Exhibition Examination

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Dose: All Eyes on Cousins
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James Harden almost broke the pinball machine, Kevin Love did the same, and DeMarcus Cousins went boom. …

The ‘it’s only preseason’ mantra will never go away, but it’s still something that’s worth monitoring in the NBA. Players can build off their strong summer leagues and coaches can tip their hands on how they’re going to run their rotation.

Although, things don’t always work out as planned. Perhaps no player caught more hype than Byron Mullens last year. He came out of the blue with his sudden 3-point shooting, but eventually fizzled out due to poor defense and injuries. It really wasn’t for lack of opportunity, though. Mullens took 5.2 3-pointers per game in November 2012, which was absurd considering he shot just 0.8 triples per game in the 2011-12 season.

It’s all about opportunity. Like Mullens and the 2012-13 Bobcats, teams that tend to be cellar dwellers have more reason to play guys that remain a bit of a mystery. Some teams don’t have their roles clear yet and that’s where owners will want to target in the late rounds picks. Your last few picks should focus almost solely on upside. If you had a solid draft and don’t have any needs, your last picks should be based entirely on hitting a home run and trying to get a guy that can win your league. Last draft season, Chandler Parsons, Nikola Vucevic and Kemba Walker come to mind here.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Basketball league on October, 30th. It's $10 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts October 30th at 7pm ET. Here's the link.

We’re going to go through each preseason game from Thursday and Friday night. There were 11 games, so we’ll be covering 22 teams. We will be talk of the players and their collective preseasons, so the games are more of a structure than anything else. Plus, I’ll be going over some trends I’ve seen in drafts. Here we go:

You can find me on Twitter breaking down action to go with stats and injury updates @MikeSGallagher.

Thursday

Sixers at Bobcats

It was the old team that was a joke taking on this year’s version. This year’s Sixers are terrible and their rotation is one of the messiest in the league. They don’t even have a starting five that’s really set. Let’s start with what we know: Thaddeus Young, who was a DNP on Thursday, is going to be very busy and he’s scored 14.5 points this preseason. Spencer Hawes is going to be the main man in the middle and he’s hit 1.3 triples to go with 1.0 blocks so far this month, but he’s not a really big minutes eater. Evan Turner also looks like a new player, averaging 19.8 points per game in the preseason.

As far as drafting those guys, I’m all about targeting Young and Hawes, but I’m a little worried about Turner even though he has a huge upside. Last season, he had just 0.2 blocks, 0.7 triples, 0.9 steals and shot just 41.9 percent from the field. Plus, getting to the line just 2.5 times per game was horrible last year. This preseason, he’s actually been very aggressive, getting to the line 7.8 times per game. He’ll be better, but based on where I’ve seen him go, I always have my eyes on at least other five guys when he’s plucked off the board.

OK, now the messy part. After those three, the next player off the board figures to be Michael Carter-Williams. His summer league was a nightmare, but he hasn’t been too bad this preseason. The positives include averages of 1.4 turnovers, 1.2 triples, 1.0 steals and 5.0 assists. He’s been struggling at scoring with just 8.6 points per game on 39.0 percent shooting, which has been his much-publicized weakness since the NBA Draft. He’s getting some pressure from Tony Wroten, who just scored 20 in the Thursday game. It was his second 20-point game this preseason and coach Brett Brown has an affinity for him. Of course, that’s not going to continue with Wroten shooting an embarrassing 30.4 percent from the floor this month. He is getting to the line a lot and has two games in which he’s taken 12 freebies. MCW should certainly go off the board first and I’ve drafted him a few times, but Wroten is someone to think about in deep leagues for his upside. Just remember he’s shot 38.4 percent from the field in his career, couldn’t buy a bucket in summer league and he’s been terribly inefficient in October.

The situation at shooting guard is even worse. The team brought on James Anderson and he is expected to get most of the minutes. He’s turned in a solid preseason stats-wise with 2.2 triples per game and 1.0 steals, but he hasn’t quite solidified anything yet. That said, there are worse players to take late in deep draft. Vander Blue seems to be his stiffest competition and he turned in a gem on Thursday with 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, one block, two steals and three 3-pointers on 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line in 27 minutes. The eight-cat line is interesting and he’s likely going to get more minutes the rest of the way this month.

