Bismack Biyombo, PF, CHR - As a 19-year-old rookie, Biyombo's playing time increased by the month -- from 13.1 minutes in 18 games in January to 31.1 in 16 April tilts -- as he started 41 of Charlotte's final 43 contests. His superior shot blocking skills were on display throughout. He finished the 2011-12 campaign ranked eighth in the NBA averaging 1.83 blocks in only 23.1 minutes per game, including at least two swats in each of his last nine games. Biyombo's raw repertoire on offense limited his effectiveness on that end of the court, but he still managed 7.1 points per game on 47.8 percent from the field over the final month. Along with this undeveloped portion of his game, he could stand to improve his rebounding (5.8 per game) and free-throw percentage (48.3), though his block totals should experience at least a modest bump during his sophomore season.
Glen Davis, PF, ORL - Once it became apparent that teammate Dwight Howard's season was in jeopardy, Davis stepped into the Magic's starting lineup on April 1 and promptly rolled off five double-doubles in six contests. For the month, he posted 16.4 points (on 50.3 percent shooting), 8.8 rebounds, and 1.4 steals in 31.4 minutes per game. Davis was a beast in the playoffs, averaging 19 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 38.1 minutes over five telling tilts. If he arrives in training camp in shape and focused, as new coach Jacque Vaughn expects, the mercurial Davis should slot perfectly into Howard's vacant spot in the post and rack up double-doubles at a similar rate to his final month-plus of 2011-12.
Gordon Hayward, SG, UTA - Hayward was a mainstay in the lineup during his second season in the league, starting 58 of 66 games for the Jazz. After a stint as a reserve in early March, he returned to the starting five a more focused and aggressive player on offense, scoring in double figures 18 times across 21 tilts. During that stretch, Hayward dazzled with his multi-faceted game, averaging 15.8 points (on 46.9 percent shooting), 4.7 boards, 3.6 assists, 1.4 treys, and one steal in 36.9 minutes. He should be locked into the starting shooting guard slot for the foreseeable future, and with formidable post presences in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson manning the paint, Hayward should continue to have the luxury to roam free on the perimeter and contribute across the board.
Andrei Kirilenko, SF, MIN - Kirilenko spent the lockout-shortened year abroad, plying his wares with CSKA Moscow since his NBA prospects had waned after an impressive start to his career. As a result, the 31-year-old rejuvenated his game, posting averages of 14.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.4 dimes, 1.9 blocks, and 1.5 swipes over 17 contests en route to the 2012 Euroleague MVP award. After recalling his AK-47 days with Utah, the NBA again came knocking this summer, and he inked a two-year deal with Minnesota, joining forces with Kevin Love and company. Kirilenko will provide a much needed presence in the paint for the Timberwolves as he bolsters the defensive counting stats of fantasy owners everywhere.
Courtney Lee, SG, BOS - Following a sign-and-trade from Houston to Boston this offseason, Lee will enter the starting lineup in place of the injured Avery Bradley (shoulders), thereby forming a dynamic backcourt with last year's top distributor, Rajon Rondo, who dished out 11.7 assists per game. While not on the level of the departed Ray Allen, Lee should be a very solid complement to Rondo after putting up 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 treys, and 1.4 steals in 37.0 minutes per game, while shooting 40.2 percent from three-point land in 24 starts to finish off last season. If Lee is able to form a strong rapport with Rondo and the rest of the Celtics in the early going, he could secure the starting gig for good, even when Bradley is healthy enough to return.
JaVale McGee, C, DEN - A change of scenery may be just what this former presumed headcase needs. In the aftermath of his in-season trade from Washington, McGee received inconsistent playing time from Denver coach George Karl, grabbing far fewer rebounds and swatting less shots than he had in previous seasons. However, something clicked in the playoffs, when McGee displayed his massive potential with two huge double-doubles in the Nuggets' seven-game series defeat to the Lakers. Overall, he averaged 8.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks in 25.9 minutes against Los Angeles, which likely helped him procure the four-year, $44 million contract with Denver this summer. Consequently, McGee is expected to take over the team's starting center spot, potentially providing fantasy owners with a true breakout year.
Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL - On an Orlando squad devoid of Dwight Howard, the scoring burden will have to fall on someone's shoulders. A typical scheme would rely on its point guard to direct the offense and distribute accordingly. The Magic hiring Jacque Vaughn away from San Antonio's coaching staff could lead to Nelson seeing a notable jump in playing time after the Spurs gave point guard Tony Parker a team-high in minutes a season ago. Furthermore, Nelson has no viable backup behind him but journeyman Ish Smith, which could result in the first season of his career averaging 32 or more minutes. As a preview of what life without Howard could be like for Nelson, he boasted averages of 17.3 points, 8.9 assists, and 2.4 three-pointers in 32.4 minutes in eight contests after Howard was sidelined last season.
Klay Thompson, SG, GS - Thompson enjoyed a rather successful rookie year, which culminated in a spot in the starting five for the final 28 games of the season following Monta Ellis' trade to Milwaukee. During that stretch, he scored in double figures on all but one occasion, averaging 18.6 points, 3.3 boards, three assists, 2.1 treys and 1.1 steals in 34.1 minutes, with shooting splits of 44%/38%/91%. There is no guarantee that teammate Stephen Curry will be fully recovered from ankle surgery when camp tips off in early October, leaving Thompson as the safe bet in the Warriors' backcourt to put up very solid percentages and counting stats from the wing.
Evan Turner, SG, PHI - Andre Iguodala's trade to Denver this summer, along with Lou Williams' and Jodie Meeks' departure via free agency, has opened the door for Turner to flourish in Philadelphia. With more possessions potentially available to him, as well as the top post player in the East, Andrew Bynum, in his frontcourt, fantasy owners should hope that he continues to build upon a 2011-12 season that was rather variable, but which included stretches of brilliance. Turner finished the second half of his second NBA season averaging 10.6 points (on 45.6 percent from the floor), six rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 28.9 minutes as he started 20 of 32 contests. In 12 subsequent playoff tilts, though, he put it all together with an uber-consistent 12.1 points and 8.2 boards, though his shooting percentage (36.4) left a lot to be desired. If he puts it all together, expect the 6-7 guard/forward to be a near double-double machine this season.
Greivis Vasquez, PG, NOR - With Jarrett Jack out of the picture in New Orleans, Vasquez appears to be the unquestioned starter at point guard. In 26 starts last season with the Hornets, he averaged 12 points, seven assists, 2.9 boards, 1.1 steals, and 0.8 three-pointers in 32.8 minutes per game, while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 85.7 percent from the charity stripe. A healthy Eric Gordon, new addition Ryan Anderson, and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis will provide plenty of options at Vasquez's disposal, allowing him an opportunity to be a consistent source of assists man by season's end.