Fratello’s Fantasy Picks

As NBA teams prepare for the 2013-14 season to tip off on Tuesday, October 29, fantasy leagues are holding their annual drafts. Regardless of the scoring format, fantasy GMs who do the most effective job of projecting and analyzing player production and value will come out on top at the end of 82. Everyone knows that superstars like LeBron, Durant and Chris Paul will put up monster fantasy numbers almost every night, but rounding out fantasy rosters takes skill. Here are five lower-profile players who should provide high returns at each spot on the court.

PG – Mike Conley

Mike Conley is entering his 7th NBA season with Memphis. Although a dynamic 1-guard on a playoff team, Conley is often ranked behind other PGs. Last season Conley played in 80 games and averaged 14.6 ppg, 6.1 apg, 2.8 rpg and 2.2 spg. He shot 83% from the line and hit 1.3 3-bombs per game. Conley posted season-highs of 26 points, 15 dimes, 7 boards (2X) and 6 steals. And he rarely lost the rock, averaging just 2.4 turnovers per contest. Conley’s a consistent producer who can fill up a stat sheet.

Dallas Mavericks v Memphis Grizzlies

SG – Evan Turner

6’7″ swingman Evan Turner played in all 82 games last season for Philly, averaging 35.3 minutes per game. He put up solid numbers on a shaky squad, loading the stat sheet with 13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg and .9 spg in his 2012-13 campaign. Turner posted season-highs of 27 points, 13 boards (2X), 9 dimes (3X) and 4 steals. In his fourth year Turner will be asked to lead Philadelphia’s exceptionally young roster, so he’ll get a lot of opportunities to step up and produce as the Sixers rebuild.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Philadelphia 76ers-NBA Global Games

SF – Maurice Harkless

20-year-old Moe Harkless enters his sophomore season after working hard all summer on the deficiencies in his game. The native New Yorker’s pro career set sail on Orlando’s sinking ship. Although at times Harkless looked a step behind on the court, the rookie’s numbers and minutes increased month by month, and his scoring peaked in April. For the year he averaged 8.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 1.2 spg in 26 mpg. He posted season-highs of 28 points, 14 boards and 6 steals. Harkless has a huge upside and will slowly but surely raise his game and averages.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic

PF – Derrick Favors

The solidly built 6’10” Derrick Favors was selected 3rd overall in the 2010 Draft after one season at Georgia Tech. With the departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the offseason, Favors will get more run than the 23.2 mpg he averaged in Utah last year. In 77 games he averaged career-bests of 9.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg and 0.9 spg. He posted season-highs of 23 points, 15 boards (2X) and 6 blocks (2X). Favors won’t be a sleeper for long so scoop him up in the draft before he fully unleashes on the league.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers

C – Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas is another big man who won’t stay under the radar for long. He’s only 21, but started playing pro ball in Europe in 2008. The 7-foot Lithuanian was drafted 5th overall in 2011, but didn’t make his NBA debut until last season. He averaged 8.9 ppg, 6 rpg and 1.3 bog for the Raptors and shot 79% from the charity stripe and 56% from the field. Valanciunas came on at the end of the season averaging 14.9 points and 2.4 blocks in seven April games. He is poised and possesses a solid skill set. As long as Valanciunas stays healthy he’ll start owning the paint and will become a primary scoring option for Toronto.

Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves Preseason

Czar’s End of Year Awards


Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Grizzlies

Gasol-Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe New York Knicks come to The Bluff City to take on the Grizzlies tonight at The FedExForum. The guys from Gotham are riding high on a four-game winning streak, while the Memphis squad has been singing the blues of late.

Memphis had a tremendous run heading into the playoffs in 2011 and pounded their opponents on the boards, but they’ve had difficulty picking up where they left off due to injuries. Just prior to the late start of this shortened season the Griz lost 6’9” backup C/PF Darrell Arthur, who tore his Achilles tendon during practice. And they’ve been without their key big guy 12th-year PF 6’9” Zach Randolph since he injured his knee in the fourth game.

Randolph led the Grizzlies in both scoring and rebounding last year. Without Z-Bo’s interior toughness and at times prolific scoring and board work, Coach Lionel Hollins needs his other big men, especially 4th-year 7’1” C Marc Gasol, to step up their production, execution and intensity. This is especially important tonight with the Knicks boasting what many basketball brains consider the top frontcourt in the 30-team league. With 10th-year 6’11” 6X-All Star PF Amar’e Stoudemire, 9th-year 6’8’ 4X-All Star SF Carmelo Anthony and the new addition of 11th-year 7’1” shot-blocking C Tyson Chandler, coach Mike D’Antoni’s frontline is formidable at both ends of the court.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty ImagesNew York last played yesterday, which may bode well for Memphis. The Knicks beat a Philadelphia team that was on a six-game winning streak 85-79. Carmelo Anthony had 27 points and 9 boards; Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds; and Tyson Chandler led both teams with 13 boards in the victorious effort at MSG.

Tonight’s contest is the second of a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies, who were an impressive 30-11 at home last year. They played and lost on Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95, their third loss in a row. After the Knicks, the Griz host New Orleans and then Chicago, so a win tonight could be just the answer to get Rudy Gay and company over their early season struggles. On the flip side, an ‘L’ to the men from MSG will leave the Grizzlies searching for answers.

Memphis’ backcourt trio of PG Mike Conley, SG O.J. Mayo and SG/defensive stopper Tony Allen will be matched up against the Knicks young one and two. 2nd-year SG Landry Fields and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert have handled much of New York’s backcourt burden along with 3rd-year PG Toney Douglas. So while most of the attention will be paid to the Knicks front three triumvirate, the battles at the guard positions may ultimately decide this game.

Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and I will bring you the first matchup of tonight’s doubleheader on TNT when the Memphis Grizzlies host the New York Knicks at 8:00 PM EST.