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2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Rookies breakdown

Fantasy Writer
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This year's draft class was considered one of the weakest in years. And the rookie class that emerged looks extremely underwhelming as the start of their careers looms.

Looking over the first-year players, I don't see anyone who has a chance to come close to Trail Blazers Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, who emerged as a top 10 Fantasy guard last season thanks to a combination of skill and team need.

A number of rookies could be looking at a Lillard-esque role this season, but it is difficult to see any of them stepping up and emerging as stars in the same way. Still, that doesn't mean you should overlook all of this year's class, even in yearly Fantasy formats. This is how I would rank the rookies at this point in the preseason.

Starting Material

Michael Carter-Williams, G, 76ers; Trey Burke, G, Jazz; Victor Oladipo, G, Magic

This trio of guards shares three things in common that put them above their peers at the start of the season -- they play for bad teams, they should get big minutes on those bad teams and they should have the ball in their hands a lot. All three showed they had a lot to learn in the Orlando Summer League, but they all play on teams that are likely to let them learn on the fly.

Oladipo is likely a step below the other two, due to the presence of Arron Afflalo, as well as the learning curve that will be involved with a defense-first guard attempting to learn to run an offense on the fly.

Burke and Carter-Williams will almost certainly struggle with their efficiency, though for very different reasons. Burke has nice shooting range, shooting 38.4 percent on five 3-pointers per game as a sophomore. He may struggle to finish in the paint in the pros, which was his biggest issue in the summer league. Carter-Williams, on the other hand, has the length to become a really good finisher inside, but has absolutely no jump shot at this point, while playing on a team that offers him very little help.

On the border

Ben McLemore, G, Kings; Kelly Olynyk, F, Celtics; Cody Zeller, C, Bobcats; C.J. McCollum, G, Trail Blazers

It says a lot about how I feel about this rookie class that I would not be surprised if any of this group was the best Fantasy option as a rookie. They do all, however, carry some significant barriers to reaching that point, hence their lower rankings.

McLemore and McCollum have more than enough ability to be starting Fantasy options, but the opportunities may not be there. Even with the loss of Tyreke Evans through free agency, the Kings are still loaded with guards, which leaves his role in doubt at this point. McCollum is a big part of the Trail Blazers' revitalized bench, but the presence of Mo Williams as the backup point guard severely limits his potential.

As for Olynyk and Zeller, they are undoubtedly skilled offensive big men -- and have been since college. Both should get plenty of chances to show that on teams that desperately need offense. Still, Zeller will likely have to spend a lot of time out on the perimeter with Al Jefferson around, which should hurt his efficiency and rebounding numbers, while Olynyk has lingering injury concerns, as well as questions about his athleticism transferring to the NBA.

I would certainly draft every player mentioned so far and expect them to stay on at least someone's roster for much of the season.

Reserves

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Pistons; Otto Porter, F, Wizards; Anthony Bennett, F, Cavaliers; Alex Len, C, Suns; Sergey Karasev, F, Cavaliers

This is the part of the class where I start to think about leaving players off my draft board. I have concerns about every player here, mostly due to their probable roles.

Bennett has the skill set to be a solid stretch-four in a modern NBA offense, and that is the role the Cavaliers see for him now. Unfortunately, he has to contend with the presence of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao ahead of him, while also possible lineups with Earl Clark at power forward. I'm simply not convinced the No. 1 overall pick is going to stand out in a deep Cleveland frontcourt.

Caldwell-Pope, Porter and Karasev all look likely to take on roles from day one on their teams, but perhaps not big ones. They all look like role players at this point, who will likely be more important to their actual teams than Fantasy owners.

The big upside play in this group is obviously Len, a project center with injury concerns who was nonetheless in the conversation for the top pick in the draft. Len has a lot of work to do and the Suns can ease him in with Marcin Gortat around. If Len shows he can play, however, don't be surprised if a Gortat trade opens up a spot in the starting lineup. His potential could make him worth stashing even if his play is lackluster during the first half of the season.

Sleepers

Shabazz Muhammad, F, Timberwolves: Seems destined for an extended stay in the D-League, but Chase Budinger's injury could end up giving him a shot.

Shane Larkin, G, Mavericks: Larkin has recovered from a broken ankle and is ready for the start of the season. He is third on the depth chart at point guard, though he is behind a couple of players with some injury concerns.

Steven Adams, C, Thunder: High-upside big man, but unlikely to make an impact this season. He might be worth snagging in dynasty formats as the eventual replacement for Kendrick Perkins.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Bucks: He's long and athletic -- that pretty much covers what we know for sure about Antetokounmpo. He played at a lower-level league in the Greek league last season -- and is very raw -- but the Bucks expect him to be a stat-sheet stuffer down the road.

Nerlens Noel, C, 76ers: Noel is recovering from knee surgery and is likely to miss a big chunk of his rookie season. Still, the 76ers are bad enough that he'll get plenty of minutes when he's ready.

Archie Goodwin, G, Suns: Goodwin was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, but his freshman season didn't blow people away. Still, he's a talented scorer on a bad team with a knack for drawing free throws, and he could emerge as a starter later in the season.

