1NBA Season Preview
ContenTs 2013 Rotoworld NBA Season Preview
PRESENTED BY:
POSITION TIERS
Top 24 Offseason
Transactions
...
2 NBA Season Preview
Editor’s Note
W
elcome to the 2013-14 Rotoworld NBA Draft Guide presented by Big Game Media
and NBC S...
3NBA Season Preview
,
ng
h
,
4 NBA Season Preview
By: Ryan Knaus
Dwight Howard photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
Top offseason transactions24
01
Dwight H...
5NBA Season Preview
downtown? His FT accuracy and knack for drawing fouls have
always buoyed his fantasy value, but it’s w...
6 NBA Season Preview
starting him at SF and risk stagnation as he fights for posses-
sions with Jrue Holiday and Eric Gord...
7NBA Season Preview
8 NBA Season Preview
13
Josh Smith signs with the Pistons
Four years, $56 million
Hawks fans will no longer groan every ti...
9NBA Season Preview
Honorable mention transactions
16Gerald Henderson stayed with the Bobcats, agreeing to a rea-
sonable ...
10 NBA Season Preview
SLEEPERS AND BUSTS
F
inding those diamonds in the rough is one of the most important aspects of fant...
11NBA Season Preview
Carlos Delfino/Khris Mid-
dleton
BUCKS
The Bucks don’t appear to be ready to play
Ersan Ilyasova at sm...
12 NBA Season Preview
BUSTS
his minutes and touches get divided up
among a deeper Warriors squad.
Jamal Crawford CLIPPERS
...
13NBA Season Preview
is ready to be a role player, and while
he’ll still offer fantasy value, the days of
him being a work...
14 NBA Season Preview
Earlier this year, I paid $150 to go to a Bob Dylan concert.
The performance was so bad, I left earl...
15NBA Season Preview
Steve NashPG, Lakers
The hamstring and hip injuries that kept Nash out of 32 games last year
are expe...
16 NBA Season Preview
Jeremy Lin PG, Rockets
It’s not that Lin has lost a step or that he’s washed up physically at age 25...
17NBA Season Preview
18 NBA Season Preview
I
nformation is always going to be the key
piece of a fantasy basketball champion-
ship. The more we...
19NBA Season Preview
playing pop-a-shot at Dave and Busters, try-
ing out crazy hairstyles and infuriating the
Philadelphi...
20 NBA Season Preview
I
n January of 2013, a long-tenured NBA scout told
Bobcats beat reporter Rick Bonnell, “I don’t thin...
21NBA Season Preview
Otto Porter
Wizards draft F (6’9”, 200 lbs.)
Otto Porter’s Summer League was a debacle, as he shot
30...
22 NBA Season Preview
Kelly Olynyk
Celtics draft C (7’0”, 234 lbs.)
Olynyk enters the season as the likely starting center...
23NBA Season Preview
24 NBA Season Preview
I
’m not going to list Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio or Greg Oden
in this column. After last season (an...
25NBA Season Preview
Kyrie Irving PG Cavaliers
Irving may or may not be injury prone, but the numbers say he
missed 15 gam...
26 NBA Season Preview
Forwards
Danny Granger G/F Pacers
Granger is coming off a lost season due to what appears to be
chro...
27NBA Season Preview
Brook Lopez C Nets
Lopez still isn’t doing basketball drills as of press time and spent
most of the s...
28 NBA Season Preview
Wings and point guards
Brandon Jennings Bucks
He’s the poster child for terrible shooting,
and it’s ...
29NBA Season Preview
ic 24 percent from the field and made only
one of his 19 attempts from downtown. Of
course, Burke isn...
Design sample from Open Look: RotoWorld Basketballl
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  1. 1. 1NBA Season Preview ContenTs 2013 Rotoworld NBA Season Preview PRESENTED BY: POSITION TIERS Top 24 Offseason Transactions 04 Sleepers and busts 10 Over the Hill 14 TEAM PREVIEWS46 Point Guards78 Shooting Guards79 Small Forwards80 Power Forwards81 Center82 INJURY REPORT 18 PERCENTAGE KILLERS 28 DYNASTY TIPS AND DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH 30 PICK 5 32 DRAFT GUIDE ROUNDBALL STEW 34 3 BOLD PREDICTIOS 36 MOCK DRAFT 38 NBA Contract Year Conundrum 83 SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN 76 PLAYER PROFILES 84 TOP 20 ROOKIE PREVIEWS 20 RISK AND REWARD PLAYERS 24 photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images CHEAT SHEETS 121 Point- Based Top 200 122 Category Based Top 200 123 Dynasty Top 200 124 Point- Based Rankings PG/SG/SF/PF/C 125 Category Based Rankings PG/SG/SF/PF/C 127 Dynasty Rankings PG/SG/SF/PF/C
  2. 2. 2 NBA Season Preview Editor’s Note W elcome to the 2013-14 Rotoworld NBA Draft Guide presented by Big Game Media and NBC Sports. It’s time to start preparing for the new season, and this magazine will give you all the tools you need in order to do just that. LeBron James or Kevin Durant will be taken with the No. 1 and 2 picks in your fantasy hoops draft, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess. Steve Alexander and Aaron Bruski tag team on Sleepers and Busts, and there are plenty of dia- monds in the rough to mine this year. Some of the guys we love include Jeff Green of the Celtics, Wilson Chandler of the Nuggets and Jonas Valanciunas of the Raptors. Dr. A also brings you Risk vs. Reward, where you learn if the potential rewards outweigh the risks associated with drafting injured stars like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. He also offers analysis on an expert Mock Draft, provides a detailed breakdown of the NBA schedule as it relates to your fantasy team in weekly leagues, as well as the biggest tool you need on draft night: Tiers. Ryan Knaus’ top offseason moves column is back, and we saw 13 teams change their head coaches over the summer. Meanwhile, guys like Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Eric Bledsoe (remember that name) moved to new teams. Knaus also tells you who the top rookies are going to be in the NBA this season. Mike Gallagher breaks down the guys who will wreck your fantasy team’s shooting percentages and also takes a look at dynasty leagues. If you want some deep, young sleepers to target in your dynasty league, this is the column for you. Adam Levitan breaks down the injuries you should be thinking about heading into your draft, as well the over the hill gang – or the old guys you should stay away from this year. Matt Stroup returns with the popular Roundball Stew. The stew has been a Draft Guide staple for years, and Stroup will tell you which offseason moves he loved, which rookies he’s targeting and other tidbits that will help you on draft night. The whole crew got together to come up with three bold predictions, as well as the Pick 5 – five players who might be under the radar but will end up on most of our teams when we have our own drafts. Matthew Braine contributes a list of players heading into a contract year. And as you know, those guys tend to play with a little extra motivation, and many of them could be on the verge of having a big season in order to get paid next summer. Additionally, we’ve not only included each NBA team’s weekly games-played schedule, but their entire schedule is also provided on each team page. That way you can find out what kind of defense your player will face when he’s got a coveted four-game week. And last, but not least, there are more than 350 player profiles that recap each player’s 2012 sea- son, takes a look at what changed over the summer and what we are expecting from them in the upcoming season. There are also depth charts, team reports and cheat sheets that should make your draft night a relaxing and winning experience. So read the columns, soak up the knowledge and prepare to bask in the glow of winning another fantasy championship! Steve Alexander Senior NBA Editor/Head Writer Editor-in-Chief: Brett Vandermark Managing Editor: Ed Williams III Senior Writer: Steve Alexander Lead Developers: Steve Howard, Dave Wilburn, Greg Friedman Technical Director: Stephen Hildebrand Head Writers: Aaron Bruski, Ryan Knaus, Mike Gallagher, Adam Levitan Staff Writers: Matt Stroup, Matthew Braine Development Team: Karen Nicol, Ryan Stewart, Michelle Jones, James Dowd Editorial Staff: Aaron Solomon, Linda Manna Fire Marshall: Christopher Howland Special Thanks: Rick Cordella, Kevin Monaghan, Tom Seeley, Brian Gilmore, Eric Black, John Sikorjak, Mike Miller Presented By: Publisher: Chris Calandro Associate Publishers: Mark Wayne, Ryan Kasmiersky Designers: Jericho Khris Monte de Ramos, Noel ‘Kip’ Macasero Production Coordinator: Jennifer Cunningham Graphics Coordinator: Kelly Jennings Advertising Sales Representative: Sarah Kaiser Customer Service Representative: Sandy Heuerman Graphics Support: Cory Jenson, Angie West Accounting Manager: Leigh Chamberlain Director of Operations: Mike Boniol General Manager: Josh Eells Financial Services: DeDe Lawson Big Game Media, LLC 15222 King Rd, Suite 103 Frisco, Texas 75034 972.292.0700 www.biggameusa.com ©2013. The Big Game Presents: Rotoworld Fantasy Basketball. This magazine is purchased by the buyer with the understanding that information presented is from various sources from which there can be no warranty or responsibility by Big Game Media, LLC as to the legality, colpleteness or technical accuracy. @TheBigGameUSA /TheBigGameUSA TheBigGameUSA
  3. 3. 3NBA Season Preview , ng h ,
  4. 4. 4 NBA Season Preview By: Ryan Knaus Dwight Howard photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images Top offseason transactions24 01 Dwight Howard signs with the Rockets Four years, $88 million with a fourth- year player option Daryl Morey’s machinations finally paid off. Years of draft-day tinkering and a sprinkling of luck enabled the Rockets to sign the summer’s preeminent free agent – a physical anomaly who is en- tering his prime at 27 years old. Howard is already the only player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding for five consecu- tive seasons (2005-2010) and the only player to ever win Defensive Player of the Year honors in three consecutive seasons (2009- 2011). His rebounding and shot-blocking give him elite fantasy potential in any situation—witness his 17.9 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game in March last season. Now that he’s healthy, his offense should also recover, especially if he’s willing to sacrifice the spotlighting effect of post-ups (0.74 points per posses- sion last year, ranking 121st in the league) and play to his strengths as a roll-man (1.29 points per possession, 9th in the league). Lest anyone doubt Dwight’s outlook, consider what he overcame while leading the NBA in rebounds last season (excerpted from a RW blurb): “Dwight had back surgery [in April 2012] to relieve nerve pressure which was causing him to lose feeling in his foot. When his back and foot recovered, he was out of shape and frequently brought the ball down to gather himself, at which point opponents whacked him, held him and generally aggravated the torn labrum in his right shoulder.” He played through the shoulder ailment last year, however, and has missed a grand total of 25 games in nine NBA seasons, one more reason to love his fantasy outlook as a Rocket.* *The standard asterisk is that Dwight was the No. 93 player in eight-cat leagues last season on a per-game basis. If you were will- ing to punt his 49.2 percent free throw shooting, he jumped to No. 3 overall. You may hear reports of his improved concentration at the FT line before the season. You may hear that he’s working with a shot-doctor, a yogi or a faith-healer, but don’t believe the hype: Dwight’s FT percentage has been on a fitful downward trajectory ever since his rookie season, when he coolly knocked down 67.1 percent of his freebies. 02 Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry traded to the Nets Celtics get Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and draft picks This deal must be understood in the context of owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s willingness to throw around millions of dollars like confetti and his single-minded focus on winning a champion- ship. Why else would Brooklyn set themselves up for a whopping $101 million payroll and accompanying $75+ million luxury tax, while purging themselves of young players and draft picks? In the short-term, the Nets are simply stacked at every position, with the talent and depth to legitimately challenge for supremacy in the East. The situation is much gloomier for fantasy owners, though, as that depth will likely translate to muddled roles, limited minutes and precautionary DNPs. Garnett averaged 30 minutes per game last season, and Terry averaged 27 minutes, the lowest totals since they were rookies, while Pierce averaged a career-low 33 minutes. Their playing time will decrease even more in Brooklyn, as Jason Kidd parcels out their minutes to keep them healthy and fresh for the postseason. Looking at cumulative nine-cat value, owners should target KG somewhere around the seventh round and Pierce in the sixth round, but Terry is unlikely to be worth drafting unless you’re desperate for 3-pointers. 03 Kevin Martin signs with the Timberwolves Four years, $28 million Martin accepted a sixth-man role with the Thunder last season, av- eraging just 28 minutes per game and fewer shots (10.1 per game) than he’d taken since the 2005-06 season. As a result, his fantasy value plummeted to the late-middle rounds. He avoided injury and played in 77 games, however, and he should bounce back as the Wolves’ starting SG this season—who better for Ricky Rubio to pass to than Martin, a career 38.5 percent shooter from
