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2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Team-by-team breakdowns

Fantasy Writer
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You don't want to take too much out of preseason action. It isn't meaningless, necessarily, but a lot of teams aren't going to look like their preseason versions once the ball tips off on opening night.

But that doesn't mean we should ignore it entirely. A lot of preseason action is about unproven players proving they deserve a shot in the rotation come regular season. And sometimes, a player's production during the exhibition schedule can change his Fantasy value, even in subtle ways.

I've gone across the league to take a look at how the preseason schedule is going so far, with less than a week until the schedule ends, to see how each team's Fantasy outlook might be shifting.

Atlantic

Boston Celtics: The Celtics are going to fire away from three-point range. That is the first takeaway you get from their preseason so far. Six different players have attempted at least two 3-pointers per game, including center Jared Sullinger, who attempted just five in 45 games as a rookie.

Brooklyn Nets: For veteran teams, it is hard to take much out of preseason. We know just about everything we need to know about the players on this team, though the fact that Deron Williams still isn't playing is something of a concern heading into the season. His ankle is one of the biggest injury concerns in the league at this point.

New York Knicks: This team has real questions to sort out about its frontcourt rotation. Andrea Bargnani has started each game at power forward, a good indication of the team's plans. Bargnani has not shot the ball well in years, and I don't see much of a Fantasy resurgence coming from him.

Philadelphia 76ers: This team is a mess, but they should have some solid Fantasy options. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young lead the team in scoring, and new coach Brett Brown appears to have lifted Doug Collins' restriction on young shooting 3-pointers. That bodes well for his Fantasy value heading into the season.

Toronto Raptors: Remember when Rudy Gay had LASIK surgery this offseason that was supposed to help him overcome his shooting issues? The early returns are not particularly promising, as Gay is shooting just 4 for 14 from three-point range through five games. Jonas Valanciunas can be dominant, but touches have been hard to come by in the preseason, a trend we hope changes when the games start to matter.

Central

Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose has looked excellent through four games, and the lone game he missed was due to routine soreness in his knee that proved to be a non-issue. Joakim Noah looks decidedly less great, having played in just one game due to groin issues. He has already been shut down for a week due to the injury, and the Bulls training staff's track record is enough to make me want to stay away from Noah in later drafts.

Cleveland Cavaliers: No sign of Andrew Bynum yet, beyond some closed practices and a bit of working out prior to one game. Until Bynum is cleared, there really is no reason to target him for Fantasy purposes, but I know his upside makes it hard to stay away. At the very least, nobody should expect him to be a Fantasy starter until we actually see him on the floor. That hasn't changed yet.

Detroit Pistons: One of the things I am most interested in seeing is how Andre Drummond's free-throw shooting evolves. He is currently at 57.1 percent after five games, which would be enough to make me think he can be a No. 1 center. Of course, I don't really believe in his ability to sustain that mark full time. He is also currently averaging fewer minutes per game than Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, a trend I expect to continue when the season begins.

Indiana Pacers: Danny Granger's numbers are bad, and he hasn't particularly looked any better than they would suggest. He is shooting just 31.8 percent from the field, and looks uncomfortable in his return from knee surgery. My expectations are low at this point, especially with head coach Frank Vogel talking about Granger like a sixth man.

Milwaukee Bucks: There are a lot of new faces in the Bucks' rotation, and it is hard to know exactly how much of the preseason rotation will carry forward to the regular season. But one person to keep an eye on is second-year forward John Henson, who has stepped into the starting lineup in Ersan Ilyasova's absence. If Ilyasova is out, Henson could be worth starting early in the season.

Southeast

Miami Heat: This is probably the least intriguing team in the league from a Fantasy perspective Even with Dwyane Wade's age and injury concerns leading to an expected drop in playing time, there isn't much in the way of breakout potential. The preseason is almost meaningless in Miami, but we are seeing James Jones play more than he has in recent years, likely as a result of the absence of Mike Miller. He could be a cheap option for 3-pointers in deeper leagues.

Atlanta Hawks: There isn't much to see here either, though the Hawks certainly do have more potential Fantasy options here than in Miami. DeMarre Carroll has surprisingly been sat starter at small forward, and is averaging 12.0 points per game, so he could end up being a sleeper this season.

Charlotte Bobcats: This team is supposed to be built around Al Jefferson's offense in the post, but an ankle injury has all but robbed us of the chance to watch how the team plays around him. Jefferson has played in just two preseason games. One player we might be able to write off already is MIchael Kidd-Gilchrist. He did not fill up the box score as much as we expected as a rookie,and the early returns on his reworked jumper are not promising; Kidd-Gilchrist is shooting just 32.1 percent from the field in five games.

