D.J. Augustin has clear opportunity
Is it Tuesday yet? I've enjoyed the preseason as much or more than anybody, but after months of anticipation and preparation I think we're ready to get this show on the road. With the preseason now in the books and the season set to tip off Tuesday night, it's time to take a look back at what we've learned during the past month.
Preseason trends should always be taken with a grain of salt, but they certainly shouldn't be ignored, particularly when we're looking at young players and those in position battles. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the big winners and losers in preseason action.
The Top 130
Note: Brian McKitish's top 130 players are ranked for their expected fantasy value in the 2010-11 NBA season. The reason for ranking 130 is that is the number of active players in ESPN standard leagues. Previous rank is indicated in parentheses.
1. Kevin Durant, SF, OKC (1)
2. Chris Paul, PG, NO (2)
3. LeBron James, SF, MIA (3)
4. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL (4)
5. Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL (5)
6. Deron Williams, PG, UTA (6)
7. Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS (7)
8. Dwight Howard, C, ORL (8)
9. Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL (9)
10. Danny Granger, SF, IND (10)
11. Dwyane Wade, SG, MIA (11)
12. Steve Nash, PG, PHO (12)
13. Josh Smith, PF/SF, ATL (13)
14. Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN (14)
15. Amare Stoudemire, C/PF, NY (17)
16. Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA (15)
17. Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC (16)
18. Jason Kidd, PG, DAL (18)
19. Brook Lopez, C, NJ (19)
20. Brandon Roy, SG/SF, POR (20)
21. David Lee, PF/C, GS (21)
22. Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS (22)
23. Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA (23)
24. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI (24)
25. Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC (25)
26. Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL (26)
27. Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS (27)
28. Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN (28)
29. Al Horford, C/PF, ATL (29)
30. Al Jefferson, C/PF, UTA (31)
31. Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA (30)
32. Paul Pierce, SF/SG, BOS (32)
33. Darren Collison, PG, IND (33)
34. Tim Duncan, C/PF, SA (34)
35. Andrea Bargnani, C/PF, TOR (36)
36. Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU (37)
37. Zach Randolph, PF, MEM (35)
38. Joakim Noah, C/PF, CHI (38)
39. John Wall, PG, WAS (39)
40. Marc Gasol, C, MEM (40)
41. Rudy Gay, SF, MEM (41)
42. Blake Griffin, PF, LAC (42)
43. Kevin Love, PF, MIN (47)
44. Devin Harris, PG, NJ (43)
45. Raymond Felton, PG, NY (44)
46. Derrick Rose, PG, CHI (45)
47. Jason Richardson, SG, PHO (46)
48. Manu Ginobili, SG, SA (48)
49. David West, PF, NO (49)
50. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, NY (50)
51. Andrew Bogut, C, MIL (57)
52. Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS (51)
53. Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL (52)
54. Nene, C/PF, DEN (53)
55. O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM (55)
56. Jeff Green, PF/SF, OKC (56)
57. Luol Deng, SF, CHI (58)
58. Mo Williams, PG, CLE (59)
59. Troy Murphy, PF/C, NJ (60)
60. Paul Millsap, PF, UTA (61)
61. Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI (67)
62. Baron Davis, PG, LAC (62)
63. Marcus Camby, C/PF, POR (63)
64. Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET (64)
65. Antawn Jamison, PF, CLE (54)
66. Chris Kaman, C, LAC (65)
67. Andre Miller, PG, POR (66)
68. Kevin Martin, SG, HOU (68)
69. Trevor Ariza, SF/SG, NO (69)
70. Eric Gordon, SG, LAC (70)
71. Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU (71)
72. Carlos Boozer, PF, CHI (72)
73. Rashard Lewis, PF/SF, ORL (75)
74. Gilbert Arenas, PG, WAS (73)
75. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, POR (76)
76. Tony Parker, PG, SA (77)
77. Jamal Crawford, SG/PG, ATL (78)
78. Jason Terry, SG, DAL (80)
79. Roy Hibbert, C, IND (82)
80. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS (81)
81. Lamar Odom, PF/SF, LAL (90)
82. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, PHO (74)
83. Caron Butler, SF/SG, DAL (83)
84. Michael Beasley, SF/PF, MIN (84)
85. Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA (85)
86. John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL (86)
87. Ray Allen, SG, BOS (87)
88. Anthony Randolph, PF/C, NY (79)
89. Boris Diaw, PF/SF, CHA (88)
90. J.J. Hickson, PF, CLE (89)
91. Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL (91)
92. Mike Conley, PG, MEM (92)
93. Carl Landry, PF, SAC (93)
94. Leandro Barbosa, SG, TOR (94)
95. Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL (98)
96. Emeka Okafor, C, NO (96)
97. Beno Udrih, PG, SAC (97)
98. Yao Ming, C, HOU (99)
99. Terrence Williams, SF/SG, NJ (100)
100. J.R. Smith, SG, DEN (101)
101. Ben Gordon, SG, DET (95)
102. Robin Lopez, C, PHO (103)
103. Al Harrington, PF, DEN (104)
104. JaVale McGee, C/PF, WAS (105)
105. Wilson Chandler, SF/SG, NY (106)
106. Serge Ibaka, C/PF, OKC (107)
107. DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC (108)
108. Corey Maggette, SF, MIL (109)
109. Elton Brand, PF, PHI (110)
110. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA (111)
111. Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE (112)
112. Andrew Bynum, C, LAL (113)
113. Nicolas Batum, SF, POR (114)
114. Marcus Thornton, SG, NO (102)
115. Channing Frye, PF/C, PHO (116)
116. Jose Calderon, PG, TOR (118)
117. Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA (119)
118. Richard Hamilton, SG, DET (120)
119. Wesley Johnson, SF, MIN (115)
120. Andris Biedrins, C, GS (121)
121. Austin Daye, SF, DET (155)
122. Josh Childress, SG, PHO (123)
123. Lou Williams, PG/SG, PHI (124)
124. Ramon Sessions, PG, CLE (127)
125. Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC (125)
126. DeJuan Blair, PF, SA (139)
127. Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, TOR (129)
128. Linas Kleiza, SF, TOR (130)
129. Josh McRoberts, PF, IND (163)
130. DeMar DeRozan, SG, TOR (132)
1. D.J. Augustin, PG, Charlotte Bobcats: He hasn't had the best of relationships with Larry Brown in the past due to some subpar defense, but Augustin is starting to repair that relationship with an improved attitude and 14.0 points, 4.1 assists, 1.9 3-pointers and 1.0 steals in 28.1 minutes this preseason. With only the oft-injured Shaun Livingston (who hasn't been able to suit up yet) competing for the position, Augustin is locked in as the starting point guard for the Bobcats. Oh, and by the way, he's averaged an impressive 17.1 points, 5.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.5 3-pointers in 14 career starts. It's a small sample size and he likely won't touch those numbers this season, but it does give you an idea of his upside.
2. Austin Daye, SF, Detroit Pistons: Perhaps the biggest surprise in the preseason has been the play of the second-year forward out of Gonzaga. Using his versatility and length to help make up for a lack of strength, Daye has gone off for 15.9 points, 5.6 boards, 0.8 steals, 0.9 blocks and 2.1 3-pointers in 28.1 minutes per game. There is a lot of competition for minutes in Detroit, but Daye has thoroughly outplayed Charlie Villanueva and rookie Greg Monroe, and it is becoming increasingly clear that he'll need to be on the court if the Pistons are going to have success this season.
3. DeJuan Blair, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs: Blair, who cut his body fat nearly in half and dropped 15 pounds during the offseason, looked extra peppy in the preseason with 12.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 25.3 minutes. With Tiago Splitter on the shelf to start the season, Blair is going to get a chance to cement himself in the starting lineup. He won't block shots, but has nightly double-double potential as a starter and could very well duplicate those preseason averages in the regular season.
4. Josh McRoberts, PF, Indiana Pacers: McRoberts is a cut below the first three sleepers on this list, but has the look of a player who can help out defensively after averaging 7.2 points, 6.2 boards, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks in 22.7 minutes during the preseason. McRoberts has averaged 0.4 steals and 0.4 blocks in just 10.0 minutes per game during his three-year career, so expect him to be a big contributor in both steals and blocks as the starting power forward for the Pacers.
5. Toney Douglas, PG, New York Knicks: Lost in Amare Stoudemire's dominance has been the steady play of this backup guard. The Knicks are awfully crowded in their backcourt, but Douglas has something that Wilson Chandler, Bill Walker and Roger Mason don't, and that is his passing ability. Chandler will start, but Douglas has played himself into a sixth-man role after averaging 11.3 points, 4.7 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 3-pointers per game in the preseason. Consider him in deeper leagues for his steals and 3-point shooting.
