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NBA Barometer: Rosy Return

Shannon McKeown

Shannon McKeown

Shannon McKeown is the VP of Advertising Sales and Basketball Editor for Rotowire.com. He's a two-time FSWA finalist for Fantasy Basketball writer of the year. He also covers the Pistons and Tigers for the site.

Rosy Return

There's no doubting Derrick Rose's return to the hardwood has been impressive this preseason.

After a brief scare with knee soreness earlier this month, Rose has returned to look as good, if not better, than he was pre-surgery. Over his past four preseason games, Rose has averaged 26.0 points, 5.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 three-pointers, which would be a huge increase from his previous career-high 1.6 treys per game set during his MVP campaign in 2010-11. He's also getting to the charity stripe at an alarming rate over that stretch, amassing 44 attempts and knocking them down at an 89-percent clip.

First, we should establish that Rose was an elite player in real life prior to his injury, and by all accounts, he should return to that level this season. Yes, he's a legitimate MVP candidate and one of the most exciting players in the league. But is Rose an elite fantasy option?

For purposes of this article, we'll define an "elite fantasy" option as a player who produces at a top-12 level overall or top-3 level at their position. In other words, an elite player needs to produce like a first-round pick. Per Basketball Monster, here are Rose's per-game fantasy values for standard eight-category leagues from his four active seasons in the NBA:

  • 2008-09: Overall Rank 88th, Positional Rank 28th
  • 2009-10: Overall Rank 61st, Positional Rank 19th
  • 2010-11: Overall Rank 6th; Positional Rank 3rd
  • 2011-12: Overall Rank 14th, Positional Rank 6th

  • *Note: Positional Rank includes all PG eligible players.

    Rose took a huge jump in his third season (2010-11). He set career-highs in multiple categories and added a three-point shot to his arsenal, which provided the biggest boost to his overall fantasy value.

    So where should Rose rank heading into this season?

    Our projections have him falling in the 20-25 range (this could change based on formats), but it seems most people are valuing Rose as a first-round pick. I've seen him go as high as seventh overall in drafts twice this week, and each time I was somewhat surprised. But his ADP on Yahoo (11.2) and ESPN (8.1) have him locked into the first round, so grabbing him with the seventh overall pick isn't really a reach. Although, I do think this is a case of a real-life superstar being overvalued slightly by the masses in fantasy.

    I'm not sure I would take the plunge on Rose in the first round. Yes, he has looked great this preseason, and his improved three-point stroke could pay huge dividends, but we're still talking about a player who's returning from a major knee surgery. To return an investment on a first-round pick, Rose needs to perform as well as he did his MVP season. Possible? Sure, but I think there's too much risk involved for a player with one elite fantasy season under his belt. I'm more than happy to scoop up Rose with my second-round pick, but I'll leave him to the starry-eyed masses in the first round.

    Roses latest preseason performance. 10/23/13 versus Thunder.


    Barometer

    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 or performance.

    Stock Up

    Jeff Teague, G, ATL Last season, Teague was third on the Hawks in field-goal attempts (12.2 shots per game) and fourth in usage rate (23 percent). With Josh Smith now in Motown and Louis Williams (knee) out for an extended period, Teague figures to carry a much heavier load for Atlanta this year. Teague has shown improvements in each of his four seasons, and there's little reason to doubt another boost in production in 2013-14. Based on per-game averages, Teague finished the 2012-13 campaign as the 33rd most valuable player (per Basketball Monster), yet his current ADP sits right around 58 on Yahoo and ESPN. Not only will Teague easily outperform his current draft day cost, but he's a good bet to crack the top-30 this season. Given the dearth of point guards in the latter stages of drafts, don't hesitate to grab Teague a round or two higher than his current ADP.

    Jeremy Lamb, G, OKC Following the departure of Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City is in dire need of an off-the-bench scoring punch. The hope is for Lamb, who came to OKC in the James Harden deal, to assume that role. The 2012 lottery pick was buried on the bench last season, but he should be able to carve out a sizable role for the Thunder during his sophomore campaign. Over the past four preseason games, Lamb has started to flash his potential, averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 33 mpg. Lamb already sports a solid midrange game, and his length (6-11 wingspan) can be disruptive on the defensive end of the court. If he continues to develop his long-range game, Lamb could turn into a solid fantasy option this season.

    DeMarre Carroll, F, ATL Talent-wise, Carroll is a marginal NBA player, and that's being gracious. But I'm going to push aside my hate to highlight the Hawks' probable starter at small forward. The 27-year-old wing is primed to get his first legit shot at significant run this season, and given the Hawks lack of depth at the small forward position, Carroll could easily surpass 30 mpg. His per-36 averages (11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals) don't jump out of the box score, but there's some value to be found if you squint your eyes hard enough.

