After four months of nonsense, NBA players and owners finally came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement last week. The proposed deal is expected to be completed over the next week or so with training camp and free agency officially opening Dec. 9.
Typically, the first Barometer of the season focuses on players whose fantasy value has improved or declined over the course of the summer, but with the offseason not even officially underway, and with new wrinkles in the CBA, such as an amnesty clause allowing NBA teams to cut a bad contract without taking a salary cap hit, we’re left speculating more than usual at this stage. If at all possible, try to schedule your drafts after the free agency period has ended so you have the advantage of seeing where players end up and what type of role they will fill.
Timofey Mozgov, C, DEN – The big (7-1, 250) Russian center was a non-factor after being traded from New York to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony deal last year, averaging just six minutes in 11 appearances, but he’s expected to play a bigger role in 2011-12. With Nene Hilario having numerous suitors in free agency, and multiple ex-Nuggets now playing in China, Mozgov’s role with Denver should jump exponentially. There are even whispers he’ll join the starting lineup. In the six games he saw over 20 minutes of run last season, the 25-year-old big man averaged 11.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Those stats will play in even the shallowest of leagues, so keep him in mind when targeting pivots late in drafts.
Danilo Gallinari, F, DEN – Like Mozgov, Gallinari’s fantasy value figures to see a nice bump due to the massive turnover in Denver. Gallinari has established himself as a reliable fantasy option over the past three years, but he could take the next step towards becoming a star player in 2011-12. With Wilson Chandler in China until March, Gallinari is the Nuggets’ only real option at small forward, so he should log heavy minutes at the position. Denver will be looking to establish a new offensive identity in their first full season without Melo, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team makes Gallo their new No. 1 option. He won’t post fantastic numbers in rebounding, assists or defensive stats, but Gallinari will help out fantasy squads significantly with his scoring, three-point shooting and percentages.
Greg Monroe, F/C, DET – A slow start to his rookie season allowed Monroe to fly under the radar in some circles, but make no mistake, this guy is going to be a double-double machine going forward. The 21-year-old big man thrived after the All-Star break last year, averaging 13.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks. With a year under his belt, Monroe should continue to make progression in his offensive game, so a bump in scoring and efficiency should be expected. He should also show improvements in passing and shot blocking – two areas he excelled at during his final season at Georgetown. Don’t be afraid to reach for Monroe on draft day.
Kyle Lowry, G, HOU – Lowry is another player who picked up his play as the season wore on last year. Over the final 22 games of the season, Lowry posted averages of 16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.5 threes and 1.1 steals. His play picked up significantly after Aaron Brooks was traded to Phoenix at the trade deadline, and the Rockets don’t appear eager to pick up anyone else to ease Lowry’s workload, so look for the 25-year-old point guard to hold the keys to the Rockets’ offense all season. He produced like a top-tier point guard down the stretch last season but is being valued as a second- or third- tier option heading into drafts. Don’t let him drop too far.
Marcin Gortat, C, PHO – After escaping Dwight Howard’s shadow in Orlando and landing in the desert, Gortat proved to be fantasy force for the Suns. The 27-year-old center saved his best for after the All-Star break, averaging 15.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks over the final 28 games of the season. Now we know why Orlando was always hesitant to trade the big Polish center. He has great chemistry with Steve Nash on pick-and-rolls (who doesn’t) and shouldn’t have any problems building on his break out this season. Gortat is a great big man to target after most of the marquee names have been selected.
Ed Davis, F, TOR – A knee injury in training camp put an early damper on Davis’ rookie campaign, but by the end of the year he looked like one of the more promising players from the 2010 draft class. The 22-year-old out of North Carolina finished the season strong, averaging 12.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.0 blocks over his final eight games. The Raptors have a lot of money invested in Amir Johnson, but the team would be foolish not to hand over a starting job to Davis. He’s still a little raw on the offensive end, but Davis has the tools to develop into a solid low-post option. Don’t be surprised if he takes another step in his progression this year.
