Orlando Magic — 23-59
Key Additions: Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Channing Frye, Ben Gordon
Key Losses: Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson
Season Preview: The Magic stocked up with two more lottery picks, grabbing their new franchise PG Elfrid Payton and athletic freak Aaron Gordon. Payton will likely the begin the season as the Magic’s starting floor general, and I’m excited to see what he can do next to Oladipo. With Afflalo and Nelson gone, this is unquestionably Oladipo’s team now, but the roster is still very young and there are definitely sill question marks surrounding the Magic. We all know Vucevic and Harris will come to play, Channing Frye should help space the floor a la Ryan Anderson, and hopefully Gordon will provide a spark off the bench. Nevertheless, if they played out West, this would be last place team. Despite their respectable starting 5, the Magic lack the depth needed to win consistently throughout the season, yet in the super-soft East a 7th or 8th place finish is not out of the question, especially if their rookie PG can fulfill his lofty expectations.
42fg%, 78ft%, 0.9 3ptm, 13.8pts, 4.1ast, 4.1rbd, 1.6stl, 0.5blk, 3.2to
Yes, it’s Dipo time in Orlando this year — Victor will become a star sooner rather than later, expect him to provide mid round value this year. More minutes and a larger role means more scoring, threes, steals, and maybe even assists. Plus another full year of NBA experience should help him shoot more efficiently and cut down on turnovers. I generally recommend waiting until the mid rounds to draft swingmen, and Oladipo is a good target for this strategy. He is poised to have a potential breakout season, and maybe be undervalued because he’s hidden away in Orlando — if your competition is sleeping on him, pull the trigger with confidence.
51fg%, 77ft%, 0 3ptm, 14.2pts, 11rbd, 1.8ast, 1.1stl, 0.8blk, 2to
Vuc is an absolute monster on the glass, last season he broke Dwight Howard’s franchise record with 29 boards in one game. He played 57 games last year, missing some time with injuries, buts still posted 36 double doubles — that’s a 63% double-double rate. He’s the clear starter and has nobody behind him on the depth chart to challenge his minutes or production. As long as he stays healthy he’ll return solid early-mid round level production. Owners will love his scoring efficiency and glass eating, Vucevic is the type of player you want to stockpile on draft day. Reasonable gains in scoring and blocks could elevate Nik to stardom this season — he’s just oozing with upside.
46fg%, 81ft%, 0.5 3ptm, 14.6pts, 7rbd, 1.3ast, 0.7stl, 0.4blk, 1.3to
Tobias is another upside special draft candidate who may be undervalued by most fantasy owners. Last year he was plagued by injuries and was not very good for the first half of the season– but check out his splits from December and March last season:
Dec: 39fg%,74ft%, 0.7 3ptm, 12.2pts, 7rbd, 1.7ast, 0.7stl, 0.1blk, 1.0to
Mar: 51fg%, 88ft%, 0.5 3ptm, 16.9pts, 6.6rbd, 1.1ast, 0.8stl, 0.5blk, 1.1to
Ultimately Tobias’s 2013-14 averages are skewed because of the months it took him to get healthy and find his game. Lazy owners who don’t follow the Magic will not be aware of this and therefore Tobias will likely be available later than most players of his caliber. Furthermore, with Afflalo and Nelson (arguably Orlando’s two best players from a year ago) gone Tobias will be responsible for picking up some of the lost production. Given that Harris will have an even larger role in the offense this season, is finally healthy, and is likely undervalued because of his injuries last season, Tobias offers some serious mid-late round value.
Miami Heat: 54-28
Key Additions: Shabazz Napier, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts
Key Losses: Lebron James
Season Preview: When LeBron first took his talents to south beach, the poor Cavs went from championship contenders to hapless bottom feeders — a 61 win playoff team transformed into a 19 win joke, no team has ever fallen off so sharply. Nevertheless, Pat Riley still runs the show in south beach and he’s simply not going to let this happen. In fact, I fully expect Miami to run the table again in the weak Southeast. Riley wisely paid Bosh big money, keeping him from skipping town and joining the Rockets. He then brought in some legitimate replacement talent in Deng, Granger, and McBob. Bosh may be poised for a Toronto-like season now that he’s Miami’s offensive centerpience, and because Wade’s health remains in question. Deng is still an elite defender and a solid two-way player, while McBob posted pretty decent numbers last season in Carolina. Nevertheless, Wade just wasn’t the same player last year, and if he can’t get his mojo back the Heat will struggle to advance in the post-season.
52fg%,82ft%, 0.9 3ptm, 16.2pts, 6.6rbd, 1.1ast, 1.0stl, 1.0blk, 1.6to
2013-14 saw Bosh inexplicably increase his production from downtown by 300%. While nobody’s really sure why he suddenly tried to out-shoot Ray Allen last season, I’m hopeful that this was just phase for Bosh and that he plans on returning to a lifestyle of dominating the paint and stroking mid-range jumpers. With Lebron gone, Bosh could realistically approach 20 points per game and shoot better than 50% from the field. Yet, Bosh’s ultimate value depends squarely on his rebounding and defensive production improving — 6.6 rbd/game is, frankly, not good enough for a max contract bigman. But in his last season in Toronto Bosh posted 24 and 11, so it’s feasible think that Bosh could do this again.
