This preview will focus on what happened over the off-season, how it should affect fantasy relevant players for the upcoming season, and most importantly, what you should be looking for this preseason to help you make a more informed decision.
Be sue to check out the rest:
- Part 1: New Look? Same as the Old Look
- Part 2: Injuries Mostly Come at Night… mostly
- Part 3: Minutes?!?! We’re talking about Minutes?!?!
- Part 4: How’s that guy going to fit in?
Part 2: Injuries mostly come at night, mostly…
Here comes the Meat Wagon: Big Al Jefferson, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Kemba Walker all struggled with injuries last year, so making sure they enter the season healthy will be top priority in gauging their value. If they are looking solid, all of them should get a bump over where they finished last year. I worry about Jefferson’s ability to return to a top 20 player both due to injuries and the fact that the league has improved so much that his old production just might not be top 20 quality. Of all the injuries, Batum’s should be the most concerning. He might welcome playing in the East, but with a knee, back, and most critically, a torn ligament in his shooting wrist; his ability to bounce back is definitely in question. A hot shooting preseason would sooth those worries and Batum could end up being a great steal if your league has forgotten how valuable he is in 9-cat.
I wouldn’t worry about the “position battle” between Zeller and Frank ‘the Tank’ Kaminsky, with Hawes lurking in the background. While eventually Frank might start stealing Cody’s minutes (the whitest phrase uttered in Hornets history), rookies rarely have fantasy impact. If it looks like Frank fits in this system perfectly this preseason, then look for his minutes to increase and consider him in deeper league drafts.
Dante Exum is taking an early… exit from the season. But preseason injuries mean open minutes for the start of season. This solidifies Trey Burke job at running the point this season, not that I’m terribly excited about that, but he is only 22 years old with free reign of starters minutes. How he looks in preseason should determine whether you want to use your last pick on him. Speaking of Burks I don’t want to draft, Alec Burks should be getting starter’s minutes as well. The person I’d rather keep an eye on here is Rodney Hood. With Exum out and the Burk Boys’ talent questionable, Hood could end up becoming a heavy rotation guy. I like his chances of that, and would much rather pick Hood up in the late rounds than either of the Burks if he is getting lots of play during preseason. RUUUDDDDYYYYYY!! (believe the hype)
New Orleans Pelicans:
Antony Davis is so good that the NBA might use All Day by Kanye in promos without censorship, but the rest of this lineup has some health questions. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans only played 19 regular season games together last year, three of which were after the Holiday came back from injury at the end of the year. This is not a fluke: in the last five seasons, how many times have any of these guards or Ryan Anderson played more than 66 games?
- Jrue Holiday: Twice (‘10-11; ’12-13)
- Tyreke Evans: Twice (last two seasons)
- Ryan Anderson: Once (’12-13)
- Eric Gordon: NEVER
I think you have to calculate this risk into your evaluation of every one of them. They have passed the threshold of getting the benefit of the doubt. Holiday has such potential to be a great fantasy guard, but his health risk is high. And Tyreke, whose injury potential is a bit lower, had a nice year, but most of that was without Holiday running the point.
The fact that Alvin Gentry will actually run an offense is very exciting for everyone on this team. How he rotates this guards and his big men will help adjust values for these guys. I’m very curious in Tyreke and Ry Anderson’s role in the offense. Allowing Tyreke to run the offense more, and potential starters minutes for Anderson would bump both their values significantly. Deep leagues should also pay attention to Alexis Ajinca, even though the Pellies still seem to favor Omer, if Alexis can break into solid rotation minutes, he could even be standard league relevant.
How long Kyrie will be out is the major question coming into the season, and no one seems to know for certain. The front office is saying January, initial reports were three to four months which would mean October. Without complications, I don’t see them needing to rush Kyrie back with Mo Williams being able to adequately fill in at point guard. Mo Williams ranked 104 per game over the last two months of the season in 30.8 minutes per game. Now think about what Lebron did for Kyrie’s percentages and spacing last year. Expect Mo to benefit the same way: lose a little in assists, but increase FG% and threes. His late round value is real, but completely based on Kyrie’s timetable.
