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2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Breakouts

Fantasy Writer
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This wasn't the most action-packed free agency class ever, with only a handful of true franchise-changing talents changing hands. Still, there was enough turnover to leave a significantly altered landscape for some teams around the league, with plenty of young players expected to slide into bigger roles as a result.

And that is where breakout candidates typically come from. Young players, thrust into the spotlight, typically on bad teams, and living up to the tremendous upside shown in their previous roles as bit players.

Thanks to what looks like a handful of teams engaging in an all-out tank for draft position, this season could see a number of young stars emerge as the leaders of their teams. None of these players are established Fantasy studs, but they are should all be on your radar on Draft Day.

Guard

Eric Bledsoe, Suns

Projection: 70 G, 13.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.90 SPG, 3.10 TPG

With his freakish athleticism -- and the "Mini LeBron" nickname it has spawned -- it is easy to see why Bledsoe is nearly everyone's favorite pick to break out this season. He thrived in a reserve role for the Clippers last season, despite being stuck behind Chris Paul in a rotation Clippers' coach Vinny Del Negro was loathe to experiment too much with.

Now, Bledsoe has been freed. Oh, he'll still have to share ball-handling duties with Goran Dragic, the established starter at point guard. But this is Bledsoe's best chance to live up to our suddenly lofty expectations, and it comes the same year he can test free agency for the first time.

Bledsoe's game isn't perfect; he struggles to run an offense, is turnover prone and has a poor jump shot. But there are very few guards in the league who can match his physical tools, and that and 35-plus minutes per game should be enough to turn him into a Fantasy standout.

Nick Young, Lakers

Projection: 66 G, 12.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.3 3PT/G

Young has been around for a while, and has a well-developed reputation for being a gunner without conscience. If, at first glance, his projected numbers don't look too far off from his career marks, keep in mind that Young may end up being asked to carry a pretty big scoring load on the perimeter for the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant is recovering from an Achilles injury, and while he has maintained optimism about his chances of returning soon after the season begins, some healthy skepticism is in order. And, if Kobe misses significant time, there are probably going to be plenty of shots available for Young, and he's not going to pass them up.

In a fast-paced offense with the green light to shoot, Young has proven he can put up big numbers; he averaged 17.4 points in just 31.8 minutes per game in 2010-11. Fantasy owners who pick Young up are definitely going to benefit from whatever absence Kobe has to endure.

Evan Turner, 76ers

Projection: 80 G, 15.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.5 TPG

Turner has been a decent Fantasy option at times in his career, but he was never someone you were all too thrilled about adding to your roster. And, for anyone who has to watch what is sure to be a disastrous season in Philadelphia, it might be hard to think of Turner as big-time Fantasy option.

Still, if you close your eyes (and that League Pass window) and just focus on Turner's stat lines this season, you're likely to be pleasantly surprised. Turner has not evolved much as a scorer in his three seasons in the league, but his rebounding and assist numbers took another step forward last season as his role continues to grow.

The 76ers traded their lone All-Star this offseason, leaving Turner as the most accomplished perimeter player on the roster. This could be a historically poor Sixers team, but I expect Turner to take advantage of that and put up solid numbers ahead of his first foray into free agency.

Jeremy Lamb, Thunder

Projection: 75 G, 9.3 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 3PT/G

This is one where my official projection does not scream “breakout”, despite Lamb's inclusion here. Frankly, we don't know what to expect from Lamb, after he played just 147 minutes a year ago. We do know the 21-year-old has pretty big shoes to fill, with the departure of Kevin Martin coming a year after Lamb was acquired for James Harden.

For all intents and purposes, Lamb is a rookie. He played largely in garbage time when he wasn't in the D-League, and he didn't even see the floor. Based on his college resume, Lamb should be able to fill it up from the perimeter, and he could have every opportunity to do so as a sixth man.

Lamb is no sure thing, but as a late-round flier, his potential could pay off in a big way this season.

Forward

Gordon Hayward, Jazz

Projection: 75 G, 15.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 3PT/G, 1.9 TPG

Anyone who follows me on twitter (@CTowersCBS) knows I have been hitting Hayward hard as one of my favorite breakout candidates this offseason. The former No. 9 pick has improved in each season in the league, and quietly put up tremendous per-minute numbers a year ago.

He has had to fight for playing time at times, having started less than half of the games in his career. Despite that, Hayward averaged 17.4 points per-36 minutes a year ago, with impressive efficiency. He can draw fouls and shoot threes, two skills that should help him manage the transition to what we hope is a larger role this season.

The Jazz cleared the decks of a couple of long-time offensive centerpieces, and Hayward is the most obvious choice to build the offense around this season. Even with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson around, Hayward put up 15.1 points and 3.7 assists per game after last season's All-Star break.

