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Andrew Bogut appears to be over his ankle injury and should be primed for a big season. I still like Charlie Villanueva as a sleeper at power forward and Luke Ridnour, their starting point guard, is lasting until the final rounds of most drafts. There is some chatter about Malik Allen possibly starting at PF this season, but even if it happens, CV will be the guy getting starter's minutes.
Kevin Love has "love handles," but should start the season at center. Randy Foye is your point guard (as long as he's healthy), Mike Miller is at shooting guard, Ryan Gomes is at SF and Al Jefferson is the power forward. He's set to return to action despite a knee injury and will wear a protective brace for some time. At this point, Jefferson still looks worthy of a first- or second-round pick, but it also feels like he's due for some injury problems after playing in all 82 last year.
New Jersey Nets
Devin Harris is going to be a value pick this season and should be worthy of being a No. 1 fantasy point guard. Vince Carter is saying all the right things about being ready despite the obvious rebuilding taking place in Jersey, but I'm still not convinced he believes it. Bobby Simmons sounds fairly healthy and could really emerge as a super sleeper this season, while Yi Jianlian will be feeling the pressure of trying to prove to his doubters that he's not a bust. I like Brook Lopez at center, but my guess is he will split time with Josh Boone, making both of them tough to start every week. And Sean Williams has reportedly looked fantastic in camp and the team seems to be excited about getting him out there in game situations. As usual, put him on your sleeper list, but don't be too surprised if he ends up being a bust.
New Orleans Hornets
The starting five is set for New Orleans except that I see no way Byron Scott will be as patient with Morris Peterson this season as he was last year. Mo Pete got things started off with a 1-for-7 shooting performance in Sunday's preseason win and with Mike James and Devin Brown on the bench, it could just be a matter of time before he's yanked out of there. Speaking of Brown, he's probably my favorite "deep sleeper" this season and I think he's going to get a lot of minutes at both guard positions. He's not draftworthy, but my guess is he'll be picked up in most leagues at some point before December gets here. He'll fill Jannero Pargo's role this season. Tyson Chandler suffered a sprained ankle last night, but it sounds like he's fine.
New York Knicks
Eddy Curry is out of the hospital and back at practice, telling NBA TV cameras that he thinks he'll be the starting center on opening night. In my estimation, he might be the only person in the Garden - no, in New York - who believes that. He's way out of shape and can't possibly run in Mike D'Antoni's system. David Lee looks like the starting center, Zach Randolph at PF and Wilson Chandler and Quentin Richardson will battle it out at SF. Q-Rich has looked good in camp and is healthy for the first time in forever. Like Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury still thinks he's a starting point guard, but it really sounds like Chris Duhon will be the opening-night starter. Marbury will likely be the first man off the bench until he gets traded, but anyone who has seen him thus far says he's easily in the best shape of his career and is still the best player on the team. Sounds kind of like the opposite can be said for Danilo Gallinari.
Jared Jeffries was somehow penciled in as the Knicks' starting center before breaking his leg, yet I still don't understand that one.
The Magic host my Hawks tonight and we'll get our first look (or should I say "read," as there's no TV) at Mickael Pietrus in Orlando. Not much going on in O-Town, other than Dwight Howard saying that he's going to shoot more and dunk less, which could result in a small drop in field goal percentage.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and Jeff Green should blow up this season. I still like Earl Watson to win the starting point guard job, at least for the first half of the season. But Russell Westbrook is worth a last-round fantasy pick in case P.J. Carlesimo decides to forget about winning games and just goes with youth from the beginning. Nick Collison is a super-sleeper at center and Chris Wilcox also qualifies at PF. You don't want to own any Sonics bigs outside of these two guys.
Samuel Dalembert says he's going to be an all-star this year and it's not that farfetched an idea. He does play in the East where he'll be competing with a guy like Emeka Okafor for the honors. Dwight Howard's a given, but it's wide open after that. There's not much guess work left in Philly, although Thaddeus Young didn't start out with the first five initially. Kareem Rush got a couple early runs with the first unit, but you have to think Young's the guy here. And while I don't know if Sammy D and Elton Brand can co-exist, my guess is that they will both be about the same as usual. Andre Iguodala is going to be a top fantasy player again this season, and in my three drafts thus far he's been taken at No. 26, 30 and 31.
