Heading into the start of the NBA preseason, we offer a team-by-team look, including projected starting lineups and what to watch for in October as each team sets their rotations for the start of the regular season on Oct. 27.
Expected Starters: PG Mike Bibby, SG Joe Johnson, SF Marvin Williams, PF Josh Smith, C Al Horford
Preseason storylines: Will Jamal Crawford remain productive? Can Josh Smith bounce back?
Fantasy Analysis: The Hawks don't have any starting jobs up for grabs in the preseason as they'll be returning the same starting lineup from a year ago. The only difference is on the bench, and it's a big one. The Hawks added a prime-time player in the offseason by trading for Jamal Crawford, but they'll be looking to fit him in as a sixth man. He can play both guard positions and should get 30-plus minutes off the bench per game, much in the same way that Manu Ginobili and Jason Terry have played the role successfully in the past. However, not everyone adjusts to that role. Allen Iverson in Detroit last season is one example of that. Crawford has averaged around 20 points per game the last two seasons, but there is a real distinct possibility that production could go down this season. Pay close attention to the developments coming out of Atlanta in the preseason as far as the way the team plans to break the minutes down as it should affect Crawford, as well as Bibby and Johnson. As far as Smith is concerned, Fantasy owners should pay close attention to any signs of a bounce-back season from him after what could be classified as a down year by his standards last fall. He was a player that was worthy of a first or second-round pick in most leagues going into last year, but he's been slipping into the fourth round in early drafts this summer. The reason for the fall? His numbers dipped in scoring, rebounding, assists and perhaps most importantly in blocks. He still managed to post a very solid 15-7-2-1-1 stat line and is only 23 years of age. A return to the 17-8-3-3-1 line he averaged the previous year is absolutely possible. Keep tabs on him in the preseason and if you like what you see, you could be looking at a real steal in Round 3 or 4.
Expected Starters: PG Raymond Felton, SG Raja Bell, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Boris Diaw, C Tyson Chandler
Preseason storylines: How can they improve offensively?
Fantasy Analysis: The Bobcats averaged the fewest points per game in the NBA last season, at 93.6 points per contest. The only significant move the team made in the offseason was to trade Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler and, ironically, Chandler is considered a lesser offensive player than Okafor. The team plays under the defensive scheme of coach Larry Brown, but their lack of a scoring presence kept them from competing last season and will likely keep them out of the playoffs once again this season if they can't address the problem. Expect the team to lean on Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw up front, but we may see Raymond Felton up his shooting attempts from 13 per game to around 15 and that could lead him to crack the 15-point per game barrier for the first time in his career in what is a contract year for him. Pay attention to any signs of a hint of an increase in shot attempts for Felton or anyone else for that matter.
Expected Starters: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwyane Wade, SF James Jones, PF Udonis Haslem, C Jermaine O'Neal
Preseason storylines: Can Michael Beasley be trusted?
Fantasy Analysis: The biggest news about the Heat in the offseason had to do with Michael Beasley as he was forced to enter a rehablitation facility to deal with substance abuse issues. The second-year player seemed to hit a low point and entered camp trying to put the incident behind him. However, he does have a history of off-the-court issues dating back to his days in high school and his maturity has been called into question on many occasions. He was banished from the rookie symposium for violating NBA policy before he every played his first game as a rookie. The talent is undoubtedly there for Beasley, but he is going to have to shake off the stigma of being labeled a headcase before he can be fully trusted as a high-end player. But for those willing to take the chance of a headache or two throughout the season, we could be looking at the biggest leap in statistical production in his career -- often the case from a player's rookie season to his second year. He'll have to battle with James Jones and Udonis Haslem for minutes, but we expect him to be a primary option in the team's offensive rotation fairly early in the season. A strong, trouble-free preseason could help speed up the process.
Expected Starters: PG Jameer Nelson, SG Vince Carter, SF Rashard Lewis, PF Brandon Bass, C Dwight Howard
Preseason storylines: Will Vince Carter maintain his production? Can Brandon Bass make a name for himself? How will Vince Carter fit in?
Fantasy Analysis: The Magic made perhaps the most noise in the offseason by bringing in Vince Carter. They lost Hedo Turkoglu, but the Magic will go into the season with one of the more complete starting lineups in the NBA. That could water down the amount of touches Carter sees in the offense and could lead to his first sub-20 ppg scoring season since his rookie season. Look for signs in the preseason out of Magic camp that indicate whether Carter will be looking to take a back seat to Dwight Howard and/or Rashard Lewis for the sake of wins. And if you asked the question, which one of these names doesn't fit in the starting lineup? You'd probably answer Brandon Bass. But he has a chance to establish himself as a significant contributor for the first time in his career. He will be entering his fifth NBA season and is a player who has put up useful numbers when given playing time. If you extrapulate his numbers over 48 minutes, he averaged 20.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game with over a block per game. We wouldn't expect that type of production, but with the Magic moving Rashard Lewis back to small forward, Bass will get a chance at 25-30 minutes per game. He will have to compete with Ryan Anderson for minutes, but a good showing in the preseason could create a good amount of separation between the two players in terms of regular season minutes.
Expected Starters: PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Mike Miller, SF Caron Butler, PF Antawn Jamison, C Brendan Haywood
Preseason storylines: Can Gilbert Arenas be trusted in Fantasy?
Fantasy Analysis: Clearly, the biggest thing to keep an eye on in Wizards camp is the health of former Fantasy superstar Gilbert Arenas. He has played just 15 games combined over the last two seasons and while he has the upside of a first-rounder in Fantasy, owners aren't sure how much stock to put into a player coming off a major knee injury. He's had a productive offseason in terms of getting into shape and new coach Flip Saunders says he expects him to be the player he was before the injury, but we will all have to keep a close eye on his level of play in the preseason. It's not so much the numbers that owners should keep an eye on, or even his minutes and stamina. It's his explosiveness. Can he still get to the basket the way he used to? That was the best indicator last season that Miami's Dwyane Wade had gotten back to full strength. The first few times he dunked and didn't look tentative was when it was clear he was back to full strength. Look to see if we see that from Arenas.
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