Orlando Magic: This team has a ton of upside, but they are crowded at three of five positions. Maurice Harkless has started every game, and there is every reason to expect that to continue into the regular season. Beyond that, we don't know if Arron Afflalo or Victor Oladipo will start at shooting guard, and we have seen Kyle O'Quinn, Andrew Nicholson and Tobias Harris all see time as starters. Harris obviously has the most upside based on his strong performance last season, but the minute crunch worries me.

Washington Wizards: For the Wizards, it is all about Bradley Beal's development, along with how well he plays with John Wall. Wall is averaging 7.3 assists in just 27.8 minutes per game, while Beal is scoring 19.3 points per game, so things seem to be going swimmingly there. There isn't a ton else there for Fantasy owners to look at here.

Pacific

Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes' foot injury appears to have settled the position battle on the wings; Klay Thompson will start at shooting guard, and Andre Iguodala will be the small forward. Iguodala's scoring could fall off again this season, but Fantasy owners should expected him to fill the box score up well yet again as he continues to embrace his role as a team's Swiss army knife. He had 14 assists in the team's game Friday.

Los Angeles Clippers: This team is pretty much settled in the rotation, though they have not seen their full starting lineup play, as J.J. Redick has been sidelined by a thigh injury. Backup big men Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens are combining for nearly 40 minutes per game, a trend that surely won't continue in the regular season. I expect both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin to average more minutes than they did last season.

Los Angeles Lakers: Everything here is waiting on Kobe Bryant's return from Achilles surgery. Nick Young is putting up big numbers as a gunner, averaging 13.3 points in just 23.8 minutes, and we might see more of the same from him until Kobe gets back. Pau Gasol has been the focal point of the offense in the exhibition games, and we definitely expect that to continue this season, as he tries to make up for a down year heading into free agency.

Phoenix Suns: Eric Bledsoe is the sexy pick on Draft Day because of his breakout potential, but you won't want to sleep on Goran Dragic. Freed from having to carry a woeful offense by himself, Dragic could thrive with a little less pressure on him. He is averaging 12.6 points in just 18.2 minutes per game in the preseason, before an ankle injury sidelined him. Dragic, Bledsoe and Marcin Gortat are the only Suns worth drafting in most leagues, and the preseason has given us no reason to change our expectations.

Sacramento Kings: We still don't know who the starting point guard will be, and Greivis Vasquez's recovery from ankle surgery has clouded that whole situation by limiting him to just two games. Surprisingly, rookie top pick Ben McLemore has yet to start in the preseason, so he might be looking at a sixth-man role to open the season. That could limit his Fantasy value at least initially.

Southwest

Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks don't have much depth in the front court this season, and an injury to Brandan Wright has certainly only made things worse at this point. Despite this, DeJuan Blair has been able to get just 13.7 minute per game in the first four games, a sign that the team might not be too high on him. He has sleeper potential based on his post production, but I wouldn't draft him at this point.

Houston Rockets: The big question remains, "Who will start next to Dwight Howard?" Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones have been so disappointing that Omri Casspi, added almost as an afterthought this offseason, has pushed his way into the battle. Casspi's offensive abilities probably makes him the most intriguing Fantasy option, but you'll probably want to wait it out and see who is most effective once the season starts. All three will be available on waivers in most leagues.

Memphis Grizzlies: Another team that doesn't exactly have a plethora of Fantasy options beyond their high-end options. One interesting development has been the play of Quincy Pondexter, who came on strong late last season as one of the team's lone three-point threats. Pondexter is averaging 12.3 points per game, and should see a decent amount of time between both spots on the wing. He has sleeper potential.

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis has been tremendous in the preseason, and is clearly emerging as the team's star. What we haven't really been able to see is how the team's high-priced backcourt is going to play, thanks t injuries to Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. Sorting out the minutes and finding the right fit on the perimeter is going to be a hassle for coach Monty Williams, and that situation Evans, Gordon and even All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday somewhat risky Fantasy options until we see how everything gets sorted out.

San Antonio Spurs: For a team that treats some regular season games like the preseason, you can feel very confident in not taking anything from the Spurs. More than just about any other team, they just want to get guys out of the exhibition schedule without too many bumps and bruises. No player is averaging more than 20.8 minutes per game in the preseason, while 15 of 16 players are averaging at least 12. There is nothing to see here. Move along.

Northwest

Denver Nuggets: Based on the roster, this is technically the same Nuggets team that led the league in scoring last season at 106.1 points per game. The results, however, suggest a rascally different team, as Denver has put up just 91.0 points in four games so far. New coach Brian Shaw seems to want the team to slow it down this season, which could have a negative impact on the entire roster's Fantasy value. I am especially worried about Kenneth Faried, who does not seem to have a starting spot locked up, averaging just 16.5 minutes while starting two of four games.

