Jeremy Lin’s knee is a pretty big concern (to me) and I am not targeting him in most leagues. There are enough point guards out there that Lin and the uncertainty surrounding him are not a priority for me. But if and when he’s fully healthy, he should be a quality point guard. Kevin Martin looks like he’s officially out of Kevin McHale’s doghouse and is worth a mid-round look in all drafts, while Chandler Parson and Carlos Delfino are likely to share time at SF. I like Delfino and his ability to hit 3-pointers a little more than Parsons. Patrick Patterson (quad) should be considered a sleeper at power forward and will be available at the end of your draft, while Omer Asik had a great preseason, making him worth a look as a late-round center. Just beware of his free throw percentage, as it’s ugly. Donatas Motiejunas is the deep-sleeper in Houston, but will only succeed if Asik fails.
In my mind, George Hill (hip) is the starter at point guard for the Pacers, with D.J. Augustin backing him up. Hill should be one of the last remaining starting point guards available in your draft and is worth a pick up if you need a PG late. Augustin is worth a late-round flier, especially if Hill’s hip injury lingers. Paul George might be ready to take over the world at SG and should be targeted as soon as the third round rolls around. Danny Granger’s sore knee has me very leery and I’m staying away this year. I expect David West to bounce back at power forward, and Roy Hibbert should be a solid No. 1 center again. Gerald Green is the deep sleeper in Indy, but will likely need Granger to miss games in order to see enough minutes. Don’t be surprised if it happens.
Chris Paul is ready to rock and roll after thumb surgery and is worth the third or fourth pick in all drafts. Jamal Crawford has been great in the preseason and is one of my favorite guys to draft late. Chauncey Billups is still recovering from his Achilles injury and I just don’t think he has much left in the tank, while Crawford won’t hurt you anywhere, will hit a ton of threes and shoots lights out from the free throw line. I’m targeting Crawford in all leagues. Small forward is a bit of a black hole here, with Caron Butler, Grant Hill (knee), Lamar Odom (conditioning) and Matt Barnes all competing for minutes. Butler should be a good player to own and will be available late, but he’s not usually a model of health, either. Blake Griffin is your starting power forward, as usual, but his lack of blocks and steals, combined with his terrible free throw shooting means ‘stay away’ in my book. His name is bigger than his game, and I’d recommend letting someone else pay for him. DeAndre Jordan has been great in the preseason and his stock is on the rise. His free throw shooting is still abysmal, but he’ll be available late and should rack up plenty of boards and blocks, with the occasional double-digit scoring line.
Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard make up the Lakers’ all-star starting five. Kobe’s foot injury is a bit of a concern, but I’d be shocked if he’s not out there on opening night. MWP has looked good in the preseason, but I’m still not drafting him (terrible shooting, disappears too often). Nash isn’t going to score a lot, but will still be a solid No. 1 point guard, while Howard’s back doesn’t appear to be a big concern going forward. The real question is, do you want to deal with his turnovers and free throw shooting in a fantasy league? Gasol’s numbers almost have to take a hit, but he’ll still be a rock-solid fantasy power forward, as usual. Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison are the bench guys to keep a close eye on, but neither looks like they need to be drafted in 12-team leagues.
Mike Conley is a very consistent point guard and is a great pick once the big names are off the board. He’ll have to contend with Jerryd Bayless this season, although I’m not worried. Tony Allen is the best shooting guard option with O.J. Mayo now in Dallas, but I’m not a fan of his lack of offense. But he should be solid in most defensive categories and hold the starting job. Rudy Gay is going in the third or fourth round in most drafts, but I think he’s going to return second-round value. Feel free to take a flier on him a little early. Zach Randolph is healthy and ready to go at power forward, but I get the sense he’s due to take a step backwards, and is another guy I’m not really targeting in my drafts. This could be the year he turns back into the Z-Bo we used to know. Marc Gasol should surpass his brother this season as the best Gasol to own. I don’t really see a super-sleeper in Memphis, but Josh Selby could be a nice grab for the second half of the season if Tony Allen falls out of favor.
