The RCP Fantasy Blazers Preview


Now that football has gotten going and most of you are probably finished with your fantasy pigskin drafts, it’s officially time to start thinking about the magic that is fantasy hoops.

First things first, throw away your football caps and draft portfolios, basketball is an entirely different beast. While on the gridiron, player value can take a hit solely based on a new quarterback, lack of receivers or run blocking, creating a very small amount of players that are locks to repeat or improve their stats. In hoops, all you really have to worry about are injuries. Most of the top five round players are locks to earn minutes of some sort. They’ve got their guaranteed contracts and they are going to play. Sure, there’s the occasional overpaid Steve Francis or aging superstar like Ray Allen or Raptors-version Hakeem Olaujuwon, but for the most part, if you take Paul Pierce in the late second round, you know what you are going to get (including a few missed games due to injury).

This means you need to look for rare players about to reach another level of statistical prowess and/or the guys who suddenly jumped to the front of the minutes line. You need to find that third-round value in the sixth. I didn’t win our league last season because I took Kobe, Dwight and Carmelo with my first three picks, I won because I got Danny Granger in the 7th round and Rudy Gay in the 8th. So what we’re going to try to do is determine the value of every Blazer on roster and figure out where you are going to be able to get him.

(SJ Note: Nice dig with the ‘I didn’t win our league last season because…’ line. Payback is a mother there’s no way you get that type of team again and you know it.)

(Coup Note: Ironically, SJ, who does our league Power Rankings, mocked my young players after the draft.)

First up, in alphabetical order:

LaMarcus Aldridge

2007 Stats: 34.9 Minutes, 17.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, .484 fg%, .762 ft%, 1.2 bpg

SJ: His value was way, way underrated last year…mainly because no one knew what to expect. They knew he was good, but many weren’t sure if he’d be able to carry the load left by Z-Bo. That got answered in a hurry. LMA is solid across the line. As a fantasy owner you can’t complain about 18 and 8 on a nightly basis. He’s the type of guy that you don’t want to overdraft (aka in the top 3 rounds). And for some reason I feel like because of his success last year, he may end up getting drafted a bit too high. If you can steal him in the 5th or 6th round you’re more than likely going to be smiling. But if you’re completely depending on him as your top forward you might struggle because while gets his share of rebounds he’ll only give you more than two hands full of double-double nights. And I’d expect that to take more a of a hit as he’s sharing time with Beasty Oden.

Coup: Love LaMarcus as a real life player, but as a fantasy player he leaves a little to be desired. The rebounding numbers are on the low end for a starting PF, and despite Aldridge bulking up a bit those numbers may not rise as Oden gets more minutes and more boards. LMA will live in the mid-range, and while his PPG may rise a bit to 19-20, the FG% could drop to .47. Here’s a sleeper category to keep in mind, however: if you need some sneak assists from your forwards, LMA could get three a game judging from the chemistry we saw between him and Oden last year.

Value: Late 5th early 6th round.

Nicolas Batum

2007 Stats (Le Mans, France): 12.3 ppg, 5.06 rpg, 3.62 apg

Think 2012, at the earliest. Batum’s got many of the same skills as Travis Outlaw, but he’s just as raw as Outlaw was when he got drafted in the 2003 Draft. It took Outlaw five years to gain any fantasy relevance whatsoever, and that was when there were still minutes available for young players. It’s more likely that Batum becomes an attractive piece in a Kevin Pritchard trade and puts up decent roto stats for another team.

SJ: Batum will only be valuable as the final pick in a deep league as a joke to make one of your friends laugh.

Coup: You’d be surprised just how valuable those picks can be at the end of a long draft.

Value: Only to people compiling an all-french team.

Jerryd Bayless
2007 Stats (Arizona): 30 games, 19.7 ppg, .458 fgp, .839 ftp, 82 rebounds, 121 assists, 29 steals

SJ: Fantasy basketball is always a dilemma when it comes to rookies. Especially in the pre-season when the majority of people will stick with the devils they know instead of the devils they don’t know. Bayless has the potential to be a solid fantasy player, but it will take time. Not only because of the fact that he is a rookie and will undergo the usual peaks and valleys (consistency is needed in fantasy). Also there’s no telling how much tick he will get right now. Best-case he’ll end up being a good ‘steal’ or a solid ‘stop-gap’ solution. Who knows what could happen if an injury popped up to Blake though. I think Bayless’ fantasy value also depends on the depth of the league. I’d avoid him on draft night but keep an eye on him as the season progresses.