  5. 5. 5NBA Season Preview downtown? His FT accuracy and knack for drawing fouls have always buoyed his fantasy value, but it’s worth noting that on a per-36-minute basis, he’s dropped from 9.3 FT attempts (2010-11) to 5.1 FT attempts (2011-12) to 4.1 FT attempts (2012-13). Fantasy owners should give him a look anywhere past the fifth round. 04 Andrea Bargnani traded to the Knicks Raptors get Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, a 2016 first-round pick and two future second-round picks* Bargnani shot 39.9 percent from the field last year. He rebounded at a historically pathetic rate for a seven-footer (4.6 boards per 36 minutes). He continued to struggle defensively, particularly as a help defender (0.8 blocks per game), and he appeared in just 35 games due to a sequence of injuries and ineffective play. But through the kaleidoscopic lens of James Dolan’s imagina- tion, Bargnani was worth $22.3 million over the next two years as well as the Knicks’ sacrifice of healthy veterans, draft picks and financial flexibility. Bargnani’s health will be critical to New York’s success, which is terrifying since he has missed 43 percent of his games over the past three seasons. Amare Stoudemire can’t shake the injury bug either, and he’s projected to play a backup role, but fantasy owners shouldn’t even consider drafting Bargs before the 10th round. The odds that Bargnani has a bounce-back season = the odds that Bargnani boxes out aggressively after a jump shot = the odds that whoever drafts Bargnani before the 8th round will win their fantasy league. *Marcus Camby was amicably bought out by Toronto and has since signed on as veteran mentor/emergency depth with the Rockets. Quentin Richardson earned a ridiculous $5 million salary to make the financial numbers work. This was a ridiculous, unfath- omable amount of assets for the Knicks to give up for Bargnani, and to my knowledge nobody has earnestly argued otherwise. 05 Andrew Bynum signs with the Cavaliers Two years, $24.8 million with incen- tives and a second-year team option The Cavaliers expect Bynum to start at center “if he’s healthy,” a phrase which will follow him like a shadow for the rest of his career. The former All-Star’s contract is worth as much as $24.4 million over two years, but only $6 million is guaranteed—the deal is understandably laden with incentives for minutes-played and games-played. The only way for fantasy owners to limit their exposure to risk is to avoid Bynum on draft day, viewing him as a flier pick with too much potential to pass up in the final rounds. If he does wind up on any of my fantasy rosters, I plan to trade him the moment he strings together consecutive double-doubles. 06 Andre Iguodala signs with the Warriors Four years, $48 million Iguodala nearly signed with the Mavericks, and he flirted with the Kings, but he ultimately signed with the Warriors after a series of salary-clearing moves allowed them to make a hefty-enough offer. It seems like a brilliant match all around. Iguodala joins a playoff contender with a dearth of defense-oriented players, his speed in transition meshes perfectly with the Warriors’ speedy attack (fourth-quickest pace in the NBA last year) and his shaky perimeter shooting (31.7 percent from deep last year) will be compensated for by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Harrison Barnes is expected to shift to the bench, where he’s being called the “sixth starter,” and coach Mark Jackson will find a way to give both Barnes and Iggy sufficient minutes, most likely by leaning heavily on small lineups and using Barnes as a PF. Fantasy owners should view Iguodala as a nice upside pick in the fifth round, though he plummets in formats that count FT percentage (57.4 percent last year). 07 Tyreke Evans sign-and-traded to the Pelicans Four years, $44 million New Orleans may deploy Evans as a sixth-man, where his ball- dominant offense will be a welcome addition, rather than Andre Igoudala photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images
  6. 6. 6 NBA Season Preview starting him at SF and risk stagnation as he fights for posses- sions with Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. It’s a lot of money for a backup swingman, but the Pelicans desperately needed an upgrade at SF, where inconsistent Al-Farouq Aminu (who re-signed on a one-year deal) is expected to start. Evans’ splits on Synergy Sports confirm that while he struggled in isolation and spot-up opportu- nities, he was very efficient as the pick-and-roll ball-handler. More surprisingly, he was mediocre in transition (1.15 points per pos- session), where his phenomenal athleticism was tempered by poor decision-making (i.e. chronic forced shots and turnovers). He was a sixth-round fantasy value last season, while playing 31 minutes per game in a discombobulated offense, and it’s reasonable to think he’ll jump up a round with a clearly-defined role for the Pelicans. 08 Al Jefferson signs with the Bobcats Three years, $41 million with a third- year player option The Bobcats gave Jefferson the biggest free agent contract in fran- chise history, and it’s pretty easy to understand their reasoning. Big Al is a borderline All-Star (he’s never made the cut) who wanted to sign in Charlotte, and he addresses the Bobcats’ utter lack of inte- rior scoring, even if he does nothing to improve their frontcourt’s league-worst defense. He averaged 17.8 points on 49.4 percent shooting last year, with 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks, while turning the ball over a scant 1.3 times per game. The 10-year veteran isn’t likely to have a career renaissance in Char- lotte, but more points and boards can be expected since the ‘Cats will inevitably lean on him in the half-court. His fantasy value exceeds his real-world value, and he’s a reasonable first-round pick in nine-cat leagues (bump him down a round in eight-cat). 09 Eric Bledsoe traded to Suns Phoenix gets Bledsoe and Caron Butler; L.A. Clippers receive J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley; Milwaukee gets two future second-round picks Bledsoe’s move to Phoenix was overshadowed by bigger-name transactions, but he may end up being the biggest winner in fantasy leagues. Suns GM Ryan McDonough and coach Jeff Hor- nacek have vowed to play Goran Dragic alongside Bledsoe, their coveted combo guard, and Hornacek boiled his philosophy during Summer League down to four words—“Just go. Everybody Run.” It makes sense that Phoenix jettisoned deliberate veteran Luis Scola to acquire young talent while clearing minutes for Markieff Morris and, to a lesser extent, Marcus Morris (and lest we forget, Channing Frye could return after missing the entire 2012-13 season). Returning to Bledsoe’s fantasy outlook, his averages in 12 starts with L.A. last season give a tantalizing glimpse of his upside: 14.2 points with 0.6 threes (43.8 percent from downtown), 4.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.3 blocks and 2.6 turnovers per game. Without getting carried away, forward-thinking fantasy owners can confidently draft Bledsoe in the fourth round. 10 Monta Ellis signs with the Mavericks Three years, $25-$30 million depend- ing upon incentives The Mavs were elated to land Ellis, an elite scorer in his prime at 28 years old, for roughly $8 million per season. He’ll take immense pressure off Dirk Nowitzki offensively, while the efficiency of Dirk, Shawn Marion and Jose Calderon should mitigate Ellis’ lousy pe- rimeter shooting (28.7 percent from downtown) and shaky overall efficiency (49.5 percent effective FGs). He may also get a boost as a post player—the Mavs ran nearly twice as many post-ups than the Bucks last season—and he should share pick-and-roll ball- handling duties with Jose Calderon, who is a far deadlier spot-up shooter. Owners willing to absorb (or punt) turnovers and low FG percentage should target him in the third or fourth round, while everyone else should wait a few more rounds before pouncing. 11 Jose Calderon signs with the Mavericks Four years, $29 million Mark Cuban was incredulous when critics said Calderon’s contract is too rich and too long. He pointed to Calderon’s 3-point ac- curacy (46.1 percent from downtown last year), pure PG skills (7.1 assists in under 30 minutes per game) and always-stellar assist-to-turnover ratio (4.1, trailing only Chris Paul). Those are the same reasons fantasy owners shouldn’t overlook Calderon on draft day – he quietly posted top-50 value in limited playing time last year, ranking as the 12th most valuable fantasy PG in nine-cat roto leagues (ahead of Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday). His lamentable defense shouldn’t matter to fantasy owners and the Mavs will likely play him hefty minutes ahead of rookies Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin, so the only major caveat is Calderon’s health – he’s missed an average of 12.8 games over the past five seasons. 12 Paul Millsap signs with the Hawks Two years, $19 million Danny Ferry’s streak of impressive and cap-conscious moves continued with Millsap—the two-year deal maintains the Hawks’ super-flexible financial outlook, and his $9.5 million annual salary is on par with a guy like Shawn Marion ($9.3 million) and way cheaper than David Lee ($13.9 million) or even Kris Humphries ($12.0 million). The value is more than surface-deep. Millsap is as durable as they come (18 total DNPs in seven seasons), he scores efficiently (career 56.3 true shooting), he rebounds well (9.2 boards per 36 minutes), he averaged 1.3 steals per game last year and he has a career PER of 18.8 (Josh Smith’s career PER is 18.4). His minutes will undoubtedly exceed the 30 per game he averaged last season, which makes him a borderline second-round pick in most formats. The Hawks also signed Elton Brand to a one-year, $4 million deal, but EB isn’t likely to have more than late-round value while the Sapper and Al Horford are healthy.