Minnesota Timberwolves: This is another team without many question marks entering the season, but their small forward rotation is still a little unsettled after the injury to Chase Budinger. Corey Brewer has the starting job locked down, and it looks like Derrick Williams is the primary backup, averaging 13.3 points in 26.7 minutes per game. Unfortunately for Williams, reports came out this week that the team might be looking for some depth on the wings, as they still don't think he can play small forward full time. His upside is enough to make Williams worth drafting but it is still hard to see him getting enough minutes to be worth starting.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Reggie Jackson is going to be asked to carry a heavy load with Russell Westbrook likely out for the first month of the season, and he is showing in the preseason at least that he can do so. Of course, he also showed that in last season's postseason. The bigger question mark remains Jeremy Lamb, who is averaging just 8.5 points in 30.0 minutes per game in four preseason games, while shooting 30.2 percent from the field. He is supposed to be a solid shooter, but that has yet to manifest itself into production. He has high upside as the Thunder's sixth man, but there is a lot of risk involved in investing a draft pick in Lamb.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers rebuilt their bench this offseason, but it didn't really change the Fantasy outlook of their roster too much. Their starting lineup is chock full of solid Fantasy options, and there isn't much beyond that, especially when CJ McCollum went down with a foot injury. Mo Williams is averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 assists per game off the bench in the preseason, and that sounds like what we should expect from him when the games start to count.

Utah Jazz: The biggest surprise from the Jazz so far has been that veteran Richard Jefferson appears to be in line to start at small forward. We assumed the Jazz would go young across the board with the starting lineup, but Alec Burks now seems likely to come off the bench as the sixth man. It is hard to blame them for that based on Burks' performance, as he is averaging 9.3 points per game on 9.3 field-goal attempts. If Burks can't take on a big role early, there might be only three Jazz players worth drafting from Day One -- Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

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Player News
Improved jump shot all Jimmy Butler needs
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(3:51 pm ET) 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
(3:02 pm ET) 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
(2:09 pm ET) 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
(12:28 pm ET) 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. 


Eric Gordon cleared for contact
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has been cleared to take part in full-contact offseason drills ahead of training camp, The Times-Picayune reports.

Gordon underwent season-ending knee surgery last April, but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. 


Jrue Holiday cleared for contact ahead of camp
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was able to participate in full-contact offseason drills last week, the first time he has done so since undergoing season-ending surgery last January.

"Getting out playing has been a joy," Holiday told The Times-Picayune. "I've been running and jumping and stuff, but getting my rhythm back on the court is definitely a big thing right now for me."

The Pelicans open training camp Sept. 30, and Holiday is not expected to have any limitations as the team prepares for the start of the season. Holiday averaged 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game last season prior to the injury.


Kent Bazemore focused on conditioning in recovery
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:18 am ET) Newly signed Hawks guard Kent Bazemore did not pick up a basketball until August, preferring to focus on conditioning in his recovery from foot surgery in April.

"I think the injury was definitely a blessing," he told the Daily Press, "because I was able to step away from the game of basketball. I took myself out of my element all summer. I did stuff I'm not used to doing."

Bazemore signed a two-year deal with the Hawks this offseason, and is expected to compete for playing time on the wing immediately, as he is fully recovered from the surgery. 


Xavier Henry still aiming for start of regular season
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:13 am ET) Lakers forward Xavier Henry is recovered from offseason wrist surgery, but is still working his way back from a procedure on his right knee. Lakers coach Byron Scott told the Los Angeles Daily News he is not sure if Henry will be ready to play in games by the start of training camp.

"I haven't seen him do much on the court," Scott said. "It's going to be close on if he's ready for camp."

Henry has been able to take part in basketball activities, but has still not been cleared for contact. Still, he is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, after appeared in 43 games a year ago. 


Larry Sanders 'absolutely' a part of team's future plans
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:09 am ET) Bucks assistant general manager David Morway told HoopsHype.com in September center Larry Sanders is still a part of the team's future plans, despite a troubled 2013-14 season.

"Absolutely," Morway said. "Yeah, yeah. Larry is in our future plans. We are hopeful that this year Larry gets back to being the basketball player that he was two years ago."

Sanders had a long list of issues follow him last season, including a drug suspension served at the end of the season, as well as a thumb injury suffered during a bar fight. Sanders was limited to just 23 games, during which he averaged 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game before his season ended in February with a fractured eye socket.

Sanders is expected to open the season as the team's starting center. 


Brendan Haywood possibly ahead of schedule
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:55 am ET) Cavaliers center Brendan Haywood might be able to play during the first half of the 2014-15 season according to The Plain Dealer, as he is in better shape than expected ahead of the start of training camp.

According to the report, the team was concerned their recently-acquired big man might not be able to play until January, if at all, due to foot surgery last season. Haywood missed all of last season as a result of the surgery, but might be able to provide some depth in the backcourt shortly.  


 
 
 
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