We have come to the end of another NBA season, and while the Western Conference playoff race is still far from sorted out, Mac and I are done forecasting players' "realness" for this season.
In this, our last AYFR column of the season, we will leave you with some prognostications for the 2008-09 season. We have picked a handful of players and projected where they should be taken in drafts next fall, letting you know who we think is overvalued, undervalued and on target. Obviously, a lot can change over the course of the summer in terms of free-agent signings, trades and injuries incurred in training or international play. Remember, we have the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer, and a number of NBA players will be balling in the Far East.
We will catch you on the rebound next fall for the 2008-09 NBA season.
Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF, Pacers (5th-6th round)
Mac: For Real. When you look at his stats, Dunleavy is really a third-round talent, at least according to the Player Rater. I wouldn't take him there, though, and neither should you. Maybe I'm bitter from all the heartache this guy has caused me over the years, or maybe it's the fact that he shot a ridiculous 47.5 percent from the floor and 41.8 from behind the 3-point line that has me worried. Dunleavy is a good shooter, but he's not this good, and we should expect him to come back down to earth a little in 2008-09. Also, we must keep in mind that there is a considerable amount of risk in selecting Dunleavy for your fantasy squad. Those who owned him in previous seasons know what I'm talking about. Even so, I'd probably take that gamble if he's hanging around in the fifth or sixth rounds in fantasy drafts next season, which he should be.
Lake: For Real. Reading Mac's comments above, you will understand why I am not feeling the love of the fantasy masses for Dunleavy despite his great season. If he goes in the fifth round, I would consider him a very good value. If he lasts until the sixth, he moves into steal territory. And yet I think you will see a lot of both in midsized leagues next year. The Player Rater has him at No. 29 overall, a third-round value. This is something to keep in mind when you are getting pilloried by your league mates for taking him in the middle rounds.
Hedo Turkoglu, SG/SF, Magic (5th-6th round)
Mac: For Real. Let's put it this way: If I'm stuck choosing between Turkoglu and Dunleavy, I'm taking Hedo without much thought. Sure, both had similar breakout seasons, but Turk isn't the notorious underachiever that Dunleavy is -- he never got enough minutes to qualify as an underachiever. Also, Turk excelled on a good team with other stars (Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis), while Dunleavy was the go-to guy in a weak lineup. If Turkoglu can produce with Howard and Lewis around, he can produce pretty much anywhere. The biggest difference between him and Dunleavy, however, is that Turkoglu's breakout this season had a lot more to do with an increase in minutes than anything else. I think he has reached his peak in terms of fantasy value, but that doesn't mean that he won't be a fantastic fifth-round pick next season.
Lake: For Real. I see Turk similarly to how I see Dunleavy. Despite putting up a sick statistical season (21st in the Player Rater), he won't be drafted in accordance with his output. His production is borderline second round. As Mac said, if he can put up these numbers with the company he has, there is little reason to question his ability to do so next season. I especially like him for his assists (4.9 per game). With the point-guard situation unlikely to improve next season, expect plenty of dimes from Turkoglu.
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers (6th-7th round)
Mac: Not Real. My biggest problem with Kaman is that he has proved (in consecutive years, no less) that he simply cannot produce at a high level when he's struggling with nagging injuries. Some players can rise above the pain (see: Iverson, Allen), but Kaman can't, and that's not the kind of player I want on my squad. What happens next season when Kaman tries to play through a groin pull or any other injury? Don't get me wrong, Kaman was a beast in the paint in the first half, but what happens next season when Elton Brand is taking up space in the paint as well? His boards and blocks will suffer, and we're left with just a mediocre fantasy center. I'll say "no thanks" in the sixth or seventh round, and start looking for him beginning in Round 8.
Lake: For Real. I think Mac is being a little harsh. I agree that Kaman has not proved himself to be an iron man in the vein of Allen Iverson. But he showed serious talent this season, and while I do not expect him to equal the insane numbers he put up before the All-Star break (16.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks on 47.7 percent shooting from the field and 74.4 percent from the line), I do think he's capable of averaging well over a double-double (think 14 and 10) with around two blocks per game. Kaman's season was plagued by injuries, but taking the long view, he has been relatively healthy, playing in 75 and 78 games over the previous two seasons. In the seventh round, you should be happy to land a center of Kaman's ability.
