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RotoTimes NBA – Northwest Division Preview

13 October 2006 No Comment


Denver Nuggets:

Carmelo Anthony averaged 26.5 points per game last season.

Stars: Carmelo Anthony will have a lot of pressure on him after his dazzling performance for the U.S. team this summer. Anthony finished very poorly last season but easily had the best of his three seasons. All of his statistics remained steady except that he shot more – and made more. He raised his field goal percent from 43 to 48 and averaged 26.5 points per game as a result. The Mellow Man should follow that up with similar numbers this season. He has no history of serious injuries and is a solid choice as your No. 2 pick in deep leagues. Marcus Camby represents one of the ultimate fantasy quandaries. He is easily a top-level center (13 points, 12 rebounds per game last season) and an elite shot blocker (3.3 per game) when he plays. But Camby has had just one relatively healthy season in his 10 years in the Association. Though tempting, I would not draft him as my primary center- unless you want to end up hating him for being perpetually day-to-day.

Supporting cast: Andre Miller has missed just three games in five seasons and has been a model of consistency throughout his career. You can book him for averages of 14 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds and 100-plus steals. A very safe draft pick and a player that will give you 35 productive minutes every night he plays. The power forward spot may be open if Kenyon Martin‘s knees don’t allow him to play at full strength. He was limited to a career-low 56 games last season because of lingering issues following preseason knee surgery. His negative behavior caused him to miss the playoff series against the Clippers following halftime of Game 2. He has no momentum from last season. He’s probably a 16-8 player at best and may yield minutes to newcomer Joe Smith. But Nene (Nene Hilario!) will likely start at the PF because Denver is committed to him long term. Everyone had Nene as one of their top sleepers last season. Then he played three minutes and blew out his knee. I would cap his numbers this season at 14 points and 8 rebounds per game. He does get a lot of steals and if he is a F/C in your league, his value is even higher.

Battle for minutes: Earl Boykins‘ best seasons of his eight-year career have been in the past two years. He will not be more than a 12-4 player, but in deep leagues is good to have in your bench’s final spot. I recommend avoiding J.R. Smith, despite that he has proven to be an accurate shooter and may earn a starting spot.

Utah Jazz:
Stars: Andrei Kirilenko took a small step backward last season, especially with his per-minute production. Despite playing five minutes more per game than in the previous season, Kirilenko did not produce as much, though he was still impressive. Easily one of the NBA’s most exceptional players, big expectations loom after his well-publicized offseason devotion to fitness. Kirilenko hired a nutritionist and worked daily this past offseason with a shooting coach and a weight trainer. So, expect his averages of 15.3 points and 8 rebounds to improve to 17 and 10. He led the NBA in total blocks last season and should be good for 220 blocks and 150 steals if he can play 78-plus games. That is the major question since Kirilenko has missed 54 games over the past two seasons. I think he is a solid selection between the No. 25 and 35 in drafts.

Supporting cast: Carlos Boozer is very dependable to be a major stats producer when he plays, but his health is an issue. Boozer, perhaps cursed for leaving the cozy confines of LBJ’s house, has played in only 84 games the past two seasons. He has been a solid 16-point, 9-rebound player for the past three seasons while shooting well over 50 percent. However, he does not provide periphery numbers such as 3s, blocks, assists and steals. I suggest not taking him in, at least, your top four picks. Center Mehmet Okur is fast becoming one of the top perimeter shooting big men in the NBA. Though a good scorer, he does not accumulate much outside of points and rebounds. He could be a 20-10 player, but does not block many shots. There are not many centers capable of averaging 20 and 10, so he’s worthy of being your starting center once the top-tier players are gone. Matt Harpring spent the past two offseasons rehabilitating his right knee, but did not have to go through that process this past offseason. Harpring is passable as a very late-round pick, but don’t expect more than 12-13 points per game.

Battle for minutes: There is a pile up in the backcourt of players battling for minutes. Deron Williams got off to a quick start as a rookie but faded mid-season and had trouble shooting with consistency. He should start, but will go undrafted in many leagues because he won’t play over 30-32 minutes a game. Averages of 12 points and six assists would be successful for him and Williams needs more than 0.8 steals a night. Newcomer Derek Fisher will play 15-20 minutes per game and may help solve Utah’s woeful 3-point shooting. Rookies Ronnie Brewer and Dee Brown will push for minutes as well, especially once the first 15 games pass. Look for Gordan Giricek to begin as the starting shooting guard. None of those guys will impact your fantasy league.

Seattle SuperSonics:
Stars: Mr. Smooth! Ray Allen, 31, enters his 11th season as, still, one of the most sought fantasy players. He had the second-best season of his career last season when he set a league mark with 269 made 3s. Allen has missed only four games in each of the past two seasons and has had only three seasons where he missed significant action. Besides giving you a huge boost in 3s, Allen has averaged at least 21.3 points per game for eight consecutive seasons. He played 39 minutes per game last season and is still at his peak. You can count on eight combined rebounds and assists a night with around 100 steals. Allen will not last past the second round.

