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You Down With MPG?

Rotoworld
Dose: Tim Duncan In Hiding
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View photo

Tim Duncan is good at hide-and-seek, Josh Smith can still play and Pablo Prigioni could start long term. …

I hope you guys have your seat-belts buckled.  Keeping up with the news and translating that into player values and then communicating to you guys is a 24/7 process.   

Instead of releasing the four remaining divisions we haven’t touched on separately, here they are all in one column.  

On a random side note, my first big money draft is tonight and it’s an auction. I’ll either tweet or write-up the results, depending on whether or not Doc writes up the results of 30-DEEP, which is just winding down.  Recently overheard was: “Is Nazr Mohammed taken? Yeah. Dammit.”  

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Bruski 150 you can find it here, and for real-time fantasy information and NBA news you can click here to follow me on Twitter.

You can find our Southeast Division minute projections right here and our Atlantic Division projections right here.

Lastly these projections have been updated as of Thursday night’s news.  To see if anything has changed, you can click here to go to our player news page.

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Basketball league on October, 30th. It's $10 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts October 30th at 7pm ET. Here's the link.

Editor's Note 2: With draft season upon us click here to check out our draft guide, and with the season right around the corner click here to check out our Season Pass premium content.


CENTRAL DIVISION MINUTE PROJECTIONS

* Rosters clipped at times to remove irrelevant players

* A zero denotes a rotation slot not guaranteed

* A split designation means that something big will change the rotation like a player’s return.  An mpg range denoted with an ‘E’ means that it’s the player’s early ranks, an ‘L’ means late, and a ‘Y’ means the year-long mpg projection.  

*For up-to-date player news and information, click here to go to our player news page.

CHICAGO BULLS

Derrick Rose (34-38) / Kirk Hinrich (14-18) / Marquis Teague (0, 10-16)
Jimmy Butler (34-38) / Tony Snell (0, 10-20)
Luol Deng (36-39) / Mike Dunleavy (18-24)
Carlos Boozer (28-32) / Taj Gibson (23-27) / Erik Murphy (0, 5-15)
Joakim Noah (30-33) / Nazr Mohammed (9-14)

The Bulls have been an easy team for owners to assess throughout the last few years, and this year is going to be no different.  Rose looks as in the midst of a best-case scenario return, save for that minor knee soreness a week ago.  Jimmy Butler (knee) doesn’t appear to have any setbacks and he would need to fall on his face to not log the 34-38 minutes you see above.  Boozer has looked pretty good recently, but his durability and effectiveness will be fighting decline all year long while Gibson is surging, which is reflected.  Noah has been adjusted downward throughout the past few days, with Gibson picking up a few minutes.  


CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Kyrie Irving (36-38) / Jarrett Jack (25-28) / Matthew Dellavedova (0,5-10,*)
Dion Waiters (30-34) / C.J. Miles (0, 8-15) / Carrick Felix (0, 8-16) / Daniel Gibson (0,5-10,*) / Elliot Williams (0, 4-8,*)
Earl Clark (24-28) / Alonzo Gee (23-27) / Sergey Karasev (0, 6-16) / Michael Lee (0,3-6,*)
Anthony Bennett (27-33) / Tristan Thompson (29-34)
Anderson Varejao (32-36) / Andrew Bynum (18-23) / Tyler Zeller (0, 12-18)

The Cavs are clogged up down low, but even that shouldn’t be too big a deal for guys like Bennett and Thompson, who are playing with notorious injury risks in Varejao and Bynum.  If Bynum called a press conference to tell everybody he was quitting basketball to run a hair salon it wouldn’t surprise me at this point, and I for one think he should just start smoking cigarettes at his locker in the post-game.  In all seriousness, owners should be more concerned about the respective holes in Bennett and Thompson’s fantasy games more than they should be concerned about minutes.  As for Varejao, I’m not going to overpay for him but I do hope he falls to me.  Most of his injuries have been very fluky and by virtue of that maybe the luck finds him this time around – which would obviously be big for owners.  

The fans in Cleveland are in for a solid surprise if they didn’t get to watch Warriors games last year, as Jack is a one man wrecking crew at times and has really thrived in the veteran backup/swing guard role.  He’ll also keep the right type of pressure on Waiters, who has had a good offseason according to most reports, but always needs some reining in when defense and shot selection become an issue.  Jack is the invisible hand that will encourage Waiters to do that.  

Clark is struggling at the small forward position and once Bennett gets his conditioning where he wants it to be, look for him to start dipping into that bucket if Clark and Gee don’t get their acts together, which they probably won’t.  

DETROIT PISTONS

Chauncey Billups (23-29E, 19-24Y, 0) / Will Bynum (19-25E, 16-20Y) / Brandon Jennings (31-35)
Rodney Stuckey (27-32E, 25-29) / Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (18-24Y, 23-29L)
Josh Smith (34-37) / Kyle Singler (17-23) / Luigi Datome (0, 15-21)
Greg Monroe (33-38) / Jonas Jerebko (15-22)
Andre Drummond (31-35) / Josh Harrellson (0, 9-15)

The Pistons’ backcourt is a total mess and the thought of Billups saving up his energy to play in some portion of games sounds like a fantasy nightmare.  If the group is playing well, I’d expect Billups to be less of a factor as the team will want to keep him fresh for the long haul, but if things go haywire look for Mo Cheeks to use Billups as a regulator of sorts.  I’m staying away from this entire group this season, and as for Jennings the timing couldn’t be worse, as it opens the door for others to set the tone and eat into his minutes.  

