Offseason Extra: What does the future hold?
The Fantasy season might be over, but we're already looking ahead to next season. Chris Towers gives you the players he likes and those he's not quite sure about.
One nice thing about the NBA is that the playoffs tend to drag out into the early summer, which makes the offseason much shorter for the average fan.
For Fantasy players, though, the season is already done, and you have six long months to look at the season you just played out and determine what went right or wrong for your team. One way to do that is to figure out who you overvalued, who you undervalued and who you pegged right from the start.
Even if you don't play in an auction or salary cap league, you still have to figure out the right value for each player. If you bought too high on Gerald Wallace , your season probably ended pretty early. If you waited and snagged Amir Johnson late, you might be ready to cash out your winnings.
With another season behind us and an offseason of uncertainty ahead, I am here to take a look forward at some of next season's most intriguing players. Read on to find out who I value, who I don't and who I can't quite figure out just yet.
Five Players I Am Buying
, G, Timberwolves
It took a while for Rubio to get going after his return from knee surgery, but his play since the beginning of February has taken away any doubt from my mind that he is a strong Fantasy option moving forward in his career. Rubio is shooting just 38.5 percent from the field since Feb. 1, but his improved three-point shot and ability to get to the free-throw line a ton (5.6 times per game) make up for that subpar mark. Rubio has basically been the only consistent player for the Wolves since he finally got up to full speed, a good sign for his long-term development. Kevin Love back next season, the Timberwolves should have even more space for Rubio's drives. Rubio continues to play a lot like a young Jason Kidd , who shot below 39.0 percent in each of his first two seasons before cracking the 40.0 percent mark for good in his third season. I expect similar progression from Rubio.
, G, Hawks
Teague's development has been slow and steady so far in his NBA career, and I don't think he is done. Teague took on a larger responsibility this season for the Hawks, and the result was a career-best performance, averaging 14.6 points and 7.1 assists per game. Teague's development as a passer has been especially impressive; after three seasons posting an assist rate between 23.3 and 25.1 percent, Teague jumped all the way to 35.6 percent this season, without a huge jump in his turnover rate. The Hawks could look to build around an Al Horford-Teague core with Josh Smith set to be a free agent, and I think Teague has cemented himself as a solid No. 2 Fantasy guard heading into next season.
, G, Cavaliers
When Irving is on the floor, there is absolutely no questioning his abilities. Though he did not take the huge step forward we might have expected this year, he still established himself as one of the top guards around in just his second season. Unfortunately, he has already missed 28 games in his NBA career, earned a reputation as injury-prone. Injuries have ruined many a promising young NBA career, but I think Irving should be able to avoid that fate. Unlike, say, Andrew Bynum's knees or Stephen Curry's ankle, Irving's injuries have so far seemed like just plain bad luck. Dating back to college, Irving has injured both of his shoulders, a hand, and a foot, and only once has he suffered an aggravation of a previous injury. Fantasy owners might want to avoid Irving this season because of his injury past, but I think you could get a steal on him like many owners did this season with Curry. I think he carries significantly less risk than many tagged with the "injury-prone" label.
, F, Rockets
The Rockets absolutely struck gold with Parsons, a second-round pick two years ago who has arguably emerged as their second-best player. He is such a perfect fit for the wide-open offensive style they have adopted over the last few years, and has proven to be a tremendous compliment to James Harden on the wing. He has become a valuable all-around Fantasy option, pouring in 15.3 points, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game this season. More importantly, coach Kevin McHale has begun to trust him more and more as a focal point in the offense; note how often he serves as the fulcrum in their devastating 'Wheel' set . If you break his career down into four parts, each representing the halves of his two seasons so far, Parsons has made consistent improvements across the board in each half. That won't change this season.
, F/C, Hornets
The No. 1 pick from last year's draft has not quite been the top Fantasy rookie thanks to Damian Lillard 's consistent excellence, but that does not mean he has been disappointing by any stretch. Davis' per-game numbers are impressive, but he really shines when you look at his per-36 minute numbers. He is averaging 16.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per-36 minutes, numbers that would make him a borderline must-start Fantasy option. A number of minor, nagging injuries and his in-progress defensive development have stood in the way of him becoming a full-time player, but he should take steps toward that in 2013-14. At just 20 years of age, Davis has monstrous Fantasy potential; I think he could overtake Lillard as soon as next season.
Five Players I Am Selling
, F, Nuggets
Faried is one of my favorite players to watch, and I expected big things from him after he struggled to break through until the second half of his rookie season. Unfortunately, he progress kind of stalled out this season, and his playing time did not increase as much as expected. His per-36 minute production remains excellent and he is a perfect fit in Denver's offense, but it is that same offense that keeps him from living up to his potential as a Fantasy option. Playing more than 25 or so minutes per game is a tall task for any big man at Denver's hectic pace, which means he will be limited. Faried's per-minute production will tantalize, but I think his actual numbers will continue to disappoint.
, F, Pacers
Granger might have ruined your season. He came down with a knee injury in the beginning of the season, but was diagnosed with the horribly vague "soreness" designation that kept Fantasy owners from running in the opposite direction in fear. Once the regular season began (and you used an early draft pick on him; his ADP was 64th overall), Granger underwent surgery that would eventually cost him all but five games. While he was gone, the Pacers discovered their new star on the wing, in the person of young Paul George . Now, Fantasy owners have to decide when to grab Granger, after an entire season on the sidelines and with his place on the team at least a little in doubt. In the first half of a draft next season, I don't think I would touch Granger.
