It’s been a torturous handful of months for the fantasy basketball fanatic in all of us. Left with nothing but a handful of headlines featuring weight loss, weight gain, and minor improvements in overall health; our appetites for relevant fantasy news have struggled to find sustenance. But fear not my friends, the dark times will soon be behind us! Media day opens up on Monday, Training camps begin Tuesday, and we get our first game of preseason action on Friday, October 2.
Let’s take a look at the relevant fantasy information that leaked out over the past week:
I can’t justifiably start this column without giving a shout-out to Golden State legend Jason Richardson, who announced his retirement from professional basketball on Wednesday. If you don’t know why he was such a legend to Dubs fans around the world, I suggest educating yourself with a quick YouTube search of “Jason Richardson Dunk Contest.” You’re welcome.
Stan Van Gundy said that he expects Andre Drummond's minutes to go up this season with Greg Monroe no longer in Detroit, so if you weren’t already drooling about his prospective fantasy value, go ahead and start salivating now. Looking at Drummond’s per-36-minutes numbers from last season of 16.3 points, 15.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.2 blocks per game we can see what a monster Andre can be, and he is going to fully unleashed this year. Additionally, his usage rate of 22.0 climbed to 24.8 when Monroe was not alongside him last season, so as long as you’re punting free throws, there’s a lot to like about Mr. Drummond.
Depth in Boston could be a Fantasy Killer
Brad Stevens said he would have no problem using a 10-man rotation due to the Celtics depth, which is about as unfavorable of a statement a fantasy owner can hear. The Celtics frontcourt is absolutely loaded with David Lee, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Jerebko and Jordan Mickey all competing for minutes, and that’s a situation I would recommend avoiding in pretty much any league. It doesn’t get much better in the backcourt with Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Evan Turner, R.J. Hunter and James Young all competing for minutes, and really the only guy I’m truly targeting on this team is Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is the Boston’s best scorer, and he posted averages of 19.0 points, 5.4 assists and 2.3 three-pointers per game through 21 games with the Celtics last season. You could justify Bradley as a late-round selection, but I’m not really that interested in anyone else.
Anthony Bennett signed in Toronto, while World Peace returned to Los Angeles.
Buzz on C.J. McCollum continues
McCollum said that’s he’ll have “ample opportunities” with the Blazers this upcoming season and that he’s ready to step into a feature role with the club. He sure will have ample opportunities with the departure of four of the five starters from last year, and he’s setup for a full breakout year. If you’ve purchased the draft guide, you know how high all the Rotoworld staff is on McCollum. Draft him.
Brett Brown hot on Sauce Castillo
76ers head coach Brett Brown said that Nik “Sauce Castillo” Stauskas has “a lot of potential,” and I love him as a sleeper pick on draft day.
Stanley Johnson has been impressing his teammates during early practices, just like he impressed us during Summer League with averages of 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game. I love him as a late-round pick
A Ryno in New Orleans
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said that Ryan Anderson will be "a big part" of the team this season. Anderson struggled last year, shooting just 39.9 percent from the field and a career-worst 34.0 percent from beyond the arc to go with averages of 13.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 three-pointers per game. However, I think he could have a solid bounce-back year under Coach Gentry, and given how far he’s been falling in drafts, I think he’s a serious sleeper candidate.
Pau Gasol won the EuroBasket MVP, and deservingly so. With Ricky Rubio (ankle), Serge Ibaka (knee) and Marc Gasol all opting out of tournament play, Gasol took it upon himself to guide the Spanish National Team their third EuroBasket first-place finish in four years, behind averages of 25.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. The 35-year-old showed he clearly has something left in the tank, and he’ll be worth an early-round selection on draft day.
Gobert couldn’t capture the same glory with Team France, but he still had himself a solid tournament with averages of 10.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game on 59.3 percent shooting from the field and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe. If you’ve ever read a blurb on Gobert, you know how high the entire Rotoworld team is on him this year. Draft him.
Tony Parker on the other hand, didn’t have a very good tournament at all. Through nine games, Parker shot a putrid 34.3 percent from the field, and he just looked like he lost a step. He was barely worth owning last year while only making it through 68 games, and I won’t be looking to have him on any of my teams this season.