Digging into the really deep part – those of you in standard leagues can skip this part and I won’t be mad --  Royce White hasn’t really done anything to suggest he’ll get it turned it around. His totals in three games include 13 points, 10 boards, 11 fouls and nine turnovers on 35.7 percent shooting. Daniel Orton saw 27 minutes and looked good with six points, three boards and four blocks. He’s a raw talent and his career has been cut short from his ACL surgery in college, so he might be up the Sixers’ alley. It was his first game with the team and he’s probably the most intriguing of the bunch. Lastly, Lavoy Allen said on Friday that his knee isn’t 100 percent, so we can’t really judge him for his quiet lines. Still, he hasn’t done much in his career to support the idea of him busting out this year.

UPDATE: Lavoy Allen overslept on Saturday and missed practice. He’ll get a meeting in Principal Brett Brown’s office soon.

Surprisingly, things are pretty clear in Charlotte. Al Jefferson missed Thursday’s game with his ankle injury, but he said it’s realistic for him to play in the season opener. He’s a player to take at the turn of the first and second rounds. Kemba Walker scored 13 points on just seven shots on Thursday, a very encouraging sign. He doubled his shots at the rim last year compared to his rookie season and it sounds like coach Steve Clifford is coaching him up to take better shots. The UConn product shot 44.1 percent in April and that could actually be a possibility for him this year. The last safe pick for the Bobcats is Gerald Henderson. He reportedly worked on his 3-point game and it was going to be a new wrinkle. Sadly, he’s 0-of-7 in his five preseason games. It’s all good, though. Some people can’t juggle, some can’t kick a dope freestyle and some can’t shoot threes. I have no idea about his juggling skills, but Emcee Hendo does sound like a sick hip-hop name.

Cody Zeller looks to have the inside track for the power forward job and Clifford had a telling explanation for playing Zeller just 14 minutes on Thursday. "He’s played in practice many, many more minutes than anyone else," Clifford said. "When he got his third foul [against the 76ers], I said, ‘Fine, play him less tonight.'" Reasonable. The team has been raving about his basketball IQ and work ethic, and obviously Josh McRoberts is not the answer. I wouldn’t be too overzealous in selecting Zeller since Clifford has said on multiple occasions that his top three scorers will be Kemba, Al and Gerald. He’s a low-ceiling guy, but has a shot at a 10-8 line with good percentages.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been working with shooting guru Mark Price and he doesn’t look to have made many leaps forward. In Thursday’s game, he shot 3-of-8 from the field and all three makes came from within two feet. The likelihood of Jeffery Taylor taking the job from last year’s lottery pick is very real. Taylor was relentlessly getting to the rim in summer league, looked great at EuroBasket and he’s kept it up this month. There’s no reason to draft MKG while Taylor is worth a look late.

Knicks at Wizards in Baltimore

Mike Woodson has been taking it easy on his guys. Thursday he played Raymond Felton 15 minutes and Tyson Chandler six minutes. Woody did say he’ll play those two more in Monday’s game and their roles are locked in. It’s worth mentioning that Tyson Chandler is shooting more jumpers in practice and in games, which might explain his 3-of-9 from the field in his last two outings. Hopefully, the Knicks come to their senses and realize this is a silly idea.

The biggest news that came from this game was that Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni both sustained elbow strains. The good news is that they’re both expected to be ready for Monday’s exhibition. Shumpert is expected to start on opening night, but he’s been very quiet in the preseason so far. Plus, making 39.6 percent of his shots isn’t going to help his case as a late-round pick. Prigioni is going to share the backup PG role with Beno Udrih, who scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 26 minutes on Thursday.  Udrih and Prigs are going to cancel each other out even if Felton has to miss time.

The Knicks got a pair of 14s from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Toure Murry. Both players could get some burn while J.R. Smith serves his five-game suspension and recovers from knee surgery. If you’re deep-league fishing, I’d give the edge to Hardaway because Woodson admitted he’ll be in the rotation multiple times.

The Wizards have some bench issues and that’s a factor in why John Wall and Bradley Beal could be in for spectacular seasons. Beal is one of the hottest players in the league, exploding in his last two games with 21 points on Thursday and a 29-point performance on Tuesday. Yes, it’s preseason, but Beal seriously looks like an All-Star, resembling a mini-James Harden with his shots at the rim and getting plenty of looks from downtown, too. The 20-year-old guard shot 48 percent in February and March before the injury bug bit him, so he could pick up right where he left off.  For what it’s worth, his field goal percentage went up in every month from October to February. You’re going to have to reach, but I’m all for it. As for his backcourt mate, John Wall also tore it up after the break and he’s been experimenting with new ways to score when the games don’t count. He’s a top-10 option for keeper leagues and big things are coming this year.

