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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
Melo considered doubtful to play Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) The Knicks announced Thursday forward Carmelo Anthony is doubtful to play Friday against the Thunder due to back spasms. If sidelined, it will be the second straight game Anthony misses.

Kemba Walker joins list of injured Hornets players
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:21 pm ET) Although Hornets guard Kemba Walker was able to play through injury Wednesday against the Trail Blazers, it doesn't appear he will be active Friday against the Warriors. The Hornets announced Thursday that Walker is doubtful to play Friday because of a right thigh contusion.

The Hornets also listed guard P.J. Hairston as questionable due to a sprained right thumb, guard Gary Neal as doubtful due to a left shoulder sprain, forward Marvin Williams as doubtful with a left shoulder strain and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as out due to a stress reaction in his right foot.


Bulls' Rose, Noah practice Thursday, but Friday status is still TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:09 pm ET) Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said guard Derrick Rose (hamstring) and center Joakim Noah (eye, knee) practiced in full Thursday. However, Thibodeau said he will see how they feel Friday before determing their availability for Friday's game at Boston.

Rose said he "wants" to play Friday, but he will see how his injured hamstring reacts, according to The Boston Globe. He said he will play, if he feels ready.


Williams: Pelicans need to get Davis at least 20 shots per game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:01 pm ET) Pelicans coach Monty Williams gathered his team Wednesday to express his frustration following a 99-89 loss Tuesday against the Kings, in which center Anthony Davis attempted just 12 shots and totaled a season-low 14 points.

Williams expressed Davis needs to be more involved on offense on a nightly basis to give New Orleans the best chance to win.

"Anthony (Davis) cannot be in a game and not touch the ball," Williams said after his meeting with players, per NOLA.com. "We have to have an effort to get him at least 20 shots every night. And that’s on me too. As much as I draw up plays for him, run the offense through him, the guys on the floor has to know it. When they don’t do it, I’ve got to make sure they get him the ball. Because he’s not a selfish player, he’s going to make the right plays. And our guys know that."

Davis is averaging 25.4 points per game, which trails only Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is averaging 26.4 points per game. Davis leads the NBA with 3.4 blocks per game.


Spurs' Splitter (calf) out, Joseph (ankle) questionable for Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:53 pm ET) The Spurs announced Thursday forward Tiago Splitter (calf) has been ruled out for Friday's game vs. Sacramento. It will be the 12th straight game Splitter will miss.

Gaurd Cory Joseph is listed as questionable for Friday's game due to a sprained left ankle. Joseph has missed the last two games.


Clifford: Stephenson 'not a star,' but has 'talent to become a star'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) Hornets guard Lance Stephenson was benched for the fourth quarter for a second straight game during Wednesday's 105-97 loss against Portland, which extended the team's losing streak to seven games. 

After the loss, coach Steve Clifford said Stephenson's issues adjusting to his first season with the Hornets is partly due to him trying to live up to expectations.

"To be fair, one of the things that's made it more difficult for him is that he came here and people proclaimed him as the next superstar," Clifford said Wednesday, per ESPN. "He's not a star. He's a guy that has talent to become a star. To be a star in this league, you have to do it over years."

Stephenson has struggled to find a consistent rhythm and role in Clifford's offense. Stephenson is fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 9.7 points per game, which is a significant drop after averaing 13.8 points per game in 2013-14 for Indiana.

He is also shooting just 36.8 percent from the field after shooting 49.1 percent last season. Although, it's not all bad for Stephenson, who is averaging career highs in rebounding (8.1 rpg) and assists (5.4 apg).

"I've been around Kobe [Bryant] and [Tracy] McGrady. They were superstars. I was also around Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. They were two-, three-year All-Stars," Clifford said. "[Stephenson has] got a lot of work to get to that level. Everybody proclaimed him as this guy, and if you remember the first time we got him, I said he's got to develop into that."


Celtics guard Marcus Smart will not be back Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:49 am ET) Although Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart returned to practice Wednesday, he will not return to action Friday against the Bulls, the team announced Thursday. It will be the eighth straight game Smart is sidelined.

Melo doesn't anticipate he will be out 'too long'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who missed his first game this season Wednesday against the Mavs due to back spasms, won't put a timetable on his return, he told the New York Post. However, he indicated he doesn't expect to miss too much time.

"I could barely walk or do anything yesterday so I’m doing a little better," Anthony said Wednesday. "I’m walking. They said these things are hard to gauge. I just don’t know how long I’ll be out.

"I don’t think it will be too long. I think the spasms will go away. But I’m not going to play with spasms."

Anthony likely will undergo tests once the team returns to New York. Coach Derek Fisher said the team doesn't have a clear diagnosis on Anthony and won't until his back starts to improve.

"I’ve never felt this way before," Anthony said. "Nothing happened that I can remember [in the Houston game]. I really tried to play through it, but then I just couldn’t move."


Tyson Chandler pulls down 25 rebounds vs. former team
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) Mavericks center Tyson Chandler set season highs with 17 points and 25 rebounds during a 109-102 win Wednesday against the Knicks, who he played for over the previous three seasons.

"At the beginning of the year, you always look at the calendar and mark it," said Chandler, who finished three rebounds shy of the career high he had with the Knicks exactly two years earlier against Brooklyn, per The Associated Press. "But honestly once you get caught up in the season, it's not as big as it's made out to be."

Chandler is averaging 10.8 points and 11.7 rebounds in 14 November games. He's surpassed double digits in rebounds nine times in November. Wednesday was the first time this season he totaled more than 20 rebounds.


Lakers SG Kobe Bryant scores team-high 22 vs. Grizzlies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 22 points on 5 of 15 shooting, including 2 of 5 shooting from three-point range, in his team's 99-93 loss to the Grizzlies Wednesday.

Bryant sank all 10 of his free throws to help boost his scoring total on a night where he struggled with a low shooting percentage for the second time in three games. He only managed to pick up four rebounds and two assists in 35 minutes in the loss, the team's third straight. The Lakers will look to get back on track Friday against the Timberwolves.


 
 
 
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