I’ve been pretty quiet since the draft and LeBron’s going-home party, but I’m still here. I’ve been working hard on the Rotoworld NBA Draft Guide and here are some of this summer’s early winners and losers, based on free agency moves and other factors that have impacted these players. I’ve only gotten through about 1/3 of the league thus far, so you can expect a couple more columns like this one in the near future.
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Mirza Teletovic, F, Nets – With Paul Pierce no longer in Brooklyn and Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko playing in the bodies of old men, the time is now for Teletovic. The hope is that Teletovic will fly under the radar after averaging just 8.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 3-pointers last season, but that’s about to change. He averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and a whopping 2.8 3-pointers over the final eight games of last season, becoming a one-man fantasy wrecking ball for those lucky enough to pick him up. And if things go like I think they will at the start of the season, he should pick up right where he left off.
Lance Stephenson, SG, Hornets – Stephenson had his breakout season last year and everyone knows he signed with the Hornets in order to hopefully become ‘the man’ for Michael Jordan. It should be interesting to see how he reacts after getting paid, but I think Lance has a chip on his shoulder and is going to have a big year in Charlotte. At this point, the tricky part will be not paying too high a price to get him.
Kenneth Faried, PF, Nuggets – Faried got off to a pretty slow start last season, causing many owners to hit the panic button and move him too early. But the Manimal bounced back to average 18.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks after the All-Star break. And with JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson both coming off serious injuries, Faried should get off to a much better start this season. And if that happens, he arguably has the potential to be the top power forward in fantasy.
Matt Barnes, SF, Clippers – Barnes missed 19 games with various injuries last season, but should come out firing on all cylinders. Unlike last season, the starting SF job appears to be his to lose and there’s no one I can see to take it from him (Jared Dudley? No.). Barnes averaged 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.2 3-pointers after the All-Star break, which was good for third-round fantasy value. If you can pick him up in Round 5 or 6, which is a real possibility, Barnes could be one of the steals of your draft.
Trevor Ariza, SF, Rockets – Chandler Parsons is gone and Ariza is unchallenged for the starting job and minutes at small forward in Houston. I’m still always leery of Ariza’s shooting percentage, but he was on point at 46 percent last season, while the rest of his numbers were strong enough to give him second-round fantasy value. He should be the No. 3 scoring option behind James Harden and Dwight Howard, and his name doesn’t carry the same marquee value as many other players who simply aren’t as good. Ariza couldn’t have landed in a better situation if he tried.
Terrence Jones, PF, Rockets – Omer Asik is gone and most of the power forward minutes should go to Jones this season. He averaged 15.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in the month of January last season, and while he disappeared in the playoffs against Portland, Asik is no longer there to create the inconsistency that hounded TJ last year. This kid should be fun to own.
Rodney Stuckey, SG, Pacers – Look, I’m not about to sit here and tell you Stuckey is a guy you have to own in fantasy. But he started just five times last season for the Pistons and still put up decent numbers. With Lance Stephenson in Charlotte, Stuckey now looks like the starting shooting guard in Indy. And if George Hill doesn’t put it together soon, Stuckey is also capable of playing point guard. Stuckey will have to beat out C.J. Miles for the starting SG job, but that sounds like a pretty reasonable request. The Pacers are a mess and Stuckey has some pretty big shoes to fill, which is usually a recipe for fantasy success.
Patrick Beverley, PG, Rockets – Beverley was pretty much a bust last season, as he never met a shot he liked. He also played in just 56 games, but his injuries were all pretty serious, yet he returned from each one of them a lot sooner than he could have. He’s also ticked off that he was left off Team USA this summer, while Jeremy Lin is no longer there to split minutes with Beverley. When you add it all up, as long as he can stay healthy and start taking a few more shots per game, Beverley’s value appears to be on the upswing. But after last year, I’m more comfortable with taking him as a second or third point guard, and not reaching for him thinking he’ll become a super-sleeper.
Marvin Williams, PF, Hornets – Williams didn’t hold much fantasy value (if any) in Utah last season and is one of the bigger busts to be taken at the 2-hole in NBA Drafts. But he’s with the Hornets this season, who simply don’t have any reliable power forwards. The team has already hinted that rookie Noah Vonleh won’t be ready to start anytime soon, while Cody Zeller still hasn’t figured out how to play NBA basketball. Enter Marvin. If Williams ends up on my fantasy teams, it will be as a late-round addition in hopes that everything I just wrote comes true. But I don’t think I’ll be using a valuable pick on him, regardless of how well things are going in training camp and the preseason.
Keep reading for the Losers.