  7. 7. 7NBA Season Preview
  8. 8. 8 NBA Season Preview 13 Josh Smith signs with the Pistons Four years, $56 million Hawks fans will no longer groan every time Josh Smith launches a perimeter jumper, since he’ll be doing it in a Pistons uniform. That he will attempt such ill-advised shots is a given, especially if the Pistons deploy him as their starting SF alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, and the only real mystery is how Mo Cheeks will react. Will he scream as Smoove trots back from the 3-point line, playing half-speed transition defense after his miss? Will he scour from his chair, grudgingly accepting the reality that big- name players hold the power in today’s NBA? Either way, fantasy owners will surely live with the results. Once you ignore his career- low 51.1 percent FT shooting (a must if you want to draft him), Smoove was a top-15 roto player on the strength of 17.5 points, 0.8 triples, 8.4 boards, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. He missed six games last year and has been remarkably durable throughout his career, another reason to target the über-talented 28-year-old on draft day. 14 Brandon Jennings signed-and-traded to the Pistons Three years, $24 million Jennings set career-highs last season with 6.5 assists and 2.2 three-pointers per game, but habitually poor shooting percentages and high turnovers limited him to fourth-round value in nine- cat leagues (third-round in eight-cat). His assists may jump even higher in Detroit, where he has a corps of big men (Drummond, Monroe, Smoove) capable of finishing his passes. His scoring may also get a boost since he’s no longer competing for shots with Monta Ellis. Pistons fans, however, can only hope that the 24-year- old improves his shot selection (60 percent of his shots came from beyond 15 feet last season), ball protection (24th among PGs in assist-to-turnover ratio) and defense (opponents scored 9.2 more points per 48 minutes with Jennings off the court). In return for Jennings, the Bucks got Brandon Knight, Slava Kravtsov and Khris Middleton. Knight immediately assumes starting PG duties in Milwaukee and has a great chance to improve upon last year’s 13.3 points, 4.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He took a step backward during his second NBA season, averaging 13.3 points on 40.7 percent shooting with few assists (4.0) or steals (0.8) but enough turnovers (2.7) to do damage in nine-cat leagues. His saving grace in fantasy leagues is perimeter shooting—he made 1.6 triples last year at a 36.7 percent clip. Hopefully the Bucks will give him a green light all season, but his looks could be limited with O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, Carlos Delfino and Ersan Ilyasova all capable perimeter shooters. 15 Jrue Holiday traded to the Pelicans New Orleans receives Holiday and Pierre Jackson; Philadelphia receives No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel and a top-five protected 2014 pick Holiday was the only player in the NBA to average at least 17.0 points and 8.0 assists last season. He made the All-Star team at age 23. He’s missed five games total in the past three seasons, he’s a career 37.4 percent shooter from downtown and his total rebound percentage last year ranked sixth in the NBA among starters 6’3” or shorter. The Pelicans saw an opportunity and they seized it, and the acquisition of Holiday began a chain of roster-altering moves— Tyreke Evans signed as a free agent, Robin Lopez was traded to the Blazers and the roster was filled out with Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Morrow and Greg Stiemsma. Tyreke is expected to play sixth-man, where his ball-dominance will be minimally disruptive to Holiday’s game, and Jrue should thrive on a Pelicans team built to run the rubber off their soles. His fantasy value could increase now that he’s out of Doug Collins’ deliberate offensive system (21st in the league in pace), although his usual sky-high turnovers are part of the package. Brandon Jennings photo by Allen Einstein/Getty Images
  9. 9. 9NBA Season Preview Honorable mention transactions 16Gerald Henderson stayed with the Bobcats, agreeing to a rea- sonable three-year, $18 million deal. It’s a steal for Charlotte considering Henderson’s production last season was very similar to Tyreke Evans, who will make an average of $11 mil- lion annually. Fantasy owners should target him in the fifth or sixth round. 17Greivis Vasquez was sent to the Kings in the Tyreke Evans deal, and he seems like the favorite to start at PG ahead of Isaiah Thomas. He was a great source of assists last year, while barely moving the needle in other fantasy categories, and there’s no reason to expect more from him in Sacramento. 18Carl Landry rejoined the Kings on a four-year, $26 million deal. His efficient scoring and rebounding can be eye-catching, but savvy fantasy owners know to avoid him until the final rounds. It’s unclear whether Landry will pry the starting PF job away from Jason Thompson. 19Manu Ginobili re-signed with the Spurs, where his minutes will likely decrease from the 23 per game he averaged last season. He’s a classic risk vs. reward pick in the final rounds. 20Chris Kaman signed a one-year, $3.2 million deal to join the Lakers, where he’ll likely start alongside Pau Gasol. Kaman needs to prove he can stay healthy before fantasy owners trust him as more than a late-rounder. 21Kosta Koufos was traded from the Nuggets to the Grizzlies in exchange for Darrell Arthur and a second-round pick. It’s a nice deal for Memphis, allowing them to maintain a solid presence behind Marc Gasol without overpaying for a guy like Timofey Mozgov (who landed a three-year, $14 million deal from the Nuggets). Koufos won’t have fantasy value in standard leagues while Gasol is healthy. 22Luis Scola was traded to the Pacers for Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green and a protected 2014 first-round pick. He’ll come off the bench behind David West, which crushes his fantasy outlook but is a very nice fit for the Pacers. Scola’s offensive creativity is a welcome addition, and his defensive limitations should be masked by Indy’s stellar team defense. If and when players blow past Scola, they’ll face rotating help defenders and either Roy Hibbert or Ian Mahinmi lurking near the rim. 23Mike Miller signed a two-year deal to return to the Grizzlies. He’ll come off the bench and give them much-needed perim- eter shooting. 24Ryan Gomes signed with the Thunder, a deal which is only remarkable since it’s the most important non-draft addition OKC made all summer. Cleveland Cavaliers v Charlotte Bobcats photo by Brock Williams-Smith/Getty Images
  10. 10. 10 NBA Season Preview SLEEPERS AND BUSTS F inding those diamonds in the rough is one of the most important aspects of fantasy sports, while identifying big names that will fizzle out is also quite helpful. While there will be several players not listed here that will break out and become hot pickups, these are the guys we think have the best chance of doing so. Steve Alexander handles the sleepers, while Aaron Bruski lists the players he thinks may fail to meet expectations. For the record, we disagree on Al Jefferson, as Bruski has him busting, and Alexander thinks he’ll beast alone in the middle for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats. SLEEPERS POINT GUARDS Eric Bledsoe SUNS Bledsoe has the talent to be a fantasy beast, and it looks like he’ll get the opportunity to play for the Suns. He will spend a lot of time at shooting guard, but will also back up Goran Dragic at point guard. We’ve got him at about 15 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer per game. He appears to be a can’t-miss player this year. Trey BurkeJAZZ There are huge concerns about his shooting percentage, but Burke should win the start- ing point guard job and doesn’t have much competition. It may take him some time to figure out the NBA game, but once he does, he should be in the running for Rookie of the Year. Michael Carter - Williams76ERS The Sixers shuttled Jrue Holiday out of town and will hand the reins of the offense to MCW this season. He’ll struggle at times, but with the Sixers ready to tank and pre- pare for the future, Carter-Williams should have a long leash, and a lot of big games as he learns how to play professional basket- ball. SHOOTING GUARDS O.J. MayoBUCKS Mayo struggled when Dirk Nowitzki re- turned from knee surgery last year, but also got off to a hot start. Monta Ellis and Bran- don Jennings are gone, and Mayo should be option No. 1 in Milwaukee. He should score a ton of points, hit a lot of threes and be a fun player to own. Jimmy Butler BULLS Butler looks like the starting shooting guard for the Bulls, and his ability to rebound, steal, score and hit 3-pointers should make him a popular target in fantasy. Add in the fact that he doesn’t miss games, and it would appear that a breakout is coming. Kevin MartinTIMBERWOLVES Martin is a bit fragile, but a move from OKC to Minnesota, where he’ll play for Rick Adelman and start at shooting guard, should be just what the doctor ordered. He should be option No. 2 for the Wolves (after Kevin Love), and owners can expect at least 17 points and a boatload of 3-pointers from Martin this season. He’s also an excellent free throw shooter and gets to the line often. Alec BurksJAZZ Randy Foye is gone, and it appears it’s time for Burks to start at shooting guard as he prepares for a breakout season. We’ve got him penciled in for around 12 points and plenty of 3-pointers, but he could easily end up scoring closer to 15 points a night. Jeremy LambTHUNDER Kevin Martin’s departure probably means that defensive wiz Thabo Sefolosha is still the starter, but Lamb should get plenty of minutes off the bench. And given that he’ll follow in the footsteps of James Harden and Martin, there’s a very good chance Lamb pays off for those of you drafting him in the later rounds. Twelve points and a 3-pointer per game might be conservative estimates. J.J. RedickCLIPPERS Redick will have to compete with Jamal Crawford for minutes but looks like the starting shooting guard for the Clippers, who no longer have Caron Butler. If Redick gets the minutes we’re expecting, he should hit more than two 3-pointers per game and post solid, all-around numbers alongside Chris Paul. John Jenkins HAWKS Lou Williams is still recovering from knee surgery and we’ve got Jenkins listed as the starting shooting guard. And if he gets 25-30 minutes per night, he could pay off as a late- round flier in almost all fantasy leagues. Of course, if Lou-Will returns strong, Jenkins could also end up being a bust. James AndersonSIXERS With Jason Richardson’s season in doubt and Evan Turner set to play a lot of small forward, Anderson is going to have to step up. He’s a long shot for fantasy value, but we should all keep a close eye on him in train- ing camp and the preseason. He will likely be worth a last-round pick on draft night if hes the starter. Small Forwards Jeff Green CELTICS Green somehow made it through every game last season after missing a year due to heart surgery. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are in Brooklyn, and the only thing standing in Green’s way is Gerald Wallace, who forgot how to play basketball last year. Green can score, board, steal, block and hit 3-pointers, and we are expecting a monster year from him, comparable to what Nicolas Batum will do. Go get him. By: Steve Alexander and Aaron Bruski photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
  11. 11. 11NBA Season Preview Carlos Delfino/Khris Mid- dleton BUCKS The Bucks don’t appear to be ready to play Ersan Ilyasova at small forward, meaning Delfino looks like the guy. And while he’s in- jury prone, he’s also one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, and can steal the ball. His shooting percentage won’t be ideal, but he could lead the league in 3-pointers made if he can stay healthy. And if he falters, look for Middleton to step up his game and become worth owning in most leagues. Tobias HarrisMAGIC Harris went on a crazy tear when he was traded to the Magic last season, and we see no reason why he can’t do it again. We’ve got him penciled in for 16 points, 7.4 rebounds, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer per game this season. Unfortunately, the secret is out, and he’s going to go higher in drafts than we’d prefer, but he should still pay off. Harrison BarnesWARRIORS Barnes had the dunk of the summer and things were really looking up for him until the Warriors landed Andre Iguodala. Barnes will still have plenty of opportunities to score, rebound, steal and hit 3-pointers, but we’d be a lot more confident in his game if he didn’t have to fight for minutes with Iguodala. John SalmonsKINGS The Kings have always been weak at small forward, and it looks like Salmons will have the job this season with Tyreke Evans in New Orleans. Salmons isn’t going to single- handedly win you a fantasy league, but he should put up solid numbers as long as he’s starting. Twelve points, three boards, three assists, a steal and a couple threes per game are not out of the question. Nick Young/Wes Johnson LAKERS Metta World Peace is in New York, and Young and Johnson are set to split time at small forward for the Lakers. And if Kobe Bryant misses time with his Achilles injury, both players could end up starting until he’s good to go. Both of them are volume scorers and can hit 3-pointers, and both should be worth owning in most leagues. Just don’t target them until the end of your draft. Wilson ChandlerNUGGETS Chandler has the ability to contribute in almost every fantasy category, and we have no idea when teammate Danilo Gallinari might be ready to play this season. Chandler should come out of the gates healthy, ready to score, and put up all-around solid fantasy numbers. Don’t be afraid to jump on him once the big-named small forwards are off the board, as he could be one of the steals of your draft. Power Forwards Derrick FavorsJAZZ With Al Jefferson (CHA) and Paul Millsap (ATL) out of the way, Favors should run the show at power forward in Utah this season. Fourteen points, 10 boards, a steal and two blocks sounds about right, and he won’t kill you at the free throw line (70%). Amir JohnsonRAPTORS Andrea Bargnani is with the Knicks, and Ed Davis is in Memphis, clearing the way for Johnson to be the primary power forward for Toronto this season. A breakout season should be coming, and we think he’ll aver- age at least 14 points, nine boards, a steal and 1.5 blocks this season. Thaddeus Young76ERS The Sixers are a mess and Young is coming off a fine season, as usual. We’ve got him tar- geted at 78 games, 16 points, eight boards, two steals and nearly a block per game, so don’t sleep on him. Markieff MorrisSUNS We’re guessing Morris will play in all 82 games this season, and Luis Scola is in Indi- an. That should clear the way for a breakout season of 13 points, seven boards, a steal, a block and nearly a 3-pointer per game, which is gold from a big man. Cody ZellerBOBCATS Zeller should start at PF for Charlotte, as long as he can hold off Josh McRoberts, and is many people’s pick for Rookie of the Year. He should be a nice complement to new center Al Jefferson, and average around 12 points, 7.5 rebounds and a block per game. Centers Jonas ValanciunasRAPTORS Everyone on the Rotoworld staff seems to be in agreement that this is the time for Valanciunas to break out. He was fantastic in the Summer League, is the clear starter at center, and all signs are pointing to him becoming one of the best centers in the league, despite av- eraging just nine points and six boards last season. We see him at 13 points, nine boards and two blocks, and it’s possible that those projections are too conservative. Don’t be afraid to make him your No. 1 center, as the Raptors seem fully invested in running the of- fense through the big man this year. Enes KanterJAZZ Kanter showed a lot of skills and tools last season, and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are no longer in Utah. He should get all the minutes he can handle and should be a double-double machine this year, along with a block per game. And he can shoot free throws. JaVale McGee NUGGETS George Karl and Kosta Koufos are gone, and Brian Shaw will now coach the Nuggets. All of those facts give McGee some serious hope, and he’s the easy fa- vorite to start at center in Denver. Sure, he could tick his coach off at any time by making a bone-headed play or two, but there is a very good chance McGee could be a monster this year. We’ve got him at 13 points, nine boards and 2.5 blocks this season, and if he gains confidence and stops constantly looking over his shoulder, could be even better than that. Andre DrummondPISTONS Yes, the free throw shooting is going to be abysmal, as in dreadful, and possibly devastating. But he should also average at least 12 points, nine boards and two blocks this season. The bad news is that he’ll have to compete with Greg Mon- roe and Josh Smith for his boards and blocks, but should be one of the most fun young players in the league to own. Chris KamanLAKERS Kaman will start for the Lakers and while he’s no longer the player he once was for the Clippers, there should still be something left in the tank. If 13 points, six boards and solid percentages work for you, Kaman should be a de- cent late-round fantasy pick this year.
