Thursday, October 22, 2009

Same Faces, New Places

The 2009-10 Fantasy Basketball campaign kicks off just 5 days from now. This year promises to be a special season, as a host of big-name ballers changed addresses during the off-season. Shaq joined King James in Cleveland, Artest traveled to LA to help Kobe "defend" the title; Vince flew down to the Magic Kingdom to fight the Magic's foes with Superman, and Rasheed headed up to Beantown with hopes of aiding “The Big Three" in getting back to The Finals. It doesn't stop there. The Matrix inked a free agent deal with the Mavs, Hedo Turkoglu headed north of the border to Toronto, and Emeka Okafor looks to fortify CP3's Hornet front line in The Big Easy.

All of this movement makes for some exciting early-season hype, but what we really want to know is how will the fantasy value of these NBA studs be affected as they change colors?

Let's take a look at the top transplanted "Fantasy Phenoms", to see what to expect for the upcoming season.

Shaquille O’Neal: Shaq has been one of the most prolific fantasy players, ever since he was drafted by the Magic back in 1992. With the exception of his abysmal FT%, "The Diesel" has dominated practically every other "Big Man" category for many years. Father time has taken his toll on Shaq, but last season in Phoenix saw O'Neal suit up for 75 games, lead The Association in FG%, and average 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game....not bad for the 17 year veteran.

If Shaq can stay relatively healthy again this season, he should be able to approach those same numbers in Cleveland. He may see a drop in his points per game production, but his other totals should stay consistent across the board. The biggest challenge perhaps for Shaq, is a return to the rugged Eastern Conference, where he'll have to face off more with young beasts likes Dwight Howard more than twice during the regular season. At 37, Shaquille O'Neal is still one of the more productive centers in fantasy basketball.

Ron Artest: The biggest risk with a guy like Ron Artest is not his ability to fill the stat sheet, rather his tendency to let his ego get in the way. If there’s a team in the NBA where Ron should be a solid citizen, it’s the World Champion Lakers. Phil Jackson will have no problem getting Artest to buy in to the Zen of the day philosophy, and there will never be any confusion as to whose team the Lakers are.

As for fantasy production potential for Ron Artest with the Lakers, one would assume that the first category to take a hit would be points. Ron’s 17.1 points per game will certainly take a nose dive, perhaps to the 10-12 point level. There won’t be many shot opportunities left after Kobe, Pau, and Lamar take theirs’, so Artest will likely depend on garbage buckets and points off turnovers. One category that may actually see a lift is the steal column, as Artest will take the heat off Kobe on the defensive end, freelancing for I would imagine over 2 steals per game.

Vince Carter: Vinsanity makes its way to Central Florida, where the former Slam Dunk Champion meets another former throw-down king in Dwight Howard. When healthy, VC has been a consistent, if not spectacular fantasy player his entire career. Vince is a scoring machine, who also ranks among the best each year in assists by Forwards. Carter will certainly add even more firepower to the Magic this season, but as a fantast player, will not likely duplicate the statistics that he achieved with the Nets last year.

The Magic already feature Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis as its top two scoring threats, so Vince’s 20.8 points per game average of 2008-09 suffer. A healthy and productive Jammer Nelson also makes it difficult for Carter to duplicate the 4.7 assist that he posted last year. Nevertheless, Vince Carter will award his owners with around 15-17 points per game, 3-4 assists per game, 4-5 rebounds, and over 100 three’s.

Rasheed Wallace: If you think Ron Artest and Vince Carter will have difficulty duplicating past fantasy achievements this year, you’ll certainly be scared away from drafting Wallace. With the possible exception of three point goals, Wallace has seen his fantasy production dip along side the decline of the Detroit Pistons. Once a fantasy force, Sheed joins a team that is loaded with offensive options. There is no question that the former Tar Heel will add the intensity that the Celtics will need if they hope to be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference. As a fantasy asset however, Wallace will not even match the modest 12 points per game and 7.4 rebounds he averaged while with Detroit last season. Additionally, the once dangerous three point shooter will fail to eclipse the century mark in treys converted this year. Stay away, except as a reserve player.

Regardless of how these and other new arrivals perform for their respective squads, the 2009-10 NBA season promises to be one the of the most exciting in years. With a handful of fully loaded teams vying for the hardware, there will be nightly excitement from coast to coast.

As we move through the season, I will provide a weekly snapshot of such topics as “Rookie Watch”, “Breakout Candidates”, “Buy Low – Sell High”, and other fantasy segments. I look forward to my weekly visit with the Fantasy Hoops fanatics of

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