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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
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(10:39 am ET) Celtics rookie James Young is working his way back from a shoulder injury and coach Brad Stevens said Sunday he is doing non-contact work during shootaround. 

Young, who has only played in five games for Boston this year, has bounced between the Celtics and their D-League affiliate most of the season.

Young is averaging 2.2 points and 0.4 rebounds per game this year. 


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(10:33 am ET) Point guard Jameer Nelson will make his Boston debut Sunday when the Celtics take on the Heat in Miami. Nelson, along with Brandan Wright and Jae Crowder were traded from Dallas to Boston for point guard Rajon Rondo. 

"It's an opportunity to play for the Celtics with all the tradition and the legacy," Nelson said at shootaround Sunday.

Nelson is averaging 7.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game.


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(1:20 am ET) Clippers point guard Chris Paul scored a team-high 27 points on 6 of 16 shooting, including 4 of 6 shooting from three-point range, in his team's 106-102 win over the Bucks in Los Angeles Saturday.

Paul nearly managed his second consecutive double-double in the win, dishing out nine assists after racking up 15 assists the previous night. He also delivered three rebounds, two steals and one block in 36 minutes in Saturday's win. The Clippers will move forward to face the Spurs Monday.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:17 am ET) Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a team-high 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting in his team's 106-102 win over the Clippers Saturday.

Antetokounmpo came close to delivering what would have been his second double-double of the season, as he managed to grab nine rebounds in the loss. He also tallied six assists and two steals in a December-high 38 minutes of action. He'll square off with the Hornets Tuesday.


Mavericks G Monta Ellis erupts for season-high 38 points
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis went off again, scoring a season-high 38 points, leading his team to a 99-93 victory over the Spurs on Saturday.

Ellis knocked down 15 of 23 field goal attempts, including 5 of 6 from downtown, and 3 of 6 from the charity stripe. Four of his five treys came in the first half. He also added one assist and four steals while logging 40 minutes of game action.

Ellis has registered six 30-point games this season. He's averaging 25.4 points, 5.0 assists and 1.4 rebounds over his last five games.


Nuggets SF Danilo Gallinari scores season-high 19 vs. Pacers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari scored a season-high 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting in his team's 76-73 win over the Pacers Saturday.

Gallinari was able to lead his team in scoring while playing 28 minutes off the bench and taking at least 10 shots for the first time this season. He also tallied three rebounds and one assist in the low-scoring win. The Nuggets will square off with the Hornets Monday.


Rajon Rondo scores six points in Mavericks debut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Rajon Rondo, who played his first eight-plus seasons with the Celtics, made his Mavericks debut on Saturday against the Spurs.

Rondo got the start alongside Monta Ellis, but had a hard time finding his shot. He finished the game with six points on 3 of 11 shooting from the field. He also added nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals while logging 34 minutes of game action.

"He's going to do great," coach Rick Carlisle said of Rondo, per Dallas Morning News. "He's really smart, picks things up quickly, so I don't see a big adjustment period. He's just got to get ready to compete with our guys."

Rondo is averaging 7.6 points, 10.2 assists, 7.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals over his last five games.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Pacers power forward David West scored a season-high 19 points on 8 of 22 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds in his team's 76-73 loss to the Nuggets Saturday.

West didn't have a double-double before Wednesday but has managed to post two straight performances with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds. He led his team in both categories Saturday while kicking in five assists and one block in 32 minutes. The Pacers are set to square off with the Timberwolves Sunday.


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Harden scored 18 points on 5 of 16 shooting from the floor, including 2 of 7 from downtown and a perfect 6 of 6 from the charity stripe. He also added six rebounds, one block and one steal while logging 39 minutes of game action.

He is averaging 29.6 points, 9.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds over his last five games.


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(12/20/2014) Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca only logged 15 minutes off the bench, but it was enough time for him to register a double-double in his team's 114-88 defeat to Portland at home Saturday night.

Ajinca, who made his first appearance since Dec. 12, scored 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting and 2 of 2 from the free throw line. He added 13 rebounds and one steal in a losing effort. Ajinca has four career double-doubles.


 
 
 
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