The NBA Draft Guide is now available here! We put some blood, sweat and tears into it and it's a big package. It will be updated and tweaked continuously. Enjoy.
Here is Part 2 of the News and Notes column. Part one was posted last week and is here if you missed it.
The Bucks starting five should be Luke Ridnour, Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut. That's a pretty formidable crew and it should be interesting to see if Redd can still score more than 20 ppg this year (I say he will, but barely). Villanueva seems primed for a breakout season, while we're not counting on Ridnour putting up outrageous numbers, but he should be a serviceable No. 2 point guard. Chemistry is probably the biggest question with the Bucks, as Redd is going to have to share the spotlight with RJ. And Bogut should be a very reliable No. 1 fantasy center.
The T-Wolves are still in rebuilding mode, but owner Glen Taylor says he's ready to win now. Randy Foye will have a large part to play in making that happen and should be ready to pickup where he left off last season. Many people are targeting Sebastian Telfair for big things this year, but I just don't see it as long as Foye is healthy. Mike Miller is in Minnesota now, which is going to hurt Rashad McCants, while Ryan Gomes should be the small forward. Al Jefferson suffered a knee injury last week but should be ready for the start of the season. Jefferson played in all 82 games last season, but that may have been a fluke, as his previous high was 71 games in four seasons...Just something to keep in mind. Kevin Love should start at center and be one of the better fantasy rookies out there.
A very popular thing to do right now is to bag on the Nets and predict a collapse from Vince Carter and company. And while Nets supporters like to point out that Vinsanity has missed just nine games in the last three seasons, he's not playing for a contract and has Devin Harris and Bobby Simmons as running mates instead of Jason Kidd and RJ. I'm just saying.If there was a year for Vince to pout, suffer from nagging injuries and play at half speed, this is it. Simmons is a sleeper if he can stay healthy and Harris is going to be a very solid No. 1 point guard, while the Nets are as unstable as ever up front. Yi Jianlian will start at PF and Josh Boone and Brook Lopez will split minutes in the middle. My guess is Harris ends up being the most valuable fantasy player on this team, while Carter should still be solid despite the lack of love.
New Orleans Hornets
There's not much to say about the Hornets. The starting lineup should be the same from last year, although SG Morris Peterson is bound to lose the job at some point. James Posey will start out coming off the bench, while Devin Brown is my sleeper pick to eventually end up starting at shooting guard. Brown is also going to back up Chris Paul at point guard and should have some decent value this season. Julian Wright is also a sleeper here, but it would take an injury to Peja Stojakovic to make it happen.
New York Knicks
So much for Darko Milicic's 99% chance of playing in New York this season. My guess is the Grizzlies' players (Marko Jaric and Darko) were fired up about the chance to get out of Memphis, while the Grizzlies could never figure out how trading for Zach Randolph could help their team. So if you haven't figured it out by now, the deal that would send Randolph to Memphis is dead. The starting five appears to be Chris Duhon, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson/Wilson Chandler, Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry. The Knicks are still trying to move Randolph and Curry, but until they do, they are probably the starters. And obviously, this is bad news for David Lee. Danilo Gallinari's back continues to be a story and there are conflicting reports about how healthy he is. I don't really care how healthy Gallo is; he's not going to be on any of my fantasy teams.
The Magic have a stout starting five which means it's going to be tough for Mickael Pietrus to emerge as a fantasy stud in that lineup. There will only be so many shots to go around and Pietrus is going to be near the bottom of the food chain behind Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson. Pietrus is probably worth a pick, but don't expect too much.
Oklahoma City Thunder
It seems the fantasy world either loves or hates Earl Watson right now. I'm kind of feeling him, but there's no denying that he's being stalked by Russell Westbrook. But until further notice, Watson is the starter and will be the guy pulling the strings for Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox and whoever they start at center. My money is on Nick Collison, but it depends on how healthy all the young centers on the roster are. Durant is going to be a monster this year, Green should be a super value pick and Watson should be worth playing as a No. 1 point guard. I don't trust Wilcox and think Collison will end up being more valuable this year.
The Sixers are suddenly a favorite to compete for an East title with Elton Brand in the house. Andre Iguodala signed a fat new contract, Andre Miller is back to run the offense, Thaddeus Young is on everyone's breakout list and Samuel Dalembert is back in the middle. The Sixers are super thin at center, so they'll need Sammy D to stay healthy. Jason Smith's season is lost to ACL surgery, so Theo Ratliff is really the only back up for Dalembert. Then again, Reggie Evans is also there, while they could shift the lineup around and play Brand there if they had to.
I am still predicting that Matt Barnes will start over Grant Hill this season, although that's not official. The Suns have so many options at SG/SF that anything is possible, but I like Barnes this year. Goran Dragic is still not with the team, but will be soon as his buyout is still being finalized. Dragic is another sleeper since the Suns are planning on playing him a lot at point guard while Steve Nash rests. The fantasy world is down on Nash this year, and I'm right there with them, but he's still Steve Nash and will (obviously) be a top fantasy point guard again. So be careful about how much you read into the negative outlooks on Nash.
Greg Oden is still not fully recovered from knee surgery, but the Blazers are absolutely giddy about how good he looks thus far. The Blazers are suddenly one of the deepest teams in the league, which is probably going to take a toll on most of its players from a fantasy standpoint. Rudy Fernandez may present the biggest problem, as he's going to end up eating the minutes of more proven players. Martell Webster isn't likely to have much value this season, despite the fact he should start for the Blazers, while bench players like Rudy and Travis Outlaw could offer a lot of value. I'm really interested to see this team in training camp and the preseason, as there are more questions than answers.
Brad Miller is suspended for the first five games, Ron Artest is in Houston and Kevin Martin says he's ready to lead the Kings this year. I think John Salmons will be the starting small forward, while Beno Udrih is going to be a worthy fantasy point guard. Just beware that he has some pretty big injury concerns, so you'll want to make sure you have a back up plan in place if and when Beno goes down. Spencer Hawes will play center for the first five games and should be a solid No. 2 or 3 fantasy center this year. I also like rookie Jason Thompson, who could emerge with some second-half value playing behind Mikki Moore.
San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili is out indefinitely after foot surgery so either Ime Udoka or Michael Finley will have to step up in his place. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are what they are, while the Spurs' starting center isn't likely to offer much value, whether it's Fabricio Oberto or Kurt Thomas.
Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Bosh will tag-team on the front line for the Raptors this year, at least for as long as both of them are standing. Both players have some injury concerns, but when comparing Bosh to O'Neal, Bosh is a picture of health. Jose Calderon is the starting point guard this season and continues to climb up my personal cheat sheets, while Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon will round out the starting five. Feel free to draft Andrea Bargnani this season, but don't count on anything. If you're able to actually use him, or if he breaks out, consider it a bonus.
As usual, it's all about Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko again this year. Ronnie Brewer is the shooting guard, and will be worth a late-round pick, but isn't going to score a lot. While Williams is under contract, the team could be broken up next summer with Boozer and Kirilenko possibly opting out of their contracts.
Unless you live in a cave, you've heard about Gilbert Arenas' knee surgery - his third in the last year and a half. Arenas has surely lost a step by now and may never be the same. I'm guessing he'll be a shell of his former self going forward. And as for his return this season, I'm thinking we might see him playing 30 minutes per game by the end of January. I don't have time to wait for him, so Arenas will not be on my fantasy teams this season unless he's sitting there very late. DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels get a value boost with the news, but keep in mind that they weren't all that great in his absence last season.