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Offseason Extra: What does the future hold?

Fantasy Writer
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One nice thing about the NBA is that the playoffs tend to drag out into the early summer, which makes the offseason much shorter for the average fan.

For Fantasy players, though, the season is already done, and you have six long months to look at the season you just played out and determine what went right or wrong for your team. One way to do that is to figure out who you overvalued, who you undervalued and who you pegged right from the start.

Even if you don't play in an auction or salary cap league, you still have to figure out the right value for each player. If you bought too high on Gerald Wallace, your season probably ended pretty early. If you waited and snagged Amir Johnson late, you might be ready to cash out your winnings.

With another season behind us and an offseason of uncertainty ahead, I am here to take a look forward at some of next season's most intriguing players. Read on to find out who I value, who I don't and who I can't quite figure out just yet.

Five Players I Am Buying

Ricky Rubio, G, Timberwolves
It took a while for Rubio to get going after his return from knee surgery, but his play since the beginning of February has taken away any doubt from my mind that he is a strong Fantasy option moving forward in his career. Rubio is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field since Feb. 1, but his improved three-point shot and ability to get to the free-throw line a ton (5.6 times per game) make up for that subpar mark. Rubio has basically been the only consistent player for the Wolves since he finally got up to full speed, a good sign for his long-term development. With Kevin Love back next season, the Timberwolves should have even more space for Rubio's drives. Rubio continues to play a lot like a young Jason Kidd, who shot below 39.0 percent in each of his first two seasons before cracking the 40.0 percent mark for good in his third season. I expect similar progression from Rubio.

Jeff Teague, G, Hawks
Teague's development has been slow and steady so far in his NBA career, and I don't think he is done. Teague took on a larger responsibility this season for the Hawks, and the result was a career-best performance, averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 assists per game. Teague's development as a passer has been especially impressive; after three seasons posting an assist rate between 23.3 and 25.1 percent, Teague jumped all the way to 35.6 percent this season, without a huge jump in his turnover rate. The Hawks could look to build around an Al Horford-Teague core with Josh Smith set to be a free agent, and I think Teague has cemented himself as a solid No. 2 Fantasy guard heading into next season.

Kyrie Irving, G, Cavaliers
When Irving is on the floor, there is absolutely no questioning his abilities. Though he did not take the huge step forward we might have expected this year, he still established himself as one of the top guards around in just his second season. Unfortunately, he has already missed 28 games in his NBA career, earned a reputation as injury-prone. Injuries have ruined many a promising young NBA career, but I think Irving should be able to avoid that fate. Unlike, say, Andrew Bynum's knees or Stephen Curry's ankle, Irving's injuries have so far seemed like just plain bad luck. Dating back to college, Irving has injured both of his shoulders, a hand, and a foot, and only once has he suffered an aggravation of a previous injury. Fantasy owners might want to avoid Irving this season because of his injury past, but I think you could get a steal on him like many owners did this season with Curry. I think he carries significantly less risk than many tagged with the "injury-prone" label.

Chandler Parsons, F, Rockets
The Rockets absolutely struck gold with Parsons, a second-round pick two years ago who has arguably emerged as their second-best player. He is such a perfect fit for the wide-open offensive style they have adopted over the last few years, and has proven to be a tremendous compliment to James Harden on the wing. He has become a valuable all-around Fantasy option, pouring in 15.3 points, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game this season. More importantly, coach Kevin McHale has begun to trust him more and more as a focal point in the offense; note how often he serves as the fulcrum in their devastating 'Wheel' set . If you break his career down into four parts, each representing the halves of his two seasons so far, Parsons has made consistent improvements across the board in each half. That won't change this season.