Supporting cast: Rashard Lewis is on the cusp of being labeled a star. But after five straight consistent seasons, it seems that Lewis is merely a really good player – but not a star. Labels are shallow and Lewis is still an All-Star. He has played in at least 71 games the past seven seasons and despite nagging injuries has avoided serious injuries. His past two seasons have been identical, so expect another 20-5-4 seasons with 150 made 3s and 100 steals. What makes Lewis an attractive third-round option are his shooting percentages. He is a career 46 percent shooter, including 38.6 from downtown. With two perimeter scorers, Seattle’s point guard figures to rack up the assists. However, Luke Ridnour is not a lock to start despite holding down that spot the past two seasons. Head coach Bob Hill has indicated Earl Watson has a shot to start. Ridnour’s poor shooting (41 percent) has not improved while Watson has been at 43 percent the past two seasons. Ridnour is a better passer and gets more steals, but this will likely be a platoon situation.

Battle for minutes: Well, don’t draft a Seattle center unless Jack Sikma makes a comeback. Among the candidates to gain minutes in the middle are: Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene and Danny Fortson. If your league awards fouls, then Big Daddy Fortson is your main man. Fortson is more suited to play PF, so look for Swift and Petro to share unproductive minutes. Starting at power forward will likely be Chris Wilcox, but minutes will be pretty evenly split between Wilcox and Nick Collison. Each is capable of the occasional double-double but neither are fantasy-worthy.

Minnesota Timberwolves:
Stars: Kevin Garnett‘s numbers have been down for two consecutive seasons. Though not a huge dropoff, he is entering his 12th season and has an enormous amount of wear and tear after averaging 38.3 minutes per game in his career. In 39 minutes per game, Garnett averaged only 15.7 shots, the lowest for him in nine years. His assists were also down, a result of him handling the ball less and having a much weaker supporting cast than in previous seasons. He projects to stay around 22 points and 12 rebounds and since he’ll rack up three steals/blocks a night and shoot 50 percent, Garnett remains a top-15 player.

Supporting cast: Ricky Davis should average above 20 points per game and he’ll also be in the top-10 in minutes per game. After five seasons in which he’s missed only seven games, Davis is reliable and at his peak at age 27. Minnesota is not a deep team in terms of talent, so Davis will handle the ball often and put up solid all-around numbers (5 assists and 5 rebounds per game). Mike James is easily the only other significant fantasy player. James had a huge, breakthrough season for Toronto last season. He averaged a career-high 20.3 points and 5.8 assists and dropped 169 shots from 3-point range. He’ll get plenty of minutes, shots and assists and is a top-tier point guard right now.

Battle for minutes: The reason that the Timberwolves snagged James – mainly thanks to Garnett’s personal recruitment – is that Troy Hudson‘s ankle injury is not healing and Rashad McCants likely will be out until January while rehabbing from microfracture knee surgery. Rookie Randy Foye will see plenty of action, as will Marko Jaric, who can play three positions. Minnesota only has one true center with Mark Blount, but Eddie Griffin will man the middle for 20 minutes per game. Trenton Hassell plays 30-plus minutes per game but his main strength is defense. Avoid all of these guys.

Portland TrailBlazers:
Stars: Portland did not have a single player put up star-like numbers last season. Zach Randolph, in his sixth season, took a step back last season. He was down in every category, even dropping 10 percent in his free throw shooting. He missed eight games one season after missing 36. If his knees are healthy and Randolph is in shape, a 20-10 season will be in reach. But he does not get blocks or steals, so he is not a top-tier forward, especially if he shoots 43.6 percent again.

Supporting cast: Darius Miles has had a very frustrating career. After six seasons, you have to wonder if he can stay healthy, keep focused and work hard enough to have a good, full season. Though his averages were a career best last season, Miles was on a bad team and played in only 40 games. After missing only one game in his first two seasons, Miles has played just one full season (79 games) since. He’s played a combined 103 games the past two seasons. He is good roster filler, and even a round 10-type pick if he can play forward and guard. Rookie Brandon Roy should step right in and play 35 minutes per game. Portland maneuvered on draft day to land him and he is a huge part of their rebuilding project. He may be a good late-round pick since he’ll get minutes and will handle the ball often. We know he can score 15 points per game.

Battle for minutes: The job at point guard will probably go to Jarett Jack, with Dan Dickau and Juan Dixon receiving plenty of backcourt minutes. Portland may also be only three deep in fantasy players since their rotation figures to be deep. In the frontcourt, rookie Lamarcus Aldridge is recovering from a shoulder injury and will miss at least the first 4-6 weeks. At center and power forward, look for veterans Joel Przybilla, Jamal Magliore and Raef LaFrentz to rotate.

Brian Doolittle covers the NBA for The Roto Times. His columns will appear every Monday throughout the regular season.

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