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2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Busts

Fantasy Writer
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Determining who might take the next step in their development in the upcoming season is one of the easier parts of this job. Sure, it's an imperfect science that can make you look foolish, but at least you get to be positive. And that's nice, right?

Well, this isn't the time for being nice. Having already taken a look at our favorite sleepers and breakout candidates, now is the time to look at the other end of the spectrum.

Projecting who might fail to live up to expectations is a bit harder than the alternative -- basketball tends to be a sport of consistency. There aren't quite as many unknown commodities, so it's more about projecting whose role might leave them on the outside looking in for Fantasy purposes.

This list is by no means an indictment on these players. This entire list could easily end up being among the 100 most valuable Fantasy options this season and still fit here. Here are 10 players I think could underperform their draft position this season.

Guard

Jrue Holiday, G, Pelicans

Holiday enjoyed a true breakout performance last season, taking advantage of a shallow Sixers roster to average 17.7 points and 8.0 assists. The Pelicans were so enamored with his All-Star season they traded a pair of first-round picks in order to acquire him this season, which is where the trouble starts for Holiday, from a Fantasy perspective.

The Pelicans are battling their way back to relevance this season, and they are planning to do so on the backs of a trio of well-compensated guards. Along with Holiday, the team signed Tyreke Evans to join Eric Gordon in the backcourt. This creates something of a glut for playing time, especially since all three thrive with the ball in their hands.

Holiday's shooting percentage has fallen in three straight seasons as his usage has increased. That trend should turn around with more help in New Orleans, but it should coincide with a reduction in his per-game and counting stats.

As a No. 2 guard, Holiday should be a fine Fantasy option. Expecting a repeat of last season could lead to disappointment, however.

J.R. Smith, G, Knicks

Just a few months after signing his $17.9 million contract, it came out that Smith waited until after he got his deal to undergo knee surgery that will likely cost him at least a few weeks this season. Fairly or unfairly, that story has created a perception of Smith that he cares more about his financial state than contributing on the court.

I fall on the side that says that criticism is unfair, and it doesn't really color my perception of his Fantasy value. His placement here isn't wholly unrelated, however; coming off knee surgery, Smith is an obvious risk to take a step back this season.

Already, Fantasy owners who could consider targeting Smith on Draft Day have to contend with the lost playing time from his recovery as well as his five-game suspension whenever he is ready to return. With a potentially deeper Knicks team around him, and the improving Iman Shumpert pushing for a starting spot and possible playing time. Smith could be a headache this season that isn't worth the trouble.

Goran Dragic, G, Suns

I like Goran Dragic. Just to get that out of the way, I think he's a really good player who has been a solid Fantasy option pretty much whenever he's been given the chance. And I do think he will be good this season.

This season, however, there is enough uncertainty surrounding him to knock him down a few pegs on my draft board. The acquisition of Eric Bledsoe this offseason gives the Suns another ballhandler and distributor in the backcourt, and though the team has maintained they plan on sharing point guard duties, this wouldn't be the first time Dragic has been pushed to the margins while sharing a backcourt.

At the very least, Dragic should go from being the team's lone creator on the perimeter to one of at least two, which can only cut into his chances. Considering the depth at the guard position, I would rather temper expectations and target Dragic as a third guard this season.

Greivis Vasquez, G, Kings

This one is almost upsetting. Vasquez has worked hard to become a decent NBA point guard, only to have the Pelicans' acquisition of Holiday cost him his spot.

Now, he is battling Isaiah Thomas for playing time in Sacramento. And while the Kings' coaching staffs of the past have searched for reasons not to play Thomas, we simply do not know how the timeshare will go at the point guard spot this season. Thomas and Vasquez are both capable of running an offense and being productive, which could lead to both of them taking a step back for Fantasy purposes.

Coming off a 13.9-point, 9.0-assist season, Vasquez has a further distance to fall. He won't be relegated to a pure backup role, but the team's glut of options likely means he could struggle to get up to full-time minutes. Assists are awfully hard to come by, and Vasquez can bring them in big volumes, so he'll always have some value. Counting on him as a starting Fantasy option could leave you wanting, however.

Forward

David Lee, F, Warriors

Lee has long been a consistent, reliable source of points and rebounds, without much else for Fantasy owners. And his lack of defensive acumen has been a problem for a Warriors team that has been trying to grow into a contender. Those two concerns could dovetail into a disappointing campaign for Lee in 2013-14.

The Warriors found a new identity in the playoffs by spreading the ball and launching even more threes than ever before. And, though there is little sign that coach Mark Jackson plans to adopt that for a full season, we now know a small-ball lineup sits in his back pocket if the team gets off to a slow start. Lee's playing time could be a casualty in that scenario.

