With the preseason over and the regular season yet to begin, we find ourselves in limbo as far as free agency goes — caught somewhere between devaluing preseason stats and overreacting to injury concerns. Still, there are moves to be made if you need to replace one of your injured draft picks or to want speculate on someone stepping into a new role.
The results from Week 1 should answer a lot of your lineup questions, but until then, why not try and get ahead of the trends? We'll have a more in-depth waiver column next week, but in the meantime, here are a few free agents whose value could see a boost as the regular season gets under way.
Will Bynum, PG, Pistons (5 percent): Between Detroit trading for Brandon Jennings, drafting Peyton Siva and signing Chauncey Billups, it seemed like Will Bynum would fade into irrelevance. Heck, he wasn't very relevant to begin with. But inspired play this preseason should have Fantasy owners paying closer attention to the lesser-known veteran. Bynum finished second in preseason in assists per game (trailing Chris Paul by just 0.1), and capped it off with a 17-point, nine-assist performance in Detroit's final exhibition. On one hand, it's difficult to take preseason stats seriously. On the other hand, with Brandon Jennings projected to miss four games and Chauncey Billups expected to receive ample rest, the Pistons could decide to ride the hot hand this first week. Bynum also showed a knack for feeding Andre Drummond down low, which should help his chances of playing time going forward. Jennings owners especially should consider picking up Bynum as a potential handcuff.
Jamaal Tinsley, PG, Jazz (1 percent): You might have just looked up at the top of the page to make sure you weren't reading a column from 2006, but rest assured this is indeed up to date. Utah reached an agreement with 10-year veteran Jamaal Tinsley out of necessity, with rookie point guard Trey Burke sidelined for two to three months. At 35 years old, Tinsley isn't an exciting long-term prospect, but he could be useful in the early going -- especially if you drafted Trey Burke, Russell Westbrook or any other injured point guard. He'll likely start out backing up John Lucas, but even off the bench Tinsley could end up running the Jazz offense -- similar to how Andre Miller orchestrates for the Nuggets. Utah's young lineup provides the perfect situation for Tinsley's pass-first skillset, and he should be able to get close to his career average of 8.3 assists per 36 minutes.
Miles Plumlee, PF, Suns (27 percent): We knew Phoenix would likely deal Marcin Gortat at some point, but the Suns went ahead and got it over with before the season even began, leaving them with a starting job to fill at center. Because first round pick Alex Len isn't quite healthy enough to log big minutes, Phoenix will turn to a player who most regarded as a throw-in from the Luis Scola trade. Miles Plumlee only logged 55 total minutes in his rookie season, but he'll begin the year as the de facto starting center in a hollowed out Suns frontcourt. You'd have to go back to his senior year at Duke to see Plumlee logging anything close to significant minutes, but he did look competent enough in summer league play -- capable of scoring, rebounding and blocking shots with the sound fundamentals typical of a former Blue Devil. Until Len and Channing Frye get up to speed, consider Plumlee a low-end pickup for the foreseeable future. Those who drafted Kevin Seraphin might consider dropping him for Plumlee, as Gortat's arrival will force Seraphin back onto Washington's bench.
Jeremy Lamb, SG, Thunder (36 percent): If you want to speculate on a bench player's upside, you probably can't do much better than Jeremy Lamb. The Thunder had enough confidence in his offensive abilities to let last year's sixth man, Kevin Martin, walk away in free agency, so Lamb will at least get the opportunity to prove he can carry the offense when Durant needs a break. He's only owned in 32 percent of leagues -- probably because he didn't exactly dazzle in the preseason, averaging 11.6 points in 31.9 minutes per game. But if Lamb can find his footing and shoot a higher percentage this week, his ownership should see a sizable increase. Critics of the Thunder's personnel decisions will have no choice but to compare Lamb's production to James Harden's, but Fantasy owners can be more realistic with their expectations of a 21-year-old about to play his first meaningful NBA minutes. Lamb will have the green light to fire away, so consider him a low-risk, high-reward pickup this week.
Lance Stephenson, SG, Pacers (23 percent): Danny Granger owners shouldn't hit the panic button just yet, but those who were looking to start him this week might be in the market for a short-term plugin -- as it looks like Granger will miss about three weeks with a calf injury he sustained in the preseason. Lance Stephenson showed what he can do as a starter in last year's playoffs, making him a useful Granger replacement for the time being. Attempting to win back the role he played in last year's playoffs, Stephenson reached double-figure scoring in three out of six preseason games. One night when he only scored six, he still contributed with eight assists and zero turnovers in a win over Atlanta. He's the kind of player whose hustle alone is enough to keep him on the court, so if that motor translates into stats of any kind, Stephenson could become a regular contributor or even land a starting role ahead of Granger.