  12. 12. 12 NBA Season Preview BUSTS his minutes and touches get divided up among a deeper Warriors squad. Jamal Crawford CLIPPERS He’s still going to get his minutes, and owners will remember the good times from last season on draft day, but the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dud- ley bring two serviceable players into Crawford’s situation and not in a good way. Dwyane Wade HEAT If there was ever a guy that profiles to take the regular season off, it’s Wade, whose knees are officially suspect along with his jumper that he refused to take in the Finals. A player of his caliber will always command a stiff price, but days off and injury risk give him the look of a nasty headache. Ray Allen HEAT Approaching league-worst defensive levels, it’s going to be hard for the Heat Point Guards Jeremy Lin ROCKETS With Patrick Beverley breathing down his neck and a solid fantasy season under his belt to drive up his price, the going rate for Linsanity could end up being a drain on owners’ pocketbooks. Steve Nash LAKERS Nash’s numbers took a big hit in the assists department playing next to Kobe, and it’s a fair question to wonder whetherif he can play more than 60 games this season. Decreased athleti- cism has already impacted the way he plays, and a precipitous decline could be in store for a guy whose name value can still command a mid-round pick. Jrue Holiday PELICANS Along the same lines as Monroe, hHe added Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans to his life. If the Pelicans don’t run and gun Nellie style, there might be a fight for the ball at halfcourt. Greivis Vasquez KINGS After the fawning media is done for- getting that Isaiah Thomas had to play for Keith Smart last year, the latter will surprise them by being just as good of a passer as Vasquez and a better defender. With holes in his fantasy game already, look for Vasquez to be overdrafted if he wins the starting job in Sacramento. Shooting Guards Joe Johnson NETS Iso-Joe had more name than game last year, and with the Nets adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko he’s bound to get overdrafted. In fact, you can make a case for all four players being in the same predicament. Klay Thompson WARRIORS Thompson isn’t going to be a huge bust, but given where he will be drafted, he’ll have the potential to be a miss when to keep Allen on the court if he’s not hitting his shots. A decline in shooting last season could easily get swept under the rug after he hit the shot that saved the Heat’s championship. Small Forwards Josh Smith PISTONS Not only is Smith one of the worst free throw shooters in the league, he will have to deal with two rebounding studs in Detroit (Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe). Smoove is still a very talented fantasy player, but with more competi- tion for both rebounding and scoring, and his terrible stats from the line, he will likely be drafted too early in most leagues. Paul Pierce NETS Pierce not only has to deal with Andrei Kirilenko playing his position in Brook- lyn, but the Nets are one of the deepest teams in the league. He’s already said he photo by Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
  13. 13. 13NBA Season Preview is ready to be a role player, and while he’ll still offer fantasy value, the days of him being a workhorse at small forward are probably over. Danilo Gallinari NUGGETS Gallinari may not be ready to play until January after knee surgery, and even then it could be a lost season for him. We’ve got his substitute, Wilson Chandler, listed as a sleeper (for good reason), and he looks like a much better pick than Gallinari this year. Michael BeasleySUNS Don’t let the name fool you. The Suns have plenty of other players to handle small forward and Beasley’s marijuana arrest over the summer isn’t going to help his cause. He was a disaster last season, as he’s been for most of his career, and there is no reason to think anything will change this season. Power Forwards David Lee WARRIORS Lee’s defense is suspect, as he doesn’t block shots and is mainly known for scoring and rebounding. And given Lee’s big name, and the added juice to GSW’s lineup, there’s a very good chance Lee will disappoint owners who take him in the early rounds of their draft. David West PACERS Yes, he just signed a big contract and he beat down owners’ criticisms last season, but the Pacers have much more depth and can preserve their team lead- er’s health by cutting his minutes. With Paul George, Lance Stephenson, George Hill and Roy Hibbert coming into their own, his touches could go down too. Pau Gasol LAKERS He’s going to have a better season than the one he posted last year, but with Dwight Howard gone, owners are al- ready forgetting that Gasol’s game is in decline and that Mike D’Antoni doesn’t like to play two centers. Chris Kaman will bear the brunt of that philosophy, but the early draft pick that Gasol will cost is a risk-reward play on a guy that appeared to be falling apart. Zach Randolph GRIZZLIES Management appears, at least superfi- cially, to not view Randolph as a part of their long-term future. And there are signs that the relationship has strained, though we won’t be bumping him down draft boards much for these reasons. But when talking busts, an aging mid- round guy that might be unhappy is worth flagging. Greg Monroe PISTONS Used to operating with the ball in his hands, he just acquired two reasons that won’t happen as much – Brandon Jen- nings and Josh Smith. Good luck, Greg. Glen Davis MAGIC I’m trying not to unfairly picture him coming back Oliver Miller style after a long layoff, but however he returns he’ll come back to a team that is no- where near ‘his,’ no matter how much he thinks that statement isn’t true. Andrea Bargnani F and Amare Stoudemire KNICKS Both will be overdrafted and both could very well sit on the waiver wire for much of the year. Centers Al Jefferson BOBCATS Big Al showed signs of decline last season and looked slower than ever. With what looks to be a cushy fantasy situation, a precipitous decline could hurt when considering he’ll be an early round draft pick. Andrew Bynum CAVALIERS The jokes almost write themselves with this guy, but with his proverbial upside comes the potential for a massive flop. We prefer to take our chances on guys that actually love the game of basket- ball. photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
  14. 14. 14 NBA Season Preview Earlier this year, I paid $150 to go to a Bob Dylan concert. The performance was so bad, I left early and felt like I’d been taken into a dark alley and robbed of my money. In the end, however, this waste of cash was really my fault. I paid for the young Dylan, not the 72-year-old Dylan. The problem? Dylan is a shell of himself because, well, he’s 72 years old. It’s not his fault. When it comes to fantasy basketball, paying for past per- formances is equally as inexcusable. By identifying when players have hit the top of their career arc and are coming back down, we can avoid overpaying. Future returns - i.e. the 2013-14 season - are all we care about. Here are 10 candidates to be overdrafted because they’re over the hill. Dwyane Wade SG, Heat Wade has long been a candidate to hit the wall early be- cause of the way he attacks the rim and consistently ends up on his backside. The wear and tear has caught up to him recently. Over the last two seasons, Wade has missed 30-of-148 games (20.2 percent). Last season, his 21.2 points and 0.81 blocks per game were the lowest marks since his rookie year. Wade was a serviceable 3-point shooter at one time, but as his legs have left him, that part of his game has gone by the wayside as well. Wade was just 17-of-66 (25.8 per- cent) last season. Wade’s knee issues are chronic at age 31. He even missed a playoff game against the Bucks. Furthermore, head-to- head owners need to avoid Wade like the plague. Since the Heat only have the playoffs on their mind, they’ll rest Wade down the stretch. He sat nine of the final 14 games in 2012- 13 and eight of the final 16 in 2011-12. Dirk Nowitzki PF, Mavs Owners that wasted a pick on Nowitzki last year felt the pain. He sat out the first 27 games of the year and then posted just 17.3 points per game – his lowest mark since 1999-2000. The Mavs clearly know they have to become less reliant on Dirk. He played just 31.6 minutes a night last year, the lowest since his rookie year. In the offseason, they went out and got three new starters in Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Sam Dalembert. Dirk’s offensive role will continue to decline because he’s 35 years old and is no longer able to carry a team. By: Adam Levitan photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
  15. 15. 15NBA Season Preview Steve NashPG, Lakers The hamstring and hip injuries that kept Nash out of 32 games last year are expected to be back to 100 percent. There will be preseason stories about how good and young he’s feeling. Don’t buy it. Listen to Lakers trainer Gary Vitti. “Figure out the appropriate minutes that put him in a successful situation. The example I use is Robert Horry, where we played him a lot of minutes, and it was difficult for him to recover and be productive at his age. But he goes to San Antonio, plays 18 minutes a game, and the guy was an unbe- lievable force off the bench for them. I think if we figure out how best to use Steve, he can be the same way.” Nash was a well below average defender when he was in his 20s. He was atrocious in his 30s. Now that he’s going to turn 40 in February, he’s a liability. Even Mike D’Antoni can’t afford to keep Nash out on the floor for extended stretches against the game’s minions of lightning-fast point guards. Even trying to keep up with them will wear Nash down. If the Lakers can get 26-28 minutes a night for 60 games out of Nash, they’ll consider it a win. Jameer Nelson PG, Magic There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that we’ve seen the best of Nelson – and the Magic know it. First of all, Nelson has been unable to sustain health thanks to constant knee pain. Over the last five seasons, he’s missed 98-of-394 games (24.8 percent). He’s also seen his shooting percentage drop drastically over that span, declining sharply in five straight seasons. After peaking at 50.3 per- cent in 2008-09, Nelson shot a painful 39.2 percent in 2012-13. When smaller point guards lose athleticism, the wall comes quickly. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that the Magic used the No. 2 overall pick on Victor Oladipo and have been using him at point guard during the offseason. Nelson only has enough juice left to be a No. 2 point guard. Joe Johnson SG, Nets IIt feels like yesterday that Johnson was an electric, high-flying, rising star for the Suns. Then we realize that was literally a decade ago. Since the 2006-07 season when he averaged a career-high 25.0 points per game, Johnson’s scoring has declined every year but one. That can be tied to his free-throw attempts per game, which have declined every single year since that ‘06-‘07 season. Frankly, Johnson can’t go by defenders any- more and doesn’t attack the rim. He’s a jumpshooter. That may be fine for the Nets, but it’s not for fantasy owners. And with Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett coming aboard, there will be more chances for Johnson to rest his body and settle for jumpers. Amare Stoudemire PF, Knicks In theory, Stoudemire isn’t injured anymore. He’s had his knee surgeries, he’s had his follow-ups and he’s had his repairs. But the remnants of all those injuries have left a permanent mark that Stoudemire is unlikely to recover from even though he’s just 30 years old. At this point, Stoudemire is a guy that catches the ball at the high post and either takes a jumper or swings the ball along. He’s no longer a shot block- er or rebounder because he doesn’t have the lift. What’s worse is that the Knicks are intent on handling their max contract man with kid gloves. He likely won’t play on back-to-backs and will have a minutes cap this season. photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images photo by Issac Baldizon/Getty Images
