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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
Rockets' Patrick Beverley returns to practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:36 pm ET) Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley (illness) returned to practice Thursday, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"Pat feels better," coach Kevin McHale said. "He was not throwing up anymore. We didn’t do much. We went through our sets and got system shots up."

Beverley has missed the last two games due to flu-like symptoms. He's averaged 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 43 games.

The Rockets are 9-point favorites at home against the Nets Friday.


Rockets SG James Harden held out of practice Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:31 pm ET) Rockets shooting guard James Harden sat out Thursday's practice due to a sprained left ankle, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"He’s swollen today and he’s sore today," coach Kevin McHale said. "I’ll see how he feels. He didn’t do anything today. He just iced it. We’ll see what 24 hours does."

Harden, who injured the ankle while stepping on an opposing player's foot in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game, is listed as questionable to play Friday. He has averaged 27.2 points, 6.9 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 57 games.

The Rockets are 9-point favorites at home against the Nets Friday.


Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving scores 24 vs. Warriors
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:04 pm ET) Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving scored 24 points on 6 of 17 shooting, incluidng 2 of 8 shooting from behind the arc, in his team's 110-99 win over the Warriors Thursday.

Irving also dealt with a shoulder issue in the game but was able to quickly return, playing a team-high 38 minutes in the win. However, he said after the game that the shoulder was a little sore, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

He also chipped in three rebounds, two steals and one assist Thursday. The Cavaliers will square off with the Pacers Friday.


Cavaliers SF LeBron James scores season-high 42 vs. Warriors
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:55 pm ET) Cavaliers small forward LeBron James put on a show Thursday, scoring a season-high 42 points on 15 of 25 shooting, including 4 of 9 shooting from behind the arc, in his team's 110-99 win over the Warriors.

James had managed just 37 points in his previous two games combined before Thursday's outburst, which bested his two 41-point efforts from earlier in the season. He also delivered his fifth double-double of the month by grabbing 11 rebounds, and he added five assists, three steals and one block in 36 minutes in the statement win over the team with the best record in the NBA.

The Cavaliers bring a four-game winning streak into Friday's matchup with the Pacers.


Warriors PF David Lee scores team-high 19 vs. Cavaliers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:51 pm ET) Warriors power forward David Lee scored a team-high 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting in his team's 110-99 loss to the Cavaliers Thursday.

Lee took more than 10 shots in a game for the first time in nearly a month and delivered his highest scoring total in that same span with his efficient performance, but it wasn't nearly enough to counter a massive effort by Cavaliers SF LeBron James, who scored more points by himself (42) than any two Warriors players combined.

Lee also racked up four rebounds, two assists and one block in 21 minutes off the bench in the loss, his team's second in its last three games. The Warriors will look to get back on track Friday against the Raptors in Toronto.


Pelicans' Monty Williams: Norris Cole 'a bright spot'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:39 pm ET) Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Thursday that newly-acquired point guard Norris Cole has been a bright spot for the team, which has won all three games since Cole came on board, NBA.com reports.

"Norris has been a bright spot for us because he brings some intangibles to the table," Williams said after practice Thursday. "He's played in really big games. Nothing fazes him. We're glad to have him."

The Pelicans valued Cole due to his reputation as a defender but have been surprised by his offensive capacity as well.

"I've always been able to play offense," Cole said. "It's just that with certain dynamics with teams, you're asked to play a certain way and I'm a team player, but I work on my (offense) a lot. I can put the ball in the hole."

Cole has averaged 12.7 points, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in his three games with the Pelicans while shooting 55.6 percent from the field.


Thunder's Kevin Durant begins light shooting Thursday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:50 pm ET) Thunder forward Kevin Durant was able to do some light shooting before Thursday's game against the Suns, reports Suns.com.

Durant has been sidelined with a foot injury since Feb. 19 and he is expected to be reevaluated at the end of the month to determine when he can return to the court.


Knicks' Jose Calderon (Achilles) not thinking about ending season
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:45 pm ET) Despite being bothered by a sore Achilles, Knicks guard Jose Calderon plans to finish the season, reports ESPN.com.

Calderon said he tweaked his Achilles during Wednesday's game, but didn't say it was serious. He added that he has no plans to end his season prematurely.

"I want to be with my team," Calderon said. "[It's] why after yesterday when it happened I wanted to keep playing... I want to be with my team until the end of the season."


Knicks hoping Shane Larkin can return Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:21 pm ET) Knicks coach Derek Fisher said Thursday he is hopeful guard Shane Larkin will be available to play in Friday's game at Detroit, reports the team's official website.

Larkin is suffering from an illness, which has caused him to miss the last three games. Larkin has been trying to regain his conditioning. In 50 games, Larkin is averaging 5.4 points and 2.5 assists.


Kings' DeMarcus Cousins (ankle) doubtful to play Friday vs. Spurs
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:12 pm ET) Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is listed as doubtful for Friday's game against the Spurs, the team announced.

Cousins was not able to practice Thursday because of a left ankle sprain and left hip contusion. Forward Reggie Evans should see an increase in minutes if Cousins cannot play.


 
 
 
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