Rudy Gay, SG/SF, Grizzlies (3rd round)
Lake: For Real. I actually think getting Gay in the third round represents a discount. He is a do-everything type player who will be an asset on any fantasy squad. I love guys who shoot a lot of 3-pointers without killing your field goal percentage. To date, Gay has 125 3-pointers and is hitting 46.4 percent from the field. The only category in which Gay isn't a big help is assists. I think you'll forgive him for that as he moves his scoring into the mid-20s, all while averaging better than a block, steal and 3-pointer per game. Gay is moving into the "stud" class, and quickly. Enjoy the "discount" while you can.
Mac: For Real. Rudy Gay in the third round? Yes, please. Next season will be the last time you'll be able to get Gay at this much of a discount. For me, it's all about his ability to contribute in multiple categories. Where else can you find a guy who is going to average 1.4 steals, 1.6 3-pointers and a block per game? The first round, that's where. Now, I'm not saying Gay is a first-rounder next season, but he has first-round potential (remember, he's just 21 years old), and I wouldn't be surprised if he became a perennial late-first/early-second round pick after next season.
Jose Calderon, PG, Raptors (8th-9th round)
Mac: For Real. Forget about T.J. Ford. If I were starting a team from scratch today, Calderon would be on my very short list of point guards to build a team around. Why, you ask? Just take a look at his numbers as a starter this season: 13.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.9 turnovers and 1.2 3-pointers, while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor and 91.1 percent from the line in 56 starts. It doesn't get any more efficient than that, my friends, and the Raptors are going to have a real tough time keeping him off the court next season. If you can get Calderon in the eighth or ninth round, you might be getting the steal of the draft.
Lake: For Real. I couldn't agree more with Mac. We both loved Calderon coming into the season, and with everything he showed us, we love him even more now. My only hesitancy is whether the Raptors love him as much as we do. For the sake of Calderon, I would love to forget Ford, but I cannot. He is a great point guard in his own right, and his proclivity for injury makes me think the Raptors will not change the current arrangement. I like Calderon even as a backup at this point in a draft, but I will be praying that he gets 30-plus minutes per night so we can see a full season of the numbers Mac lays out above.
Greg Oden, C, Trailblazers (7th round)
Lake: For Real. Oden was going to go in the third round of drafts before news of his microfracture surgery last year. Next season I expect him to be a relative bargain. It's amazing how the words "microfracture surgery" overpower even the most concentrated hype. As far as Oden is concerned, this summer is going to be huge. If he stays healthy, he is going to be joining a great situation in Portland. He won't have to be "the man." That's Brandon Roy's role. I think people are going to shy away from Oden, which screams "market opportunity," given his talent. His rebounding and shot-blocking potential alone make him a good value in the seventh round. If he progresses well this summer, I will be looking for him there in next season's drafts.
Mac: Not Real. I saw Oden go as high as the third round in a few early expert leagues prior to the season. I wasn't feeling him then, and I'm not feeling him now, not even in the seventh round. There are just too many question marks, and not just about his health. Remember, Oden is a foul-prone individual (his 10-foul summer league game gave that away), and that could hurt his playing time in his first season. In any case, let's monitor his progress over the summer before we decide to project him for next season.
Devin Harris, PG, Nets (6th round)
Mac: For Real. Aside from Rudy Gay and Jose Calderon, Harris is the one guy on this list who excites me the most. His injury history scares me a little, but Harris is an absolute stud waiting to happen. I will be targeting him in every draft next season, similar to how I targeted Gay in drafts this season, and I'll be ecstatic if I can find him hanging around in the sixth round. Just check out his numbers since joining the Nets: 16.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 3-pointers while shooting 44.4 percent from the floor and 82.3 percent from the line.
Lake: For Real. This year the point guard I targeted in the middle rounds of most drafts was Mo Williams. Until his thumb and abdominal injuries caught up with him, Williams more than delivered his value. Next season I will be looking a little younger and targeting Harris in the same rounds. I love the speed and scoring potential, and on the Nets we saw Harris improve in almost every category. Most significantly, his assists jumped in New Jersey, proving that he was more than a slashing/scoring point guard. Given how we both value Harris, I can only hope Mac and I don't end up in too many leagues together next season. Blood may have to spill.
