Now that training camp has tipped off, teams have had a chance to evaluate their personnel on a daily basis. We’re still a few weeks away from rotations becoming a bit clearer, but switches in player roles, position battles, and injuries are already altering the fantasy value of some individuals.
Nicolas Batum, G/F, POR – Despite being just a few days into training camp, Batum has already been named the uncontested starter at small forward for the Blazers. With Martell Webster now in Minnesota, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but it’s still nice to hear Blazers coach Nate McMillan commit to a starting five this early after making numerous tweaks in past training camps. Batum was in and out of the Blazers’ starting lineup last season, but even when he was in the starting five, he managed just 26 minutes per game. Now that Webster is out of the picture, Batum will have a chance to grab a bigger chunk of playing time. While he may never be a stud in the scoring, rebounding, or assist categories, Batum’s ability to rack up three-pointers, blocks and steals while posting solid percentages makes him a popular breakout candidate this season.
Josh McRoberts, F, IND – Pacers coach Jim O’Brien has stated that McRoberts will compete for the starting power forward spot in training camp, and given his presence with the first unit during five-on-five scrimmages, McRoberts appears to be the early favorite. The former Duke Blue Devil saw just 12 minutes of action per game last year, but he did show flashes of his potential when given extended playing time, averaging 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 threes in the four contests he played over 25 minutes. McRoberts will have some competition from Tyler Hansbrough throughout camp, but if O’Brien wants to fill the void left by Troy Murphy’s trade to New Jersey with a similar player, McRoberts is the better fit.
Roy Hibbert, C, IND – The 7-2 center became relevant in fantasy last season thanks to solid averages of 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, and head coach Jim O’Brien plans to funnel his half-court offense through Hibbert this season. While still developing, Hibbert has already proven to be an efficient scorer, hitting 49.5 percent of his shots from the floor and 75.5 percent from the line. If Hibbert is able to shed his foul-prone ways, he should see enough playing time to emerge as a top-10 option at the pivot.
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI – An offseason trade to the Sixers left Hawes’s role entering training camp in question, but early indications are the 22-year-old will begin the season as his new team’s starting center. Hawes has been practicing with the first unit, which allows first-year Sixers coach Doug Collins to keep Elton Brand at his natural position of power forward instead of sliding the veteran to center. In three seasons with the Kings, Hawes averaged 11.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 118 starts. He’ll struggle with efficiency (46.6 FG, 67.0 FT), but Hawes has shown the ability to post solid big man stats, and he’s young enough to still have plenty of upside.
Michael Beasley, F, MIN – After two up-and-down campaigns in Miami, Beasley is getting a fresh start in Minnesota this year. He has been practicing at small forward and appears to be the early favorite to win that starting spot once the regular season tips off. Beasley was never able to get into much of a groove while playing in Dwyane Wade’s shadow while on the Heat, but he should have an opportunity to share the spotlight in Minnesota with Kevin Love and finally blossom into the star player most projected when he was taken with the No. 2 overall pick in 2008.
Luke Ridnour, G, MIN – Sophomore Jonny Flynn is still recovering from offseason hip surgery, opening the door for Ridnour to start the season as the Timberwolves’ starting point guard. Ridnour has averaged 10.9 points and 6.2 assists as a starter throughout his career, numbers well worth a roster spot in most leagues. The 29-year-old was also able to hold comparable value when coming off the bench for the Bucks last season, so while he’ll definitely see an early-season boost in value, don’t write him off as just a short-term fix.
Tracy McGrady, G/F, DET – As he enters his first training camp with the Pistons, McGrady says he feels better than he has in two years. Regardless, the former scoring champ needs to be monitored closely as he tries to prove he’s able to stay healthy for an extended period of time. The Pistons will likely limit McGrady’s wear and tear throughout camp and could give him the occasional night off or limit his minutes during the regular season to keep him fresh.
