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2012-13 Draft Prep: Who will break out?

by | Fantasy Writer
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As calendar turns to October, most owners are gearing up for another exciting season of Fantasy basketball.

After last year’s compressed schedule brought on many unprecedented challenges in Fantasy, things shouldn’t be as hectic this year as the NBA has returned to its normal 82-game schedule.

As a tribute to things returning to normal, we have once again compiled our annual list of possible breakout candidates. A breakout option is a player who we feel has been a somewhat reliable Fantasy option in the past but seems primed to take his game to another level.

Most of these players will already be off the board in the middle rounds of most Drafts but there are some who could end up falling through the cracks. Here is our list of the 10 best breakout options for the 2012-13 campaign. We wish all owners good luck this upcoming season and hope to see you in the postseason next April.

Guards

Goran Dragic, Suns: This is an easy one as Dragic is likely to pop up on everybody’s breakout list, but it's worth saying all the same. After years of sitting behind Steve Nash in Phoenix, Dragic got a chance to start for the Rockets last season and did not disappoint. He averaged 18.0 points, 8.4 assists and 1.8 steals while shooting 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range over his 28 starts. Dragic now will be asked to man coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo offense in Phoenix and will have the luxury of running the pick and roll with Luis Scola, as his former Rocket teammate also signed with the Suns in the offseason. At 26 years old, Dragic is just entering the prime of his career and should be easily able to surpass the 11.3 points and 5.3 assists he averaged last year. We wouldn’t be surprised if Dragic finishes as a top-12 Fantasy guard when all is said and done.

Klay Thompson, Warriors: Thompson is one of the few second-year players who made our list thanks in part to a strong finish during his rookie campaign. The 22-year-old spent the early part of his first year in the league stuck behind Monta Ellis and wound up averaging just 8.0 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists over his first 38 games. However, once the Warriors traded Ellis at the deadline, Thompson was inserted into the starting lineup and took off. He averaged 18.2 pts, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists over his final 28 games of the regular season while hitting on 44.2 percent of his shots from the field. Thompson also averaged 2.1 3-pointers made, as coach Mark Jackson gave him the green light to shoot and he did, attempting 16.3 shots during his run. We would expect that to be the case once again this season as he will likely be the focal point of the Warriors’ offense. Thompson could very easily end up leading the league in 3-point shooting and if he can stay healthy, possibly even become a consistent 20-point per game scorer. While expectations are high for the second-year guard, he has all the makings of a Fantasy star on the rise.

O.J. Mayo, Mavericks: The Mavericks have spent the past few seasons searching for a viable option at shooting guard but may have finally found their man with the signing of Mayo. The former third-overall draft pick averaged an impressive 18.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals while starting 164 games during his first two years in the league but was ultimately moved to the bench at the start of the his third season. Mayo struggled to adjust in a reserve role and as a result, his production took a hit. He averaged just 11.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks over his last 137 games and only started in 17 of those contests. However, he has already locked down the starting No. 2 guard spot in Dallas, which should translate into a huge boost in minutes. With Dirk Nowitzki once again being slowed by knee issues and the Mavericks in a bit of a transition period as a team, Mayo will be counted on to shoulder most of the scoring load. As long as he is able to stay healthy, we see no reason why he shouldn’t be able to at least match his production from his first two years in the league and possibly even improve on those numbers. Mayo has always had the skill set to perform like a No. 1 Fantasy option and with the promise of seeing starter minutes, he should be able to perform like one this season.

Forwards

Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers: Batum turned in his most productive season in the league last year and as a result received a huge offer sheet from the Timberwolves over the summer. However, the Trail Blazers matched the offer, sending Batum back to Portland for a fifth season. The 23-year-old put up 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists to go along with a steal and block per contest, but really thrived once he was inserted into the starting lineup. He averaged 15.2 points, 5.1 boards, 1.7 assists and 1.1 blocks over his last 33 games as a starter while making 45.6 percent of his shots from the field. He also made two 3-pointers per contest over that stretch and is expected to be the team’s starting small forward from Day 1. While Batum hasn’t developed as quickly as some thought he would, he has increased his scoring average in each of his four seasons and is one of the few Fantasy options that has proved capable of filling up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. With the possibility of seeing 30-plus minutes per game and a ton of upside, Batum seems poised for a breakout campaign.

Glen Davis, Magic: This one may surprise some people as Davis has not been a household name in the Fantasy community over the past few seasons. His first year in Orlando didn’t start off well as he came into training camp out of shape, which immediately landed him in the doghouse and he averaged just 7.5 points and 4.6 rebounds while averaging 21 minutes per contest as a reserve. However, he really turned things around when he got a chance to start. Davis put up 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game over his final 12 games of the regular season and increased his scoring up to 19.0 points per game in Orlando’s first-round playoff series. The Magic are in full rebuilding mode this season and will need someone to step up in the scoring department. We would expect Davis to fully embrace that role and at the very least be able to match the 13.8 points and 6.1 rebounds he has averaged over his 44 career starts. As long as he can fend off promising rookie Andrew Nicholson for minutes, we are expecting big things from Big Baby this year.

