Fantasy NBA: The Draft’s Impact Players

Projections, we got your projections right here! Greg Oden! Kevin Durant! Al Horford! Mike Conley Jr! Petteri Koponen! Wait, scratch that last one . . .

Al HorfordIt’s ridiculously early to be talking about fantasy basketball, I know. It’s still early to be talking fantasy football, too, but that hasn’t stopped me. I’ve already got my fantasy baseball lineup set past the All-Star break based on pitching matchups though so I figured, hey, why not? Of course, for a full analysis of the NBA Draft results check out the live blogging we did as well as the excellent breakdown Brian wrote with a little help from his friends.

Some of the early returns are already coming in, but summer league stats are extremely misleading. First, the intensity, level of competition, quality of opponents and sophistication of offense pales in comparison with an average NBA game. Second, as Jason Quick of The Oregonian points out, the stats kept are unreliable: “Sergio Rodriguez had at least six assists, but was credited for three. Joel Freeland had a monster block on a Powe dunk attempt that brought people out of their seats, yet he is listed with zero blocked shots. Stefano Mancinelli was credited for going 1-for-1, yet he never took a shot.” For those reasons, ETB is focusing on situations and skill sets to project the fantasy viability of the NBA rookie class of 2007.

Kevin Durant, Seattle: Ladies and Gents, your Rookie of the Year. I’m projecting 18 ppg, 5 boards, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals on 43% FGs and 79% FTs. He should go off the board anywhere after the 4th round of your fantasy drafts. We saw a microcosm of his season on Friday in summer league when he showed that he’s capable of creating his shot at this level, but also that he needs some seasoning. Durant finished with 18 points (on a weak 5/17 FGs) and knocked down all eight of his FTs. With the playing time freed up by the departures of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, expect production from the outset.

Greg Oden, Portland: As I mentioned earlier today, Oden’s terrible performance on Friday has done little to diminish my enthusiasm. The guy has a sinus infection. I think we can expect something in the neighborhood of 11 ppg, 8 boards and 2.3 blocks on 50% FGs from the big fella. He’s going to take a while to adjust to the speed of the pro game, but it’s his adjustment to NBA officiating that’s really going to represent a steep learning curve. That makes him an excellent buy-low candidate right around the end of December who will, for fantasy purposes, be in the top half of starting centers for 2008. He should be an 8th round pick.

Al Horford, Atlanta: Horford is stepping into a nice situation with a team that likes to run and is in need of a true post scorer. He should take a bunch of minutes from Zaza Pachulia and bust Sheldon Williams from day one. 11 ppg, 8 boards and 1.5 blocks with an nice FG% is a reasonable expectation, making him a 12th or 13th round pick. He’s already a very strong player with nice length and good leaping ability. He also finishes very well, which should be good for a few buckets on the Hawk’s fast break. While he doesn’t have great range yet, he does have soft hands down low and plays tough D which will result in respectable rebound and block numbers. He’s already the best power forward on the Atlanta roster.

Mike Conley JrMike Conley Jr, Memphis: Conley is ready to play in the NBA right now, and that’s good because the Grizz are in dire need of a playmaker who can guard opposing PGs. He isn’t a solid outside shooter just yet, but the quick feet and hands will translate into fantasy production right away. He’ll also be running a fast break that features Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay and feeding Pao Gasol inside for easy assists. If he gets the minutes, I see 10 points, 6 assists and 1.8 steals as a baseline estimate this year with a chance for a lot more. Teams picking after the 9th round in need of PG skills (assists and steals) need look no further. In his first summer league contest Conley posted 12 points, 5 boards and just 2 dimes, but the assists will come.This is an athlete with great court vision who is mentally tough, can finish around the basket, handles the ball extremely well and will be a staple of fantasy squads for years to come.

Yi Jianlian, Milwuakee?: Everybody who’s familiar with YouTube was a fan on Yi months ago. The inveitable comparisons will be to Yao Ming, the best center in the NBA right now, but those aren’t entirely accurate. Yi is a 7-footer, but he’s not a center his game is completely different. He’s much quicker and more athletic than Yao, and his offense isn’t the strict back-to-the-basket repertoire of Yao. He looks to run the floor very well, he seems to play with more emotion and he has a flare for the dramatic dunk and block that the humble Ming has never displayed. Yi averaged 20.5 points and 9.6 rebounds in China two years ago and putup 24.8 points and 11.4 rebounds this season. In the first summer league game (playing for Team China, not the Bucks . . .) he put up 23 points on 7/15 FGs to go with 4 boards. He’ll likely take a year or two of bulking up and adjusting to NBA basketball to start tapping into his potential, but I’m projecting 13 points, 4 boards and 1 block this year making him a fantasy option . . . just barely.

Corey Brewer, Minnesota: Brewer is a major talent, but like Yi he’s going to need to bulk up in order to play with NBA forwards. The Wolves were very hesitant to use a more NBA-ready Randy Foy early last season, so expect limited minutes in the early going. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brewer post 12 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and 1.5 steals this year which would make him fantasy viable in the later stages of your draft. Those are generous estimates though. Brewer is already a good shooter outside who can take it to the basket and score, but because he’s the best defender in this draft his game on that end of the floor will earn him more minutes as the year wears on. In addition to the defense, he’s also skilled without the ball on offense and I think Brewer has to be considered ahead of Rashad McCants on the depth chart already.

Other Rookies to Keep an Eye On:
Jeff Green
Brandan Wright, Golden State Jason Richardson’s departure leaves a chunk of minutes to be accounted for and Don Nelson isn’t afraid to dole out playing time to young and talented players, so Wright could see minutes right away. Nelson’s offense is extremely fantasy-friendly to anybody on the court offensively, and Wright could also be a surprise source of blocks.

Joakim Noah, Chicago: There are rebounds to be had in Chicago so Joakim could start piling up boards and a nice FG% around the hoop right off the bat. The health and age concerns of Ben Wallace have the potential to open major minutes for Noah, who is Big Ben’s eventual replacement in most respects.

Jeff Green, Seattle: Green has a nice all-around game and he’s ready to score at the NBA level. The Sonics are in a full rebuilding mode so there’s little reason to keep this talented youngster on the bench. With Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen gone, there are about 80 minutes per game to be had.

Spencer Hawes, Sacramento: Hawes might be a major offensive talent in the league down the road, but his game is already so polished that he’s capable of making a modest impact now. Brad Miller had a disappointing, injury-plagued campaign, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is fading fast and the undersized Kenny Thomas just isn’t that good so Hawes could be asked to step up.


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