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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
Lakers sign Wayne Ellington right before training camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/22/2014) With one week before the start of training camp, the Lakers have signed five-year veteran guard Wayne Ellington to a contract, the team announced. Ellington is now with his fourth team since June, after failing to crack the rotation with the Mavericks in 2013.

Ellington averaged 3.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting from the field over 45 games for Dallas.

Andray Blatche heading to China
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) Free-agent center Andray Blatche has signed a one-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers in China. Blatche's deal with pay him almost $2.5 million, and he'll be able to rejoin an NBA team in March, Yahoo! Sports reports.

Report: Kings add Ramon Sessions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/20/2014) The Kings have agreed to a two-year, $4.2-million deal with free-agent guard Ramon Sessions , Yahoo! Sports reports.

The team is reportedly using its bi-annual exception provision to sign Sessions, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 83 games between two teams last season.


Omer Asik ready to clean up in return to starting role
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Last season was a rough one for Omer Asik, who had to deal with returning to a reserve role after really shining as a starter the previous year. He should be much happier with his role this season, as the Pelicans acquired him this offseason with the intention of installing him as the starting center.

The Pelicans should have a fearsome frontcourt with Asik starting next to Anthony Davis, and Davis' presence should free Asik up to do the kind of work he excels at. Asik isn't a great offensive player, but he can be a dominant offensive rebounder, and should have many chances to clean up the boards with teams keying in on Davis offensively. Among players who have logged at least 5,000 minutes in the NBA, Asik is 22nd all-time in offensive rebounding percentage.

Asik had trouble staying healthy last season, but that was the first time he had ever missed a regular-season game in his career, so we can probably write that off as a fluke. He averaged a double-double with 1.1 blocks per game in 30.0 minutes per game two years ago, and should be capable of similar production as he returns to a starting role.

Asik should be viewed as a starting Fantasy option this season, though he may not have the upside of some other younger centers at this point. 


Tobias Harris' Fantasy value a mystery at this point
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Perception is a funny thing. Just ask Magic forward Tobias Harris, who enjoyed by far the most productive season of his career in 2013-14 but was somehow viewed as a Fantasy disappointment.

Part of that stemmed from Harris' issues with availability, as he missed 20 games and got off to a slow start to the season as a result. It really took until January for Harris to find his stride, but he averaged 15.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game from Jan. 1 on, without missing a contest.

Harris was probably better than the general perception of him a year ago, but the power of expectations hurt him. And now he enters his fourth season as something of a career crossroads, and it is hard to say just how Fantasy owners should approach him this season.

The Magic added Channing Frye and Aaron Gordon to the roster this season, further confusing what was already one of the most crowded frontcourts in the league. Harris can play both forward spots, but he is probably best used as a small-ball power forward; the presence of Frye, one of the league's elite stretch-fours certainly complicates matters for Harris, then.

At just 22, Harris still has a world of potential ahead of him. However, he probably profiles best as a reserve Fantasy option heading into the season, given concerns about his role.   


Hype may be too high for Giannis Antetokounmpo
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) No matter what he accomplishes in his second NBA season, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is likely to be a historical outlier, given his age. The question is, how much of a leap can the now-20-year-old take next season.

Only 15 players in NBA history have logged as many minutes in a single season as a teenager as Antetokounmpo's 1,897, so he is occupying fairly rarified air already. His age is a big part of why he is considered a big-time breakout prospect for Fantasy purposes, but he has a long way to go from a statistical standpoint.

Antetokounmpo was good for a 19-year-old rookie, but his season averages of 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game left a lot to be desired. It is easy to dream about a Antetokounmpo taking a big step forward, but that next step is never guaranteed -- for every Anthony Davis there is a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist whose development follows a slower, less linear path. 

Antetokounmpo was very good -- for a 19-year-old. However, Fantasy owners don't get extra points, rebounds or assists if the degree of difficulty is higher, so you are betting on Giannis taking a huge step forward at the age of 20. Antetokounmpo has become something of an internet darling, and his play in Summer League and the FIBA World Cup dominated much of the offseason discussion, which only helped build the hype to potentially unsustainable levels. 

He is a lottery ticket, for sure, but he is one that might not be worth the cost at this point. 


Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Bulls guard Jimmy Butler had the breakout season many expected from him a year ago, but there were still plenty of flaws apparent in his game as he finished his third NBA season. With a better team around him, Butler just might have enough help to vault him to stardom.

Butler's jump shot abandoned him last season, especially after a toe injury forced him to miss 11 games in November and December. He was shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range prior to the injury, but connected on just 39.3 percent of his shots overall and 27.1 percent from three-point range from that point on.

