Omri Casspi, SF, CLE – Casspi averaged 10.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 1.6 3pg during 27 starts for Sacramento last season, and while those numbers don't jump off the page, further improvement should be expected from the 23-year-old who's entering his third year in the league. After Cleveland traded J.J. Hickson, a player whom they once refused to deal for a short-term upgrade with LeBron James still in town, for Casspi straight up, Casspi looks locked in as the team's starter at small forward, and he should receive all the minutes he can handle on a young Cavs team depleted of talent and with few alternate scoring options. Casspi should be a real nice source for three-pointers, at minimum.
Greg Monroe, C, DET – It would be nice if he blocked more shots, but Monroe averaged 10.0 rpg and 1.6 spg as a rookie after the All-Star break last season. A strong passer, he should also help in the assists department as a center, and only four other players beat Monroe's 55.1 FG% last year. As he's just 21 years old, there's plenty of room for further growth as well. Monroe has a lot of fantasy potential and shouldn't be overlooked come draft time.
Dorell Wright, SG, GS – Hardly a complete unknown, Wright broke out last season, but because he contributes everywhere with no weaknesses, he's still being undervalued as a fantasy asset. While last year's numbers may not be sustainable, it's worth noting that according to Basketball Monster, Wright was the 29th overall fantasy player on a per game basis, which is pretty remarkable. Wright, who led the NBA in three-pointers made with 194 last season, also benefits from playing in a Golden State system that produces plenty of possessions. Other than three-pointers, none of Wright's other stats jump off the page, so he remains something of an underrated commodity.
Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU – After Aaron Brooks got hurt (and later traded), Lowry became a fantasy force, averaging 16.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 7.3 apg and 2.5 3pg while shooting 85.0 percent from the free-throw line in 22 games after the All-Star break last season. Lowry has been productive throughout his career whenever given the opportunity, and he's now locked in as Houston's starting point guard. He's not particularly turnover-prone and should be a focal point in a Houston offense without many stars, so Lowry is a highly intriguing fantasy option this season.
Kris Humphries, PF, FA – Humphries is mostly in the news these days for whom he's married to, but he quietly had easily the best season of his NBA career last year. In fact, he averaged 10.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 1.3 bpg while shooting 51.6 percent from the field during 44 games in which he started. His 10.4 boards per game ranked fifth in the league, and that was with him starting barely more than half his games. Humphries is a free agent, but the Nets have stated he's the team's No. 1 priority to re-sign, which would likely be best for his fantasy value, as continuity would trump uncertainty.
Serge Ibaka, C, OKC – The addition of Kendrick Perkins freed up Ibaka on the defensive end of the floor last year, as he swatted an impressive 3.3 bpg over the final two months of the season. Still raw, especially offensively, as a 21-year-old, Ibaka offers plenty of upside from the center position. Ibaka also won't kill your free-throw percentage, something rare for someone who's a threat to lead the league in blocks. In fact, among the top-15 players in blocks per game last season, just four also made at least 75.0 percent of their free throws (and most well below that), with Ibaka being one of them. Teammate James Harden is another candidate to break out in 2011-12 if he's finally installed in the starting lineup.
Marcin Gortat, C, PHO – Overpaid as a backup in Orlando, Gortat was unleashed after getting an opportunity with a trade to Phoenix, and he responded with 15.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 0.5 spg and 1.5 bpg while shooting 56.3 percent from the floor in 28 games after the All-Star break. Gortat is a relentless rebounder with a skilled offensive game now finally getting the minutes he deserves. He's in a fantastic situation with the Suns and could easily emerge as one of the most valuable fantasy centers in 2011-2012.
J.J. Hickson, PF, SAC – Hickson got off to a disappointing start last season, only to explode over the second half of the year when he averaged 16.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 0.7 spg and 0.7 bpg. Hickson finished the year with 11 double-doubles over his final 13 contests and looked like a centerpiece as part of a rebuilding Cleveland team, so it was surprising to see the Cavs ship him off to Sacramento in exchange for Omri Casspi. With DeMarcus Cousins capable of playing center, Hickson should immediately become the Kings' starting power forward. With Cousins, Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento admittedly has plenty of me-first players on its team, but Hickson should get all the run he can handle on a franchise in full rebuild mode. Hickson could improve his shot blocking, but during the final month of the season last year, he averaged 19.5 ppg and 12.3 rpg, revealing significant upside.
Jordan Crawford, SG, WAS – A midseason trade was a big boost to Crawford's value last year, as he went from rarely getting off the bench in Atlanta to becoming a major contributor on a depleted Washington team. Crawford's role is hardly guaranteed in 2011-12, but he averaged 19.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.3 spg and 1.2 3pg in 18 starts with the Wizards last season. A volume scorer, Crawford could damage your FG percentage, but he's also a terrific free-throw shooter, which counters that somewhat. Those looking for a scorer likely available in the mid-to-late rounds should keep Crawford's name in mind.
J.J. Barea, PG, DAL – Barea is hardly a secret after his impressive showing in the postseason, but he's also unlikely to cost a high fantasy pick while still locked into a bench role. However, starter Jason Kidd is now 38 years old and has played in 1,267 career games from the demanding point guard position (including a deep playoff run last year). Kidd has been remarkably durable throughout his career, but he's a prime candidate to break down, and Barea showed he has the skills to take advantage if it happens.