With the lockout likely to linger well into November and perhaps well into 2012, 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 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 might make you want to hurl yourself off a bridge in a few months … or years? Next up – The Philadelphia 76ers (chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool).
Lost – Darius Songaila,
Probable position depth –
PG – Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams
SG – Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner, Jason Kopono
SF – Andre Iguodala*, Thaddeus Young*, Andres Nocioni
PF – Elton Brand, Marreese Speights, Craig Brackins, Lavoy Allen
C – Spencer Hawes*, Nikola Vucevic, Tony Battie
* free agent
Surprising Team Fact From Last Season –Four of the six teams with the league’s lowest attendance made the playoffs last year (the Pacers, Grizzlies, Hornets and Sixers).
Number of Top 20 Fantasy Players (par 0-1) – 0
Number of Top 50 Fantasy Players (par 1-2) – 2, Iguodala, Holiday
Number of Top 75 Fantasy Players (par 2-3) – 0
Number of Top 100 Fantasy Players (par 3-4) – 4, Brand, Young
Number of Top 200 Fantasy Players (par 6-7) – 7, Meeks, Hawes, Williams
3 Concerns Heading Into the Season
1. Is Elton Brand still fragile or just old now?
Well look, At 32 years old, I can say Brand is old. I mostly cannot say he’s old because my grandma is reading this over my shoulder and would be hurt at me calling a 32-year-old “old.” (Gram proofreads every Razzball post to ensure I a) don’t type swear words and b) don’t write anything nice about Lyndon B. Johnson. Gram was not a fan of LBJ. She really makes the LeBron James blurbs a tense undertaking). Brand has only missed seven games in his last two seasons after missing 127 games in the previous two seasons. I’m willing to forget those two seasons and assume that he’s not waiting to fall apart so much as he’s waiting to take a nap. Interpret that information however you’d like.
2. Evan Turner looks like he’s turned (or Turnered) into a monster 7/4/2 option at the two. Can I look forward to such lauded production from last season’s no. 2 overall pick again in 2011?
I certainly don’t think he’ll produce a smaller line than that. So if you’re in one of those 30-team fantasy leagues that drafts every player in the NBA, I would definitely recommend drafting him in that league. Even with the Lockout still on, I can say with certainty that Evan Turner plays basketball in the NBA. Other than that, I’d take a wait-and-see approach to last year’s no.2 overall pick. This entire off-season has been filled with people telling us how hard Turner has worked and how much support the team is putting behind the former Buckeye, which is nice. But all of this was true a year ago too.
3. I liked Thaddeus Young last year and the year before. My assumption is that I’ll ignore him this season and he’ll develop into a top 50 candidate. Talk me off this ledge I’ve created for myself to stand on.
As it stands today, we’ve seen the best this particular Sixers team can be. With the exception of Vucevic making a bigger impact than Hawes, the team that beat the Heat once in the first round of last year’s playoffs (almost twice) is the team they remain today. And that team has five relatively unknown commodities that could make a name for themselves in 2011. Realistically, between Meeks, Williams, Hawes, Speights and Young, I’d be surprised if more than two of those guys are fantasy-worthy for the majority of the season. And really, I think only Young has it in him to break the top 100. Young turns 23 this season. He seems older than that, he’s been in the league five years now. His PER dipped from 16 to 15 to 14 before hopping back up to 18.4 last season. In just 26 mpg, Young averaged 13/5/1. If Iguodala goes elsewhere or Collins plays Thad at the four, he could see a bump to 32 mpg. He’s already had that and it didn’t work out too well, but that was back when he was 20 and 21 and drunk all the time and chasing after tail (I’m assuming). He’s old now, more mature – not Elton Brand old (look away, Gram!), but old enough that I think he’s got a better shot at keeping it together and playing extended minutes. With Iguodala around, I don’t think Young will be a threat to the top 50 though. At least not this season.
Rookie Review! – I have to admit, I kind of like Nikola Vucevic (no. 16 overall) as a sleeper pick in deep leagues. From what little I’ve seen, he reminds me of Roy Hibbert on the offensive end. He has decent range and enjoys the occasionally baby hook from both sides. What makes him even more attractive than his moves is the team he’ll be making them on. Spencer Hawes is Vucevic’s biggest hurdle. Now, Spencer Hawes is a huge hurdle, unless we are speaking in metaphors, in which case, Spencer Hawes is not at all a huge hurdle. Hawes is more athletic and Vucevic might struggle to keep up with an otherwise speedy Philly team. That, mixed with the kid’s inexperience, is why I wouldn’t take him in any league with fewer than 14 teams. Still though, he’s worth keeping an eye on just in case. Please don’t make me go into detail as to why you should not draft the 50th pick in the NBA Draft (Lavoy Allen).
Fantasy Disappointment in ’11 – Andre Iguodala. You may have noticed above that I’m projecting Iguodala to go first in most drafts among Philadelphia 76ers. I do and he will. You watch. He’s a total contributor on the court, which has made him a valuable top 25 fantasy player for the last six seasons. The problem is, Iggy’s always been a defensive no. 2 thrust into the role of top offensive option. I think this is the year that guys like Holiday, Young, Brand and maybe one other sleeper steps up offensively and allows Iguodala to do what he does best: fill in the cracks. If he stays on the Sixers, I envision one of the strongest real basketball seasons for Iguodala in 2011, but given his type of play, I don’t think fantasy owners will like this translation to fantasy. I see something closer to 12/6/6, with 3 stl+blk+3ptm rather than 20/5/5, with 4 stl+blk+3ptm.
Biggest Fantasy Contributor in ’11 – Jrue Holiday. I’m big on Holiday this year. He’s projecting to go somewhere in between picks 45-65 in most drafts. I’d place him about one round ahead of those projections; somewhere around 40-55. He improved offensively and defensively between his freshman and sophomore year, jumping from 12/4/6, with 3.3 stl+blk+3ptm per36 averages in 2009 to 14/4/7, with 2.9 s+b+3 and improved percentages using the same per36 parameters last season. The guy got better. In both November and April of last year, he averaged 15/4/8 despite shooting under .450 from the field in those months. This season, I project he shoots better, feels more comfortable and continues his growth. Jrue story.
Deep Sleeper – Evan Turner. If Williams and Meeks get hurt, and Doug Collins stops telling Holiday to play keepaway with Turner and you squint your eyes tight enough to envision George Hill or Rip Hamilton or somebody (which would probably mean you just closed your eyes), then yeah, Turner might have a bounce-back season.