We can blame Butler's season-long shooting slump on the injury or his increased offensive role, but he should have neither excuse available for him this season. Butler should be healthy, and the Bulls added plenty of offensive firepower this offseason, in the form of Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott, not to mention a hopefully healthy Derrick Rose. Butler took 154 shots off the dribble last season, per Stats.NBA.com, and made just 30.7 percent of them. With a better team around him, Butler should get many more opportunities to shoot with his feet set.

Butler has the skill set to be a tremendously efficient offensive player, given how often he bullies his way to the free-throw line. Last season, Butler filled up the box score extremely well, but his poor shooting limited his Fantasy value somewhat. If a new role helps his efficiency, he could be one of the very best guards in the league in category-based formats. 


Lance Stephenson set for bigger role in new setting
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Though there were fits and starts, Lance Stephenson finally began to live up to his considerable promise last season. Now in a new home in Charlotte, will Stephenson take another step forward in 2014-15?

By the end of last season, the Pacers were a mess, and Stephenson caught plenty of the blame for that. Still, he might have been arguably the team's most consistent player throughout the season, averaging between 25.8 and 29.7 Fantasy points per game from before and after the All-Star break as well as the playoffs. For as much of a mess as that team was, Stephenson emerged as something of a rock, at least for Fantasy purposes.

The Hornets are actually built in a somewhat similar way to the Pacers, so there wont' be much of a stylistic shift for Stephenson to get used to. Per MySynergySports.com, 11.8 percent of the then-Bobcats' possessions ended in post-ups, actually down from the 13.2 percent mark the Pacers' posted. Stephenson struggled at times with his post-entry passing, though his off-target feeds might find their mark more often when being lobbed in to the soft hands of Al Jefferson, as opposed to Roy Hibbert.

The Hornets might lean even more heavily on Stephenson than the Pacers did, since Indiana liked to spread the ball around with their starting five. The Hornets, on the other hand, look to be extremely top-heavy, and Stephenson will get plenty of chances to be the second or third option. We have him projected for 29.1 Fantasy points per game, and consider Stephenson a borderline top-50 Fantasy option for this season.  


Move to Houston won't alter Trevor Ariza's trajectory
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Trevor Ariza parlayed a career-year into a lucrative free-agency contract with the Rockets this offseason -- stop me if you've heard this story before.

Ariza was largely a disappointment in his first stint with the Rockets, though it did lead him to the best per-game numbers of his career. Still, Ariza was obviously miscast as a primary offensive option the last time he was in Houston, and that won't be a problem this time around.

Ariza joins a Rockets team with two established stars, and will likely spend much of his time trying to fill the departed Chandler Parsons' role. That should suit him nicely, as Ariza has just enough of an off-the-bounce game to serve as the team's third ballhandler when the shot clock gets deep. Ariza attempted 11.1 field-goal attempts per game last season, and should see a boost given Parsons' role; he attempted 13.3 shots per game.

Ariza's improved three-point shot seems legitimate, as he is shooting 38.6 percent from long range over 738 attempts since 2012. However, he will no longer have John Wall feeding him for juicy corner 3-pointers; Wall to Ariza was the league's most productive corner-three combination last season. His shooting numbers may take a hit with his move.

Even acknowledging the loss of Wall's help, we know the Houston offense is set up to get every player the most efficient shots possible, so Ariza shouldn't see much of a dip in his efficiency. His ability to fill up the box score makes him a perfect No. 2 option at forward in category-based leagues, especially now that he is a high-volume shooter. 


Despite new role, don't write off Isaiah Thomas entirely
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9/17/2014) Suns guard Isaiah Thomas might see one of the biggest dropoffs in his Fantasy value from last season to this, as he joins the crowded Suns' backcourt.

The Suns might have three All-Star caliber guards in the backcourt now, with Thomas likely to backup Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe this season. That should put a serious dent in Thomas' value; Thomas finished 13th in Fantasy scoring among guards a year ago, but is projected to finish just 43rd this season.

Still, Thomas is definitely someone you'll want to add to your team when drafting, and almost certainly before the rest of the No. 4-type guards he is grouped with. Thomas is likely to see his numbers fall off from the 20.3 points and 6.3 assists he averaged a year ago, at least at first. However, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him end up starting upwards of 25 games throughout the year, given Bledsoe's injury-proneness. Bledsoe has missed at least 25 games in two of the last three seasons for knee issues.

Thomas probably profiles as more of a bench option for Fantasy purposes next season, but you'll be targeting him much earlier than nearly any other reserve. His upside as a handcuff option for either Bledsoe or Dragic is sky-high, and will make him well worth your attention on Draft Day. 


 
 
 
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