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10 Biggest Boom-or-Bust Fantasy Basketball Picks This Season

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IOctober 23, 2013

10 Biggest Boom-or-Bust Fantasy Basketball Picks This Season

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    Should fantasy owners look to add Eric Gordon?
    Should fantasy owners look to add Eric Gordon?Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    In fantasy basketball, some players are worth the gamble, while others are not.

    Every year, it never fails that there are boom-or-bust selections that could make or break one's season. 

    A year ago, Stephen Curry was considered a potential bust because he only played 26 games in 2011-12.

    Yet, not only did he stay healthy in 2012-13, but he also compiled one of the best fantasy campaigns in the business (averaging 22.9 points, 6.9 assists, 1.6 steals and a remarkable 3.5 made threes per game). 

    Boom.

    Also last year, fantasy monster Kevin Love injured his hand in October and missed the opening stages of the season. There was mild reason for concern, but things took a major turn for the worse when he reinjured the hand in early January. He did not play any more games after that.

    Bust.

    Who are such players entering the 2013-14 season?

    Furthermore, who should you draft confidently, and who should cause you to be extra cautious?

    Let's highlight the biggest boom-or-bust fantasy NBA picks.

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Shane Bevel/Getty Images

    In 2010-11, Eric Gordon averaged an eye-popping 22.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.9 three-pointers for the Los Angeles Clippers.

    Injuries have unfortunately caused him to only play a combined 51 games in the past couple seasons, both with the New Orleans Hornets.

    Entering 2013-14, Gordon epitomizes a high-risk, high-reward player. In two preseason appearances, he has scored 21 points in 21 minutes and 16 points in 24 minutes.

    This ignites optimism that he could return to being a marquee threat at the shooting guard slot.

    Gordon is definitely worth a late-round pick, and he'll most likely be available. He could wind up being a huge steal.

    While it's unlikely that he'll pour in 20-plus PPG because he'll share a backcourt with Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, it's very realistic that he'll produce in the 18-20 PPG range.

    He should also collect around four APG, one-plus SPG and a couple threes per outing.

    Injuries could obviously derail his upside for the third straight season. However, Gordon's recent preseason outbursts show that there's hope for a revitalized 2013-14.

    Boom or Bust? BOOM

Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Deron Williams is currently nursing another ankle injury, and according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post, he is irked with how slow it is healing.

    While he did recently participate in practice, per Bontemps, it's unsettling to know that Williams is starting another year like this.

    In 2012-13, D-Will battled ankle injuries for the first half of the season, and it noticeably showed up in his contributions.

    He pre-All-Star break numbers were down from his typical production, but he picked things up mightily in the season's second half once his injury was more of a nonissue.

    Compare these digits in the following table (statistics courtesy of NBA.com/Stats):

    Time frameFG %3 PT %APGPPG
    Pre-All-Star41.334.77.616.7
    Post-All-Star48.342.08.022.9

    If Williams isn't his normal self, then he's an above-average fantasy point guard but by no means an elite one. 

    If your draft hasn't already taken place, then the wisest decision could be to wait and take a floor general like Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague or Mike Conley.

    This is especially the case if you're in an auction league, because the values of such individuals will be much less than Williams, but their production could be the same or better.

    If you have Williams already, he could be a major bust if his ankle woes linger. He could miss a chunk of time or have to sit regularly so he doesn't overwork himself.

    And, even if he plays consistently, this wound could still trouble him, which will restrict his production much like the first half of 2012-13. 

    While the "boom" ceiling is always possible with D-Will, it's safe to say that skepticism is more appropriate at this point.

    Boom or Bust? BUST

Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

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    Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

    Andrew Bogut can be a top-ranked fantasy center, but the numbers 12 and 32 are heavily concerning. These are the amounts of games Bogut appeared in during the past couple seasons.

    In 2013-14, Bogut embraces an integral role in the Golden State Warriors' approach. He is the Dubs' defensive intimidator and garbage man on the boards. 

    On a team laden with offensive weapons, Bogut will rarely get touches, but he should haul in a hefty amount of boards and accumulate around two blocks per game.

