2010-11 NBA Preview: Western Conference

Finally, the most hyped NBA season since the days of Jordan is upon us. Tonight’s game between the Heat and the Celtics is already being billed as a preview of the Eastern Conference Championship and floor seats for the game are going for over $3,000. If you have been paying too much attention to the MLB Playoffs and your fantasy football team, this column is for you. The following is run down of each team in each conference from first to 15th with a special fantasy focus section for studs, duds and sleepers on each team. Enjoy; I know I will this season.

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are back and looking for a three-peat in 2011. Bryant’s offseason surgery will slow him down at the start but he should be fine by the playoffs. Pau Gasol is one of the best pivot men in the business and Ron Artest and Lamar Odom bring some real versatility to this team. Andrew Bynum is the big question mark due to injury as usual. If he is healthy this team should be considered a favorite for the title, however he is not. Derek Fisher is back at the point but will lose time to newcomer Steve Blake. New additions Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff join Shannon Brown, Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic on the bench. Rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter are intriguing prospects but should not have an impact this year.

Studs: Bryant, Gasol

Duds: Bynum

Sleepers: Odom (will start with Bynum down), Blake (could start for Fisher by end of season)

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs appear to be loaded this year and should have no problem grabbing the two seed in the West. Dirk Nowitzki is a top-5 player and Jason Kidd still runs an offense just as well as anyone. Look for Caron Butler to find his groove again in his first full season with Dallas. Jason “The Jet” Terry will be gunning off the bench while offseason addition Tyson Chandler will split time with Brendan Haywood at center. Don’t forget about Shawn Marion who will now come off the bench. The sleeper here is Roddy Beaubois even though he is hurt right now. Once he is healthy he should take over the starting two-guard role. Rookie Dominique Jones and J.J. Barea will hold it down until he returns.

Studs: Nowitzki

Duds: Haywood, Chandler (will cancel each other out)

Sleepers: Butler (down after an injury plagued year), Beaubois

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are the New England Patriots of the NBA. They are always competitive under Greg Popovich and rotate in new, younger players when they need to but rely on the strength of Tim Duncan (Tom Brady) in crunch time. It is one of the older teams in the league but San Antone does have a good influx of talent. Manu Ginobili will start and appears healthy; same goes for Tony Parker. Richard Jefferson looks to rebound from an atrocious first season with the Spurs. Former Pitt Panther DeJuan Blair will start at center and is one of the better sleepers this year. Rookie Tiago Splitter has finally made his way to the NBA and will back up both Blair and Duncan. George Hill is very interesting as rumors swirled in the offseason that Parker could be traded, making hill the starting 1. Keep an eye on this situation. Rookie James Anderson, newcomer Bobby Simmons and old-reliable, Matt Bonner make up the rest of the bench.

Studs: Duncan

Duds: Jefferson (needs to prove last year was a fluke)

Sleepers: Blair, Hill

Oklahoma City Thunder

How good is Kevin Durant? Good enough to take this team to the Western Conference Finals? Possibly. They sky is the limit for the Durantula. He does not have to do it alone however, as Russel Westbrook proved this summer at the World Championships. Jeff Green is the number three option on this team and is just a solid player that does it all. James Harden will start the season as the sixth man but could eventually beat out Thabo Sefolosha for the starting job. Serge Ibaka should start at center while Nenad Krstic rehabs from injury and Nick Collison will backup both the 4 and the 5. Don’t expect too much from Cole Aldrich who has had major issues staying out of foul trouble in the preseason. Eric Maynor, Daequan Cook and Mo Peterson will all see time off the bench.

Studs: Durant, Westbrook

Duds: Sefolosha, Krstic

Sleepers: Harden, Green (could end up being a stud)

Utah Jazz

The Jazz looked to be in turmoil after losing Mehmet Okur to injury and Carlos Boozer to the Bulls, but ended up possibly coming out better than they went in after traded for Al Jefferson. Big Al will team up with Deron Williams to make this a very exciting team. Both players should be primed for huge years. Paul Millsap also moves into the starting lineup and should be solid at the 4. Andrei Kirilenko is finally healthy hopes to return to his 2006-07 form. Raja Bell is the new starting shooting guard and will be great on the defensive end and from the three-point line. Rookie Gordon Hayward may actually see some playing time while Earl Watson will back up Williams.

