Larry Sanders – Surprisingly, the Bucks garnered a lot of interest on Twitter and it’s clear that people are intrigued as to how things will play out in Milwaukee this season. Sanders just signed a big contract and simply loves blocking shots. The young center should continue to show growth offensively, defensively, and gain discipline in order to commit fewer fouls. He’s all upside, returned third-round fantasy value off the waiver wire last season, and won’t be on the board after Round 3 this year. There’s a lot to love about Larry and you can bet that his goal is to lead the league in blocked shots this season.
O.J. Mayo – Mayo got off to a hot start in Dallas when Dirk Nowitzki was out early last season, but tailed off once Dirk got into a groove. He’ll start at shooting guard for the Bucks with Monta Ellis in Dallas and Brandon Jennings in Detroit. Carlos Delfino and Caron Butler could play some shooting guard minutes in Milwaukee this season, but this job is all about Mayo. And if he doesn’t have a career year, I’ll be surprised. He went in Round 7 in our mock and that makes him a very nice value pick in my eyes.
Ersan Ilyasova & John Henson – Ilyasova, as usual, was a roller coaster ride last season and with Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino at small forward, looks like a full-time power forward. This is potentially bad news for young John Henson, as the two are likely to share minutes at power forward all season, with Ilyasova getting the lion’s share of them. And with Ilyasova in the driver’s seat, Henson’s minutes will be enough of a concern that I just don’t see a full breakout coming, making him worth nothing more than a late-round flier for now. But if Ilyasova goes down, Henson will be one of the hottest waiver-wire pickups of the season. As for Ilyasova, he does a little bit of everything and can singlehandedly carry fantasy teams when he heats up, and I like him a lot. But he went in Round 4 in our mock, over guys like Jeff Green, Monta Ellis, Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Favors, Greg Monroe and Dirk Nowitzki, which seems like a reach. See if you can get him in Round 6 or 7 instead.
Caron Butler – No one asked to hear about Butler, but I thought I’d throw him in here since he’s now looking like the starting small forward for the Bucks. He wasn’t looking at a big role in Phoenix, but now that he’s returned home to Milwaukee and will be starting, he’s going to be worth drafting late in all leagues, and hurts Carlos Delfino’s potential value simultaneously.
Tyreke Evans – We simply don’t know if Evans will start at SF, come off the bench, or slide over to SG when the inevitable Eric Gordon injury occurs, but there’s little doubt he will have a big role for the Pelicans. While there is some concern there aren’t enough balls to go around for Jrue Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Ryan Anderson, Evans and Anthony Davis, getting out of Sacramento should be just what the doctor ordered for Tyreke. I’m thinking he’ll have a return to form and play more like he did as a rookie, when he was one of the most promising young stars in the game. He went in Round 7 in our mock draft, making him look like a real potential value.
Andrea Bargnani – Long time readers know my past love for Bargnani, mainly due to his potential, scoring, 3-pointers and blocks, but he never really stayed healthy enough to live up to the hype. And the fact he’s always dealing with calf injuries means I’m not too excited about the future. He’s also a big man who can’t rebound, and his fading threes and blocks are disturbing trends. I’m fine with taking Bargnani late and hoping he stays healthy. The risk should be minimized if you can get him in Round 10, where he went in our mock.
Nikola Vucevic & Glen Davis – Vucevic struggled in the FIBAs, reportedly dealing with an illness, so I’m not too worried about him. He played well enough last season that he should be locked into the starting center job. Vuc went in Round 5 in our mock, but I’d rather get him in 6 or 7 if possible. Davis still hasn’t been cleared after shoulder surgery, but could be ready for the start of the season. I see him starting at power forward, but it remains to be seen how healthy and effective he’ll be this season. If he is ready to go, he should be a nice source of rebounds this season, if nothing more. However, he doesn’t look like the appealing sleeper he was a year ago, before the injury. Don’t spend more than a late-round flier on Davis.
Victor Oladipo & Arron Afflalo – I love Oladipo and would not be surprised to see Afflalo moved during the season, clearing the way for Oladipo to play shooting guard full time. I’m not sure the point guard experiment will work, and would prefer they just put him at shooting guard and let him roll. He went in Round 6 in our mock draft, and that’s where I’ll be targeting him in 12-team leagues. As for Afflalo, he’ll hit some threes and score, but he’s not a guy I’m going to be looking for on draft night. And while I’m hopeful that he doesn’t end up starting all year and limiting Oladipo, it is a possibility.
Tobias Harris & Moe Harkless – I see these two splitting time at small forward, but Harris is the guy I want to own. He blew up once he got to Orlando last season and while he has some hype to live up to, he should be able to return value if you can get him late enough in your draft. He went early in our mock (Round 7) and I’d rather see him go closer to Rounds 9 or 10. I’m not targeting Harkless as long as Harris is able to walk and play.
Andrew Nicholson – Nicholson is an intriguing sleeper, but if Davis is healthy, I just don’t see him getting enough minutes to make a difference. I’m not targeting him on draft night.
Goran Dragic – Dragic was seen as a disappointment last season, but still averaged 16 points, nine dimes, a steal and 3-pointer in March and April, providing plenty of things to look forward to this season. I look for him to offer more consistency this time around and have no problem drafting him in Rounds 6-8 this season. He went at the end of Round 6 in our mock.
P.J. Tucker – With Michael Beasley (cut) and Caron Butler (Bucks) out of the way, the starting small forward job looks like Tucker’s to lose, and I’m expecting him to have a nice season. He got some opportunities last year and never came through, but I expect that to change this time around. Target him late if he’s starting, but be aware that he’s not a 3-point shooter and doesn’t steal the ball much. He looks like a late-round target in deeper leagues for now.
Nicolas Batum – Batum had wrist and shoulder problems last season, but still made it through 73 games and returned second-round value. He was the only player to average two 3-pointers, a steal and a block, and also came through with career highs of 14 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He shoots it pretty well from everywhere and the sky’s the limit on Batum. He’s still probably not a first-round pick, but any time after the first 12 picks, Batum looks like a can’t-miss fantasy player.
Rudy Gay – We know what Rudy Gay does and that is score, rebound, assist, steal and hit 3-pointers, while also providing enough blocked shots to be relevant in that category. He still finished with just sixth-round value last season, but I took him early in Round 5 in our mock draft. He knows the Toronto system now and worked on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, and I’d be surprised if he’s not worth at least a fourth- or fifth-round pick this year.
Kyle Lowry – Lowry was a disaster last season but Jose Calderon is out of the way and I think he’ll return to being one of the most dominant fantasy point guards in the league. His ability to rebound is underrated and if he can keep his head on straight (and stay healthy), he should have a fine bounce-back season. He went in Round 6 of our mock.
Dwight Buycks – Buycks is intriguing and turned some heads by leading Summer League in scoring, but as long as Lowry is healthy, I just don’t see a point in drafting him.
Enes Kanter – Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are gone and this is the year Kanter fully breaks out. He should provide plenty of scoring, rebounding and shot blocking, and is a good free throw shooter for a center. He averaged just seven points, four boards and 0.5 blocks last season, but those numbers are going to change in a big way. In fact, in his two starts last season, he averaged 20.5 points, 15 boards and a block. He’s not going to do that, obviously, but should be a rock-solid fantasy center, and was taken in Round 7 of our mock draft.