Hopefully, you’re ready with cheat sheets, rankings and tips for your annual fantasy basketball draft party. If it hasn’t happened already, just know it’s coming. Over the past week, we’ve been breaking down and debating key matchups so when the time comes to choose, you’ll know where to go.
*based on head-to-head format*
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Fantasy basketball is just as much about situation as it is about the talent of an individual. Ty Lawson has been biding his time for a while now, despite averaging 30-plus minutes a night for the last two seasons. His first two NBA seasons were a learning experience, as he was stuck behind Chauncey Billups on the Nuggets depth chart. When Mr. Big Shot was finally sent out of town, Andre Miller stepped right in, resulting in more bench minutes for the University of North Carolina product. Last year, it was Andre Iguodala who was brought in to dominate the touches in the Denver backcourt. However, this year seems to be the one that Lawson will truly be unleashed.
This is the definition of a transition year for the Denver Nuggets. Starting from the top, the legendary George Karl has been replaced with a rookie head coach in Brian Shaw. Shaw is a former NBA guard who will more closely relate to Lawson than anyone else on the roster. Denver’s most reliable scorers of the last five years are all thoughts of the past. Gone are volume shooters like Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Gone are the trusty, heads up players like Nene and Arron Afflalo. Gone is last season’s third-leading scorer in Andre Iguodala, and missing with injury is the second-leading scorer in Danilo Gallinari. The 2013-14 Denver Nuggets are going to be Lawson’s show to run and fantasy owners should expect big things.
Last year was a breakout season for Lawson, who averaged 16.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.2 threes and 1.5 steals. All of those, except for the rebounding, were career-highs for the fifth-year point guard. This season, he should be able to build on those numbers even more. Even when Gallinari returns from his ACL surgery, the Nuggets will be starved for offense. George Karl was an offensive whiz who could turn anyone not named JaVale McGee into a fantasy relevant basketball player, and without him, buckets won’t be as easy to come by. Lawson will hold the reigns to the offense and should have the ball in his hands a ton.
At this point of his career, Andre Miller is only there for a few spurts of relief and veteran advice, so there’s no need to worry about Lawson losing any time. As long as Ty is healthy and on the floor, the stats will come in bunches. He has missed 33 games over his first four seasons, which is some cause for concern, especially because of his bout with plantar fasciitis last season, but still, Lawson is entering the season with a clean bill of health.
The point of the draft where you’re taking both of these guys borders on whether it’s better to take the safer pick or the upside, but to me, this particular debate leans towards Lawson. Ellis will be dealing with adapting to a new situation. He’s played with some ball-dominant guards throughout his career, but never came close to playing alongside a talent like Dirk Nowitzki. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and Ellis is going to have to play off the ball for the first time in his career, especially when you consider the presence of a pure point guard like Jose Calderon. Throw in inconsistent field goal percentage and tons of mileage on his legs, and you can even make the argument that Lawson is safer AND has more upside. Fantasy basketball isn’t about who was ranked higher in the past, it’s about predicting who will have the better year this season, and that guy is clearly Ty Lawson.