It’s going to be very interesting to watch this murderer’s row style frontcourt in action, even if they are a tiny bit mismatched at Smith’s small forward position.  Drummond has been playing big minutes during the preseason (3-of-5 over 34 mpg), and the only thing can stop him is foul trouble or nagging injuries like the back ailment he had last year.  


INDIANA PACERS

George Hill (34-37) / C.J. Watson (19-23) / Donald Sloan (0, 5-10) / Ben Hansbrough (0, 5-10*)
Danny Granger (20-24) / Lance Stephenson (31-36)
Paul George (36-40) / Solomon Hill (0, 8-18) / Orlando Johnson (0, 8-15,*)
David West (28-32) / Luis Scola (18-24) / Chris Copeland (12-17)
Roy Hibbert (31-35) / Ian Mahinmi (14-18)

The Pacers added a bunch of depth this offseason, but luckily for owners that hasn’t translated into any major ambiguity on a fantasy level.  Hill and George are untouchable in their roles and minutes, which was the case before any recent issues Granger has shown so needless to say now that Granger is falling apart already I haven’t changed things around much.  

West will cede some minutes to Scola and Copeland might float around from positions 3-5 just so they can get his offense on the floor, but if he’s not hitting he’ll get yanked real quick.  Stephenson is the sleeper of the bunch – though don’t get that confused for my endorsement of him as a fantasy asset.  We’ve seen some good stuff lately, but he has too many deficient categories to get truly excited about.  


MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Brandon Knight (30-34) / Luke Ridnour (21-25)
O.J. Mayo (35-38) / Gary Neal (18-22)
Caron Butler (26-30) / Carlos Delfino (foot) (23-26) / Khris Middleton (0, 14-19) / Giannis Antetokounmpo (0, 10-25E, 5-20Y)
Ersan Ilyasova (27-31) / John Henson (25-28) / Ekpe Udoh  (knee, 4-6 weeks, 11-16)
Larry Sanders (31-36) / Zaza Pachulia (17-22)

The Bucks are going to have a tough season, fighting to get the funding locally to get an arena that will keep the team in Milwaukee.  That fight is a long one and is a ways off, but the middling roster you’re looking at is very likely a direct result of needing to put a passable product on the court rather than tanking like the Sixers.  

New arrivals Knight and Butler come with some new fantasy car smell in the sense that they get to shed some of their past encumbrances and start in Milwaukee with relatively clear sailing.  Ridnour could theoretically be a thorn in Knight’s side (and he played well the other night showing he still has it), but Knight is the guy the Bucks want to rally around at the point.  Knight was showing signs of playing more like a point guard rather than the shooting guard style game he has had to date, at least until a hamstring injury sidelined him the other day.  I’m categorizing it as minor until I hear otherwise, though the timing isn’t great as he tries to gel with his new team.

Butler also has a chance to right the decline he saw in Los Angeles, and given the Bucks’ lack of scoring options he has a chance at a solid late round value season.  I can’t bring myself to give him any more minutes having not eclipsed 30 minutes since 2009-10.  When Delfino returns things will tighten up a little bit, but the injury potential for both he and Butler should keep guys like Neal, Middleton and Antetokounmpo on call.  As for Giannis, look for him to be used sparingly until he shows in practice that he’s not making silly mistakes so regularly.  He has the stat set to be a fantasy stud, but he needs to first show that he can crack an NBA rotation before we go down that road.  

Ilyasova enthusiasts will be disappointed to see his mpg range, but that’s what happens when a guy like Henson is breathing down one’s neck.  Ilyasova has always been able to produce with low minutes, and certainly the Bucks could use his offense, but mobility issues have made him a liability at times on the floor whereas Henson is a difference maker on the glass.  The ankle injury Ilyasova suffered cracked the door open for Henson to make his case for playing time, and so far it looks like he has a very good chance to steal some MPG.  

Sanders’ big issue this year is controlling his foul trouble, which is how he gets all those blocks.  Finding the right balance will be a function of experience, and I wish I could say I saw signs of him turning the page in that regard.  He has averaged 3.8 fouls in his last five preseason games in just 24.2 minutes, and while that keeps me from getting more aggressive on his minute projection I’m not dropping him down my board for a relatively uninspiring preseason.  

SOUTHWEST DIVISION MINUTE PROJECTIONS

* Rosters clipped at times to remove irrelevant players

* A zero denotes a rotation slot not guaranteed

* A split designation means that something big will change the rotation like a player’s return.  An mpg range denoted with an ‘E’ means that it’s the player’s early ranks, an ‘L’ means late, and a ‘Y’ means the year-long mpg projection.  

*For up-to-date player news and information, click here to go to our player news page.


