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2012-13 Draft Prep: Roto specialists

Fantasy Writer
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Rotisserie leagues are the equivalent of a Fantasy marathon. While in a head-to-head league, you're fighting on a weekly basis to rack up wins, Rotisserie requires a season-long attention to detail that can bury the less-prepared competitors.

Part of what makes Roto a satisfying challenge is trying to determine the best way to balance your team over the course of a season. Do you try to draft the most-balanced team possible and hope you can do well enough in each category to make up for the fact that you aren't dominating any particular one? Or do you try to surge out to a huge lead in a few categories and make up your deficits on the periphery as the season goes on?

Inevitably, what you will find is that you end up lacking in one category or another and will need to mix and match to compensate. Maybe you drafted Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan as your centers and are suffering from an embarrassing deficit in free-throw percentage. In another scenario, you snatch Kevin Love and Greg Monroe in the early rounds and find yourself lacking in blocks from your big men.

You might find yourself needing to turn to some less-than-optimal options to make up for your deficits in certain categories, so here's a guide to the best bets for each category.

Points

Poster Boy: MarShon Brooks, G, Brooklyn

Similar options: Nick Young, G, Philadelphia; Stephen Jackson, F, San Antonio

Brooks earned a rather inflated reputation after a rookie season that saw him score at a decent clip (12.6 points per game) without bringing much else to the table. The Nets refused to include him in any of their various offseason trade proposals, not even in the long-rumored Dwight Howard deal that eventually fell through. Brooks is an isolation scorer and he does little else. He finished third among all first-year players in scoring, but he required 11.4 shots per game to get there. He shot just 42.8 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from 3-point range, while coming in just ninth among rookies with 2.3 assists per game. For a guard who finished the season with a 22.9 percent usage rate, that's a very poor assist rate. What's left is a player who is likely to pour in 13 points with little to help in other categories. Use a player like Brooks only if you're in need of points, as there won't be much else coming from gunners like them.

Field-goal percentage

Poster Boy: Tiago Splitter, C, San Antonio

Similar options: Ian Mahinmi, C, Indianapolis; Jan Vesely, F, Washington

Most of the field-goal percentage specialists are going to be big men who stick to working near the rim and last season Splitter was the best of them. At some point, Splitter is probably going to become a starter and possibly a very good one. He averaged 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes during his second season while shooting an outrageous 61.8 percent from the field. Unfortunately, he averaged just 19.0 minutes per game and his role is unlikely to change entering the season. In his current position, he is a highly efficient big man who excels at finishing at the rim -- he shot 72.5 percent on shots within three feet of the rim and 67.9 percent of his shots came from that area. He knows what he is good at and tries to stick with it, which is a big key for sustaining that level. Splitter provides help at the fringes in blocks and rebounds, but Splitter's true value comes in making up for having a low-efficiency chucker killing your field-goal percentage at another position.

Rebounds

Poster Boy: Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto

Similar options: Omer Asik, C, Houston; Reggie Evans, F, Brooklyn

Valanciunas enters the league with lofty expectations heaped onto his broad shoulders. He is expected to provide the Raptors with a big presence in the low post and help make up for Andrea Bargnani's floating defensive style. For Fantasy owners, however, expectations should be tempered. Valanciunas is a raw offensive prospect -- DraftExpress.com calls his best-case scenario "Andris Biedrins meets Joakim Noah," so that says all you need to know right there. He might develop down the road, but his rookie season will likely see him working almost exclusively as a pick-and-roll option while cleaning up the boards. This is one place he might be able to provide some assistance, however. He averaged 7.6 rebounds in just 23.3 minutes per game for Lietuvos Rytas in the EuroCup tournament last season while routinely being the youngest player on the floor. It's unclear how many minutes Valanciunas will play immediately, but Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey will certainly want his size and mobility to help a team that has struggled on defense. Valanciunas probably won't finish the season with more rebounds than points -- but it will be close. He should make an impact on the boards so look toward him or other similarly skilled big men to make up a rebounding deficiency.

Assists

Poster Boy: Kendall Marshall, G, Phoenix

Similar options: Royce White, F, Houston; Boris Diaw, F, San Antonio

This is probably the toughest position in which to make up a deficit as most teams have just one primary ball-handler who accounts for most of their assists. The players who rack up gaudy assist totals tend to have the ball in their hands a lot, so you don't encounter many players who only help you in that regard. Still, there is value to be had -- if you know where to look. Marshall averaged an absurd 9.8 assists as a sophomore at North Carolina, but he brings very little else to the table. He has a lot in common with players like Andre Miller and Jose Calderon, both of whom have posted solid assist numbers without contributing much in other areas due to their limited scoring abilities. The Suns signed Goran Dragic to man the point, but he is a combo-guard who has the ability to play off the ball. Marshall has a unique ability to find open players, but he might lack minutes and opportunities. If he ever emerges as a starter he will be a useful Fantasy option in his own right, but until that happens he can be a cheap source of assists. White and Diaw, meanwhile, have a more well-rounded skill set with their ability to handle the ball and make precise passes from the power forward position. Unfortunately, they are also looking at limited roles.

