My brief appearance on the Rotowire NBA preview show on XM was made even briefer by my crappy mobile service. As I hate for you all to be deprived of my wisdom, here's what I would have said given the time.
One of the players I'm high on this season is New Orleans' Ryan Anderson. His "stretch big" game is an ideal complement to both Anthony Davis and Omer Asik; he averaged more than three made threes per game last season while shooting over 40% from long range and 44% from the field overall. I expect him to log significant minutes even if he doesn't start. There have even been reports that Monty Williams will use all three of his bigs together, with Anderson shifting to the three spot.
Sounds great, right?
Problem is, Anderson was limited to just 22 games last season, missing the rest with a severe neck injury that required surgery. That's going to scare off a lot of potential investors, potentially making Anderson a real bargain in drafts.
Some other players that could significantly out-perform their draft slots:
- Jeremy Lin – either Steve Nash or Kobe Bryant – and probably both – will miss significant time this season, and Lin is going to be the beneficiary when that happens.
- Gorgui Dieng – posted fairly ridiculous numbers in limited run last season, and Nikola Pekovic isn't exactly Cal Ripken.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Stan Van Gundy realizes that the Pistons need someone on the floor who can hit an outside shot, which explains his investment in Jodie Meeks. But Meeks will be sidelined, possibly for a very long time, due to a stress reaction in his lower back. That essentially hands the shooting guard spot to Caldwell-Pope, a second-year pro and the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft.
- Markieff Morris – I'm anticipating a breakout season for Morris, but he may be overlooked because he isn't as good an outside shooter as Channing Frye, the guy he's basically replacing in the Suns' rotation.
- Quincy Acy – there's increasing buzz that Acy is going to win a starting spot for the Knicks, which could make him a viable rebounds/steals/blocks play.
Generally speaking, I hate drafting rookies. Most of them don't have clearly defined roles at the start of the season, won't start producing quality numbers until late December or early January, and then, by mid-March, will hit "the wall." Do the math – you'll get a lot more value from a veteran player with a clearly defined role than a rookie that might win a job at some point. That's why I'll let other teams take gambles on guys like Marcus Smart (who could be a steal if Boston trades Rajon Rondo) or Doug McDermott (who might be great in the Kyle Korver role – but that role may go to Mike Dunleavy) or Julius Randle (who I'd like a lot more if Carlos Boozer wasn't a Laker). And I want no part of guys like Dante Exum or Bruno Caboclo, both of whom are just 19 years old.
That said, I'd be happy to land Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, both of whom should have very significant roles from day one and both of whom seem primed to become stars at this level. But the rookie I'm most interested in drafting is Philly's Nerlens Noel. I think Blake Griffin's first NBA campaign teaches us that the experience of a year in the professional environment – even if that time is spent rehabbing an injury – is a very real benefit.
(Insert your own joke about whether or not the 76ers really represent a "professional environment… I'll wait.)
I'll be moderately surprised if Noel isn't among the league leaders in blocks this season, and I'm expecting decent scoring numbers and a very high shooting percentage.
Other rookies worth a look:
- Elfrid Payton – Jameer Nelson is out of the picture; someone's got to play the point for Orlando. Should produce nice steal numbers.
- K.J. McDaniels – second-round pick could be Philly's starting two this season. (That may say more about Philly than it does about McDaniels, but hey… this isn't about ability, it's about opportunity. A replacement-level player getting regular minutes for a bad team will help you more than one who only removes his warm-ups during blowouts.)
- Nik Stauskas – similar skill set to Doug McDermott, but a lot less competition for playing time. The Kings already seem to be losing patience with Ben McLemore's development.