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Fantasy Basketball: Training Camp Catch-up

Matt Buser
Roto Arcade

As you may or may not already know, the NBA Skinny appears each and every Monday during the regular season. For the next few weeks, leading up to the start of games that count, we'll devote some Monday bandwidth to what will amount to your pre-season Skinny as we prepare for the fantasy NBA season. Feel free to add your own thoughts on what has happened so far in camp in the comments section.

Injury Updates

* Martell Webster is out at least two months with a broken left foot, and either Travis Outlaw (at SF) or Rudy Fernandez (at SG, pushing Brandon Roy to SF) will be the team's fifth starter as a result, but Nate McMillan will use the rest of the preseason to determine which course of action to pursue. Either way, they both get a fantasy boost and both warrant a late-round speculative pick in standard leagues. Preseason numbers for the two thus far: Outlaw (4 G, 24.3 minutes, 9.3 points, 32% FG, 0.8 threes, 4.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 1 block), Fernandez (2 G, 28 minutes, 10.5 points, 44% FG, 1.3 threes, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals).

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* Amare Stoudemire's first full practice since suffering a torn iris will be on Monday and he'll get some help from protective eyewear. This isn't something that should affect his draft position at this point.

* Antawn Jamison's right knee sprain doesn't appear to be something that will affect him into the regular season, so he remains a good option around pick 40. Brandan Haywood's wrist injury will keep him out for at least four months, however, so remove him from draft consideration. Etan Thomas figures to start most nights for the Wiz, but he's a very low-ceiling option - Andray Blatche should be of most interest to fantasy owners, and he's a viable late-round selection in all formats at this point.

* Updates for the big three guard injuries: Gilbert Arenas remains on an indefinite timetable and there haven't been any updates to help us get more specific. It's my opinion that he won't play much before of the first of the year, if at all, and we won't see top-level production at any point this season. With that said, I'll use a bench spot on him once we get past pick 100, but otherwise I'll let someone else speculate. Antonio Daniels is a reasonable last-round option if you find PG a need at that point.

The latest news in the Monta Ellis story is that he's been suspended by the team for 30 games. This doesn't change anything on the fantasy front - if anything, you have to assume that the Warriors chose 30 games because they established that it would be the absolute earliest timetable for Ellis to return to the lineup this season (the suspension runs through December 17). Of course, the specifics of when he's coming back is only a part of what fantasy owners should be considering - if he can return with any semblance of his former athleticism is what should be the more pressing concern. I have a hard time envisioning him at 100 percent at any point this season, so I'm not using a pick on him at all. Things are messy when it comes to the fallout. Don Nelson has been talking up C.J. Watson as the early favorite to start at PG, Marcus Williams remains the favorite among the fantasy community, and Nelson has even said that he's willing to keep four PG on the roster. What's making things worse is that nobody on the roster has distinguished himself in preseason play. Williams makes the most sense on draft day, but be sure to keep expectations in check.

Two weeks ago, Gregg Popovich said that Manu Ginobili will be out "20 to 25 games - until mid-December at the latest." Assuming that timetable proves to be correct, Ginobili makes sense around the seventh round - especially relative to Arenas and Ellis, Manu seems much more likely to be back to 100 percent without significant delay. In the interim, Michael Finley and Roger Mason will play the majority of the minutes at SG, but don't look for much in their lines outside of some threes.

* If you weren't already wary of taking Tracy McGrady in drafts - and I know some of you aren't - then the fact that he's dealing with "some pain" in his knee at this stage of the season should put you on notice. T-Mac could have my first bench spot in a h2h league at this point, but that's pretty much as early as I'd use a pick on him. And I can't help but think that, one way or another, Ron Artest is primed for a huge season.

Misc. Player Notes

* What's not to love about David Lee in the Mike D'Antoni system? Two games into the preseason and he's averaging 20.5 points on 74 percent shooting and 12 boards in 32 minutes. The scoring isn't going to happen at that level in the regular season, but this guy is a lock to average a double-double and post fantastic percentages and low turnover totals - his current ADP is 74.8, right after the turn for the sixth/seventh rounds, a spot that he should comfortably outperform.