Otto Porter Jr. is still out with his hip flexor strain and it’s a bummer. The Wizards may be inclined to play OP just a handful of minutes throughout the year since he’s been unable to sustain any level of health throughout his brief NBA career. It’s hard to count on him in fantasy even though he has a very well-rounded game. That means Martell Webster should continue to be a factor off the bench. Martell ‘The Dictionary’ Webster didn’t spell trouble on Thursday with no 3-pointers, but he made it to the line eight times for 13 points in 21 minutes. Hopefully, his back holds up again like it did for much of last season.

Another very interesting position battle in the NBA landscape is the frontcourt of the Wizards. As far as performance goes, Trevor Booker gets the edge. He seems healthy from his knee injury and is exerting a lot of energy on the glass. He pulled down four offensive rebounds and finished with nine total rebounds, seven points, three assists and one block vs. the Knicks. His persistent style may explain his lack of durability, but while he’s healthy, he could be one of Washington’s leading big men. Book is also shooting a pristine 80 percent from the field in his three preseason games. However, the Wizards seem like they really want Kevin Seraphin to be the guy. He saw more minutes than any other player with 31, plus the players and coaches have spent extra time with him in practice. He had a nice stat line with 11 points, seven boards, two assists, three steals and one block. His 1.8 blocks this preseason is a nice improvement from his 0.7 last year and since he might have to play more center, the blocks could be there more frequently. I’d take Seraphin over Booker in drafts. For what it’s worth, Nene, who did not play after coming back from Brazil, looks like he should be the first Wizard big taken. If you’re scoring at home, Jan Vesely’s jersey still had Jan Vesely in it, so there’s no reason to put Jan Vesely on your non-Jan Vesely fantasy team. Sorry, I’m trying to knock out the “Jan Vesely” quota early here, folks.

Pistons at Cavaliers

The Pistons have four of their five starters all set. Andre Drummond is just a monster and there aren’t going to be many more helpful in blocks, boards, steals and field goal percentage than him. He played 34 minutes on Thursday and had eight points, 11 boards, two steals and two blocks. Coach Maurice Cheeks made it seem like a lock that the 300-pound freak will get his 30 minutes per game, which means enormous stats are on the way. Josh Smith isn’t exactly a statistical enigma except for his suddenly plummeting free throw shooting. This preseason, he’s played the role of a tradition small forward with an outside-inside game. This is going to become the norm and I talked about it in Scoring by the Numbers over the summer, so check that out here. If you don’t want to, the conclusion is that J-Smoove will be one of the worst players to own for both percentages this year. He’s not someone to target in Roto, but could be useful in head-to-head formats. Greg Monroe had a very weird line, making 6-of-15 from the field. Interestingly, 11 of his shot attempts came from within seven feet, so this seems like an anomaly. He should have nice field goal percentage, but his 17-10 averages from last year could take a dip. Still, he’s been a value for where he’s been going in drafts.

While the forward spots are clear, the forecast for the guard spots is a cloudy one. Brandon Jennings has his job locked up, but he could miss a few games with a wisdom tooth problem. Will Bynum will take over in his stead and is a solid plug-n-play guy for the first week of the season.

The picture is clearing up at shooting guard. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has fallen by the wayside because he’s shooting just 31 percent this preseason and hasn’t clicked on D yet either. Coach Cheeks said he likes how Chauncey Billups plays, so reading between the lines it looks like he’s going to start. Rodney Stuckey is out with a fractured thumb, but still he looks like he’d make sense on paper as a sixth man since he can get his own shot a lot better than the aging Mr. Big Shot.

Moving to Cleveland, Kyrie Irving looks great and he’s moved up to number five on my eight- and nine-cat draft boards. Dion Waiters is another guy that seems safe in his role and he’s getting to the basket a lot more than he was in the first half of last season, which is a wonderful indicator that he can keep his field goal percentage at an acceptable level. Jarrett Jack is going to sit out 10 days with cartilage irritation, but he’ll pick up the scraps at both guards positions. I’m a little worried since he’s dealt with quite a few knee complications in his career. He’s solid late-round pick and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Kyrie owners to handcuff their pick with Double-Jay.

The small forward spot is in disarray and coach Mike Brown still hasn’t picked his starter. Alonzo Gee looks to have fallen out of the running with his 0-of-4 from the field on Thursday and he missed his only shot in his preseason debut on Tuesday. C.J. Miles had some leg soreness and didn’t play Thursday, but he does make the most sense with the other starters. He provides some range, an area the Cavs will need with the way Kyrie can shred perimeter defenses and set up kick-out treys. Earl Clark is having the best preseason of the bunch, but that’s not saying much. I’d probably steer clear.

Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson seem like they’re going to begin the season as the starting four and five, but there are some murmurs that Andrew Bynum could be ready for opening night. Although, he looked really slow in pre-game warmups, so I’m not sold. Tristan is shooting the ball well in the preseason and he should probably be the first Cleveland big off the board. I’ll pass on the oft-injured AV and Bynum.

The rookies were the biggest story of Thursday. Sergey Karasev was phenomenal in his 34 minutes, scoring 10 points with three boards, one assist, one block and two 3-pointers on 4-of-7 shooting. Of course, Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters sitting out had something to do with that. Anthony Bennett turned in another nice line vs. the Pistons with 12 points, four boards, one steal and two 3-pointers in 20 minutes. Mike Brown has been ragging on the No. 1 overall pick for his lack of conditioning, so he’s unlikely to start the season hot. I’d say you can try and buy low on him, but just about anyone that drafts a rookie won’t be giving up on them. They took them for a reason. If he’s around after pick 100, I’m interested.

Spurs at Hawks

There’s really not a lot of analysis needed here. The Rotoworld crew isn’t unanimous here, but I feel Kawhi Leonard should be the first Spur off the board in standard leagues and he could be in for a monster season. He’s an eight-cat player for nine-cat leagues with only a lackluster assist total as the only negative. Another conjecture I’m drawn to is Danny Green going to get more minutes and will improve from last year. This is based on Manu Ginobili starting to break down, a player to avoid in most formats. Aron Baynes is also looking good and could sneak some minutes from Tiago Splitter. Baynes is a large human and he caught my eye at Las Vegas Summer League. This is very deep territory here, guys.

After three terrible games, Jeff Teague got it going with a line of 15 points, 12 assists, two steals and one 3-pointer vs. San Antonio. The Hawks didn’t shoot over 43 percent in any game before this one, partially due to Teague making only 29.2 percent of his attempts from the floor. It should be only a matter of time before he gets on the same page as coach Mike Budenholzer for his up-tempo style. Teague could be in for a big year with points, assists, steals and threes.

The other star of the show was Kyle Korver. He torched the Spurs with five threes en route to 26 points. He was second in the league last year in 3-pointers per game and he’s in a better position this year than last year. If you find yourself losing the battle in threes in the early going, don’t be afraid to reach a little for him. Don’t forget he had 0.9 steals, shot 46.1 percent from the field and 85.9 percent from the line last year, plus he should be above his 10.9 points per game, as well. He’s not a specialist.

Al Horford and Paul Millsap are fairly reliable bigs outside of Horford’s small injury red flags. As Boris The Blade says, I always go with reliability.

DeMarre Carroll was active in Thursday’s game, getting to the line 10 times and posting a line of 14 points, seven boards, three assists, one steal and one turnover. He’s taking threes and now that the Hawks have slid Korver to shooting guard, Carroll has little competition for minutes. He’s a compelling pick late in drafts.

Pelicans at Thunder

It’s hard to make a case against any big man looking better than Anthony Davis. In fact, if he didn’t have injury concerns from last year, we’d probably be talking about him being a top-eight pick. Hey, maybe even top five. I have him slotted in at the 11 spot for my nine-cat rankings and I’m buying.

Eric Gordon was fantastic in his preseason debut, scoring 21 points with two 3-pointers on 6-of-9 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the line. We all know the drill with him: EJ can produce, but his health is the issue. Personally, I’m not going to draft him, but if I did want to, I wouldn’t reach for him since there’s a good chance he’ll be sliding in your draft.

As usual, Ryan Anderson got his green light, shooting 6-of-16 from the field for 18 points with two 3-pointers. His numbers might not be as good as last season because of the arrival of Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis likely improving and Jrue Holiday serving as a more capable scoring point guard than Greivis Vasquez. He’s still a strong bet to score in the low teens with at least 2.0 triples. Speaking of Holiday, he had eight assists and he should be able to duplicate his 8.0 per game from last year. On the other hand, his turnovers have been ugly this month with an average of 4.2 per game and not many minutes. He ranked second in the league last year with 3.7 turnovers per game, so nine-cat owners might want to be careful. Also, Brian Roberts has looked outstanding on Thursday and scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. He’s one of the best young backups in the NBA and will obviously be a hot pickup should something happen to Jrue. Al Farouq Aminu looked good but his offense is a disaster, so who cares?