  16. 16. 16 NBA Season Preview Jeremy Lin PG, Rockets It’s not that Lin has lost a step or that he’s washed up physically at age 25. It’s that he’s the rare guy that hit his career peak as a second-year player and has been tumbling down ever since. Lin is always going to be a candidate to be overdrafted thanks to his performance across 11 February 2012 games with the Knicks. During that time, he averaged 20.9 points, 8.4 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 0.9 3-pointers while becoming the talk of the world. Last year, while playing in an ideal scheme with the up-tem- po Rockets, he averaged just 13.4 points, 6.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.1 3-pointers. That’s a more realistic expectation of his career, but the chances to score will be fewer to come by now that Dwight Howard is in town. Andrew Bogut C, Warriors Remember the Andrew Bogut that was a fantasy monster, double-doubling every night while sticking among the league-leaders in blocks and field-goal percent- age? That’s a distant memory now. Bogut is just 28 years old, but the handful of serious injuries he’s sustained over the last few years have sapped his game. The Warriors don’t even try to run of- fense through him in the post. He’s just asked to rebound and defend for as long as he can. Last year, that was 24.6 minutes a night, a span in which he averaged just 5.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and shot an uncharacteristic 45.1 percent from the field. His ankle pain isn’t going away. Gerald Wallace PF, Celtics One thing to watch closely when examining career arcs is the super-athletic guys. For example, Paul Pierce is certainly slower and can’t jump as high as he used to, but he’s still extremely effective because of his shooting ability and basketball IQ. Guys like Gerald Wallace, on the other hand, have serious problems. Wallace became an NBA star and fantasy stud because of his unique athleticism in a league full of athletes. He just ran past and jumped over everyone. Now that Wallace is 31 and has been “crashing” into the floor for 12 seasons, he’s not capable of those athletic feats anymore. His brutal jumper never got better, and therefore, he has nothing to fall back on. Wallace’s 39.7 percent shooting and 7.7 points a night last year were for real. Manu Ginobili SG, Spurs The Spurs like wrapping their players in foil, preserving them for the playoffs at all costs. So when a player that was coddled all year can’t even perform in the playoffs, it’s a bad very sign. In 21 postseason games last year, Ginobili could muster just 11.5 points on 39.9 percent shooting in 26.7 minutes a night. He turned 36 in June, has an injury re- sume longer than Rudy Gobert and will show up with random DNPs in addition to his usual games missed for actual bumps. The Spurs – and fantasy teams – are better off giving all the wing minutes to Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images OVER THE HILL
  17. 17. 17NBA Season Preview
  18. 18. 18 NBA Season Preview I nformation is always going to be the key piece of a fantasy basketball champion- ship. The more we know more about a player’s role, ability and condition, the easier it will be to dominate. Perhaps the simplest but most important tool to have with you on draft day is a full under- standing of the league’s injuries: Derrick Rose PG, Bulls Injury: Tore left ACL on April 28, 2012 Rose had the unfortunate circumstance of blowing out his knee in the AAP (after Adri- an Peterson) era. Five years ago, it was widely assumed that a player wouldn’t be 100 percent until a full two years after his knee reconstruction. A decade or two ago, this was a career-threat- ening kind of injury. But in the AAP era, Rose got crucified for sitting out the entire 2012-13 season. All that doesn’t matter now. What does matter is how Rose will fare in the upcoming season, one in which he’s fully ex- pected to be a full go from Opening Night. Come November 1, the 2010-11 MVP will be 18 months removed from his injury. By all accounts, he’s in tremendous shape and has finally regained confidence in his knee. Rose says he’s now 100 percent and believes he’s the best player in the NBA. The concern is that Rose’s athleticism is what made him such a dominant player before the injury. He’s not someone that’s wins with jumpers or making 3-pointers with his feet set. It’s that violent change-of-direction and explosion to the hoop that made him a MVP. OUTLOOK: Rose figures to be playing start- er’s minutes right out of the gate. But owners drafting Rose will be betting that he hasn’t lost any of that trademark athleticism. Even if he says he’s 100 percent, it’s a risky proposi- tion given Rose’s high ADP. Kobe Bryant SG, Lakers Injury: Ruptured left Achilles’ tendon on April 12, 2013 Part of Bryant’s historic legacy will be his durability and ability to will his way through the bumps and bruises of the NBA. Sprained ankles that kept most players out for weeks kept Kobe out for a quarter. Slight tears in a shooting shoulder were brushed off. However, a full Achilles’ rupture is not one of those garden-variety NBA injuries. Kobe was slapped with a 6-9 month recovery time- table, meaning the very earliest he’d be back is October. There are two factors fighting each other here. It’s the extreme seriousness of Bryant’s injury coupled with his advancing age (35 years old in August) versus Kobe’s penchant for quick recovery. OUTLOOK: There’s some feeling in the sports medicine community that an Achil- les’ rupture is actually worse than an ACL tear. Kobe’s mid-range jumper is his great- est weapon now, but he might not be back to himself until the All-Star break. Someone in your league will jump the gun here based on name value alone. Andrew Bynum C, Cavs Injury: Bone bruise, chronic pain in both knees In 2011-12, good Bynum missed just six games while playing 35.2 minutes a night. He showed his upside, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Then came 2012-13, when bad Bynum didn’t play in a single game. He spent his time at strip clubs, INJURY REPORT BE CONCERNED
  19. 19. 19NBA Season Preview playing pop-a-shot at Dave and Busters, try- ing out crazy hairstyles and infuriating the Philadelphia fan base. Now Bynum has to prove himself once again. As an unrestricted free agent, he refused to work out for teams. He gained 15 pounds and we are virtually certain it wasn’t of the muscle variety (think beer belly). Bynum settled for a two-year, $24.8 million contract with the Cavs. That deal only includes $6 million in guaranteed money. OUTLOOK: There are going to be missed games and limited minutes here. The ques- tion is just how many missed games and just how low the minutes cap will be. If Bynum’s knee looks good through the preseason, he’ll be worth a risk/reward pick because most owners will simply want to avoid the head- ache. Rajon Rondo PG, Celtics Injury: Partial ACL tear on Jan. 25, 2013 Rondo’s tear wasn’t as severe as the one sus- tained by Derrick Rose. In fact, Rondo didn’t even come out of the game when he original- ly hurt the knee and was initially diagnosed with a hyperextension. Only two days later did the dreaded ACL news come down. Still, a partial tear is far better than a full tear. Rondo is expected to be ready for a limited training camp and then go full blast come Opening Night. OUTLOOK: There are a lot of adjustments to make here. Rondo will be trying to get com- fortable with his knee while simultaneously learning to play without Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. He’ll be asked to score more and play more minutes, a lot of pressure for a guy coming off a serious injury. If he handles it, Rondo will be a steal. The partial nature of his tear makes it more likely he’ll succeed. Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder Injury: Tore right lateral meniscus on April 24, 2013 The Thunder’s title hopes got flushed down the toilet when feisty Rockets G Patrick Bev- erley tried to steal the ball from Westbrook while he was trying to call a timeout. It’s a play that happens a million times during an NBA season, and one that players actually try to execute successfully during the playoffs. Westbrook and Thunder fans shouldn’t be mad at Beverley. Anyway, meniscus injuries are the least se- vere of the knee injuries. The meniscus is essentially the padding in a knee – it’s not a ligament that controls the joint. Further- more, reports said that only 2 percent of Westbrook’s meniscus was torn. It’s possible that Westbrook could have played through the injury during the playoffs, but the Thunder wisely took the long-range view. By getting the surgery, he’ll have more padding going forward and therefore extend his career. OUTLOOK: We can be confident Westbrook will not be hampered at all this season. Me- niscus surgeries are relatively minor and have short recovery timetables. Danilo Gallinari, SF, Nuggets Injury: Tore left ACL on April 4, 2013 When Gallinari went down in a heap against the Mavs, it looked like the most severe kind of knee injury a player can suffer. But when sur- geons went into Gallo’s knee, they found good news. It turned out that Gallinari only sustained a partial tear. The Nuggets originally said he wouldn’t be back until February at the earli- est – now he’s targeting a return to basketball activities in December. OUTLOOK: The Nuggets are solid at the swingman spot with starting-caliber backup Wilson Chandler ready to step in. Gallo won’t be rushed, but he also won’t have to regain all of his athleticism to be effective. He’ll be a help in the 3-point category late in the season. David Lee – Underwent surgery to repair a torn right hip flexor. He’s expected to be ready for training camp. J.R. Smith – After getting his $24.7M deal from the Knicks, Smith underwent patella and me- niscus surgery. He’s in doubt for Opening Night. Glen Davis – Big Baby broke his left foot way back in January. Then he had to undergo another procedure in July, which was deemed a set- back. Conditioning will be a concern, even if he is a go come November. Brad Beal – The impressive rising sophomore missed most of the offseason due to a stress reac- tion in his leg. It’s the kind of injury that lingers. photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
  20. 20. 20 NBA Season Preview I n January of 2013, a long-tenured NBA scout told Bobcats beat reporter Rick Bonnell, “I don’t think this is a good draft. This is the year you should con- sider trading your draft pick—no matter where it is.” The sentiment seems to have stuck, as draft night featured 16 trades with a total of 22 draft picks changing hands (not counting future picks). The skepticism of scouts and the eagerness of GMs to swap picks does not, of course, mean that the draft lacked solid NBA rotation players or the occasional guy with All-Star potential. Every year there are overlooked players who defy ex- pectations both in reality and in fantasy leagues. I must, however, begin with my standard disclaimer—rookies are typically more trouble than they’re worth in fantasy leagues. Here are the fantasy values for the top 12 draft picks from 2012-13. *NOTE: I’m listing per-game rotisserie rankings for eight-cat and nine-cat leagues, respectively, accord- ing to BasketballMonster.com. Assuming a ‘standard’ 12-person league with 13 roster spots, the cut-off for fantasy usefulness would be No. 156. Not very impressive. Only four rookies provided season-long fantasy value in 2012-13, only Anthony Davis and Da- mian Lillard provided better than 10th-round value in eight- or nine-cat leagues, and not a single player drafted after Andre Drummond at No. 9 cracked the top-160. Keep in mind that while most rookies aren’t worth drafting, they can certainly be useful throughout the season—e.g. Moe Harkless (the No. 15 pick) was the No. 164 player overall but he returned ninth-round value during the final month of the season. Bradley Beal, similarly, was a fifth-round value in the final two months. Thus forewarned, let’s proceed to this year’s rookies. 