    Michael Carter-Williams, G, PHI While Carter-Williams does have some flaws (he will be a drain on field-goal percentage), the Sixers' young point guard will still hold enough value to make a fantasy impact this season. Philadelphia is in full-blown tank mode, and the team has new issues handing over the keys at point guard to the raw but talented MCW. Prospective owners shouldn't expect big scoring numbers from Carter-Williams, but he can contribute in assists, steals and rebounds (for a point guard, at least) right off the bat.

    James Anderson, G, PHI Not only is James Anderson a handsome NBA writer for RotoWire, but he's also the frontrunner to start at shooting guard for the rebuilding Sixers. The real James Anderson has been lights out over the past three preseason games, averaging 17.0 points and 3.0 treys while hitting 58 percent of his shots from the floor in 23 mpg. With Carter-Williams and Evan Turner manning the one and the three, Philly will be desperate for a perimeter punch from the shooting guard position and that's exactly the type of contribution Anderson offers. We could be looking at Jodie Meeks 2.0 here, but Anderson offers enough upside to target him as a late-round dart in most mid-sized leagues.

    Check Status

    Pistons' Shooting Guard Rotation Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks had stated a week ago that we would learn more about his regular season rotation in the final two preseason games. While the Pistons still have one preseason game remaining, their plans in the backcourt remain a mystery due to a rash of injuries. By the second or third week of the season, Brandon Jennings (jaw fracture) will return and take over the reins at point guard, but we still don't know who will see most of the action at the two. Chauncey Billups should probably be considered the frontrunner for the starting job, but he's 38 and the team doesn't plan to overuse him, which will lead to capped minutes and the occasional night off. Rodney Stuckey (thumb), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler also figure to be in the mix. Unfortunately, we probably won't have a good grasp on how the playing time will be divvied up until the team gets healthy. For fantasy purposes, KCP still holds the most upside, but owners will have to go through some early growing pains and fluctuating playing time before he pays off.

    Deron Williams, G, BKN Williams, who has been sidelined all preseason with a sprained ankle, was a full participant in Thursday's practice. His status for next week's season opener is still in question, but it doesn't appear the injury will keep him sidelined for a lengthy period once the real action tips off.

    Wesley Matthews, G, POR Matthews was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat after leaving practice Wednesday with what was originally considered an illness. The Blazers shooting guard is optimistic he'll be able to return to practice next week, but a concrete timetable remains very much in the air. As we've seen with Channing Frye and Jeff Green in recent seasons, heart problems can lead to extended absences. Don't make any rash decisions until something more definite surfaces, but definitely keep a close eye on Matthews going forward.

    Stock Down

    Danny Granger, F, IND Granger, who missed all of last season with lingering knee issues, continues to be bitten by the injury bug. This time he's sidelined with a calf injury that could force him to miss the season opener. Even when he does return, don't expect him to be the Granger of old. At 30, Granger isn't ancient in basketball terms, but he is past his prime. He's also not part of Indiana's long-term plans any longer and could be the team's fourth or fifth scoring option when healthy. Rather than targeting Granger's name value in the mid-to-late rounds, I would find a specialist like Kyle Korver or a young player with more upside who may be available.

    Jeremy Lin, G, HOU Earlier this week, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he has "two starting point guard," which is bad news for anyone who owns Lin. Patrick Beverley is the other "starting" point guard in Houston, and he appears to be a serious threat to eat into Lin's minutes this season. Throw in the fact that Houston will be running the brunt of their offense through James Harden and Dwight Howard, and it's likely that Lin's role on the team will shrink he doesn't exactly fit the mold of outside shooters that have meshed well with Howard in the past. Of course, there still comes a point in the draft where Lin will be a worthwhile selection, but I'm letting other owners throw that dart.

    Amar'e Stoudemire, F, NYK Stoudemire made an appearance in the "Stock Down" section last week, but I continue to see him being selected in 12-team leagues, so we're banging this drum again. Knicks coach Mike Woodson doesn't expect STAT to play in both ends of back-to-back games, and Woodson also plans to limit Stoudemire's playing time to 10-20 mpg. Don't let the name recognition fool you into thinking you're landing a good late-round pick. Avoid Stoudemire like the plague.

    Greivis Vasquez, G, SAC Returning from offseason ankle surgery, Vasquez is reportedly at full strength, but his preseason play hasn't been anywhere near the levels he flashed while with New Orleans last season. Through four preseason appearances, Vasquez is averaging 5.8 points and 3.0 assists in 17 mpg. He's being vastly outplayed by Isaiah Thomas, who is currently battling Vasquez for the starting point guard job in Sacramento. While Vasquez was in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game, Kings coach Michael Malone still hasn't decided whether it will be Vasquez or Thomas on the floor for tip-off on Opening Night. Even if Vasquez does nab the job, there's a good chance Thomas steals away a significant chunk of playing time. If targeting Vasquez, you'd be wise to add Thomas as a handcuff later in the draft.