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Player News
Mavs guard Devin Harris fights through toe injury to play 21 minutes
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:01 am ET) Mavericks guard Devin Harris was able to play 21 minutes off the bench Friday against the Rockets, despite a painful toe injury

“I think everybody’s sore at this point,” Harris said, per The Dallas Morning News. “It’s a battle out there. I felt like we played hard enough to win, we just didn’t execute well enough to win.

“It (his foot) is good enough. I was a little limited out there, but I was able to get where I needed to go.”

Harris has 10 points on 3 of 8 shooting. He also went 4 of 5 from the free-throw line, while adding one rebound and two assists in Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup vs. Houston.


Mavs guard Raymond Felton (hamstring) expects to play Game 4
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Mavericks guards Raymond Felton made his first playoff start Friday against the Rockets for the first time since May 18, 2013 for the Knicks. However, he would last just 13 minutes Friday due to a hamstring injury.

Felton said he tweaked his right hamstring in the first quarter of the Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup and was only able to play four minutes after halftime.

“It was really tight in the third quarter,” Felton said, per The Dallas Morning News. “I’ll be out there (in Game 4), no matter what. They’ll have to cut my leg off for me not to play.”

Felton missed all three shots he took Friday and finished with no points. He had one assist and four rebounds.


Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (shin) in lineup for Game 3 vs. Wizards
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (shin) was in the starting lineup for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Wizards. Lowry missed the final five minutes of a Game 2 loss due to a shin contusion.

Lowry has not done well offensively through the first two playoff games. He is averaging just 6.5 points and shooting 25 percent (5 for 20) from the field. He is averaging 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.


Warriors F James McAdoo out, C David Lee in for Game 4
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Two Warriors have received quite different statuses for their Game 4 battle Saturday in New Orleans.

Small forward James McAdoo (flu) has been downgraded from questionable to out. But center David Lee (back) has been removed from the injury report.

The former received some playing time down the stretch in the regular season. Lee played more significantly, but has yet to get into a playoff game.


Status of F Nikola Mirotic for Game 4 remains uncertain
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The bruised left knee of Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is improving, but the team remains unsure of his status for Game 4 of their playoff series against Milwaukee, The Associated Press has reported.

Mirotic might not be available until at least a likely second-round battle against Cleveland. The Bulls can complete a sweep of the Bucks on Saturday.

Tom Thibodeau said it was a good sign that Mirotic has been shooting, but admitted that he was doing no running. "We don't want to jump ahead," Thibodeau said. "If he's ready to play, he plays; if he's not ready to play, he'll sit. It's that simple."


Thibodeau: Bulls F Nikola Mirotic didn't run Friday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic (knee) increased his workload Friday, but was still unable to run, Tom Thibodeau told ESPN. It remains to be seen if he's available when Chicago attempts to complete a first-round playoff sweep of Milwaukee on Saturday.

Mirotic played 35 minutes combined in the first two games before going down.


Blazers C Kaman questionable, G Afflalo probable for Game 3
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Trail Blazers have announced that center Chris Kaman (ankle sprain) has been listed as questionable while guard Arron Afflalo (right shoulder sprain) has been deemed probable for Game 3 of their playoff series Saturday against Memphis. 

Afflalo has yet to appear in the series while Kaman racked up seven points and six rebounds in 14 minutes in Game 1 before his absence in Game 2.


Bulls F Taj Gibson overcoming injuries to contribute
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Ankle and shoulder ailments have Bulls forward Taj Gibson hurting, but he's not about to limit himself in the playoffs. He was given a cortisone shot in his shoulder last week, but an injury to teammate and fellow forward Nikola Mirotic has forced him into extra playing time.

"It's tough," he told the Chicago Tribune. "But you still have to go out there and do your best."

Gibson snagged eight rebounds in the fourth quarter in the double-overtime defeat of Milwaukee in Game 3 that placed the Bulls on the verge of a sweep.

"I was just determined," an exhausted Gibson said. "It's the playoffs. You can't worry about injuries right now. I'm just trying to be there for my teammates any way I can."


Tony Parker in, Aron Baynes out for Spurs in Game 3
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Spurs have announced that star guard Tony Parker will be on the court Friday when his team hosts the Clippers. He had been dealing with an Achilles ailment and was considered questionable.

Not all their news is good, however. Center Aron Baynes (sprained ankle) will not suit up for the game.

Parker has been greatly stifled so far in the series. He's averaging just 5.5 points per game and shooting 23 percent from the field.


Cavaliers star James criticizes critics of Kevin Love
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Cavaliers superstar LeBron James not only defended teammate Kevin Love after his team bumped off Boston in Game 3 Thursday night, but he criticized those who criticized Love in the process.

Love was an obvious subject after the win. He scored 23 points, nailed 6-of-10 from 3-point range, including two huge shots down the stretch, and added nine rebounds. He has been under the microscope all season as his statistics have suffered as the third option in Cleveland after a brilliant run in Minnesota.

"He's been highly criticized this year, and for what, I don't know why," James said via Masslive.com before a short pause. "I know why," he added. "I know why. I know."

When asked why, James was quick to reply. "For a team that finally gets together and they have a big three, they have to find someone," James said, referring to the media criticism of Love. "When I was in Miami, Chris Bosh was that guy at one point ... Kevin was the guy they tried to find and tear him down. One thing about him, he's always stayed positive. I've always believed in him."


 
 
 
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