Each of Lee's last two seasons have ended with surgery, which could also be a motivating factor in limiting his playing time this season. The Warriors are already struggling to find playing time for their bevy of talented wings, and sliding promising sophomore Harrison Barnes in at power forward for 10-15 minutes a game is an option to keep Lee fresh. A nightly double-double threat for years, Golden State's makeup could lead to a disappointing results for Lee.

Zach Randolph, F, Grizzlies

Though he still gobbles up rebounds (or Z-bounds, if you prefer), Randolph's production continues to fall off as he continues into his 30's. Though the falloff hasn't be precipitous, it is enough to make Fantasy owners take pause.

Last season, Randolph arguably fell to third on the team's hierarchy to Mike Conley and Pau Gasol, and that should continue this year. Especially with quality backup big men ready and willing to spell him throughout the long grind of the regular season. Randolph is nearing career-low rates for fouls drawn per 36 minutes, and his efficiency has fallen off in recent years -- he shot just 46.0 percent from the field in 2012-13, his lowest mark since 2007-08.

An additional concern is the Grizzlies' precarious cap situation, and management's known willingness to swing a big trade unexpectedly. It would not be a total shock to see Randolph moved this season, casting another question mark on his status. Randolph has fallen from nearly 20 points per-36 minutes to around 16 the last two seasons, and another dip wouldn't be surprising at all.

Tristan Thompson, F, Cavaliers

Poor Tristan Thompson. The much-maligned No. 4 overall pick from two years ago showed more than enough growth in his second season to easily be considered a breakout candidate this season. If only a few personnel moves had gone his way this offseason.

With two recent top-5 picks invested in their backcourt of the future, the Cavs made upgrading the frontcourt a priority this season, arguably at the expense of Thompson's development as a building block. The acquisition of Andrew Bynum and drafting of top pick Anthony Bennett further muddies a front court that already features Thompson, Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller, another recent first-round pick.

Working in Thompson's favor is his durability within a crew that has been sadly unable to avoid injuries in recent years. Unfortunately, we have to at least consider the possibility that everyone will be healthy for stretches, which will drop Thompson to third on the pecking order, at least.

Thompson did not truly begin to blossom until Varejao went down last season with an injury. Though that is certainly a possibility again this season, uncertainty surrounding his place on the team is enough to make Thompson a risky selection.

J.J. Hickson, F, Nuggets

Last season, the Trail Blazers almost begrudgingly accepted Hickson as the team's starting center in a mostly lost year. He put up solid numbers and played nearly 30 minutes per game, mostly because there was no other option.

Tellingly, the Blazers never seriously considered the possibility of bringing Hickson back as a free agent, despite his averages of 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Also possibly tellingly, a team that allowed Masai Ujiri and George Karl to leave following a 57-win season was the one to bite on Hickson's empty production.

The Nuggets are clearly moving forward with JaVale McGee at center, and the presence of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur opens up plenty of questions about where and when Hickson is actually going to find playing time. On a team with playoff hopes despite a tumultuous offseason, Hickson is unlikely to find a full-time role.

Center

Andre Drummond, C, Pistons

I'm fully willing to accept that I am opening myself up to ridicule and derision with this one. Drummond is a tremendous talent who looked incredible in his rookie season, despite playing a limited role. So why am I including nearly everyone's favorite breakout candidate on this list?

I'm definitely expecting Drummond to build on his productive rookie season, when he averaged 13.8 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per-36 minutes. Unfortunately, I'm just not convinced he's going to see a huge uptick in playing time in his second season in the league.

Drummond should be a per-minute terror once again this season, but the continued presence of Greg Monroe and the acquisition of Josh Smith could leave a playing time crunch for the Pistons front court. Though they should start with all three big men on the floor together, it is no secret that Smith's best position is power forward. That will leave a delicate balancing act for Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks, because Smith and Monroe could be the team's best balance of offense and defense while Drummond continues to develop.

Then there is the free-throw shooting, which is kindly defined as abysmal; Drummond shot just 37.1 percent last season, actually an improvement on his 29.5 percent mark in college. Factor in that only five players have averaged 25-plus minutes per game while shooting below 40 percent from the free-throw line since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967-68, and you see how Drummond is facing an uphill battle for playing time.

His upside is considerable, and more than enough to make Drummond worth drafting. But right now, he's going 13th among centers in CBSSports.com leagues, which is an easy sign that he is overvalued right now. If he gets his free throw percentage up just to the 50-percent range, all bets are off. Until I see it, I am willing to hedge against it.

Kevin Garnett, C, Nets

Garnett still figures to be a big part of the Nets' team this season, but there are plenty of troubling signs from a Fantasy perspective. Though he still averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game a year ago, Garnett might be a risk even as a No. 2 center this season.