Nicolas Batum had an up-and-down tournament; shooting 35.3 percent from the field to go with averages of 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. However, I’m not really worried about Batum as he’s 26 years old and headed to Charlotte where he’ll start at shooting guard and be one of the main guys on offense. Don’t let an unsatisfying EuroBasket performance dissuade you from drafting him.
Nemanja Bjelica showed why Flip Saunders signed him to a three-year deal this offseason, doing it all for Serbia on his way to averages of 13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 three-pointers per game. I foresee him earning a sixth man role with the Wolves, and I like him as a late-round pick in deep leagues
Jonas Valanciunas finished the tournament with averages of 16.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and the key to him unlocking his fantasy value is earning the trust of head coach Dwane Casey. The franchise, however, did reward Jonas with a big four-year, $64 million contract this summer so Casey will likely be nudged by management to finally give him significant minutes. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen, but given Valanciunas’ massive upside, he’s more than worth a mid-round selection on draft day.
Cleared for Camp
Here’s a quick list of the guys that were cleared for training camp this past week:
Chris Bosh - Lungs
He’s been cleared for contact, and he’ll be ready to compete when the 2015-16 season gets underway. Bosh was a fourth-round guy on a per-game basis last season with averages of 21.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 three-pointers per game, and he could make for a nice value-pick in the mid-rounds.
Alec Burks - Shoulder
He hasn’t suited up in nine months, but he’ll be good to go for camp. Burks averaged 13.9 points, 4.2 boards, 3.0 assists and 1.0 three-pointer per game last season, and he could be looking at an increased role this year sans Dante Exum. He’s worth a late-round selection.
Kyle Korver – Ankle, Elbow
Korver has been cleared for basketball activities, and he’ll be ready to resume his sharpshooting ways in Atlanta when the season begins. His averages of 12.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 2.9 three-pointers and 1.4 turnovers translate to fantasy gold in 9-cat leagues, and he’ll make for a quality early middle-round selection on draft day.
Thabo Sefolosha – Ankle
The NYPD ended Sefolosha’s 2014-15 season early, but he’ll be ready when the 2015-16 season kicks off. He’ll likely have a larger role with the Hawks now that DeMarre Carroll is a Raptor, but he’s never been a guy that brings a lot to the stat sheet. Ignore him.
Shelvin Mack – Shoulder
The third-string point guard in the ATL will be fine to start the season.
Aaron Gordon – Jaw
Gordon was “horsing around with his brother” and fractured his jaw over the summer, but it won’t affect his status for training camp. He was solid during Summer League, posting averages of 21.7 points, 11.7 boards, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.7 blocks and 2.0 three-pointers per game, and he’ll make for a great late-round target on draft day.
Marcus Smart – Fingers
Smart will be fighting Isaiah Thomas for the starting point guard position in Boston during training camp, and if he loses the battle, he may fall out of the equation in standard leagues.
Kevin Durant – Foot
The former consensus No. 1 fantasy pick will look to restore his place amongst the NBA elite in what will hopefully be a bounce-back season for the Durantula. I’m very confident that there will not be any reoccurring issues, and I’m comfortable taking him after the No. 3 overall selection on draft day.
Serge Ibaka – Knee
Serge had a bit of a down year last season, struggling to get things done as the No. 1 option on offense when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were out, and eventually missing the final 18 games of the season with a knee injury. However, Westbrook and Durant are both healthy and ready to go, which will make things much easier for Serge to come out strong. The knee shouldn’t be an issue, and he could make for an excellent second-round selection on draft day as people have forgotten how truly elite Air Congo can be.
Cameron Payne – Finger
Nick Collison – Knee
Mr. Irrelevant is a go for the 2015-16 season
Josh McRoberts – Knee
With the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, McRoberts could struggle to find enough minutes in Miami to matte in most leagues.