David West, F, FA – West has been one of the steadier options at power forward over the past six seasons, but his rehab from last year’s knee injury, coupled with his pending free agency, makes him a question mark heading into 2011-12. The 31-year-old underwent surgery on his left knee in March. He has already been cleared to resume basketball activities, but it’s still unclear how far away he is from actually suiting up for a game. The other big concern is his eventual destination. At this point, it seems unlikely that West will return to New Orleans. West has no doubt benefited from playing alongside Chris Paul throughout his stint with the Hornets and could see a drop-off in production if not paired with another elite point guard. A clear bill of health will have us feeling a bit more confident about West’s outlook for the 2011-12 season, but we recommend seeing where he lands before committing to him on draft day.
Nene Hilario, C, FA – Nene is another free agent big man whose fantasy value will be impacted by where he signs. If he returns to Denver (which is unlikely at this point), Nene would likely be fed the ball more than ever before, but signing with a talent-rich roster could hurt his value. There are even rumors Nene is considering sacrificing money and signing with a title contender like Miami. We don’t doubt Nene’s skills, but it would be hard to get his hands on the ball much with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh getting touches, too. Wait to see where Nene signs before slotting him into your rankings.
Brandon Roy, G, POR – If reports are to be believed, Roy figures to be one of the bigger names sent packing thanks to the amnesty clause in the new CBA. Given his two bad knees, it’s understandable that the Blazers would want to cut Roy’s expensive contract and free up some salary cap space. That said, the three-time All-Star would garner plenty of interest if he hits the open market. Teams are frothing at the mouth to land him on the cheap. Regardless of where he lands, most fantasy pundits are scared off of Roy due to his injury history. While his knee problems shouldn’t be waived off, Roy could actually become a draft day steal if he drops far enough.
Other Potential Amnesty Cuts – Aside from Roy, there are plenty other highly-paid veterans who could be shown the door. Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, Mike Miller, Brendan Haywood, Al Harrington, Richard Hamilton, Travis Outlaw and many other names have been rumored as candidates to be cut by their respective teams. Keep a close eye on the movement after Dec. 9 to see if any of the names above land in an intriguing new situation.
NBA Players In China – During the lockout, numerous NBA players opted to play overseas. One of the foreign destinations that landed some pivotal players was China. Unlike most European leagues, the Chinese Basketball Association did not include an opt-out clause in the contracts handed out to foreign players. As a result, players like Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Aaron Brooks are stuck playing in China until March. That makes this group of guys undraftable in most formats, but any one of them could be a nice midseason free-agent addition once the Chinese season reaches its conclusion.
Kyle Singler, F, DET – Singler signed with Real Madrid for the remainder of the season, postponing his NBA debut until the 2012-13 campaign. The Pistons will still retain Singler's rights when he returns stateside, so he's effectively like any other foreign prospect who has been drafted by an NBA squad but opts to stay overseas for an additional season or two. It was doubtful the 2011 second-round pick would have had a large role with the Pistons this season, so his decision to play in Spain should actually help his development. Plus, he'll get a full offseason with extra reps in Summer League and a full training camp before playing in his first NBA game -- a luxury no NBA rookie will experience this season.
Michael Beasley, F, MIN – Beasley enjoyed a successful first season with the Timberwolves, finally flashing some of the potential that made him the second overall selection in 2008. Unfortunately for Beasley, he’s poised to see a diminished role after Minnesota selected Derrick Williams with the second overall pick this summer. Like Beasley, Williams plays both forward positions. We’ll have to wait to see how Minnesota will dole out the minutes, but it’s difficult to see a situation where Beasley and Williams will share the court and thrive – they’re playing styles are far too similar for that to work. Instead, the Timberwolves will likely start building around Ricky Rubio and Williams, resulting in a diminished role for Beasley. Don’t pay for last year’s production on draft day.
Andre Miller, G, DEN – Miller was traded from Portland to Denver during the NBA Draft in June. As a result, Miller is going from a starting gig to a reserve role. While Miller is still expected to have a steady role with the Nuggets, the team is ready to hand over the reins to fellow point guard Ty Lawson. As a 35-year-old veteran, Miller is on the downside of his career. Target younger point guards with more upside in your draft.