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NBA Season Preview: Southwest Division

Top to Bottom, the NBA's Southwest Division is probably the strongest in the league, Dan gives fantasy owners a preview.

Tim Duncan puts his hands up in celebration following the Spurs finals clinching game against the Heat
Tim Duncan puts his hands up in celebration following the Spurs finals clinching game against the Heat
Andy Lyons

The Southwest is stacked, and I mean it. Last season, the only team in that division who didn't make was the New Orleans Pelicans, and they are going to improve next season, just by virtue of Anthony Davis improving, the trade for Omer Asik, and the return of Ryan Anderson from his neck injury, which caused him to miss four months to end last season. I don't really have much else to say for this intro, so let's gone with it. This is a very long post, and I spent a lot of time and effort on it, so I hope you have the patience to read till the end.

San Antonio Spurs

When trying to find the new post button, it's actually pretty hard, I stumbled upon this old article of tips for new fantasy basketball players (you should read it). One of the tips was don't draft any Spurs or Celtics, due to the old age of the stars, and the coach's tendency to rest players, this no longer applies to the Celtics, but Gregg Popovich is still playing his stars only 30 minutes a game, resting his players every couple days, and running a system that supports the team, not the individual players.

Players to Watch:

Tim Duncan: 38-years-old but still going strong, he had 30 double-double's in 74 games last season, that's 41% of his games. He's never had any major injuries, and he can still get owners points, fifteen per game last year, rebounds 9.7, and blocks 1.9, so he's still a good contributor, with fantasy value, despite playing at the deep power forward position. His current ADP in ESPN leagues is 60, which is probably too high for a guy who Bobby ranked as the 20th best power forward in the league. If he falls, pick him up.

Tony Parker: The Parisian Torpedo (i've never heard him called that, but if BBall-Ref says so...) has one of the biggest differences between real life value, and fantasy value. Parker is a great leader, and while he only gets 6.2 assists per game, he's among the league leaders in secondary assists per game (per SportVU), this can probably be attributed to the many extra passes in the Popovich system. Parker isn't a great scorer, only 16.7 points per game, and he doesn't get steals, but he looks cool when he scores, and that's what matters.

Kawhi Leonard: The Finals MVP from America's Finest City (I just had to bring up San Diego somewhere) is the typical Spurs player, not a lot of minutes, not a lot of scoring, just filling the role Pop needs. Per ESPN'S DRPM, Leonard is a top five defensive small forward, and that's why he plays, he's the new stereotypical small forward that every team seems to have, the Three-and-D guy, who puts all his effort on defense, and doesn't do much on offense, sadly, they don't have much fantasy value. He's young, and going to inherit the position as star of the team, so he's going to improve, but he's still a two category player, rebounds, ninth among small forwards last year, and steals, seventh among small forwards.

Dallas Mavericks

The Spurs are the least changing team in the NBA, but the Southwest also contains the two least loyal teams in the league, the Mavs and the Rockets. When I think of the Mavericks I think of Dirk, but past that I don't even know anymore, too much roster turnover in recent years, too many swings and misses at big name free agents. Why do they keep missing?

Players to Watch:

Dirk Nowitzki: I don't know how much he has left in the tank, but it has to be enough to be worth at least a mid round pick. Dirk is magic, that fade is beautiful, but fantasy-wise, he doesn't give you the rebounds or double-doubles you expect from a big, so i'm not a fan of ESPN's rank of 21, which is ahead of Joakim Noah and Andre Drummond, just to name two bigs I'd have ahead of him. That's not to say I won't pick him if he slides, he still scored almost 22 points a game last year (.66 PPM), 1,6 threes, and shot 90% on free throws, but so far, his ADP is way to high for me.

Monta Ellis: Monta Ellis Have it all Hell ya you do Monta, you have it all, you're a superstar, and the best player in the league. Okay maybe not, but Monta is the second best shooting guards in ESPN leagues, and unless you think Kobe can bounce back, Oladipo breaks-out, or Klay Thompson learns how to do something other then shoot threes (I only believe in one of those), he's a tier above everyone else (and tier below the Beard). Ellis was a ball hog during his early years in Golden State, with a usage rate above 28% from 2010-2012, as two guard, before his usage going down quickly once traded to Milwaukee. Last year while being a point guard, he got 19 points 5.7 assists, and 1.7 steals, but he also doesn't get threes, either of the percentage stats (45% FG, 79% FT), and commits 3.2 turnovers per game, that's not good, really speaks to the weakness of shooting guard position.

Chandler Parsons: He got a lot of money, and that's because of Dallas' desperation for a "star". Parsons is a lot like Nicolas Batum, in that they're multi-cat players, who aren't great at anything, Batum gets and extra rebound, assist, and shoots a higher percent on free throw, Parsons makes up for it though, by scoring an extra three points, and not being a complete liability in PPM. Both are above average at field goal percentage, and make 1.8 threes per game. They're both equal players, but who you pick would depend on who you need.

Houston Rockets

Daryl Morey is a genius, analytics makeMonta Ellis Have it all too much sense to not be a focal point of all front offices, but the West is stacked, and they just haven't been able to put it together to win the title. This summer they traded Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, and let Chandlet Parsons walk, all in pursuit of Chris Bosh, who just ended up returning to Miami, so that didn't end well.

