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Mostly NBA Notes: A look around the league

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Irving is primed for a breakout (USP)

Kyrie Irving was the 38th most valuable player last year during his rookie season, and he was just 19 years old and only Nicolas Batum finished higher (by one spot) with fewer mpg (by 0.1). Irving did this having played a total of 11 games at the collegiate level. Of course, that also means he missed a bunch of time at Duke due to injuries, had to sit out 15 more games last year in the NBA and also broke his hand during the offseason. But as Mr. Kruger would say, I'm not too worried about it. He's already participating in scrimmages and should be 100 percent by the start of the season and is clearly immensely talented — he shot 39.9 percent from behind the arc last year and 87.2 percent from the line, and there's a real chance his assists should improve not just because of growth, but he had to deal with possibly the worst group of teammates in the league last year. Irving looks like a potential monster worth a top-15 pick. Be sure you aren't someone who overlooks "Uncle Drew."

 Maybe Dirk Nowitzki is just being overly worried about an issue he was able to push through last season, but the recent news about him possibly requiring knee surgery at some point means he needs to be dropped down at least a bit on cheat sheets. He was an interesting case to begin with, as his ppg, rpg and mpg have decreased each of the past three seasons. Still, even as something of a boring option at this point, Nowitzki quietly remained the 10th most valuable fantasy player last year, making the single biggest impact in FT%. But he's 34 years old, has played in 1,183 career games (including playoffs) and is clearly in the decline phase (even if not noticeable from a physical standpoint, he's being treated as such if you look at his usage trends). I still had Nowitzki as a top-10 option despite all that, but with this latest injury news, I'll probably drop him. If he were to undergo knee surgery, it would be a big boost to Elton Brand, who quietly produced as much fantasy value as Carmelo Anthony last season. It's obviously a situation worth monitoring closely.

Here's a classic prank phone call.

Deron Williams got a whopping 12.8 apg after getting traded to the Nets in 2010/11, albeit in a small sample (12 games). He also shot just 34.9 percent from the field for New Jersey after hitting 45.8 percent of his shots with Utah previously that year. Last season, his assists actually dropped below his career level (8.7) while his shooting continued to slump (40.7 FG%). Part of the latter problem was a result in him attempting a career-high 6.2 treys per game (although that did result in a career high 2.1 3pt), and that also came with a career-high 4.0 tpg. Williams' Assist Rate went from 64.42% after joining the Nets in 2010/11 to 36.58 last season. The former was the highest rate of his career while the latter was his lowest, so expect something in between in 2012/13. Williams was "just" the 39th most valuable player last year, and he's become something of an injury risk lately, but his potential and history of production suggests he deserves to be taken far earlier than that. The improved teammates surrounding Williams in Brooklyn should help as well.

This waterfall swing is surprisingly intoxicating. 

Serge Ibaka's offensive game last year was almost identical to his prior season, showing little growth in that area. In fact, his tpg and FT shooting actually got worse, and he saw the same amount of playing time despite committing fewer fouls. He averaged 9.1 ppg and 0.4 apg while shooting 66.1 percent from the line, yet somehow was the 11th most valuable fantasy player. This, of course, was thanks to a league-leading 3.7 bpg. In fact, the next highest swatted 2.2, so you can see how big of an impact Ibaka had in a scarce category. He actually averaged a ridiculous 4.1 bpg after the All-Star break and just recently turned only 23 years old, so the potential here is highly enticing. Still, he's going to be costly at draft tables (his current ADP is 22), and I'm not sure it means anything, but it's at least worth noting how little Ibaka played for Spain during the Olympics (it likely had mostly to do with the differences in the international game and having the Gasol brothers as teammates, but it was surprising nevertheless). The smartest bet here is that he likely doesn't keep up last year's ridiculous shot-blocking pace but sees an increase in minutes and improves his game in other areas, resulting in a plenty valuable asset.

Meet the soft-shelled turtle that urinates from its mouth

Here are Tyreke Evans' finishing values in fantasy ranks over his first three years in the league: 71, 118, 89. He might be the rare player who's overrated both in real life and in fantasy, and this is coming from someone who actually likes the Kings. His lack of threes and excessive turnovers are the obvious culprits in fantasy terms, and his weak jump shot is the biggest problem for Sacramento fans. Still, Evans might be the best guard in the NBA at getting to the rim - his 7.0 attempts there easily led the NBA among all guards last year, tying with Dwight Howard at 4th in the league, and his success rate (64.6) was above league average (62.7) and even better than Kevin Love (59.8). For what it's worth, which could mean nothing, he's entering a contract year and supposedly worked hard on his outside shooting during the offseason (an area that often takes time to develop in the pros for purely athletic guards like Evans, so this would hardly be unprecedented), and it doesn't hurt playing for a Kings team that ranked No. 1 in PACE last season. Assuming the preseason puff pieces don't move the needle, after some truly disappointing campaigns, Evans could go from overrated to underrated during his fourth year in the league, although the Kings quietly actually have more than enough mouths to feed.

Virginia woman wins $1 million lottery twice in the same day.

I'm the fool who gets suckered into Andrew Bogut every year. Not only has he missed an average of 32.5 games over the past four seasons, he also has a 57.4 career FT percentage. But the former No. 1 overall pick is an excellent rebounder, has developed into one of the league's best shot blockers over the past three years and is one the better passing big men in the NBA. Just to put this in perspective, Bogut's value in 9-cat leagues last year was equal to Dwight Howard's on a per-game basis. Coming off a fractured left ankle though, his health once again needs to be taken into account, as he's no guarantee to be ready for opening night. Before last year's injury riddled campaign that was cut short after just a dozen games, Bogut had averaged 14.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 2.6 bpg over his prior two seasons. According to Mock Draft Central, he's currently being drafted on average after DeAndre Jordan and just ahead of Danny Green and Mario Chalmers. The Warriors have zero alternative options in the middle, so Bogut is going to get all the run he can handle. He can be worth a pick in that range even while missing 20 or so games.

Man does one-handed pushups while solving a Rubik's cube in less than 30 seconds.

Over the final month of last season, J.R. Smith averaged 16.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.0 spg and 2.7 3pt. He also hit 88.2 percent of his shots from the charity stripe and committed just 1.3 tpg all in just 32:47 mpg, revealing quite a bit of upside. However, even with Iman Shumpert's injury, it appears coach Mike Woodson still prefers to bring Smith off the bench. Of course, that doesn't mean he won't see an uptick in minutes even as a sixth man, and it's worth noting Smith put up those numbers in April last year also while coming off New York's bench. It's not an ideal situation having to contend with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire for shots, but the Knicks tied for fourth in PACE last year, as they remain one of the more uptempo teams in the league (even with Mike D'Antoni gone, because of New York's poor defense, they really can't help but be anything but a squad that produces a bunch of possessions night in and night out). There were only four players who averaged at least 1.9 3pt and 1.5 spg last season, and Smith was one of them (the other three were Stephen Curry, Wesley Matthews and Brandon Jennings), and he did this getting a modest 27:36 mpg after joining a new team in the middle of the season. His low shooting percentages are countered by a typically low TO%. Smith is an intriguing option this year.

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