Big names matter little in Fantasy Basketball, as sometimes the players who can keep you on the stick in NBA 2K16 won’t translate into the success you’ll need in to outpace the competition. As Fantasy draft season hits a Suns-like tempo, you must know which forwards can fill up as many categories as possible while also avoiding the names that can make like a U-boat and sink your season with an early season torpedo.
At 35, Pau Gasol continues to be a productive player, yet reality is slowly beginning to creep in. Nikola Mirotic’s preseason suggests he needs more playing time, while rookie Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson will also vie for time. Gasol averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds last season, and while he has an average draft position of 27.2, it’s hard to see Gasol coming close to those numbers this year. Another thing to keep in mind is that Gasol played in more than 65 games for just the second time since winning his second NBA title with the Lakers in 2008-09. There’s still value, yet you’re better off letting him fall rather than reaching for Gasol.
Andrew Wiggins comes with a lot of sizzle, but there’s not much meat on his steak. He averaged over 20 points per game after the All-Star Break en route to earning Rookie of the Year honors, but Wiggins offers little else beyond his electrifying dunks. He shot just 31 percent from three-point range last year, and his 4.6 rebounds didn’t even rank him among the Top 50 players at the position. He’s been regarded as a fourth-round pick, but Wiggins is heartbreak waiting to happen if taken that high.
With a 17.6 ADP, LaMarcus Aldridge has already fooled a lot of Fantasy owners into thinking he’ll remain the high-end scorer he was with the Trail Blazers. Wrong answer. There’s no way Aldridge is averaging the 19.9 field goal attempts per game he had in Portlandia last season, as the Spurs’ share and share alike offensive system will limit his production. Sure, there will be a night or two that Aldridge will score at will, but his streak of five consecutive years of at least 20 points per game will come to a screeching halt. He’ll still offer rebounding, but drafters are better off going after players like Paul Millsap or Rudy Gobert in the middle of the second round.
Jabari Parker will not be ready at the start of the season, and even when he returns to the Bucks’ rotation, he will see limited minutes. No one has given up on Parker’s potential, but this season isn’t the time to invest too much into him. He has an ADP of 95.7, which is too high for someone whose best ball may not be played until well past the All-Star break. If your league has an injured reserve spot or two, Parker may be worth a stash away. If not, move on to John Henson, who’ll start at the four in Milwaukee and will offer good rebounding and blocked shot totals.
There’s little room in the inn for Jared Sullinger, who now has to compete with newcomers David Lee and Amir Johnson, along with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko at the power forward spot. Sullinger averaged a solid 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in 58 games last season, but the numbers game is too crushing to even consider Sullinger (or any of the others) as a late round flier. In a situation that resembles the Patriots’ RB situation for years, it’s best to let things play out before trying to figure out which player can be the most productive.
There are a host of winners with the Pelicans, who will now run the up tempo style of new coach Alvin Gentry. However, the biggest winner will be Ryan Anderson, who will receive the green light to fire at will. A career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Anderson will benefit either as a starter or in the sixth man role he’s most likely to field. Anderson is also a solid free throw shooter (career 86 percent) and should climb up draft charts enough to the point that merits top 100 consideration.
A pair of Nuggets players were indeed Mile High once the franchise canned coach Byron Scott in place of Mike Malone, who will bring an up tempo style more suited for Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari. Buried by Scott, Faried averaged just under 28 minutes per game last season, yet averaged 12.6 points and 8.9 rebounds. He’s regained his starting job and should average double-digit rebounds for the first time along with putting up around 13-15 points per game. Gallinari had an impressive summer of international ball and is healthy for the first time in years. Malone will start him at small forward, where he showed a glimpse of his potential by averaging 22.3 points per game, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting a staggering 46 percent from three point range in his last six games of the season. Gallinari will be Denver’s first option on offense and is now a strong mid-round selection.
We briefly touched on Mirotic, so now it’s time to discuss why he’s become a popular name when the subject of breakout performers is in play. Mirotic averaged 20.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last March, when the Bulls needed him in the lineup to replace the injured Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Hoiberg has talked about using a bigger lineup, which would put the 6’10” Mirotic at small forward. He’s going to get minutes (at the likely expense of Tony Snell), and if he cracks the lineup, Mirotic could average 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists while also knocking down his share of threes. His stock continues to climb as the season approaches.
Terrence Jones has been sitting on an insane amount of potential, and with Josh Smith gone, the Rockets’ power forward may be in line to finally tap into it. Injuries limited him to just 33 games in 2014-15, but Jones showed just how good he could be last March, when he averaged 14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game over ten outings. He has refined his long range shooting in training camp, and while James Harden and Dwight Howard are entrenched as the top scoring options in the high-octane Houston attack, Jones is in a good position to become the triplet the team has desired since Chandler Parsons left for Dallas in July of last year. He’s a top 100 pick, and could be worth the gamble if you’re willing to take him a pick or two ahead of where he’s projected.
The loss of Aldridge opens the door for opportunity in Portland, and the Blazers are hoping either Noah Vonleh or Ed Davis is up to the challenge. Vonleh, acquired from the Hornets this summer, is brimming with talent and has recorded three games of at least ten rebounds during the preseason. His scoring is a work in progress, but if Vonleh averages around 20-25 minutes per night, he could be a good sleeper pick when it comes to boards and blocked shots. Davis had an impressive 20.0 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in limited time last season with the Lakers, and has also been a glass-eating, shot-altering presence in the paint during the preseason. Both are intriguing later round picks, but if one of them takes the job outright, they should be on your end-game radar.