Alexis Ajinca – Achilles Soreness
Kobe Bryant – Father Time
The Black Mamba has been officially cleared for basketball activities, and he’ll be 100 percent healthy heading into training camp. However, he’s made it through just 41 games in two seasons of basketball, and due to crazy inefficiency issues he didn’t even crack the top-100 on a per-game basis in 9-cat leagues last season. If you need some more info on why not to draft Bryant: He’s going to have a hard cap on his minutes, he’ll likely sit in certain back-to-back sets, and his name will likely have fans overdrafting him. There are just too many reasons not to draft Kobe this year.
Jrue Holiday – Leg
Alvin Gentry dropped a bomb on Thursday, saying that Jrue Holiday will be limited to 15 minutes per game until January. He also cautioned that he will not hesitate to rest Jrue in back-to-back sets, so it’s clear that Holiday will not be a fun guy to own during the early stages of the 2015-16 season. Jrue is a skilled basketball player, and when he’s getting starters minutes he’s a top-30 asset, but it’s tough to overlook the fact that he’s spent an average of 45 games on the sidelines over the past two seasons. I’d much rather have Tyreke Evans.
Brandon Jennings – Achilles
Jennings has been cleared for basketball activities, but head coach Stan Van Gundy said he won’t begin going through any serious work until mid-November. Achilles injuries are no joke, and I’m not touching Jennings in any leagues on draft day. The flipside of this is that Reggie Jackson’s minutes and spot in the starting lineup will go unchallenged for some time in Detroit
Speaking of Achilles injuries, the Mavs said they are in no rush to bring Wesley Matthews (Achilles) along in training camp. He’s another guy I’m not touching.
Jabari Parker – ACL (knee)
Jabari Parker is expected to participate in training camp, although it’s not currently known to what degree. He’ll likely be on a minutes cap for at least the early stages of the season, and given that players tend to take two years to recover from knee injuries, I’d rather let someone else take a chance on Parker.
Donatas Motiejunas – Back
D-Mo is unlikely to be ready for training camp, meaning Terrence Jones has zero competition for the starting power forward position in Houston. It’s possible Motiejunas returns to action by the start of the regular-season, but playing limited minutes behind Jones will likely make Motiejunas a non-option in standard leagues.
Chandler Parsons – Knee
Parsons says that he’ll be good to go for the regular-season, but it remains unclear if he’ll be ready for training camp. It finally came out on Sunday, through sources of beat writer Tim MacMahon, that Parsons underwent “minor hybrid” microfracture surgery, which is a bit more serious than your standard knee scope. He remains without an official timetable to return, and given the current construction of the Mavs roster, Parsons is a guy I could see getting shutdown at some point once Dallas is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. That being said, he’ll also be a significant part of the Mavs offense, so he’ll make for a true risk-reward pick towards the second-half of the draft.
Kyrie Irving – Knee
Kyrie Irving is expected to be available for training camp on a limited basis, and the Cavs continue to play coy when discussing a realistic timeline for Irving to return. Some speculate that he’ll be out until January, although it’s tough to see him sitting out a Christmas day matchup with the Warriors. Perhaps he returns earlier than that, but maybe he doesn’t, and the Cavs seem inclined to keep us guessing. Uncle Drew is a first-round asset that you will be able to get a substantial discount on draft day, whether you want to assume the risk will be your decision. I’m not really that interested in drafting him given his injury history, and the fact the Cavs can win a decent amount of games without him due to their Eastern Conference distinction.
Kevin Love – Shoulder
Kelly Olynyk dislocated Love’s shoulder during the playoffs, and it was such a severe dislocation that it required surgery. However, this happened back in April, and he was given a 4-6 month timeline, meaning he should be fine for the regular-season. Love will see a bump in value for however long Kyrie Irving (knee) is sidelined, but even with Cleveland fully healthy, he was able to put up third-round value on a per-game bass last season. I’m not that high on Love due to his lack of blocks, but if his averages of 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 three-pointers per game entice you, go ahead and target him towards the end of the third-round.
Timofey Mozgov – Knee
Timofey Mozgov underwent arthroscopic knee surgery back in July, but he’s not expected to have any limitations during training camp. He will, however, have some increased competition for minutes with Anderson Varejao (Achilles) set to return, and Sasha Kaun now officially on the roster. After the All-Star break, Mozzy only managed to put up twelfth-round value with averages of 10.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.0 block per game, so I can’t recommend taking him before the final few rounds.