Coup: Gotta go with SJ here. Unless your league goes 14-16 deep, Bayless probably shouldn’t be drafted. His value will be tied to bench scoring and Steve Blake’s minutes. Once the second half of the year rolls around, Bayless might have good value in head-to-head leagues for a few scoring bursts ala Monta Ellis two years ago. Could also grab a steal a game and won’t hurt you in percentage categories. Steve Blake is game to keep his job, but Bayless is chomping at the bit for play.

Value: Undrafted, but keep an eye on the minutes.

Steve Blake
2007 Stats: 29.9 minutes, 8.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 2.4 rpg, 0.7 spg, .408 fgp, .786 ftp

SJ: If his name got changed to Solid Blake, I’m not sure too many people would mind. In the fantasy game though that semi gets you overlooked. Blake has great value as a third point guard. Not much higher. If you’re using him as one of your top PG’s you’re more than likely in trouble. Think Rajon Rondo, minus the steals and turnovers and with three pointers.

Coup: Blake was an underrated fantasy asset last year, and will be for this year — well, at least until the all-star break. Blake will help you with late-round assists, but try to trade him around january in anticipation of an expansion of minutes for Bayless and Rudy. That sort of trade is hard to make unless you have leaguemates that appreciate things like cheap steals, but it’s the right approach to take here.

Value: Late-round assists.

Ike Diogu
2007 Stats: 10.2 minutes, 5.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.1 bpg, .479 fgp, .851 ftp

SJ: We still have no clue if Ike will actually get any burn as a Blazer. In all honesty, he just doesn’t play enough to have any real consistent fantasy value. Definitely might want to monitor him on the waiver wire and pick him up if he were to catch a hot streak. Or if you’re feeling really froggy and wanted to steal him early in the season with Frye out. But I just don’t see him sticking on too many rosters all year. Too much up in the air. Not that he doesn’t have the tools to have
fantasy value. He can rebound and score, shoots well from the line. But at the end of the day you’re just not going to get much out of a guy getting 10 minutes a game.

Value: Late flyer-to-undrafted. Try to trade those rebounds early, just as with Blake’s assists, but earlier.

Rudy Fernandez

2007 Stats: Spanish League MVP

Coup: Rudy has given us these two gems so far: “We will do nice things,” and, “I aim to play minutes.” I can’t wait for the Rudy era. I might name my team DoingNiceThings. Rudy is in a similar position with Bayless in terms of how minutes will affect their value, but three’s are a rarer category than points, and Rudy could get them in bunches. While you won’t want him over another Blazer sharpshooter, Rudy is another guy with niche second-half value.

SJ: Rudy can hoop we all know that. He can shoot and he can score, so he’ll be valuable. I just wonder if he’ll be like a Spanish poor man’s Rip Hamilton when it comes to fantasy. I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable taking Rip because all he does his score and shoot a lot. With who-knows-how-many minutes coming and his rookie inconsistency, it will be hard to tell just what Rudy can give immediately. I’d anticipate some three’s like his fellow countryman Navarro. I’m also interested to see where Rudy goes on fantasy draft nights. At least in our league last year, both Travis Outlaw and Juan Carlos Navarro were 14th (and final) round picks. Obviously that won’t happen again but rookies tend to get left out to dry on draft night.

Value: Late-to-undrafted.

Channing Frye

2007 Stats: 17.9 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.3 bpg, .488 fgp, .780 ftp

SJ: If you’re in a 20-team league…maybe. Just not going to be a reliable option. There aren’t enough minutes anymore. Otherwise, I would pass on the master of keeping things weird. Sure, he caught fire at the end of last season when he started. But we all know that’s not happening anytime soon. And with this injury opening the door for Outlaw and Ike to lock their way into the rotation….I’m not liking it. Besides he’s not exactly known for lighting up a box score. And in fantasy that’s what it’s all about.

Value: The Buffet of Goodness must unfortunately go undrafted.

Raef LaFrentz

2007 Stats: $12.7 million dollars a year.

SJ: 2001-02 is the last year I’d ever put Raef LaFrentz and fantasy in the same sentence. Until now because I just did it. Damnit. Save me Coup.

Coup: There’s two reason to draft Raef, actually. One, for the aforementioned French-sounding names team. Two, for a team built completely around players with “La” in front of their last name. And there are leagues that do this sort of thing, my buddy Nickcamm plays in a league where each team gets a random category to adhere to. I believe the winning one was compiled entirely of convicted felons.

Value: None.

