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Offseason Extra: The NBA draft's Fantasy impact

Fantasy Writer
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This year's NBA draft was the kind that makes you happy if you didn't have to stake your reputation on a mock draft. From the very first selection, everyone's draft boards were thrown into disarray and the surprises came pretty much nonstop for hours.

Even though the draft class was nearly universally agreed to be lacking in franchise-altering talent, you can count at least five teams that fundamentally altered their outlook moving forward with their actions at Barclays Center. Those impacts will obviously reach the Fantasy court, and it is up to Fantasy owners to determine in what ways the outlook has changed heading into the meat of the offseason.

What follows is a pick-by-pick breakdown of the Fantasy impact of each selection made in the lottery and how each affects not only the incoming rookies, but also the incumbent players whose roles those rookies might be altering.

1. Cavaliers select Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Fantasy Impact: High
This remains arguably the biggest surprise of an unpredictable draft night. Bennett landed in a pretty great spot with an elite, young point guard, but judging his Fantasy value isn't quite as simple as that statement might make it seem. The Cavaliers already have Tristan Thompson as a recent lottery pick at power forward. Both measured under 6-foot-8 at the combine, so it is difficult to see either shifting to center, which creates an immediate log jam at the power forward spot. Bennett is a skilled scorer who flashed three-point range in college, but the Cavs' current roster configuration doesn't bode too well for his immediate success. This selection makes such a big potential Fantasy impact as much for possibly unseating Thompson as anything else.

2. Magic select Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana
Fantasy Impact: Medium
The cupboard is pretty bare in Orlando and the rumors of an Arron Afflalo trade are only going to grow with Oladipo's selection. Oladipo flashed a greatly improved jump shot in his third season in college, but he could struggle with the transition to the longer three-point line, especially in an Orlando offense without a lot of other weapons. He's likely to be more of a defensive presence and secondary offensive option in the pros -- hardly the type of player Fantasy owners will climb over themselves to select.

3. Wizards select Otto Porter, F, Georgetown
Fantasy Impact: Medium
This is a great fit for Porter, though that might not be reflected in his stat line as a rookie. The Wizards have a tremendous young backcourt and Porter represents another fantastic building block with Bradley Beal and John Wall. He also steps into a position of relative depth for the Wizards. Washington has Trevor Ariza's big contract and a desire to bring Martell Webster back as a free agent, so Porter might not have much room to play huge minutes consistently as a rookie on a team that is looking to build off a strong second half to make a run to the playoffs. I think Porter could be looking at a similar rookie season to Golden State's Harrison Barnes a year ago.

4. Bobcats select Cody Zeller, F, Indiana
Fantasy Impact: High
Zeller was consistently productive throughout his college career and was one of the stars of the combine with his impressive athleticism. So his fall from grace in the eyes of many talent evaluators is a bit surprising. Zeller averaged 16.5 points per game while shooting 56.4 percent from the field as a sophomore in college, and he definitely fits a need for the Bobcats as a scoring big man. There are concerns about his ability to finish consistently near the basket against defenders with NBA length, but the Bobcats have little reason not to give him playing time right away despite his flaws. Zeller should have no problem representing an offensive upgrade over what the Bobcats have been running out in recent years, given how much they leaned on the mediocre Byron Mullens. If Zeller is eligible at center, Fantasy owners might have a low-end starter on their hands at that shallow position.

5. Suns select Alex Len, C, Maryland
Fantasy Impact: Low
With the exception of possibly foreshadowing a Marcin Gortat trade, there is little for Fantasy owners to concern themselves with here. Len is considered a big-time project who is also recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his ankle. You'll find plenty of differing opinions on his long-term viability (Eye On Basketball's Matt Moore gave the Suns' an 'F' for their selection), but you won't find many out there who think Len can produce right away. Count me among that group.

6. Pelicans select Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Fantasy Impact: High
This is the pick that will have the biggest ramifications for Fantasy owners and it has nothing to do with Noel's ability to impact a game this season. The Pelicans selected Noel and immediately agreed to trade him to Philadelphia in exchange for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. This trade has far reaching implications, most notably for knocking last year's Fantasy breakout star Greivis Vasquez out of a starting spot and almost certainly out of New Orleans. Vasquez was one of the best Fantasy surprises last season, but he is now in Fantasy no-man's land until the Pelicans decide what to do with his future.

7. Kings select Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
Fantasy Impact: Medium
The Kings presumably have a plan now that the Maloof reign of bumbling incompetence is over, but it is a bit difficult to see where McLemore fits into their short-term plans. While Tyreke Evans is a restricted free agent, it would be a surprise to see Sacramento let the former Rookie of the Year walk away for nothing this offseason. With Evans and Marcus Thornton around and taking up significant chunks of cap space, there might not be a ton of room for McLemore to play, unless the team's makeup changes quite a bit between now and opening night. I personally love McLemore's ability to become a big-time contributor down the road, but I'm not sure this is the best fit for him in the present.