* Zach Randolph hasn't looked too bad himself, averaging 18.5 points and 11 boards in two games. What's the most notable about Z-Bo's line is that he's made three of seven three-point attempts, and added 3PTM would certainly help supplement his category-specific shortcomings - keep tabs on this but don't get overly-optimistic, as he's a career 27 percent shooter from long range (199 attempts).

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* It remains my contention that Brook Lopez is going to distinguish himself among the Nets' bigs and become a viable fantasy option. In his first preseason game, he totaled 13 boards, two steals, and three blocks in 32 minutes, and it's on offense where figures to be more NBA-ready at this point.

* Ramon Sessions' struggles with his shot (6 for 33 in four games) haven't helped his cause for opening the season as the starting PG, but he's at least been hitting the boards (16) and dishing (22). Luke Ridnour has started the past two games and been reasonably effective (6 points, 5.5 assists in 17.5 minutes) - while Sessions remains the preferred late fantasy pick with upside, be prepared for a timeshare.

* Given their dearth of bodies in the post, there's a pretty good chance that Chris Andersen (20 boards, 4 blocks in 2 preseason games) carves out a consistent role with the Nuggets - deep-leaguers take note, as he's got career per-30 minute averages of 8.7 boards and 2.5 blocks.

* I have to stress that fantasy owners should keep their expectations for O.J. Mayo in check. Even if he figures to improve on it a bit, his preseason line should serve as something of a barometer - he's going to be a high-volume (14 FGA) and low-percentage (34% FG) shooter, and his turnovers (6 in three games) figure to be as prevalent as most of his other counting stats (7 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block). For all his talents, he shot 44% at USC and averaged more turnovers (3.5) than assists (3.3).

* I have trouble seeing Marc Gasol staying out of foul trouble long enough to make much of a fantasy impact this season. He averaged 4.9 fouls per 30 minutes in the Olympics (along with 11.7 points, 7.5 boards, and 0.7 blocks) and has picked up 10 fouls in 68 preseason minutes thus far (4.4 per 30 minutes). Between Gasol and Darko Milicic, I actually think that Darko ends the season with a higher Rank (not that it will be impressive, either).

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* Thaddeus Young is 5-of-10 on three-point attempts this preseason, and added treys would serve two purposes: it'd help buoy his overall fantasy impact and help keep him on the court in lieu of a long-range specialist off of the Sixers' bench. While I like his game, I've been very conservative in terms of expectations for Young to this point, given his spot in the offensive pecking order and his (former?) lack of a three-point shot.

* Mike Conley is really looking like a strong late-round pick at PG. He came into camp a different player, and his preseason line reflects that (10.7 points, 1.7 threes, 6.7 boards, 4 assists), particularly the threes. The Grizz are going to run and they are going to score points, so you could do much worse when it comes to late-round depth at the position.

* Lamar Odom remains a possibility as the Lakers' sixth man. I've thought all along that a healthy pairing of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol would work just fine, but it would serve to squeeze Odom's fantasy value. He'll still be a very good option, but it's likely that a reserve role would at least cost him a few minutes of playing time and some incremental production. This also could be much ado about nothing - it's unlikely that he'd spend the entire season coming off of the bench, anyway. And, no, I'm not buying Trevor Ariza as a viable fantasy option in standard leagues, even if he is on the court at tipoff.

* Amir Johnson hasn't been doing much to warrant his being named the team's starting PF ahead of Antonio McDyess (and Jason Maxiell, for that matter). He's averaged just 18 minutes in four preseason games, thanks in part to foul trouble (14 PF in 71 total minutes). He remains an intriguing draft option based on his potential to block shots (3.1 per 30 minutes in 73 career games) but he's far from a sure thing.

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