A Paul George-like breakout season wouldn't shock me at all from Hayward, and that isn't as farfetched as it might seem. Hayward was nearly George's equal on a per-minute basis a year ago.

Derrick Favors, Jazz

Projection: 78 G, 13.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG

Like his teammate, Favors is another likely beneficiary of the team's offseason departues (and he won't be the last Jazz player you see in this column.) Favors was a lot of people's favorite breakout candidate last season, before the Jazz inexplicably held on to both Millsap and Jefferson through the trade deadline.

Favors is a former No. 3 overall pick, and he has shown nothing in his three seasons as a mostly-reserve player to make us think that was a wasted pick. Favors averaged 14.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per-36 minutes a year ago, and should see something close to that workload this season.

Favors is going to be a defensive game changer, and that alone should keep him on the floor for what could be a bad Jazz team. The only problem with targeting Favors on Draft Day is he won't come cheap. His potential is no secret to even less savvy Fantasy owners; Favors is going 51st overall in CBSSports.com leagues so far.

Jeff Green, Celtics

Projection: 75 G, 16.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.8 TPG

This is less of a breakout for Green and more of a return to form, as he was producing this kinds of numbers back in his Oklahoma City days. OF course, that was four season ago at this point, so he still definitely fits here.

It took Green a while to find his footing last season while recovering from heart surgery that cost him the entire 2011-12 season. Once he got comfortable, however, Green was a star. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game after the All-Star break, while working at times as the team's top offensive option.

Frankly, that projection is probably underselling Green's potential this season. As with so many on the list, Green is likely to be one of the lone reliable options on a suddenly barren roster. The Celtics have talked about using Green as a shooting guard, small forward and power forward, which speaks to his versatility as much as it does the state of the Celtics' roster from top to bottom. Green might see his efficiency dip in a larger role, but he could be a Fantasy star as the Celtics' primary focus.

Tobias Harris, Magic

Projection: 70 G, 13.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 TPG

Harris has found a home in Orlando, after he failed to find much playing time in a season and a half with the Bucks. And, at least for a month or two, it looked like the Magic might have found a long-term answer in Harris, who emerged as a starter towards the end of the season.

Harris put up 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game over the final 20 games of the season, as he emerged as the team's starting power forward. He should be in that same role this season, which is why he is one of the more popular breakout options this season.

And while I believe in Harris' abilities, the makeup of the Magic's roster scares me a bit. This team has invested a lot in their young frontcourt over the last two seasons, with some combination of Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn set to possibly see time at power forward, along with the inevitable return of Glen Davis from a season-ending foot injury. If you could guarantee 35-plus minutes per game for Harris, I'd gladly take him as early as the fourth or fifth round this season, due to his upside. Unfortunately, a possible glut of options makes Harris something less than a sure thing.

Center

Enes Kanter, Jazz

Projection: 70 G, 8.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.6 BPG

I told you we weren't done with the Jazz. This roster is loaded with high-upside recent lottery picks, and Kanter is just another in a long line. But he could end up being as valuable as anyone on the roster, based on the sort of massive potential he showed in his second season.

Kanter was the fourth big man in the rotation a year ago, and as such, managed just 15.4 minutes per game. He put up very impressive numbers even in his limited role, however, averaging 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per-36 minutes. In two chances to start last season, Kanter did more than enough to show he can be an impact player; the 21-year-old averaged 20.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in this two games.

We're not sure if Kanter can take on a huge minutes load, after being limited to a reserve role the last two years and not playing his lone season in college. I wouldn't draft Kanter with the expectation that he will be my one of my starters throughout the season, but he's got enough upside to emerge as a No. 1 center if things break right.

Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors

Projection: 70 G, 12.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 BPG

Putting a second-year player on this list is kind of cheating; we expect a big improvement from them, just through natural improvements in skill.

Still, the buzz for Valanciunas is so high, I can't possibly do this column without mentioning him. Valanciunas' per-minute numbers were extremely solid for a young big man last season, as he put up 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per-36 minutes. And the 21-year-old kept getting better as the season went on, averaging 14.9 points per game in the month of April, while learning leverage his size and athleticism into a sky-high free throw rate. Valanciunas attempted more free-throw attempts in April than shots from the field.

And all Valanciunas did this offseason is go to the Las Vegas Summer League and dominate, winning the MVP award and looking very much like a young building block. With little standing in his way in terms of playing time, Valanciunas should take a big leap forward. Don't be surprised if he is a top-15 Fantasy center this season.

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Player News
Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum says he tore a tendon in his wrist
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:06 am ET) Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said after Saturday's game he tore a tendon on the outside of his wrist on Dec. 17, according to The Oregonian.

