Aaron Bruski

Offseason Beat

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You Down With MPG?

Friday, October 25, 2013



NORTHWEST DIVISION MINUTE PROJECTIONS

* Rosters clipped at times to remove irrelevant players

* A zero denotes a rotation slot not guaranteed

* A split designation means that something big will change the rotation like a player’s return.  An mpg range denoted with an ‘E’ means that it’s the player’s early ranks, an ‘L’ means late, and a ‘Y’ means the year-long mpg projection.  

*For up-to-date player news and information, click here to go to our player news page.


DENVER NUGGETS

Ty Lawson (33-36) / Andre Miller (25-28E, 23-26)
Randy Foye (25-29) / Nate Robinson (20-24E, 16-21) / Evan Fournier (0, 5-10,*)
Wilson Chandler (32-35E,27-30Y) / Danilo Gallinari (0, 25-30) / Jordan Hamilton (5-10E, 0, 6-12)
Kenneth Faried (27-30) / Darrell Arthur (15-22) / Anthony Randolph (0, 5-10)
JaVale McGee (28-34) / J.J. Hickson (21-26) / Timofey Mozgov (0, 9-18)


I high ranking league source I talk with grew up a Nuggets fan and spent the entire summer cursing the team’s offseason, with the exception of hiring Brian Shaw which has been seen around the league as a positive.

Shaw is coming in and trying to put his imprint on things, and while he won’t use the triangle he desperately wants to slow the game down and pound the rock.  Interestingly, he seems very stressed out, much like Nuggets fans were after losing GM Masai Ujiri and Andre Iguodala while wrapping their team around lightning rod JaVale McGee.  They also picked up odd spare parts in Robinson, Foye and Hickson, so needless to say things will be pretty different this year.  

What’s still the same is the presence of Lawson and Miller, who will bleed over minutes-wise into the shooting guard bucket, which will in turn squeeze Foye and Robinson and that’s before any talk about Chandler at shooting guard. It’s possible Shaw was thinking about life after Gallo’s return when slotting Chandler there, kicking Foye to the bench and letting him fight with Robinson for scraps.  

Similarly, the frontcourt is also a bit of a mess, with Hickson and Arthur being more than capable backups getting setup behind two guys in Faried and McGee that traditionally haven’t played much.  Watching a recent Nuggets game (on their home floor), the reasons that McGee hasn’t played much were on full display and there was a lot of stress (for lack of a better) term being shown by the players.  Maybe they’re having trouble picking up the new system, or my fear is that the suddenly unstable franchise doesn’t have the right chemistry.  

We’ll see how it goes, but as you can see by the splits there are some complicating factors for the main fantasy plays, but the guys you’ll be targeting seem to be in control of their destiny to start the season.  

Owners will want to keep an eye on hamstring injuries for both Faried and Chandler that don’t seem to be getting better.  In this case of Chandler it’s a bigger concern given his injury history, while Faried was pegged by us to play 80 games.  I haven’t adjusted that on my end because we simply haven’t heard a lot about this, and the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the trade rumor about Faried earlier in the week had some merit.  


OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Russell Westbrook (32-35) / Reggie Jackson (35-38E, 29-34Y) / Derek Fisher (0, 8-12)
Thabo Sefolosha (30-36E, 26-31Y) / Jeremy Lamb (22-28E, 21-25Y)
Kevin Durant (38-42) / Perry Jones (0, 8-10) / Andre Roberson (0, 5-10)
Serge Ibaka (36-39E, 34-37Y) / Nick Collison (19-24)
Kendrick Perkins (16-20) / Steven Adams (18-23) / Hasheem Thabeet (0, 8-14)

I guess I should start by throwing out the Scott Brooks disclaimer.  He could at any point in time decide that his old dogs Perkins and Fisher need minutes to instill toughness in the rest of the team (because they’re tough alright?!).

But this is a different season for Brooks.  It’s not just you and I standing on rooftops shouting about the mind-numbing lineup and rotation decisions, but you’re finally starting to hear other analysts figure it out – even if their logic is ‘Thunder no ring, blame coach.’  

That doesn’t mean the logic is wrong, though.  Brooks squandered two legitimate championship shots and then last year it was a no-go because of Westbrook’s knee injury, though they could have still been competitive if they had you-know-who.  

Now that the walls are closing in a little bit, I think we’ll see less of the ‘coach by narrative’ stuff in which broad concepts like toughness and leadership override common sense.  

Playoff seeding is as important as ever for a Thunder team lacking a legitimate post presence, and while Jackson is a starting quality point guard and Lamb has some potential – depth becomes an issue in the playoffs when Lamb and rookie Adams have practically no experience.  They need the home atmosphere more than any other team that’s getting consideration for the title.  

So hopefully Brooks doesn’t kill the drill here.  Ibaka has looked like a bona fide offensive threat shooting the ball and outside of Durant he’s the only other difference maker on the floor.  That said, Jackson has been dynamic and I’m about to move him into areas of the Bruski 150 that will probably start up the type of storm that rhymes with spit.  Sefolosha is ready to be a solid contributor and Lamb is struggling with defense but looks fine offensively.  

