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2013 Fantasy Basketball Draft Prep: Bench options and strategies

by | Fantasy Writer
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If a list exists of over-analyzed sports terms, the label "starter" might very well be on it. It's often used to describe the kind of guy who's the best on his team at a certain position, but technically it only refers to a guy who's in on the very first play.

Just because a guy isn't a starter, doesn't mean he doesn't produce in the middle or at the end of games. Some players, like Manu Giniboli, Jamaal Crawford and Lamar Odom have had some of their best years coming off the bench. So don't leave a guy off your draft board just because he's not typically on the court at tipoff.

In most Fantasy leagues, it's impossible to fill out your team with 15 starters. So here are some sparks off the bench you might consider as well as some starters you can probably ignore on Draft Day.

Bench players worth drafting

Jarret Jack, Cavaliers: Klay Thompson, Jose Calderon, Joe Johnson -- these are starting guards who played 70-plus games and still finished behind Jarrett Jack in Fantasy points last season. Jack has since changed teams, relocating from Golden State to Cleveland in the offseason, but his role as dependable bench dude should remain. The Cavs will likely look for Jack to do for Kyrie Irving what he did for Steph Curry: allow an extremely talented scorer to be himself rather than fit the classic point guard mold. Irving's questionable durability will also come into play, as Cleveland's young star has yet to play more than 60 games in his first two years. Look for Jack in the later rounds of your draft to benefit from veteran production on a young Cavs team.

Andray Blatche, Nets: If the Nets are serious about their title aspirations, then there is going to be a lot of minutes to go around in a long NBA regular season. Averaging a measly 18.9 minutes per game last season, Andray Blatche was still able to outscore DeAndre Jordan and Kosta Koufos in total Fantasy points last season. He played all 82 games and put up a stellar 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes last year. He's Brook Lopez's primary backup, and will likely see some minutes filling in for Kevin Garnet as well when Reggie Evans' offensive ineptness isn't cutting it. His game defies convention for a 6-foot-11 player, often opting for crossovers and step-back jumpers instead of post-ups and hook shots, but Blatche is as effective as he is unorthodox and worthy of a late round selection.

Harrison Barnes, Warriors: A breakout performance in last years' playoffs would have been enough to earn Harrison Barnes a starting job – that is if his team hadn't signed Andre Iguodala in the offseason. During Golden State's improbable playoff run, Barnes averaged 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds and showed that he's comfortable operating in the paint – something you don't often see from a 20-year-old rookie. His knack for scoring down low and snatching rebounds allows the Warriors to toy with smaller lineups that could include both Iguodala and Barnes on the floor at the same time. His regular season stats were nothing to write home about, but if Barnes can build on the confidence he gained while thriving in his team's most important 12 games, he'll be well worth a late round pick for his upside.

Isaiah Thomas/Greivis Vasquez, Kings: The battle for starting point guard in Sacramento could go either way. On one hand you have the 5-foot-9 incumbent Isaiah Thomas, who started 62 games for the Kings last season and is of the Nick Van Exel, shoot-first variety of point guard. On the other hand, you have the 6-foot-6 trade acquisition Greivis Vasquez, who did a successful Jason Kidd impression for New Orleans last year, finishing first in the league in total assists while still averaging 13.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Whether the Kings opt for Thomas' instant offense or Vasquez's court vision in the starting lineup, you should think of both as good options for Draft Day.

Either one is capable of providing solid production, albeit in entirely different ways. Right now, it would seem Thomas has the upper hand, being the healthier and more productive of the two during preseason. Still, it seems obvious that the Kings would choose to start Vazquez because he makes his teammates better, with Thomas coming in for instant offense off the bench. There's also a slim chance that both end up starting, with Vasquez being tall enough to cover shooting guards and Thomas' 18.7 points per 36 minutes being too much to pass up. But no matter who ends up starting, either one would be a nice contributor to your Fantasy team.