    In the playoffs last spring, Bogut averaged 7.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG and 1.5 BPG. He did this in just 27.3 minutes per game, and his playing time now figures to be around 30 MPG.

    If Bogut stays healthy, he could flirt with averaging a double-double while also supplying great value in terms of blocks. He could easily be every bit as productive as Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Bogut's worth a late-round pick or potentially adding as a free agent to stash on the bench. He could flourish in his given role with Golden State.

    Boom or Bust? BOOM

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Russell Westbrook is tough to know how to handle, because his return date is uncertain. Is he worth going all-in for?

    According to The Oklahoman, Westbrook participated in parts of practice recently for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    This is promising, and it clearly doesn't look like Westbrook's status could emulate the Derrick Rose nightmare for fantasy owners last year. 

    Westbrook is expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season, but perhaps his return could come even sooner due to his recent presence in practice.

    At any rate, Westbrook's value shouldn't take a significant hit because of his injury. Besides this, he doesn't have a history of injuries, and he's young enough to regain his old form quickly.

    It could take him time to find his rhythm, and this could prevent him from putting up what he's tallied in the past.

    However, it's doubtful he'll be anywhere near being a bust. This will only occur if injuries persist throughout 2013-14. 

    While Westbrook's value is diminished right now, it shouldn't be down much. He should be on the floor sooner rather than later.

    Truthfully, many owners will likely regret not selecting him when he was available, especially if he slips down the draft boards or can be had in an auction for a bargain price.

    Boom or Bust? BOOM

Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento Kings

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Greivis Vasquez had a breakout year for New Orleans last year, averaging 13.9 PPG, 9.0 APG and 1.1 three-pointers made. 

    How could he possibly be a bust in 2013-14?

    You'd think becoming a member of the lowly Sacramento Kings would still enable him much opportunity to shine, but this isn't necessarily the case. He's in a battle with Isaiah Thomas for the starting point guard position.

    Even if he earns the spot, the likelihood is that his MPG will be under 30 because Thomas will command a role off the bench. This, coupled with the fact that Vasquez underwent offseason ankle surgery, could reduce his worth somewhat convincingly.

    He has even struggled some during the preseason, going 1-of-8 in his most recent performance.

    Vasquez is still a decent piece, especially in deep leagues. However, owners should not expect him to mimic his 2012-13 numbers. Things are not lining up for this to happen again.

    As a result, he could become a featured disappointment in 2013-14.

    Boom or Bust? BUST 

Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Ersan Ilyasova was expected to break out in 2012-13, but it took a while to happen. 

    Compare his pre- and post-All-Star break numbers (per NBA.com/Stats):

    Time frameFG %RPGPPG
    Pre-All-Star44.46.211.2
    Post-All-Star48.79.017.2

    If Ilyasova can display his post-All-Star break contributions over the course of a whole season, he becomes extremely valuable. 

    Ilyasova also hit 1.7 threes per game after the All-Star break, providing him with a unique asset for a big man. Plus, he is eligible at either forward spot, enabling a fantasy owner flexibility.

    The chief worry, though, surrounding Ilyasova is his current health. Due to a sprained ankle, Milwaukee Bucks coach Larry Drew is preparing to start the season without Ilyasova, per C.F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    This is worrisome in and of itself, but it could become even more problematic for Ilyasova owners because of backup John Henson. 

    Henson raised eyebrows late last season, and if he showcases some eye-opening performances filling in for Ilyasova, then Ilyasova could find himself with a decreased MPG tally upon his return.

    Since the ankle injury isn't overly serious, it's still safe to project a quality year from Ilyasova, especially since he'll be a focal point offensively now that Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, two free-firing guards, have both departed.

    Just monitor Ilyasova's ankle and the development of Henson. Ilyasova should have a solid campaign even if he plays less than 30 MPG, but he could have a monstrous year if he's at full strength and logging 35 or so minutes an outing.

    Boom or Bust? BOOM

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

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    Glenn James/Getty Images

    Should we really forecast much from 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki?

    His previous knee issues do arise doubts, but he appears fully healthy beginning the 2013-14 season.

