Around the League
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they're extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level.
D.J. Augustin, G, CHA - Following the injury to Raja Bell (see below), Augustin should be a hot pickup in leagues of all sizes. The diminutive guard won't get the start on opening night, but he could eventually work his way into the starting lineup if Bell is out for an extended period. In 12 starts last season, Augustin averaged 17.8 points, 5.6 assists and 2.6 threes. His field-goal percentage (43.9) won't be of much help, but an 89-percent clip from the charity stripe helps ease that worry.
Greg Oden, C, POR - Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan finally did the obvious and named Oden the starting center. Oden's offseason workout regimen has been hyped all summer, and he showed that the extra work paid off by averaging 13.6 points, 9.3 boards and 1.6 blocks during the preseason. Another aspect of Oden's game that showed improvement this preseason was a newfound ability to avoid foul trouble. The once lumbering big man averaged just three personal fouls in eight exhibition appearances. This is the season that Oden starts living up to the hype.
Ben Wallace, C, DET - Big Ben turned back the clock in the Pistons' preseason finale, grabbing 14 boards with four steals and two blocks in a win over the Bucks. The impressive outing marked the only preseason game Wallace played over 20 minutes, but it appears he'll have a significant role once the regular season tips off. Don't expect the Wallace of old, but he'll still hold value in deep leagues as a rebounding and defensive presence.
Ryan Anderson, F, ORL - Anderson was an unheralded chip in the Magic's acquisition of Vince Carter this past summer. The sophomore forward was a surprise fixture in the Nets rotation last year and even managed to start 30 games. With Rashard Lewis suspended for the first 10 games of the season, he'll get another shot at starting. Packing a sweet outside stroke, the 6-10 Anderson fits in perfectly with the Magic's offense and should hold value as a three-point threat while Lewis is unavailable.
DeMar DeRozan, G, TOR - The lottery pick out of USC was expected to be a project this season, but it looks like he'll nab the opening night start at shooting guard for the Raptors. He had an up-and-down preseason, but showed an ability to create his own shot. Don't expect much help in categories outside of scoring, but deep leagues may want to take a late-round flier on the rookie, especially keeper ones.
Tyler Hansbrough, F, IND - The former college star returned from his shin injury and started practicing over the weekend. He's still two weeks away from seeing any game action, and it's uncertain how he'll fit into the rotation once he does start to play, but he's worth monitoring in deep leagues. The Pacers aren't expected to contend this season, so don't be surprised if Hansbrough gets an extended look later this season.
Danny Granger, F, IND - Granger sat out practices on Sunday and Monday with a bone bruise in his heel. The Pacers' franchise player insists the injury isn't serious, and he'll play in the season opener, but any time a first-round pick gets dinged up, it deserves to be monitored. He missed 15 games due to various injuries last season, so there's some injury history that comes with Granger. Hopefully, this doesn't turn into a trend.
Pau Gasol, C, LAL - The Lakers big man has been hindered by a hamstring injury this preseason and might miss the season opener. With a stacked team, the Lakers can afford to be cautious with Gasol, so it won't come as a surprise if he sits out a couple games to start the year. If he misses time, look for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to receive extra playing time.
Spencer Hawes, C, SAC - First-year Kings coach Paul Westphal has opted to bring Hawes off the bench to start the season. Westphal claims that Hawes will still see his fair share of minutes, and the move was made to give the Kings more size on the court throughout the game. Hawes is a big part of the Kings' future, so we don't see this scenario lasting too long, but you may want to keep an eye on how the the seven footer responds to a reserve role in the early going.
Blake Griffin, F, LAC - The Curse of the Clippers continues. After dealing with injuries throughout the summer and training camp, Griffin will be sidelined for the first six weeks of the season with a stress fracture of his left kneecap. The guy has a world of talent and should be able to bounce back, so hopefully he comes back strong and avoids being placed alongside names like Michael Olowokandi, Shaun Livingston and Chris Wilcox as failed lottery picks by the Clippers.
Raja Bell, G, CHA - Bell has a partially torn ligament in his left wrist. He recently decided to put off surgery, hoping to return to the court as soon as the second week of the regular season. The injury is expected to limit him as a passer and defender, but he hasn't had any problems shooting. If Bell suffers any setbacks and has to go under the knife, he'll miss up to four months. That's seems like too big of a risk to take on a marginal fantasy player.
Nicolas Batum, F, POR - The Blazers incumbent starting small forward is scheduled to undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder Friday. There's still no timetable for his return, but given his already limited role with the team, it's hard to imagine Batum making much of a splash this season. Look for Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw to see a spike in playing time while Batum is sidelined.
Josh Howard, F, DAL - Howard has been sidelined all of the preseason as he recovers from offseason ankle surgery. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said it could be a few weeks before Howard returns to game action. There's no doubting Howard's value in fantasy, but he's proving to be too fragile to rely on as one of your big guns. He has averaged 15 missed games per season throughout his career and appears headed in that direction again.
Delonte West, G, CLE - It's pretty safe to say West has had the craziest offseason of any player in the Association. After missing significant time during training camp following an arrest for weapons possession, West now has a domestic violence report hanging over his head. He had rejoined the team recently, but didn't make any appearances in the preseason. With this latest personal problem now on his plate, West's availability for the beginning of the regular season is in question. The best course of action would be to avoid West at this time, but he could revert back to being a fantasy asset after all of his off-the-court problems are solved.
Article first appeared on 10/27/09