, C, Warriors
At some point in the now-distant past, Bogut was a legitimately useful Fantasy option at the center position. He served as a true focal point offensively for an interesting Bucks team years ago, and was good for a nightly double-double for three seasons in a row. Unfortunately, injuries have put an end to all that, and it looks like there is little chance he will get back to that level in Golden State. We expected Bogut to be productive this season, and so did Fantasy owners; he had an ADP of 110. I would not be opposed to letting Bogut go undrafted next season, after he has played in 29 games and averaged 6.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this season. The Warriors seem content with mostly ignored him on offense and letting him focus on shoring up their subpar defense.
Metta World Peace
, F, Lakers
For the first time in a long time, World Peace proved to be unpredictable in a good way this season. He was mostly on his best behavior, and he flourished under Mike D'Antoni, putting up his finest scoring season since joining the Lakers. He did not shoot the ball tremendously well from the field (40.5 percent), but he did shoot it a lot, leading to 12.8 points per game. Unfortunately, D'Antoni does not seem like a great bet to return to the Lakers next season unless they go on an extended playoff run, so World Peace's offensive resurgence might not last long. He averaged just 9.1 points per game in his previous three seasons, and I would expect a return to those levels.
, C, Suns
We knew that Gortat's production coming into this season was probably influenced by Steve Nash's brilliance running the pick and roll with him, but we weren't sure how much Gortat depended on him. With Goran Dragic in at point guard, we also hoped Gortat would still be able to put up good numbers. After all, he looked like a skilled big man who could make a difference on both sides of the floor. Unfortunately, his offensive production lagged and his defensive indifference caused the coaching staff to lose faith in Gortat as a big part of the team's plans. Gortat averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, but was consistently unreliable on a nightly basis. The Suns could commit to a full rebuild this season by shipping Gortat out, which might be the best outcome for his Fantasy value as well.
Five Players On the Fence
, G, Hornets
What will make Eric Gordon happy? Sure, it has to hurt to see the Clippers burgeoning as a power without him. But, his offseason dalliance with Phoenix as a restricted free agent seems to indicate that winning might not be his primary concern; where the wreckage of a once-proud, era defining franchise smolders in the desert, Gordon sees an oasis. Gordon seems unhappy to be in New Orleans and has never seemed on the same page with coach Monty Williams. To be fair, Williams has run into problems with a few players over the last two seasons as a head coach, but Gordon's issues appear to run deeper than just a personality clash. When healthy, Gordon has the ability to be a poor man's James Harden , scoring efficiently from all over the floor while dishing out a solid assist rate for an off guard. Unfortunately, with his injury woes and his unwillingness to buy into what appears to be a great situation in New Orleans makes me lean towards avoiding him early in the draft, unless his attitude changes this offseason.
, F, Hawks (free agent)
Smith enters this offseason with a ton of questions surrounding him, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Smith's talent is undeniable, and it has made him one of the top Fantasy options in category-based formats over the last few years. Unfortunately, his focus seems to come and go, and his decision making leaves much to be desired even nine seasons into his career. With a coach who can narrow his focus (and remove the dreaded long 2-pointers that dominate his game on bad nights), Smith could be one of the five best Fantasy options in the league. Smith's failure to live up to his potential on a consistent basis makes me wary of recommending him, at least until we see where he lands.
, C, Trail Blazers (free agent)
Kris Humphries torpedoed countless Fantasy teams this season once the Nets realized that his big stats did little to help them in their attempt to be a winning team. Despite his huge salary, Humphries tumbled out of the rotation by midseason, and the Nets were better for it. If we're making odds for who will be 2013-14's Kris Humphries , Hickson has to be the leader out of the gate. The numbers Hickson is putting up are startlingly similar to the ones Humphries had when he earned his big contract in free agency, and his (lack of) impact on a team bound for the lottery is similar to Humphries'. The Trail Blazers have been worse on both sides of the court with Hickson out there, despite his gaudy numbers. With Hickson set to earn a big payday in free agency, his new team could sour on him like the Nets did with Humphries, once they realize his shallow stats don't make up for his shortcomings.
, G, 76ers
Holiday is one of the league's true breakout stars this season, earning an All-Star nod and standing as the only player averaging at least 18.0 points and 8.0 assists per game for the season. Unfortunately, he is also playing the largest minutes load of his career, which tends to overstate the improvements he has made. He has also faded badly in the second half of the season; he is averaging 16.3 points and 7.6 assists since the All-Star break, and has seen his shooting percentage drop in each month since January. Holiday is just 22, so he has some physical development left. But he might not yet be ready to carry the load like he has been asked to this season. The 76ers' future hangs up in the air with Andrew Bynum missing the entire season, and there are just enough questions surrounding Jrue to make me put a star next to his name as a potential disappoint when I begin preparing for drafts this summer.
, F, Celtics
Jeff Green might have carried you to a Fantasy title with his play in the second half of the season, so it is fair to question this call. Green was averaging 9.6 points per game on 8.1 field-goal attempts per game as of Jan. 25, when Rajon Rondo's knee injury forced the Celtics to find a new way to make their offense run. From that point, on Green averaged 16.6 points per game on 11.8 field-goal attempts per game, greatly increasing his efficiency while also becoming a volume scorer the Celtics relied heavily on. I assumed Green's improvement post-Rondo injury might have been the result of getting his shots in more efficient areas of the floor, namely at the rim and behind the three-point line. Rondo is a dynamic playmaker by any measure, but he has been criticized at times for setting teammates up too often for inefficient mid-range shots. To my surprise, his shot chart since Rondo's injury is essentially identical; he took 65.4 percent of his shots within five feet of the rim or from three-point range before Jan. 25 and 67.3 percent after. If the types of shots Green was taking weren't significantly different, we have to wonder which half of the season was the fluke; the one where everything caught rim, or when he couldn't miss. Given his long track record of being inefficient as a scorer dating back to Oklahoma City, as well as the lack of chemistry he showed with Rondo, I have my doubts as to whether he is the changed player he might appear to be.
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