With the NBA season just days old, many fans are drafting their fantasy teams this weekend. Here are some players I've targeted in my drafts so far, mainly because they have the potential to greatly exceed their draft-day position.
PG Raymond Felton
Felton struggled mightily in Portland last year, but it will be interesting to see how he performs in his second go-round with the Knicks. He played some of the best basketball of his life leading Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense in 2010-2011 before New York blew up their team for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Felton hasn't been the same since, but I'm tempted to believe he can approach the 17 points and 9 dimes he averaged during his first stint in the Big Apple (especially with Amare Stoudemire needing 6-8 weeks to recover from knee surgery). He's going in the eighth round with the likes Jason Terry, Isaiah Thomas, Kenneth Faried, and his replacement Damian Lillard. I prefer Felton's upside.
Also Darren Collison
SG Arron Afflalo
The 27 year-old Afflalo should be the focal point of Orlando's gutted offense after taking a backseat to Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington at times in Denver. Perennially underrated, he's not a sexy pick but is poised for a big year and can be counted on to exceed last season's figures. He may be a bit rusty after missing most of preseason with a hamstring injury, but it shouldn't take him too long to round into form.
Also Wesley Matthews
SF Luol Deng
Deng never gets much press, but the 2012 All-Star contributes across the board and is as steady as they come. His numbers should see a slight boost with Derrick Rose expected to miss most of the season and a frontcourt (Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer) prone to injury. I expect his paltry 41.2 FG% from last season to rebound, and his counting numbers will remain strong as he averages close to 40 minutes per game.
Also Michael Beasley
PF Zach Randolph
Z-Bo is getting picked 70th overall, behind guys like Klay Thompson, Marcus Thornton and Louis Williams. What's with all the hate? Sure, there's a good deal of risk involved because he's on the wrong side of 30, is coming off a down year and has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. He doesn't swat many shots and isn't the most efficient scorer in the world. Marc Gasol's emergence as an elite center detracts from his value somewhat. I can see why his draft position is deflated, but the hate has gone too far. When healthy, he's a threat to go 20-10 on a nightly basis while making nearly half his shots. He's also a plus free-throw shooter who can average a steal per game and provide the occasional three-pointer. I would much rather have Randolph over other power forwards Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh and Tim Duncan, all of whom are being selected several rounds ahead of him. Great value here.
Also David West (especially now that Danny Granger is hurt)
C Nikola Pekovic
With Kevin Love and Rick Rubio sidelined for at least another month, Pekovic will benefit from a surge in points and rebounds. At the very least, he should be able to duplicate his production as a starter last year; 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the line. Unfortunately he doesn't provide much in the way of assists, steals, blocks, or threes, so he's a lot like Luis Scola. But with Love out of the picture he should put up some monster numbers early on. This tenth round pick should be a double-double machine that provides plenty of value, especially since he's going in the same neighborhood as Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, and George Hill.
Also Anderson Varejao