Kyrie should be back before January for sure. Right on time for Lebron’s mid-season break, and he will need it after carrying the team through the first couple months of the season. With Kyrie back, the Cavs are returning basically the same lineup, Lebron never really figured out how to maximize Love’s talent, so I’m not sure why this season would be any different? The front office has publicly admitted that they “want to cut down the minutes” for Lebron and Kyrie. How they will accomplish that without dropping games, I do not know? How much will Mo Williams really eat into Kyrie’s minutes once he’s back? Maybe Richard Jefferson will have a throwback year? Perhaps they will stick Love on the second team and run the offense through him? That could actually improve Love’s value. Though, Love might not be as willing to take a secondary role like Lee and Iggy did in their pursuit of a championship, but anything goes when you want a ring. Watch preseason to see if they use Love in the post or as a full player, instead of a glorified Channing Frye.
I would expect very similar years from the big three if everyone can stay healthy. Love and Kyrie should have had enough time to bounce back. Speaking of bouncing back from injury, here comes the constant joke of a draft pick Anderson Varejao. Though he is the number one “don’t draft due to injury” player behind Brook Lopez, this does not mean he is worthless. He is also the ultimate, last round flyer, two-week string of dominant big-man games followed by the ultimate sell-high trade. It might be a little late in his career to pull this move off, and with Mozgov eating into his minutes, he might not even be able to have a monster stretch of games. We will have to see how Blatt handles their minutes.
Everyone’s favorite “team-ball” surprise was derailed by injuries (and the NYPD) last year, and over this off-season they ended up losing DeMarre Carroll. This is a big hit for the Hawks, but fantasy-wise this means 31 more minutes to go around. The problem though, the Hawks didn’t go out and find a replacement. Instead, they choose to lock down Millsap (good move, IMO). Then, they brought in Tiago Splitter to logjam the big-man minutes (sorry Mike Muscala fans). Does this mean we will see Horford at the four spot? Horford is in a contract year, but he is due for his every-other-year injury. (I don’t believe that there is a pattern, shut up) I do believe that Horford is in that questionable year-long health status. His value is high enough to overlook. A serious injury to anyone you pick in the first 4-5 rounds or so is always going to derail your season. Tiago could have late-round standard value if he plays 22+ minutes as a standard big man stat guy. I’m not excited about him unless he is given a large role.
I’m also not excited about Thabo Sefolosha’s return to the starting lineup. Sure, he finished 75th per game 9-cat three years ago as a starter on OKC, but that was three years ago. A lot has changed in the league in three years, and Thabo isn’t getting any younger. He also shot 48% FG that year with 1.3 3pt/game on 27.5 mpg. His career avg is 44% FG and his 3pt% (which has never been strong) has had a steady drop over the last two seasons. Yet, 30+ minutes is still 30+ minutes, so he could have late value in your league, depending on how deep it goes. I personally would rather take a flyer on someone interesting then hope Thabo reverts to his old form. And no, that flyer would not be on Tim Hardaway Jr. unless Atlanta can work miracles (remember they did finish with the best record in the East last year).
The return of Jabari Parker to a team that probably had one of the better off-season, and was already a playoff caliber team, makes this year’s Bucks season one to keep an eye on. But fantasy-wise, a more talented teams, means minutes have to be spread around to take advantage of that talent. How Jabari will fit in to a team that gelled so well without him will at least start to form during Jason Kidd’s rotations during preseason. While he might take back some available minutes from Illyasova’s departure, he does not fit the stretch four role that Illyasova provided this team. How will he interact with Greg Monroe? Is Monroe now a four or a five? I know Kidd loves to run the switch every time defense, but does that work with Monroe? There are lots of interesting questions, but the starting five seems to be set for this team. I know people are always getting, excited about the per 36 mins of John Henson, but go read what I said about Brandon Wright on the Griz. You got to earn the minutes to get the stats, and Henson has had plenty of chances to earn minutes. If he can earn some this year, he could easily have standard league value.
The rest of this squad is young, and should steadily improve, but Parker and Monroe’s need for touches could hinder stats. It seems like every other game the Greek Freak is due to break out, but his hype is off the charts. Hate to break it to everyone on the bandwagon (myself included), but the Freak finished 93rd per game 9-cat but 59th overall due to his 81 games. Is this a leap year? With so many hands needing fed on this team, I don’t know how he gets the opportunity? They certainly aren’t going to run the offense through him. MCW will be calling the shots, and his end of the year run is worth putting him on your late target list. For FT punting teams, he is a must own, take a reach.
Stay tuned for Part 3: Minutes?!?! We’re talking about Minutes?!?!