Palooza – English.

Etymology: From Lollapalooza, a music festival.

Noun (plural paloozas): An exaggerated event.

Related terms: -a-palooza[1]

As we approach the 2013/2014 NBA season, one thing is abundantly clear; there are NOT 30 teams competing for an NBA Championship. What is abnormal about this, you ask? Isn’t it common for some teams to know they are not going to contend going into a season? Well yes. So what is different this time around? There are at least 3 teams who are openly hoping to land a chance at the top pick in the 2014 draft, for the right to alter the direction of their franchise by selecting Andrew Wiggins.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, here are a few things you should know about the 2014 draft.

  1. Projected #1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins out of Ontario, Canada, is widely regarded as the best NBA prospect since Kevin Durant in 2007. He is already being compared to LeBron James with respect to how he can dominate a game in so many different ways, and is expected to become a superstar franchise level player[2]. Teams are considered to be “Riggin for Wiggins” if they’re trying to land the top pick in the 2014 draft.
  2. There are several other top-flight, franchise player level talents in this draft class including Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Andrew Harrison and Marcus Smart, each of which would have been considered for the #1 pick had they been in the recent 2013 draft.
  3. Such is the expected talent level, this draft is regarded as definitely the best draft since 2007 (Oden, Durant, Horford, Conley Jr, Noah, etc), and possibly since 2003 (James, Anthony, Bosh, Wade, Kaman, David West, Mo Williams etc).

So rare is the opportunity to add such a sure thing to a franchise, that a number of teams decided to “re-build” this season, rather than continue to compete for a #7 or #8 seed in the playoffs[3].

Philadelphia, under new GM Sam Hinkie, made the boldest move by trading their 23 year old, 1st time all-star point guard, J’Rue Holiday on draft night for the right to select Nerlens Noel 6th overall, and acquire New Orleans’ 2014 1st round pick. Noel is unlikely to join the active roster until the New Year as he recovers from an ACL tear, and the Sixers roster (stripped bare and struggling to meet the league minimum salary level) is unlikely to move out of the Eastern Conference cellar all season.

Utah is another franchise that is in re-building mode. They let their two best players (Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) walk in free agency, and acquired expiring contracts and unprotected first round picks in 2014 and 2017 from Golden State in exchange for basically cap space (allowing GWS to sign Andre Iguodala in free agency). Utah is turning their team over to young front court pair Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, and emerging wing Gordon Hayward. They will be starting a rookie point guard in Trey Burke and will be hoping their own pick in next year’s draft lands in the top 3.

Boston, an Eastern Conference contender as recently as 2012 finally closed the door on their 2007 championship team by trading franchise player Paul Pierce, future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, and key reserve Jason Terry to Brooklyn in exchange for 5 players and 3 future 1st round picks (including a 2014 partially protected pick). GM Danny Ainge, who will be in no hurry to rush Rajon Rondo back for the start of the season, knew his team’s title window had closed. He decided this was as good a year as any to commence re-building, with the hope of drafting a franchise level player next year to pair with Rondo for the future.

Orlando and Phoenix have also constructed rosters this year with the dual purpose of developing their young talent, whilst remaining poor enough to compete for a top lottery pick in next year’s draft.

Curiously, only Charlotte took a different approach, taking the rare opportunity to sign a big name free-agent in Al Jefferson. Rick Cho, Michael Jordan and new Head Coach Steve Clifford will try to start building more of a winning culture around Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller alongside Jefferson. The move was more about strengthening their brand and building up a fan base (that has been dwindling), rather than realistically competing for a playoff spot. They will be ordinary enough to remain in the lottery (albeit in the 6-10 range rather than the 1-5 range), and such is the strength of this draft that they will still secure a very talented player there.

Other teams who may join the tank-a-palooza party depending on how their seasons start out are Sacramento (although new ownership there is really trying to change the culture going forward), New Orleans (dependent on Anthony Davis’ progression and Eric Gordon’s health), and even possibly Dallas (although owner Mark Cuban is loathe to be uncompetitive as long as Nowitzki is still playing).

But why am I telling you this, I hear you asking?  You care about fantasy hoops, not real hoops, right?

I’ll tell you why; because with great tanking, comes great opportunity.

That’s right. There are a lot of rookies or younger players who will receive a cornucopia of minutes this year while their teams vie for lottery balls. So who should you target, and at what point in your draft? Here’s a breakdown by team of young talent who could contribute to your fantasy squads this year.[4]

Philadelphia 76ers

Michael Carter-Williams – PG, Rookie

What’s the best way to make this abundantly clear for you? THERE ARE NO OTHER NBA QUALITY POINT GUARDS ON THE SIXERS’ ROSTER THIS YEAR. Sorry for shouting, but seriously, the 6’6” rookie out of Syracuse has no competition for minutes (Tony Wroten and Charles Jenkins are no guarantee to even make the final roster, and Darius Morris is more of a SG). They spent a lottery pick on MCW to pair him with Nerlens Noel (after dealing away J’Rue Holiday), and they will see exactly what they have in him as he learns on the job as Damian Lillard did last year. I’m not saying he’s going to produce like last year’s ROY did, as he’s not the shooter Lillard is. He will, however, have a lot of the ball in his hands and with only Evan Turner, Thad Young and Spencer Hawes to pass to; he will be forced to shoot a lot too. Despite shooting terribly in Summer League play (.271 FG%, .158 3P%), he found other ways to contribute, and I think ultimately that range of production (with slightly better shooting) is about right.

