Training camp and free agency open Friday, and NBA squads are already starting to gather and put together rosters for the 2011-12 season. Players started pouring in to practice facilities earlier this week and multiple free agents have already latched on with new teams. Here’s a glance around the Association at players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain.
Brandon Roy, G, POR – The Trail Blazers announced earlier this week that the team doesn’t have any plans to use the amnesty clause on Roy this season. In fact, after a 90 minute meeting with the Portland’s front office and coaching staff Monday, Roy will be given every chance to prove he can still play a pivotal role on the team. The 27-year-old will get a shot to earn the starting shooting guard gig in training camp. Roy remains a huge fantasy risk due a pair of bad knees, but his upside remains high if he can stay healthy and log 30-plus minutes per game. His current ADP is in the 160 range, so Roy can be had near the end of most drafts. While his injury history definitely has to be weighed into the decision, grabbing a player with Roy’s potential near the end of your draft could pay huge dividends if he defies the odds and stays healthy.
UPDATE: Roy is now expected to announce his retirement due to degenerative knees. This is a complete 180 from the promising reports we heard earlier this week. Make sure you remove him from your cheat sheets.
Shannon Brown, G, PHO – The Suns signed Brown to a one-year deal Thursday. Brown provided the Lakers with solid offense off the bench the past two seasons, averaging 8.4 points in just under 20 minutes per game. His move to Phoenix makes him more interesting given the possibility Brown may crack the starting lineup. In seven starts during the 2009-10 season, Brown averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 threes and 1.0 steals while filling in for an injured Kobe Bryant. Brown will have to earn the starting gig in training camp, but even if he doesn’t start at shooting guard for the Suns, look for the 26-year-old guard to play a bigger role than the one he had in Los Angeles.
DeMar DeRozan, G, TOR – DeRozan quietly broke out last season, averaging 19.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 26 games after the All-Star break. After his second-half surge, DeRozan is expected to take on an expanded leadership role for the Raptors this season. His entire offensive repertoire revolves around attacking the basket, so don’t expect the young athletic swingman to help much in the three-point category. Still, he’ll offer useful percentages (46.7 FG, 81.3 FT) while taking decent care of the ball (1.8 TO). The 22-year-old guard/forward isn’t a household name, so he can still be had at a decent price in most drafts. Don’t let him slip by you.
Al Horford, F, ATL – Already established as a top-25 fantasy option, Horford is poised to take the next step in his development after working on his post-up and dribble-drive game this offseason. Horford saw his offensive game reach new heights last year, averaging a career-high 15.3 points while shooting 55.7 percent from the floor and 79.8 percent from the charity stripe. He also remained a steady rebounder and defender, grabbing 9.3 boards and swatting 1.0 shots per game. The Hawks are expected to lose Jamal Crawford via free agency while Joe Johnson appears to have lost a step, so the team will need the extra offense to come from somewhere. At 25, Horford is in the prime of his career and is as good a candidate as anyone else on the roster to pick up the slack offensively.
Kawhi Leonard, F, SAN – With the Spurs using their amnesty clause on Richard Jefferson, the team has a gaping hole at the starting small forward position. Leonard is one of a handful of candidates to see an expanded role this season. The Spurs acquired Leonard in a draft day trade that sent George Hill to Indiana. Giving up a proven commodity like Hill proves just how highly the Spurs think of the athletic forward out of San Diego State. He possesses strong rebounding and defensive skills, but Leonard lacks the perimeter game of a prototypical three. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has shown a willingness to give young players a significant role in his rotation over the past couple seasons, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Leonard be a more pivotal part of the team in his first season than originally expected. He’s a solid rookie to target near the end of drafts in deeper leagues.
Rodrigue Beaubois, G, DAL – Beaubois’ status for the start of the regular season is in doubt, as the speedy guard isn’t 100 percent recovered from offseason foot surgery. This is the same injury that limited Beaubois to 28 regular season games and caused him to miss the Mavs’ entire postseason run last year. The 23-year-old guard started 26 of his 28 appearances last season, so he’s worth having on your radar when healthy. Continue to track his progress as the regular season nears.
Travis Outlaw, F, NJ – Outlaw underwent surgery to repair a broken hand this summer after sustaining the injury during a boxing workout. He’s expected to return to contact practice in the next week to 10 days, putting him on pace to be ready in time for the start of the regular season. The Nets still haven’t announced whether or not they’ll use the amnesty provision prior to the start of the regular season. If the team does decide to waive a bad contact, Outlaw is considered the most likely player to be cut loose.
Ben Wallace, C, DET – Big Ben is leaning towards returning for a 16th season. While still disruptive on the defensive end of the court, Wallace is about five years past the prime of his career when he was the most dominating defender in the league. He’s currently dealing with a pending court hearing on misdemeanor charges for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possessing a firearm while under the influence of alcohol, but no jail is expected. Should he return to the Pistons, Wallace will assume a similar role to the one he held in 2010-11.
Tyler Hansbrough, F, IND – The Pacers have been shopping for an upgrade in the frontcourt this offseason, sitting down with free agents Nene Hilario, Carl Landry and David West. In all likelihood, the team will end up with a new big man to play alongside center Roy Hibbert, which would push Hansbrough to a reserve role. Hansbrough is the type of high-energy player who can still be effective off the bench, but from a fantasy perspective his best production came while he was in the starting five last year, as evident by his drop in scoring from 14.2 ppg as a starter to 10.9 ppg as a reserve. Monitor the Pacers once free agency tips off Friday, as any big name signings could have a negative impact on Hansbrough’s value going forward.
Tracy McGrady, F, ATL – The Hawks agreed to a one-year deal with McGrady on Wednesday. This deal is a bit confusing from McGrady’s standpoint: He signed for the veteran’s minimum to play a reserve role with a team that isn’t considered a title contender. At this stage of his career, we figured McGrady would have chased a title or gone to a perennial doormat to try and re-establish himself as a star in the league. Regardless, McGrady proved last year that he could contribute on a limited basis when healthy. He gives the Hawks a versatile option off the bench, but don’t expect McGrady to offer anything more than he did with the Pistons last season.
Shane Battier, F, MIA – Battier announced on his Twitter page Thursday that he would be signing with the Heat. This deal makes sense for both sides, as Battier gets to chase his title and the Heat get a great defensive player who provides depth off their bench. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade already logging most of the minutes at the two and the three, Battier will probably have the smallest role of his career, so be prepared to look elsewhere for cheap threes, blocks and steals.