They are who we thought they were
The following players were ultra-hyped all summer and have done everything and more to make us believers in their breakout potential:
1. Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves: Love showed glimpses of 3-point shooting potential last season (0.6 per game), but nothing like he has this preseason. In addition to shooting 14-for-24 from downtown in eight games, Love has been simply brilliant with 17.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers per game. More importantly, he's won over head coach Kurt Rambis and looks primed to earn 32-35 minutes per game this season.
2. Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers: My goodness, 17.3 points, 12.3 boards, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks in six preseason games? Unreal! I'm just going to go ahead and say it: If he stays healthy, he has the potential to be a late first-round pick in fantasy leagues next year even with his dismal free throw shooting.
3. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards: He's shooting 42.6 percent from the floor and won't hit many 3-pointers, but Wall has Rajon Rondo-like potential even as a rookie. He averaged 15.7 points, 7.9 assists and 2.1 steals in the preseason, and I have no doubt that Wall will be among the league leaders in steals and assists this season.
4. Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers: I knew Holiday had game, but wow, was that a vicious dunk over my boy Anthony Randolph. After averaging 11.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 3-pointers in the preseason, Jrue is set to deliver on the hype.
5. Roy Hibbert, C, Pacers: After a preseason in which Hibbert averaged 17.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 31.4 minutes, head coach Jim O'Brien might not see the improvement in him, but the rest of the world does. Let's chalk O'Brien's criticism up to motivational tactics, because he can't seriously think that Hibbert hasn't improved.
Maybe not who we thought they were
The following players were hyped during the summer, but now have serious question marks to start the season:
1. Marcus Thornton, SG, New Orleans Hornets: A midseason pickup darling last season, Thornton has had a dreadful preseason, shooting 18.6 percent from the floor and averaging 4.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.0 steals in just 19.0 minutes. Meanwhile, his competition, Marco Belinelli, has scored 13.1 points with 1.1 steals and 2.0 3-pointers per game in 25.8 minutes. Add the recent acquisition of combo guard Jerryd Bayless and Thornton's stock is falling sharply heading into the season.
2. Anthony Randolph, PF/C, Knicks: I'm one of Randolph's biggest supporters, but I haven't liked what I've seen this preseason. Not one bit. He looks sluggish and disinterested on the court and might be in the same doghouse with Mike D'Antoni that he was in under Don Nelson. I still believe in Randolph because I think his talent will win out eventually, but things aren't looking good so far.
3. Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Phoenix Suns: Expected to bounce back after a terrible season in Toronto, Turkoglu has picked up right where he left off last season, shooting a dismal 31.1 percent from the floor and looking mostly out of tune. Turk has a great opportunity in Phoenix, but his play thus far has not inspired much confidence that he can turn things around.
4. Evan Turner, SG, 76ers: Turner hasn't had as bad a preseason as reported, but it is clear that it is going to take him some time to adjust to the faster pace of the NBA. He averaged just 7.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 steals in 29.0 minutes, so he has some nice multicategorical potential, but may take a few years to realize it. Meanwhile, both Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams need minutes and will get them at Turner's expense this season.
5. Ben Gordon, SG, Pistons: Of all the players on this list, I am least worried about Gordon, but he didn't exactly light the world on fire in the preseason, shooting 7-for-22 from downtown. I still like Gordon as a comeback player, but am knocking him down a few slots, as he has not impressed as I hoped he would this preseason.
Other preseason numbers of note
• .434: Shooting percentage for Derrick Rose in eight games. This largely had to do with his 5-for-21 shooting from behind the 3-point line (23.8 percent). I've said it before and I'll say it again: Let's hope he stays within himself, because I'd much rather have him shoot 48 percent with 0.2 3-pointers per game than 44 percent with 0.9 3-pointers per game.
• 4.3: Fouls per game for DeMarcus Cousins, despite playing just 25.9 minutes per game. I've seen folks reach for Cousins very early in recent drafts, and his owners have to be at least a little concerned about the Kings' frontcourt depth and his foul-trouble issues heading into the season.
• 25.7: Points per game for Amare Stoudemire in just 27.0 minutes per contest. I'm buying what Amare is selling this preseason and am moving him up in the rankings accordingly.
• 2.7: Blocks per game for Andrew Bogut in just 20.3 minutes in three games. I still have some concerns about his injury history, but it's nice to see him back on the court, and when healthy he is an elite fantasy center.
Brian McKitish is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bmckitish
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