Training camp and free agency are wrapping up, giving us a better idea what rosters will look like come Opening Night on Christmas. Meanwhile, position battles will start ramping up as preseason games get underway Friday night. Here’s a glance around the Association at players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain as the regular season nears.
Eric Gordon, G, NOR – Gordon was the key piece sent to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade. The 23-year-old guard averaged a quiet 22.3 points last year while playing alongside the likes of Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman, Baron Davis and Maurice Williams. In New Orleans, Gordon will be the clear-cut No.1 scoring option. Give the Hornets’ lack of other scoring options and abysmal depth, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Gordon finish among the league leaders in points per game.
Al-Farouq Aminu, G/F, NOR – Aminu was also part of the deal that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers. The second-year swingman would have been stuck on the bench behind Caron Butler in Los Angeles, but he’ll have a chance to get significant run with his new squad. He had an up-and-down rookie season, but Aminu is a versatile player who should be able to develop into a solid contributor once he’s given regular playing time. He’s worth throwing a dart at late in your draft.
DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC –With Chris Kaman now in New Orleans, Jordan is locked in as the Clippers’ starting center. In 66 starts last season, Jordan averaged a respectable 7.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Those stats all came in just 27 minutes per game, though. As long as Jordan can stay out of foul trouble, his playing time should jump significantly. Given his per 36-minute averages of 10.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, Jordan has the potential to be a top-15 center this season. Don’t let the 23-year-old big man slip by you on draft day.
Tyrus Thomas, F, CHR – Kwame Brown inked a deal with Golden State earlier this week, opening the way for Thomas to crack the Bobcats’ starting lineup. While Thomas’ overall stat line from last season (10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks) is underwhelming, his per 36-minute averages (17.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocks) hint at what he could produce. Injury problems and foul trouble may keep Thomas from ever realizing his full potential, but his expanded role in Charlotte this season will give him as good a chance as he’s ever had.
Rudy Fernandez, G, DEN – Denver acquired Fernandez from the Mavericks on Tuesday in exchange for a future second-round pick. Nuggets coach George Karl is reportedly so enamored in the Spanish swingman that he could be given a look in the starting five. Even as a reserve, Fernandez will see a bump in value, as he’ll take over the sixth man role left vacant by J.R. Smith, who’s stuck in China. Don’t be surprised if Fernandez puts together a career year with his new squad.
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, POR – Aldridge is currently sidelined with Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome, which is a rare congenital heart disorder involving irregularities in the electrical system of the heart. The Blazers star big man had a checkup appointment scheduled Thursday. He missed nine games due to this condition during his rookie year, so this definitely deserves monitoring. Hopefully Aldridge is healthy and cleared to play before the start of the season, but this situation should certainly give potential owners pause when evaluating his high price tag on draft day.
Rodney Stuckey, G, DET – Contract negotiations between Stuckey and the Pistons have recently stalled, as the restricted free agent turned down a reported five-year deal worth $40 to $45 million. The Pistons are unlikely to budge much on that offer, so Stuckey is looking for deals from other teams. If Stuckey and the Pistons can’t come to an agreement and he’s unable to find other suitors, he could accept the Pistons’ qualifying offer for one season and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Pistons’ backcourt rotation could see some drastic changes if Stuckey doesn’t return, so keep close tabs on the situation.
Evan Turner, G/F, PHI – Originally expected to be handed the starting shooting guard job, Turner is now in competition for the gig with Jodie Meeks. Turner had a mediocre rookie season (7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists), but he still has boatloads of potential. He should improve across the board no matter what role he plays for the Sixers this season, but a full-scale breakout is dependant on Turner nabbing a spot in the starting five. Keep a close eye on the battle during the preseason.
Maurice Williams, G, LAC – With Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul now in town, Williams is expected to be pushed to sixth man for the Clippers. While Williams projects as a solid producer off the bench (think Jason Terry lite), his production isn’t going to match what he put up as a starter and one of the top scoring options on his team over the past five seasons. He’ll still hold value in most leagues, but look for Williams’ production to take a hit across the board this year.
Austin Daye, F, DET – Tayshaun Prince surprisingly re-signed with the Pistons last week, which should keep Daye locked into a reserve role. Daye was expected to reap the benefits of Prince leaving town, so this is a huge blow for anyone who had the 23-year-old targeted as a breakout candidate. Daye’s versatility enables him to log minutes at the two, three or four, but his role will still be smaller than if he were in the starting five.
Greg Oden, C, POR – Oden experienced a setback in his recovery from microfracture knee surgery last week, and the Blazers are less optimistic that former No. 1 overall pick will be able to return to the court this season. While Oden would be an intriguing fantasy option if he were to take the court, his 82 games played total over four seasons make him far too risky to invest in on draft day.
Baron Davis, G, FA – The Cavaliers used their amnesty clause on Davis this week, and while his final destination will have plenty of impact on his fantasy value, he finds his stock down this week due to his lingering back problems. According to Davis’s agent, the point guard is expected to miss the next 8-to-10 weeks with a herniated disc in his back. Given his health troubles and the uncertainty of where he’ll be playing this season, Davis is an extremely risky draft pick right now.
Jimmer Fredette, G, SAC – Fredette has been pushed to bench duty following the Kings’ re-signing of Marcus Thornton over the weekend. Originally considered a strong candidate to start at shooting guard alongside Tyreke Evans, Fredette will now be the third guard in Sacramento’s rotation. The 22-year-old sharpshooter has the ideal skills to be a high-scoring sixth man, but his role will no doubt be smaller than if he were in the starting lineup.
J.J. Hickson, F, SAC – Like his teammate Jimmer Fredette, Hickson has been pushed to a bench role as a result of the Kings’ roster tinkering. Freshly signed Chuck Hayes and second-year big man DeMarcus Cousins will open as the Kings’ starting frontcourt. Hickson should still see plenty of action off the bench, but owners hoping for the 23-year-old forward to improve on last year’s breakout will have to wait a bit longer.