8. Pistons select Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia
Fantasy Impact: Medium
Initially I thought this was almost as curious a fit as McLemore in Sacramento, with the Pistons already having Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey around to fill minutes at the shooting guard spot. Upon further investigation, however, Caldwell-Pope should end up seeing plenty of playing time this season, but it might take a while for that to come to fruition. Stuckey is in the final year of his contract, so the Pistons might play him early on to build up trade value before attempting to move him for something of value. If Jose Calderon returns as a free agent, Knight will likely continue to split his time between both guard spots as a sixth man. It might take a few months, but Caldwell-Pope will be in the starting lineup at some point next season.

9. Timberwolves select: Trey Burke, G, Michigan
Fantasy Impact: High
Burke's eventual landing spot, Utah, makes so much more sense than it did when Minnesota initially selected him. The Jazz are badly in need of a point guard and Burke is probably the best one joining the pro ranks this season. He is a solid scorer who can shoot the three well at a high volume, a skill that is sorely lacking on Utah's current roster. Burke rarely turned the ball over as a sophomore during Michigan's run to the National Championship game, an impressive sign for a point guard in college. Utah's roster is in flux with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson entering free agency, but the franchise has young, athletic replacements ready to make Burke's landing as soft as possible if both should leave. He should be the starter from day one and is my early pick as the rookie with the most Fantasy value right away.

10. Trail Blazers select C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
Fantasy Impact: Medium
McCollum might be a bit redundant with reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard around and the starting backcourt pretty much set, which is why a move to the bench is obvious. In most situations, that is a bad sign for a player's Fantasy value, but with Portland's bench so awful last season, McCollum could end up playing nearly 30 minutes per game even in that role. The Blazers had no problem playing Eric Maynor 20-plus minutes coming off a major knee injury and his skill set represents a much poorer fit next to Lillard than McCollum's does. They would be a bit small in the backcourt together, but don't be surprised if Portland runs both of them out there for stretches, as they did with Maynor at times. With four years of college ball under his belt and a 51.6 percent three-point rate last season, McCollum is going to be difficult to keep off the floor. He might be worth a look late in drafts for his immense scoring ability.

11. 76ers select Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
Fantasy Impact: High
The Sixers' trade of Holiday made the drafting of a point guard the obvious move and there is little reason to think Carter-Williams will not take on a heavy load right now. The biggest issue is his poor shooting ability, as he is a solid athlete otherwise, and averaged 7.3 assists per game last season. In another situation, Carter-Williams might not be able to find much playing time as he learns to play defense at the NBA level and tries to figure out NBA defenses without a jump shot. In a total rebuild like Philadelphia appears to be engaging in, the team might just throw him out there and let him learn on the fly. That could be enough to make him worth a look for Fantasy owners.

12. Thunder select Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Fantasy Impact: Low
The majority of the centers in this draft are considered projects and Adams best exemplifies that. He averaged just 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, and his selection by a likely Finals contender is a clear sign that playing time will not come easy. It would be a big surprise if the soon-to-be 20-year-old from New Zealand lands on Fantasy radars at any point this season.

13. Mavericks select Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Fantasy Impact: Medium
Olynyk was immediately shipped to Boston, where he could end up being the Celtics' starting power forward during the midst of a rebuild. The Celtics have finalized a deal with the Nets that sends Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn, in a major shift in organizational philosophy. Olynyk was one of the most efficient scorers in the NCAA last season averaging 18.1 points on 10.7 field-goal attempts per game. However, there are concerns about how his athleticism and lack of length will translate to the pros. I think Olynyk's diverse scoring touch should play well if given a large enough role, so his value hinges on what direction the Celtics choose to take. I wouldn't draft him in most Fantasy formats, but as he gets used to the NBA game, he could creep up as a worthwhile waiver-wire claim down the road.

14. Jazz select Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA
Fantasy Impact: Medium
Muhammad's fall from grace over the last year has been startling, but he might have landed in about as good a place as possible. The Timberwolves have needed a shooting guard for years and Shabazz could be able to step into the starting lineup eventually. Many of the concerns about Muhammad (specifically his lack of playmaking ability) are mitigated by ending up with an elite creator in Ricky Rubio. There are some concerns about Muhammad's shooting ability, but he did make 37.7 percent of his threes in college. With Rubio setting him up for spot-up jumpers and an established team around him to take pressure off, Muhammad could be a good fit. However, there simply may not be a ton of shots available for him right away, so Muhammad could end up being more of a role player, at least in the beginning.

The rest of the draft: The Hawks drafted a very talented point guard in Dennis Schroeder, a possible sign that they do not plan to retain unrestricted free agent Jeff Teague this offseason. ... Dallas acquired Shane Larkin via trade, almost certainly ending the Darren Collison era. ... With free agent talk heating up, the Knicks might have grabbed some J.R. Smith insurance in Tim Hardaway Jr. He could see solid minutes if Smith departs. ... Archie Goodwin might be the best shooting guard in Phoenix right now, but that team is such a mess, I wouldn't touch him until he proves himself. ... Erick Green and Tony Mitchell look like the two second-rounders most likely to contribute.

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Player News
Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) 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
(9/20/2014) 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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