Dallas Point Guards – Devin Harris is back, Jose Calderon is a Knick, and Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson are now Mavericks. I’m not sure I need to say much more, as we all know that three-headed point guards spell fantasy disaster. And the fact I can’t even decide which one is the better basketball player without hurting my head makes the situation even worse. The good news is, if you want to call it that, that all of these guys tend to be banged up, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of them start 20 games this season. I’m staying away from all of them.
Taj Gibson, PF, Bulls – Carlos Boozer being amnesty waived appeared to be just what the doctor ordered for Gibson. And then the Bulls went and landed Pau Gasol. Now Gibson, who has patiently been waiting for his chance to shine, has to deal with two of the best big men in the game just to get minutes off the bench. I still love Taj and his game, but his fantasy potential took a big hit when Pau said 'I do' to the Bulls.
Spencer Hawes, C, Clippers – Hawes’ career has been trending in the right direction for years and he played very well for both the Sixers and Cavaliers last season. However, he’ll now be backing up DeAndre Jordan. And if you don’t count free throws, Basketballmonster.com will tell you that Jordan was the No. 2 overall fantasy player last season, if you count games played. And while Hawes can also play power forward, he’ll find a locked door there with Blake Griffin holding the key. In reality, Hawes should help the Clippers greatly, as they can put his 78 percent free throw shooting in the game in the fourth quarter and let Jordan sit on the bench with games on the line. But in fantasy, unless Jordan somehow pulls a Hibbert, Hawes is going to take a big hit this season.
Randy Foye, G, Nuggets – The Nuggets signed Arron Afflalo and have one of the best young point guards in the game in Ty Lawson. Foye is coming off a nice season when he averaged 13.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.3 3-pointers in 81 games, and he started in 78 of those. Everyone has already penciled in Afflalo as the starter, and Foye would have to shock the world to beat him out. And even if he does, a timeshare is nearly a guarantee. Foye might still be worth a late flier, but the addition of Afflalo couldn’t have worked out any worse for Foye. In fact, Foye might end up being Lawson’s primary back up at point guard this season, instead of spending his time at shooting guard.
Kirk Hinrich, PG, Bulls – As if Derrick Rose looking “explosive” isn’t bad enough for Hinrich, Aaron Brooks is also on hand for the Bulls this season. I’m not going to get into numbers, but it’s becoming quite clear that as long as Rose is healthy, Hinrich won’t be more than a role player.
Jordan Farmar, PG, Clippers – Farmar was so banged up last season he never had a chance to blow up, although he should have since he was arguably the Lakers best option at point guard. And then Farmar signed with the Clippers, where he’ll back up Chris Paul. Need I say more? And if you’re hoping that he might get some run at shooting guard, forget about it. With J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford and CP3 all standing in his way, Farmar is officially a man on an island.
D.J. Augustin, PG, Pistons – Augustin, like Foye, took as big a hit as anyone this summer, although things wouldn’t have been much better had he stayed in Chicago. DJA averaged 16.3 points, 4.2 assists and 2.2 3-pointers after the All-Star break for the Bulls last year, making him a waiver-wire phenom. But now he’ll play behind Brandon Jennings, and will have no shot at minutes at shooting guard with Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in front of him. At this point, he’ll simply be battling with Will Bynum for the right to back up Jennings, which means you can safely forget about him as long as Jennings is healthy.
Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Mavericks – It’s not like Aminu was a beast or anything in New Orleans last season, but he was an NBA starter. He’s now with Dallas, and the problem is that so are Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki. In case Aminu has ever been on your radar, he should be far from it this season.
Tyson Chandler, C, Mavericks – Chandler was only worth a seventh-round pick on a per-game basis last season, and things will probably get worse with him back in Dallas. Sure, the good vibes are flowing since he won a ring there in 2011, but with three point guards who can score, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki all sharing the court with Chandler, it’s hard to see him scoring more than six points a game this season. And he only averaged 8.7 points with the hapless Knicks last year.
George Hill, PG, Pacers – Nope, nothing really happened in Indy this summer that hurt Hill. But in my eyes, he’s probably the worst starting point guard in the league, at least as far as fantasy goes. Lance Stephenson left and possibly took some of the locker-room drama with him, but that doesn’t change the fact that Hill’s just not that great. And if he doesn’t get it going soon, C.J. Watson or Rodney Stuckey just might take his job.
Mike Dunleavy, SF, Bulls – So maybe I’m crazy, but I’m really buying into the Doug McDermott hype. I doubt McDermott will start over Dunleavy, but it’s a possibility and at worst, I see a timeshare coming. Dunleavy’s numbers weren’t exactly mind blowing last year and McDermott can play and shoot. Dunleavy could still have some late-round fantasy value, but the days of him being a reliable fantasy option probably ended the moment the Bulls took McDermott.