Training camp and free agency are wrapping up, giving us a better idea of what rosters will look like come Opening Night on Christmas. Here’s a glance around the Association at players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain as the regular season nears.
Mehmet Okur, C, NJ – The Jazz traded Okur to the Nets in exchange for a 2015 second-round pick Thursday. With Brook Lopez sustaining a broken foot (see “Stock Down”), the Nets were desperate for a big man. Okur will immediately help fill the void left by Lopez. The seven-footer from Turkey has played with Nets point guard Deron Williams in the past, so the transition should be somewhat seamless. While Okur isn’t capable of putting up the same type of numbers as he did during his prime seasons (2005-06 through 2008-09), he’ll be given the chance to rediscover some of his form while Lopez is out. The 32-year-old center went undrafted in most standard formats, so go hit up your waiver wire.
Derrick Favors, F, UTA – Mehmet Okur’s departure has opened up playing time in the Jazz’s frontcourt, most of which should be handed to Favors. The second-year big man (6-10, 245) out of Georgia Tech has put together an impressive preseason, averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 24 minutes per game. He was already tabbed as a breakout candidate this year, but now Favors has a much easier path to start reaching his potential. Favors is still a bit raw on the offensive end, but he has the type of explosive athleticism that results in a lot of offensive rebounds and easy baskets near the rim. He also showed off the ability to protect the rim, swatting away 1.2 shots per game in his 22 contest with the Jazz last season. Look for Favors to starting living up to the hype that made him the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2011.
Kris Humphries, F, NJ – Humphries is another player who will benefit from Lopez’s injury. The Nets re-signed Humphries earlier this week to pair alongside Lopez again, but the 26-year-old power forward will now have to take on a bigger role. Humphries showed his upside in 17 games after the All-Star break last year, averaging 14.1 points, 14.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 35 minutes per night. He’s one of the better rebounders in the Association on a per-minute basis and will be asked to shoulder more of an offensive load in the post with Lopez out. Ignore any of the tabloid nonsense that Humphries was involved over the summer and get him on your squad.
Samuel Dalembert, C, HOU – After flirting with signing him all offseason, the Rockets signed Dalembert to a two-year deal Wednesday. The seven-footer will eventually serve as the Rockets’ starting pivot, which will result in Dalembert seeing 30+ minutes per game for the first time since his 2007-08 campaign with the Sixers. He averaged 10.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks that season. His per-minute averages have held steady over the past three years, so Dalembert is fully capable of returning to those levels of production. The expanded role makes Dalembert a top-15 option at center.
Brendan Haywood, C, DAL – With Tyson Chandler heading to New York, Haywood became the Mavericks’ starting center by default. Oddly, he’s still being largly ignored in drafts. The 32-year-old big man offered little value as Chandler’s backup last season, but an increased role will mean a return to fantasy relevance for Haywood. Before joining the Mavericks midway through the 2009-10 season, Haywood was averaging 9.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 33 mpg for the Wizards. He’s probably not going to see that much run for Dallas this season, but the per-minute production will look similar.
Brandon Bass, F, BOS – Bass joined the Celtics earlier this month after getting swapped for fellow power forward Glen Davis. The Celtics will deploy Bass off the bench, but given the team’s lack of depth in the frontcourt, he’s poised to see some of the heaviest run of his career. The 26-year-old was able to average a respectable 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds while posting solid percentages (51.5 FG, 81.6 FT) in 26 mpg for the Magic last year. Consider that his floor for the 2011-12 season.
Jarrett Jack, G, NOH – Jack was handed the Hornets’ starting point guard gig following the team’s trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers last week. While never considered the sexiest of options, Jack has actually held his own as a starting point guard when given the opportunity. In 210 starts, Jack has averaged 13.0 points, 5.0 assists, 3.1 boards, 1.1 steals and 0.9 three-pointers. The Hornets don’t have any depth behind Jack, so the seven-year vet is primed to see the largest role of his career. Don’t be surprised if he posts career-best numbers as a result.
Kobe Bryant, G, LAL – Bryant sufferd a torn lunotriquetral ligament in his right wrist during Monday’s preseason tilt against the Clippers. Injuries of this nature do not require surgery, but 3-to-4 weeks of rest are usually needed to return to full strength. The Lakers superstar has shown a willingness to play through injuries in the past and has already said he would do as much this time around, but it’s still worrisome enough to keep a close eye on going forward.
Stephen Curry, G, GS – Like Bryant, Curry suffered an injury in preseason play, sustaining a sprained right ankle Wednesday night. An MRI revealed no ligament damage, but Curry’s status for the regular season opener is now up in the air. He has sounded optimistic about playing Sunday, but we probably for won’t know for certain until game day.
Chuck Hayes, F/C, FA – Just days after having his contract voided by the Kings due to a heart condition, Hayes was cleared by doctors at the Cleveland Clinic to return to full basketball activities. Whatever heart issues surfaced during his physical with the Kings now appear to be a thing of the past. Hayes is expected to sign a new contract with the Kings and should factor back in to the mix for a spot in the starting frontcourt shortly.
Marcus Camby, C, POR – Camby was forced to sit out Wednesday’s preseason finale after tweaking his right knee during warmups. He had a precautionary MRI on Thursday, but the results haven’t surfaced yet. Given his injury history and the season’s condensed 66-game schedule, owners will want to keep a close eye on Camby’s health in the early going.
Brook Lopez, C, NJ – Lopez is expected to miss the next 6-to-8 weeks after suffering a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. The Nets believe their star big man could return to action by early February, but that timetable seems a bit optimistic. Okur and Humphries are the two players who the Nets will lean on most heavily during Lopez’s absence.
Jordan Hill, F/C, HOU – With Dalembert now in town, Hill is expected to be pushed to a reserve role. Hill has flashed double-double potential in the past, but his playing time will likely be too limited for him to live up to his sleeper status, especially once Patrick Patterson returns from an ankle injury.
Marco Belinelli, G, NOH – Belinelli was a fantasy surprise last season after he carved out a significant role for the Hornets. With Eric Gordon taking over the starting duties at shooting guard, Belinelli will now be pushed to a reserve role. He’ll still provide the Hornets with a solid three-point shooting option off the bench, but it’s unlikely Belinelli will see the necessary playing time to make much of an impact.
Derrick Williams, F, MIN – The No. 2 overall selection in the 2011 draft has been one of the more popular rookies targeted in fantasy drafts this winter, but the former Arizona Wildcat may take a while to live up to the hype. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman plans to play Williams primarily at power forward – a position best suited for both Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. While Williams will see some playing time alongside Love and Beasley, Adelman appears content with bringing his rookie along slowly. Owners should practice patience with Williams, as his production will likely be minimal in the early going and grow as the season wears on.