… Blake Griffin leads all of basketball in points scored
Keep in mind that “points per game” is not a Fantasy category: total points are. Griffin’s availability (four missed games in four seasons) plays favorably for him, especially with the four players who outscored him dealing with significant obstacles/changes. Kevin Durant will be sidelined for at least a month, there is already talk that LeBron James may be rested at times, the Knicks are talking about a more balanced attack with the triangle offense, and Kevin Love went from the being only option in Minnesota to one of three All Stars in Cleveland. What has changed for Griffin, you ask? Well, he has added some depth to his jumper and made significant strides last season in both the number of free throws attempted (58.2 percent spike) and free throw accuracy (his 71.5 percent success rate represented a second consecutive rise). I’ll take those changes over the question marks surrounding those who outscored him last year. His growth at the end of last season (his scoring average increased by 33.3 percent the final 47 games from his first 33 games) makes him a strong candidate to provide a greater impact in the PTS category than you might first assume.
… Ty Lawson leads the league in assists
Steph Curry and John Wall. Those are the only two players in the NBA last season that played more games and had a higher assist percentage than Lawson last year, which is pretty impressive company to be a part of. With a bit of a revamped offense in Denver, it is possible that Lawson passes both of those players and becomes the league’s premier passer sooner rather than later. A healthy bucket getter in Danilo Gallinari certainly won’t hurt and the underrated signing of Arron Afflalo, a player who has seen his point production increase every season since entering the league in 2007, adds punch to this backcourt. Randy Foye and Wilson Chandler are both coming off seasons in which they set career highs in 3PM, thus allowing Lawson to play to his strength – his quickness. His ability to collapse defenses should work nicely with the roster the Nuggets have built around their 26-year-old point guard and that is without accounting for the growth of one Timofey Mozgov. No, he is not great, and yes, being “Mozgov-ed” will be added to Webster’s Dictionary before he retires. But his scoring progression last season is enough to not hurt, and could potentially help Lawson’s quest to become the next Prince of Pass. Mozgov quietly saw his scoring average increase by 27.1 percent after the All Star Break last season, thriving in April (25.2 points per 48 minutes) when the Nuggets gave him an extended role. This Denver roster, when healthy, can put points on the board, and Lawson is the unquestioned trigger man. His point production may drop a bit, but could he average close to a double-double? It’s not unreasonable.
… Jrue Holiday is a Top 5 option in dimes
Let’s not forget that despite 332 games of NBA experience, Holiday is still just 24 years old and capable of growing as a player. Sure, last season was marred with injuries that limited him to just 34 games, but for the second consecutive campaign, he ranked among the Top 10 distributors (minimum 10 games played) in assist rate by handing off a helper on nearly 40 percent of his teammates’ buckets when he was on the floor. There is plenty of healthy risk for Holiday, and his teammates as well, but the upside here is impossible to overlook. Anthony Davis is already an elite Fantasy option who boosts the status of all players around him; that we already know. Combine that with the versatility of Tyreke Evans, the scoring gene of Eric Gordon, and the explosive nature of rookie Russ Smith and you’ve got a Fantasy friendly roster that could finally showcase Holiday’s ability to distribute at a high rate. Toss in a dash of Ryan Anderson and a touch of Omer Asik? Don’t laugh, but the Pelicans could finish in the top third of the league in total points scored.
… Serge Ibaka is the greatest non-LeBron asset in Fantasy Basketball when it comes to FG%
Known primarily as a shot-blocker, it is possible that Ibaka builds on last season and becomes a truly elite Fantasy producer. He ranked 14th in field goal percentage last season, but his volume of attempts (a number that figures to grow with Durant on the shelf) earns him consideration among the most influential in the game. Five of the 13 players that finished the 2013-14 season with a higher FG percentage took at least 300 fewer shots from the field, thus limiting the impact that they can have in Roto formats. He has developed a strong midrange game to go along with his strong ability to finish at the rim, and he even ventures out to the three point line on occasion. The range has not, and will not hurt his elite field goal percentage. He only takes the shot when it is wide open and from the corner, the shortest possible trifecta. Ibaka’s role is one of extreme efficiency, a role that should remain with Durant out but increase in volume. Look for Ibaka to once again combine a strong FG percentage with an increasing number of shot attempts.
… Vince Carter deserves to be rostered due to his impact on 3PM
As long as there is no age limit in your league, Carter should remain on Roto radars. Let’s face it, the Grizzlies need offense and will take it in any form they can get it. The 16-year veteran is currently behind Tony Allen on the depth chart and is not exactly an offensive weapon (he hasn’t average double figures in nearly a decade). With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, this roster is built around a strong paint presence … and everyone knows it. That should play nicely into Carter’s changing skill set, as he has turned into a strong jump shooter now with his athleticism fading. Do you remember good ole’ Vinsanity? He was at the peak of his super powers (2000-2002) the last time he averaged at least 1.9 3PM over a two season stretch, that is, before he did so over the last two years. There were only 10 players in the league that made more triples and shot a higher percentage from distance than Carter and it is hard to imagine much changing this year in offense starved Memphis. The highlight dunks are a distant memory but don’t rule out Carter, as targeting him in the later rounds can allow you to target other categories in the early going (if you elected to chase capital letters in DeMarcus Cousins and LaMarcus Aldridge, for example, with your first two picks).