1 Anthony Bennett Cavaliers draft F (6’8”, 240 lbs.) The Cavs’ selection of Bennett was unexpected but log- ical. He averaged 16.1 points on 53.3 percent shooting as a freshman with UNLV, playing only 27 minutes per game, and he proved equally adept scoring at the rim and from the perimeter (38.3 percent from downtown). He came into the draft recovering from rotator cuff sur- gery while facing questions about his conditioning after weighing in at 261 lbs. during the Combine, but there were similarly serious concerns about other top pros- pects. Bennett is expected to be fully healthy for training camp, and coach Mike Brown said he’ll play most of his minutes at PF as a rookie, possibly transitioning to SF “way, way down the road.” Unless Brown speeds up the transition (which he may, as Earl Clark might not work as a full-time SF, and the Cavs view Alonzo Gee as a back- up), Bennett may find himself battling Tristan Thompson for frontcourt minutes behind a starting tandem of An- drew Bynum and Anderson Varejao. Developing the No. 1 pick is a no-brainer, but Kyrie Irving is getting restless and the Cavaliers intend to make the playoffs this sea- son, so don’t assume that he’ll be handed a 32-minute role on opening night. 1 Victor Oladipo Magic draft G (6’4”, 213 lbs.) The Magic never seemed to waver from their interest in Oladipo, a relentlessly physical defender who represents the future of the team’s backcourt. Jameer Nelson is in the final fully-guaranteed year of his contract and Ola- dipo is playing extensive minutes at PG during Summer League, training camp and the preseason. Early returns haven’t been great (he averaged 5.0 assists vs. 4.8 turnovers during Summer League), but it hardly matters for fantasy purposes. Orlando is openly rebuilding their team around young guys like Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris, and they’ll find a way to keep the No. 2 pick on the court. He’s a terrific athlete who improved to 44.2 percent shooting beyond the arc as a junior with Indiana, and fantasy owners should view him as a high- upside source of steals, points and 3-pointers, with a dash of assists and a small mountain of turnovers. 2 2013-14 By: Ryan Knaus photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
  21. 21. 21NBA Season Preview Otto Porter Wizards draft F (6’9”, 200 lbs.) Otto Porter’s Summer League was a debacle, as he shot 30 percent from the field in three games before shutting it down due to a sore right hamstring. The Wizards tried to play him at SG, testing his offensive versatility, and as a result, he seemed tentative and passive. This may dis- suade some fantasy owners from plucking him out of the final round, but it shouldn’t. Porter has legitimate 3-point range (42.2 percent last year), a 7’1” wingspan,and enough speed and athleticism to thrive as a wingman alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal. He may not start for a while (veterans Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster can hold down the SF job while Porter acclimates to the NBA), but it would be surprising if he’s not a fantasy as- set after the All-Star break. 3 Nerlens Noel 76ers acquire C (6’11”, 219 lbs.) Noel was the overwhelming favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall, despite having ACL surgery in February. Owing to fears about his knee and concerns about his skinny frame, however, he fell to the Pelicans at No. 6 and was quickly flipped to the Sixers in a deal for Jrue Holiday. It hasn’t taken long for Philly to downplay expectations for Noel’s rookie season. New GM Sam Hinkie emphasized that his long-term health is the team’s sole focus – 76ers writer Jason Wolf believes Noel will be out “until around Christmas at the earliest,” and Hinkie wouldn’t rule out Noel missing the entire 2013-14 season. Add in his rail- thin frame and the fact that he’s still developing at 19 years old, and fantasy owners are forced to view him as a late-season blocks specialist. With those near-term challenges swirling, it’s easy to lose sight of his tremen- dous potential as an NBA center—he has an enviable 7’4” wingspan and elite quickness, timing and athleti- cism, which enabled him to average 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals in 32 minutes as a rangy freshman with Kentucky. 6 Trey Burke Jazz acquire PG (6’1”, 186 lbs.) Burke averaged 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists during Summer League, admitting afterward that he was inconsistent with his shooting, playmaking and defense. He shot 24.1 percent from the field (including a stunning 1-of-19 from downtown) and was even benched for one game so that he could collect himself and see the game from a different angle. The Jazz may install a veteran starting PG while Burke acclimates to the NBA, but it shouldn’t take long for him to find his niche—he was very efficient in pick-and-roll sets as a sophomore with Michigan, while shooting with consistency (46.0 percent) and range (38.3 percent from downtown). The rebuilding Jazz have plenty of incentive to develop him as a rookie. His stingy turnover ratio also works in his favor, and he remains an early Rookie of the Year candidate despite his disastrous Summer League. 9 C.J. McCollum Trail Blazers draft G (6’3”, 197 lbs.) The Blazers desperately needed to add scoring punch to their league-worst bench this summer, so they passed up a viable big man to draft McCollum, a scoring guard whose game is reminiscent of new teammate Damian Lillard. He finished second during the Las Vegas Sum- mer League with 21.0 points per game, despite fre- quently being the focus of opposing defenses (he shot just 36.6 percent from the field). His defense could be the most significant determinant in his playing time as a rookie and Portland is reportedly leery about playing him for long stretches alongside Lillard. He’s more developed than most rookies, having played four years with Lehigh, and fantasy owners can anticipate double-digit scoring with a 3-pointer per game, to go along with a trickle of assists, rebounds and steals. 10 Ben McLemore Kings draft SG (6’5”, 189 lbs.) McLemore struggled with his shot (33 percent FGs) and turnovers during some rough games in the Las Ve- gas Summer League, but those performances can be fairly dismissed. He was playing in a haphazard offense against defenses formulated to stop him, and the Kings were intentionally pushing his limits by putting him in uncomfortable situations as a primary ball-handler. He was most effective for Kansas while playing off the ball and in transition, and as the Kings’ projected starting SG he should find success alongside pass-first PG Greivis Vasquez and/or Isaiah Thomas. Jimmer Fredette doesn’t seem problematic, but the lurking presence of Marcus Thornton should make fantasy owners pause, and there are no guarantees that McLemore’s game will hold up against NBA defenders. In particular, he needs to im- prove his ball-handling and develop as a pick-and-roll threat, something he didn’t do very often last year. 7 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Pistons draft G/F (6’5”, 206 lbs.) Caldwell-Pope improved across the board during his sophomore season with Georgia, thriving as a focal point of the offense. He averaged 18.5 points, 2.6 threes, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, and he should be an immediate part of Detroit’s rotation behind Rodney Stuckey at SG. He looked out of sorts while shooting 37.0 percent from the field during the Orlando Summer League, however, and a bench role for a high- volume shooter with mediocre peripheral stats doesn’t bode well for fantasy purposes. 8 Cody Zeller Bobcats draft PF/C (6’11”, 230 lbs.) Charlotte’s selection of Zeller at No. 4 was met with in- stant skepticism, which is only natural given the team’s macabre draft history under Michael Jordan’s guidance. Zeller is not an Adam Morrison-style flop, but he does have to prove that his terrific athleticism and efficient scoring in college can be adapted to the NBA. Most glaringly, he needs to continue adding strength to com- bat NBA big men, and he made a paltry 37.5 percent of his jumpers during his sophomore year with Indiana. The good news is that he shot a phenomenal 62.3 percent overall, thanks to copious transition buckets, and the Bobcats’ projected starting lineup is built to run (Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Zeller and Al Jefferson). The bad news is that PF Josh McRob- erts is also athletic and fast, but he’s a more adept re- bounder and passer who should be marginally better on defense. Steve Clifford’s rotations will go a long way toward determining Zeller’s fantasy value, or lack thereof, but owners shouldn’t rely on him for more than a handful of points and boards. 4 Alex Len Suns draft C (7’1”, 255 lbs.) Len required surgery on both ankles this summer, pro- cedures the Suns dubbed “precautionary” but neverthe- less reflect a major reason he was passed over by four teams. He had a partial stress fracture in his left ankle, but assuming he’s healthy on opening night, as expect- ed, the Suns’ minor gamble could be richly rewarded. Len is a true center with uncommon athleticism and skill for his position. He was an elite finisher in the paint with Maryland last season, he’s strong and fundamentally sound enough to consistently box out, pin smaller de- fenders, finish in the paint and pass out of double teams, and he has the potential to become a solid pick-and-pop jump shooter. The Suns can afford to bring him along slowly with Marcin Gortat starting at center, but they’re going nowhere this season and will undoubtedly find a bigger role for him as the season progresses. 5 photo by Brian Babineau/Getty Images
  22. 22. 22 NBA Season Preview Kelly Olynyk Celtics draft C (7’0”, 234 lbs.) Olynyk enters the season as the likely starting center for the Celtics, and as a four-year college player, he’s better positioned than most rookies to provide fantasy value. His potential was on display during Summer League, where he averaged 18.0 points on 57.8 percent shoot- ing, with 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals in only 24 minutes per game. Those numbers won’t mean any- thing on opening night, but he’s a smart player with good shooting range, and his post game should benefit from superior spacing in the NBA. The downside is that he’s not a terrific rebounder, and he’s unlikely to block many shots (just 1.1 per game against college players last year), which severely caps his fantasy upside. 13 Shabazz Muhammad Timberwolves acquire G/F (6’6”, 224 lbs.) Muhammad had a total of 27 assists in 32 games during his lone season at UCLA. He wasn’t shy about shooting the ball, averaging 17.9 points and 1.3 threes on 44.3 percent shooting but didn’t provide enough in other cat- egories for fantasy owners to rely on him as a rookie. Perhaps most concerning, he entered Summer League vowing to improve his ball-movement and playmaking, but wound up with five assists in six games. The Wolves are ready to go with Kevin Martin at SG and Chase Budinger/Corey Brewer at SF, and they’re legitimately vying for a playoff berth, which leaves precious little room for Muhammad’s in-game development. He also got kicked out of rookie orientation and will need to keep his attitude in check. 14 Steven Adams Thunder draft C (7’0”, 255 lbs.) The Thunder are looking forward to the expiration of Kendrick Perkins’ contract, and they couldn’t pass up Adams with the No. 12 pick. The 20-year-old center is physically imposing and athletic enough to project as a future starter in the NBA, on the condition that he refines his game and develops some moves offensively. Pitts- burgh rarely asked him to score as a freshman, and he made a paltry 44 percent of his FTs, a potential liability in fantasy leagues. 12 Shane Larkin Mavericks acquire PG (5’11”, 171 lbs.) Take a look at those measurements again. As a sub-six- foot PG with a slight build, Larkin’s fantasy-relevance al- ready faces daunting odds. There were six players in the NBA last season who stand 5’11” or shorter, and only three had fantasy value—Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas. Things got bleaker when he fractured his right ankle in July, requiring surgery that may keep him out until mid-October. With Jose Calderon starting at PG and Gal Mekel ready for backup minutes, there’s no rea- son to think Larkin will have relevance as a rookie. 18 Sergey Karasev Cavaliers draft SF (6’7”, 197 lbs.) Karasev is a 19-year-old Russian who has an impressive history despite his age. He’s already played in the Olym- pics, he led Russia’s pro league in scoring for the 2012- 13 season and he averaged 16.1 points, 2.3 threes, 3.