Let’s talk Kevin Durant: He’s good. Moving on, Serge Ibaka hasn’t looked too shabby with solid percentages and scoring in double figures in each of the four preseason games to go with his 2.8 blocks per game. He also had a five-dime game on Tuesday and might be asked to pass the ball more with Russell Westbrook out in order to alleviate some pressure off KD.

Besides that obvious stuff, there were two interesting develops from Thursday’s game. Steven Adams had a coming-out party with a 10-point, 15-board gem in 34 minutes. Scott Brooks had high praise for Adams and it should be interesting to watch how Brooks handles his center spot. Kendrick Perkins is a liability for how the Thunder run their offense, plus he isn’t quick enough under the basket to get those long rebounds anymore. Secondly, Hasheem Thabeet is still the same player he was when the Grizzlies took him over James Harden. As for Adams, it’s going to be tough to target him since his role is undefined, but we’ll be monitoring his progress all year.

My guy Reggie Jackson’s outlook keeps getting better. While he’s unquestionably going to have some tremendous value while Russell Westbrook recovers from his knee surgery, RJ has all but solidified he’s going to be the sixth man once the team is back to full strength. Jeremy Lamb was great in summer league and in the D-League, but his game just hasn’t translated to the NBA yet. OKC almost has to play him, so maybe he can figure out how to play D, understand spacing to not bring double teams to his teammates and get better shots. Back in August, Jackson looked like he was the clear-cut sixth man, then Lamb gained some ground on him, but now Jackson is pulling ahead again. He’s not exactly Mr. October, but Jackson can score, steal, hand out assists and hit 3-pointers, so he’ll have a high ceiling even though his usage rate won’t be too high with Durantula set to be a busy man.

Heat at Nets

Outside of Chris Bosh playing well this preseason, there’s really nothing going on here. I’d also like to add that Dwyane Wade seems to be going a little too high in drafts for my liking.

Full disclosure: I’m a Nets fan. That said, the only Net I can see myself drafting is Brook Lopez, who looks great this preseason. The Nets scheme looks like a molasses offense. The plays set up slowly and it’s hard to believe they were discussing an up-tempo offense. Kevin Garnett played 10 minutes and had two points with one board and one turnover on Thursday, so that won’t get him in the good graces of owners. He’s no longer the centerpiece of an offense and there just isn’t much upside since he’s going to sit out plenty of games. Paul Pierce had seven assists Thursday, but he’s not going to be handling the ball as much once Deron Williams comes back from his ankle ailment. Although, Deron seems likely to have to sit out a handful of games because he hasn’t been able to shake his ankle problems for years. Joe Johnson doesn’t provide enough offense and with Paul Pierce around, so he’ll have an even tougher time producing value worth starting in fantasy leagues.

Suns at Kings

The big story here is Goran Dragic suffering a “mild to moderate” ankle sprain, so there a chance he could miss some time in the regular season (UPDATE: Goran was back on a bike in practice and he should be ready to start the year). He had a terrible game before the injury turning the ball over a whopping six times in 18 minutes. He’s had his fair share of ankle sprains, so it’s probably time to bump him down in rankings. Eric Bledsoe had a boring line with 12 points, two boards, five assists two steals and one 3-pointer. The highlight of his preseason has been the substantial 3.0 steals per game in five outings. He probably should be going off the board in the fourth round of leagues but he’s not. If you want him, don’t count on the ADP data and just grab him unless a proven stud like Mike Conley slides. To round out the guards in Phoenix, Archie Goodwin stepped in to replace Dragic following the injury. It’s been a tale of two sides of the ball for him: Goodwin has been great on defense while his offensive game hasn’t quite come around yet. He fills a need for the Suns with size and quickness on the perimeter, so the team has been rooting for him with comments like Dragic calling him “unstoppable” and coach Jeff Hornacek saying he’s going to give minutes to the Kentucky product. He’s still not worth drafting in most leagues, though.

Markieff Morris had a nice game on Thursday with 15 points, seven boards, two assists and one 3-pointer. There was a lot to like about him a month ago, but Channing Frye being cleared has dampened the mood a bit. Frye had a rough game, missing all five of his shots and looked out of sorts in the paint on both ends. He’s going to have his bad games this year and really should only be helpful in boards and treys. It’s hard to blame him to be inconsistent though, after missing an entire season with an enlarged heart. Taking Morris could still pay off due to his ability to add steals, blocks and threes.

