That, on top of losing two of its three franchise players, and Michael Lewis really needs to write a groundbreaking bestseller on exactly how the Blazers keep winning. (Chapter 1 will be entitled, “Stealing Gerald Wallace from Charlotte helps.”)
Number of Top 20 Fantasy Players (par 0-1) – 0,
Number of Top 50 Fantasy Players (par 1-2) – 2, Aldridge, Wallace
Number of Top 75 Fantasy Players (par 2-3) – 3, Felton
Number of Top 100 Fantasy Players (par 3-4) – 4, Matthews
Number of Top 200 Fantasy Players (par 6-7) – 8, Batum, Camby, Oden, Roy
3 Concerns Heading Into the Season
1. Is Raymond Felton an upgrade from Andre Miller?
Meh. Probably not. Miller averaged 13/4/7 on the league’s slowest team last season. Felton averaged a combined 16/4/8 on two of the league’s fastest teams. I don’t imagine Miller producing much more than he did last year, (maybe an extra two points due to the jolted pace) but I’m a little worried about Felton. He leapfrogged into a second-tier point guard at the beginning of last season helming the new-look Knicks, and for a while, he deserved every bit of such leapfroggery (ßnot a word). But Felton prefers an upbeat game. This was one of Felton’s top complaints on his way out of Charlotte: the pace there was too slow (he averaged 12/4/6 in his final season there). I’m guessing somewhere around 14/4/7 from Felton in addition to his same ruddy shot selection (career .412 shooter).
2. What are the odds that just knowing Batum is capable of a breakout season is enough to tear Gerald Wallace’s ACL? The talent is there (even if the “h” in his first name isn’t), but the minutes won’t be. And as we saw for most of last season, if the minutes aren’t there, neither will the confidence. If you have room, go ahead and stash him on your bench while schadenfreude-ing Crash. Or you can just not draft him.
3. Brandon Roy?
Say no more, Poser of Brief Questions (American Indian name). If I could guarantee one thing, it would be that HBO’s “Luck” is going to be a fascinating television drama. If I could guarantee a second thing though, I would promise that Brandon Roy is going to have just enough solid games to compel fantasy owners to own him. He’ll tease you with a 20 point game as the first guy off the team’s bench while he’s sitting on your fantasy team’s bench. Then you’ll plug him in and he’ll play 15 minutes of foul-riddled sadness. Then he’ll do it again on the night you forgot to take him out of your lineup. Then you’ll bench him and he’ll do well. So, you’ll put him in and he’ll do okay, but not as well as the night before. So you go all in again and he’ll poop all up inside your bed. Then you’ll try to package him with Corey Maggette in a trade for Arron Afflalo when you just shoulda drafted Arron Afflalo in the first place. Brandon Roy isn’t done, but he’ll spell impending doom for just about anyone that drafts him.
Rookie Review! – Nolan Smith (no.21) might have been drafted a bit early, but I’m willing to give Portland the benefit of the doubt here, as they have absolutely no track record of ever drafting poorly before. Sarcasm! Frankly, Smith sounds like a younger Andre Miller. A serviceable PG who can find the open man and knock down a J, but otherwise has limited speed and athleticism. I’m ignoring him now, but if Felton goes bye-bye or gets a boo-boo, he could slide in fairly easily as a last ditch fantasy option for assist. Think: Eric Bledsoe/Randy Foye last year before Mo Williams joined the team. Then there’s Jon Diebler (no. 51). Jon Diebler is a 23-year-old rookie with a sharp shot and little else. He’s an inexperienced Kyle Korver, a less Italian Jason Kopono, a far less douchey Eddie House; take your pick, just don’t pick Diebler.
Fantasy Disappointment in ’11 – Wesley Matthews. I don’t think Matthews is going to flop or anything, but when you have a player coming off of a surprisingly successful second season, owners (rightfully) get jazzed (blazed?) about that player’s prospects for season three. But just look at “Mad Men,” not all third seasons are necessarily better than their predecessors. Yes, he’s the team’s permanent starter, but he’ll not only be sharing a floor with a PG more shoot-willing than Andre Miller, but also with Gerald Wallace. Without Crash on the roster, Matthews averaged almost 17/3/2. Once Crash came over, he averaged 14/2/2. I’m expecting Matthews to fall somewhere in the middle of those two lines, but a lot of people are expecting significant growth.
Biggest Fantasy Contributor in ’11 – LaMarcus Aldridge. Last year was LMA’s make-or-break season. If he was ever going to be a premiere player, it would have had to have happened last year. Usually, when a player gets to that point, they fail in some way. They get hurt, make a half-step forward, or flop completely. Aldridge delivered. Raised his PER from 18.2 to 21.5, averaged 3.9 more points per game, doubled his blocks and grabbed almost one more board per game. He’s this team’s leader, whether he was destined to be or not.
Deep Sleeper – Greg Oden. What? He’s going to produce less than you’re expecting? Impossible. Unless, of course, you’re not expecting anything from Greg Oden, in which case you’re probably hoping for something substantial from Marcus Camby, which you should not be doing. Scrambled Greg’s per36 stats in the combined 82 games he’s played is 17/13/1, with 3.4 bpg. If that’s not enough to get him drafted with someone’s final pick in medium leagues, I don’t know what is. Well, okay. I can imagine what is, but you get my point.