Under the Radar
Each week this season I'll look at changes in the NBA in three areas: players receiving an increase in minutes, free agents who could help your team in specific categories and new player position eligibility. There is no bias to leagues with daily or weekly transactions; both will be covered. The category section will help those in rotisserie leagues who are behind in certain categories while the minutes section will help teams in both head-to-head and roto leagues. Realize that you're not going to read about the better-known sleepers who go in the middle of a draft: Anthony Randolph, Luis Scola, Blake Griffin or Tyrus Thomas. Here you'll read about players floating on the waiver wire or good speculative picks for the end of your draft. Since no games have been played, I will focus on the minutes and categories sections and skip the eligibility section for this week only.
Hakim Warrick, F, MIL - Warrick leaves the bench in Memphis to a possible starting spot in Milwaukee. Over his last three seasons he has been a consistent contributor off the bench, averaging at least 11.4 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting more than 49 percent from the field. With both Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut returning from injuries, Warrick will be asked to play and contribute more regardless of whether he starts. Through the first five preseason games, he's averaging 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds. He only signed a one-year deal, so the motivation to produce will be there.
Carl Landry, F, HOU - The Rockets head into this season without their top three players from a year ago. Yao Ming is out for the season, Ron Artest took his championship aspirations to Los Angeles and Tracy McGrady is dealing with an injury as usual. This will open the door and give the third-year player out of Wisconsin a chance to step up. Look for Houston to slide Luis Scola over to center, opening the power forward spot for Landry. Look for him to be a solid contributor for the Rockets especially given his field goal (57.4%) and free throw (81.3%) percentages.
Jordan Farmar, G, LAL - Here's a player who saw his numbers drop across the board last year, and is still a backup on one of the most stacked teams in the NBA. So what on earth is he doing in this section? The Lakers have made no indication they are going to sign Farmar to a long-term deal, making him a restricted free-agent next summer. He could also be dealt sometime during the season to a rebuilding team where he would see his role increase dramatically, a la Devin Harris. Finally, he could stay on with the Lakers and become the starting point guard when Derek Fisher moves on. In any scenario, he's worth a late-round pick, especially for those in keeper leagues. And yes, his stats were down last year, but he tried to battle through a knee injury that ended up needing surgery. Now healthy and only 22, he should be ready for bounce-back season.
Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL - Everyone knows the story of Jennings, who elected to play professionally in Italy after failing an entrance exam to the University of Arizona. Jennings' numbers in Italy were less than stellar, averaging only 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 16 Euroleague games. Whether it was being away from home, the transition to playing with grown men or playing a different style of basketball, Jennings did not exactly help his stock last year. However, the Bucks had faith that better days were ahead and selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft. His main competition at point guard in Milwaukee is veteran Luke Ridnour, who has backup written all over him at this point in his career. Chances are coach Scot Skiles will bring Jennings along slowly but give him ample opportunity to overtake the starting spot at some point this year. Jennings will help squads with assists (he handed out 12 dimes in his fifth preseason game) and steals (he recorded six in his second preseason game).
Rebounds and Blocks
Joakim Noah, C, CHI - Noah took great strides toward becoming a serviceable fantasy option at center last year. He got stronger as the season went on, averaging 8.9 points on 58 percent shooting and 9.3 rebounds per game. Through his first four preseason games, Noah is averaging 9.7 points, nine rebounds, 2.2 assists and two blocks a game. While Brad Miller is still around, Noah will still see plenty of minutes and be a nightly double-double threat for the Bulls.
Points and Three-Pointers
Anthony Morrow, G, GS - For as much as Stephen Jackson is trying to work his way out of town, Morrow is doing everything he can to crack the starting lineup. Through five preseason games, Morrow is second in the league averaging 22.6 points per game. Throw in the staggering 46.7 percent he shot from behind the arc last season, and there's a lot to like about the former Georgia Tech star. The problem for Morrow is playing time. For the time being, Jackson is still on the team, and it's a pretty crowded backcourt with Monta Ellis, Kelenna Azuibuke and rookie Stephen Curry looking for minutes. If he winds up the starting guard for Golden State at any point this season, he's worth putting in your starting lineup. After all, he averaged 15.5 points, 2.3 three-pointers made and 4.3 rebounds in the same role last year.
Ronnie Brewer, G, UTA - Quietly, Brewer tied for sixth in the NBA with an average of 1.70 steals per game. He's seen his stats improve across the board in each of his first three seasons with the Jazz and has worked on improving his shot beyond the arc. Brewer has shot at least 50 percent from the field each season, a stat hard to find from a shooting guard. Teammate C.J. Miles, a threat to his minutes, ruptured a tendon in the thumb of his shooting hand this preseason, which puts him on the shelf indefinitely. Steals count as much as any other category in most leagues, and Brewer should still be around in the late rounds of fantasy drafts.
Article first appeared on 10/15/09