The small forward position is one of the most unpredictable of any in the league. Gerald Green had the best one-game performance with a 19-point outing on Oct. 13 but he’s failed to get it going in any other game. P.J. Tucker has the best probability to get the start and see the most minutes, but he’s not exactly a stat-per-minute dynamo. Marcus Morris is also in the mix even though he’s been a letdown since the Suns traded for him last year. It’s worth mentioning that Hornacek has mentioned playing the matchup, so there’s that. If you want to take one of these three, I’d lean towards Green for the biggest upside. To be clear, we’re talking pretty deep here.

If you want to make a case that Anthony Davis isn’t the most impressive big man in October, DeMarcus Cousins would likely be your best lead example. He went off with 29 points, nine boards and six steals on Thursday while going to the line an unfathomable 18 times in 28 minutes while the Suns absolutely had no answer for him. He dropped a 31-point line two games ago, too. Mike Malone is an offensive guru and DMC is almost a lock to bounce back, so there’s really no way he’ll be sliding past 30 in most credible drafts.

Besides Boogie, it’s a total mess in Sacramento. At point guard, Greivis Vasquez had a better line on Thursday with 10 points, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Isaiah Thomas was quiet with 2-of-9 shooting for four points in 21 minutes. It’s still too close to call who’s going to win and it would hardly be a shock to see IT2 get the nod, so considering that Thomas is going four rounds later, he makes more sense as a draft pick. Vasquez runs a slow pace, which might not fit Malone’s scheme. Plus, Cousins and Thomas have shown they can play well together.

Power forward is starting to clear up and it looks like Patrick Patterson has the edge over Jason Thompson. Pat-Pat also takes threes, so he’ll have a bigger upside. He’s a sneaky pick late in deeper drafts once the obvious sleepers are off the board.

Jimmer came out of nowhere in his start on Thursday, knocking down five 3-pointers en route to 23 points with five assists and two steals. Still, he can’t play defense and that will be too big of a roadblock for him to get minutes. Marcus Thornton played just eight minutes on Thursday, but was in double figures in each of his last two games and looks to be the first wing that should come off the board in hoops drafts. Rookie Ben McLemore still hasn’t looked like a guy that can get his own shot and it doesn’t help that he has just three assists in four games. He has a beautiful jumper, but it might take a while before we see it reflect in the fantasy world. Travis Outlaw has received some minutes for his new coach, and that’s nice to see from the vet, but it’s still difficult to see him turning his career around after such a large sample size.

Friday

Lakers at Warriors in Shanghai

With Kobe Bryant out, the Lakers have relied heavily on Pau Gasol and from the looks of things, he doesn’t look to be pau – that’s a Hawaiian word for finished. Learning! Anyway, he’s looked like his old self back at the power forward spot and he’s been coming off the board in the third round, which seems like a fair price. Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman have been competing with Jordan Hill to start next to Gasol. Hill has looked horrific, with only 3.2 points per game in his five outings. Meanwhile, Kaman has two double-doubles, had a 7-of-7 shooting game on Tuesday and has been protecting the basket well for the Lakers. If you miss the boat on a big, Kaman makes sense late.

Nick Young looks like he’ll be the second wing option for the Lakers once the Black Mamba comes back. He’s scored 12.6 points per game in just 24.6 minutes per game. The problem is that there’s not much else to accompany that scoring number. Swaggy P averaged just 2.2 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.4 triples on 42.4 percent shooting, which is on par with his career numbers. If Mamba is around, Young won’t be able to muster up enough value for his lack of diversity on the stat sheet. Lastly, Steve Nash looks really old. No thanks.

A team that hasn’t been boring is the Warriors. They look like a fantasy factory this season with a litany of talented players. We all know what Stephen Curry can do and he’s been going off the board in the top five. David Lee is another guy that seems to be locked in with his role in the paint.

Besides that, the Warriors haven’t quite figured it out and that’s OK. Andre Iguodala was outstanding with 14 dimes and five steals in Friday morning’s contest. If you’ve been watching the NBATV Season Previews, you may have saw Iggy gush over the idea of having Curry and Klay Thompson. He’s one of the best at getting into the paint and hitting open shooters, which is something he hasn’t seen much of in his career.

Quick aside: 2013-14 is the best year I’ve ever seen to punt free throws. Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond, Iguodala, DeAndre Jordan, Thaddeus Young and Derrick Favors could all wind up on one fantasy team. That would be such a monster team.

