We interrupt your incoming Fantasy sports overdose of baseball, football and hockey to inform you that NBA training camps will open within the next five weeks, which means finding time between Rotisserie/playoff chases, reminders that both the NFL and college gridiron weekends begin on Thursday and trying to come to grips with forgiving the NHL for ruining your 2012-13 season, the process of evaluating talent (again) comes into focus.
Step One normally means breaking down the new crop of David Stern’s Millionaires, a class that is chock full of potential, yet — on the surface — lacks the surefire Fantasy producer like Damian Lillard, who emerged for the Trail Blazers last winter.
The 2012-13 class had little impact upon Fantasy leagues, as only four players (Lillard, Anthony Davis, Dion Waiters and Bradley Beal) scored at a double-figure clip, while only Davis averaged more than eight rebounds per night. Upon first view, only a handful of rookies will become significant contributors this season, which means Fantasy players in one-year leagues would be best served to avoid the kiddie corps. However, the shrewd Fantasy owner may be able to get above-average production from the following, provided the wanderlust from warped numbers during next month’s preseason games doesn’t put stardust visions into their eyes.
1) Ben McLemore, SG, Kings – Regarded as the best shooter in the draft, McLemore falls into a starting position with the departure of Tyreke Evans. With defenses focusing on uber manchild, Demarcus Cousins down low, McLemore, who shot 42 percent from the land of three last season at Kansas, will have the green light early and often. He’s also an explosive finisher at the rim, which should lead to a heaping helping of FTs and highlights on Fox Sports 1.
2) Trey Burke, PG, Jazz – Traded by the Timberwolves on draft night, Burke left little to be desired during a sluggish Summer League effort (24 percent from the field, 1 of 13 from three-point range). With the Jazz launching a youth movement of sorts, Burke is in position to put up respectable numbers as Utah’s quarterback. With journeyman John Lucas III the only other point guard on the roster, Burke should see significant minutes in the early going. Scoring will be an issue, but Burke should be able to deliver six to eight assists per night.
3) Michael Carter-Williams, PG, 76ers – Like Burke, Carter-Williams will benefit from being the best player at his position by default. With All-Star Jerue Holliday shipped off to the Pelicans, Carter-Williams will get ample time to develop his currently mediocre jumper while moving the ball to a mishmash of so-so talent. The Sixers will be Lone Ranger movie-bad this season, which allows Philly to endure Carter-Williams’ growing pains to the tune of about 10 points and seven dimes per contest.
4) Cody Zeller, F-C, Bobcats – He will be more valuable in leagues that give him a C designation, and while Al Jefferson will man the five for Charlotte, Zeller will come in and also breathe some life into one of the league’s most scoring impotent front courts. Averaging just over 16 points and 56 percent from the field at Indiana last season, Zeller has the athleticism to complement Jefferson’s consistent 17-9 effort and should also tack on a fair share of points from the charity stripe. Improved play from PG Kemba Walker and SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could make Zeller an under-the-radar producer.
5) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Pistons – Already projected as a starter, Caldwell-Pope may have the best chance to become an immediate contributor Fantasy-wise. For a team in need of a consistent outside shooter, Caldwell-Pope, who shot 37 percent from beyond the arc at Georgia last season, comes ready-made to fill the void in the Motor City. Rodney Stuckey is a free agent at the end of this season, leaving the door wide open for Caldwell-Pope to deliver double-digit scoring while not hurting your field goal percentage.
6) Kelly Olynyk, C, Celtics – An impressive Summer League (18 ppg) shot Olynyk from possible role player to potential opening night starter for the revamped C’s. He owns a well-balanced offensive game for a big man and has the potential to be the type of post player who can stretch a defense with his range. Before owners get too giddy about his upside, Olynyk is still dealing with two of the most dreaded words any basketball player could hear: plantar fasciitis, words that could be the difference between him being a ROY candidate or a frequent member of Club DNP.
Four More on the Floor
1) Nerlens Noel, C, 76ers: Expect very little scoring, but rebounds and blocked shots will be his calling.
2) C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Blazers: Lillard is entrenched at the one, yet McCollum deserves mention for his ability to provide instant offense; anyone shooting 52 percent from three-point range — like McCollum did at Lehigh last season — will be worth eyeing in the later rounds.
3) Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, Cavaliers: How well his shoulder feels at the start of camp will determine if the first overall pick will be able to make a concerted effort at unseating Alonzo Gee at the three. The upside is there, if just not this season.
4) Victor Oladipo, PG/SG, Magic: His defense will help in the steals department and while his offense was surprising in Summer League play, Oladipo’s penchant for turnovers makes him a risky venture.
[Photo Via Errejota2]