I realize that as I write this, the floor is coming out from under me. People are sliding into the icy waters, lifeboats are sailing away, and the band is still playing music. Yes, I'm going to write an article about fantasy basketball, and yes, I know I'm on the Titanic. But what the hell -- how about one last basketball piece before we sink into the ocean?
Today, we'll discuss the Denver Nuggets, a team that's seen an usual amount of players defect overseas. Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, and Wilson Chandler are all in China, which is fascinating in and of itself. And there's a report that they could all be released from their contracts with their Chinese teams if the lockout ends. However, let's put on our imagination caps and travel to Impossible Hypothetical Land. What if the lockout does end, and the Nuggets decide they don't want Martin, Smith or Chandler back, even if they can reacquire them? (And that's not an unlikely scenario in Martin and Smith's case.)
Then consider that the Nuggets would be unlikely to keep key free-agent Nene, who will demand a ton of money that the team might not be willing to provide. That means that with Smith, Nene, Chandler and Martin all absent, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari -- neither of whom averaged even 15 a game last year -- would suddenly be the team's primary scorers.
If things managed to unfold that way, Galo and Lawson would be fantasy gold, ripe for the picking. It would be a Golden State Warriors situation, players putting up stats that don't at all reflect how good they really are. With those four gone, the Nuggets would be an unholy mess of a team, but Lawson and Gallinari would experience substantial increases in everything: points, minutes, assists, rebounds, you name it. On a team as consistently high-scoring as the Nuggets, who like to take full advantage of the high altitude of Denver and wear out their opponents, it's hard to envision a scenario where neither Lawson nor Gallinari both average 20 points a game. I'd go as far as to suggest that Gallinari's numbers would mirror those of Andrea Bargnani, who saw a big statistical boost once Chris Bosh left town: 21.4 points, 5.2 rebounds per game. That may even be conservative, since Gallinari is a much, much better shooter than Bargnani.
And Lawson, who deserves to be on everyone's radar anyone, would immediately become a top-10 point guard. Last year, he averaged over 17 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists in 27 games in which he played at least 30 minutes. Remove all those aforementioned names and Lawson's got enough room to be a class-A fantasy talent, someone capable of putting up 20-and-8 numbers on a consistent basis.
But their deceptively ordinary stats would keep their fantasy draft ranking relatively low. In other words, Lawson and Gallinari would become must-target sleepers of the highest caliber if the season somehow began in the near future. Gold I tell ya, gold! Golden (Denver) nuggets!
Alas, this is all wishful thinking. It's highly unlikely there'll be a season, and Lawson and Galo's potential will have to wait for next year, when there's a more established cast of characters around them, and stats will be harder to come by. But stats are one of the things no one considers when work stoppages like this take place. No one remembers that had there not been a strike in 1994, Fred McGriff probably would have finished his career with 500 home runs, since he ended on 493, and there was more than enough time to hit an additional seven when the season stopped in '94. Instead, he ended his career on an irrelevant home run total, and it may have cost him the Hall of Fame.
(By the way, I'm sorry for not fulfilling my initial objective to do a preview of every basketball team. But what can I say? As it became increasingly clearer and clearer that there wouldn't be a season, it became increasingly pointless to do them. It's hard to have ammunition for an article when the sport you're covering is on a permanent hiatus. Oh well. There's always next year... I hope.)