Greg Oden

2007 Stats: No. 1 Draft Pick. Favors dunking on your face.

SJ: He’s going to go in the top 4-5 rounds. Too much potential. It’s scary. Rebounds and blocks alone. Plus all the hype, I just feel like on name alone he’ll get snagged early. What’s scary is if he drops and a good team can steal him. And yes this is my strategy.

Coup: SJ will get him, and then I’ll get Tyson Chandler a round later and laugh. Greg is going to be great for the Blazers, great for wins, great for rebounds, field-goal percentage and blocks. Once he gets going, I’d expect 12-15 points as his highest scoring range, which probably isn’t worth a fourth round pick. I’m not worried about health, but let other reach on him, unless it’s a keeper league. Chandler will get you similar stats (albeit a worse, though unaffecting FT%) in the seventh.

Value: Wait for him to drop to late-fifth at least.

Travis Outlaw

2007 Stats: 26.7 minutes, 13.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.8 bpg, .433 fgp, .741 ftp, 1 facial on Rodney Carney.

SJ: The one thing about Travis going into this fantasy season is you know he’s going to look to score. His confidence is at an all-time high there is no denying that. He can score. At the end of the day he’ll be a solid fantasy player. If you ask me ‘Do you draft him?’ I’m not sure I would. He’s kind of a one-trick pony, so unless he shores up the rebounding (doubtful) I’d hope he hangs around in the later rounds. Also with the arrival of Rudy and Bayless…will he asked to score as much? And with a complete frontcourt, will he be able to steal as many minutes at the 4? Only time will tell.

Coup: If he gets his shots, which is a small question mark, Travis is a decent asset in head-to-head leagues because he can drop a few 22-point games for you out of nowhere. The problem is, you never quite know when they are coming, this isn’t football where you can play anyone going against the Rams or Lions D.

Value: Final two rounds.

Joel Pryzbilla

2007 Stats: 23.6 minutes, 4.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.2 spg, 1.2 bpg, .576 fgp, .680 ftp

SJ: He’s my personal favorite. Ever since I stole him a couple years ago (when he earned his contract) I’ve been happy with him. Rebounds and blocks baby, rebounds and blocks. Obviously those are going to take a hit with his playing time being split in half. I’m going to miss the era of Big Joel being a relevant fantasy player. Because that boat is as good as gone thanks to Beasty Oden.

Coup: SJ forgot to mention when he dropped Joel last year and I scooped him up. Sadly, I only enjoyed those boards for a month or so before his broke his wrist on the rim. Joel will have early value while Greg gets acclimated, but don’t expect much after December.

Value: Someone else will draft him based on the rebounding numbers.

Sergio Rodriguez

2007 Stats: 8.7 minutes, 2.5 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.3 spg, 0 blocks, .352 fgp, .658 ftp

SJ: Completely off the fantasy map unless there is a category for ‘Speaking Spanish with Rudy’.

Coup: Supposedly he has more arc on his shot now, so he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

Value: None.

Brandon Roy

2007 Stats: 37.7 mpg, 19.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.2 bpg, .454 fgp, .753 ftp

SJ: I honestly wouldn’t be saying anything you didn’t already know.

Coup: The guy is a roto and head-to-head stud that you can probably wait to drop because of injury concerns. There’s no need to fret. Brandon might only play 74 games or so, but he’s gold for all 74. He can give you 12 assists one night, 12 boards the next. In a recent ESPN mock draft, I grabbed him in the sixth round. That’s insane. I know it’s hard, but see if he drops a round or two and then sweep him up. Plus, there’s nothing like having “Crossover on Luke Walton” as
a meaningful fantasy category.

Value: If he drops to 5th or 6th, nab him fast.

Martell Webster
2007 Stats: 28.4 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.4 bpg, .422 fgp, .735 ftp

SJ: Honestly, he’s mediocre at best fantasy wise. Averaging 30 minutes…starting…and 10 points is the majority of what you’re getting out of him. He’ll knock down a couple three’s but the rest of his box score is going to be pretty empty. Also he’ll have some downright nightmarish nights shooting the ball. Don’t tell Coup I said any of this….Martell is his boy.

Coup: That’s the truth. I’m well aware of Martell’s shortcomings, but the guy is easy to root for. He wound up on most of my teams at one point or another last year because the three’s are just so valuable if you’re scavenging. The percentages should be higher, but Martell doesn’t shoot too much to make it burn a hole in the cat. Take him late for the threes, enjoy the breakout. And by breakout, I mean he starts to show more consistency, not 17 ppg.

Value: Late round three’s.