Projection: 36mpg, 13.2ppg, 6.7apg, 1.4spg, 3.4rpg, 3.5tpg, 0.8 3pm, .343 FG%

Target: 8th round

Thaddeus Young – F, 7th Year

Young was covered in an earlier piece of mine http://downtownball.net/2013/10/201314-fantasy-preview/ as an under the radar player coming into this season. Entering his 7th year but still only 25 years old, he will likely lead the lowly Sixers in scoring this year and will provide strong value in rebounds, steals and FG% too.

Projection: 37mpg, 16.3ppg, 7.9rpg, 1.7spg, 1.6apg, 1.0bpg, .515 FG%.

Target: 4th round

Other notables: Spencer Hawes (while Noel is out), Evan Turner, Arnett Moultrie

Utah Jazz

Trey Burke – PG, Rookie

Similarly to Michael Carter-Williams, Burke was drafted to run the point in Utah as their quarterback of the future. This became even clearer once they decided not to bring back former all-star Mo Williams who left via free agency. Burke was outstanding in College during Michigan’s tournament run, but like Carter-Williams, struggled enormously with his shooting during Summer League play (.241 FG%, .053 3P%), and did not really find other ways to contribute. The NCAA National Player of the Year averaged a paltry 8.8ppg, 4.0apg, 3.5rpg and 0.2spg, while hitting only 1 three-pointer in his 4 games. He did manage to take care of the ball, averaging only 2.2 TOs (characteristic of his college play with a 3.02 assist/turnover ratio last year). After shooting .463 FG% as a sophomore, most critics are ignoring his summer league slump, and as he continues to work with John Stockton leading up to training camp, he is garnering a lot of attention for Rookie of the Year honours. Unlike MCW, Burke has talented scorers around him. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and emerging SG Alec Burks will carry the bulk of the load offensively for the Jazz, meaning Burke can focus on running the offense, driving and dishing, and only shooting when he’s wide open. I’m not convinced he’ll win ROY, but he will play heavy minutes and he will contribute. Utah’s season is about seeing what they have with these young players, and Burke is no exception there.

Projection: 32mpg, 9.6ppg, 5.3apg, 1.4 spg, 2.7rpg, 1.2 3pm, .417 FG%

Target: 9th round

Derrick Favors – PF, 4th year

The former #3 overall pick will finally have his chance to start for a full season as he enters his 4th year. Still just 22 years old, Favors has a lot of development left in him, and has shown his ability to put up solid numbers with career per 36 averages of 14, 10 and 2 blocks. With Millsap and Jefferson gone, the team is being turned over to Favors and frontcourt mate Enes Kanter http://downtownball.net/2013/10/201314-fantasy-preview/. Favors has always been efficient with a PER average over 17 since being traded to Utah, so with minutes-a-plenty coming his way, and no real back-up at PF (sorry Jeremy Evans fans) it’s time to cash in.

Projection: 33mpg, 14.9ppg, 10.6rpg, 2.2bpg, 1.1spg, .489 FG%.

Target: Late 4th round

Other notables: Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks (late round flier)

Boston Celtics

Kelly Olynyk – C, Rookie

After a very strong showing at the Orlando Summer League (18ppg, 7.8rpg, 1.8spg, .578FG%), the Gonzaga product has received a lot of buzz heading into his rookie season. He could start at Center for Boston, and has been projected to receive 25-28 minutes per game[5]. Ordinarily I would be high based on these sorts of positives, but the other news stories about Olynyk recently contain two words that make me want to run for the hills: “Plantar Fasciitis”. While this may be a little over blown, I caution anyone wanting to rely on a rookie big man to not reach for him. The projected minutes look appealing, as does the evident re-building mode in Beantown, but these foot issues can linger. He will be competing for front court minutes with veterans Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass, plus Danny Ainge and new Head Coach Brad Stevens will want to see what they have in 2nd year player Jared Sullinger (now out of KG’s shadow) and new international signing Vitor Faverani. If you temper your expectations and don’t read too much into his Summer League numbers, then he could provide some value, but don’t be surprised if he’s the first player you waive when he’s struggling to produce against stronger veterans or you see the following headline: “Olynyk to rest for 3-4 weeks with Plantar Fasciitis.”