OK, we’re back. Klay Thompson has looked terrific. He’s curling to the basket on screens a lot and he’s been able to get to the rim a lot easier. He shouldn’t have a problem matching his fifth-round value from last season. The big X-factor here is Harrison Barnes. For most of the offseason, the team has discussed playing him as a stretch four and that looks a little more likely now that Andrew Bogut suffered a back tweak on Monday. If he can get even just 10 minutes as a stretch four, it should make him a very valuable piece in fantasy leagues. Bogut is going to give owners migraines this year.

Grizzlies at Orlando

Mike Miller led the team with 19 points and it raises an interesting idea. The Grizzlies have discussed wanting to push the ball on offense more, but their lack of perimeter scoring could hinder their ability to do so. Memphis was dead last in 3-point attempts last year and the Knicks and Rockets actually each doubled up their total. Miller has a shot to lead the team in threes, but considering his chronic back issues, it’ll be hard to target him.

The Grizzlies are what they are otherwise. Mike Conley was one of the best point guards after the break last year and it’s strange how late he’s going in drafts. Marc Gasol has a five-star safety rating at the end of the first round and Zach Randolph is nice way to get cheap double-double stats. Ed Davis has looked good and would emerge as a pickup should Z-Bo or Gasol miss time.

The Magic may have come up with the worst record last year, but they have a handful of fantasy prospects this year. The most exciting of the bunch is Victor Oladipo and he displayed why on Friday. Mt. Oladipo erupted for 22 points, four boards, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers on 6-of-12 shooting while making all eight free throws. Even though he doesn’t quite have his mid-range game NBA-ready yet, the rookie has been blowing by anyone trying to guard him, so his shots at the rim will offset what could be a jump-shooting percentage possible below 35 percent. If your league has people that watch preseason ball, you might want to pounce in the middle rounds. Go hard or go to Home Depot… Or something.

Nikola Vucevic is pretty safe to take in the late-early rounds. It seems without a shadow of a doubt Vucevic should have similar numbers to last year. He turned in third-round value last season and he seems to have a better understanding of how to defend on the ball, so the blocks could even go up. With Glen Davis still out, Tobias Harris should get his third-year campaign off to a rapid start. He has been sitting out with a mild ankle sprain, however, he should be ready to kick off the season healthy. The Magic are being cautious because they’re going to be in big trouble should he go down, too. Andrew Nicholson has been shooting threes since summer league, and he’s actually 5-of-11 from downtown in camp. He’d need both Harris and Big Baby to miss time in order to accumulate value in most leagues.

As for the rest of the wings and backcourt, Moe Harkless is having a nice October, scoring in double figures in all five games while averaging 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks. From the looks of things, he hasn’t fixed his jumper, but he’s taking a lot of shots at the rim just like he did last year. He’s a bit of a mini J-Smoove, so make sure you prepare for your percentage to take a hit with him on your team. Arron Afflalo is going to have to deal with trade rumors for most of the season and his preseason stats haven’t really done enough to negate the uncertainty of his role. He’s scored just 10.3 points per game with 0.0 steals and 0.8 triples while going to the line just 1.8 times per game. It’s probably a better idea to shoot for a guy with higher upside. Lastly, Jameer Nelson is another boring guy to take and his value is trending downward. He shot 1-of-7 from the field on Friday and was dead last in field goal percentage among qualifiers last season. With Oladipo likely handling the ball quite a bit, it makes more sense to shoot for someone with higher upside like Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight or Michael Carter-Williams.


Pacers at Bulls

After watching this entire game, a few things look to be clear: Paul George is going to run the offense. It seemed like almost every play was drawn up for him or was a play in which he set someone else up. I might be in the minority here, but I think this season could be even better than last year.

Secondly, Roy Hibbert’s offensive game has looked much improved. He ran plenty of PNRs with George and was setting up on ball-side quite a bit. He put in a lot of work this offseason and it looks like it’s going to pay dividends.

David West hasn’t been as involved and the acquisition of Luis Scola won’t help his outlook either. He was a ghost in the first half with just two points, then turned it on in the second half with 15 points, which probably had something to do with Danny Granger going down with a calf injury.

Speaking of Granger, he aggravated his left calf injury in the third quarter and did not return. He looked great before the injury though, scoring 11 points with three 3-pointers on 4-of-7 from the floor. Batman has been going off the board way too early and it seems a host of people think he’s going to come back strong.