Matt Barnes is one of my favorite sleepers this season and it really sounds like he will start in front of Grant Hill this season. He's looked great in camp and Terry Porter seems poised to be ready to give Barnes a big role on his team. Amare Stoudemire is out for a couple weeks with an eye injury that will probably cause him to wear goggles for the rest of his career. He should be ready by the start of the season. Steve Nash says he wants to play for four more seasons, but you can look for the decline to start happening some time in the next 12 months. I just posted a news blurb about Amare's brother being wanted by the police, but it really has nothing to do with fantasy hoops.
Portland Trail Blazers
I continue to be a little scared of the Blazers from a fantasy perspective. Too deep, too many good players, too few minutes to go around. But Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Gay and Jerryd Bayless are all probably going to have some value this season. All I'm saying is you may end up overpaying for a one or more of them if the stars don't align properly.
The big battle here is between John Salmons and Francisco Garcia, although I haven't much about who is winning. My guess is Salmons will start simply because he will handle coming off the bench much worse than Garcia will. Beno Udrih is a popular point guard but beware of his injury history. And speaking of injury histories, Spencer Hawes has already had three knee operations and tried to get out of doing the team's conditioning test out of fear of tearing it up again. He made it through the test in one piece, but I'm a little worried about the knee holding up through the entire season. He should be good to go though, for those first five games when Brad Miller is suspended.
Bobby Jackson is back home with the Kings and qualifies as a sleeper despite the fact that he's nearly as old as I am.
San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili is going to be out for some time and I don't think you should consider taking him until about pick No. 80 in your draft. Personally, I'm avoiding him altogether, as I just don't have the kind of patience it takes to wait for guys with serious injuries and recovery times. Ime Udoka and Michael Finley are going to see a boost in his absence and both are pretty interesting sleeper candidates.
I read something recently where a beat writer said he thought Jermaine O'Neal still looked a step slow, but I haven't seen or heard anything official on the subject. Personally, I'm staying away from O'Neal this season. He's only 30, but his legs are more like 45. I'm still on the Jose Calderon bandwagon and he's going early in the third round in fantasy drafts, while Jason Kapono could end up starting over Jamario Moon this season. Moon got to Toronto kind of late and it sounds like he might have lost his job in the process. However, there's still plenty of time before the season starts, so he could end up in the starting unit before this is over.
All is quiet in Utah. Kyrylo Fesenko is out of shape and Matt Harpring and Brevin Knight are fighting some injuries, but none of those players matter. It's all about Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Ronnie Brewer. AK-47 wasn't drafted until the 10th round in a recent expert draft, and that has steal written all over it.
Brendan Haywood is out currently with a wrist injury and Etan Thomas is ready to resume his career after heart surgery last year. Antonio Daniels will start as long as Gilbert Arenas is out, but you probably learned last year that doesn't guarantee fantasy success. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler should both be excellent fantasy players again this season, although we'll have to see if Butler can stay healthy.
Name Droppers Are Us
My Rock and Roll Fantasy Hoops League is about full and it should be fun. Some of the people you may have heard of who are playing include:
Ben Bridwell - Band of Horses
Bo Koster - My Morning Jacket
Mark Smith - Explosions in the Sky
Parker Gispert - The Whigs
Joe Jurewicz - Dirty On Purpose
In addition, Sergio Gonzalez from CBS is in, along with several other cool folks in the music industry. I thought I had a shot at getting Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam in, but still haven't heard back on that one. Sadly Stephen Malkmus isn't in (as of today), nor is his band mate Janet Weiss. But I still have this excerpt from a Malkmus interview to hang my hat on.
Malkmus: In our band we have this NBA fantasy league. Joanna (Bolme) and Janet have the best teams.
Q: Is it luck, or do they know what they're doing?
Malkmus: They know what they're doing. We're kind of big fans of (fantasy-sports Web site) Rotoworld and this guy Steve Alexander. It's very geeky. Janet (Weiss) and I follow his advice generally. If you read that you can't go too wrong.
I'm a huge Pavement and Malkmus fan and that surprising tidbit is still about my favorite thing I've ever discovered on the internet.
And lastly, in the namedropping department, Ike Hilliard, wide receiver for the Bucs, dropped this gem into an interview over the weekend:
Q: A weekly question: What Web site do you visit the most?
Hilliard: Rotoworld.com, because I like to see what's going on in fantasy basketball. That's usually the first page that I go to once I see what's going on in the world. Fantasy basketball is my thing. I'm big on that. I even get the (cable package). I'm a big NBA guy.
Thanks, Ike. Me too! And if you are reading this and want some Rock and Roll league action, just hit me with an email. NFL stars are certainly close enough to rock stars and we'd be honored to have you join in the fun.