There’s just a little more than a couple of months before the NBA season starts back up, but you know that news around the NBA is slow when the biggest headline of the week was Kobe Bryant presenting a banner to Taylor Swift at the Staples Center. I’ve been keeping myself from going insane by doing some mock drafts on Yahoo Sports and contributing to our awesome Draft Guide, but training camp is just around the corner and it’s never too early to start preparing. That being said, there were some notable stories this week that could have some serious fantasy implications, so I’ll break them all down for you one by one!
Jared Sullinger finally finds a treadmill
Sullinger has posted so many shirtless photos on social media that it’s starting to get weird, but I have to give him a lot of credit and it looks like he has lost a lot of weight. He has been a huge injury risk going all the way back to his days at Ohio State, so it’s nice to see him taking the offseason seriously and the reduced weight should help him avoid injuries. The Celtics have until Oct. 31 to give him a contract extension, but it’s more likely that they let him hit restricted free agency next summer. The added motivation of playing for a new contract is great, but the arrival of David Lee and Amir Johnson really hurts his outlook for the 2015-16 season. If you feel like taking a chance on him in fantasy, I’d advise you to wait until the later rounds of drafts.
Raptors sign Jonas Valanciunas to four-year, $64 million deal
First of all, that’s a lot of money to pay for a player that constantly gets benched in the fourth quarter, but I still think it’s the right decision for Toronto. I actually blame head coach Dwane Casey more than I do Valanciunas for his low minutes last season (26.2 per game), but I still think that he needs to develop better instincts on the defensive end before he can truly realize his potential. It’s no secret that the Raptors will probably look to play a lot of small ball again, so I personally wouldn’t reach for J-Val until the end of the middle rounds as long as Casey is at the helm. He averaged 12.0 points, 8.7 boards and 1.2 blocks on 57.2 percent shooting from the field last season, so he still has plenty of upside.
Myles Turner is hoping to be a starter
I don’t normally target rookies very often in fantasy, but Turner captured my attention at summer league and I’ve been hooked since. It’s important not to put to put too much stock into these games because the quality isn’t great, but his averages of 18.7 points, 8.3 boards and 4.3 blocks per game were impressive. To make things even better, the Pacers frontcourt is incredibly thin with David West and Roy Hibbert gone, so Turner could start alongside Jordan Hill on opening night. And once Hill’s wheels eventually fall off like they always do towards the end of the season, Turner’s role will only grow. To be clear, I’d still wait until the later rounds to pounce on Turner, and it should be noted that he has had some problems with his knees in the past.
Shabazz Muhammad sheds 30 pounds
To be honest, I was stunned. Muhammad didn’t have the best reputation early on his career, but he had some very impressive moments last season and it’s nice to see him taking his fitness seriously. He only played in 38 games last season because of an oblique strain and a ruptured ligament in his middle finger which required surgery, but his averages of 13.5 points, 4.1 boards and 1.2 assists on 48.9 percent shooting from the field were solid. His role isn’t going to be great while Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Martin are healthy, but Muhammad’s playing time could increase dramatically if the Wolves fall out of playoff contention in the West and begin to prioritize player development.
Jamal Crawford on the move?
Crawford has been a regular in the rumor mill this summer, with the Knicks, Cavaliers and Heat reportedly interested in acquiring his services. I’m not too sure why the Clippers are so open to moving him, but it makes you wonder if they are seriously comfortable with giving his minutes away to Austin Rivers and Lance Stephenson. Regardless, Crawford is still a late-round target as long as he stays in Los Angeles, but it was obvious from watching last season’s playoffs that Father Time is catching up with him.
Austin Rivers says he is “straight up better than a lot of those dudes” on Team USA
I know, I had a good laugh too.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said that James and Irving are expected to see fewer minutes during the regular season, and that makes a lot of sense. James was asked to do way too much last season and he had nothing left in the tank at the end of the NBA Finals, so Richard Jefferson will likely pick up a few of his minutes off the bench. As for Irving, the addition of Mo Williams should ease his workload significantly, plus it gives the Cavs some extra insurance in case it takes Irving a while to get his legs under him after recovering from knee surgery this summer. James is still a safe first round target, while Irving is worth a look in the second round if you don’t mind some risk.
J.R. Smith re-signs with the Cavaliers
Smith bet on himself and turned down a $6.4 million player option at the end of last season, but he will now settle for a two-year deal with the first year worth around $5 million. Smith is the definition of a streaky shooter and he was pretty pathetic during the NBA Finals, but this is the right decision for Cleveland. The addition of Mo Williams to the second unit should take the ball out of Smith’s hands more, so he can now focus completely on getting open and draining 3-pointers. However, as long as Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love are active, Smith isn’t going to get enough touches to matter outside of deeper fantasy leagues.
Parsons (knee) was spotted getting up some shots without a knee brace on Wednesday, and it appears that he is on track to be ready in time for training camp. With Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis no longer in town, Parsons should facilitate a lot more on offense and is an intriguing mid-round pick. I tend to stay away from players with knee injuries, but a strong showing in preseason would ease my mind. As for Matthews (Achilles), he is still limited to shooting and dribbling, but he made it clear that he will be playing on opening night. There is some obvious risk involved with Matthews, but he could be the second or third option on offense this season. However, if either Parsons or Matthews struggles out of the gate, rookie Justin Anderson should be ready to step in and contribute right away. I absolutely love Anderson’s upside, so he should be on your radar if you are in a deep league.
The Bulls limited Noah to around 30 minutes per game last season in an effort to keep him healthy, but he still missed 15 games. Noah isn’t the greatest fit next to Pau Gasol, so the addition of Mirotic to the first unit would give them some floor spacing while also allowing them to play at a faster pace. Noah’s averages of 7.2 points, 9.6 boards, 4.7 assists and 1.1 blocks were pretty disappointing by his standards, so I’d much rather take a gamble on Mirotic’s upside. Just to give you a little taste of what he can do, Mirotic posted averages of 20.8 points, 7.6 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.7 3-pointers in 15 appearances during March.
Ty Lawson checks out of rehab
Lawson just recently finished his 30-day stint in a rehab program for alcohol addiction, but he is reportedly doing well and James Harden even told reporters that Lawson has never been more focused. Lawson should be able to thrive in Houston’s winning culture, and he is currently projected to start alongside Harden in the backcourt. Lawson’s assists numbers could dip slightly with Harden commanding the ball so much, but there is nothing wrong with taking him in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts. While you could argue that Patrick Beverley is a better fit next to Harden, it’s probably best that he moves to a bench role because he has really struggled to stay healthy.
Kobe Bryant takes the next step on his road to recovery
Bryant started shooting for the first time on Saturday since his shoulder surgery back in January, and all signs point to him being ready for the start of the season. Bryant turned 37 this week and has suffered a major injury in each of his last three seasons, so he is going to be a very risky player to target in the middle rounds. The Black Mamba will always be my favorite player of all time, but even I know not to look his way in fantasy.
As always, thanks for reading and make sure you keep an eye out for the legendary 2015-16 NBA Draft Guide that is set to launch in September! Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions and be sure to follow me on Twitter by clicking here!