DALLAS MAVERICKS

Jose Calderon (29-34) / Devin Harris (DEC/JAN, 15-19) / Gal Mekel (0, 7-14) / Shane Larkin (0, 7-14)
Monta Ellis (36-39) / Vince Carter (24-27) / Wayne Ellington (0, 17-20)
Shawn Marion (26-30) / Jae Crowder (17-23)
Dirk Nowitzki (29-32) / Brandan Wright (21-26)    
Samuel Dalembert (23-27) / DeJuan Blair (14-23) / Bernard James (0, 6-12)

The Mavs head into the season mixing some old Cooley High Harmony in Dirk Nowitzki with some Limp Bizkit in Monta Ellis and a dash of flamenco in Jose Calderon.  For a team that isn’t going to contend at a minimum they look like they can be some fun, and strangely enough the pairings have the potential to be complementary.

Calderon will hold on for dear life all season long while putting up solid numbers, orchestrating everything that doesn’t go through Monta, who will be a solid option 1A late in the shot clock.  Dirk has his feet underneath him and owners shouldn’t sleep on him, though the name value is pushing him up the ADP charts a bit too high for my liking.  Point being, Dirk could easily be Dirk this year and there’s a good mix of guys here for all of them to hold their values.  

Marion will probably continue to wow us with his continued athleticism, but I do project a minute decrease there over last year.  Dalembert is ahead of Wright because of Wright’s non-displaced shoulder fracture, but has done his job in positioning himself for the starting job, which apparently was going to be his regardless.  That said, it makes sense to get your seven-footer on the floor next to Dirk so he can handle the biggums.  I’ve been stashing Wright in deep leagues given his ability to put up quick dirty work numbers, though bad news on his shoulder would make him a quick drop.  Carter, like Marion, Calderon and Dirk is likely to see an incremental decrease in playing time, and for all of them it’s probably the best thing for their value as they work to limit injuries.  


HOUSTON ROCKETS

Jeremy Lin (25-29) / Patrick Beverley (24-28) / Aaron Brooks (0, 5-10)
James Harden (36-40) / Francisco Garcia (14-18)
Chandler Parsons (35-38) / Omri Casspi (0, 19-24)
Donatas Motiejunas (0, 18-24) / Terrence Jones (0, 18-23) / Greg Smith (0, 12-16)
Dwight Howard (33-36) / Omer Asik (18-23) / Marcus Camby (0, 8-12)

With all the shots the Rockets get up in a game it feels like they should also get some extra minutes to sprinkle around, but they don’t and we get a tantalizing mix of guys that have serious fantasy potential.  

The position with the most confusion right now is power forward, where they have some interesting pieces but nobody has been able to truly establish themselves as the guy.  We can finally rule Asik out, as he has been pretty ineffective out there, at least statistically, but one gets the sense that the experiment has received enough attention when time for tuning up is at a premium for the new-look Rockets.  

A week or so ago it appeared Motiejunas would take over, and with decent size and perfect in terms of fitting the Rockets’ run and gun, spread attack.  Of course he has defensive deficiencies, but he certainly improved his quickness and looks like he put on a few ‘good’ pounds.  But that was last week.  

The past few days have seen the re-emergence of Casspi (if there was ever really an emergence to begin with).  He has been burying threes and rebounding the ball, as well as starting at power forward for three games, and it’s clear Kevin McHale is testing his ability to hold down the fort against players that will frankly go right through him.  

I’m not going to say it won’t happen, because I firmly believe if you’re going to play small ball that you have to go all the way and not dilly dally, but having Casspi back up both forward positions if he’s going to be the favored play, to me, seems like the best way to limit his exposure to bigger power forwards – and not mess up the rotation on nights when you don’t want to play him as much.  

As fellow RW writer Mike Gallagher (AKA Slow Clap Guy) noted to me while chatting, Garcia can slide over handle the backup SF role, which in turn frees up Beverley to be the balls (more on that later).  It’s not ideal since Garcia has the same issues at SF that Casspi has at PF, but nevertheless Casspi at PF is a bona fide option for Houston and they just have to decide what direction they want to go.  

Terrence Jones is also in the mix, and he’s the guy they’d love to have work out since he can do a little bit of everything and is a physical upgrade, but he’s still a bit raw and now has a shoulder injury to boot.  

And unlike other four person position battles, because this is Houston where fantasy points flow like wine and these guys have mostly fantasy friendly games, I’m willing to allocate six graphs to a concept I could have summed up in two words.  

Stay tuned.  

Now as for the lede I just buried, Beverley is one of the top 3-5 hidden gems of this draft, even while it’s not like he’s going unnoticed.  Currently ranked No. 93 in the Bruski 150 I’m ready to move him up to wear I’ve had him for most of the summer, which closer to the beginning of the middle rounds than the end.  I’ve been waiting because moving a guy up that high isn’t something I do on a whim, but he’s a statistical monster that continues to demand playing time with his performance on the court.  Again, you won’t draft him there but you’ll want to make sure you don’t get cute and let him pass.  


MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Mike Conley (34-37) / Jerryd Bayless (18-25) / Nick Calathes (0, 3-6,*)
Tony Allen (25-29) / Quincy Pondexter (23-27) / Jamaal Franklin (0, 6-12)
Tayshaun Prince (25-29) / Mike Miller (21-27) / Janis Timma
Zach Randolph (32-35) / Ed Davis (17-22) / Jon Leuer (0, 6-12, *) / Willie Reed
Marc Gasol (33-36) / Kosta Koufos (14-18) / Melvin Ely (0,3-6,*)

When it comes to assessing rotations, it’s always nice to have a handful that are nice and easy so you’re not spinning your wheels on every team.  The Grizzlies are one of those teams, even if this year they have a bit more fluid situation on the wings than they’ve had in past years.

Conley is going to be his normal, consistent self and see his normal workload, but Randolph and Gasol are trending slightly downward in terms of minute projections, with Gasol’s downtick being ever so slight.  The bottom line is that their backups are more than capable, and they need to be fresh for the playoffs – especially if this team is entertaining any ideas of trying to run this year.  Along with some small downward trends in Gasol’s numbers, these incremental decreases are behind his lower than normal No. 23/17 (8/9 cat) ranking in the Bruski 150.

Miller is going to get all his body can handle and it’s pretty clear that’s going to be over 20 minutes per game, but the tradeoff there will probably be more games off and more random games in which he disappears for whatever reason.  Allen and Pondexter are already splitting time in the manner you see there, while Prince is the only variable at this time having not seen the court but for one minute of the preseason due to the flu.  


NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

Jrue Holiday (33-37) / Brian Roberts (0, 15-19) / Austin Rivers (0, 12-18)
Eric Gordon (26-30) / Tyreke Evans (32-36) / Anthony Morrow (0, 12-18)
Al-Farouq Aminu (18-24) / Lance Thomas (0, 6-12) / Darius Miller (out 8-12 wks)
Anthony Davis (32-35) / Ryan Anderson (29-33)
Greg Stiemsma (14-20) / Jason Smith (17-23) / Jeff Withey (0, 6-12)
If you’re going to get a new team owner and a new team name, you might as well blow it all up and bring in a bunch of new guys, right?  That’s exactly what has happened and as long as Monty Williams cooperates there’s great potential for this team to be a solid fantasy unit.  

Starting with the draft day acquisition of Holiday, and subsequent acquisition of Evans, the Pelicans have added two of the league’s more dynamic ball-handlers to an already dynamic unit including Gordon (when healthy), a surging Davis and a top long range threat in Anderson.  Yes, this team is built to run, though it’s unclear if Monty will be down with that.  

The story is the same with Gordon, who should really demand to limit his minutes if he wants any chance of being on the floor at the end of his albatross contract.  If and when he goes down look for Holiday and Evans to go gonzo, and the same thing is starting to happen already in the frontcourt with Smith already getting knocked out due to hip impingement.  With Stiemsma fouling like a freshman drinking their first beer, it’s almost probable that Williams is forced to play Davis and Anderson together.  It’s arguable whether or not he should have been doing that already last year, but either way I’m projecting smaller doses of that pairing so the ranges you see above are somewhat conservative.  

In the case of Davis, who I have at No. 7 in the Bruski 150, that’s a truly scary thought.  


SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Tony Parker (30-33) / Cory Joseph (0, 10-15) / Nando De Colo (0, 8-15) / Patrick Mills (0, 10-15)
Danny Green (27-31) / Manu Ginobili (22-26)
Kawhi Leonard (36-39) / Marco Belinelli (18-24)
Tim Duncan (26-29) / Boris Diaw (0, 18-24) / Jeff Ayres (0, 15-20)
Tiago Splitter (26-31) / (Matt Bonner (0, 13-17) / Aron Baynes (0, 8-14)

I’d pay money to have one of the San Antonio beat writers ask Gregg Popovich to break down his rotation because fantasy basketball owners need to know.  

Then again, Popovich probably plays in your public league and that’s why he’s all over the board.

Not a lot has changed for the Spurs except that they’re transitioning Leonard into being the team’s No. 2 scoring option on most nights, supplemented of course by the arsenal of weapons that beyond Duncan and Ginobili includes legitimate threats in Green and Belinelli.  Everybody else fits into Pop’s puzzle perfectly, giving him a tool box to take into nightly matchups that keeps owners guessing.  

Look for all of the old guys to see incremental decreases in mpg, while Green and Leonard will increase their usage, in particular Leonard.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Pop has been very public about riding Leonard, but more under the radar has been a steady dose of Belinelli, and though we haven’t seen it in the preseason we should see another sizeable increase for Splitter down low.  They could really use a confident and effective Splitter in the playoffs, and like the development of Leonard I’d guess that Pop has the Brazilian’s name right under Kawhi’s.  


NORTHWEST DIVISION MINUTE PROJECTIONS

* Rosters clipped at times to remove irrelevant players

* A zero denotes a rotation slot not guaranteed

* A split designation means that something big will change the rotation like a player’s return.  An mpg range denoted with an ‘E’ means that it’s the player’s early ranks, an ‘L’ means late, and a ‘Y’ means the year-long mpg projection.  