Anthony Davis, F/C, Hornets
The No. 1 pick from last year's draft has not quite been the top Fantasy rookie thanks to Damian Lillard's consistent excellence, but that does not mean he has been disappointing by any stretch. Davis' per-game numbers are impressive, but he really shines when you look at his per-36 minute numbers. He is averaging 16.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per-36 minutes, numbers that would make him a borderline must-start Fantasy option. A number of minor, nagging injuries and his in-progress defensive development have stood in the way of him becoming a full-time player, but he should take steps toward that in 2013-14. At just 20 years of age, Davis has monstrous Fantasy potential; I think he could overtake Lillard as soon as next season.

Five Players I Am Selling

Kenneth Faried, F, Nuggets
Faried is one of my favorite players to watch, and I expected big things from him after he struggled to break through until the second half of his rookie season. Unfortunately, he progress kind of stalled out this season, and his playing time did not increase as much as expected. His per-36 minute production remains excellent and he is a perfect fit in Denver's offense, but it is that same offense that keeps him from living up to his potential as a Fantasy option. Playing more than 25 or so minutes per game is a tall task for any big man at Denver's hectic pace, which means he will be limited. Faried's per-minute production will tantalize, but I think his actual numbers will continue to disappoint.

Danny Granger, F, Pacers
Granger might have ruined your season. He came down with a knee injury in the beginning of the season, but was diagnosed with the horribly vague "soreness" designation that kept Fantasy owners from running in the opposite direction in fear. Once the regular season began (and you used an early draft pick on him; his ADP was 64th overall), Granger underwent surgery that would eventually cost him all but five games. While he was gone, the Pacers discovered their new star on the wing, in the person of young Paul George. Now, Fantasy owners have to decide when to grab Granger, after an entire season on the sidelines and with his place on the team at least a little in doubt. In the first half of a draft next season, I don't think I would touch Granger.

Andrew Bogut, C, Warriors
At some point in the now-distant past, Bogut was a legitimately useful Fantasy option at the center position. He served as a true focal point offensively for an interesting Bucks team years ago, and was good for a nightly double-double for three seasons in a row. Unfortunately, injuries have put an end to all that, and it looks like there is little chance he will get back to that level in Golden State. We expected Bogut to be productive this season, and so did Fantasy owners; he had an ADP of 110. I would not be opposed to letting Bogut go undrafted next season, after he has played in 29 games and averaged 6.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season. The Warriors seem content with mostly ignored him on offense and letting him focus on shoring up their subpar defense.

Metta World Peace, F, Lakers
For the first time in a long time, World Peace proved to be unpredictable in a good way this season. He was mostly on his best behavior, and he flourished under Mike D'Antoni, putting up his finest scoring season since joining the Lakers. He did not shoot the ball tremendously well from the field (40.5 percent), but he did shoot it a lot, leading to 12.8 points per game. Unfortunately, D'Antoni does not seem like a great bet to return to the Lakers next season unless they go on an extended playoff run, so World Peace's offensive resurgence might not last long. He averaged just 9.1 points per game in his previous three seasons, and I would expect a return to those levels.

Marcin Gortat, C, Suns
We knew that Gortat's production coming into this season was probably influenced by Steve Nash's brilliance running the pick and roll with him, but we weren't sure how much Gortat depended on him. With Goran Dragic in at point guard, we also hoped Gortat would still be able to put up good numbers. After all, he looked like a skilled big man who could make a difference on both sides of the floor. Unfortunately, his offensive production lagged and his defensive indifference caused the coaching staff to lose faith in Gortat as a big part of the team's plans. Gortat averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, but was consistently unreliable on a nightly basis. The Suns could commit to a full rebuild this season by shipping Gortat out, which might be the best outcome for his Fantasy value as well.

