2014 Draft Prep: Busts for Draft Day, 1.0
Which players simply won't live up to their Draft Day value this season? Our Joe Polito breaks down the options you might want to avoid in his first go at busts for 2014-15.
The start of the NBA is season in still weeks away, but it takes time to determine appropriate Fantasy values to all the guards, forwards and centers fit to draft. Some picks, no matter how talented, end up disappointing you. We're looking at you, third-round Josh Smith. Don't laugh, fourth-round Roy Hibbert. You were probably the biggest bust of them all.
How do we avoid making such tragic Fantasy Basketball decisions? It begins with defining the term "bust." A bust isn't a bad basketball player necessarily. He might not even be a player you dislike. Calling someone a bust just means you think they'll get drafted higher than what they're really worth. Keep that in mind while reading through this list. For one reason or another, I foresee these 12 players getting over-drafted for the coming season.
Joakim Noah, C, Bulls
When Derrick Rose went down yet again last season, the Bulls turned to their defensive captain to also play the role of facilitator. The result was a monstrous second half of the season for Joakim Noah. From Week 12 to Week 24, Noah averaged a whopping 39 Fantasy points per game. He was even better in Roto leagues over that span, with his 6.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks per game greatly enhancing his value.
But not only is Mr. Rose back with the Bulls, Noah's team got a lot deeper this offseason. The continued growth of Taj Gibson combined with additions of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott should lead to a decreased workload for Noah. Simply put, the Bulls will hardly lean on Noah at all on the offensive end. His hustle stats will still be there, and he'll still be one of the best passing big men in the league, but he'll have his superstar point guard back in addition to another high-assist big playing alongside him -- not to mention a cast of eager contributors waiting in the wings. Even if you think his numbers won't suffer that much, Noah is a perpetual injury risk. He's missed an entire season's worth of games over his seven years in the league. With his dominant second half fresh in their minds, your fellow Fantasy owners might be inclined to take Noah as soon as the third round, but I'm steering clear of him that early.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks
There might not be a trendier player in the NBA than the long-armed youngster referred to glowingly as "the Greek Freak." He's closing in on seven feet, has the ball skills of a guard and possesses a wingspan as wide as Rick Smits is tall (7-foot-4). We've seen him steal a ball and go coast-to-coast in two dribbles and finish with a dunk. With all that said, I probably won't get him in any of my yearly leagues.
Is he worth a gamble? Absolutely. Before the eighth round? I'm afraid not. Do you know how many 19-year-olds have averaged 10-plus points, 5-plus rebounds and 25-plus minutes while shooting better than 45 percent from the field? Four: Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis. And none of them had another high-usage prospect like Jabari Parker playing next to them.
So even if you draft Antetokounmpo in the ninth round this season, you're still asking him to be one of the best 19-year-olds of all time. That's when bargain veterans like Arron Afflalo and Jamal Crawford will be going off the board. He'll be 20 in December, and the list of guys who produced at that age is much larger, but you're still dealing with mostly future hall of famers like LeBron James, Chris Webber and Kobe Bryant. I can definitely see a day in the not-so-distant future when the Greek Freak is a Roto beast, but I think we're still a few seasons away. If he's truly a shooting guard like all those hyping him are trying to claim, his breakout will probably be delayed even more so.
Trevor Ariza, F, Rockets
Chandler Parsons is out, and Trevor Ariza is in for Houston. They both play small forward, but that's about all the two of them have in common. I'll admit that Ariza outpaced my expectations by finishing 14th in the league with 180 made 3-pointers. He'll still have plenty of opportunities from deep, but the 6.2 rebounds he averaged per game last year in Washington will be much harder to come by as long as Dwight Howard patrols the paint.
The return on Ariza last season was fantastic considering his 10th-round average draft position, but I'm not willing to take him before the middle rounds this year. In an industry analyst Roto draft I participated in last month, Ariza went in the middle of the fourth -- right before I selected Parsons. The volume threes were great last year, but without John Wall spoon-feeding him in the corner, I'm betting against Ariza meeting early round expectations. Small forward is shallow and the Rockets play at a great pace for Fantasy, but I'm spending my early-to-mid-round picks elsewhere.
Isaiah Thomas, G, Suns
This one hurts because Thomas is one of the most exciting players in the league. Whether fair or not, he's continually been considered too short to be a team's primary point guard. I'm happy that he chose Phoenix in free agency because the Suns' style of play will be a happy medium between giving Thomas the keys to the offense and rendering him a backup to a taller more "traditional" point guard. The Suns play an exciting brand of small ball, which could afford Thomas ample shots and minutes over the course of a season. The problem is he has two extremely talented combo guards with which to share the ball.
There wasn't much separating Thomas from Kyrie Irving last season, which speaks to his still untapped potential. He averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 34.7 minutes per game. But unfortunately, if you draft him based on those numbers, you're likely in for a rude awakening. Goran Dragic is entering his prime and Eric Bledsoe is pretty much a more versatile version of what Thomas brings to the table. He'll have a pretty solid Jamal Crawford-like role in his fourth year, but point guard is so deep that I'm willing to pass him up through the first five rounds at least. There's great upside if you can be patient and snag him in the middle of your draft, but it will take an injury or a trade for Thomas to live up to last year's numbers.
