Draft prep: Central Division Preview
Sergio Gonzalez previews the Central Division from a Fantasy standpoint and offers projected starting lineups as well as what to keep an eye on in the preseason with each team.
Heading into the start of the NBA preseason, we offer a team-by-team look, including projected starting lineups and what to watch for in October as each team sets their rotations for the start of the regular season on Oct. 28.
Expected Starters: PG Kirk Hinrich,
SG Larry Hughes, SF Luol Deng, PF Drew Gooden, C Joakim Noah
What to watch: Kirk Hinrich vs. Derrick Rose (PG); Frontcourt
Fantasy Analysis: Aside from Greg Oden last year due to injury, the last No. 1 overall pick who didn't make much of an impact in his rookie season was Michael Olowokandi for the Clippers back in 1998. Since '98, though, each and every No. 1 overall pick has been drafted into a position where they were made to start right away. Derrick Rose is very likely not going to start the season in the starting lineup, but that could change in the preseason. It will be interesting to see how the Bulls approach a back court rotation that will consist of Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes and Ben Gordon. But the Bulls aren't just crowded in the backcourt, they also have some congestion up front. Luol Deng is a lock. Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah should start up front. But what about Andres Nocioni and Tyrus Thomas? The team wanted to trade Nocioni in the offseason, but didn't find a deal they liked. So he's likely going to be lost in a shuffle of big men barring an injury or a trade. He's very productive when getting minutes, but will where will he fit in?
Expected Starters: PG Mo Williams,
SG Wally Szczerbiak, SF LeBron James, PF Ben Wallace, C Zydrunas Ilgauskas
What to watch: Mo Williams; Delonte West vs. Daniel Gibson
Fantasy Analysis: The Cavs have finally made some moves to give LeBron James some help. The biggest of those moves was the addition of Mo Williams to give LeBron the best point guard he's played alongside in the NBA. Williams has been a Fantasy beast the last two seasons in Milwaukee, averaging just over 17 points and six assists. But in Cleveland, LeBron handles the ball most of the time. So while Williams could continue to enjoy success putting the ball in the basket, the assist totals could easily dip. Keep an eye on the dynamics of the James-Williams relationship in the preseason. The addition of Williams has reduced the likes of Daniel Gibson and Delonte West to have to scratch and claw for minutes. Keep an eye on them in the preseason to see who emerges the more useful option.
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Expected Starters: PG Chauncey Billups,
SG Richard Hamilton, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Amir Johnson, C Rasheed Wallace
What to watch: Amir Johnson vs. Jason Maxiell
Fantasy Analysis: The Pistons will have their core back for at least the first half of the season after Joe Dumars, the president of Basketball Operations, tried and could not find a deal that he liked for any of his players. They return basically the same starting lineup, with likely one change. Antonio McDyess is expected to return to a backup role after starting last season, giving someone new a chance to crack a rotation that became a bit stale in 2007 for the first time during the team's prolonged run of success. Amir Johnson seems to have the heads up going into the season to start at the power forward slot. But Jason Maxiell has real promising upside and could be playing for a contract this season if he does not take a contract extension he has on the table from the Pistons by Oct. 31. Antonio McDyess is expected to see the same amount of playing time as last season at the four coming off the bench, but that may depend upon who cracks the rotation. There is some real sleeper potential here with Johnson or Maxiell.
Expected Starters: PG T.J. Ford,
SG Danny Granger, SF Mike Dunleavy, PF Troy Murphy, C Jeff Foster
What to watch: T.J. Ford vs. Jarrett Jack; Jamaal Tinsley
Fantasy Analysis: When the Pacers traded Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors for T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic in the offseason, most people believed it meant Ford was a lock to start at the point in 2008 for Indiana. But the team has left the competition open between Ford and Jarrett Jack. Ford is still the favorite, but the competition is worth keeping an eye on in the preseason. One thing seems certain, though. Jamaal Tinsley will not be the team's starting (or backup, or third string) point guard this fall. The interesting thing will be to see if he ends up being traded, waived or if the team just has to eat his contract and doesn't let him play.
Expected Starters: PG Luke Ridnour,
SG Michael Redd, SF Richard Jefferson, PF Charlie Villanueva,
C Andrew Bogut
What to watch: Luke Ridnour vs. Ramon Sessions
Fantasy Analysis: The Bucks got rid of Mo Williams in the offseason, which appeared to clear the way for Ramon Sessions to follow up on his strong finish from a year ago. He averaged 13.1 points, 13.1 assists and 5.6 rebounds in seven starts toward the end of last season and became a Fantasy hero off the waiver wire in Fantasy playoffs. But the Bucks don't trust Sessions just yet and decided to bring in veteran Luke Ridnour. Ridnour is penciled in as the starter to begin the season, but it should become clear fairly soon whether or not Sessions was just a fluke or if he really has what it takes to be the point guard of the future in Milwaukee. Ridnour is a serviceable stopgap, who'll be worth owning in larger Fantasy leagues because he'll get about 30 minutes per game to start the season.
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