Blocks

Poster Boy: Wilson Chandler, G, Denver

Similar options: Andre Drummond, C, Detroit; Bismack Biyombo, C, Charlotte

As you can see, your typical option here is the raw, young big man. But I'd like to highlight Chandler, a rare non-big who is able to make an impact blocking shots. In 2010-11, he averaged 1.3 blocks per game and he is at 0.9 per game for his career. Even in a disastrous eight-game cameo last season that ended with hip surgery, Chandler got 0.8 blocks per game in just 26.9 minutes. Chandler has the ability to be a devastating defender, as he stands at 6-foot-8 with a long wingspan. He gets many of his blocks by simply being longer than most of the shooting guards he plays against. In the past, he was a solid contributor in rebounds and points from the guard spot as well, but he is a bit buried on the depth chart in Denver so his counting stats might not be up to par. Still, his ability to swat shots without totally crippling your scoring -- which is an issue with both Biyombo and Drummond -- makes him worth considering if a need arises.

Steals

Poster Boy: Gustavo Ayon, F, Orlando

Similar options: Ronnie Brewer, G, New York; Corey Brewer, F, Denver; Zaza Pachulia, C, Atlanta

I highlighted a small guy for blocks so I might as well return the favor for the big men in steals. Normally, you expect steals to come from a quick-handed guard out on the perimeter, so Ayon certainly doesn't fit that bill. Of course, Ayon has carved out a nice start to his career by defying expectations. He was one of just 15 players at least 6-foot-10 who averaged 0.9 steals per game and he did it in by far the fewest minutes per game (20.1). He is likely to see a bigger role on a rebuilding Magic team that will want to see if the 27-year-old has more room to develop. That could mean a steal total approaching 1.5 per game, which would put him comfortably in the company of the guards and small forwards that he normally towers over. His prowess last season was unlikely a fluke, as he averaged well over two steals per 40 minutes playing professionally in Spain from 2010-12. Ayon is a solid sleeper this year, but even if he does not make a big impact overall, he brings a distinctive ability to swipe the ball for a big man.

3-Pointers

Poster Boy: Steve Novak, F, New York

Similar options: Anthony Morrow, G, Atlanta; Marco Belinelli, G, Chicago

Novak is really only in the league for his ability to shoot the ball accurately from far distances. For a few seasons, he might as well not have been in the league, as he played just 577 minutes in 84 games from 2009-11. Last season, a Knicks team desperate for offense plucked him off waivers and found a hidden talent as he led the league by shooting 47.2 percent from downtown. That is almost literally all he does. Plenty of players have made their living just bombing away from 3-point range, but few do so with the abandon that Novak does. A staggering 75 percent of his shots in the NBA have come from behind the 3-point line and last season he attempted just five of his 338 shots from inside 16 feet from the rim. Novak is single-minded in his pursuit of treys and he should be good for an average of 2.5 per game at a ridiculous percentage.

Free-throw percentage

Poster Boy: J.J. Redick, G, Orlando

Similar options: Luke Ridnour, G, Minnesota; Doron Lamb, G, Milwaukee

I actually like Redick's overall game, especially when you consider the incredible progress he has made as a ball-handler and shot-creator in his career. But he is still well-known for his incredible efficiency as a shooter. Last season he shot just 42.5 percent from the field, but connected on 41.8 percent from 3-point range and 91.1 percent on free throws. The progression of his overall game has probably pushed him out of the specialist category, but there are still few players who are as consistently dependable from the free-throw line. And what helps push him over some other specialists is that he has begun to go to the line more often -- he is averaging 2.5 trips to the stripe per game over the last three seasons. Redick is a bit more than a one-category fill-in, but he really shines at the stripe and can make up for some major deficiencies on your team.

Turnovers

Poster Boy: Matt Bonner, C, San Antonio

Similar options: Antawn Jamison, F, Los Angeles Lakers; Jodie Meeks, G, Los Angeles Lakers

Turnovers are a tricky category because most of the league's leaders in raw turnovers are superstars who always have the ball in their hands. Last year, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash and Deron Williams represented the top five. So when you choose your team and you load up on stars at the top of the draft, you will inevitably be left staring at an ugly number in the turnover column. The easiest way to avoid turnovers would be to simply put players on your team who hardly play, but that would be cutting off your nose to spite your face. You need to find a balance in this category and it might be the toughest one to manage. This is where Bonner fits in. He is a sneakily useful option in Roto formats. He is a center who nails 3-pointers at a high volume and does little else. It's very difficult to turn the ball over when all you are doing is spotting up behind the arc and either shooting or passing the ball. Bonner might put the ball on the floor less than any player in the league, which led him to an unfathomably-low 3.8 turnover percentage last season. He turned the ball over just 14 times in 65 games last season, while nailing 105 3-pointers at a 42 percent rate. You'll take a huge hit in rebounding and blocks from the center position, but Bonner can fill in for a few weeks and help you avoid turnovers.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 pm ET) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


 
 
 
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