The Nets have already floated the possibility of resting Garnett on back-to-backs, a sure sign they are concerned about his minutes. With a deep, veteran roster around, limiting Garnett as much as possible is probably the best move for a team that has their eyes set on a deep playoff run. And Garnett has missed at least 10 games in five of the last six seasons, so we probably have to pencil him in for at least that much this time around.

Even if we could count on Garnett for 30-plus minutes 80 times this season, it would be hard to expect much from him for Fantasy purposes. He is likely to be the fifth option offensively in the team's starting lineup, and is mostly a pick-and-pop jump shooter at this point in his career. It wouldn't be inconceivable for Garnett to attempt fewer than 10 field goals per game for the first time since he was a rookie in 1995-96.

Garnett could still be a useful Fantasy option, to be certain. At this point in his career, and on this team, however, he should be considered a specialist. He is a luxury on any Fantasy roster, but is not to be relied upon to heavily.

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Player News
Celtics' Jae Crowder diagnosed with ACL sprain
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:08 pm ET) Celtics forward Jae Crowder has been diagnosed with a left ACL sprain, the team announced Monday.

Crowder went for an MRI Sunday and met with a team doctor to discuss the results of the test Monday morning. He injured the knee during Sunday's Game 4 loss to the Cavaliers on a hard foul by Cleveland guard J.R. Smith, who was ejected for the play.

Crowder appears to be on track for a normal offseason after avoiding a more serious knee injury, as he told the Boston Globe Monday that the injury will sideline him for only a few weeks. He averaged 7.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 82 games between the Mavericks and Celtics during the regular season.


Jonas Jerebko considering return to Celtics, Brad Stevens
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:35 am ET) Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko said after the team's Game 4 loss to the Cavaliers that a potential return to Boston to continue playing under coach Brad Stevens will weigh heavily on the impending free agent's thought process this offseason, MassLive.com reports.

"He's been the best coach I've had in the NBA," Jerebko said. "He leads this team very well, and he's a great coach, so he definitely weighs in a lot."

Jerebko played under four coaches with the Pistons in five-plus years before being dealt to the Celtics this season. He was able to play in the postseason for the first time in his career, and though the Celtics were swept, he indicated that the playoff experience meant a big deal for the young team.

"For a lot of guys being in the playoffs for the first time, now we know during the season where we want to be at," Jerebko said. "You don't want to be outside the playoffs when the season's over, because we want to be in this next year, and we want to take it further than we did last year. It makes the season important. Sometimes, you forget that every game matters. We want to do this again. I haven't felt like this in all my years in the league. I've had my ups and downs in this league, and making the playoffs with this team really gave me some motivation, and I just want to get back and get there again."

Jerebko averaged 7.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 18.2 minutes in 29 games with the Celtics.


Brandon Bass would welcome return to Celtics
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) Celtics forward Brandon Bass is set to become a free agent this summer, but he said after Sunday's season-ending loss to the Cavaliers that he would welcome a return to Boston, Basketball Insiders reports.

"I don’t know what the future holds," Bass said. "That’s up to (President of Basketball Operations) Danny (Ainge). But Boston’s been great to me over the last couple years, so it’ll be great for me to come back."

Bass averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds while playing 82 games for a second straight season.

"I thought I had a pretty good season. Based on how I started, I didn’t finish it anywhere near where I wanted to as far as the playoffs,” Bass said. "But it gives me great motivation to go back to the gym and improve my skills mentally and physically."

Bass averaged just five points and two rebounds as the Celtics were swept by the Cavaliers.

"It was a mental thing this playoff series," Bass said. "I just didn’t play well. I don’t have really any excuses. I prepared well, I just wasn’t able to perform in the playoffs like I wanted to."


Celtics' Kelly Olynyk denies trying to injure Cavaliers' Kevin Love
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:51 am ET) Celtics center Kelly Olynyk was stunned that Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said he intentionally tried to injure Love on the play in which the forward suffered a dislocated shoulder Sunday, the Boston Herald reports.

"I thought it was a bush league play," Love said. "Olynyk was in a compromising position, had no chance to get the ball and it’s just too bad that he would go to those lengths to take somebody out of the game and do that to someone. I have no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose."

Olynyk's opinion of what happened on the first-quarter play was in stark contrast to Love's words.

"That’s ridiculous," Olynyk said after Sunday's game. "I would never intentionally hurt Kevin or anyone else. He locked my arm up, I locked up his as we were fighting for a loose ball. You lock up arms all the time in this league."

Love is set to undergo an MRI Monday but is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks, which could keep him sidelined through the team's second-round matchup if not longer.

"I was definitely surprised (by what Love said)," Olynyk said. "In basketball, I don’t think anyone is trying to hurt anyone. For (Love), it’s very unfortunate. I know they’re trying to make a run right now."