Randy Foye, PG, Timberwolves (8th-9th round)
Mac: For Real. I'm a notorious supporter of Foye, so this shouldn't come as a surprise. Foye hasn't quite been what I expected him to be this season, but he has been solid since the All-Star break (12.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.4 3-pointers). Assuming he's healthy, I'm expecting Foye to continue to progress and bump those numbers up to 15 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 3-pointers next season. And yes, I realize I've said this before, but my prediction has to come true at some point, right?
Lake: Not Real. Mac, let's cut a deal. If we are in the same league, I'll let you have Foye and I will take Devin the Dude. Mac and I will disagree on Foye as long as he is in the league. I just don't see the point guard in him. He has had a few solid stretches distributing the ball -- he averaged 5.3 dimes per game in March, for instance -- but in the end, he reverts to what he is, a scorer. I could see the 15 points that Mac projects. In fact, if he's used as a combo guard, like Monta Ellis, I could see more like 17 points per game. But the assists are not going to be there. I am not saying Foye has no value; I just don't like him as a point guard in real life or in fantasy. Let him score and we'll all be happier.
Beno Udrih, PG, Kings (9th round)
Mac: For Real. I'm not sure people realize just how nasty this kid was as a starter this season. Let me remind you: 14.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists with a steal and a 3-pointer to go along with 46.9 percent from the floor and 85.9 percent from the line in 47 starts. Dudes, if that's not an intriguing fantasy prospect, I don't know what is. Beno should be the Kings' full-time starting point guard from day one next season, and he should be drafted accordingly, or in other words, before the ninth round.
Lake: For Real if he starts, anyway. Udrih is an unrestricted free agent, and there is a chance he'll end up somewhere besides Sacramento. This would be a shame because the team has no one else better suited to run the point. If Udrih re-signs with the Kings, he will start and be an excellent value for owners in the late middle rounds, contributing in scoring, assists, steals, 3-pointers and the percentage categories. As a starter, I don't know that you'll find a much better low-risk candidate than Udrih.
Luol Deng, SF, Bulls (5th-6th round)
Lake: For Real. Please, someone do us a favor and get coach Jim Boylan out of Chicago. He and his predecessor, Scott Skiles, ruined the fantasy value of almost every Bulls player this season. Yes, Deng's issues were in large part injury-related. But he never really got his minutes back, and with the collapse of the team this season, Deng's effort often seemed less than total. I expect a different Deng next season. One more in line with the 18.8 points, 7.1 rebounds with excellent percentages we saw two seasons ago. All he needs is a coach who runs a more consistent system and takes advantage of his scoring talent.
Mac: For Real. Can you say "bounce-back season"? Deng's struggles this season can be attributed to a few nagging injuries (Achilles' and back), and his depressed numbers are a direct result of a decrease in minutes (from 37.5 to 34.1) because of the aforementioned injuries. In fact, his per-minute stats in 2007-08 are nearly identical to his breakout season in 2006-07. Yup, he's a prime candidate for a bounce-back season in 2008-09.
Charlie Villanueva, SF/PF, Bucks (11th round)
Mac: Not Real. If it weren't for a little promise made to Yi Jianlian, we might be talking about Charlie as a sixth- or seventh-rounder rather than a guy we might grab in the 11th round. With Jianlian out of the lineup, Villanueva has been quite the performer, averaging 14.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals, 0.7 blocks and 0.5 3-pointers per game in 27 starts this season. I'm not sure if the Bucks have figured this out yet, but Villanueva, at 23 years of age, has just as much, if not more, upside than Jianlian. Still, the Bucks made a huge investment in Jianlian, and they're probably going to have to keep him on the court even if it isn't the right move. It's unfortunate, but Villanueva likely will need a trade to be a valuable fantasy contributor next season. That said, if he is traded to a team with which he can earn a starter's minutes on a regular basis, I'll definitely be taking him earlier than the 11th round.
Lake: For Real. I write this based on a bit of foolish speculation. I think the Bucks are going to move Villanueva this offseason. The team is ripe for a blowup, and Villanueva is a piece who is likely to be moved. I agree that the Bucks have foolishly tied themselves to Jianlian. Villanueva has done enough to showcase his talents to other teams in the league, and I have to think someone will bite on his relatively inexpensive contract. With 30-plus minutes, you are looking at a player who will contribute points, rebounds, 3-pointers, steals and blocks. I will take a chance in the 11th round that he gets those minutes.
Guy Lake and Brian McKitish are fantasy analysts for ESPN.com. Both were finalists for the FSWA 2007 Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year. Guy can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com, while Mac can be found at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.