NBA preseason stats are like MLB spring training numbers – they should always be taken with a grain of salt.
Unless you're looking at Anthony Davis' production, of course.
Like his beautiful eyebrows, fantasy owners should be united in their fawning of Davis and his strong start this preseason. Through his first four preseason contests, Davis has averaged 24.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.75 steals while shooting 55.1 percent from the floor and 88 percent (!) from the charity stripe in 28 minutes per game.
While we expected Davis to step up his production during his sophomore year, our projections (17.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.5 steals) are starting to look somewhat modest.
The 2012 first-overall pick is oozing with talent. Before an eight-inch growth spurt in high school, Davis was a guard. As a result, he has great ball-handling skills for a big man. He also sports a better perimeter game than the Pelicans asked him to flash during his rookie campaign. Need more proof? Moving pictures can sometimes be more convincing than words:
No grain of salt needed here. Believe the hype. Davis will evolve into a fantasy superstar this season. He's worth grabbing in the mid-to-late first round in many formats.
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 game every now and then - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time, rotation role and performance.
Gordon Hayward, G/F, UTA – Hayward was already one of my favorite sleepers this season, but he deserves an even bigger boost up the cheat sheets after Trey Burke suffered a broken right index finger last week. With Burke out for the next 4-to-6 weeks, look for Hayward to handle most of the heavy lifting for the Jazz offense. While not technically a point guard, Hayward does possess good playmaking ability and should have the ball in his hands more than any other Jazz player for the first month or so of the season.
Alec Burks, G, UTA – Burks is another player on the Jazz's roster who will see a boost in value in the first month of the season. Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has already indicated that Burks will be in the mix for some starts at point guard while the team's 2013 lottery pick is sidelined. Burks is best suited in the role of shooting guard, but the team should be comfortable playing him at the one since Hayward can facilitate the offense from the wing.
Reggie Jackson, G, OKC – Jackson excelled when forced into an expanded role during last season's playoffs, as he averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.1 treys over the Thunder's final nine games of the postseason. With Russell Westbrook (knee) expected to miss the first 4-to-6 weeks of the regular season, Jackson will once again be asked to carry a heavier than expected load. The Thunder don't have Kevin Martin around to chip in with offensive production off the bench, so Jackson should remain an integral part of the rotation even after Westbrook returns. Sly owners will look Jackson's way when filling out their rosters in the later rounds.
Pau Gasol, F/C, LAL – After a disappointing campaign that saw him become the "other Gasol brother" in terms of fantasy value, Pau can be had at a discount this year. His current ADP on ESPN is 56, which would be at least a couple rounds later than his draft day cost in previous seasons. Dwight Howard left La-La Land for Houston, and no one knows when Kobe Bryant will return from his Achilles injury (or how effective he'll be at that time), which leaves Gasol to carry the load for the Lakers in the early going and possibly all season. At 33, Gasol may have slowed down some, but his skills have not eroded. Look for a big bounce-back campaign from the Spanish big man.
Omri Casspi, F, HOU – After two lost seasons with the Cavs, Casspi is trying to rejuvenate his career with the Rockets this preseason. Casspi has thrived in his new digs, averaging 14.0 points, 6.75 rebounds and two treys in 24 mpg through three preseason games. Rockets coach Kevin McHale has been impressed by Casspi, and there's a legitimate chance he could carve out a sizable role in the rotation, or possibly even be considered an option to start at power forward. For now, Casspi remains a dart in deeper formats, but he has the skills to be a factor in shallower leagues if given the playing time.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, DET – Earlier this preseason, first-year Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks indicated that he didn't think Caldwell-Pope would be in the mix for a starting job. A rash of injuries and some solid play from the rookie now has Cheeks backpedaling a bit, as he admitted after Wednesday's game that the situation was fluid. Caldwell-Pope could be an asset in rebounding, three-point shooting and steals if given extended playing time. Continue to monitor him throughout the preseason to see if the rookie can nab a starting gig.
Brandon Jennings, G, DET – Jennings is expected to miss at least the first four games of the regular season after suffering a hairline jaw fracture. His jaw will be immobilized for the next three weeks, after which he'll be re-evaluated to determine if any additional time off is necessary. The Pistons seem optimistic Jennings will be able to return shortly after his re-evaluation, so it doesn't appear he'll miss enough time to have his overall fantasy value impacted much. Keep tabs on the Pistons' new point guard throughout his recovery.
Al Jefferson, F/C, CHA – Jefferson suffered a sprained left ankle, which has kept him on the shelf for the past week. He was seen sporting crutches and a walking boot shortly after the injury, but initial X-rays came back negative and the big man is optimistic he'll be ready for the start of the regular season. Unless he suffers a setback, this doesn't appear to be a severe enough injury to hurt Jefferson's draft stock.
Kenneth Faried, F, DEN – Faried is currently dealing with a minor hamstring injury, but his real concern should be J.J. Hickson lurking over his shoulder. Hickson has started back-to-back games at power forward and will likely get another nod if Faried's hamstring injury forces him out of action this weekend. While we still expect Faried to see ample time in Denver's rotation this season, there's a legitimate chance he starts the season in a reserve role. Monitor the job battle between Faired and Hickson throughout the remainder of the preseason.
Amar'e Stoudemire, F, NY – As if there weren't already enough red flags with Stoudemire, now Knicks coach Mike Woodson hinted that the former All-Star may play under 20 mpg this season. The key for the Knicks will be keeping Stoudemire healthy enough throughout the regular season for him to make an impact in the postseason. With Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin on the roster, the Knicks have enough depth to handle Stoudemire's return from his constant knee troubles with kid's gloves. Don't expect STAT to have much of an impact in fantasy this season.
Trey Burke, G, UTA – The aforementioned Burke had his ROY hopes derailed when he suffered a broken right index finger last week. His timetable for a return was cut back from an original 8-to-12 week period to 4-to-6 weeks, which is much more manageable for prospective owners. But even after he returns, Burke will likely need some time to adjust to the NBA level, so don't be surprised if he struggles initially.
Larry Sanders, C, MIL – Sanders established himself as one of the league's elite shot blockers during his breakout last season. But for the Bucks' franchise center to be worth his current cost on draft day (second or third round in most drafts), his offensive game will have to improve. Through his first four preseason contests, Sanders is averaging just 5.3 points while shooting 32.1 percent from the floor. Those numbers are largely due to an 0-for-8 showing last week, but it's still somewhat troubling that Sanders hasn't flashed the least bit of improvement in his offensive game. He remains a good fantasy option due to his ability to rack up huge block totals, but I don't expect to see an offensive jump from Sanders like we saw from Serge Ibaka last season. Pass on Sanders in the early rounds and find some blocks later in drafts.
Gerald Henderson, G, CHA – Henderson has been a steady fantasy contributor the past two seasons, quietly chipping in about 15 ppg with decent percentages while not doing much damage in other categories. Last year, Henderson was the Bobcats No. 2 scoring option behind Kemba Walker. With Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller added to the roster, the team won't need to rely on Henderson to carry such a heavy load. Plus, the Bobcats will likely try to get 2012 third-overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist more involved in the offense this year, taking away additional touches from Henderson. For Henderson to retain his fantasy value from the past two seasons, he'll need to develop a three-point shot – he has hit just 55 three-pointers in his career and has gone 0-of-7 from downtown this preseason – and/or start producing in the two defensive categories. Let someone else grab Henderson in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft.
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