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists against solid competition in the Eurocup tournament. Karasev admitted he needs to get stronger and bigger to compete at the highest level, es- pecially on defense, but the Cavs think enough of him to bring him to the NBA immediately and there’s a good chance that he’ll carve out a bench role. Working in his favor: Cleveland feels that he can play both SG and SF, they view Alonzo Gee as a backup and they want to de- velop No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett as a PF. 19 Tony Snell Bulls draft SF (6’7”, 198 lbs.) Snell played three years with New Mexico, culminating with last year’s first-round exit in the NCAA tournament. His terrific defense should quickly endear him to Tom Thibodeau, who has never been shy about favoring de- fensive lineups, and he has legitimate 3-point range. Un- fortunately, the Bulls’ biggest offseason move was add- ing Mike Dunleavy as depth on the wings. With backup minutes uncertain, Snell isn’t even worth owning as long as Luol Deng is healthy enough to play. And considering Deng has averaged 7.8 DNPs in the past four seasons, while leading the NBA in minutes-played, Snell isn’t a promising rookie fantasy player. *There are a handful of rookies drafted later than No. 20 who should carve out a bench role, guys like Archie Goodwin or Mason Plumlee, but fantasy owners can afford to ignore them on draft day. 20 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks draft F (6’9”, 196 lbs.) The Bucks drafted an 18-year-old SF whom none of their fans had likely heard of before June 27, but whose excel- lent size and diverse skill-set had already earned him a draft promise from the Mavericks at No. 17 overall. An- tetokounmpo has enormous hands which complement his surprisingly refined ball-handling and passing, and his defensive potential is off the charts, but he undoubt- edly needs a few years of development before reaching his NBA potential physically or mentally. The director of the Bucks’ scouting program, Billy McKinney, said the rookie’s season will be a success if he gets “consistent minutes on the court.” 15 Lucas Nogueira Hawks acquire C (7’0”, 220 lbs.) Nogueira has great height and length and extraordinary quickness, but he suffers from an almost cliché list of rookie big men ailments: he badly needs to bulk up to effectively rebound and play defense in the NBA, and his post game ranges from raw to non-existent. The Hawks have a stacked frontcourt this season (Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Elton Brand and Pero Antic) and Nogueira has a fairly steep $2 million buyout with his team in Spain, so he may not join the Hawks this season. 16 17 Dennis Schroder Hawks draft PG (6’2”, 165 lbs.) Schröder’s fantasy outlook dimmed significantly when the Hawks matched a three-year offer for Jeff Teague, but there’s a good chance that he’ll lock down the back- up PG job. He shot 40.0 percent from downtown while playing in Germany last season, and his offense looks ready-made with terrific speed and ball-handling to go along with a reliable jump shot. His effectiveness in pick- Michael Carter-Williams 76ers draft PG 6’6”, 185 lbs.) Carter-Williams, at 6’6” tall, has an inherent advantage at the PG position. He averaged 11.9 points, 4.9 re- bounds, 7.3 assists and 2.8 steals per game during his sophomore year with Syracuse, which culminated with a march to the Final Four. That’s where the unimpeachable attributes stop and the questions begin. Can he improve his jump shooting to a respectable level in the NBA, where savvy, athletic defenders have read the scouting report and are willing to dive under the screen on each and every pick-and-roll? He shouldn’t, based upon his thoroughly awful shoot- ing from 3-point range (29.2 percent) and inside the arc (43.8 percent) last year. He also turned the ball over on 28 percent of his pick-and-rolls, according to DraftEx- press.com, and his struggles as a shooter and ball-pro- tector were on full display during the Orlando Summer League—in five games, he averaged 13.6 points on 27.1 percent shooting, with a disturbingly high 4.8 turnovers per game, and John Mitchell of the Inquirer reports that he “struggled going to his left.” The good news is that he also posted 4.2 boards and 6.8 assists per game. The Sixers are gleefully tanking the 2013-14 season and will play him as many minutes as he can handle, but fantasy owners should give him a wide berth. 11 and-rolls impressed scouts while he was in Germany, but his 3.1 assists vs. 2.5 turnovers last season suggest that he’ll still face a significant learning curve. Defensively, he’s quick and pesky enough to do a serviceable job as a rookie, and as he gets stronger, he could become a full-fledged menace. TOP 20 ROOKIE PREVIEWS
  23. 23. 23NBA Season Preview
  24. 24. 24 NBA Season Preview I ’m not going to list Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio or Greg Oden in this column. After last season (and most of his career) Curry has shown that he is ready to go, and you simply can’t decide to pass on him because he ‘might’ roll his ankle on opening night. Rubio isn’t dealing with any current injury problems, and Oden simply isn’t worth the time it would take to write him up. Don’t draft him. Here are the players who come with some baggage but will pay off in a big way if all goes well. Derrick Rose PG Bulls Rose is this year’s RvR poster child after missing all of last season due to his devastating knee injury. He should be well-rested, ready for opening night and relatively healthy all season. However, I’m still not ready to take a dive on him with a first-round pick. And if he makes it through 75 games and plays heavy minutes, I might look like a fool (see Stephen Curry last year). Kobe Bryant SG Lakers I’m still not ready to tell you to stay away from Kobe this season, even if we don’t know if he’ll be ready for opening night after rup- turing his Achilles last season. And if he is in there opening night, Guards it might go down as the quickest recovery from that injury in the history of sports. Whether he comes back and can still play like the Kobe Bryant we all know is up for debate, but if anyone can, it’s Bry- ant. And with the Lakers’ shaky roster, they’ll need Kobe to dom- inate if they’re going to make the playoffs. I don’t have a problem with taking him in Round 2 if it appears he’ll play on opening night, but there’s certainly a lot of risk involved with doing so. Dwyane Wade SG Heat Wade seems to make it through most of his seasons, but his knees appear to be a disaster, he’s another year older and he can kick back and watch LeBron James play anytime he chooses to do so. Wade is still a fantasy beast when he plays, but we’ve got him playing in just 65 games this season, meaning owners could be scrambling at times this season. I’m not touching him in Round 1 and may just pass on him altogether. By: Steve Alexander
  25. 25. 25NBA Season Preview Kyrie Irving PG Cavaliers Irving may or may not be injury prone, but the numbers say he missed 15 games during his rookie season and 23 more in his sec- ond season. Maybe this is the year he plays in 78 games and avoids nagging injuries, but his size and stature don’t work in his favor. I’m still not scared enough to let him drop out of the Top 15 picks in my leagues. Steve Nash PG Lakers Nash’s broken leg ruined his season last year, while playing along- side Kobe Bryant doesn’t appear to be something that works well for his fantasy numbers. Owners have to hope he falls far enough in drafts (likely) to become a solid value pick (maybe), but the main concern is that the 39-year-old could have trouble staying healthy again this year. We’ve got him penciled in for 70 games, which could be generous, but he missed just four games in 2011-12 and played in at least 74 games in the 10 seasons prior to that one. Rajon Rondo PG Celtics Rondo is coming off major knee surgery, and while he seems to think he’ll be ready for the start of the season, we all saw what hap- pened to Rose last year. We’ve only got him slated for 62 games, and if that’s not a big enough concern, consider he’s playing for a coach who looks five years younger than him (and has never coached an NBA game) and that he no longer has Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett as his go-to guys. The potential reward is the league lead in steals (and a lot of dimes), but the risk is just too great. I’m thinking you’re better off letting someone else deal with Rondo this year. photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
  26. 26. 26 NBA Season Preview Forwards Danny Granger G/F Pacers Granger is coming off a lost season due to what appears to be chronic knee problems and sat on the sidelines as Paul George became the face of the franchise. Granger will play shooting guard this season, which isn’t his natural position, and the last time he was really healthy, he tended to stand out on the perimeter, launching threes without a conscience. His draft stock has taken a pretty strong hit in the past year, and his role with the Pacers is still changing. He could be boom or bust, but I wouldn’t plan on taking him before Round 4 or 5, as the risk is definitely still there. Eric Gordon SG Pelicans The list of owners who will never draft Gordon again has grown by leaps and bounds over the last three years and could include ev- eryone in your league. The nice thing about that is he should be available pretty deep into fantasy drafts, making him look more like a low-risk, high-reward prospect than he has in previous seasons. No, I don’t trust Gordon at all and probably never will again. But if you can get him in Round 5 or 6, the risk will be low enough to make him worth it. J.R. Smith SG Knicks Smith will be questionable for the start of the season after offseason knee surgery, while he also signed a nice contract over the summer. Add those two things together, and his history of being a little flaky (OK, a lot) when it comes to relationships with coaches, and he could be heading for an implosion. But the numbers were nice last season, he’s a big part of what the Knicks plan on doing and we’ve got him projected at 70 games. His price tag should be low enough that the risk will be minimal. Kyle Lowry PG Raptors Lowry was expected to be a monster last year, racking up points, rebounds, assists, steals and 3-pointers like nobody’s business, but it just never happened. He also missed 14 games after missing 19 the previous season, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of his owners. He’s all set to start for the Raptors and won’t have to worry about Jose Calderon this year. And after the disappointment that came with him over the last two seasons, he’ll fall in drafts. But if he can stay healthy and has his head screwed on straight, he has the talent to be a legitimate Top 3 point guard, and Top 15 fantasy player. I think he’ll play in 72 games and fully expect his numbers to take a nice leap this season, so I’m buying. Trey Burke PG Jazz Burke’s Summer League was a disaster, and his (small) size is a real issue. But he was so dominant at times last season at Michigan, and he shouldn’t have much trouble winning the starting job for the Jazz. And even if he doesn’t start, he should see plenty of run. In addition to his small stature, his poor shooting is a huge concern, but the fact remains that if he gets hot and makes the most of his opportunity, he could quite easily win the Rookie of the Year award. After you’ve got two quality point guards on your roster, feel free to jump on Burke. RISK VS REWARD