*For up-to-date player news and information, click here to go to our player news page.


DENVER NUGGETS

Ty Lawson (33-36) / Andre Miller (25-28E, 23-26)
Randy Foye (25-29) / Nate Robinson (20-24E, 16-21) / Evan Fournier (0, 5-10,*)
Wilson Chandler (32-35E,27-30Y) / Danilo Gallinari (0, 25-30) / Jordan Hamilton (5-10E, 0, 6-12)
Kenneth Faried (27-30) / Darrell Arthur (15-22) / Anthony Randolph (0, 5-10)
JaVale McGee (28-34) / J.J. Hickson (21-26) / Timofey Mozgov (0, 9-18)


I high ranking league source I talk with grew up a Nuggets fan and spent the entire summer cursing the team’s offseason, with the exception of hiring Brian Shaw which has been seen around the league as a positive.

Shaw is coming in and trying to put his imprint on things, and while he won’t use the triangle he desperately wants to slow the game down and pound the rock.  Interestingly, he seems very stressed out, much like Nuggets fans were after losing GM Masai Ujiri and Andre Iguodala while wrapping their team around lightning rod JaVale McGee.  They also picked up odd spare parts in Robinson, Foye and Hickson, so needless to say things will be pretty different this year.  

What’s still the same is the presence of Lawson and Miller, who will bleed over minutes-wise into the shooting guard bucket, which will in turn squeeze Foye and Robinson and that’s before any talk about Chandler at shooting guard. It’s possible Shaw was thinking about life after Gallo’s return when slotting Chandler there, kicking Foye to the bench and letting him fight with Robinson for scraps.  

Similarly, the frontcourt is also a bit of a mess, with Hickson and Arthur being more than capable backups getting setup behind two guys in Faried and McGee that traditionally haven’t played much.  Watching a recent Nuggets game (on their home floor), the reasons that McGee hasn’t played much were on full display and there was a lot of stress (for lack of a better) term being shown by the players.  Maybe they’re having trouble picking up the new system, or my fear is that the suddenly unstable franchise doesn’t have the right chemistry.  

We’ll see how it goes, but as you can see by the splits there are some complicating factors for the main fantasy plays, but the guys you’ll be targeting seem to be in control of their destiny to start the season.  

Owners will want to keep an eye on hamstring injuries for both Faried and Chandler that don’t seem to be getting better.  In this case of Chandler it’s a bigger concern given his injury history, while Faried was pegged by us to play 80 games.  I haven’t adjusted that on my end because we simply haven’t heard a lot about this, and the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if the trade rumor about Faried earlier in the week had some merit.  


OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Russell Westbrook (32-35) / Reggie Jackson (35-38E, 29-34Y) / Derek Fisher (0, 8-12)
Thabo Sefolosha (30-36E, 26-31Y) / Jeremy Lamb (22-28E, 21-25Y)
Kevin Durant (38-42) / Perry Jones (0, 8-10) / Andre Roberson (0, 5-10)
Serge Ibaka (36-39E, 34-37Y) / Nick Collison (19-24)
Kendrick Perkins (16-20) / Steven Adams (18-23) / Hasheem Thabeet (0, 8-14)

I guess I should start by throwing out the Scott Brooks disclaimer.  He could at any point in time decide that his old dogs Perkins and Fisher need minutes to instill toughness in the rest of the team (because they’re tough alright?!).

But this is a different season for Brooks.  It’s not just you and I standing on rooftops shouting about the mind-numbing lineup and rotation decisions, but you’re finally starting to hear other analysts figure it out – even if their logic is ‘Thunder no ring, blame coach.’  

That doesn’t mean the logic is wrong, though.  Brooks squandered two legitimate championship shots and then last year it was a no-go because of Westbrook’s knee injury, though they could have still been competitive if they had you-know-who.  

Now that the walls are closing in a little bit, I think we’ll see less of the ‘coach by narrative’ stuff in which broad concepts like toughness and leadership override common sense.  

Playoff seeding is as important as ever for a Thunder team lacking a legitimate post presence, and while Jackson is a starting quality point guard and Lamb has some potential – depth becomes an issue in the playoffs when Lamb and rookie Adams have practically no experience.  They need the home atmosphere more than any other team that’s getting consideration for the title.  

So hopefully Brooks doesn’t kill the drill here.  Ibaka has looked like a bona fide offensive threat shooting the ball and outside of Durant he’s the only other difference maker on the floor.  That said, Jackson has been dynamic and I’m about to move him into areas of the Bruski 150 that will probably start up the type of storm that rhymes with spit.  Sefolosha is ready to be a solid contributor and Lamb is struggling with defense but looks fine offensively.  

That puts them in the conversation for a title when Westbrook comes back.  But if Brooks gives minutes to Perkins and Fisher instead of his more deserving players, I think that will mark the closing of the Thunder’s playoff window.  Then again, it’s probably Westbrook’s fault.  


MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Ricky Rubio (32-36) / J.J. Barea (17-22E, 16-21Y)
Kevin Martin (30-34) / Alexey Shved (14-20E, 13-17Y)
Corey Brewer (29-32E, 24-27Y) / Chase Budinger (knee, DEC/JAN, 18-23) / Shabazz Muhammad (0, 8-16)
Kevin Love (37-39) / Derrick Williams (17-23E, 15-21Y) / Dante Cunningham (15-20)
Nikola Pekovic (30-33) / Gorgui Dieng (0, 9-15) / Ronny Turiaf (0, 8-12) / Chris Johnson (0, 8-12)
 
The Wolves are going to be one of the best watches in basketball this year, using the Rick Adelman offense with one of the game’s best passers behind center. Kevin Love is back and he’s going to be firing away with no regard for human life, as will Martin, and with role players in Brewer and Pek joining them in the starting lineup the two scorers are going to put John Stamos to shame.

Derrick Williams is still stuck in his tweener role and Minnesota begrudgingly picked up his $6.3 million option year, but that doesn’t mean Adelman is going to put up with the lack of dirty work stats and low percentage shooting. Chase Budinger’s knee surgery will open things up for Williams and others, but with no clear cut beneficiary besides Brewer I wouldn’t upgrade anybody else significantly.  It would be interesting to see Shabazz make it on the floor, but that seems unlikely based on his quiet preseason.  


PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Damian Lillard (34-37) / Mo Williams (27-31) / Earl Watson (0, 6-12)
Wesley Matthews (31-34) / C.J. McCollum (foot, 15-23) / Will Barton (0, 6-12) / Allen Crabbe (0, 6-12)
Nicolas Batum (36-39) / Dorell Wright (16-20) / Victor Claver (0, 6-12, *)
LaMarcus Aldridge (34-36) / Thomas Robinson (12-18)
Robin Lopez (27-31) / Joel Freeland (0, 12-18) / Meyers Leonard (0, 12-22)

The Blazers fantasy guys were fun to own last year, as the team’s lack of depth virtually guaranteed production every night.  This year will be a little bit different, as the studs are still mostly insulated from the team’s newfound depth, but it won’t be necessary to burn the starters out like they did last year.  

The team drafted McCollum to be the team’s backup swing guard but then also added Williams, who will gobble up most of the reserve minutes for however long he stays healthy.  McCollum has about a month to go but a timetable hasn’t been released so we’re guessing, and whenever he gets back it will push Wright and Robinson into tighter quarters minutes-wise.  

Lopez got some good news on Thursday when it was announced that Leonard had fallen behind Freeland, who hasn’t done much to distinguish himself at the NBA level besides foul really hard.  

The story here from a fantasy perspective, though, is that each of the guys that will be drafted in most leagues will all see some sort of minute hit, as Williams, McCollum, Wright and Robinson are all serviceable backups.  In the case of a player like Aldridge, who I’m currently catching flak over for ranking him so low in the Bruski 150, there won’t be a ton of incentive for these guys to push through injury in a year of non-contention.  


UTAH JAZZ

John Lucas (23-30E, 15-21Y) / Scott Machado*  / Lester Hudson * / Jamaal Tinsley*  / Trey Burke (25-31, 27-35L)
Alec Burks (32-36) / Brandon Rush (21-25) / Ian Clark (0, 10-20)
Gordon Hayward (36-39) / Richard Jefferson (15-22E, 10-18Y) / Marvin Williams (Achilles, 17-23)
Derrick Favors (33-37) / Jeremy Evans (12-25)
Enes Kanter (34-38) / Rudy Gobert (8-16)
 
The Jazz finally got rid of the logjam down low by letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk, and we’re finally going to get to see Favors and Kanter get all they can eat.  Foul trouble will be the only thing stopping those two from logging huge minutes, as backup PF Evans is going to be pushed around down low and Gobert, while showing well the other night, is still a long ways away from stealing Kanter’s minutes.   

The most pressing issue for the Jazz is what to do at point guard for the next month or so while Burke is out, and there are (count ‘em) five backups vying for the job.  I listed Lucas as being in the lead, but that’s a slim lead at best and a timeshare is probably likely – that is if they don’t slide Burks over and let he and Hayward share the duties.  That scenario would put Jefferson in a short-term starting job at small forward, and because Rush still isn’t close to playing we could be seeing Clark try to build off his en fuego Summer League.  

Burks is not a fantasy friendly player but he’s also going to get significant minutes this season, and a step forward in development at any point could shoot him up the ranks with those type of minutes.  Hayward is set to go gonzo and I’ll be moving him up the Bruski 150 on the next review as it’s abundantly clear (if it wasn’t already) that he’ll be the man in Utah.  


PACIFIC DIVISION MINUTE PROJECTIONS

* Rosters clipped at times to remove irrelevant players

* A zero denotes a rotation slot not guaranteed

* A split designation means that something big will change the rotation like a player’s return.  An mpg range denoted with an ‘E’ means that it’s the player’s early ranks, an ‘L’ means late, and a ‘Y’ means the year-long mpg projection.  