Studs: Williams, Jefferson

Duds: Okur (may lose starting job)

Sleepers: Bell

Portland Trailblazers

Portland always seems to be on the cusp of making a run and this year is no different. Health is a huge factor for the Blazers. It is Brandon Roy’s team and they need him healthy to make it deep into the playoffs. Same goes for Marcus Camby who is back at center. LaMarcus Aldridge has been a solid power forward for a couple years now, but needs to take a jump forward for this team to challenge the top three. Andre Miller suits this team well at the point while Nicolas Batum appears ready to grab hold of the starting small forward spot with the departures of Martel Webster and Travis Outlaw. Portland paid a lot for Wes Matthews in the offseason but he should be a sixth man on this squad. Rudy Fernandez is still with the Blazers and appears to have accepted his role off the bench. Greg Oden is also still there but cannot be counted on for anything until January.

Studs: Roy

Duds: Oden

Sleepers: Batum, Fernandez (if they end up dealing him)

Houston Rockets

The Rockets have a talented and deep roster, but need Yao Ming healthy for them to truly contend. Rick Adelman has already stated that Yao will not play more than 24 minutes in a game and will not play on back-to-back days. This caps the potential of the team in 2010-11. Kevin Martin begins his first full season in Houston and if he can stay healthy, he could potentially be looking at an All-Star year. However, he has not made it through and entire season unscathed yet. Aaron Brooks had a coming out party last year and while he will continue to be productive, there are just too many mouths to feed. Luis Scola proved he can play last year but will lose time to new addition Brad Miller (who will also back up Yao) and rookie Patrick Patterson. Shane Battier will start at small forward while Chase Budinger and Courtney Lee (brought over in the Trevor Ariza deal) will fight for minutes.

Studs: none (unless Martin stays healthy)

Duds: Yao (not worth the risk)

Sleepers: Budinger (if he gets the minutes)

Denver Nuggets

Believe it or not, Carmelo Anthony is still on the Nuggets. As long as he is, this team has a chance at the Playoffs. The potential of a trade still remains and must be monitored throughout the season. Chauncey Billups still maintains the moniker of “Mr. Big Shot” and will need to keep it for the team to be successful. Nene has been one of the better centers in the West over the past few years and appears to be over the injuries that plagued him in the past. Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith will split time at the 2 and Shelden Williams will fill in at the 4 while Kenyon Martin, Chris Anderson and Al Harrington are out with injuries. Harrington could play on opening night, but Martin and Anderson will be out for at least a few months. Ty Lawson is a great player but needs an injury to see significant playing time.

Studs: Anthony

Duds: Martin

Sleepers: Lawson (needs playing time)

Phoenix Suns

Steve Nash has openly questioned where this team is going after letting Amar’e Stoudemire go and filling his spot with more small forwards than the St. John’s 2011-12 recruiting class. Hedo Turkoglu could play out of position at the 4, but has not looked good in the preseason. Hakim Warrick looks likely to take over the spot. Jason Richardson is back and in a contract year, which bodes well for his outlook. The Suns also traded for Josh Childress who will see a lot of playing time once he gets over a fractured finger tip. Robin Lopez and Channing Frye play exact opposite styles but actually compliment each other well in the post. Grant Hill is still healthy but is another year older and will try and hold off Childress, Turkoglu, Jared Dudley and last year’s first rounder Earl Clark for playing time. If this team can find an identity early, they should make the playoffs.

Studs: Nash

Duds: Turkoglu (has not played well since he left Orlando)

Sleepers: Childress, Warrick

New Orleans Hornets

All summer it appeared there was no way that Chris Paul would remain on the Hornets, but on Opening Night he will be in uniform and Darren Collison will not. Collison was shipped to Indiana while Trevor Ariza arrives in NOLA. He should form a fun pairing with Paul as they alley-oop up and down the floor. David West and Emeka Okafor return on the front line and should be very productive as long as they can remain on the court and off the sidelines. Marco Belinelli is the new starting shooting guard after Marcus Thornton has fallen hard into the doghouse. The Hornets also traded a first round pick last week to bring in Jerryd Bayless, who could end up filling Collison’s old role quite well. Peja Stojakovic is strictly a gunner off the bench.

