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2012-13 Draft Prep: Who will bounce back?

Fantasy Writer
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Every season, Fantasy owners have to deal with the disappointment of players not living up to expectations. Whether because of injury, a spat with the coaching staff or just a random regression in shooting ability, every Fantasy owner has to learn to navigate these waters. And, just as importantly, learn which players are possibly undervalued for their performance a year ago.

Last year's weird, truncated season caused a lot of small injuries to linger and cost more games than they otherwise might have. Some players saw how many games were cramped into the schedule and tried to return before they were ready, which further exacerbated their issue. Some players just struggled in new situations, with new teammates and new coaches that did not suit their playing style. Others just could not seem to get it going at any point in the season, no matter what happened.

Whatever the reason, I have identified a group of players who are likely to bounce back around this season. These guys may not all be starting Fantasy options from day one, but they're all solid bets to improve on disappointing showings last year.

Guards

Raymond Felton, Knicks

Projected Stats: 77 games, 12.1 points, 7.0 assists, 2.8 rebounds

We can trace Felton's downfall to the trade back in 2011 that sent him from New York to Denver. He found himself in Portland last season, stuck in Nate McMillan's slow-paced offense. That pairing proved to be a poor fit, and now he returns to New York. Returning to New York reunites him with Amar'e Stoudemire, whom Felton flourished playing with before the trade. The Stoudemire-Felton pick-and-roll nearly made both of them All-Stars during their 50-plus games together, with Felton averaging 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game prior to the trade.

The question now is whether Felton's success was a result of Mike D'Antoni's point-guard friendly lineup, or if there really was something to that connection between Felton and Stoudemire. The jury remains out, but it is fair to say Felton is surrounded by much more offensive talent in New York than on a lottery-bound Portland squad. Don't expect a resurgence to his D'Antoni-fueled levels, but Felton should prove himself very useful in New York.

Kevin Martin, Rockets

Projected Stats: 69 games, 18.3 points, 2.1 assists, 6.2 FTA

Kevin Martin's shooting numbers took a hit across the board last season, but he was still mostly a productive scorer. There was one big difference in his performance, though, and it account for much of his dropoff in production; Martin's free-throw rate nearly halved. Martin went to the line 8.4 times per game in 2010-11, and nailed 88.8 percent of his attempts. In 2011-12, he got to the line just 4.5 times per game in his 40 contests before a shoulder injury ended his season.

From 2007 through 2011, Martin averaged one free throw attempt for every 1.77 shots from the field. That dropped to three field-goal attempts for every free throw. That drop is largely responsible for the fall from 23.5 points per game to 17.1. The shoulder issues Martin dealt with at times could have led him to being hesitant about driving into contact. We like to think this was just a one-year anomaly, and Martin should return to the efficient form this season while awaiting an inevitable trade out of Houston's perpetual rebuild.

Tyreke Evans, Kings

Projected Stats: 72 games, 17.2 points, 5.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds

What happened to that dominant rookie season form? Evans' production slipped across the board in 2011-12 yet again, as the Kings limited his minutes a bit and experimented with lineups that had him playing on the wing instead of with the ball in his hands. The result was a drop in scoring to 16.5 points per game, with just 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists as well. He still filled up the stat sheet, but he underperformed his draft position for the second season in a row.

The Kings have a crowded backcourt situation right now, and trade rumors are likely to fly around Evans as he enters the final season of his rookie contract. He might wilt under those distractions, but it would not surprise to see him get back some of his edge with his back against the wall either. The Kings always seem on the cusp of turning things around, and the quickest way for them to do that would be for the 23-year-old to return to the level that made him such a promising prospect in the past.

Aaron Brooks, Kings

Projected Stats: 75 games, 8.5 points, 3.8 assists, 1.1 rebounds

Brooks' projected numbers are pretty ugly, but they're still a whole lot better than what he put up in 2011-12. That's because the then free-agent opted to sign a contract in the Chinese Basketball Association that kept him out of the NBA for the entire season. That decision came off a trio of seasons in which he reached double figures in scoring, including a 19.6 point, 5.3 assist average in 2009-10 that had him pegged as an up-and-coming star.

