Kyrie Irving, Cleveland: Assuming LeBron James and Kevin Love coming to town will be a match made in heaven is a stretch. In terms of team victories, of course the acquisitions will have a positive effect. The Cavs, according to Bovada.lv, are 5/2 favorites to win the 2014-15 NBA Championship. In terms of Kyrie’s Fantasy output, the addition of LeBron is not as welcomed. Guards who have grown accustomed to handling the ball a majority of the time do not tend to mesh well with LeBron in year one. Mo Williams joined the Cavaliers in 2008. In the previous three years combined before joining the team, Williams averaged 5.69 assists per game (APG) … or if you include his rookie year, the total for the four previous years was 4.94. When he teamed up with LeBron, he took a back seat in the ball handling department and temporarily morphed into a pure shooter. His assists in year number one dropped all the way down to 4.1 per game. Having never attempted more than 3.5 3-pointers, he attempted 5.2 in his first season with the Cavs/LeBron. He also made one more 3-pointer per game than he ever had that year. Fast forward to 2010-11 when he joined the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade had produced at least 6.5 APG in six straight seasons before LeBron came to town. Their first season together? Wade’s assists plummeted all the way down to 4.6 per game. Does this mean Irving is going to be a bad player? Absolutely not. He’s incredibly talented. However, getting used to playing with LeBron is not easy even for All-Star caliber guards. Irving likely will follow Williams’ path and focus on scoring as opposed to distributing. Jeff McInnis was the exception to the rule and his assists actually increased his first year with LeBron. Two caveats: it was LeBron’s rookie year and McInnis only played 31 games. So is it impossible for Irving to exceed his production last year with LeBron? No but history says it’s unlikely. For that reason, he is lower in the RotoExperts rankings than many other sites.
PROJECTION: 19 points per game (PPG), 2.3 3-pointers (3PT), 5.2 APG, 1.5 steals per game (SPG)
Derrick Rose, Chicago: Talent is never the problem for Rose but rather the health of his increasingly worrisome knees. In 2011, Rose only played 39 games due to various injuries. His statistics took a step backwards from his MVP season the year before but health was clearly to blame. During Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers that year, Derrick Rose tore the ACL of his left knee attempting a jump. Rose missed all of the following season, although, he began full contact practice the following January. His much awaited return happened on October 5, 2013, in a preseason game against the Pacers. Hopes were once again high for the former MVP. After just 10 subpar, 35.4 percent FG filled regular season games, Rose then tore his right meniscus. Unlike the previous season, the Bulls immediately announced he was out for the season instead of letting uncertainty linger on. Rose practiced and played for the 2014 USA FIBA National Team this summer. This was his first real competition post-meniscus tear. After sitting out practices and exhibitions here and there, his performance was frankly subpar for the National Team when he played. However, all his and his coaches comments continue to echo the notion there is a monster season coming for Rose. That is where Fantasy owners stand heading into 2014-15; injury history versus optimistic quotes. He comes with as much upside as any player in basketball but will likely sit games to keep him healthy. Although that isn’t typically Tom Thibodeau’s style, Tom has now watched his superstar go down twice. Even he can’t deny Rose needs to be preserved. He’s too risky for a first or second round pick. In the third round, he’s worth a shot but his health could fall apart again at any moment.
Jrue Holiday, New Orleans: Recovering from shin surgery, Holiday will be brought along slowly in training camp. According to Holiday, he’s at “70 percent” at this moment. The team will be monitoring his workload extra closely to avoid setbacks. Holiday’s situation last season was a downgrade from the season prior where he ran the point for a team devoid of talent or other ball handlers. His points per game dropped by almost 3.5 per game while most of his other statistics held strong. This year, the whole Pelicans roster will come into the year healthy including Ryan Anderson. The sharp shooter played 22 games last year scoring 19.8 PPG. Then he suffered a herniated disc in his neck and head/neck injuries are never good. Although there’s still skepticism around whether he’ll be at 100 percent this season, he says he’s feeling great and will be ready for Opening Night. Eric Gordon has been impressing teammates and coaches at training camp as he too is supposedly fully healthy. Combine the return of Anderson and Gordon with the addition of Omer Asik and the roster is loaded. More production elsewhere means the team will need to rely less on Holiday’s scoring output. Both Tyreke Evans and Gordon demand the ball in their hand as well, so Holiday’s assists could tick down as a result if they all stay healthy. There are a lot of “ifs” here which is why Holiday is a risky proposition. With this rejuvenated roster, Holiday will be just a role player as opposed to a difference maker.
Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix: The snub of the offseason award goes to Thomas. What were the Sacramento Kings thinking allowing Thomas to walk and filling his shoes with Darren Collison? Did they not watch him develop into one of the games better point guards right in front of their eyes? Collison signed for three years, $16 million as opposed to Thomas’ four-year, $27 million deal with the Suns. Again it makes no sense, but oh well. The result of this whole debacle was the syphoning of most of Thomas’ Fantasy value. Of the three guards on the Suns, he is the biggest loser. He will be coming off the bench for the Suns who developed chemistry with one another last season when they missed the playoffs by one game. While there should be a slight downtick to all three of the guards, coming off the bench will result in the most inconsistency of the three. He’s still worth drafting and will have big nights on occasion. The major allure around owning Thomas is the possibility either Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe go down with injury. Otherwise, he will be over-drafted due to his excellent numbers last season that are all destined to decline in his new situation.
Monta Ellis, Dallas: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the team’s new backcourt additions, Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton, will, “take some pressure off Monta.” For Fantasy owners, this is not a good thing. Ellis will turn 29 years old before the tip of the 2014-15 NBA season and has been most effective throughout his career when given the ball handling responsibilities. Monta’s shooting percentage last year matched a five year high. Dallas allowed him to dominate the ball whereas his two year stint in Milwaukee included Brandon Jennings. Jose Calderon took on the role of a shooter as he launched by far the most three pointers of his long career. With Nelson and Felton in the house, Ellis will start taking on an uncomfortable role for him once again. Not to mention Chandler Parsons joins the team and takes over Shawn Marion’s spot. The offense should improve but Parsons could also take a point or two off the top from Ellis. Monta’s points have declined in four straight seasons and do not expect that trend to stop. If Ellis dips under 19 PPG, the category enhancing his value, he will bust as a third rounder.
Dwyane Wade, Miami: Remember the conversation on Derrick Rose’s knees? Wade’s knees are in a similar bad place and will never again be the same. His goal is to play 82 games this season. On an unrelated note, every American’s goal is to end poverty. Neither of those scenarios are happening this season. Wade has missed at least 13 games in three straight seasons and at least 17 in two of the last three. Fellow RotoExperts writer Elliot Solop loves Wade this year but drafting him requires a leap of faith on a 32-year-old’s declining health. Like Ellis, his scoring is declining by the year except his streak is now at five consecutive years. His rebounds, assists, steals and blocks declined last year. Sure it can be argued it was due to health, but what about age? He’s old by NBA standards plus he doesn’t shoot 3-pointers hardly at all anymore. Take him if you’re feeling lucky but the odds of Wade being a jackpot pick are deteriorating with his knees.
Arron Afflalo, Denver: Situation downgrade. From number one scorer to scoring option number 2A at best, possibly as low as option four, is quite the difference from his role in Orlando. This is not a positive turn of events by any means for a player who is essentially a pure scorer in Fantasy. Afflalo offers owners hardly any rebounds or steals and absolutely zero blocks. He blocked three shots in 73 games last season. The 18-plus PPG last season will likely catapult his average draft position this season but do not buy it. The points and assists will both likely come down which are both of his greatest assets. If selected in the top 80 picks, he will not provide value.
Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers: At 34 years old, playing in a crowded backcourt, do not expect another 18 plus points this season. He had not surpassed the 16.5 point plateau in three seasons before his resurgence in 2013. Again, looking backwards is not the correct way to project forward, similar to Afflalo. His situation hasn’t changed much but his age is reaching worrisome territory. Crawford is one of the best street ball type players of all time. Nevertheless, he has to be running out of gas at this point. Still, he is the preferable option of the two between him and J.J. Redick, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Redick overtake him in value very soon. Redick also only played 35 games last campaign. Crawford will continue to launch threes and give you about a steal per game. He just cannot sustain his scoring output from last year because his minutes should not be over 30 per game again with a healthy Redick.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio: If Crawford is aging, Ginobili has aged. Coach Gregg Popovich never gave a damn about your Fantasy team and never will. This offseason, Ginobili was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right leg. During a press conference in Argentina, he confirmed it was in the same spot as his injury in 2009 but not as serious. Not good news for a 37-year-old to now be suffering an identical injury from the past. Furthermore, his spot is crowded with Danny Green and Marco Belinelli. To review, he’s old, playing for the worst possible coach, injured (and says he’s “a little behind in his conditioning”) and fighting for playing time. Enough said.