Mario Chalmers has been hurt for most of the preseason, but should be worth owning in most leagues once he’s healthy. Norris Cole has talent, but appears to be Chalmers’ back up until further notice. I owned Dwyane Wade in many leagues last year and don’t own him in any this year. His knee has me scared and his missed games simply take a toll on his owners. When healthy, he’s obviously first-round talent, but I’m letting someone else deal with him and his surgically-repaired knee this year. Shane Battier is likely starting at SF for the Heat this season, but just doesn’t do enough to be worth a draft pick. LeBron James is worth the No. 1 pick in all formats, while Chris Bosh should start at center and be a solid use of a third- or fourth-round pick. Ray Allen is worth a very late pick if you need 3-pointers, while Rashard Lewis will be worth keeping an eye on in case he ever gets hot off the Heat bench.
Brandon Jennings didn’t miss a game last year and averaged 19 points per game. His field goal percentage is a concern, but I am guessing he takes a step forward this season, and am targeting him in most leagues – especially ones that use a Points scoring format. Monta Ellis isn’t the same player in Milwaukee that he was in Golden State, but is still a great offensive player. Don’t be afraid to draft him. Tobias Harris is my favorite to start at small forward (over Mike Dunleavy) and he’s had a nice preseason, highlighted by 18 points and three 3-pointers in just 17 minutes on Thursday. I am a fan of using the last pick of your draft on Harris and seeing what happens. Ersan Ilyasova will start at power forward and does it all. If you can get him in Round 4, do it and don’t look back. Samuel Dalembert had six blocked shots on Thursday and appears to be ready to bounce back after dealing with Kevin McHale in Houston last year. He’ll be available late and will help make up blocked shots if you draft a guy like Brook Lopez early.
Ricky Rubio is possibly going to miss half the season and doesn’t shoot it well enough to be a highly sought after stash, in my opinion. Luke Ridnour, who is dealing with back problems, and is no spring chicken, will have value while Rubio is out. Brandon Roy’s return from a chronic knee injury is going well so far, but don’t reach for him. He should be available late, and owners have to be prepared to let him go if the party comes to an end. But for now, he looks like a decent starting SG option. Andrei Kirilenko should be great while Kevin Love is out with a broken hand, and should also start even when Love is healthy. AK may slide over to PF in Love’s absence, with Chase Budinger likely to see a boost in playing time at small forward. Budinger’s a borderline last draft pick in 12-team leagues. Nikola Pekovic is probably my favorite center to draft this year, available in the middle rounds (6) and capable of putting up numbers worthy of a third-round pick. And as much as I’d like to think Derrick Williams will break out, Rick Adelman doesn’t seem to have much use for him, and Budinger is probably a better way to spend your last pick.
Greivis Vasquez is the only PG option in New Orleans, yet is still falling very late in drafts. If you need a point guard late, taking him or George Hill should result in a steal. Eric Gordon is on my “do not draft” list, regardless of what good things you read about him. If he plays in 10 straight games and appears to be ready to keep going, I may change my mind. But I’m prepared to let someone else deal with that headache. Al-Farouq Aminu hasn’t had a good career and I don’t expect him to turn it around anytime soon. And when you add in the fact they could start Ryan Anderson at small forward, Aminu’s simply not worth owning. Anderson should hit a ton of threes and board well again if he starts at small forward, and I’m not sure the Hornets even have a choice at this point. Anthony Davis is going to require a third- or fourth-round pick if you want him, even though his shot blocking hasn’t been great in the preseason. He’s worth the risk of an early pick, any way you slice it. Robin Lopez looks like the starting center, but might go undrafted in deeper leagues. If he’s on waivers after your draft, put him on your watch list, as I see him as a value center pick at the end of drafts. Austin Rivers is another guy to keep a close eye on, but I don’t see a reason to draft him in 12-team leagues just yet, as his role is undefined. He’s also dealing with a sprained ankle that has him questionable for the season opener.