Brooks has a lot to prove in that same crowded backcourt as Evans. The Kings have Isaiah Thomas entrenched as a starter at point guard, after he emerged as one of the most productive young point guards in the game late last season. If Thomas falters, however, Brooks might be first in line to run the offense. Sacramento is disjointed and inefficient on offense, but they play at a very fast pace and provide plenty of opportunities to produce. Brooks will be hungry to prove he still belongs in the NBA, and could make an impact if the opportunity presents itself.

Forwards

Michael Beasley, Suns

Projected Stats: 75 games, 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds

A bad reputation is a hard thing to shake, especially when you spend four years giving your detractors every reason for it to live on. Beasley is well known as a chucker of the highest order, a guy who looks for his shot first, second and third. Despite his considerable gifts as an athlete, Beasley loafs on defense and doesn't hit the boards hard. He quickly fell out of favor in Minnesota last season, and they did not even bother to give him a qualifying offer this offseason.

Beasley's style of play is not conducive to winning basketball at this point in his career, but there is value on a team that badly needs offense. This is why he finds himself in Phoenix, in their first post-Steve Nash season. All indications this offseason point to the Suns planning on using Beasley as the centerpiece of their offense. “They're telling me to shoot, shoot, shoot,” Beasley told reporters during training camp, and he should be more than happy to oblige. Beasley might approach 20 points per game in his first year in Phoenix, and should return to being a useful option once again.

Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks

Projected Stats: 70 games, 19.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

Stoudemire never did get comfortable playing next to Carmelo Anthonylast year, and it showed in his stats. Stoudemire shot below 50 percent from the field for the first time since his second year in the league, and his 17.5 points per game were his lowest since he was a rookie. With a full offseason and training camp to work out the kinks in the offense, Stoudemire and Anthony will hopefully be able to find a happy medium between their shot attempts.

The days of Stoudemire putting up 20-plus points per night are likely gone as he enters his 30's, but we like Amar'e to improve on his poor performance. Especially with the aforementioned return of Felton to the Knicks lineup providing him with the pick-and-roll partner that he only had for a few weeks during the Knicks' Jeremy Lin-fueled run last season. In 21 games with Lin as the team's starting point guard last season, Stoudemire upped his field-goal percentage to 51.5, though his scoring was still somewhat lackluster as he was dealing with nagging injuries. The biggest hurdle might be his health, but a more normal schedule should help alleviate some of those issues.

Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets

Projected Stats: 66 games, 16.4 points, 2.7 assists, 1.8 3-pointers made

Gallinari's shot abandoned him last season, as he made a career-low 32.8 percent of his attempts from three-point range. Much of that was likely to do with injuries, as he dealt with an ankle issue as well as a fractured thumb later in the season. Gallinari also went to the free-throw line just 4.9 times per game, after showing a knack for getting there the season before. A healthy ankle and hand will make Gallinari more comfortable driving into contact, which should lead to more trips to the line. That means that Gallinari should be able to produce more points more efficiently, even if his overall role in the offense stays roughly the same.

The Nuggets should be one of the fastest teams in the league yet again this season, so opportunities will be there for him to produce. Gallinari seems to be expected to breakout every season, but we like him to set a new career high in scoring this season. It won't take an increased role, or a new skill-set; staying healthy and regressing to his career means as a shooter should be more than enough for the former No. 6 overall pick to live up to his potential.

Zach Randolph, Grizzlies

Projected Stats: 60 games, 17.7 points, 9.8 rebounds

Randolph injured his knee in the fourth game of the season and never was quite right from then on. He missed two months of games and was moved to a bench role upon his return. The result was his lowest scoring and rebounding rates since he became a full-time player back in 2003-04. Randolph shot just 46.3 percent from the field and never seemed comfortable attacking the rim for rebounds and high-efficiency looks.