Studs: Paul

Duds: Thornton

Sleepers: Bayless (monitor playing time closely in the first month)

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizz proved they are no longer a doormat last year and have one of the steadiest lineups in the League. Rudy Gay is back as the $80 million man while Zach Randolph racks up fantasy stats every night. O.J. Mayo is an exciting player but will need to take the next step in his development in order for this team to compete for a playoff spot. Mike Conley will also need to improve upon last year’s solid season and has looked good in the preseason. Marc Gasol, the burly younger brother of Pau, is a banger down low and an excellent rebounder but may lose some time to Hasheem Thabeet. Former Celtic Tony Allen, rookie Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur, Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll round out the rotation.

Studs: Randolph

Duds: you can’t go wrong with any of their starters

Sleepers: Henry (deep sleeper; do not draft), Thabeet

Los Angeles Clippers

Most Clipper fans hear this every year, but for the first time in a long time, things are looking up for the other LA team. Blake Griffin is healthy after missing his true rookie season and should compete for Rookie of the Year honors with John Wall. Griffin will pair with Chris Kaman to form and intimidating front line. Eric Gordon got to showcase his skills over the summer at the World Championships needs to do more than just score. The key to this team is Baron Davis. If he plays well, and usually does when the team is winning and the fans are into it, the Clippers could make a run at the final playoff seed in the West. The bench is formidable with Randy Foye, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Gomes and Al-Farouq Aminu joing holdovers Craig Smith and DeAndre Jordan. Rausal Butler should be the starter at small forward on opening night.

Studs: Griffin

Duds: Butler (small forward could become a fluid position for this team)

Sleepers: Aminu (played very well in preseason, could claim SF spot)

Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry’s squad has new uni’s and new life in 2010-11 but will need a lot of help to push for the playoffs this season. Curry was a top-five fantasy player last year and opened a lot of eyes of basketball pundits on the court as well. The former Davidson star combines with Monta Ellis to form possibly the quickest backcourt in the Association. The Warriors traded for David Lee in the offseason and expect him to fit seamlessly into their up-tempo offense. Andris Biedrins will be the starting center, but after an injury plagued 2009-10 and a tough preseason, he is showing a lot of rust. Reggie Williams, Dorrell Wright and Vladimir Radmonovic will all fight for playing time at the three, with Williams holding the best potential for a breakout year.

Studs: Curry, Ellis, Lee

Duds: Biedrins

Sleepers: Williams

Sacramento Kings

The Kings are officially Tyreke Evans’ team. Unfortunately, there is not enough around him for this squad to make a run this year. Carl Landry was a good addition at the deadline last season and early indications are that anyone who had the chance to draft DeMarcus Cousins and didn’t, made a big mistake. This issue in SacTo is that there are too many players for too few positions. Holdover Jason Thompson started for much of last season and the squad traded for Samuel Dalembert who will significantly cut into Cousins playing time once he is healthy. Small forward is also a wash. Donte Greene will start, but Omri Casspi, Fancisco Garcia and Antoine Wright will also see time. The only other position that is firmly entrenched is Beno Udrih at point guard.

Studs: Evans

Duds: Greene (too many other players)

Sleepers: Cousins (could prove to be too good not to play)

Minnesota Timeberwolves

Could a team featuring Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley really be picked anywhere but last? Believe it or not, both will have fantasy value this year but it will not translate to wins on the court. Kevin Love has been an absolute beast in the preseason and should become the face of the franchise. Luke Ridnour will hold down the point guard job until Jonny Flynn returns from offseason surgery. First rounder Wes Johnson, newcomer Martell Webster and holdover Corey Brewer have all been injured this preseason and it looks as though Wayne Ellington will start at shooting guard. Each of these players should have value at some point this year, but it will cancel each other out.

Studs: Love

Duds: Brewer

Sleepers: Johnson

Advertisements

2 Responses

  1. DURANT should be in capital letters because of his STUDLINESS!

  2. Blake Griffin looked like a 20 point 10 rebound guy in his debut. He is mature beyond his years, and has the game to compete at an All-Star level in his rookie year. He should enter the dunk contest this year, because he has the talent and ability to win.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: