Articles by Mike Barner

Mike has been a fantasy basketball and fantasy baseball writer for Rotowire since 2010. Mike is also the Chicago Bulls beat writer for Rotowire.

Centers of Attention

The modern day NBA is a game of elite guards and wing players. The biggest stars across the league include LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Where is all the love for the big men?

Although you won’t see too many national commercials starring Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler or DeAndre Jordan, having a solid man in the middle for your fantasy squad can help lead you to the promise land. Let’s give the centers around the league some attention and examine where their fantasy values currently stand.

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NBA Beat: Bulls on Parade

The 2014-15 regular season is only three games in for the Chicago Bulls, but it was a crazy three games. The Bulls hammered the New York Knicks to win their opener, lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime in their second game, and then beat the Minnesota Timberwolves by one point in their third game Saturday.

Although fantasy owners shouldn’t get too high or low after just three games, there are some interesting storylines that came out of this first few games for the Bulls roster.

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The Bulls Got Deep This Summer

The Chicago Bulls entered this summer as a franchise who has lived and died on the knees of their star player Derrick Rose of late.

When he was healthy, they made it to the Eastern Conference finals and were in the discussion as being one of the best teams in the league. When he has been injured, they have simply been a team that fights hard to get to the playoffs but can’t advance very far once they get there.

This is the first summer since 2010 where they have had the chance to significantly shake up their roster. They went into free agency knowing they needed one thing and one thing badly: scoring.

There’s no question that the Bulls are an elite defensive team behind coach Tom Thibodeau. Without Rose though, they have struggled to keep up offensively. Even with a healthy Rose expected to return for the start of the 2014-15 season, they knew they needed more scoring to compete for a title.

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NBA Preseason Notes

Carmelo Anthony: Starts At Power ForwardCarmelo Anthony started at power forward Monday against the Sixers as the Knicks moved to a small starting lineup. With Amar’e Stoudemire (knee) expected to be out for two-to-three weeks, Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson decided to go small instead of putting Kurt Thomas into the starting lineup. Anthony played well as he scored 23 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists, four steals, two three-pointers and one block. Anthony saw some action at the four last season and presented some teams with major match up issues. Surprisingly, Anthony has also held his own defensively against other power forwards and seems to be more energized defensively than when he is guarding the small forward position. Stoudemire has been injury prone, so Anthony may find himself playing power forward more often than many would think. He should continue to score plenty of points regardless of what position he plays, but his quickness may help him get a few more steals against some slower power forwards. His fantasy value will also get a boost if he plays enough games to qualify at both small forward and power forward.

 Kobe Bryant: Dealing With A Foot Injury — Bryant (foot) won’t play Wednesday against the Clippers and even went as far as to say that he would not have played in the game if it was a regular season contest either. That is really something considering Bryant’s toughness and ability to play through pain. The Lakers are loaded this season and their main goal is clearly to win a championship, so they could be cautious with Bryant at times this season to keep him healthy and rested. While he should still be a solid fantasy option, he could potentially miss more games than usual this season to prevent minor injuries from becoming major ones.

Austin Rivers: MRI Reveals No Structural Damage — The Hornets received some good news Tuesday as the MRI on Rivers’ ankle revealed no structural damage. All signs at this time point to him being ready to play once the regular season begins. The Hornets are counting on Rivers to make a significant impact this season, especially with Eric Gordon dealing with injuries again. Gordon has had a hard time staying on the court, so Rivers could find himself shouldering even more of the offensive load if Gordon misses significant time over the course of the season. Rivers isn’t going to fly under most fantasy radars given his name value alone, but he should be a solid fantasy contributor in his rookie season.

Ben Gordon: Could Be Named A Starter — Gordon is being considered for a starting role according to coach Mike Dunlap. Gordon started at times for the Pistons last season, but spent much of the season coming off of the bench. He still was able to average 12.5 points and 1.2 three-pointers a game, but he found himself shipped off to Charlotte in the offseason. The Bobcats struggled mightily to find offense last season, so Gordon is going to get a chance to be one of their main offensive weapons. He is not shy about hoisting up shots and has the ability to put up some impressive point totals if he gets hot. Even if he doesn’t start, he would likely be Charlotte?s main offensive threat coming off the bench. He’s not going to be a fantasy contributor in many categories, but he does hold value in deeper leagues and can likely be picked up in the late rounds of many drafts.

NBA Preseason Notes

Dwyane Wade: Believes He Is Ahead Of Schedule. Wade (knee) said he plans to play in his third straight preseason game Thursday and he feels his recovery from knee surgery is ahead of schedule. Wade looks to be on track to be ready for the start of the regular season, but it will be interesting to see how the Heat use him once the regular season does begin. He has dealt with various injuries throughout his career, but usually finds a way to play through most of them. The Heat could be cautious with Wade to start the season as it’s more important for him to be healthy for another championship run than it is for him to play 35 to 40 minutes a game in October and November. While he is still a very valuable fantasy option, owners should note his 22.1 points a game last season was his lowest average since his rookie season.

Dirk Nowitzki: Hopes To Avoid Surgery. Nowitzki (knee) has seen the swelling in his right knee return, but he is still hoping to avoid surgery. He is going to limit his workload over the next week and then he will see how he feels and what step needs to be taken next. If he does need surgery, he could be out anywhere from three-to-six weeks. This would obviously deal a blow to his fantasy value, especially if he ends up missing the full six weeks. While Nowitzki is a great offensive player and has been an extremely reliable fantasy option over the years, his 21.6 points a game average last season was his lowest average since the 2003-04 season. He also averaged only 6.7 rebounds a game last season, his lowest average since the 1999-2000 season. Depending on how the next week goes, fantasy owners may need to lower Nowitzki on their draft boards.

Omer Asik: Continues To Impress. Asik grabbed 11 rebounds in Monday’s preseason game against Dallas and is averaging 11.0 rebounds a game this preseason. He played extremely well off the bench for the Bulls last season and is now making the most of his opportunity to start with the Rockets. While he is going to be a good source for rebounds and blocks, he should also provide decent assist numbers out of the center position. The Bulls have had some excellent passing centers of late, starting with Brad Miller and then transitioning to Joakim Noah. Asik looks to have learned something from Noah and the Bulls coaching staff and could be a solid second center option for fantasy owners. Don’t count on him to score much though as his offensive game is mostly limited to scoring off of offensive rebounds.

Andray Blatche: Opening Eyes In The Preseason. Blatche had an excellent game Tuesday as he started at center and scored 23 points to go along with nine rebounds. He was solid in Monday’s preseason game as well as he scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench. He is going to be Brooklyn’s backup center and should see solid playing time as starter Brook Lopez often finds himself in foul trouble. Lopez has also been very injury prone, so Blatche could even find himself starting some games this season. He may not be on many owners radar on draft day, but he could provide solid fantasy value as a pick towards the later rounds of many drafts.

NBA Preseason Notes

Dwight Howard: Will Sit Wednesday– Howard (back) will not play in the Lakers’ preseason game Wednesday, which doesn’t come as any surprise. He has only recently been cleared to participate in limited five-on-five scrimmages, but he has been progressing pretty well after back surgery. Howard is still trying to play in a preseason game at some point and early indications point to him being ready for the season opener in some capacity. He may be limited to start the season, but he still has significant fantasy value whenever he is on the court.

David Lee: Logging Heavy Preseason Minutes — After having offseason abdominal surgery, the Warriors are wasting no time getting Lee back up to speed as he has logged 63 minutes over two preseason games. He played 36 minutes Monday against Utah and scored 19 points to go along with 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Lee has been healthy the majority of his career as he played 81 games for three straight seasons at one point with the Knicks and then 73 games in his first season as a Warrior in 2010-11. Injuries limited him a bit last season as he finished with 57 games played. Lee averages nearly a double-double every season and has averaged at least 20 points a game in two of his last four seasons. His career shooting percentage from the field is 53.9 percent and although he’s not a shot blocker by any means, he has averaged one steal a game in three of the last four seasons. He is also an excellent passer out of the post as he has averaged at least 2.8 assists a game each of the last three seasons. While he may not be a flashy name, fantasy owners who draft Lee won’t be sorry with the overall excellent production he will provide them on a nightly basis.

J.R. Smith: May Come Off The Bench Again– Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson has said he has yet to determine who will be the team’s starting shooting guard, but that he is leaning towards having Smith come off the bench this season. Smith has been battling mainly Ronnie Brewer for the starting spot and although Brewer is still recovering from knee surgery, it’s now starting to look like Smith may not win the starting job. Smith has been a sixth man for most of his career and he has been very successful at it. He came off the bench in 34 of 35 games played for the Knicks’ last season and still averaged 12.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.9 three-pointers and 1.5 steals a game. He did average 27.6 minutes a game, so he still logged significant playing time even though he didn’t start. He has already come out and said he prefers to start, but the Knicks have plenty of offense in their starting lineup with Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton. Smith should still provide fantasy owners with significant value regardless if he starts or not as he is likely to play 25 to 30 minutes a game again this season.

 Jordan Hill: Will Not Need Surgery– Hill (back) will not need surgery and hopes to be ready for the Lakers’ season opener. He will be re-evaluated in a week. Hill has never really seen significant playing time in his career and hasn’t been a significant fantasy contributor as a result. If Hill is healthy though and Dwight Howard (back) is not ready or not at full-strength to start the season, he could provide fantasy owners with solid rebounding and defensive numbers with increased minutes. When Howard is healthy though, Hill will likely only have limited fantasy value.

Tracy McGrady: Will Play In China — McGrady has signed a one-year deal to play for Qingdao of the Chinese Basketball Association. McGrady was an excellent fantasy player for several seasons, but suffered from a lot of injuries that kept him out of the elite category at times. He hasn’t really been fantasy relevant for a while, so don’t expect much from him if he does play well in China and finds himself back on an NBA roster at some point this season.