Training Camp Begins
Training camp tipped off in the Association little over a week ago. This marks the time of year players and teams are overwhelmingly optimistic, declaring goals of All-Star appearances and championships. And it also marks the time of year most fantasy addicts are enamored with football. As a result, this year's first edition of the Barmoeter will take a look at the early news around the NBA in the hope of better preparing you for your drafts.
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, role or skill level.
Channing Frye, C, PHO - When the Suns signed Frye to a contract this offseason, he was a dark horse candidate to land the starting center gig. After an impressive showing in training camp and an injury to Robin Lopez, Frye is sitting atop the depth chart. He's never been the best rebounder, but Frye proved with his 12.3 scoring average in his rookie season that he could hold his own in the NBA. And given the Suns' high-octane offense, Frye will be a steal toward the end of drafts.
Michael Beasley, PF, MIA - I know it's crazy to label Beasley's stock up after he followed a disappointing rookie campaign by spending the summer in a halfway house, but this guy is going to be good. The main reason for the bump is his likely promotion to the starting lineup. Coach Erik Spoelstra has shown a willingness to play Beasley at small forward during training camp, and the Kansas State product will likely get the nod there on opening night. He averaged 16.7 points and 6.7 boards in 19 starts last season, and we see no reason why he can't improve those numbers with a year under his belt.
Aaron Afflalo, SG, DEN - This one is for deeper leagues. If your league was deep enough for Dahntay Jones to be owned last season, you'll want to keep an eye on Afflalo. He was acquired by Denver after Jones left via free agency, and it appears Afflalo will get the first shot at the vacant starting shooting guard spot Jones left behind. While in Detroit, Afflalo was known for his ability to knock down an open trey while bringing sturdy defensive play off the bench. He'll never fill up the box score, but there's no reason he can't match Jones' production as a Nugget while adding three pointers to the mix.
Charlie Villanueva, PF, DET - Villanueva has been a useful fantasy player through his first four seasons, averaging 13.4 points and 6.3 boards while hitting nearly one three-pointer per game. The telling part about those stats is that he put up those numbers while averaging less than 27 minutes per game. The difference this year will be his playing time. The Pistons will deploy Villanueva as their primary scoring threat on the block. He's a lock to see the most playing time of his career, likely approaching 35 mpg. And just in case you're a doubter, look at his production in games he played over 30 minutes last year: 23.1 points and 9.0 rebounds.
Brandon Rush, SG, IND - Rush's bump in value stems from Mike Dunleavy's inability to stay healthy (see below). During the stretch run of his rookie campaign, Rush received extra playing time because Dunleavy was sidelined. Rush took advantage of the opportunity, averaging 15.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and two treys in 19 starts. Coach Jim O'Brien is toying with the idea of starting the aforementioned Dahntay Jones at the two, but look for Rush to be the main beneficiary of any time Dunleavy misses.
Gilbert Arenas, PG, WAS - What better way to tip off the year's first edition of "Check Status" than with the perpetually hurt Arenas. All offseason reports have been glowing on Arenas' recovery from multiple knee surgeries, but it's hard to trust a player who has played in only 15 games the past two seasons. He's a fantasy superstar when healthy, but make sure he's just that before committing a second or third round pick on him.
Rasheed Wallace, C, BOS - The volatile big man has taken his versatile game to the East Coast, but how much does he have left in the tank? At 35, 'Sheed isn't exactly a spring chicken, and he showed signs of wearing down last season with calf, knee and foot injuries. The Celtics will counter Wallace's apparent decline by limiting his minutes, often deploying him with the second unit. With his ability to average more than a three, block and steal per game, Wallace will still hold value, but don't go thinking he'll be the 'Sheed of years past.
Emeka Okafor, C, NOR - After an offseason trade to New Orleans, Okafor's stock would seem to be up for the lone fact that he's playing alongside Chris Paul, but a toe injury has clouded the big man's outlook. The injury doesn't appear too serious, but Okafor will miss the first few preseason games. Okafor has played in all 82 games each of the past two seasons, but he was considered an injury risk coming out of college and should be viewed in that light again.
Rashard Lewis, PF, ORL - There's nothing wrong with Lewis' health or game, but let this serve as a reminder that he's suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season. I've seen him go in drafts at roughly the same price as last year, but that shouldn't be the case for a player expected to miss the first three weeks of the regular season. And here are two other guys who will be serving suspensions to begin the season: J.R. Smith (7 games) and Jason Richardson (2).
Yao Ming, C, HOU - Yao's a great player; unfortunately he'll miss the entire season recovering from foot surgery. This may seem like a silly reminder for all of you die-hard hoops fans out there, but I've seen Yao drafted in multiple one-year leagues.
Tracy McGrady, SG, HOU - The chronically McGrady injured is recovering from microfracture knee surgery performed last spring. McGrady can't even be cleared for full participation until the results from a November 23rd MRI come in. If the results are clean, he'll be allowed to resume practicing. In all likelihood, the best-case scenario is McGrady suiting up for a game sometime around Christmas. If you have the room to stash him, go ahead, but don't waste too high of a pick on a player who has averaged 27 missed games the past four seasons.
Rudy Gay, SF, MEM - Gay is one of my favorite players in the league. And he's a favorite of mine to own in fantasy, too, due to his rare ability to record more than a three, steal and block per game. Despite my obvious man-crush, it's hard to imagine Gay being worth his draft slot this year. Why? The arrival of Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph in Memphis will hurt his stock. Iverson and Randolph combined for 32.2 shots per game last season. Some of those looks are going to have to come from the 17 attempts Gay averaged last year. We're not sure what Memphis was trying to cook up in the offseason, but it's smells like recipe of disaster for fantasy owners.
Andre Miller, PG, POR - Miller has been one of the most consistent point guards over the past 10 seasons. Each year you could mark him down for 15 points and seven assists in 35 minutes per game. That could change now that he's in Portland. Coach Nate McMillan has stated repeatedly throughout training camp that the starting point guard spot still belongs to Steve Blake. Now Miller will still see plenty of playing time if he plays a reserve role, probably more than Blake, but McMillan will use a 10-man rotation, making it hard to envision Miller coming any where near the 35 mpg he's accustomed to.
Mike Dunleavy Jr., SG, IND - Dunleavy is another hobbled star. He had surgery on his knee towards the end of last season and followed that up with an offseason hip procedure. His knee is still bothering him, and the Pacers don't expect him back until December at the earliest. Like, T-Mac, Dunleavy could be worth a late pick if you have the room to stash him, but we don't have much faith in a player who appeared in only 18 games last season.
Article first appeared on 10/6/09