Under the Radar
A rash of injuries hit the NBA this preseason, many significant: Raja Bell (torn wrist ligament), Francisco Garcia, (broken forearm) and Antawn Jamison (shoulder subluxation). While preseason games should be taken lightly, they do provide some insight stats to show a player's potential with certain categories or what they are capable of doing with ample playing time. Again, this week's article will skip the eligibility section and focus on the minutes and categories sections.
D.J. Augustin, G, CHA - A torn ligament in Raja Bell's wrist could require surgery and place him on the shelf for up to four months. This will open the door for Augustin to play a more prominent role for the Bobcats. In 11 games as a starter last year, Augustin averaged 18.6 points, six assists and 2.8 three-pointers made. He's automatic at the charity stripe, shooting 89.2 percent for the season. Over the last two preseason games he's logged 33 and 38 minutes, the kind of time that should carry over into the regular season. Pick him up immediately if he's floating on the waiver wire in your league.
Channing Frye, C, PHO - Frye will open as the starting center for one of the more fantasy-friendly teams in the league, despite being available in more leagues than not. While it seems he's been around a while, he's only 26 and will get much more playing time than the 11.8 minutes per game he average last season. Frye has a nice touch from the outside, and will get many open looks playing with Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudamire. He will not often duplicate his 29-point performance from Tuesday night, but is a nice No. 2 option at center for most leagues.
Brandon Bass, F-ORL - Bass parlayed his tough, energetic play in Dallas into a four-year deal with the Magic. He has gotten off to a hot start this preseason, shooting a league-leading 64.7 percent from the floor. Long term for this season his value will be limited, but he should get the starting gig while Rashard Lewis serves his 10-game suspension to begin the season. A solid shooter, Bass shot 49.6 percent from the field and 86.7 percent from the free-throw line last year. For the first few weeks, expecting averages of 12 points and seven rebounds a night seem realistic.
Andray Blatche, F, WAS - There is currently no timetable for Antawn Jamison's return, but it appears he'll miss at least the first few games to start the season. This will open the door for Blatche, who will try and make the most of this opportunity. Blatche has been a sleeper in past years, but has never stepped up and been a dominant force when given the chance. For now temper expectations but realize he's penciled in as the starter until Jamison (timetable unknown) returns.
This is a list of players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
James Harden, G, OKC - The third overall draft pick in the 2009 NBA draft should get ample minutes at shooting guard to start the season. The 20-year-old will likely backup Thabo Sefolosha but be counted on to provide a spark off the bench. Harden has posted nice averages over five preseason games: 11.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, two assists and 1.2 steals. He'll be a work in progress, but an Eric Gordon-lite rookie season is not out of the question.
Courtney Lee, G, NJN - Lee's draft stock slipped a bit this year when he dealt with ankle and foot injuries, keeping him out of the Nets' first two preseason games. Since then he's come on strong, averaging 16.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and two steals. He'll be counted on to contribute a lot more offensively than in Orlando and be expected to help replace Vince Carter and his 20.8 PPG average.
Rebounds and Blocks
Marreese Speights, C, PHI - Speights is one of my darkhorses this year and should only have a roster spot in leagues that allow deep benches. He'll likely start the season backing up Samuel Dalembert, even though Speights' has had a monster preseason. Over the last three preseason games, he's averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and a block. While it's worth a reminder that these were preseason games, it gives a glimpse at Speights' tremendous upside. Worst-case scenario sees him playing 20-24 minutes a night initially with a possible bump if he produces.
Andres Nocioni, F, SAC - Last season was a tale of two teams as Nocioni flourished after a trade from Chicago to Sacramento. Francisco Garcia would have made this column if he hadn't broken his forearm, costing him the first four months of the season. This will give Andres a possible starting spot, or at least more time at small forward for the Kings. As a starter last year, Nocioni averaged 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 three-pointers made. Keep an eye on the situation in Sacramento, as Nocioni would be a lift to your team's three-pointers if he finds significant minutes.
Article first appeared on 10/22/09