Starters you can probably ignore

Kendrick Perkins, Thunder: If you could somehow quantify toughness and scowling into Fantasy stats, Perkins' value would be off the charts. Unfortunately, you have to rely on your players getting points, rebounds, assists and other countable basketball things to win in Fantasy. That's why Perkins doesn't quite make the cut. He played 78 games last season and still finished behind Boris Diaw and Jason Maxiell in total Fantasy points. His role on the team also seems to be in doubt, with the Thunder experimenting with smaller lineups last season and drafting center Steven Adams as an eventual replacement down the road. Perkins' experience and defensive leadership should still earn him a starting spot, but you'd be smart to leave him off your Fantasy radar.

Udonis Haslem, Heat: Here's another example of a guy who's basically on the court to be an enforcer and to scrap for rebounds. The Heat struggle mightily with grabbing basketballs after missed shots, so they really have no choice but to start a guy who's good at only that. Plus, Haslem just seems to play better when he gets to start the game, so the Heat will likely stick with the starting lineup that's produced back-to-back championships. For a rebounding specialist, Haslem's statistics aren't very impressive, averaging just 5.4 boards while playing 18.9 minutes per game last year. He's a player willing to dive after loose balls and get his hands dirty every now and then, but for Fantasy purposes he's a pretty consistent non-factor.

Tayshaun Prince, Grizzlies: There's a reason small forward is the shallowest position in Fantasy Basketball this year. That's because teams like to put defensive minded guys who do the little things that coaches want at that position. Tayshaun Prince played that role well for the Grizzlies, as they were able to contain Kevin Durant in the second round of the playoffs. But he averaged only 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game playing for Memphis, making him a no-go for Fantasy this year. At least Tony Allen has some stats to show for his defensive reputation. Prince has never averaged more than one steal nor one block per game for any of his 11 seasons. Even if he starts again this year over Quincy Pondexter, go ahead and ignore Prince on draft day.

Gerald Wallace, Celtics: Here's another small forward who might earn a starting role for non-stat things. Wallace's skill set basically boils down to being good at jumping. Sometimes that talent turns into rebounds, blocks and steals, but it doesn't happen often enough to make him Fantasy relevant. Wallace had one of the worst seasons of his career last year in Brooklyn, averaging just 7.7 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting below 40 percent per game (though playing alongside Joe Johnson couldn't have helped). He's a good candidate to start in Boston simply because he's been playing a lot longer than most the guys on the team. There's a glimmer of hope that Wallace bounces back this year, as he has been fairly productive on bad teams in the past, but given the fact that his game relies on athleticism and he's turning 32 this year, it's probably safe to let Wallace go undrafted this year.

Richard Jefferson, Jazz: Let's toss in one more not-so-exciting small forward. Richard Jefferson will provide veteran leadership to Utah's rebooted starting lineup, but since you don't get Fantasy points for that either, Jefferson's just another starter who doesn't deserve Fantasy attention. He'll definitely be up from the 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds he averaged last year for the Warriors, but don't expect him to get back to his Nets days either. Jefferson hasn't averaged more than 10 points per game since 2010, so don't give him a spot on your roster simply because he's back in a starting lineup.

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Player News
Kevin Love deal morphs into three-team trade
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) The Cavaliers' acquisition of Kevin Love is set to go down Saturday, and Yahoo.com reports it will end up being a three-team deal.

The Timberwolves will receive Andrew Wiggins , Anthony Bennett and a lottery-protected first-round pick from the Cavaliers in exchange for Love, and are set to move one of those pieces to Philadelphia to complete the deal.

The Wolves will move the first-round pick -- a top-10 protected pick from Miami -- to the 76ers along with Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in exchange for Thaddeus Young, as first reported by the Minnesota Star-Tribune. 


Heat add Reggie Williams
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8/16/2014) The Heat signed guard Reggie Williams to a free-agency contract last week, the team announced. Terms of the deal are not known.

Williams appeared in just three games for the Thunder last season, and has played 180 games over parts of five NBA seasons. He averages 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, while shooting 46.0 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range for his career.  


Isaiah Thomas undergoes wrist surgery
by Joe Polito | CBSSports.com
(8/15/2014) Suns newcomer Isaiah Thomas underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist, the team announced Thursday.

