Preseason NBA Notes

Six games went down Wednesday night, and although it’s just the preseason, I’ll try to pull some useful takeaways from these contests. I’ll be taking a look at a couple guys that are making potential adjustments to their game, as well as others that continue to do the same things we have come to expect. To cap things off, I’ll look at a few players that gave eye-opening performances, resulting in values that may be on the rise.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Kevin Love is back in full force. He looked rusty in the Wolves’ opener, but put up 20 points (6-14 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 7-8 FT) and nine boards on Wednesday night. Love appears to be over the hand and knee injuries from last season, and should return to be a top fantasy contributor yet again. You may be wondering what the big man is doing taking three-pointers, but shooting is one aspect of his game he’s worked particularly hard on this offseason, as well as becoming a better facilitator. If this translates to higher assist totals, this double-double machine could turn into a triple-double machine, and fantasy numbers could skyrocket.

Damian Lillard was one of the most effective Blazers on Wednesday, as he showcased his offensive skills by equaling last season’s average of 19 points (7-15 FG, 2-7 3 Pt, 3-6 FT) in only 25 minutes (he averaged 19 over 39 minutes in his rookie-of-the-year campaign). He took more shots than anyone on the team, and looked very crafty when he escaped a triple-team to find the basket in the paint. Fantasy owners last year depended on Lillard for his assists and steals, but an increase in his offensive game could propel him to top-5 point guard status.

Tobias Harris is a name that was relatively unknown for most of last season, but the 21-year-old saw resurgence once he was dealt to the Magic. He kept that momentum rolling in a breakout preseason performance Wednesday, where he put up 17 points (6-13 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT) and grabbed an additional 9 rebounds. The three-pointers are an eye-opener, as Harris’s weight room work in the offseason generally transfers to more dominance in the paint. Although Kyle O’Quinn got the starting nod, I wouldn’t look into this too much, as Harris’s fantasy potential is significantly higher.

Old Dogs, Same Tricks

Tim Duncan is still in the NBA. I had to double-check this fact when I was looking over the RotoWire stat projections for the 2013-14 season earlier today. The Big Fundamental is contributing in a variety of categories, as he put up ten points (4-9 FG, 2-2 FT), two rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal over 18 minutes. (Keep in mind this game was against CSKA Moscow, who has nobody I’ve ever heard of) At this stage, it appears as if banging around with physical specimen Roy Hibbert in the offseason is a necessary step to finding the fountain of youth. Last year’s finals likely left a bitter taste in his mouth, and Duncan will do everything in his power to get the Spurs back in position to win another title.

Dirk Nowitzki was the main offensive force for the Mavericks, and this isn’t surprising anyone. Over 24 minutes, he led the Mavs in scoring with 20 points (7-10 FG, 2-2 3Pt, 4-5 FT), and accumulated six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. It would be unwise to let the veteran slip too far down your draft boards, as he will have to carry a team with limited offensive weapons.

Steve Novak got back into the swing of things on Wednesday after being MIA in the Raptors’ preseason opener. He did exactly what he does best, as all of his points came on three three-point baskets. He’ll come off the bench yet again in a similar role he’s had over his eight-year career.

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Metta World Peace may have a prospective Miss America goal on the back of his jersey, but to Melo and his Knicks teammates, he’s still the same ?Ron’. He may be past his fantasy production prime, but he’s always good for a few laughs, regardless of the scenery. Admitting his own forgetfulness, World Peace had to ask his teammates who exactly they would be playing when the team travels to Toronto on Friday. Wherever he finds himself on a given day, he will look to be one of the Knicks’ first options off the bench when they need that spark from behind the arc.

Noteworthy Performances

Anthony Davis dominated the Magic by getting to the free throw line, as 11 of his 29 points came from the charity stripe. He actually didn’t miss a single free throw, a seemingly rare quality for today’s big men. I know it’s just the preseason, but look for this youngster to continue his ascent to super-stardom this season. He and Greg Stiemsma give the Pelicans a ridiculous shot-blocking tandem that will frustrate big men around the league.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led all Knicks in minutes played, putting up 16 points (6-10 FG, 3-5 3Pt, 1-2 FT) and hitting the go-ahead jumper to give his team a lead with 8.2 seconds left to play. The Knicks gave up a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the rookie was there to bail them out. Hardaway Jr. still has some climbing up the depth chart to do, but look for coach Woodson to find him minutes early, especially in the absence of J.R. Smith.

Iman Shumpert showcased his efficiency Wednesday night, going a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor, including a 3-for-3 performance from beyond the arc. Entering his third season with the Knicks, Shumpert is finally starting to establish his identity in the NBA. He brings intensity to both sides of the court, and is constantly jawing at his opponents. Shumpert is looking to re-write opposing teams’ scouting reports on him, and with performances like this in the regular season, that’s exactly what he’ll be doing.

Vitor Faverani is certainly not on many radars, but the Brazilian’s first year in the NBA could ultimately prove to be impactful. Faverani has as good of a chance to start as anyone on the rebuilding Celtics, and his 11 points and six boards in just 20 minutes surely helped his cause. His emphatic dunk also played a role in sparking a Celtics fourth quarter rally, and may be an early indication that he’s here to make an impact.

Jon Leuer came to play on Wednesday, taking advantage of a team-leading 34 minutes. He turned his time on the court into production, scoring 17 points (7-12 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 3-3 FT) and grabbing ten rebounds. Leuer was also responsible for five assists, two steals and a block. He won’t see nearly this many minutes backing up Zach Randolph in the regular season, but he proved he can hang with NBA talent, and the Grizzlies shouldn’t be afraid to go to him off the bench.

Goran Dragic was the most efficient performer for the Suns on Wednesday, putting up 19 points (7-9 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 3-4 FT) in just 18 minutes. He came off the bench in this contest, but I wouldn’t expect this to be the case in the regular season.

I would like to throw in one final disclaimer that this is in fact preseason basketball, so some of this analysis should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, coaches are using this time to put final touches on their rotation, so big performances, such as some of the ones described here, could really turn out to make an impact. We won’t know exactly how a lot of these players will pan out until the regular season tips off, but it’s important to note players who are taking advantage of the minutes being given to them.