Fantasy: Preseason Numbers Worth Paying Attention To
There was some uncertainty heading into the season with what Bledsoe's role on Phoenix would be, especially considering Goran Dragic held it down at PG last year. New Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has started to alleviate any concerns by starting Bledsoe in five of six games and also playing him a team-high 24.2 minutes/game (nobody else on the team even averaging 20 minutes/game). It appears Dragic and Bledsoe will start and play a lot of minutes together in the backcourt, and for prospective Bledsoe owners, this has major implications. Project his preseason stats over 36 minutes and you're getting Top 25 production: 17.4 Ppg, 44.8% FG, 0.8 3Pt, 70% FT, 4.9 Rpg, 8.5 Apg, 4.2 Spg, 0.7 Bpg. Top 25 production from a guy with an ADP of 49.1? Yes, please!
If there was ever any concern about Derrick Rose's health, he's all but squashed it. Over his last 3 games, he's scored a mind-boggling 78 points in 80 minutes. What's more -- he's doing it efficiently, by shooting at a 54/53/78 split. All that talk about him improving his perimeter game appears to be legit. So what can we take from this? He's going to score like the Derrick Rose of old, and he has a chance to do so with better percentages and more 3s. And perhaps most importantly, a refined outside touch likely reduces the wear-and-tear and possibility of suffering another major injury.
I know, I know. It still ain't pretty. But when you consider he shot 37.1% from the line last year, a 14% increase is potentially huge. Drummond has played 35 minutes on average the last 3 games so we're likely looking at a significant spike in FTA this year. If he can hover around the 50% line, you might not have to punt the category. And if you can stomach the poor FT%, you'll reap the benefits in FG%, Reb, Stl, and Blk, where he likely finishes among the top five among all Centers.
Heading into the season, there was some speculation that the addition of Andre Iguodala, the rise to stardom of Stephen Curry, the improved health of David Lee and Andrew Bogut, and the development of Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green could limit the touches and shots coming to Klay Thompson. So far in preseason, those concerns have been put to rest. Thompson, despite coming off the bench in 3 games, has taken 12 more shots than any other Warrior in the preseason. He's actually fifth in the entire NBA in FGA and sixth in 3PTA. Iguodala and Curry will likely carry the load as the team's playmakers, but Klay is going to be their go-to catch-and-shoot guy. 20 points/game and the league lead in 3PT are entirely within reach.
The knock on Kyrie Irving as a fantasy player the last couple of seasons has been his mediocre assist numbers (5.4 in '11-12; 5.9 in '12-13). The reality is the Cavs relied heavily on Kyrie to produce his own offense, particularly late in games and, let's be honest, there wasn't exactly a wealth of talent surrounding him. Enter Andrew Bynum. And Anthony Bennett. And Jarrett Jack. And a healthy Varejao. And an improved Dion Waiters. More weapons at his disposal = more assists. Kyrie agrees. The 5.8 Apg in the preseason may not jump out at you, but consider he's doing so in 25.3 Mpg. Project this to 38 Mpg and you have 8.7 Apg -- exactly why Kyrie is locked in as a mid First Round pick.
AK47 is coming off his best season in years, proving that at 32 years old, he's still got plenty of game left, and most importantly for prospective fantasy owners, plenty of hustle left. He'll likely slide in as a 25-28 Mpg bench player for Brooklyn most nights and that should be plenty to make him serviceable. In two preseason games, he's logged 44 minutes and come up with seven steals and four blocks. The Nets lack quickness on the defensive end, so Jason Kidd will rely heavily on Kirilenko to bring that off the bench. And when you consider the expected limitations on Kevin Garnett (37 years old) and Paul Pierce (36), don't be surprised to find Kirilenko shimmy his way into the starting lineup 20+ times this season.
Whether you play in a turnover league or not, this number potentially bears a lot of significance. The biggest knock on Carter-Williams coming out of Syracuse was his propensity to turn the ball over. He not only led the Big East in turnovers last year (3.5 Tpg), he led it by a significant margin (nobody else averaged more than 3.0). So this of course was a major point of emphasis for the 76ers heading into this season, especially considering (by all accounts) this is a season of development for the young squad. Ask any coach what the best way for a rookie to earn good minutes is. They'll tell you by being coachable and showing improvement. Clearly MCW is already taking steps in the right direction as evidenced by his 1.3 turnovers/game in 28.2 minutes/game. If he keeps this up, he should maintain his stranglehold on Philly's starting PG spot and prove to be a serviceable fantasy backup who can post quality numbers in assists and steals.
The next phase in George's rise into a bona fide fantasy stud is improved efficiency as a shooter. It's a step all great swing players have to make -- we've seen Kobe, McGrady, and Durant all make the transition. Coming off a year in which George's usage increased significantly, it shouldn't come as a total surprise that he struggled to shoot at a high clip (41.9% FG). But now after a summer working out knowing he's 'The Guy' and a better offensive supporting cast (Granger, Scola, Copeland, Watson), there should be less pressure on George to produce his own offense, and more opportunities for him to look for better shots. So while the Pacers may have to spread the ball around more, don't look for a drop in points from George as long as he can maintain better shot efficiency, a trait he's showing off quite a bit in the preseason.
We know what the freak-ish T-Rob is capable of. And after a strong Summer League and an impressive preseason, we might get a chance to see his talent on full display. Portland isn't exactly brimming with depth in the frontcourt (he'll battle Robin Lopez and Meyers Leonard for minutes that won't go to the already banged-up LaMarcus Aldridge) so there will be opportunity for Robinson this season. What you'll surely get when he does see extended minutes is a bucket-load of boards. T-Rob is hauling in 8.0 Rpg in the preseason in just 20.5 Mpg -- a monstrous amount when you project that out to 14.0 rpg over 36 minutes/game. Keep an eye on this one.
The Pistons are in win-now mode and for a team sorely lacking in Playoff experience, Chauncey Billups certainly becomes an intriguing option at the two for Mo Cheeks, a coach who can surely appreciate the merits of a savvy veteran guard. Rodney Stuckey is currently out with a thumb injury and may not be back to start the season. Couple that with the fact that the Pistons are in desperate need for perimeter shooting, and you could be looking at Billups playing 30+ minutes/game come next week, and perhaps, even beyond that. Chauncey is hitting 2.0 3Pt/game in the preseason at a 40% clip so what prospective fantasy owners have is the potential of a real 3-point marksman that isn't even getting drafted in most leagues. A potential target late in drafts for teams looking to boost their 3-point numbers.