Atlanta Hawks: 38-44
Key Additions:Thabo Sefolosha
Key Losses: Lou Williams
Season Preview: This is basically the same Hawks team that earned an 8 seed in 2013-14, except this time Al Horford should be back and ready to roll. With Al’s return the Hawks will feature a monster starting front court that also includes all-star PF Paul Milsap and former Euro-ball stud Pero Antic. Antic is a sharpshooting strech-4 who rendered Roy Hibbert impotent in the first round of the playoffs. I love him as a change of pace substitute for the Hawks; Pero had a great deal of success playing in Europe so I don’t think his late-season/playoff performance was a fluke at all. In the back court, Jeff Teague has a bright future as a starting NBA PG, and he’s only going to get better with Horford back on the floor. Look for Teague to develop into an high level playmaker with more talent on the floor. Of course, Kyle Korver will stroke plenty of threes this season, and Sefolosha will be able to step in and play shutdown defense when required. Remember that this team gave the Pacers fits in the playoffs without Horford, if Al can remain healthy Atlanta will return to the post-season.
44fg%, 85fg%, 0.9 3ptm, 16.5 pts, 6.7ast, 2.6 rbd, 1.1stl, 0.2blk, 2.9to
Teague is a guy I loved owning last year because he was consistent in his production, but was widely overlooked by most owners and was thus available well into the mid rounds of most drafts. But make no mistake Teague is a very solid fantasy option as a improving young player who is locked into big minutes. The fact that Atlanta got rid of Lou Williams is a good sign for Teague, they obviously view him as their franchise PG. With another year of experience and a healthy Al Horford, I’m looking for Teague to make modest gains across the board, if he falls to the 5th or 6th round in your draft, grab him confidently.
Charlotte Hornets: 43-39
Key Addition: Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Brian Roberts
Key Losses: Ben Gordon, CDR, McBob
Season Preview: Wow, the Charlotte Hornets, it feels so good to see that. Say with me now, everybody, HORNETS! I’m excited to see what this team can do, their starting line up is covered with a thick film of tasty upside that could become a fantasy gold mind. First of all, I love the addition of Lance Stephenson, he may be my favorite player in the association this year. I’m tempted to write this entire Hornets section about him, but I did write about him last week so I’ll move on. By now we all know what Al Jefferson can do, he’s an offensive force wherever he goes, you can’t go wrong drafting him. Same thing goes for Kemba Walker at the point, both of these studs are locked and loaded for big minutes so feel good about grabbing them up early. I also like Gerald Henderson as a late-round swingman useful for filling out your roster. Marvin Williams is an interesting addition to the front court and will help Charlotte space the floor, however he’s a player who will help the Hornets more than he’ll help your fantasy team. I believe that the new look Hornets have second round playoff potential this year.
39fg%, 84ft%, 1.5 3ptm, 17.7pts, 6.1ast, 4.2rbd, 1.2stl, 0.4blk, 2.3to
Maybe you’re saying, wait a second Mr. Of Doom, is Kemba really a “stud” while only shooting at 39%. Yes! Yes emphatically. Walker still contributes heavily in 6 categories, 5 of which are gross production categories. Recall that I always recommend punting one of the efficiency categories, and if you take Kemba early, it just means you need to focus on stockpiling plenty of PG’s, punting fg%, and taking ft% to the bank each week. Besides, with better teammates around him, I’d expect him to shoot a bit better this season anyway. Kemba does a lot of things right, don’t let that ugly shooting percentage turn you off to a talent of his caliber.
Washington Wizards: 44-38
Key Addition: Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries
Key Losses: Trevor Ariza
Season Preview: I’m just gonna come right out and say it, this is my favorite back court duo in the league. Maybe I’m biased because I went to UF and watched Beal play a lot, (I’m totally not biased towards Orlando either) but nevertheless both Beal and Wall are legit stars. Beal is a pure shooter and could approach 20pts/game this season. I loved owning John Wall last year, I took him at the end of the first round and I would happily do it again this year because he’s super consistent and produces across the board. Paul Pierce is a great add for the real life Wizards as it gives them a veteran presence that will be invaluable down the stretch, but he’s not on my fantasy radar whatsoever. I do think that they will miss having Ariza who played great defense and shot well last year. Martel Webster is going to have to step up and help the aging Pierce fill that void. The addition of Humphries adds depth to the already solid front court paring of Nene and Gortat. Overall I love the way this team is constructed and I fully expect them to have home court advantage during the playoffs this season, at least in the first round.
54fg%, 69ft%, 0 3ptm, 13.2pts, 9.5rbd, 1.7ast, 0.5stl, 1.5blk, 1.6to
The Polish Hammer is one of the most underrated centers around, he has a smooth pseudo-European style that translates well to the NBA. He’s strong enough to battle in the paint with just about anyone, yet still plays with finesse and a polished offensive skill set. I’m targeting Gortat in the early-mid rounds because he shoots, rebounds, and blocks shots consistently. What you see is what you get with the Hammer, and if you’re like me, you like what you see.
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