  27. 27. 27NBA Season Preview Brook Lopez C Nets Lopez still isn’t doing basketball drills as of press time and spent most of the summer in a walking boot after having (another) screw put into his foot. But he made it through 74 games last season and was one of the best fantasy centers in the league. We (foolishly?) have him pegged for 75 games this season, and if it happens, he’ll be worth drafting in the early rounds of your draft. I’m willing to take a chance on Bro-Lo again this year. Andrew Bogut C Warriors I’m not going to say much here. He hobbled through just 32 games last season, 12 the season before and 65 in 2010-11. With Stephen Curry back in good graces in these parts, the “Doritos ankle” now belongs to Bogut, and unless you’re desperate for a center late in your draft, let someone else take a flier on Bogut. JaVale McGee C Nuggets McGee’s basketball IQ is the stuff of legend and low-light reels, but he can jump out of the gym and block shots as well as any player in recent memory. He also got out from under the thumb of George Karl and is slated to start this season for new coach Brian Shaw. If Shaw truly turns him loose and lets him play through the 10 or so mistakes he’ll make per game, he should be a fantasy beast. And given that his ADP should be in check, I’m all about taking a ride on McGee’s massive back this year. Samuel Dalembert C Mavericks Dalembert has had some very big games in his long career and now looks like the starter for the Mavericks. He’s also disappeared for months at a time, and there are no guarantees he’ll still be start- ing by Christmas. But if he holds the job all year, a ton of boards and blocks should follow, and he won’t cost you a high draft pick. Just make sure you have some other starting centers in the barn before going after Sammy D. Kevin Love PF Timberwolves Love’s twice broken shooting hand not only ruined his season from a games-played standpoint, but he couldn’t shoot it when he was playing last year. But if you simply look at his numbers prior to when he got hurt, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the league. Points, rebounds, 3-pointers and solid shooting percent- ages are his calling card, and I fully expect him to bounce back this season. However, if you want him, you’ll have to take him in the first round, which potentially makes him the biggest risk vs. reward player on this list. And keep in mind that even if he does make it to April unharmed, he has consistently failed to finish out the season (fantasy playoffs) throughout his career. I think the po- tential reward outweighs the risk involved with taking him in the first round, but if you talk to anyone who drafted him last season, they’ll probably tell you there’s no way they’d do it again. Centers photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  28. 28. 28 NBA Season Preview Wings and point guards Brandon Jennings Bucks He’s the poster child for terrible shooting, and it’s even worse because he’s taken 15.5 shots per game over his career. He and the Bucks made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and Jennings was horrible in the spotlight, making just 29.8 percent of his shots. This is nothing new for B-Jen, and he shot 39.9 percent on the regular season last year, just a shade above his career aver- age of 39.4 percent. Interestingly, he shot a career-high 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, so what gives? Well, Jennings is one of the worst players in the NBA around the hoop. He shot just 49.2 percent at the rim and 28.5 percent on shots from 3-10 feet – the league averages are 64.7 and 39.9 per- cent, respectively. However, for the second year in a row, he had a strong April to close out the regular season, shooting 43.4 per- cent. Jennings’ shots in the month were more from the outside, so it’s hard to put much stock into his improvement. He heads to Detroit, and his shots around the rim could go down with his three big for- wards of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith in the mix. Jennings has yet to prove he’s capable of being a good pick- and-roll PG, but defenses might fear the lob, and that could help Jennings get better shots around the basket. While there’s a chance that he could approach 42 percent from the field this year, he’s likely to be one of the worst in this category yet again. Ricky Rubio Timberwolves He was one of the better assets in fantasy hoops with his strong second-half schedule and loads of dimes. He also had the most steals after the break by a margin of 19. As for scoring himself, he has some issues. Ru- bio takes 32.2 percent of his shots from 16 feet to inside of the 3-point line, which spells trouble for a guy that shot 32 percent on his jumpers in each of his last two seasons. What’s more, Rubio can’t finish around the rim, and he shot just 29.3 percent from be- yond the arc. When push comes to shove, he’s really the worst scoring guard in the en- tire NBA. On the plus side, he only attempt- ed 9.0 shots per game last year, and almost all of those games were without Kevin Love. Love coming back should help Rubio’s shooting not only because he should have less shots, but also because Love drawing the attention of defenses should soften the weak side of the play when Love is setting up in the post. Love’s passing skills could also translate to better shooting as a team. The Spaniard should keep you entertained with steals and assists enough to offset his worrisome shooting. Trey Burke Jazz If you heard anything about Trey Burke this offseason, you probably heard about his di- sastrous Summer League. He shot a pathet- I t’s almost always costly to neglect something in your fantasy draft, and not paying attention to your team’s percentages is something that owners will want to avoid. Sure, field goal per- centage is arguably the biggest hit-or-miss stat on a week-to-week basis, but having it as a strength can go a long way. The nice thing about percentages is that they’re the least likely to be hurt by the injury bug. Teams that are losing multiple studs will be crippled in multiple categories. In other words, if Rajon Rondo goes down, the assist totals for a fantasy team will plummet com- pared to usual. However, if a field goal percentage stud goes down, it’s less likely to impact the bottom line because it’s not a volume stat like dimes, points, boards, blocks, threes and steals. If you’re scoring at home, the league averages were 45.4 percent from the field and 75.5 percent from the line. Those will be inter- esting numbers to keep in mind as you look at last year’s stats and our projections. Also, the amount of shots a player takes can have a profound impact. Lastly, while percentages should be a focus in Roto leagues, it’s something that owners should try and address in head-to-head leagues as well. If your team is consistently winning percentages, you’d only have to win two of the remaining four categories to push, and if you can split those, that’s a 6-2 win in eight-category leagues. Here are some of guys who will be hot topics with regards to per- centages for the upcoming season. percentage killers By: Mike Gallagher FIELD GOAL KILLERS photo by Jordan Johnson/Getty Images
  29. 29. 29NBA Season Preview ic 24 percent from the field and made only one of his 19 attempts from downtown. Of course, Burke isn’t going to shoot 24 percent in his rookie season. Last year at Michigan, the six-foot point guard shot 46.3 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from down- town. The big difference for Burke was the height of NBA players compared to in col- lege. His frame is going to be a detriment, and he’s going to have to get creative in scoring. There have been some comparisons to Da- mian Lillard, but they’re a little bit unfair to the reigning Rookie of the Year. While Lillard’s field goal shooting is similar at 46.7 percent in his last year at Weber State, even at 6’3”, he wasn’t too stellar in finishing around the basket on his way to 42.9 per- cent from the field last year. Furthermore, rookie point guards have tra- ditionally struggled in their first years. According to Jazz play-by-play guy, Da- vid Locke, the 11 point guards drafted in the top 10 since 2005 who played at 21 or younger combined to shoot 39.9 percent from field their rookie year. The best shoot- ing clip by a rookie taken in the top 10 since 2005 playing at 21 or under was 43 percent by both D.J. Augustin and Chris Paul. In conclusion, Burke is going to be really bad this year, and 40 percent seems like a fairly optimistic number. Hopefully, he doesn’t take too many bad shots. Jameer Nelson Magic He had his worst year shooting the basketHe had his worst year shooting the basketball, and it wasn’t even close. Among quali- fiers, Nelson ranked dead last in the NBA with his 39.2 percent from the field, which shattered his previous career-low of 42.7 percent from 2011-12. We can’t just brush this off, and Nelson’s field goal shooting has dropped in each of his last five seasons. It’s not tough to figure out since his 3-point at- tempts have gone up in each of his last four years and his shots on attempts from the last three seasons have also dropped. One thing that makes the most sense is that the loss of Dwight Howard hurt Nelson’s shooting. Plus, the Magic don’t have a lot of guys that demand double teams. Nelson probably won’t be as bad as last year, but 42 percent seems to be a fair expectation. Big men Roy Hibbert Pacers He was last among centers in field goal per- centage at 44.8 percent last year. Quite frank- ly, it was one of the biggest head-scratching stories of the season. It was really a tale of two halves of the season for Hibbert, though. He shot a horrific 41.4 percent from the field before the break, 50.8 percent after the break and 51.1 percent in his 19 playoff games. He struggled mightily around the rim before the break but finally figured it out. Since the 2011 All-Star break, Hibbert did not shoot below 47.8 percent from the field in any half of a season -- excluding the ugly number before the break last year, of course. His rough start last year should be dismissed, and he could flirt with 50 percent this year. DeMarcus Cousins Kings Not being able to hit jumpers is a bit of a problem for a basketball player, and that’s what caused DeMarcus Cousins to have a sub-par 2012-13. Unbelievably, he shot just 29 percent on his jump shots but still shot a career-best 46.5 percent from the field. That’s obviously not a bad number at the end of the day, but big men should be closer to 50 per- cent than 45. Furthermore, DMC was solid at shooting the ball in the second half, making 49.1 percent of his 12.8 shots per game. The Kings losing Tyreke Evans could mean more shots for Cousins, but hopefully coach Mike Malone can find ways to put his big man in an advantageous position. Like Hibbert, he’s a bit of a false positive. Andrea Bargnani Knicks Don’t draft him, and you won’t have to worry about him hurting your shooting numbers. Fantasy owners generally want to take big men that can help in field goal percentage, so they can take a bit of a hit with their guards. There really isn’t much analysis needed here since shooting a free throw doesn’t really in- volve anything that has to do with making an uncontested shot from 15 feet. In short, if you’re going to draft one of the following big men, you might as well just draft all of the poor shooters from the charity stripe. Big men Dwight Howard Rockets If you’re in a Roto league, he’s almost en- tirely hands-off material. It’s pretty simple. DeAndre Jordan Clippers What’s worse than Jordan’s 38.6 percent from the line during the last season? His 22.2 percent in the playoffs. Josh Smith and Andre Drummond Pistons The Pistons are going to be one of the worst free-throw-shooting teams in the NBA. Josh Smith is in a rut from the line, and in spectacular fashion, his percentage dropped from 72.5 percent in 2010-11 to 63.0 per- cent in 2011-12 and then a hideous 51.7 percent last year. Drummond was worse at 37.1 percent. Roto owners probably can’t touch either, but those in head-to-head leagues will want to go for the gusto and tank in this category and try and solidify other areas. Wings and point guards Andre Iguodala Warriors Iggy can’t make free throws these days, and he shot a career-low 57.4 percent last year. His shooting from the line has dropped in each of the last four years. On the bright side, his volume of free throws should go down since he’s no longer in George Karl’s system. Rajon Rondo Celtics Rondo is one of the worst point guards from the line. He has never shot above 65 percent in any season, and the lack of of- fensive playmakers could mean he gets a lot of attempts. Moe Harkless Magic He shot just 57 percent last year in his rook- ie campaign and is one of the worst jump- shooting players in the NBA. He’s going to bring D and some boards, but he’s going to be a headache on percentages. FREE THROW KILLERS

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