Players most affected by 'The Decision'
During the summer, I picked up the post-"Decision" assignment, the instant fantasy analysis of LeBron's defection to South Florida. Based on the history of other groupings of once-solo superstars, it wasn't hard for me to predict then an "8 to 12 percent drop in production" for Miami's newly minted Big Three.
Naturally, I was wrong. It's actually been far worse.
Not that many of you heeded my warnings. You still made LeBron's average draft position (ADP) 2.6, with Dwyane Wade not far behind at 7.0. Even Chris Bosh -- the easiest player to foretell dropping off -- held relatively steady at 20.2.
Well, as of this writing, LeBron is 14th on the Player Rater, Bosh is 39th and Wade has taken an Evanescence-esque tumble down the charts to 53rd. Five players currently ahead of Wade: Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert, Andre Miller, Jrue Holiday and Mike Conley. This is why I screamed when I accidentally took Wade in a mock draft in October.
Now that we're almost 25 percent of the way into our schedule and (less importantly) greeting the day of LeBron's return to Cleveland, I thought it might be a good time to take stock of the actual fantasy aftermath of "The Decision."
Dwyane Wade (21.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg)
LeBron James (23.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 7.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.9 3s per game)
Chris Bosh (17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.8 spg, 0.7 bpg, 50.2 FG%, 80.7 FT%)
Bumped up post-'Decision'
Keep an eye on ...[+] EnlargeSteve Mitchell/US PresswireMario Chalmers could become a fantasy factor again if given the playing time.
As I type this, many, many, many other things are also being typed about the Heat, so I'll leave it at this: The Heat may constitute the only team in the history of fantasy basketball that offers three simultaneous buy-low opportunities for three top-20 players. This is predicated on three hunches: the Heat have nowhere to go but up, the increasing probability of a coaching change and the return of Mario Chalmers (more on that in a second).
Fantasy-wise, the main problem here is pace.
The Heat currently rank 20th in the NBA with 93.8 possessions per game. This is keeping with the Heat's historically plodding style, but many basketball observers expected them to open things up a bit post-"Decision." After all, when you have two of the best open-court players in the NBA in Wade and James, you'd think that the pace would pick up. Aside from traditional tendencies, and (current) coach Erik Spoelstra's Pat Riley-type style, a lot of the Heat's unwillingness to "Suns it up" may stem from a lack of quality in the supporting cast. It's hard to go Showtime with James Jones and Joel Anthony.
It's fun to bash the Heat, but you've got to keep some perspective when addressing their teamwide fantasy potential. We're only 20 games into this experiment, and with anti-Miami vitriol seemingly cresting in the next 24 hours (hello, Cleveland), you should look at this as your best opportunity to buy low on LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Bosh has already started trending upward thanks to Udonis Haslem's injury.
And the return of two key players in the Heat rotation should encourage them to turn up the tempo. Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller might not be heavily rostered players in fantasy this season, but their effect on the Thrice's production shouldn't be underestimated. Chalmers is steadily earning increased playing time, and he may prove to be the best complementary point guard the Heat have to offer. Five assists, two steals and more than a 3 per night could very well be in Chalmers' future. When he finally returns, look for Miller to be an amped-up version of Jones: 10 ppg and 2.0 3s per game sounds about right.
Bumped up post-'Decision'
Keep an eye on ...[+] EnlargeDavid Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty ImagesJ.J. Hickson started hot but fell out of favor with Byron Scott and has been inconsistent since.
These classifications are a bit misleading. Although several Cavaliers have fared better post-"Decision" (and post-Mike Brown), these same players have been disappointments in terms of preseason expectations.
J.J. Hickson roared out of the gate this season, backing up the mini-Paul Millsap hype pushed by myriad fantasy columnists (myself included) with a string of double-digit scoring efforts. But the tell, even then, was a pronounced lack of rebounding. Hickson has cracked double digits in boards only three times this season, an anemic performance for a (mostly) starting power forward.
In relative terms, Jamario Moon has been just as disappointing. I'm always on the lookout for future Doug Christies and saw some potential in the multicategorical Moon. But given minutes and the opportunity, Moon has flopped, opening the door for a soul-sucking time-share with Joey Graham.
Overall, time-shares are the key issue with this team. You've got Moon-Graham, Jamison-Hickson and Gibson-Ramon Sessions-Parker. Varejao is the only player averaging more than 30 minutes per game for the Cavs, presently the worst team in fantasy basketball.
Bumped up post-'Decision'
Andrea Bargnani (only 5.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
Keep an eye on ...
Without Chris Bosh to anchor their offense, the Raptors have essentially had to say "screw it" in regard to rounding Bargnani into a two-way NBA player. Bargnani's scoring might be up, but he can't be called an unqualified fantasy success story until he gets those blocks back in the 1.5-per-game range.
You'd like to assume Amir Johnson would be the beneficiary of Reggie Evans' foot injury and would finally live up to his preseason hype. But that might be complicated by the return of a rookie I've always thought was too far below the fantasy radar. Ed Davis showed a lot of promise in summer league, displaying the knack for shot-blocking that Bosh has lost on a season-to-season basis. If you've got a need for blocks and boards and a roster spot to burn, Davis might be a wise stash.
The real winners
As is the case with any contentious divorce, the people who get out entirely tend to be the ones who fare the best.
Michael Beasley was run out of Miami on a high-speed rail to make room for Mike Miller, who, in a display of the power of karma, promptly tore a thumb ligament. Originally an afterthought, in actuality Beasley was going to a perfect fantasy situation: high-upside player meets team with low expectations. (Don't believe me? Take a look at the past 14 days of Darko Milicic's life.) Anyway, Beasley has shown some signs of cooling off but should stay locked in the 18-20 ppg range as the co-No. 1 option in Minnesota. What's been pleasantly surprising is the across-the-board production in 3s, steals and blocks.
Even when he was stuck at the end of Miami's rotation, Dorell Wright displayed a special talent for hitting 3-pointers. So when a player with that gift goes to the Golden State Warriors, well, it doesn't take a genius to predict the results (given the minutes). But no one predicted Wright's ability to put up consistent numbers in other categories. The 3s have been gaudy, but I've been just as impressed with his 3.1 assists per game, not to mention his 0.8 blocks.
Like Beasley, Shaquille O'Neal went from afterthought to fantasy success story. He walked into a perfect situation, a limited role on a veteran team well-equipped to take advantage of his still-solid per-48 averages. Of course, it helps that Boston's other centers have been dropped like flies. But you have to hand it to Shaq, who has proved to be a nice waiver-wire add in medium-to-deep-leagues. Thankfully, he's attempting only 5.1 free throws a night these days, having fully passed the torch to Dwight Howard as fantasy's most frustrating percentage killer.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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