Ryan Knaus

Offseason Beat

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A Season of Change

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Atlanta Hawks


Paul Millsap should have a great year as the Hawks' unquestioned starting PF alongside Al Horford, backed up by Gustavo Ayon and Elton Brand. Last season Millsap averaged a relatively quiet 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks in just 30.4 minutes per game, numbers which should all improve with increased playing time and a bigger offensive role in ATL. Former teammate Al Jefferson averaged more shot attempts and fewer assists than Horford did last season, another reason to like Millsap's outlook.


Kyle Korver re-signed for $24 million over four years this summer, and he's another Hawk who will be undervalued on draft day. He drained 2.6 triples in just over 30 minutes per game last year and he enters the season as the starting SF, backed up by DeMarre Carroll. A starting job coupled with copious 3-pointers, solid percentages and a trickle of rebounds, assists and steals are enough to recommend Korver in the late-middle rounds of most formats.


Chicago Bulls


Jimmy Butler is poised to have a breakout season as the Bulls' starting SG. Tom Thibodeau showed great trust in him after Luol Deng went down during the playoffs, and Butler wound up with postseason averages of 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks in nearly 41 minutes per game. Butler also has 3-point range, and with unfettered minutes at SG he should provide mid-round value at a late-round cost.


Boston Celtics


Kelly Olynyk should be watched closely as the season progresses. The rebuilding Celtics have no incentive to humor Kris Humphries, whose $12 million contract expires next summer, and neither Brandon Bass nor Jared Sullinger are equipped to play long minutes at center. Olynyk isn't a natural shot-blocker but he did average 18.0 points per game during Summer League, while showing nice shooting range. A bout of plantar fasciitis caused him to skip playing for Canada this summer, which raises concerns, but he should be ready for training camp.


In the final two months of the 2012-13 season, Jeff Green scored 17.3 points per game with 1.2 threes, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.1 blocks. He'll carry an enormous burden for a Celtics' team in desperate need of scorers, which bodes well, but it remains to be seen how he'll handle the inevitable stream of double-teams from opposing defenses.


Dallas Mavericks


Monta Ellis should have a nice bounce-back year as a featured scorer alongside Dirk Nowitzki, but it's his pass-first backcourt mate, Jose Calderon, whom I'm most inclined to view as undervalued. Devin Harris can play both PG and SG but his toe surgery will keep him out until "December or January," according to Rick Carlisle, and rookie PGs Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin (broken ankle) are expected to fight one another for backup minutes. That leaves a solid role for Calderon, whose per-36 minute numbers from last season are indicative of his remarkable efficiency -- 13.8 points (49.1 percent FGs, 90.0 percent FTs), 2.2 threes, 8.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.1 turnovers. He also led the NBA by shooting 46.1 percent beyond the arc, and the only damper on his value was a lack of playing time (under 30 minutes per game). He can be comfortably targeted in the middle rounds.


In the frontcourt, Brandan Wright has upside even with Samuel Dalembert starting at center and DeJuan Blair shouldering his way into the frontcourt rotation. Wright was a borderline option in 14-team leagues last season, despite playing just 17 minutes per game, and the Mavs will assuredly increase his playing time after re-signing him this summer for $10 million over two years. Give him a look if you're hunting FG percentage, rebounds and blocks in the finals rounds.


Brooklyn Nets


There may not be a single sleeper on the Nets over-filled roster. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett may earn a few precautionary DNP-CDs throughout the season, and injuries can always strike down a starter, but those aren't compelling reasons to draft guys like Jason Terry or Andray Blatche. Even Andrei Kirilenko finds himself stuck in a bench role behind Paul Pierce. When it comes to drafting Nets players this season, fortune favors the timid.


Detroit Pistons


The Pistons' projected starters are each solid fantasy options with the possible exception of Rodney Stuckey, who struggled badly last year and shot 40.6 percent from the field. On the other hand, Detroit might have one of the least fantasy-friendly benches in the NBA. Chauncey Billups projects as the team's third guard, backing up both Brandon Jennings and Stuckey, and the 36-year-old can't be recommended as a fantasy pick unless you're desperate for 3-pointers and FT percentage. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a shot at the SG job ahead of Stuckey but he’ll need to have a strong training camp and preseason to convince me to draft him as a rookie. Kyle Singler barely had value as an unchallenged starter last year and he's now backing up Josh Smith at SF, and there's no hope for Jonas Jerebko or Josh Harrellson as long as Detroit's big men stay healthy.

Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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