Anderson Varejao – Achilles
Varejao is on track to be 100 percent for training camp, but I’m not very high on a 33-year-old who’s coming off an Achilles injury.
JaVale McGee – Leg
Shaqtin’ a Fool’s star still hasn’t fully gotten over his leg injury that has basically kept him sidelined for the past two seasons, and he’s doubtful to be ready for training camp. Lower body issues for big men are always concerning, and partner that with the fact that McGee has been largely irrelevant on the fantasy landscape for three years and there’s not a lot to like here. If you’re still riding the 2011 hype train, now would be the time to step off.
Darrun Hilliard – Broken Nose
He won’t miss any time, but he also might not make the team.
Chris McCullough – Knee
If you don’t know who this guy is, don’t feel bad, he’s a rookie and likely won’t play the entire 2015-16 season.
Jusuf Nurkic – Knee
Nurkic, who underwent knee surgery to repair a partially torn patella tendon, is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp. However, he should be good to go by the time the regular-season rolls around, and remains a quality late-round target on draft day given his upside. He averaged 9.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per game during the month of February last season.
Evan Fournier – Ankle
Fournier is dealing with a minor ankle issue that will sideline him for the beginning of camp. He’ll be backing up Victor Oladipo this year, so it’ll be tough for him to earn enough minutes to matter in most leagues.
Mike Dunleavy – Back Surgery
Dunleavy underwent a surprise microdiscectomy procedure on Friday, which will keep him out of action for at least the next 8-10 weeks. With him set to miss training camp and a chunk of the regular-season, Doug McDermott will have the opportunity to step into the starting lineup. If McBuckets can secure a starting spot, he’d make for a nice late-round selection given head coach Fred Hoiberg’s fondness of the 3-point shot.
Kendall Marshall – Knee
Marshall is expected to be ready before Tony Wroten (knee), so he’ll get a head start on the point guard position battle in Philly. Marshall himself is coming off a pretty severe knee injury, but his game translates to fantasy a bit better than Wroten’s, and his ability to consistently knock down the 3-point shot would give the 76ers some much-needed floor spacing. He’s worth a late-round flier on draft day.
Ricky Rubio – Ankle
Rubio is “getting there” with his ankle injury, according to interim head coach Sam Mitchell, although he still has yet to be cleared for camp. Through four years of NBA experience, Rubio has only had one healthy season, so I’m not all that eager to take a chance on him on draft day.
Position Battle Updates
Robert Covington is penciled in as the starting SF in Philly
The starting small forward position in Philadelphia is Covington’s to lose, and I don’t see Jerami Grant unseating him. Covington is a bit unproven, but given that he was a mid-round guy all of last season, I’m fine with swooping him up towards the later rounds on draft day.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope likely the starting SG in Detroit
While Jodie Meeks believes that he can earn his place in the starting lineup, Stan Van Gundy has made comments that would imply that battle has already been won by KCP. Training camp could change this of course, but there’s also a good chance the pair get locked into a value killing timeshare. This is a situation I’d recommend avoiding on draft day.
Wes Johnson currently the favorite to start at SF in Los Angeles.
It’s very early, but reports thus far would indicate that Doc Rivers intends to bring Paul Pierce off the bench for the Clippers, meaning that Johnson would be the starter. This is another situation that has timeshare written all over it, although playing next to Chris Paul tends to give guys a lot of open shots, and Johnson is a capable 3-point shooter with the ability to chip in some defensive stats. Still, I’m only going to be targeting Johnson as a late-round guy in deep leagues, and I’m not all that interested in Pierce.
Lionel Hollins projects likely starters
Lionel Hollins said that Jarrett Jack, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez will get the first shot to start, and looking at the depth chart, it’s unlikely any of these guys loses their projected starters designation during training camp. Jack, Bogdanovic, and Johnson should be viewed as late-round targets, with Young trending towards the middle rounds, and Brook Lopez making for a risky early-round selection.