Batum suffered the injury when he fell awkwardly during Portland's game against the Bucks. He has re-aggravated it on and off over the past month, typically when he falls on the court. It is unknown how long this will keep Batum out of the lineup.


Wizards' John Wall flirts with double-double in losing effort Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:59 am ET) Wizards point guard John Wall scored 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting in Washington's 103-96 loss to the Trail Blazers Saturday. Wall also dished out nine assists and grabbed four rebounds. 

It was Wall's first 20-plus point game in his last five outings and first without double digit assists in his last three. He and the Wizards will look to bounce back Sunday against the Nuggets.


Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge nears double-double in return to action
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:57 am ET) Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points on 9 of 22 shooting in Portland's 103-96 win over the Wizards Saturday.

It was Aldridge's first game back on the court since suffering a torn tendon in his thumb earlier in the week. He grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists.

"My idea now is to play the rest of the season," he said before the game. "But if it gets too much where I can't handle it or I'm not playing at a very good level then I'll stop. But hopefully it goes well for us."


Jazz guard Trey Burke impresses coach coming off the bench
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Jazz point guard Trey Burke may be coming off the bench for Utah, but it's not keeping him from being productive. In 26 minutes, Burke scored 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, in Utah's 108-73 win over the Nets Saturday.

"I was locked in from the start and I was looking at ways to attack the defense before I even got out there," Burke said.

Coach Quin Snyder said he was able to anchor the defense well Saturday.

"He is one of the guys that's finding a good balance between scoring and playmaking," Snyder said. "The other thing I thought he did is he guarded. When your point guard is at the point of the attack, is tough-minded defensively and willing to talk, that anchors your whole defense."

In two straight games coming off the bench, Burke is averaging 14.5 points 2.5 assists and two rebounds.


Jerami Grant scores career-high 16 points in losing effort Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) 76ers forward Jerami Grant scored a career-high 16 points on 5 of 10 shooting from the field in Saturday's 101-83 loss to the Grizzlies.

Grant also shot 2 of 4 from 3-point range and 4 of 8 from the free throw line in 26 minutes. Coach Brett Brown is liking what he is seeing from the rookie.

"(He's) our poster child at the moment. Jerami's work ethic and the fact he's getting minutes is helping him grow as a player," Brown said.


Nets' teammates shocked by news on Mirza Teletovic
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:10 am ET) Nets teammates of Mirza Teletovic couldn't have been more surprised by the news of condition Saturday. Teletovic was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, which will force him to miss the remainder of the season.

"It was very shocking," Joe Johnson said, "because I’ve honestly never heard of athletes, especially when you are working out and training hard every day, catching blood clots.

"It’s random and just to hear that and then hear some of the things that he said over the course of the past week of so about how he can’t breathe. … It’s kind of scary."

Bojan Bogdanovic, who grew up in the same town as Teltovic in Bosnia and Herzegovina, knew he had some issues, but not to this extent.

"It surprised me a lot because I knew he had some problems, but he told me that he wasn’t in good shape and he told me that’s the problem," Bogdanovic said. "But at the end [of the day], it’s a big problem for him and for us."

Teletovic averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds this season for Brooklyn.


Hornets' Brian Roberts fills in nicely for Kemba Walker
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Hornets backup point guard Brian Roberts scored 17 points on 5 of 9 shooting in Charlotte 76-71 win over the Knicks Saturday. Roberts, starting in place of the injured Kemba Walker, was able to provide Charlotte the spark they needed to pick up the win.

"Just to know I can come in help a team win games, that is something you can't teach," Roberts said. "Just have experience that I was fortunate enough to have last year. And it looks like I'm going to have to do that a little bit here."

Roberts added three rebounds and dished out three assists on the night.

"One of the advantage of bringing him here was that he started so many games last year so he's comfortable in that role," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.


Jazz forward Gordon Hayward stuffs the stat sheet in win Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Jazz forward Gordon Hayward scored 24 points on 10 of 14 shooting from the field in Utah's 108-73 blowout win over the Nets Saturday.

Hayward also did well on the glass, grabbing four rebounds as well as dishing out three assists. He also tallied three steals for Utah. It was his second consecutive game with 24 points after not reaching 20 in his previous two games.


Celtics guard Marcus Smart out Sunday for personal reasons
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Celtics point guard Marcus Smart will miss Sunday's game against the Warriors due to a death in his family, the team announced Saturday.

Smart will rejoin the team Monday in Utah when they take on the Jazz.


Hornets forward Marvin Williams diagnosed with concussion
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Hornets forward Marvin Williams has been diagnosed with a concussion and will have to pass the league protocol before returning to the court, the team announced Saturday.

Williams was elbowed in the head during Saturday's game against the Knicks and had to be helped to the locker room for evaluation.

He had three points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes before leaving the game.


 
 
 
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