Randolph is fully recovered this season, and should be back at full-strength. He has had other knee woes in the past, so that black cloud is going to hang over him, unfortunately. When Randolph is healthy, he is a nightly double-double threat, and has developed a wonderful rapport with fellow Grizzlies' big man Marc Gasol in the high/low post game. There is no questioning Randolph's effectiveness when healthy, and he should return to being one of the league's elite post players.

Centers

Andrea Bargnani, Raptors

Projected Stats: 63 games, 20.1 points, 6.0 rebounds

Bargnani really seemed to be making a jump before a calf injury sidelined him in January. In his first 13 games of the season, the 26-year-old was averaging 23.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on a surprisingly competitive Raptors team. Those would have represented career highs for him, along with a 2.1 assists per game mark. In his next 18 games, his scoring shrunk to 16.5 per game and he returned to being a non-entity on the boards.

Bargnani bought into new coach Dwayne Casey's system and was playing at the highest level he ever has before being sidetracked. If he had stayed healthy, last year would have been his finest season to date. Injuries have dogged him two years in a row now, so the key for the former top pick will be staying on the court and at full strength. He has a new partner in the frontcourt in talented rookie Jonas Valanciunas, and that should open up some space for Bargnani on the perimeter, where he is most comfortable. He is healthy heading into the season, and could be one of the better center options in the league if he can just stay on the floor.

Al Horford, Hawks

Projected Stats: 75 games, 14.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists

Horford's torn pectoral muscle last year cost him most of the regular season and deprived the league of one of its most unique talents. Horford has developed into a reliable scorer and one of the best mid-range shooting big men in the league. He is also one of the best passers of any center, and a rock-steady defender and rebounder to boot. Horford brings a ton to the table and takes very little off of it, which also makes him a terrific Fantasy option as he fills up the stat sheet.

He was able to return after four months off in the postseason, and he put up 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three games against a tremendous Boston defense. That was a reminder of what he is capable of, and what we should expect this season. The Hawks shipped Joe Johnson out of town, meaning they will likely build their offense around the frontcourt of Horford and Josh Smith. Horford had a good track record of staying healthy before last season, so there is little reason to think he will deal with any recurring issues. One of the league's best centers should be back to full strength this season.

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Player News
Heat add Reggie Williams
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8/16/2014) The Heat signed guard Reggie Williams to a free-agency contract last week, the team announced. Terms of the deal are not known.

Williams appeared in just three games for the Thunder last season, and has played 180 games over parts of five NBA seasons. He averages 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, while shooting 46.0 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range for his career.  


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by Joe Polito | CBSSports.com
(8/15/2014) Suns newcomer Isaiah Thomas underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist, the team announced Thursday.

Thomas dealt with a sprained wrist last season but was able to play through it on his way to a career year. An MRI in February revealed no ligament damage, which would indicate this latest procedure is nothing to worry about. The team expects him to be ready for training camp. 


DeMarcus Cousins avoids serious injury at Team USA practice
by Joe Polito | CBSSports.com
(8/15/2014) Kings center DeMarcus Cousins dodged a bullet Thursday when the MRI on his right knee came back negative.

According to Yahoo Sports, Cousins limped off the court during a Team USA training session after Anthony Davis landed on his knee during a scrimmage. Cousins later tweeted that he was "fine," helping to suppress any concerns of a serious injury. 


Pacers shopping Roy Hibbert, call Pistons about Greg Monroe
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) The Pacers are shopping center Roy Hibbert, and they have called the Pistons regarding a potential deal involving restricted free agent Greg Monroe, Detroit Sports 105.1 reports.

There's no word about whether the Pistons would be interested in a Monroe-for-Hibbert spot, but they are pretty well set in the middle with Andre Drummond in the starting lineup. It's a rumor that seemingly has very little chance of coming to fruition.


Rockets sign Kostas Papanikolaou
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) The Rockets have signed small forward Kostas Papanikolaou .

Papanikolaou gets $4.8 million guaranteed in the upcoming season, with a team option of $4.6 million for the following season. He has been playing in Europe since being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft.