Players to watch:

Dwight Howard: We're more then a year removed from the Dwightmare now, so that's out of the way, as is "competing" center Omer Asik, although with Dwight, you have to assume that even something small can mass with him, he's like a small child. Dwight is still a monster, with his almost daily double-double (over 70% of nights to be exact), top five in rebounds, almost 20 points a night, and 1.8 blocks, if it wasn't for that free throw percentage, he'd be a top ten player, but he's still usable in H2H leagues, if the rest of your team hits free throws, or you punt the position altogether.

James Harden: James Harden was already a first round pick, based solely on the fact that there's no other good shooting guards, but I think that he'll be better statistically next season, because now, there is no Parsons, and no Jeremy Lin, and no Omer Asik, just Harden and Dwight. Harden last season. In real life, Harden is a massive defensive liability, greatly lowering his value in reality, but it allows him to put his focus on offense, increasing his fantasy value. Hes a multi-cat beast, getting top ten among shooting guards in, points (1), rebounds (7), assists (2, but Kobe Bryant was ahead of him), steals (4), field goal percentage (8), free throw percentage (7), and double-doubles (2), the only problem, turnovers, he was second, only to Kobe Bryant, but he makes up for the 3.6 turnovers, with everything else.

Terrence Jones: Bobby is very, very high on Terrence Jones as a sleeper, and i agree in thinking he's going to be a lot better then the general consensus. Based on his measurables, and college stats, the regression model created great Layne Vasharo from Nylon Calculus estimates his expected wins peak (explanation about EWP) as among the highest in his draft class, which is a great sign for his future. Efficiency wise, Jones averaged 16 points and 9.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, with a true shooting percentage of 57.7%, and was 16th in block%, so with Asik now gone, he will be able to improve his already high 1.3 blocks per game.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Grantland's running preview of the NBA season has been under the theme of windows, when does a team's championship window open, and when does it close. They've yet to post anything regarding the Grizzlies'  window, but I'm here to tell you that it's closed. Two years ago, the Grizzlies won 56 games, and finished with the fifth seed in the Western Conference, but lost to the Spurs in the conference finals. The following season, under new coach Dave Joeger, fans were excited for a potential run by the Grizzlies, but it didn't happen, the West was too stacked, and the Grizzlies won "only" 50 wins, and got the seventh seed in the West, but now Z-Bo is a year older, and the West is stronger once again, the window is closed.

Players to Watch:

Zach Randolph: Z-Bo has always been a good player, he gets points, he gets rebounds (quite a lot actually, 10.8 per game), and when you have both of those things you tend to do a third thing too, double-doubles, you'd think a lot of players do all three things well, but only twelve players averaged over fifteen points and nine rebounds, Z-Bo averaged 17.4 points and 10.8 rebounds, far above those arbitrarily set numbers. You'd think that would make Z-Bo a top pick, but because of the combination of his age (33 years of age), the damage he takes inside, and the league's transition to playing a faster, guard oriented game, one can reasonably expect Z-Bo to take a hit next season.

Marc Gasol: The younger brother is a great basketball player, but because his best trait is defense, he's consistently overrated by whoever makes ESPN's player rankings (I don't know Yahoos rankings). Every year, he's hyped up as going to finally break through, and last year even i fell for it, and picked him seventh, and this year he's ranked 23rd, ahead of Drummond, Howard, Horford, and DeAndre Jordan. Last season, Gasol averaged only 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks, not exactly rank 23 numbers. His current ADP is 30, but even that is high for him.

New Orleans Pelicans:

The Pelicans wanted to make the playoffs last season, but in the West, that was an impossible task, but it's a new season, and  at age 21, the Unibrow is nowhere near his prime yet. The team has improved a lot, just through the development of Anthony Davis,  but Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday are both back from injuries that caused them to miss large a amount ofthey traded for Omer Asik to play some minutes off the bench.

Players to Watch:

Anthony Davis: He's a future superstar, and  because of Durant's injury, he's arguably the number pick in this year's fantasy draft. In the FIBA World Cup over the summer, Davis crushed against the inferior competition, averaging 23.4 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), 3.9 blocks, and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes, those are outrageous numbers, considering who he shared the court with. All of those numbers are slightly above his season average, but in the NBA, Unibrow is the star, the ball is in his hands, as opposed to on Team USA, where there's eleven other all-stars (and Mason Plumlee) on the floor. I think you can expect those numbers from him this year.

Ryan Anderson:

That is Ryan Anderson's shot chart from last year. I should mention that Ryan Anderson is a power forward.Why does it look like that, why does he have to spread the floor as a spread four? Because here's Anthony Davis' shot chart

So there isn't too much overlap, Davis is inside and midrange, Anderson shoots the threes, he was second in the league at them until his injury last year,  Last season he averaged nineteen points and six and a half rebounds before the injury to go with the three threes per game, which other then points, which was three points above his career average. His current ADP is 79.1, which if your team is missing threes, is a steal, although in this era of basketball, I highly doubt it's possible to lack threes.

Jrue Holiday: Before getting injured last season, the Pelicans were very unlucky, Holiday was pretty good, averaging 14.3 points, 7.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. Three of those stats were in the top ten among point guards last season, and none of those stats were career highs, so it's more then possible that he repeats these stats after returning from injury. Point guard is a deep position, and he is coming off a major injury, but his ADP right now is at 56.4, which I think is a pretty good value.

Hope you had the patience to read all that, yell/don't yell at me on twitter, or in the comments, if you think i'm stupid/smart.

Dan