Pistons at Cavaliers
The Pistons have four of their five starters all set. Andre Drummond is just a monster and there aren’t going to be many more helpful in blocks, boards, steals and field goal percentage than him. He played 34 minutes on Thursday and had eight points, 11 boards, two steals and two blocks. Coach Maurice Cheeks made it seem like a lock that the 300-pound freak will get his 30 minutes per game, which means enormous stats are on the way. Josh Smith isn’t exactly a statistical enigma except for his suddenly plummeting free throw shooting. This preseason, he’s played the role of a tradition small forward with an outside-inside game. This is going to become the norm and I talked about it in Scoring by the Numbers over the summer, so check that out here. If you don’t want to, the conclusion is that J-Smoove will be one of the worst players to own for both percentages this year. He’s not someone to target in Roto, but could be useful in head-to-head formats. Greg Monroe had a very weird line, making 6-of-15 from the field. Interestingly, 11 of his shot attempts came from within seven feet, so this seems like an anomaly. He should have nice field goal percentage, but his 17-10 averages from last year could take a dip. Still, he’s been a value for where he’s been going in drafts.
While the forward spots are clear, the forecast for the guard spots is a cloudy one. Brandon Jennings has his job locked up, but he could miss a few games with a wisdom tooth problem. Will Bynum will take over in his stead and is a solid plug-n-play guy for the first week of the season.
The picture is clearing up at shooting guard. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has fallen by the wayside because he’s shooting just 31 percent this preseason and hasn’t clicked on D yet either. Coach Cheeks said he likes how Chauncey Billups plays, so reading between the lines it looks like he’s going to start. Rodney Stuckey is out with a fractured thumb, but still he looks like he’d make sense on paper as a sixth man since he can get his own shot a lot better than the aging Mr. Big Shot.
Moving to Cleveland, Kyrie Irving looks great and he’s moved up to number five on my eight- and nine-cat draft boards. Dion Waiters is another guy that seems safe in his role and he’s getting to the basket a lot more than he was in the first half of last season, which is a wonderful indicator that he can keep his field goal percentage at an acceptable level. Jarrett Jack is going to sit out 10 days with cartilage irritation, but he’ll pick up the scraps at both guards positions. I’m a little worried since he’s dealt with quite a few knee complications in his career. He’s solid late-round pick and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Kyrie owners to handcuff their pick with Double-Jay.
The small forward spot is in disarray and coach Mike Brown still hasn’t picked his starter. Alonzo Gee looks to have fallen out of the running with his 0-of-4 from the field on Thursday and he missed his only shot in his preseason debut on Tuesday. C.J. Miles had some leg soreness and didn’t play Thursday, but he does make the most sense with the other starters. He provides some range, an area the Cavs will need with the way Kyrie can shred perimeter defenses and set up kick-out treys. Earl Clark is having the best preseason of the bunch, but that’s not saying much. I’d probably steer clear.
Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson seem like they’re going to begin the season as the starting four and five, but there are some murmurs that Andrew Bynum could be ready for opening night. Although, he looked really slow in pre-game warmups, so I’m not sold. Tristan is shooting the ball well in the preseason and he should probably be the first Cleveland big off the board. I’ll pass on the oft-injured AV and Bynum.
The rookies were the biggest story of Thursday. Sergey Karasev was phenomenal in his 34 minutes, scoring 10 points with three boards, one assist, one block and two 3-pointers on 4-of-7 shooting. Of course, Jarrett Jack and Dion Waiters sitting out had something to do with that. Anthony Bennett turned in another nice line vs. the Pistons with 12 points, four boards, one steal and two 3-pointers in 20 minutes. Mike Brown has been ragging on the No. 1 overall pick for his lack of conditioning, so he’s unlikely to start the season hot. I’d say you can try and buy low on him, but just about anyone that drafts a rookie won’t be giving up on them. They took them for a reason. If he’s around after pick 100, I’m interested.
Spurs at Hawks
There’s really not a lot of analysis needed here. The Rotoworld crew isn’t unanimous here, but I feel Kawhi Leonard should be the first Spur off the board in standard leagues and he could be in for a monster season. He’s an eight-cat player for nine-cat leagues with only a lackluster assist total as the only negative. Another conjecture I’m drawn to is Danny Green going to get more minutes and will improve from last year. This is based on Manu Ginobili starting to break down, a player to avoid in most formats. Aron Baynes is also looking good and could sneak some minutes from Tiago Splitter. Baynes is a large human and he caught my eye at Las Vegas Summer League. This is very deep territory here, guys.
