NOTE: The number in parentheses is an actual rank number, but is used loosely to help you decide within the tier. However, all players within tiers basically have the same value. All stats are from last season, unless otherwise specified.
Tier Twenty One — Jason Terry (82), Michael Beasley (83), Anderson Varejao (84), Arron Afflalo (85)
This tier, for the most part, is about players looking to make their place with a new team. And possibly a player that may move during the season to another franchise.
Terry has quickly acclimated himself with the Boston Celtics — getting autographs of normal Beantown citizens, hating whomever the Cs hate, but mostly importantly, learning the local accent. I haven’t seen anyone happier to be with a new team than Terry has been. He’ll likely back up both guard positions — and possibly start over Courtney Lee at the two — or at the very least get the majority of minutes, even when Avery Bradley returns. The Jet put up some solid numbers last season — 15.1 points, 43.0 FG%, 88.3 FT%, 3.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 three-pointers in 32 minutes. I’d expect those numbers to be about what Terry does in his first season in Boston.
There’s no denying Beasley’s talent, it’s just the focus and work ethic that remains in question. The former second overall pick is entering his fifth year and he can still be labeled as one of those players that still hasn’t figured it out yet. That said, it was only two seasons ago that Super Cool Beas averaged 19.2 points, 45.0 FG%, 75.2 FT%, 0.8 triples, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 32 minutes of play in his first year with the Timberwolves. Maybe a switching of teams once again will lead to similar numbers.
Varejao was having a career season - 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in only 31 minutes per game — before falling prey to the injury bug. Despite his consistently good play, there have been rumors of moving Varejao to go full-on youth movement because, you know, 30 is the new 40 in basketball years. Tyler Zeller was acquired this past summer after a draft day trade, probably as the future five for the Cavs. Either way, as long as Varejao is on the floor, he’ll be a potential double-double with a very good shooting percentage from the floor (51.9 percent for his career).
Afflalo was the main piece coming back to the Magic for Dwight Howard. Yes, it’s both funny and sad that that’s the case, so you better believe Orlando will keep Afflalo on the floor as much as possible to somehow justify that horrible trade. In any case, Afflalo is simply a victim of circumstance here, but regardless of the D12 factor here, he has improved his scoring each of his first five seasons (3.7 points to 4.9, 8.8, 12.6 and 15.2 last season). Afflalo is a very solid shooter as his career numbers prove — 46.6 FG%, 80.0 FT% and 40.5 3PT% — and he’s added the three ball the past few seasons (1.3 threes made, 1.5 and 1.4 respectively). Afflalo doesn’t really give much in the defensive stats (0.6 steals and 0.2 blocks), but maybe being on a new team will change all of that and he’ll be Defensive Player of the Year. Sorry, Magic fans.
Tier Twenty Two — Jameer Nelson (86), Darren Collison (87), Kemba Walker (88), Derrick Rose (89)
This tier is all about point guards! Point guards! Point guards! Point guards!
Nelson is the aforementioned Afflalo’s backcourt mate in Orlando and is a solid shooter himself with career numbers of 45.6 FG%, 80.8 FT% and 38.3 3PT%. However, he’s always had Dwight Howard in the post drawing defenders. How will he do now? In 12 April games when Dwight sat out, Nelson shot 39.5 percent from the floor, which says a lot about D12’s presence. However, Nelson did shoot about four more field goals as well and had his highest scoring month (15.3 points) and tied his best threes-made (2.1 per game) for the season. In addition, he averaged a season-best 7.0 dimes as well. This reeks of more opportunities now, as the Magic will certainly move the ball around more.
Collison needed a change of location because George Hill came around and messed Indiana up for him. Despite playing the most minutes (31 per game) of any of his three seasons, Collison actually had career-lows in points (10.4), assists (4.8), steals (0.8), field goal percentage (44.0) and free throw percentage (83.0). Some of those numbers really aren’t all that bad either, so expect a nice resurgence of sorts for the youngster who is pretty good at the pick-and-roll. Of course, if Dirk Nowitzki decides to have surgery, temper expectations a bit more for Collison.
Walker will do well because he’ll get a lot of burn on the court unless Ramon Sessions does his seemingly yearly c-block move of taking away time from other point guards. However, I don’t think it’ll happen since the Bobcats are clearly in rebuild mode and have tapped him as a core member of the Cats. In 25 games last season as a starter, Walker did well – 14.7 points, 4.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 treys and a steal. However, he also shot 35.2 percent from the field. Growing pains.
Here he is! You know Derrick Rose is one of the best players in the NBA. You know he’s hurt and recovering from a torn ACL. While this might take away some of his explosiveness, Rose just turned 24 years old and seems determined and focused to get back doing his thing on the hardwood. So, this is a speculative ranking here and based on his coming back early next year at the latest. Move D-Rose up or down appropriately as news comes out on his rehabilitation.
Tier Twenty Three — Raymond Felton (90), O.J. Mayo (91), Brandon Knight (92), Damian Lillard (93)
This is the speculation of awesome hyperbole tier.