Warriors' David Lee (back) expects to play in second round
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:44 am ET) Warriors center David Lee is ready to return to action after missing the team's first-round sweep of the Pelicans due to a lower back strain, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Lee has seen a reduction in his role this season, as his averages of 7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 18.4 minutes per game all fall far short of his production in his first four seasons with the team.

"Although I haven't gotten the minutes sometimes that I've wanted, coach (Steve) Kerr and the rest of the staff has been really cool about being upfront and honest about it and saying that it's circumstance," Lee said. "As a pro, it's my job to stay ready. This isn't about me. It's about our team as a whole, so it's not a big deal at all."

Though Lee didn't play in the first-round series, he was available for Game 4 if needed.


Celtics' Luigi Datome: 'Too early' to talk about future
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) Celtics forward Luigi Datome is headed for unrestricted free agency this offseason, but he said Monday it's "too early" to talk about his future plans, Sportando reports.

"It is too early to talk about," Datome said in a postgame interview with Gazzetta TV. "I will decide my future after I will get some offers during the summer. I expect to have proposals from both the NBA and European teams. Then I will sit and make the best decision for me and my career as I’ve always tried to do."

Datome saw the first significant action of his career after being traded to the Celtics, averaging 5.2 points and 10.7 minutes in 18 games with Boston.

"It was great to play for the Celtics and to reach the NBA playoffs," Datome said. "I had my first real chance in the NBA, after almost two years. It was great to wear the Celtics jersey.

Datome made three playoff appearances, seeing a total of 14 minutes of action while scoring four points on 2 of 6 shooting.


76ers' Nerlens Noel 'ecstatic' to play with Joel Embiid
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) 76ers center Nerlens Noel said Sunday that he's "ecstatic" to play with center Joel Embiid and that he things the pairing will be "something special," NBA.com reports.

"I’m ecstatic to play with Joel," Noel said. "I think it’s going to be something special. The chemistry we already have, and we haven’t even been on the court together, is something that’s great to have.

"I think things we need to work on, me personally, I need to continue to work on the shooting and be able to spread the floor a little bit, be able to knock down a 15-footer with more consistency. And as time goes on, I think Joel’s going to be good. He already has touch around the basket, and he can extend his game out to 15-footers, so I think it’s going to be very complimentary. Both of us having the ability to pass the ball, I think that’s going to be something that people don’t know too much about that’s going to help us a lot."

Noel averaged 9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals while shooting 46.2 percent in 75 games during his rookie season. Embiid missed the season while recovering from a foot injury.


Hawks' Jeff Teague on Saturday's Game 3 loss: 'I hated our game'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Hawks point guard Jeff Teague is upset with how he and his team played in a 91-83 loss to the Nets in Game 3 Saturday, the New York Post reports.

"I hated our game [Saturday], I hated the way I played," Teague said after Hawks practice Sunday. "I think the whole team hated the way we played. To get back on the floor and be able to touch the ball today and get back on the floor [Monday] was good. I hate days off. I hate sitting around. We are still confident. We still think we can go into Game 4 and get a win."

The Hawks shot just 35.6 percent from the field, leading Teague to say, "We missed a lot of chippies."

Teague scored 12 points on 4 of 13 shooting while adding six assists, three rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes. The Hawks are 4-point favorites in Brooklyn Monday for Game 4 of the series.


Cavaliers' Iman Shumpert doubles up in Game 4 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:00 am ET) Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert delivered a big performance in his team's 101-93 Game 4 win over the Celtics Sunday, scoring 15 points on 3 of 4 shooting from the field and 8 of 8 shooting from the free-throw line while racking up 10 rebounds.

"Iman Shumpert gave us a huge game tonight, huge," coach David Blatt said after the game, per the Akron Beacon Journal. "He was just all over the court. … He was without question the X factor. No question."

Shumpert also recorded three blocks and two steals while playing 38 minutes, which matched his highest amount of playing time in the regular season.


New Mavericks starter J.J. Barea posts 17-13 line in Game 4
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:15 am ET) Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea drew the start in Game 4 against the Rockets Sunday and scored 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting, including 2 of 6 shooting from 3-point range, while dishing out 13 assists in his team's 121-109 win.

Barea was in the lineup due to Rajon Rondo being sidelined indefinitely with a back injury and he shined in the starting opportunity, helping to stave off elimination in Dallas.

"We're going to fight," Barea said, per the Associated Press. "We're not going to quit. We've got to go to Houston, and we've got to bring it back to Dallas."

The Rockets missed 12 straight shots to open the second half, and the Mavericks were able to build up a 24-point lead behind the new starting point guard.

"We couldn’t get Barea stopped at all," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "Our coverages were really loose. And they just played harder than us. That is the bottom line. They played with more desperation. They played harder than we did. Bottom line is they deserved to win that game more than we did."

Game 5 is in Houston Tuesday.


 
 
 
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