After three terrible games, Jeff Teague got it going with a line of 15 points, 12 assists, two steals and one 3-pointer vs. San Antonio. The Hawks didn’t shoot over 43 percent in any game before this one, partially due to Teague making only 29.2 percent of his attempts from the floor. It should be only a matter of time before he gets on the same page as coach Mike Budenholzer for his up-tempo style. Teague could be in for a big year with points, assists, steals and threes.
The other star of the show was Kyle Korver. He torched the Spurs with five threes en route to 26 points. He was second in the league last year in 3-pointers per game and he’s in a better position this year than last year. If you find yourself losing the battle in threes in the early going, don’t be afraid to reach a little for him. Don’t forget he had 0.9 steals, shot 46.1 percent from the field and 85.9 percent from the line last year, plus he should be above his 10.9 points per game, as well. He’s not a specialist.
Al Horford and Paul Millsap are fairly reliable bigs outside of Horford’s small injury red flags. As Boris The Blade says, I always go with reliability.
DeMarre Carroll was active in Thursday’s game, getting to the line 10 times and posting a line of 14 points, seven boards, three assists, one steal and one turnover. He’s taking threes and now that the Hawks have slid Korver to shooting guard, Carroll has little competition for minutes. He’s a compelling pick late in drafts.
Pelicans at Thunder
It’s hard to make a case against any big man looking better than Anthony Davis. In fact, if he didn’t have injury concerns from last year, we’d probably be talking about him being a top-eight pick. Hey, maybe even top five. I have him slotted in at the 11 spot for my nine-cat rankings and I’m buying.
Eric Gordon was fantastic in his preseason debut, scoring 21 points with two 3-pointers on 6-of-9 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the line. We all know the drill with him: EJ can produce, but his health is the issue. Personally, I’m not going to draft him, but if I did want to, I wouldn’t reach for him since there’s a good chance he’ll be sliding in your draft.
As usual, Ryan Anderson got his green light, shooting 6-of-16 from the field for 18 points with two 3-pointers. His numbers might not be as good as last season because of the arrival of Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis likely improving and Jrue Holiday serving as a more capable scoring point guard than Greivis Vasquez. He’s still a strong bet to score in the low teens with at least 2.0 triples. Speaking of Holiday, he had eight assists and he should be able to duplicate his 8.0 per game from last year. On the other hand, his turnovers have been ugly this month with an average of 4.2 per game and not many minutes. He ranked second in the league last year with 3.7 turnovers per game, so nine-cat owners might want to be careful. Also, Brian Roberts has looked outstanding on Thursday and scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. He’s one of the best young backups in the NBA and will obviously be a hot pickup should something happen to Jrue. Al Farouq Aminu looked good but his offense is a disaster, so who cares?
Let’s talk Kevin Durant: He’s good. Moving on, Serge Ibaka hasn’t looked too shabby with solid percentages and scoring in double figures in each of the four preseason games to go with his 2.8 blocks per game. He also had a five-dime game on Tuesday and might be asked to pass the ball more with Russell Westbrook out in order to alleviate some pressure off KD.
Besides that obvious stuff, there were two interesting develops from Thursday’s game. Steven Adams had a coming-out party with a 10-point, 15-board gem in 34 minutes. Scott Brooks had high praise for Adams and it should be interesting to watch how Brooks handles his center spot. Kendrick Perkins is a liability for how the Thunder run their offense, plus he isn’t quick enough under the basket to get those long rebounds anymore. Secondly, Hasheem Thabeet is still the same player he was when the Grizzlies took him over James Harden. As for Adams, it’s going to be tough to target him since his role is undefined, but we’ll be monitoring his progress all year.
My guy Reggie Jackson’s outlook keeps getting better. While he’s unquestionably going to have some tremendous value while Russell Westbrook recovers from his knee surgery, RJ has all but solidified he’s going to be the sixth man once the team is back to full strength. Jeremy Lamb was great in summer league and in the D-League, but his game just hasn’t translated to the NBA yet. OKC almost has to play him, so maybe he can figure out how to play D, understand spacing to not bring double teams to his teammates and get better shots. Back in August, Jackson looked like he was the clear-cut sixth man, then Lamb gained some ground on him, but now Jackson is pulling ahead again. He’s not exactly Mr. October, but Jackson can score, steal, hand out assists and hit 3-pointers, so he’ll have a high ceiling even though his usage rate won’t be too high with Durantula set to be a busy man.
Heat at Nets
Outside of Chris Bosh playing well this preseason, there’s really nothing going on here. I’d also like to add that Dwyane Wade seems to be going a little too high in drafts for my liking.