I live in the New York City area and many Knicks fans are expecting Felton to return to his Knickerbocker numbers of 17.1 points, 9.0 assists, 1.6 treys and 1.8 steals. It’s not going to happen because Mike D’Antoni is no longer the coach and the organization is kissing Carmelo Anthony’s ass pretty hard, not to mention the ball won’t move like it did pre-Melo back when Felton had his best period of play ever in the NBA. At best, I’d expect something more in line with his last season in Charlotte — 12.1 points, 5.6 assists, 0.8 triples and 1.5 steals — which is a fairly solid line. Just not the exaggerated expectations of previous numbers.
Mayo is part of the reason why it was OK for the Mavericks to have bombed on signing Deron Williams during free agency. Whatever, Mark Cuban. Mayo is certainly a very good player given minutes. As a starter his first two seasons, he averaged 18.0 points, 44.8 FG%, 84.5 FT%, 3.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 triples and 1.2 steals in 38 minutes of play. However, in the last two seasons, mostly used as a reserve, Mayo averaged 11.9 points, 40.7 FG%, 76.6 FT%, 2.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.4 triples and 1.1 steals in 27 minutes. He’ll be starting now, so maybe Cuban may have something there with never really wanting D-Will anyway. Riiiight.
The hyperbole with Knight comes from me saying that he’d eventually end up as the best point guard in the 2011 NBA Draft. Yes, even better than Kyrie Irving. I think I’m going to continue being wrong on this one. However, Knight is pretty darn good, posting 13.1 points, 3.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 threes and 0.8 steals in 33 minutes in 60 games as a starter. Knight will definitely get better, as will Irving, so I’ll still be wrong about my prediction although it’s still early.
All the NBA draftniks loved Lillard coming out as a four-year player at Weber State where he averaged 24.5 points, 4.0 dimes, 5.0 boards, 2.9 triples and 1.5 steals in 32 games as a senior. And don’t think those numbers were an anomaly for one season, as they’re pretty much relatively similar to his four-year college numbers, with a slight uptick in scoring from his 18.8 ppg career average. There are a lot of expectations in the PDX for Lillard and rightly so.
Tier Twenty Four — DeAndre Jordan (94), Thaddeus Young (95), J.R. Smith (96), Lou Williams (97)
This tier is about players that are so talented they could be game-changers, but there’s just something missing about them that doesn’t allow their production to be consistent.
When you think of Jordan in fantasy basketball circles, you immediately think blocks (2.0) then boards (8.3) then, “Damn, I wish he played more” (27 minutes). He has a career shooting percentage of 64.4 percent from the field, but also only shot 3.9 times a game. His career free throw percentage is 44.0, but luckily only went to the stripe 2.2 times per contest. Jordan could be a double-double performer if given more time on the court and he uses something other than his athleticism on offense. Entering his fifth season, I’d expect the continued trend of improvement.
Thad Young is an exciting player and could/should be a starter. In the two seasons he was mostly used as one (2008-09 and 2009-10), he averaged 14.6 points, 48.3 FG%, 71.5 FT%, 5.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 three-pointers and 1.3 steals in 33 minutes. The past two seasons, Young has been coming off the pine and has done better per 36 than the two aforementioned starting seasons! He’s just missing time on the hardwood.
Smith is a solid scorer (12.5 career PPG) and a prolific three-point shooter (1.8 career 3PTM). What he isn’t is a starter and he’s been making a lot of noise about that. But let’s look at his average as a starter for the Knicks last season: 3.0 points, 2.0 assists, 1.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.0 threes and 33.3 percent shooting from the floor. Of course, it was only one game, but it shows how up and down he can be as a player. Smith seems more talk and yelling than anything else. However, you probably want Smith as a fantasy basketball manager because he is one of those players than can have an on-court explosion at any time and won’t really hurt you other than in FG% (40.7).
Williams is taking over as the Hawks chucker, a la Jamal Crawford a couple of seasons ago. For the Sixers last season, Williams averaged 14.9 points and 1.3 threes in only 26 minutes. However, like Crawford, Williams will deceptively dish dimes (3.5) and not just miss a lot of shots (40.7 FG%). Lou should get some major minutes at the two-spot and up his production. Pretty solid sleeper potential here.
Tier Twenty Five — Samuel Dalembert (98), Elton Brand (99), Glen Davis (100)
This tier highlights veteran big men starting anew to some degree.
Dalembert has been durable the past six seasons, missing only three games total in that period, which is an attractive factor in terms of fantasy basketball. You know what else is nice? Blocks. In the same period of time, Dalembert averaged 1.8 rejections per game. And he’s also rebounded the ball, grabbing 8.8 boards a game. This was all done in only 27 minutes per contest and with the Bucks, Dalembert should at least get that much time on the court as their new starting center.
After averaging 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in 28 minutes with the Sixers last season, Brand was amnestied and became one of the main reasons it was OK to strike out on getting D-Will. Yeah, that old gag. In any case, Brand should at least duplicate last season’s numbers, but has the upside of doing more if Nowitzki elects to have surgery for his ailing right knee. But that’s also assuming that Brand’s body doesn’t break down. However, there’s always something about starting fresh in a new city and Brand is enough of a veteran to make things happen, body willing.
Sure, the Magic aren’t a new team for Davis, but it will be a relatively new dynamic for him as Dwight Howard is no longer with the team. That could be a really good thing for Davis who, in a dozen April games as a starter replacing D12, averaged 16.4 points, 50.3 FG%, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals. It’s a mish-mosh in O-Town and Davis should be one of the beneficiaries of the chaos.