*For up-to-date player news and information, click here to go to our player news page.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Stephen Curry (36-38) / Toney Douglas (0, 9-15) / Nemanja Nedovic   (0, 5-10,*)
Klay Thompson (32-35) / Kent Bazemore (0, 9-18)
Andre Iguodala (32-35) / Harrison Barnes (25-29)
David Lee (33-36) / Draymond Green (0, 13-18) / Marreese Speights (0, 12-15)
Andrew Bogut (25-30) / Jermaine O’Neal (12-18) / Festus Ezeli (0, 9-15)

The Warriors enter this season with a big free agent acquisition in Iguodala and plenty of expectations, which is rare for this fan.  Iguodala serves to clutter up the rotation, as does the postseason and offseason surge by Barnes, but not to the degree that your main fantasy assets are getting discarded in fantasy leagues.  

Curry’s minutes are untouchable for obvious reasons, which show exactly how far he has come with the ankle concerns.  My guess is that they won’t ever go completely away, but owners should only be using those concerns as a tiebreaker at this point.

Barnes’ quick rise has been chased by his foot injury and he’s still questionable as of Thursday night for the opener.  This all but sticks him in the sixth man role, and overall it puts him at a disadvantage in terms of stealing minutes from the starters.  He’ll have a chance to totally redeem himself, but I’ve dropped his mpg outlook by about two minutes because of his slow start.  

Iguodala, Lee and Bogut each have safety blankets galore, and I’ve lowered their minute projections incrementally to reflect that.  Between Green, Barnes, Speights and O’Neal it’s actually a bit surprising that the starters aren’t impacted more, but it doesn’t appear that Jackson is going to go down that road.  

It sounds funny, but the Warriors are legit title contenders with the Heat being one of the weaker dynasties we’ve seen and a wide open field behind them.  


LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Chris Paul (35-37) / Darren Collison (14-17)
J.J. Redick (25-28) / Jamal Crawford (26-29)
Jared Dudley (23-27) / Matt Barnes (24-27) / Reggie Bullock (0, 6-12)
Blake Griffin (32-36) / Antawn Jamison (12-16)
DeAndre Jordan (27-32) / Byron Mullens (12-16) / Ryan Hollins (10-14)

The Clippers have officially taken over L.A., at least for the time-being as they acted the part of reloading championship contender.  Bringing in Redick, Dudley and even a guy in Mullens was an exercise in matching puzzle pieces, as each guy brings a unique skill set that meshes well with the leftover crew.

It does mean, however, that fantasy owners in standard leagues will want to steer clear of the wing rotation, with Crawford being the only exception.  Barnes also has late round value that is underrated.  You won’t win your league with a guy like that, but he can make sure you don’t lose if you need to plug somebody in.  Just make sure his calf thing is not a big deal.  

Collison has had an interesting preseason, as if being in the same building as Paul gives him some sort of superpowers.  He won’t play more than traditional backup minutes, but it admittedly has me a bit uneasy about projecting an increase in playing time for Paul.  Just remember the long list of preseason hall of famers, but in very deep leagues it’s possible that Collison mimics Eric Bledsoe’s high per-minute production.  


LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Steve Nash (25-28) / Steve Blake (23-27) / Jordan Farmar (15-19)
Kobe Bryant (34-38) / Jodie Meeks (0, 14-18) / Xavier Henry (0, 7-14)
Nick Young (26-32) / Wes Johnson (19-25) /
Shawne Williams (18-24, 0) / Jordan Hill (0, 14-19) / Ryan Kelly (0, 5-10)
Pau Gasol (32-37) / Chris Kaman (22-26) / Robert Sacre (10-20)

The Lakers have more than half of their team coming up for free agency and they sure do look like it.  In what will be a humbling year for the proud franchise, Mike D’Antoni is going to be free to run a mix and match, uptempo offense that is likely to frustrate owners.  

Any potential absence by Kobe Bryant might not even help generate fantasy assets, since the field is so wide open at almost every position.  Blake, Farmar, Young, Johnson, Williams and Kaman are all in similar places in that they could be moved or replaced if they have a rough stretch, so owners should approach drafting them accordingly.  

Nash is going to be hard to watch this year, as defensively the Lakers would do better off with a traffic cone since the traffic cone can at least get in the way.  With nobody other than struggling Hill to fly around protecting the rim, that could be a big problem.  

One of the most tantalizing things about Kobe is how he would normally clean up in this type of scenario, where there is nobody to even think about challenging his shot volume.  

Young has the inside track at long-term value among the wings and Johnson has consistently drawn praise from the coaches, with neither of them having fantasy friendly games to speak of.  Blake would have been an interesting dark horse for deeper leagues, but Farmar has recently surged and it looks like he’s carved himself out a decent backup role.  

Williams has jumped on the scene with D’Antoni being unable to control his stretch forward addiction, so put him on the radar but I’m not jumping to grab a guy that was just hoping to have a job a few months ago.  The decision hurts Kaman a bit, because it further closes the twin towers discussion (if there ever was one to begin with).  He and Gasol will play together a little bit, but adding another player into the frontcourt rotation in Williams is a bad thing no matter how you slice things.  Johnson is also mentioned as being a guy to play some stretch four.  