Darren Collison, G, Clippers
Speaking of Isaiah Thomas, his replacement Darren Collison has his work cut out for him. The Kings claim they wanted a more "traditional" starting point guard, but based on Collison's track record, they went the complete opposite direction. Even in his biggest role, logging 31.3 minutes per game for Indiana three seasons ago, Collison failed to eclipse 5.0 assists per game for the season. He only averaged 5.2 assists per 36 minutes with the Clippers, and he'll probably find that dishing to Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins isn't as easy as the high-flying duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Comparing his old and new teammates' unassisted field goal percentages gives you an idea of just how different Los Angeles is from Sacramento. Cousins and Gay scored unassisted field goals 47.7 and 65.9 percent of the time last season, respectively. Meanwhile, Griffin and Jordan went unassisted on just 34.8 and 25.6 percent of their field goals. Translation: the high-flying Clippers are much easier to assist to than the plodding, isolation-prone pillars in Sacramento. Collison will be Kemba Walker Lite at best, and I'm looking for more out of my Fantasy point guard if he comes at a mid-round price. If you want a value pick at the point, go for Jeremy Lin or Brandon Jennings before Collison.
Pau Gasol, F, Bulls
Chicago has championship aspirations, boasting perhaps the deepest team in the NBA. A big part of that was rescuing Pau Gasol from Laker irrelevance in free agency. Yet even with the departure of Carlos Boozer, Gasol is looking at a situation where he's moreso a luxury than a cornerstone. At 34 years old, Gasol will likely play limited regular-season minutes to preserve him for the Bulls' playoff run and to minimize the injury risk that's plagued his entire career. Last season his 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game were more a product of the Lakers' lack of options than they were him being some kind of ageless wonder. He still missed 22 games and is probably more concerned with adding to his ring count than padding his stats at this point.
We've seen Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan continue to produce great numbers in the twilight of their careers, but they are both dominant specialists. Gasol, on the other hand, has always been effective through versatility. Even a healthy Gasol can only contribute so much on the stat sheet with the newfound depth Chicago boasts. I'm expecting him to drop everywhere but assists, meaning I'd target him beginning in the sixth round to leave room for younger, higher usage options at power forward.
Jodie Meeks, G, Pistons
Meeks killed it for the Lakers last season, but everyone kind of killed it for the Lakers depending on how many minutes/shots they got. With injuries to Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and the trade of Steve Blake, Meeks became their de facto point guard at times, and once he had the ball, he usually produced some kind of stat with it. Stan Van Gundy spent a pretty penny to bring him to Detroit, but there he'll be performing a run-around and jack-threes type of role that works to complement the Pistons' stout frontcourt. Looking at what J.J. Redick did in Orlando offers a good glimpse at what Meeks might be in store for. Redick didn't become Fantasy relevant until his last season in Orlando, and that was only because Dwight Howard was gone. Meeks will have three Howard-sized workloads to compete with in the frontcourt (Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe) -- not to mention Brandon Jennings, who attempted 14 field goals per game for Detroit last season. The Pistons are also deep at point guard, meaning Meeks won't have to step into that role at all this season. He'll make a good amount of threes and have a stellar free-throw percentage, but the opportunity to go off in the scoring column just won't be there like it was in Los Angeles.
Tobias Harris, F, Magic
The last thing Harris' Fantasy value needed was another talented tweener joining the group, but alas – the Magic drafted Aaron Gordon in the first round. So between Harris, Gordon, Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson, Orlando has four young guys who can play either the three or the four. Harris' best stats come when he's put at power forward, where he can drive by slow guys and post up small guys. But Orlando added Channing Frye in the offseason, who will likely be the team's best shooter. Harris stayed productive even when he didn't start, averaging 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 25 games off the bench, but it's very difficult to see him reaching 30 minutes per game with this new roster. His situation seems similar to Ersan Ilyasova's last year. We know he's talented and we know he can produce in Fantasy, but we just don't know where he lands in the hierarchy of playing time compared to the other budding Magic players. The upside he's exhibited in spots the last two seasons will probably still emerge only in bursts, and those moments might be even more infrequent this year.
Andre Drummond, C, Pistons
My colleague Chris Towers called him a bust last year, but it seems like he was a year too early. Drummond met expectations and cemented himself as one of the NBA's best young big men. But will he take another step forward? Not enough to warrant his early round price tag. If you compare Drummond's stats last season to DeAndre Jordan's, they're almost identical. Jordan got outscored by three points per game, but blocked a shot more per game and shot more efficiently from the field and slightly better from the free throw line. Of course Drummond has more upside, but why gamble on the Detroit frontcourt mess when you can get Jordan a few rounds later? It sounds like Stan Van Gundy plans to play Josh Smith at the four more this year, meaning Drummond probably won't reach the 32.3 minutes per game he averaged last season. Unless they trade Greg Monroe, there will be a sizable glut in the paint that will affect Drummond's production. So if you're going to gamble on upside, do it with a less crowded situation. He's very talented and capable of producing without being a part of the gameplan, but right now Drummond is a specialist with a superstar asking price.
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