Other teams of interest
Philadelphia 76ers - Ah, the Sixers. Perhaps no team looks worse on paper and Lee Flowers would probably not even know what to with himself looking at a team like this one (bonus points if you got that obscure NFL reference). Not only do they lack the offensive firepower to push the tempo, they’re going to go up against a lot of team that don’t like to push the ball either. So, not only will their scoring be low based on points per shot, but this year they might have the fewest shots taken in the NBA.
The good news is that there really isn’t much on this team, so the few players that are going to contribute could be big-time assets. Thaddeus Young is coming off an impressive post-break run, making 54.7 percent of his shots for 14.7 points with 7.7 boards and 2.0 steals in that span. His 57.4 percent from the line was a huge detriment to his value, but that could have been a bit of a fluke. His athleticism should only help him get out in the open floor and it's not too bold to say he could score 18 points per game. Spencer Hawes has his injury concerns, but there is ample opportunity for him to build off his massive second half. Michael Carter-Williams is getting a push from Tony Wroten and this could shape up to be a time-share split. Evan Turner is a popular breakout candidate, but his shooting numbers have yet to come around. I’m not sold on him, but if you like him to have a tremendous year, you won't get an argument from me.
Charlotte Bobcats - The Bobcats made an interesting change and they pulled a Bucks-type move this offseason. Before this season, the Bucks always seemed to makes move to be competing for the eighth seed, which seems like what the Bobcats did. Al Jefferson is a much needed addition to a team that was a disaster in the frontcourt. Last year ,they were blocked more than any team, allowed the second-highest field goal percentage to frontcourt players, had the least amount of points in their frontcourt, they had the lowest frontcourt field goal shooting and... OK, I think you get the point. Big Al is going to be a busy fella and he’s arguably the safest bet for 20-10 averages along with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Coach Steve Clifford said he’s going to count on Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker and Jefferson to carry the scoring load. Kemba made some serious strides in the shooting department and he actually doubled his makes at the rim last year compared to his rookie season. If that trend continues, he should have a shot to improve his 42.5 percent from last season. Hendo was one of the unheralded studs after the break and he could be a nice value, especially since he’s expected to take more 3s. The Bobcats were 27th in 3-pointers made, which can be due to their lack of interior presence, so opposing teams didn’t have to collapse on double teams. Kemba's treys could go up. Early signs show that Cody Zeller will start at power forward and he could be a 13-8 guy this year.
Utah Jazz – They lost four of their top five scoring with Al Jefferson going to Charlotte, Paul Millsap headed to Atlanta, Mo Williams joining the Blazers and Randy Foye opting to sign with Denver. They have serious issues at depth and one team comes to mind as a comparison: The 2012-13 Blazers. Portland had the lowest bench scoring last year and it wasn’t close, so their starting five all were very useful in fantasy. On top of Utah’s lack of depth, they don’t have a lot of shooters. Even with Randy Foye last year, they ranked 28th in 3-point attempts, so they have a shot to be in the running for fewest attempts with the Grizzlies this season. Gordon Hayward is the heavy favorite to lead the team in scoring and he’ll have to figure out how to get his own shot. I'm definitely targeting him. Alec Burks really needs to develop a long-range game, and if he can, he’s a sneaky breakout player. Trey Burke is looking a lot better in the preseason and he’s actually been a bit of a value in the second half of drafts. There's too much to like about Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but you'll have to reach for them. For what it’s worth, in the Rotoworld Draft Guide, one of my bold predictions was that every Jazz starter will outperform their ADP. That was before the news of Burks possibly coming off the bench, which doesn’t really concern me as a Burks supporter. Their tempo will be slow, but there’s a lot to like about the upside of all five guys mentioned.
Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond is absurd these days. This doesn’t have to do with pace, but I just have to talk about it. It’s almost like players are afraid to guard him. He’s one of the biggest and strongest players in the NBA and is actually developing an offensive arsenal. If you want to punt free throw percentage, this seems like the perfect year to do it. If you can sneak Howard in Round 3, then get Drummond in Round 4, you might have a winning formula. He’s going to be so much fun to own, too.
Another thing that jumps out about the Pistons is their lack of free throw shooting. Interestingly, they took a whopping 48 attempts Thursday night and probably will lead the Eastern Conference in attempts from the charity stripe. What’s more, it’s not too far-fetched to think they can break the record for worst free throw percentage. They shot 69.9 percent last year, lost a great shooter in Jose Calderon and added a terrible one with Josh Smith. The record is 63.5 percent by the 1967-68 Sixers.
The Pistons don’t have many long-distance shooters, which seems like a bit of a lapse of judgment by GM Joe Dumars. They’re going to attack the rim a lot, so the compressed defense potentially would leave some open shooters. There has been talk of Luigi Datome being the first forward to come off the bench, which is intriguing due to his prosperous 3-point shooting at EuroBasket. He has a hamstring issue and could miss time, though.
The team’s website has talked about the Pistons pushing the tempo. Brandon Jennings’ Bucks were third last year and if they want to get a lot of shots at the hoop, it would help to try and beat their opponents down the floor. There are a lot of guys worth targeting, but this team has major glaring issues in percentages. I cover Josh Smith in Scoring by the Numbers here, so check that out for some in-depth analysis.
Atlanta Hawks – They basically swapped out Josh Smith for Paul Millsap, which should help their offensive efficiency. Larry Drew’s Hawks were consistently in the bottom for pace, so Mike Budenholzer as a Gregg Popovich disciple should help them get the ball up and down the floor a little more. It’ll also be fun watching their second unit push the ball with Dennis Schroder. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are some of the safest players to take while offering nice upside.
As for 3-pointers, it’s all about Kyle Korver. Last season, he hit a ludicrous 45.7 percent of his attempts from downtown and ranked second in the NBA with 2.6 makes per game. Lou Williams ranked 35th in triples per game, but he doesn’t have a timetable to return just yet. Keep an eye out for him.
Boston Celtics – The Celtics look a little different and seeing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn black instead of Boston green doesn’t even feel right. I talked about Boston’s possible ineptitude last month in Scoring by the Numbers, so let’s just go over that again:
Boston’s offensive scheme will be one of the more interesting developments. The Celtics don’t really have any floor-spreading shooters on their team right now. In fact, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Keith Bogans are the only players on their roster to shoot over 30 percent from the 3-point land in the NBA last year. That’s pretty sad considering Bogans and Lee made 69 triples combined last year. It’s not a good formula and Green is probably going to take his lumps in shooting percentage this season. He himself was a good 3-point shooter alone, making 38.5 percent, but he did most of his damage in the corners. He’ll have to hit more triples from above the break, an area in which he shot just 31.4 percent compared to the 45.7 percent from the corner. He still needs some work around the basket and a lack of interior presence poses another challenge to his shooting numbers. He shot just 25.7 percent on shots from 3-9 feet.
Outside of Green, it’s a total crapshoot. Jared Sullinger might be a threat for a double-double, but not blocking shots limits his upside. Kelly Olynyk could be interesting since he exploded in summer league, but he’s had a pedestrian look in this young preseason. There’s a decent ceiling for him, though. Green is the only player I’ll aggressively target, but I’ll either have a team that will punt FG% or have a dominant first few rounds in that category. I’m just spitballin’, but a couple bigs, Tony Parker and Green are a nice way to start a draft with balance.
Draft season is here!