Five Players On the Fence

Eric Gordon, G, Hornets
What will make Eric Gordon happy? Sure, it has to hurt to see the Clippers burgeoning as a power without him. But, his offseason dalliance with Phoenix as a restricted free agent seems to indicate that winning might not be his primary concern; where the wreckage of a once-proud, era defining franchise smolders in the desert, Gordon sees an oasis. Gordon seems unhappy to be in New Orleans and has never seemed on the same page with coach Monty Williams. To be fair, Williams has run into problems with a few players over the last two seasons as a head coach, but Gordon's issues appear to run deeper than just a personality clash. When healthy, Gordon has the ability to be a poor man's James Harden, scoring efficiently from all over the floor while dishing out a solid assist rate for an off guard. Unfortunately, with his injury woes and his unwillingness to buy into what appears to be a great situation in New Orleans makes me lean towards avoiding him early in the draft, unless his attitude changes this offseason.

Josh Smith, F, Hawks (free agent)
Smith enters this offseason with a ton of questions surrounding him, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Smith's talent is undeniable, and it has made him one of the top Fantasy options in category-based formats over the last few years. Unfortunately, his focus seems to come and go, and his decision making leaves much to be desired even nine seasons into his career. With a coach who can narrow his focus (and remove the dreaded long 2-pointers that dominate his game on bad nights), Smith could be one of the five best Fantasy options in the league. Smith's failure to live up to his potential on a consistent basis makes me wary of recommending him, at least until we see where he lands.

J.J. Hickson, C, Trail Blazers (free agent)
Kris Humphries torpedoed countless Fantasy teams this season once the Nets realized that his big stats did little to help them in their attempt to be a winning team. Despite his huge salary, Humphries tumbled out of the rotation by midseason, and the Nets were better for it. If we're making odds for who will be 2013-14's Kris Humphries, Hickson has to be the leader out of the gate. The numbers Hickson is putting up are startlingly similar to the ones Humphries had when he earned his big contract in free agency, and his (lack of) impact on a team bound for the lottery is similar to Humphries'. The Trail Blazers have been worse on both sides of the court with Hickson out there, despite his gaudy numbers. With Hickson set to earn a big payday in free agency, his new team could sour on him like the Nets did with Humphries, once they realize his shallow stats don't make up for his shortcomings.

Jrue Holiday, G, 76ers
Holiday is one of the league's true breakout stars this season, earning an All-Star nod and standing as the only player averaging at least 18.0 points and 8.0 assists per game for the season. Unfortunately, he is also playing the largest minutes load of his career, which tends to overstate the improvements he has made. He has also faded badly in the second half of the season; he is averaging 16.3 points and 7.6 assists since the All-Star break, and has seen his shooting percentage drop in each month since January. Holiday is just 22, so he has some physical development left. But he might not yet be ready to carry the load like he has been asked to this season. The 76ers' future hangs up in the air with Andrew Bynum missing the entire season, and there are just enough questions surrounding Jrue to make me put a star next to his name as a potential disappoint when I begin preparing for drafts this summer.

Jeff Green, F, Celtics
Jeff Green might have carried you to a Fantasy title with his play in the second half of the season, so it is fair to question this call. Green was averaging 9.6 points per game on 8.1 field-goal attempts per game as of Jan. 25, when Rajon Rondo's knee injury forced the Celtics to find a new way to make their offense run. From that point, on Green averaged 16.6 points per game on 11.8 field-goal attempts per game, greatly increasing his efficiency while also becoming a volume scorer the Celtics relied heavily on. I assumed Green's improvement post-Rondo injury might have been the result of getting his shots in more efficient areas of the floor, namely at the rim and behind the three-point line. Rondo is a dynamic playmaker by any measure, but he has been criticized at times for setting teammates up too often for inefficient mid-range shots. To my surprise, his shot chart since Rondo's injury is essentially identical; he took 65.4 percent of his shots within five feet of the rim or from three-point range before Jan. 25 and 67.3 percent after. If the types of shots Green was taking weren't significantly different, we have to wonder which half of the season was the fluke; the one where everything caught rim, or when he couldn't miss. Given his long track record of being inefficient as a scorer dating back to Oklahoma City, as well as the lack of chemistry he showed with Rondo, I have my doubts as to whether he is the changed player he might appear to be.

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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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