Full disclosure: I’m a Nets fan. That said, the only Net I can see myself drafting is Brook Lopez, who looks great this preseason. The Nets scheme looks like a molasses offense. The plays set up slowly and it’s hard to believe they were discussing an up-tempo offense. Kevin Garnett played 10 minutes and had two points with one board and one turnover on Thursday, so that won’t get him in the good graces of owners. He’s no longer the centerpiece of an offense and there just isn’t much upside since he’s going to sit out plenty of games. Paul Pierce had seven assists Thursday, but he’s not going to be handling the ball as much once Deron Williams comes back from his ankle ailment. Although, Deron seems likely to have to sit out a handful of games because he hasn’t been able to shake his ankle problems for years. Joe Johnson doesn’t provide enough offense and with Paul Pierce around, so he’ll have an even tougher time producing value worth starting in fantasy leagues.
Suns at Kings
The big story here is Goran Dragic suffering a “mild to moderate” ankle sprain, so there a chance he could miss some time in the regular season (UPDATE: Goran was back on a bike in practice and he should be ready to start the year). He had a terrible game before the injury turning the ball over a whopping six times in 18 minutes. He’s had his fair share of ankle sprains, so it’s probably time to bump him down in rankings. Eric Bledsoe had a boring line with 12 points, two boards, five assists two steals and one 3-pointer. The highlight of his preseason has been the substantial 3.0 steals per game in five outings. He probably should be going off the board in the fourth round of leagues but he’s not. If you want him, don’t count on the ADP data and just grab him unless a proven stud like Mike Conley slides. To round out the guards in Phoenix, Archie Goodwin stepped in to replace Dragic following the injury. It’s been a tale of two sides of the ball for him: Goodwin has been great on defense while his offensive game hasn’t quite come around yet. He fills a need for the Suns with size and quickness on the perimeter, so the team has been rooting for him with comments like Dragic calling him “unstoppable” and coach Jeff Hornacek saying he’s going to give minutes to the Kentucky product. He’s still not worth drafting in most leagues, though.
Markieff Morris had a nice game on Thursday with 15 points, seven boards, two assists and one 3-pointer. There was a lot to like about him a month ago, but Channing Frye being cleared has dampened the mood a bit. Frye had a rough game, missing all five of his shots and looked out of sorts in the paint on both ends. He’s going to have his bad games this year and really should only be helpful in boards and treys. It’s hard to blame him to be inconsistent though, after missing an entire season with an enlarged heart. Taking Morris could still pay off due to his ability to add steals, blocks and threes.
The small forward position is one of the most unpredictable of any in the league. Gerald Green had the best one-game performance with a 19-point outing on Oct. 13 but he’s failed to get it going in any other game. P.J. Tucker has the best probability to get the start and see the most minutes, but he’s not exactly a stat-per-minute dynamo. Marcus Morris is also in the mix even though he’s been a letdown since the Suns traded for him last year. It’s worth mentioning that Hornacek has mentioned playing the matchup, so there’s that. If you want to take one of these three, I’d lean towards Green for the biggest upside. To be clear, we’re talking pretty deep here.
If you want to make a case that Anthony Davis isn’t the most impressive big man in October, DeMarcus Cousins would likely be your best lead example. He went off with 29 points, nine boards and six steals on Thursday while going to the line an unfathomable 18 times in 28 minutes while the Suns absolutely had no answer for him. He dropped a 31-point line two games ago, too. Mike Malone is an offensive guru and DMC is almost a lock to bounce back, so there’s really no way he’ll be sliding past 30 in most credible drafts.
Besides Boogie, it’s a total mess in Sacramento. At point guard, Greivis Vasquez had a better line on Thursday with 10 points, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Isaiah Thomas was quiet with 2-of-9 shooting for four points in 21 minutes. It’s still too close to call who’s going to win and it would hardly be a shock to see IT2 get the nod, so considering that Thomas is going four rounds later, he makes more sense as a draft pick. Vasquez runs a slow pace, which might not fit Malone’s scheme. Plus, Cousins and Thomas have shown they can play well together.
Power forward is starting to clear up and it looks like Patrick Patterson has the edge over Jason Thompson. Pat-Pat also takes threes, so he’ll have a bigger upside. He’s a sneaky pick late in deeper drafts once the obvious sleepers are off the board.
Jimmer came out of nowhere in his start on Thursday, knocking down five 3-pointers en route to 23 points with five assists and two steals. Still, he can’t play defense and that will be too big of a roadblock for him to get minutes. Marcus Thornton played just eight minutes on Thursday, but was in double figures in each of his last two games and looks to be the first wing that should come off the board in hoops drafts. Rookie Ben McLemore still hasn’t looked like a guy that can get his own shot and it doesn’t help that he has just three assists in four games. He has a beautiful jumper, but it might take a while before we see it reflect in the fantasy world. Travis Outlaw has received some minutes for his new coach, and that’s nice to see from the vet, but it’s still difficult to see him turning his career around after such a large sample size.