Erick Dampier, C, FA – Dampier remains a free agent after being cut loose by the Bobcats earlier this month. He has been rumored to land in multiple destinations, but most situations would result in limited playing time. He has recently been linked to teams such as Houston and Toronto. In both instances, he could be a large part of the rotation. Keep a close eye on Dampier’s final landing spot – it could make him worth a look in some formats.
Chris Andersen, C, DEN – Andersen will be limited in training camp after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He’s doubtful for the season opener, but shouldn’t be sidelined for an extended period. The main concern is the negative effect the knee surgery could have on the Birdman’s shot blocking. If he’s unable to swat away shots at the same clip he did a year a go (1.9), Andersen won’t be worth the investment.
Baron Davis, G, LAC – Davis has been limited at the start of training camp due to swelling in his knee and a strained calf. He has plenty of time to get healthy before the start of the regular season, but anytime an injury-prone player like Davis gets nicked up, it’s worth monitoring.
Golden State Warriors – Following Don Nelson’s exit at the start of training camp, there are plenty of question marks surrounding the Warriors. Nelson has been replaced by one of his assistants, Keith Smart. While Smart is expected to stress defense to a much larger extent than Nelson ever did, he also plans to still run a fast-paced offense. In the end, the star players (David Lee, Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis) probably won’t see much change in value, but Smart’s tweaks could drastically alter some of the second-tier players on the roster. Keep a close eye on this situation throughout camp.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – Early indications are the No. 2 overall pick will start the regular season coming off the bench. Turner was originally expected to start at shooting guard, so if this sticks, his early-season value takes a sizable hit. Like most rookies, Turner’s role and production should grow as the season wanes, but this news certainly does take some of the shine off one of the year’s most promising freshmen.
Corey Maggette, G/F, MIL – After undergoing surgery for torn peroneal tendons in in ankle in July, Maggette is in danger of missing the entire preseason. He was expected to battle for the starting small forward gig in camp, so this likely means Maggette starts the regular season coming off the bench. Maggette has averaged seven less points per game as a reserve throughout his 11-year career, so this latest setback will negatively impact him in the short term at the very least.
Kenyon Martin, F, DEN – Martin still doesn’t have a timetable for his return from offseason surgery on his patella tendon, but odds are he will be out until at least December. The Nuggets brought in Al Harrington this summer, so even after Martin returns to full strength, his role might not be as extensive as in past seasons.
Rudy Fernandez, G/F, POR – Fernandez told the Blazers this summer that he would like to leave the team and return to Europe to continue his basketball career, but the Spanish guard was still on the Blazers’ roster at the start of training camp. It’s still uncertain how much longer his tenure with the Blazers will last, but even if Fernandez stays in Portland, his status as a reserve player will limit his fantasy contributions. Look elsewhere for help with three-pointers.
Earl Watson, G, UTA – Watson inked a one-year deal with Utah last weekend. With the Pacers last season, Watson was able to earn enough playing time to flash some fantasy value on occasion. He’ll be backing up Deron Williams in Utah, so barring an injury to the star point guard, we can forget about Watson’s days of being a fantasy asset.
Andrew Bynum, C, LAL – Bynum is recovering from offseason knee surgery and likely won’t be ready until late November at the earliest. The 23-year-old big man is full of potential, but he is consistently battling injuries. Through his first five seasons, Bynum has managed to play in just 278 of a possible 410 games. If he’s ever able to stay on the court, he will be a nightly double-double threat, but until Bynum can shake off the injury bug, he will be a risky pick on draft day.
Greg Oden, C, POR – Like Bynum, Oden is a promising young big man who is always nursing an injury. Oden is currently recovering from a kneecap injury that ended his 2009-10 campaign. The former No. 1 overall pick has already ruled out being ready for the season opener and doesn’t have a concrete timetable for a return. With Marcus Camby set as the starting pivot, the Blazers have the luxury of being patient with Oden’s rehab and can be cautious with his deployment after he returns to action. Don’t be surprised if Oden plays a limited role with the Blazers all season.