Kenneth Faried, Nuggets: Faried is another player who will likely wind up on a ton of breakout lists this preseason after turning in an impressive rookie campaign in Denver last year. The 22-year-old quickly inserted himself into the Nuggets’starting lineup and wound up starting 39 of the 46 games in which he appeared. He averaged 10.2 points, 1.0 blocked shots and 7.7 boards, including 3.1 offensive boards, while averaging 22.5 minutes per contest. Faried quickly become a fan favorite due to energy and hustle he brought to the court and is expected be coach George Karl’s starting power forward this season. With Al Harington now out of the way, Faried should be in line for an increase in playing time, which should allow the "Manimal" to flirt with a double-double most nights. While Denver is one of the deeper team’s in the league, Faried has proved more than capable of being able to keep up in the Nuggets' run-and-gun style of offense. He should easily be able to increase on his production from last year.

Michael Beasley, Suns: Beasley has been a bit of a disappointment during his first four years in the league as he has struggled to develop into a reliable Fantasy option. However, there seemed to be a collective sense of jubilation from most Fantasy owners once he signed with the Suns. The knock on Beasley over his career has been his tendency to take too many jump shots and not pass the ball enough, but apparently that won’t be an issue anymore. Coach Alvin Gentry has told Beasley numerous times throughout the preseason that he wants to him to shoot the ball more as the Suns plan on relying on the fifth-year forward to carry much of the offensive load this season -- which was not the case in Miami or Minnesota. Scoring has never been an issue for the 23-year-old as he has averaged 15.1 points on 13.4 shots per game in his career and seems to be a perfect fit for Phoenix’s up-tempo style. As long as the Suns stay true to their word and keep the leash off Beasley, he could really blossom into a high-end Fantasy option this year.

Centers

DeMarcus Cousins, Kings: After averaging 18.0 points and 11.0 rebounds during his sophomore campaign many thought Cousins already had his breakout year last season. We feel he still left a ton of production on the floor. Keep in mind the 22-year-old averaged a double-double while only seeing 30.5 minutes per contest as he consistently got himself into foul trouble. He also took a ton of bad shots as his 44.8 percent field-goal percentage ranked 13th among all centers. Cousins reportedly spent the offseason working on the mental side of his game and hopefully matured a bit. If he can clean up his foul and shooting woes, Cousins could easily be in line to see another boost in production this season, which is a scary thought. While he can be a bit of a headache at times, Cousins appears ready to secure his place among the Fantasy elite at his position.

DeAndre Jordan, Clippers: This is one of our more controversial selections as a breakout option as most don’t agree that Jordan is ready to take the next step in his development. The 24-year-old spent much of the offseason working with a free-throw coach in the hopes of improving upon his 52 percent success rate at the charity stripe but has struggled from the line in the preseason. While it appears Jordan is still a ways away from polishing that aspect of his game, keep in mind he did average career highs all across the board last season. Jordan is also one of the better shot blockers in the league and a career 64 percent shooter from the field, so if he can find away to knock down some free-throws, he could very easily score in double figures most nights. That type of scoring production could have him flirting with a double-double most games -- combined with a handful of blocks -- would push him up to a No. 1 Fantasy option. While it may be a reach, we except Jordan to take that next step this season.

JaVale McGee, Nuggets: OK, OK, so we used McGee last season as one of our breakout options and while he did see some improvement in the scoring department, he failed to make the leap we expected from him. However, we started seeing major improvement from the 24-year-old once he was dealt to the Nuggets. He averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game in Denver (20 games) last season and really made an impact in the postseason when he put up a 9-8 stat line to go along with 3.1 blocks. While it remains unclear whether he will start or come off the bench, McGee is expected to see way more than the 20 minutes per game he averaged last season and seems to be a perfect fit for coach George Karl’s up-tempo offense. He also spent the offseason working out with Hakeem Olajuwon and appears be to a double-double waiting to happen. While he has been listed as a breakout option numerous times in his career, if he can’t develop under the tutelage Karl and Olajuwon, it might never happen. We feel this is the year McGee turns his raw potential into All-Star-caliber production, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Other considerations

Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers: The second-year guard ran away with Rookie of the Year honors last season and did so while only averaging 30.5 minutes per game. His minutes should increase by a wide margin this season, which will allow him to easily improve on the 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals he posted a season ago.

Evan Turner, 76ers: With Andre Iguodala now in Denver, Turner is expected to see his role with the 76ers increase in his third year in the league. He should easily see his minutes increase into the 30s this season and with Andrew Bynum expected to draw constant double teams in the paint, Turner should be able to improve on the 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists he posted last year.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers: As one of the few big men of Cleveland’s roster this season, Varejao will be expected to man the paint for the Cavaliers. He averaged 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in just 25 games last year and most think he would have improved on those numbers if he were able to stay healthy. While his offensive game is a bit limited, look for Varejao to once again put up a double-double most nights in Cleveland to go along with a handful of steals and blocks.

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Player News
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. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


 
 
 
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