Thomas dealt with a sprained wrist last season but was able to play through it on his way to a career year. An MRI in February revealed no ligament damage, which would indicate this latest procedure is nothing to worry about. The team expects him to be ready for training camp. 


DeMarcus Cousins avoids serious injury at Team USA practice
by Joe Polito | CBSSports.com
(8/15/2014) Kings center DeMarcus Cousins dodged a bullet Thursday when the MRI on his right knee came back negative.

According to Yahoo Sports, Cousins limped off the court during a Team USA training session after Anthony Davis landed on his knee during a scrimmage. Cousins later tweeted that he was "fine," helping to suppress any concerns of a serious injury. 


Pacers shopping Roy Hibbert, call Pistons about Greg Monroe
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) The Pacers are shopping center Roy Hibbert, and they have called the Pistons regarding a potential deal involving restricted free agent Greg Monroe, Detroit Sports 105.1 reports.

There's no word about whether the Pistons would be interested in a Monroe-for-Hibbert spot, but they are pretty well set in the middle with Andre Drummond in the starting lineup. It's a rumor that seemingly has very little chance of coming to fruition.


Rockets sign Kostas Papanikolaou
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) The Rockets have signed small forward Kostas Papanikolaou .

Papanikolaou gets $4.8 million guaranteed in the upcoming season, with a team option of $4.6 million for the following season. He has been playing in Europe since being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft.


Report: Greg Oden faces felony charge
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) Free agent Greg Oden is facing a felony charge after allegedly attacking his former girlfriend after a night of drinking, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Oden is accused of punching the woman in the face three times and fracturing a bone in her nose, according to court documents. The felony offense carries a penaly of one-to-six years in prison.


Markel Brown out with broken hand
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/11/2014) Nets guard Markel Brown will be held out of basketball activities for four-to-six weeks after being diagnosed with a nondisplaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal in his right hand, the team announced Monday.

Brown was selected 44th overall in this year's draft, and the Nets acquired him for cash considerations on the night of the draft. He averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his senior season at Oklahoma State.


Report: Wolves to swap Anthony Bennett for Thaddeus Young
by Joe Polito | CBSSports.com
(8/8/2014) Though the trade can't go official until August 23, the deal reportedly struck between the Cavaliers and Timberwolves will lead to another trade between Minnesota and the 76ers.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported early Friday that Minnesota, upon receiving Anthony Bennett from the Cavs as part of the Kevin Love trade, would then trade him for Thaddeus Young. The Timberwolves have been showing interest in Young since Love stated his desire to be traded.

Meanwhile, the 76ers want to move Young because he's entering his prime at age 26 and only has one additional year left on his contract. Acquiring Bennett would complete a core of young talent to develop over the coming years. Young was one of the most productive forwards in the league last year playing in Brett Brown's up-tempo offense, averaging 17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. Bennett, on the other hand, failed to make any impact what so ever but did show signs of growth during the Summer League. 


Landing in Minnesota should improve Andrew Wiggins' value
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8/7/2014) The prize of the trade that ultimately sent Kevin Love to Cleveland will likely be the Timberwolves' acquisition of No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins , assuming there are no unexpected changes in the deal the two sides agreed to.

If Wiggins does ultimately land in Minnesota, as expected, this should be a boon to his Fantasy value. Though Wiggins will have substantially less help as he makes the transition to the NBA than he would have in Cleveland, he is also likely to be much more of a featured option than he otherwise might have been.

Wiggins was likely going to be the third or possibly even fourth offensive option for the Cavs, and likely would have been so for some time, given the presence of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on long-term deals. Now, the Timberwolves get to build around Wiggins as their long-term centerpiece, and he should be given plenty of rope as the team tries to navigate their upcoming rebuild.

Wiggins is raw, but still put up 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per game as a freshman at the University of Kansas. There are some questions about how well his game will translate to the NBA, but he will at least have some help, in the form of point guard Ricky Rubio, who knows exactly how to set up teammates for shots they like.

Wiggins is mostly upside right now, but should be considered a second-round pick in all keeper-league Fantasy formats. In yearly re-draft leagues, he is more of a mid-round option at this point, albeit one with tremendous upside. 


 
 
 
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