    He has looked like the old Dirk during his preseason appearances, including outbursts of 24 and 20 points in relatively limited minutes. 

    As a result, Nowitzki could be a sneaky selection. His scoring, consistency on the boards and superb percentage from the charity stripe situate him as a high-caliber power forward, even at his age.

    Furthermore, the Dallas Mavericks inked Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis in the offseason, providing Nowitzki with improved supporting components who should make his game more efficient.

    Calderon, in particular, is a phenomenal distributor and should enhance Nowitzki's savvy arsenal.

    Nowitzki is past the days of averaging 25 PPG and close to 10 RPG, but he can still be an important element to a fantasy roster.

    While it may seem like he's on the decline, 2013-14 could prove that Nowitzki still has gas left in the tank. 

    Boom or Bust? BOOM

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

    Joakim Noah is an unorthodox player, and he's also a unique fantasy weapon. He is the rare center who supplies not only rebounds and points, but also assists (4.0 in 2012-13).

    His stellar steals (1.2) and blocks (2.1) also heighten his value.

    Unfortunately, Noah's bout with plantar fasciitis and his current groin soreness are disheartening.

    While there is nothing serious looming over the 2013-14 campaign (Noah isn't concerned that he'll be sidelined into the regular season, according to ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell), the Bulls could safely deal with him during the coming months by lightening his load. 

    Chicago is all too familiar with being hurt come the playoffs, so it may take every precaution necessary.

    This could cause Noah's fantasy production to dip. Plus, he should be prone to having occasional nights off that fantasy owners may not be aware of until the game begins. 

    What's more, if his plantar fasciitis flares up again, then owners are in big trouble.

    Noah is an outstanding center when he's playing heavy minutes and healthy. It's doubtful that both of those will happen this year.

    He should remain an effective center, but his playing time could be in the 28-32 MPG range, and he'll probably take random nights off to ensure his overall well-being.

    Boom or Bust? BUST 

JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    JaVale McGee has possessed fantasy value for a handful of years, but we're still waiting for that breakout campaign in which he is a complete beast.

    2013-14 is a perfect year for it to happen.

    With Kosta Koufos gone, McGee will inherit a more involved niche, and it could lead to double-digit PPG, close to 10 RPG and nearly three BPG.

    Boom.

    But will it happen?

    New coach Brian Shaw is emphasizing slowing down McGee, per Nick Borges of ESPN.com (subscription required), because he is often out of control and lacking sense.

    This is exactly what McGee needs. His game requires maturity in terms of offensive intellect and defensive timing before he can ever really be an anchor at the center spot.

    It appears that things are pointing in this direction, which is encouraging news for McGee owners. If he receives the minutes, he should rack up the blocks while also netting acceptable PPG and RPG marks.

    He must show growth before we can be assured that his "booming" fantasy season has arrived, but it appears he's on the right trajectory. 

    Boom or Bust? BOOM 

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Kevin Lee/Getty Images

    Kobe Bryant's 2013-14 fantasy potential may be the most difficult to gauge.

    His Achilles is valid reason for him to slip down the draft boards, but Kobe lovers are surely still picking him with high hopes. Will these hopes be realized or dashed?

    According to the Los Angeles Daily News, there is uncertainty when Kobe will begin practicing. Fantasy owners should at least expect him to miss the early stages of the season, if not more.

    It would be foolish to scoop Bryant up in an early round, but it is Kobe. His drive could prompt him to return sooner than anticipated, and his progression back to his old self could occur on the fast track. 

    This wouldn't be surprising.

    With that said, it also wouldn't be shocking if his age caught up to him. He could potentially rush his rehab and suffer a setback. 

    If he's on the floor, he should still dominate. After all, he notched 27.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 5.6 APG, 1.7 three-pointers made and 1.4 SPG just last season.

    Because it's Kobe, predicting a banner year is still logical. He'll likely miss limited time and return on a mission to prove what he can still do.

    Using a pick on him in the first few rounds is a stretch, but if hangs on the draft board, he is worth choosing based simply on who he is.

    The bottom line is this: Don't overanalyze things too heavily when it's Kobe. 

    Boom or Bust? BOOM 

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