If you’re a fan of a bad team, you know to expect a spell of the ol’ Lottery Fever that begins every Spring with the race to the crappiest record, continues with the actual Lottery drawing in May and real-deal NBA draft in June, and finally dissipates after fantasy drafts in the fall and the start of actual basketball, when actual orange spheres go through actual steel rims.
Your real-life, garbage-juice-slathered team doesn’t play in Minnesota? Vindication can be yours by reaching for Karl-Anthony Towns as early as possible. Are you a Knicks fan who has already started using “Kristaps” as a euphemism for what happens after you just had some bad Taco Bell? Go get yourself some D’Angelo Russell – who cares if he’s gonna stink as a pro. And everyone who grabbed Stanley Johnson felt real good, regardless of what human team they follow.
But hold it right there when it comes to Willie Cauley-Stein, who should always have something before his name. As in “Bad Bad” Willie Cauley-Stein, or “Wild” Willie Cauley-Stein, or “Old Man” Willie Cauley-Stein.
From a Boards-N-Blocks perspective, I like him for all the reasons everyone else likes him: He’s a 7-footer, he’s athletic, he runs the floor, George Karl said that’s he’s going to start, and he fulfills every fantasy in a would-be porno directed by Jay Bilas (Upside! Yes, baby! Wingpsan! Oh, yeah!).
But he plays next to DeMarcus Cousins, and if you play next to Cousins, you ain’t getting any rebounds.
Last year, Cousins averaged 12.7 rpg, and the second-place dude, the since-departed Jason Thompson, only managed half that – 6.5 rpg. The year before that? Roughly the same numbers. Now, that could have something to do with the fact that we’re talking about Jason Thompson, but it could also mean that Cousins gets anything and everything that comes off the glass.
That being said, things would be quite different if, say, Cousins weren’t there. If, for example, Cousins implodes and goes over the league technical limit and turns into Godzilla and destroys everything in the arena that should always be called Arco and gets suspended.
Or if, I dunno, he clashes with Karl. But what are the odds of that happening? It’s not like that’s happened with any other players yet. Oh, wait. It has? Nevermind.
I say those in deeper leagues could roster “Slick” Willie and see how he starts out. If you’re sitting in shallower water and a little dinged up in the frontcourt, look elsewhere for now.
Here’s some dudes I’ll be tracking during the first week of the season:
Nerlens Noel – I’m in 635 leagues, and I was lucky enough to nab Stephen Curry in two of them. But I had no Noel, so I decided to package Curry with Marc Gasol to get Noel and Russell Westbrook. Bad trade? Maybe. But to me it was worth it to have the chance to deploy Noel, who should be a regular visitor to our newly minted Golden Zone of 15-20 (rebounds plus blocked shots) and will have the green light all year to take the mid-range jumper and work toward his dream of becoming the next Kevin Garnett.
Roy Hibbert – Will he shrink, shine or shart in his pants the first time Kobe Bryant screams at him for dogging it? The fear factor of that indignity, plus the idea of failing big-time in front of the Hollywood elite, plus the plethora of D’Angelo Russell bricks resulting in offensive rebounds, could return Big Roy to prominence. It will be fun to watch either way.
Hassan Whiteside – There’s been a lot of chatter that this guy’s 2014-2015 was a mirage. Entirely possible that he falls apart faster than a second Madonna-Sean Penn marriage but I betcha you can snag him at a slightly discounted price right, and I say it’s totally worth the risk.
Gorgui Dieng – Can’t really figure out why he doesn’t start. He’s always stepped in and rocked it anytime Nikola Pekovic has gone down with an injury (which is pretty much every year). Of course, KAT is the King of Minny now, which would turn Dieng’s fantasy value to dung if not for the fact that Sam Mitchell said he can shoot the three ball this year. Noice.
Rudy Gobert – On the flip side, Rudy Gobert Mania continues to run wild in fantasy land. While I refuse to heed my own advice in our Razzball Experts’ League (sorry, J.B.) – mainly because it’s a dynasty league – I implore you to sell high in one-year leagues, especially if he blows up early on.
Andre Drummond – With a starting lineup that boasts three big-time waiver wire drop-adds from the end of last season (Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) I’m not really feeling the Pistons this year. But I get it, with Stan Johnson waiting in the wings to go with Bobby Jackson and Drummond, it’s all about next year as far as wins and losses. Which means this year it’s all about the numbers. Could be a beast of a season for Mr. Drummond.
DeAndre Jordan – If you haven’t read this fantastic piece about how Jordan burned the Mavs and returned to the Clips, do so now and start thinking about who could play who in the cast of the movie that’s made about the whole debacle (Wood Harris as Jordan? Maybe Denzel as Doc? Justin Timberlake as Chandler Parsons? Quentin Tarrantino as Mark Cuban?). And once you’re done with that, think about how you can pry the B-N-B Champ away from that sucka in your favorite fantasy league.
Bismack Biyombo – The Deep League Special. After years as late, late, late round fodder in 20-deep leagues, the great Biyombo could set up nice now that he’s been freed from Charlotte and is backup to My Name Is Jonas Valanciunas in Toronto.
Walter Tavares – The Keeper League Special. He might not even play much this year, especially early on, but Gobert Jr. has the chance to do something special every single time he steps on the floor. He was drafted 43rd (!!) overall in 2014 but spent the year playing for CB Gran Canaria in Spain. Now he’s back, all 7-foot-3 of him. Yeah, he’s raw, but when you have a 7-9 wingspan, coaches tend to have a lot of patience. Did you know? He’s the first Cape Verdean-born player in the NBA. Did you care? I didn’t think so.