Report: Greg Oden faces felony charge
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) Free agent Greg Oden is facing a felony charge after allegedly attacking his former girlfriend after a night of drinking, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Oden is accused of punching the woman in the face three times and fracturing a bone in her nose, according to court documents. The felony offense carries a penaly of one-to-six years in prison.


Markel Brown out with broken hand
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) Nets guard Markel Brown will be held out of basketball activities for four-to-six weeks after being diagnosed with a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand, the team announced Monday.

Brown was selected 44th overall in this year's draft, and the Nets acquired him for cash considerations on the night of the draft. He averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his senior season at Oklahoma State.


Report: Wolves to swap Anthony Bennett for Thaddeus Young
by Joe Polito | CBSSports.com
(8/8/2014) Though the trade can't go official until August 23, the deal reportedly struck between the Cavaliers and Timberwolves will lead to another trade between Minnesota and the 76ers.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported early Friday that Minnesota, upon receiving Anthony Bennett from the Cavs as part of the Kevin Love trade, would then trade him for Thaddeus Young. The Timberwolves have been showing interest in Young since Love stated his desire to be traded.

Meanwhile, the 76ers want to move Young because he's entering his prime at age 26 and only has one additional year left on his contract. Acquiring Bennett would complete a core of young talent to develop over the coming years. Young was one of the most productive forwards in the league last year playing in Brett Brown's up-tempo offense, averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. Bennett, on the other hand, failed to make any impact what so ever but did show signs of growth during the Summer League. 


Landing in Minnesota should improve Andrew Wiggins' value
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8/7/2014) The prize of the trade that ultimately sent Kevin Love to Cleveland will likely be the Timberwolves' acquisition of No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins , assuming there are no unexpected changes in the deal the two sides agreed to.

If Wiggins does ultimately land in Minnesota, as expected, this should be a boon to his Fantasy value. Though Wiggins will have substantially less help as he makes the transition to the NBA than he would have in Cleveland, he is also likely to be much more of a featured option than he otherwise might have been.

Wiggins was likely going to be the third or possibly even fourth offensive option for the Cavs, and likely would have been so for some time, given the presence of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on long-term deals. Now, the Timberwolves get to build around Wiggins as their long-term centerpiece, and he should be given plenty of rope as the team tries to navigate their upcoming rebuild.

Wiggins is raw, but still put up 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per game as a freshman at the University of Kansas. There are some questions about how well his game will translate to the NBA, but he will at least have some help, in the form of point guard Ricky Rubio, who knows exactly how to set up teammates for shots they like.

Wiggins is mostly upside right now, but should be considered a second-round pick in all keeper-league Fantasy formats. In yearly re-draft leagues, he is more of a mid-round option at this point, albeit one with tremendous upside. 


Anthony Bennett a bit more intriguing following trade
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8/7/2014) After a rookie season that can be charitably described as lost, a change of scenery is probably the best outcome Anthony Bennett could have hoped for this offseason. He got that Thursday, with the news that the long-awaited Kevin Love trade has landed him in Minnesota.

Last year's No. 1 overall pick luckily doesn't have to join the Cavaliers with the pressure of replacing Love as the face of the franchise -- this year's No. 1 pick, Andrew Wiggin, will take that on. Bennett gets to join a Timberwolves team that can give him more consistent playing time than last year's Cavaliers afforded him, but which won't ask him to do more than he is capable.

Bennett might end up starting at power forward for the Wolves, though a bench role seems more likely at this point. He had a disastrous rookie season after entering the season out of shape, but appeared to be in better shape while playing with the Cavaliers during the Summer League in Las Vegas. He still shot the ball poorly in Vegas -- 42.6 percent from the field and just 4 of 16 from three-point range -- but Bennett looked much more capable during his time there.

Based on his rookie season, Bennett has a long way to go before he is contributing at a high level. However, Fantasy owners in deeper category-based leagues should consider taking a chance on the 21-year-old in the later rounds, because he will have the chance to earn a large role if he proves worthy. 


 
 
 
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