Frank Vogel hints at Pacers’ starting five
Let’s start with PG-13. George immediately expressed displeasure with the idea of going up against opposing bigs, and changing his position, but that’s not going to deter Vogel from forcing him to play there. Here’s George’s full quote:
“Um, you know it’s, uh, I was open for – to try it out. It’s definitely a change. It’s something new. We’ll see how it goes. As the season goes, it might be better for me to just be at my regular position. But I told them I was open to the situation and (we’ll) see where it goes. It’s just being outmatched strength-wise with guys at the four spot is really the only concern. It’s not really the concern for one game. It’s the concern just over the course of a season just how my body would take it, especially coming off the injury that I had and a whole year of rehabbing. Just not sure of how it’s going to take it. (We’ll) start camp, see how camp goes. Again, I’m not too thrilled on it, but it could change the more comfortable I get at the position. But we’ll see. But again, I could very much end up loving it, so it’s all up in the air. I’m open to the position.”
It’s not clear exactly how much time George will spend at the four-spot, but it is clear that the Pacers fully intend to try and get him acclimated towards playing that position. I’m not quite as low on George as the rest of the Rotoworld staff, but that doesn’t entirely remove the obvious risk from the equation. George was a top-11 talent in 9-cat leagues during the 2013-14 season, posting averages of 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.3 three-pointers per game on 42.4 percent shooting from the field and 86.4 percent from the stripe. I think he could be a slow starter after spending most of the 2014-15 season on the sidelines, but I don’t mind drafting him in the third-round.
Paul George starting at the four-spot also would mean that Jordan Hill would come off the bench. Hill really wasn’t that special with the Lakers last season, posting averages of 12.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game through 26.8 minutes of action, which was only good enough for twelfth-round value in 9-cat leagues. I’m not going to be aggressively targeting Hill in any format.
Mahinmi could very well start the year as the Pacers starting center, and George Hill did give him an endorsement saying: “We hope so,” Hill responded when asked about Mahinmi’s status as the starting center. “I think he deserves it right now, he’s our lone big that’s been here the longest. He’s done a great job when he’s been in the game so far for us with changing the style of play and the speed of the game and doing a great job defensively. I know he’s been working hard this summer to try to step up in that role we’re missing right now from Roy [Hibbert] being gone. Knowing that we’re going to miss Roy a lot but I think Ian will do a great job in trying to fill that void.” It’s nice that Hill has his teammates back, but Mahinmi isn’t really one to light up the stat sheet. In fact, in his six starts last season Mahinmi only managed to average 7.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 block per game. That’s not going to cut it in standard leagues.
The most interesting part in this equation is how Myles Turner factors into the rotation. Larry Bird has indicated that Turner will play “a lot of minutes” for the Pacers this season, so while he may not start right out the gates, given the Pacers’ current roster construction they’ll have every incentive to help Turner along in his development. He was a monster during Summer League with averages of 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game, and partner that with the fact that he’s got 3-point range, Turner makes for quite the alluring late-round selection on draft day.
Starting PF position in Charlotte up for grabs
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said he has not decided who will start at power forward this upcoming season, so it looks like Frank Kaminsky will have every opportunity to dethrone Cody Zeller as the team’s starting four during training camp. Clifford has mentioned a few times that he wants to run a four-out, one-in offense, meaning he needs his starting power forward to be able to shoot the three. Given that Zeller has attempted just two 3-point shots (making one of them) throughout his two-year career, I’d say the odds are well in Kaminsky’s favor to land in the starting lineup. Zeller wasn’t even worth owning in standard leagues as a starter last season, so his move to the bench will solidify his place on the waiver wire in most leagues. Kaminsky on the other hand is worth a late-round pick on draft day.
Depth in Los Angeles will lead to a dip in minutes for Jamal Crawford
Crawford said that he expects to sacrifice some minutes this upcoming season with the Clippers brining in Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce and Wes Johnson, so it could be tough for him to return to last year’s averages of 15.8 points and 1.9 three-pointers per game. Crawford’s game is limited to points and 3-pointers, so he’s only worth a late-round flier in standard leagues.
Al Jefferson realized Popeye’s wasn’t great fuel for an athlete and dropped over 20 pounds 👏👏👏
Marvin Williams lost 10-12 pounds 👌
P.J. Hairston joined the club by shedding 13 pounds 🌟