Preseason games are underway, so we finally get a chance to see players in action. Rotations in the preseason don’t always come close to resembling what we’ll see when the games count, but there are still plenty of interesting tidbits to take note of. Let’s jump in.
Charlie Villanueva, F, DET – With Jonas Jerebko expected to miss significant time due to a torn Achilles (see Stock Down), Villanueva will have a chance to start at power forward for the Pistons. Rookie Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell, and Chris Wilcox could also factor into the mix, but Villanueva has to be considered the early favorite. The 26-year-old forward has averaged 15.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 threes in 147 career starts, so there’s plenty to like here if he nabs the job.
DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, SAC – Cousins made his preseason debut with Sacramento on Tuesday and finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds while starting at center. The Kings were without Samuel Dalembert (see Check Status), so expectations do have to be tempered, but it’s still impressive to see Cousins put up a quality line in his first outing. At 6-11, 270, Cousins has great size, and he’s known for his excellent skill level, especially around the basket. If Kings coach Paul Westphal is willing to commit 30+ minutes per game to Cousins, we’ll be looking at a draft-day steal.
Jeff Teague, G, ATL – Hawks coach Larry Drew appears willing to give Teague a chance to crack the starting lineup, but Teague will have to unseat aging veteran Mike Bibby at point guard. Bibby had a career-worst campaign last year, so the door is definitely open for Teague to, at the very least, steal some playing time. Monitor the situation throughout the preseason - Teague would receive a huge jump in value by nabbing the starting job.
D.J. Augustin, G, CHA – Following the offseason departure of Raymond Felton, the Bobcats were left with a hole at point guard. Augstin is competing with Shaun Livingston for the starting gig. Livingston’s presence is the main reason for a lack of preseason hype about Augustin, but it’s time for that to change. Livingston is already dealing with pain in his surgically repaired knee, which caused him to sit out Tuesday’s preseason opener. Augutin might not be the best fit for a Larry Brown coached team, but he’s the only legitimate option the Bobcats have right now. If you want to own a Bobcats point guard this season, Augustin is your man.
Kirk Hinrich, G, WAS – Wizards coach Flip Saunders opted to go with a small starting lineup in Tuesday’s preseason opener, penciling in Hinrich at the three. Saunders admitted that the lineup probably isn’t permanent and he will tinker with things during the preseason, but he also considers Hinrich one of his four best players. Any worries you had about Hinrich’s role with his new team should be quelled.
JaVale McGee, F/C, WAS – McGee was also part of Washington’s starting five in Tuesday’s preseason opener. The 22-year-old responded with 13 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks in 27 minutes. The points and rebounds may not be at that level consistently this season, but McGee is already one of the better sources of blocks in the league. Owners looking for a Chris Andersen-type with more offensive upside have found their man.
Travis Outlaw, F, NJ – Outlaw is slated to start at small forward for the Nets this season. His career stats (9.5 points, 3.4 rebounds) aren’t too impressive, but those numbers came while playing just 22 minutes per game for the Blazers and Clippers over the past seven seasons. In a starting role, Outlaw will surely improve his scoring and rebounding numbers and he’s athletic enough to post 1+ threes, blocks and steals per contest.
Tyreke Evans, G, SAC – If there’s one complaint fantasy owners had about Evans’ stellar rookie campaign, it was his lack of threes. The ROY managed to hit just 36 shots from behind the arc last year. Evans addressed that area of his game this offseason, working relentlessly on his jump shot. He showed off the new stroke in Tuesday’s preseason opener, nailing two shots from downtown. There’s no reason to get too excited about one preseason game, but if Evans can continue to show improved long-range skills, he will be a top-20 fantasy option.
Taj Gibson, F, CHI – With Carlos Boozer (see Stock Down) slated to miss a few weeks with a broken right hand, Gibson will slide into the Bulls’ starting five. Gibson’s value will see only a temporary boost – Boozer is expected to miss around 15 games – but that is easily a long enough period to warrant bumping Gibson up your cheatsheet a couple spots.
Dwyane Wade, G, MIA – The preseason debut of the Heat’s Big Three lasted just three minutes before Wade went down with a hamstring injury. Wade has said he might miss a couple of weeks, but this injury doesn’t look like it will linger into the regular season. At the very least, take this as a reminder of Wade’s propensity to pick up random bumps and bruises due to his aggressive style of play.
Corey Maggette, G/F, MIL – Maggette, who is recovering from offseason foot injury, made a surprise return to practice over the weekend. He was originally slated to miss the entire preseason, so it appears he’s ahead of schedule. An early return will give Maggette a better chance to wrestle the starting small forward job away from Carlos Delfino.
Andrew Bogut, C, MIL – Bogut sat out Tuesday’s preseason opener while dealing with lingering hand soreness. The Bucks have repeatedly voiced their encouragement over Bogut’s recovery from last season’s arm, hand, and wrist injuries, but the seven-footer clearly isn’t at full strength yet. Keep tabs on him throughout the preseason.
T.J. Ford, G, IND – Ford is expected to miss at least a week with a hamstring injury. He’s slated for backup duty this season, but he could be at risk of losing his limited playing time if the injury lingers.
Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC – Dalembert sat out Tuesday’s preseason opener with a left abductor strain. On top of that, the seven-footer could be in danger of losing playing time to Cousins, who we discussed above. Dalembert has shown the ability to rack up boards and blocks while playing under 30 minutes per contest, so he avoids a downgrade for now. Be sure to monitor the Kings’ rotation throughout the preseason.
Jonas Jerebko, F, DET – Jerebko suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Heat. The Swedish forward is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday and will be sidelined for 5-to-6 months. With that sort of timetable, there’s no reason to draft Jerebko this season.
Carlos Boozer, F, CHI – Boozer underwent surgery on his broken right pinky finger Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined 6-to-8 weeks. The 29-year-old power forward missed 138 of a possible 492 games during his six seasons with the Jazz, so injuries aren’t something new to Boozer. While a downgrade is necessary, about half of Boozer’s recovery time will be during the preseason, so don’t knock him too far down your rankings.
George Hill, G, SAN – Hill was one of last year’s biggest surprises. Thanks to an injury to Tony Parker, Hill was able to start 43 games in the Spurs’ backcourt. Now that Parker is at full strength, Hill is set to start the season as a reserve. He will still see plenty of action while backing up both guard spots, but owners expecting Hill to build on last season’s success may end up disappointed.
Wilson Chandler, G/F, NY – After being one of the Knicks’ most consistent performers the past two seasons, Chandler’s status with the team is in doubt entering this season. He is coming off two summer surgeries (ankle, groin) and will have to compete for the starting shooting guard job during the preseason. Even if he nabs the job, Chandler appears to have reached his peak as a fantasy performer, so don’t draft him expecting better production than you have seen the past couple years.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – Before the draft, Turner was considered one of the more NBA-ready players of this year’s rookie class. While that is still likely true, things haven’t gone as smoothly as expected for the No. 2 overall pick. He had a lackluster performance during the summer and has shot just 3-of-14 from the floor in his first two preseason games. Sixers coach Doug Collins has already anointed Turner a reserve. Turner is still among the top rookies to target this year, but it may take him longer than originally expected to develop into a solid fantasy producer.