Projection: 22mpg, 7.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 0.6spg, 0.3bpg, .465 FG%

Target: 13th-14th round

Jeff Green – SF, 7th year

Now more than 20 months removed from his heart surgery, and having played in all 81 regular season games last season for Boston, Jeff Green is ready to move forward with his career. Paul Pierce is gone, Kevin Garnett is gone, Rajon Rondo is still recovering from knee surgery, so the minutes and usage will be there for Green to gobble up this year. He is a talented player, but has never truly put it all together so far in his NBA career. Mind you, having played alongside Kevin Durant and Westbrook in OKC and then Pierce and Garnett in Boston, he’s never really been challenged to do so. Well this is his chance. After inking a 4 year, $36m extension a year ago, he will be called upon to score and score in bunches for this young team. Averaging 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per 36 minutes over his career, Green will need to improve those numbers to keep Gerald Wallace at bay and to live up to expectations this year or may find himself out of Danny Ainge’s longer term plans. I think he is more than capable, but will be interested to see how he handles the additional defensive attention that goes along with being the primary scoring option.

Projection: 34mpg, 17.2ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.1apg, 1.1spg, 1.0bpg, .448 FG%

Target: 5th round

Orlando Magic

The Magic situation is one I am weary of already. While openly still in re-building mode, they have a plethora of young talent, all craving and to be honest, deserving of minutes. I covered the front court logjam when discussing the hype surrounding Tobias Harris [LINK HERE], so the only player I can recommend drafting who will benefit from the 2014 lottery goggles being worn by GM Rob Hennigan, is prized rookie guard Victor Oladipo. However, even Oladipo’s role is unclear right now. Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo are likely to start in the back court on opening night, and Oladipo is being bantered about as a potential point guard; a position he did not play in College. Likely to be the first guard off the bench, Oladipo has upside later in the season as his role becomes clearer and Hennigan makes some moves. Nelson is expected to be traded at some point, which would open up minutes as the starting point guard for Oladipo. Of course, Afflalo could also get moved, so watch this space. For now, target Oladipo in the middle to late rounds of your draft, but know that he may not contribute until the second half. What’s wrong with a playoff stash if you can afford to do so?

Projection: 26mpg, 10.3ppg, 4.1rpg, 3.8apg, 1.6spg, 0.7bpg, 0.8 3pm, .421 FG%

Target: 9th or 10th round

Phoenix Suns

Alex Len – C, Rookie

Len, drafted 5th overall out of Maryland was talked about at one point as a possible #1 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Phoenix grabbed him one spot ahead of Nerlens Noel to be their Center of the future. Coming off double ankle surgery this summer, Len missed Summer League play, and is a bit of an unknown in terms of expectations this season. He will start behind Marcin Gortat to open the season, but as their tank-a-palooza kicks into high gear during the middle part of the season, Gortat, on a reasonable expiring contract, is a likely trade candidate to a playoff contender. That would open up minutes for Len to start to showcase what he can do. Whilst my editor here at Downtownball.net won’t like me writing this (hi Liam), exactly what Len can do is a mystery to me. He never dominated in College but was productive in his Sophomore year (11.9ppg, 7.8rpg, 2.1bpg, .534 FG%). Some scouts say he was in the wrong type of offense and playing with the wrong back court to allow him to succeed. Others say he was at times a little despondent on the court, which is concerning when you are playing for your professional future. Whatever the reason, he has a chance to prove all critics wrong. He is athletic, long, very effective as the screener in pick and roll sets, and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. Now he just needs to put in the work. I wouldn’t expect too much as a rookie, but he could contribute down the stretch now that Gortat has moved on.

Projection: 19mpg, 6.3ppg, 4.1rpg, 0.9bpg, 0.1spg, .522 FG%

Target: Waiver/Free Agent Add

Markieff Morris – PF, 3rd year

I own Morris in a dynasty league, and am expecting a break out year from him. Entering his 3rd year in the league and with Luis Scola now in Indianapolis, the starting power forward role is his and his alone. Morris had a nice stretch run last year, averaging 10.8ppg, 7rpg, 1.2bpg, 1.4spg, 0.9 3pm and .444 FG% in 28mpg over the final 17 games. There is a little uncertainty as to how the return of Channing Frye (final year of his contract with player option for 2014/15 and possible trade chip) could impact his minutes, but the team is committed to developing their young talent, so Morris will play a lot. Rookie Head Coach Jeff Hornacek will also need to find minutes for Markieff’s twin brother Marcus, but he can slide over to the 3 spot at times, so they may see some time on the floor together. Markieff may be a safer proposition for dynasty leagues than redraft leagues, but will get a great chance to emerge as a solid contributor for fantasy line-ups as a Forward or Utility. Just be weary of his FG% on draft day.

Projection: 30mpg, 13.1ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.1bpg, 1.3spg, 1.0 3pm, .436 FG%

Target: 10th or 11th round

Other notables: Marcus Morris, Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Channing Frye (late round flier)

As always, make sure you stay up to date as training camps progress, and the likely minutes rotations and position battles become clearer for the names I’ve given you. Remember, more minutes equal more opportunity, so draft accordingly.

You can ‘tank’ me later!

[1] en.wiktionary.org/wiki/palooza

[2] “There are execs who have told me they’d pay him the max right now.” — Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA), Twitter, May 14, 2013

[3] Note: Milwaukee was NOT one of those clubs, continuing their tradition of being mired in mediocrity by signing OJ Mayo, Carlos Delfino, trading for Caron Butler and trading Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade for Brandon Knight.

[4] Based on standard 12 team 8-9 category h2h format.

Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball