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.
Possible Starters: PG Chauncey Billups, SG Arron Afflalo, SF Carmelo Anthony, PF Kenyon Martin, C Nene
Preseason storylines: What will the Nuggets do at shooting guard?
Fantasy Analysis: The Nuggets lost defensive specialist Dahntay Jones in the offseason, creating a void at the starting shooting guard slot. The logical choice to replace Jones in the starting lineup would be J.R. Smith, who is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 15.2 points per game to go with 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists. But coach George Karl likes the energy he provides off the bench and will be using him in a similar role this season ... at least to begin with. The team doesn't have many options at the two-guard slot and it will likely be third-year guard Arron Afflalo who will take on the role as a place-filler with the first unit. We do expect Smith to see an increase in minutes per game (he averaged 27.7 minutes in 08-09) even if he doesn't start, but if Afflalo proves to be too much of a liability in the preseason the Nuggets could just scrap the whole concept and let Smith be a full-time starter.
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Possible Starters: PG Ramon Sessions, SG Corey Brewer, SF Ryan Gomes, PF Kevin Love, C Al Jefferson
Preseason storylines: What will the Timberwolves do at point guard? Is Al Jefferson healthy?
Fantasy Analysis: The point guard position in Minnesota was a big talking point in the offseason after the team decided to go in a (much) different direction. They shipped Randy Foye to Washington and Sebastian Telfair to the L.A. Clippers. They drafted a couple of point guards in the first round of the NBA Draft (actually three, but they traded one away) and had one of them, Ricky Rubio, tell the team that he wouldn't be joining them for the next couple of seasons. They signed Ramon Sessions away from the Bucks and also added veteran Chucky Atkins. Now, it will be interesting to see what the T'Wolves will do at the position heading into the season. They view rookie Jonny Flynn as a building block, but Sessions has been a very productive player in the NBA already and could be the team's strongest back court option. Sessions offers the team insurance if Flynn is not ready to take on a big load as a rookie as he can play both guard positions. He can handle the point guard duties on his own or he can play off the ball and alongside Flynn. So what the Timberwolves choose to do will greatly depend on how much Flynn is ready to take on. Keep an eye on his progress in the preseason as he may be worth a late-round flier in seasonal formats. He's already a must-own in keeper formats. Sessions is an expected breakout player either way. In the front court, the situation is a lot clearer. If Al Jefferson is healthy, he is one of the elite players in the NBA. However, that is a big 'if' at this stage. He is coming off reconstructive ACL surgery and may not be the same player who averaged 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.6 assists per game prior to getting hurt last season. Look to see if he is tentative in any way or if he looks like he's ready to make up for lost time before investing a first or second round pick on a player that -- if fully recovered -- could be a top center in Fantasy.
Portland Trail Blazers
Possible Starters: PG Andre Miller, SG Brandon Roy, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C Greg Oden
Preseason storylines: Who will start at point guard? Is Greg Oden ready to contribute?
Fantasy Analysis: The Trail Blazers acquired high-end point guard Andre Miller in the offseason and while everyone expected that to mean Miller would be the clear option to start at point guard, coach Nate McMillan has indicated that may not necessarily be the case. McMillan might be leaving the door open for Steve Blake to remain the starter in an effort to get the most out of both players, but does he really think his team could be better with Miller coming off the bench? This situation will be worth keeping tabs on in the preseason. Miller will get the majority of the minutes either way, but Blake's best chance of retaining the decent amount of Fantasy appeal he held as the Blazers' starter last season would be to win the starting job. If Miller gets moved to a sixth man role, that also threatens the appeal of Travis Outlaw, who has been the team's top second-unit scorer the last couple of seasons. The other thing to keep an eye on in the preseason is the development of Greg Oden. Despite being the top pick in the NBA Draft two years ago, he has been a major disappointment as a professional. He missed his rookie season due to microfracture surgery and we've seen it happen in the past (i.e. Amar'e Stoudemire) where a player does not get back to 100 percent until the second season following the procedure. Oden's stock has fallen considerably in Fantasy, but he could become a real Fantasy hero if he is healthy and ready to live up to his potential.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Possible Starters: PG Russell Westbrook, SG James Harden, SF Kevin Durant, PF Jeff Green, C Nenad Krstic
Preseason storylines: Are the young guns ready to contribute?
Fantasy Analysis: The Thunder have a lot of up-and-coming young talent with four of the five players in their starting lineup having less than three years of NBA experience. Durant and Green are entering their third year, Westbrook is going into his second and Harden is a rookie who was drafted No. 3 overall in this summer's draft. The team lacks a veteran presence, but that serves to create a situation where these players don't have to look over their shoulder every time they make a mistake. Durant, Green and Westbrook have already established themselves as excellent NBA players and the team expects the same thing out of Harden. It's not always that simple, however, and Harden could experience more growing pains than the other three players. Look to see how comfortable he looks in preseason before deciding where to take a chance on him in seasonal Fantasy leagues.
Possible Starters: PG Deron Williams, SG Ronnie Brewer, SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF Carlos Boozer, C Mehmet Okur
Preseason storylines: Will Paul Millsap ever get his chance?
Fantasy Analysis: Many Fantasy owners were disappointed to learn that Carlos Boozer would be returning to the Jazz this season as it meant Paul Millsap would remain relegated to a bench role. While a trade by the February deadline is still entirely possible, it now seems that it will take an injury to Boozer for Millsap to be anything more than a low-end starter. But the Jazz seem more ready than ever to give Millsap a bigger role and they were just as ready as everyone else to see Boozer leave the team in the offseason. But Boozer excercised the player option in his contract for financial reasons, hoping the team would find a trade that would benefit all parties involved. It was a trade that never came and Fantasy owners will have to continue to set back the clock on the Millsap Fantasy explosion clock. Look for signs in the preseason that the Jazz could be ready to cut into the roles of Boozer and Okur to cater to their potential future star.
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