George Hill didn’t do much on offense and he’s likely going to have to produce differently. The good news is that he’s a solid 3-point shooter, so he can supplement his lower points and assist totals with treys, boards and steals. He had eight points, seven boards, one assist and one 3-pointer on 2-of-6 shooting on Friday.

Friday’s MVP was obviously Derrick Rose. Nightly preseason MVPs are a big deal, you know? Rose looked as fast as a comic-book character and was running circles around everyone. He was stoppin’ and poppin’ from beyond the arc, knocking down four, while continuing his assault on the restricted area. For about a year and half we’ve been wondering what he’s going look like on the court and he’s likely exceeded even the loftiest expectations. D-Rose is a top-end first round pick under normal circumstances, so he should be bumped down about 10 spots with the risk factored into his valuation. Basically, he’s this year’s version of Stephen Curry.

The other big story from Friday was that Joakim Noah will be shut down for at least a week. He’s in jeopardy of missing time in the regular season with an aggravation to his groin injury. Noah is an extremely risk pick and there are a slew of players that are much safer while offering similar upside. I wouldn’t start thinking about grabbing him until around pick 40. You can bump Taj Gibson up your draft board and maybe Nazr Mohammed in extremely deep leagues. To round out the forwards, Carlos Boozer just doesn’t fill up the stat sheet like he used to.

Jimmy Butler also sat out with knee soreness. It’s not really a concern since he warmed up for the game and wasn’t ruled out until moments before tip. He’s been a thief for much of the preseason and his 3-point shot looks improved compared to last year. It also helps that Mike Dunleavy has cooled off after a nice start to his preseason. Butler is a nice player to target, especially for owners needing some steals. Kirk Hinrich also suffered a concussion and could miss time.

Blazers at Clippers

Nicolas Batum looked good in his return with 14 points, five boards, one steal and two 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He’s locked in as a second-round pick in standard leagues and hopefully a freak injury doesn’t derail his season like last year. Terry Stotts used a lineup at one point that had Dorell Wright and Batum on the wings, which was interesting. That probably had something to do with Wesley Matthews (thigh contusion) sitting out. Wes should be fine, by the way, and is expected to play on Sunday. He’s going fairly cheap in drafts, too. Wright doesn’t look like an attractive pick in deep leagues after his tough 2012-13 season.

LaMarcus Aldridge was out with a knee issue on Friday. The good news is that he’s not expected to miss time, but he’s becoming a bigger gamble and is moving out of the second round in standard leagues. In his stead, Thomas Robinson made it look like Las Vegas Summer League II with 13 boards, seven points and one block. He’ll be a hot pickup should LMA have to miss time. At center, Robin Lopez has locked up his gig and pulled down 10 boards in 19 minutes on Friday. He has three double-digit rebounding games in limited minutes and evidentially he has a good grasp on Stotts’ system already. His backup, Meyers Leonard had a long overdue positive outing, shooting 4-of-4 for eight points with one board.

Reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard had his usual swagger with 16 points, four boards, two assists, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in just 23 minutes. There’s no reason to think he can’t come close to matching his season. To be clear, it’ll be tough to match since it’s not often a guy plays 82 games at 38.6 minutes per night. It’s science. Mo Williams will back him up and hasn’t looked too bad this preseason. He’s still not worth targeting with all of his injuries.

Jordan brand might want to change their logo to DeAndre Jordan’s dunk face with the way DJ is ballin’ this month. Kidding aside, he has a ridiculous 19 blocks in four games and his timing is superb. It’s also no small feat to rack up those blocks with only 10 fouls, too. He has a shot to contend for the block crown, but it’ll be tough to target him with his horrible free throw shooting. He was 0-of-6 last night.

Blake Griffin returned from his sore ankle and he’s fine. The Poster Child is one of the most durable big man in the NBA. As for the other Mr. Reliable, CP3 had a down game, converting 2-of-11 attempts from the field for seven points with three assists. You should totally panic. Jamal Crawford got the start with Willie Green out and he’ll move the bench again. He’s expected to compete for Sixth Man of the Year, as per usual. Jared Dudley still hasn’t clicked yet and he saw just six shots on Friday. Duds has averaged only five shots per game in 27.6 minutes per game. This is all without Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick, too. I’d rank them Redick, Barnes, then Dudley.

Finally, Darren Collison went off with 31 points, including 15-of-16 from the line. He’s only a handcuff for Chris Paul since Redick and Co. are out, but it’s nice to see the Clippers are being rewarded on their cheap contract.

Thanks for reading! I think I went through about eight albums to write this.

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