Moving on to the Blazers forwards for our annual fantasy hoops preview. You know that whole silly “too much talent” thought going around — which Dave nailed today — it actually applies for fantasy purposes. The Blazers just have too many forwards for many of them to acrue the statistics that would make them valuable fantasy commodities. Short of injuries, LMA is the only one that you will seriously consider on draft day in a standard 10-team league. That doesn’t mean they can’t be useful in a Joel Przybilla sort of way. Again, this is strictly about numbers and value, not an exact preview of what we expect of the players or the team.
LaMarcus Aldridge: What many fantasy players don’t understand about LMA is that, statistically he doesn’t have much more upside than he already has. He has yet to prove that he can be anymore than a 7-8 rebound a night guy, and he’s not all of the sudden going to start dropping 25 a game in Portland’s offense. He improved his steal rate last season, nabbing 0.7 a game along with a block, but neither of those cats appear to be on the rise either. What would really add to his value is if LMA could nudge his FG% up to 50% (from 48.7%) and start shooting in the 80′s from the free-throw line rather than the mid-70′s. But still, those are just the gradual improvements we expect from season to season — not improvements that are going to move him up to 3rd-round value. In fact, if he wasn’t center-eligible, I would not recommend taking LMA at all for where you have to get him — since he’s going in the fifth round in most drafts.
But since he can play center, a position that is deeper than usual but full of old/injury-prone players, he takes on added value as a “safe option”. I’d still rather draft Elton Brand for his upside in PTS-REBS-BLKS or wait on any of the discounted bigs like Kevin Love, Al Horford, Emeka Okafor and even Andrew Bynum. That said, if you manage to get guards and small forward’s who rebound well — meaning you can afford to lose out on a few rebounds a night with LMA — and you’ve invested in other injury risks like Gerald Wallace or Gilbert Arenas, LMA is a safe option in the 5th round who won’t hurt you.
Also keep in mind that Alridge’s split stats show better Post All-Star numbers for scoring (about 2 more pts per game), so he’s nice to have down the stretch in H2H leagues and a solid target at the trade deadline.
Nicolas Batum: Batum isn’t going to get drafted in any league that doesn’t involve Blazers fans, and he shouldn’t be. If he earns 25 minutes a game, he’ll have some value in roto leagues by adding a block, a steal and a three per game, but he won’t get enough offensive touches to carry any consistent weight among H2Hers.
Dante Cunningham: Even less value than Batum. He’ll need 2-3 guys to be injured before anyone even considers picking him up. On the other hand, he offers plenty of possibilities for a creative team name, so if you want to take him in the last round just to call your team The Inferno, that’s understandable.
Juwan Howard: I don’t need to tell you how much value he has, but one thing of interest is that pretty much anytime Howard was on a team that gave him 35 min a game (in his prime) he was a lock for 19 points and 8 rebounds. Sounds like anybody we know? The only thing he did noticeably better than Aldridge was pass, putting up 3 or so assists per game through most of his first 13 seasons.
Travis Outlaw: If you needs desperately need points and threes, Outlaw is your guy — sort of a broke man’s fantasy version of Ben Gordon. Outlaw can be ignored in most roto leagues, but he’s someone you can keep on your watch list in H2H leagues for those weeks when the Blazers play 4-5 games or you’re down in points entering the final weekend of a matchup.
Jeff Pendergraph: Thanks to the hip injury, he’ll probably be used in less than 1% of fantasy leagues this year. And considering the timetable for his return could be anywhere from December to April, he won’t be worth keeping an eye on until he gets his first pro minutes.
Ime Udoka: Once upon a time, he was useful for a couple three’s and steals per game. Statistically, the fairy tale is over.
Martell Webster: Oh, Martell, I’ve drafted you every year since your rookie year and never kept you on my team through November. Realistically, Webster doesn’t have much more value than Batum, but if Batum or Outlaw gets hurt and you need three’s, Martell is your guy. He’s worth keeping on your watch list, but for the time being the best Blazer source of threes in bunches is from the land of Spain.