Under-the-radar keepers for 2010-11
I must admit, I got a little misty-eyed on the final night of the season, and it wasn't just because I ended up second in the ESPN Writers' Auction League. It's also knowing that there isn't going to be any more fantasy basketball talk for ... about three weeks.
That's right, just three weeks.
For Hardcore fantasy hoops enthusiasts such as yourself, that's all you get this go-round.
You've got the latter stages of the playoffs (key for seeing who might be overvalued heading into this fall's drafts), then the draft lottery (key for seeing which rookies will end up in the best situations), then the draft itself (confirmation of said rookies' landing spots), then what promises to be One Crazy Summer of free agency. (If you don't know why I capitalized "One Crazy Summer," enroll yourself into a film school ASAP.)
Of course, the lottery will also have a ripple effect on many established players' roles heading into the next campaign, which will subsequently have an effect on your keeper prospects. If you're in a league -- and I hope you are -- that allows for multiple keepers, chances are you're going to have to dig a little deeper than the LeBrons and D-Wades of this world. So for those of you in deep keeper leagues, let's look ever-so-slightly under the radar for some players you may not regret hanging on to.
Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, Toronto Raptors: All you have to do is take a gander at Bargnani's final five games (21.4 ppg, 2.0 3s, 2.2 bpg) -- sans Chris Bosh -- to give you a notion of how he's going to fare come Halloween. I say this because, in all likelihood, Bosh will be poutine-free and stateside by the end of the summer. In a post-Bosh environment, I actually see the Raptors providing fertile ground for some fantasy sleepers next season.
Andray Blatche PF/C, Washington Wizards: Since the Wizards will (supposedly) have Gilbert Arenas back as their No. 1 scoring option, I actually believe Blatche will be slightly overvalued going into next year's drafts. But something like 18 points and nine rebounds a night sounds about right. Blatche's hidden strengths are legion (5.1 apg, 1.4 spg per in April), but it's hard to grow a full-on set of fantasy beer goggles for a guy lacking, ahem, "intangibles." All that being said, you've got to keep him on upside alone. Think of Blatche as a mélange of Kevin Garnett, Zach Randolph, and Murdoch from "The A-Team."
Jeff Green, SF/PF, Oklahoma City Thunder: I went into this season having semi-high hopes for the multidimensional Green, only to see his production ever-so-slightly drop. But Green righted the ship around All-Star Weekend and has been solid ever since (16.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 3s, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg in April). Any player with mini-Danny Granger upside (steals, blocks, 3s) should be on your watch list. His numbers will never be awe-inspiring (as long as he plays in the Thunder's low-paced attack), but having some broad-based production isn't a bad building block to have in your imaginary locker room.
John Salmons, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks: Salmons should think twice about leaving Milwaukee. I've been a big fan of Salmons' subtle fantasy charms for some time, but he's become a downright star for the Bucks. He's been top 20 during the past month, and with the Bucks on the rise long term, well, let's just hope for all our sakes that John Hammond can keep Salmons from hitting the open market.
Jamal Crawford, PG/SG Atlanta Hawks: I never, ever, ever thought I'd be putting Crawford on anyone's "to keep" list. But all you have to know when it comes to Crawford's keepability is .382; that happens to be Crawford's 3-point percentage on the season, which also happens to be a career high. I actually think that Joe Johnson staying helps Crawford for next season, since Crawford's found such a groove in his current role. His dual eligibility is key just make sure he's still a PG/SG before keeping him.
Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves: I don't care if he's Facebook friends with Al Jefferson, I don't care if he's a sixth man, I only care that Love averages at least 30 minutes. Give him 35 minutes, and center eligibility, and you've got the next David Lee. And I say that because, like Lee, Love is a great passer in the low post and has great percentages to boot. Just figure it out, Rambis!
Terrence Williams, SG/SF, New Jersey Nets: Williams' ultimate value is dependent on how the Nets fare in the lottery and free agency, but he's done enough down the stretch to earn a place in the nether regions of this list. If the Nets end up with Evan Turner, Williams takes a hit, but if it's John Wall? And then, say, Amare Stoudemire in free agency? And I'm in a deep league with multiple keeper spots? Yeah, I just might keep him and his triple-double potential (points, assists, rebounds).
Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers: Unless the Sixers bounce their way into John Wall, it's hard not to see Holiday entering training camp firmly and neatly ensconced in the 1 spot in Philadelphia. Holiday was inconsistent as a scorer, but remember that he was only a rookie, albeit a rookie already with elite assists potential. And no matter what anyone will tell you, I think assists are still going to be the hardest stat to hoard in the coming draft. If you've got a chance to keep a solid assists guy, take it.
Carl Landry, PF, Sacramento Kings: After being almost Golden State-esque the first half of the season, the Kings provided ample amounts of fantasy abundance after the trade deadline. As the centerpiece of "what we got for Kevin Martin," Landry will rightfully have a prominent role in the 2011 Kings' promising young lineup. Landry may not bowl you over in any specific area, but remember that his hidden strengths lie in the percentage categories (.536 on field goals, .806 from the line for the season).
Beno Udrih, PG/SG, Kings: This is utterly dependent on what happens in the upcoming lottery, but Udrih has shown time and again that given the minutes, he can be a top-40 player. Don't forget that he's in the middle of a big contract ($32 million over five years), which guarantees his relevance in Sacramento as much as his strong finish. And just like with Crawford, Udrih's PG/SG combo eligibility makes him twice as tempting. Any player who can let you load up on assists from the 2 spot is one worth keeping.
Bay Area bonus
Anthony Tolliver, PF/C, and/or Reggie Williams, SF, Golden State Warriors: Land O' Goshen, Don Nelson is coming back (I say that because in all likelihood, Nelson still probably uses terms like "Land 'O Goshen" when around young people)! Just when you thought you could exhale, it appears (new ownership aside) that the Black Hole of Fantasy (and the all-time leader in wins for a head coach) is coming back for a victory lap. Which means that at least one of these former D-Leaguers could and should have a place in Golden State's NOS-fueled, fantasy-friendly, opening night lineup. Just keep an eye on training camp, and also on the return of Anthony Randolph, who could be a monster sleeper come next season.
OK, now let's think about a few bigger-name veterans I'd think twice about keeping in shallow keeper situations.
Carlos Boozer, PF, Utah Jazz: The two things I'd consider when considering Boozer? Injury history and whether he's still playing with Deron Williams. If Boozer ends up in, say, Miami, the situation will have all the trappings of a post-contract year dip. Couple that with Boozer's historical love of the walking boot, and you've got the makings of a frustrating keeper.
Antawn Jamison, PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: This summer, I'm going to do a position paper on how LeBron seems to make his teammates' box scores yo-yo with Jason Terry-like ferocity. Assuming LeBron stays in Cleveland, Jamison will continue -- as is the fate of all complementary Cavs -- to offer up and down production. He'll go for 20 one night, than six the next night. Despite his advanced age, Jamison will still average around 17 and 8, but he's only a fringe keeper in shallow leagues.
Ray Allen, SG, Boston Celtics: My No. 1 rule when building a keeper list is to stay away from specialists, and the Ray Allen of 2010-11 will be -- no matter his team -- only a 3-point specialist at best. Even if (or because if) Allen stays with Boston, it's just hard to make an argument for keeping him at this stage.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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