That puts them in the conversation for a title when Westbrook comes back.  But if Brooks gives minutes to Perkins and Fisher instead of his more deserving players, I think that will mark the closing of the Thunder’s playoff window.  Then again, it’s probably Westbrook’s fault.  


MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Ricky Rubio (32-36) / J.J. Barea (17-22E, 16-21Y)
Kevin Martin (30-34) / Alexey Shved (14-20E, 13-17Y)
Corey Brewer (29-32E, 24-27Y) / Chase Budinger (knee, DEC/JAN, 18-23) / Shabazz Muhammad (0, 8-16)
Kevin Love (37-39) / Derrick Williams (17-23E, 15-21Y) / Dante Cunningham (15-20)
Nikola Pekovic (30-33) / Gorgui Dieng (0, 9-15) / Ronny Turiaf (0, 8-12) / Chris Johnson (0, 8-12)
 
The Wolves are going to be one of the best watches in basketball this year, using the Rick Adelman offense with one of the game’s best passers behind center. Kevin Love is back and he’s going to be firing away with no regard for human life, as will Martin, and with role players in Brewer and Pek joining them in the starting lineup the two scorers are going to put John Stamos to shame.

Derrick Williams is still stuck in his tweener role and Minnesota begrudgingly picked up his $6.3 million option year, but that doesn’t mean Adelman is going to put up with the lack of dirty work stats and low percentage shooting. Chase Budinger’s knee surgery will open things up for Williams and others, but with no clear cut beneficiary besides Brewer I wouldn’t upgrade anybody else significantly.  It would be interesting to see Shabazz make it on the floor, but that seems unlikely based on his quiet preseason.  


PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Damian Lillard (34-37) / Mo Williams (27-31) / Earl Watson (0, 6-12)
Wesley Matthews (31-34) / C.J. McCollum (foot, 15-23) / Will Barton (0, 6-12) / Allen Crabbe (0, 6-12)
Nicolas Batum (36-39) / Dorell Wright (16-20) / Victor Claver (0, 6-12, *)
LaMarcus Aldridge (34-36) / Thomas Robinson (12-18)
Robin Lopez (27-31) / Joel Freeland (0, 12-18) / Meyers Leonard (0, 12-22)

The Blazers fantasy guys were fun to own last year, as the team’s lack of depth virtually guaranteed production every night.  This year will be a little bit different, as the studs are still mostly insulated from the team’s newfound depth, but it won’t be necessary to burn the starters out like they did last year.  

The team drafted McCollum to be the team’s backup swing guard but then also added Williams, who will gobble up most of the reserve minutes for however long he stays healthy.  McCollum has about a month to go but a timetable hasn’t been released so we’re guessing, and whenever he gets back it will push Wright and Robinson into tighter quarters minutes-wise.  

Lopez got some good news on Thursday when it was announced that Leonard had fallen behind Freeland, who hasn’t done much to distinguish himself at the NBA level besides foul really hard.  

The story here from a fantasy perspective, though, is that each of the guys that will be drafted in most leagues will all see some sort of minute hit, as Williams, McCollum, Wright and Robinson are all serviceable backups.  In the case of a player like Aldridge, who I’m currently catching flak over for ranking him so low in the Bruski 150, there won’t be a ton of incentive for these guys to push through injury in a year of non-contention.  


UTAH JAZZ

John Lucas (23-30E, 15-21Y) / Scott Machado*  / Lester Hudson * / Jamaal Tinsley*  / Trey Burke (25-31, 27-35L)
Alec Burks (32-36) / Brandon Rush (21-25) / Ian Clark (0, 10-20)
Gordon Hayward (36-39) / Richard Jefferson (15-22E, 10-18Y) / Marvin Williams (Achilles, 17-23)
Derrick Favors (33-37) / Jeremy Evans (12-25)
Enes Kanter (34-38) / Rudy Gobert (8-16)
 
The Jazz finally got rid of the logjam down low by letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk, and we’re finally going to get to see Favors and Kanter get all they can eat.  Foul trouble will be the only thing stopping those two from logging huge minutes, as backup PF Evans is going to be pushed around down low and Gobert, while showing well the other night, is still a long ways away from stealing Kanter’s minutes.   

The most pressing issue for the Jazz is what to do at point guard for the next month or so while Burke is out, and there are (count ‘em) five backups vying for the job.  I listed Lucas as being in the lead, but that’s a slim lead at best and a timeshare is probably likely – that is if they don’t slide Burks over and let he and Hayward share the duties.  That scenario would put Jefferson in a short-term starting job at small forward, and because Rush still isn’t close to playing we could be seeing Clark try to build off his en fuego Summer League.  

Burks is not a fantasy friendly player but he’s also going to get significant minutes this season, and a step forward in development at any point could shoot him up the ranks with those type of minutes.  Hayward is set to go gonzo and I’ll be moving him up the Bruski 150 on the next review as it’s abundantly clear (if it wasn’t already) that he’ll be the man in Utah.  


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Aaron Bruski has covered hoops for Rotoworld since 2008 and has competed in national fantasy sports competitions for nearly two decades. You can also find his work over at ProBasketballTalk, where he received critical acclaim for his in-depth reporting of the Kings' relocation saga. Hit him on Twitter at Aaronbruski.
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