Everything points back to Kobe, who could end up being a fantasy difference maker if he’s drafted in the third or fourth round and returns elite value once again.  Risk! Reward!  


PHOENIX SUNS

Eric Bledsoe (33-37) / Archie Goodwin (15-21)
Goran Dragic (33-37) / Shannon Brown (10-23)
Gerald Green (16-22) / P.J. Tucker (18-24) / Marcus Morris (16-21)
Markieff Morris (24-29) / Channing Frye (18-24)
Marcin Gortat (26-31) / Alex Len (18-26Y, 22-30L)

Give the Suns credit, after a dysfunctional year on the court and in the front office, the Suns got on track with the trade acquiring Bledsoe and Len still looks to be progressing so they have at least two things going for them.  

From a fantasy perspective they have a whole lot more going for owners, as new coach Jeff Hornacek wants them to run and for good reason – that’s their only shot at winning.  So no I’m not worried about the impact Dragic and Bledsoe will have on one another.  Yes, they’ll have a few less assists operating as a tandem, but they’re going to pose problems for opponents with their quickness and that will yield a lot of good fantasy results.  I’m targeting both of them and I won’t be afraid to reach for Bledsoe, either.  Check my updated Bruski 150 to see how high I’m willing to go.  

Markieff Morris is the next best fantasy play from the wing/power forward group, and the key for him will be staying on the court, whether that’s due to fouls or elbowing folks in the face.  Green has made inroads on the starting small forward job, and he looks a lot like the open court Nets version of himself than the stand still and be skillful version he failed to be in Indy.  

Tucker has actually seen more preseason minutes, so I’m not sure who is starting vs. who is coming off the bench matters a ton here.  Along with Marcus Morris, they’re all going to get a whack at the piñata.  

So will Frye, who has played better than could be expected for a guy that took a whole year off with heart concerns.  I could see myself taking Markieff in this group in a competitive league with more than 12-14 teams and/or more than 13 roster spots, but that’s about it.  

Goodwin is somebody to simply watch, but be ready to move if one of the starting guards gets hurt because he’s a real good athlete and could flourish in a best case scenario.  Likewise, he could also fumble all over himself as a wide eyed rookie.  

Rumors of Gortat’s demise have been somewhat exaggerated, as Len is still getting back on his feet after rehabbing his ankles all summer and Gortat has played relatively well.  It’s not a foregone conclusion that Len chases Gortat off the starting job in the second half of the year.  


SACRAMENTO KINGS

Isaiah Thomas (26-30) / Greivis Vasquez (24-28) / Ray McCallum (0, 5-10)
Marcus Thornton (23-26) / Ben McLemore (24-29) / Jimmer Fredette (0, 9-15)
John Salmons (25-28) / Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (18-22) / Travis Outlaw (0, 8-16)
Jason Thompson (26-29) / Patrick Patterson (24-28) / Carl Landry (hip, out indefinitely, 15-21)
DeMarcus Cousins (32-35) / Chuck Hayes (13-16)

The Kings will improve by leaps and bounds this year, simply because they got rid of Keith Smart and the Maloofs got rid of themselves.  

Jumping right off the page is the position battle between IT and Vasquez, and in Wednesday’s game Thomas might have finally tipped the scales in his favor, which is funny because if that’s actually what goes down the media in Sacramento might freak out.  

They’ve been pining for a ‘pass first’ point guard ever since Vasquez’s name came up, since passing wasn’t exactly possible in Smart’s dribble the ball until the shot clock winds down offense.  Players soon found that Smart didn’t know what he was doing, and neither did they, so naturally they all took to the rack, in particular when playing time was held over their heads without any rhyme or reason.  

So there has been a love affair in Sacramento with the idea of Greivis, but sooner or later his balky ankle will heal and he’s going to have to show a lot more than he has shown thus far if he wants to hold off IT, who has been dynamic offensively, albeit with some bad habits getting exposed after two years playing in Old Sacramento.  Specifically, he’s turning his head more than ever on defense and offensively he has to get himself under control a bit.  Vasquez is fine passing the ball, but he’s unwilling to take open shots and he’s not beating anybody off the dribble.  He’s also turning the ball over and getting beat on defense, and the team seems to be responding to Thomas better.  

I think the tie in this case goes to the incumbent, who has certainly played better than Vasquez, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the Kings choose to brand IT as their sparkplug off the bench.  I've had Isaiah with a slight lead all preseason and I'm keeping it that way with a small minute advantage to boot.

Carl Landry's injury really opened things up in the frontcourt and while some basketball media don't agree, I think this is an addition by subtraction thing and that's not a knock on Landry -- but now Mike Malone doesn't have to deal with unhappy players and both Thompson and Patterson will be able to play freely in their own unique ways. I have Thompson starting and getting a slight minute edge, but I like Patterson better for fantasy purposes and he's on the upswing when looking at both of their play. 

McLemore has had a fine preseason and he's going to be a good one for the Kings.  Being seen and not heard has been a good thing, too, after a summer of talking about being the alpha dog.  He looks like he's got turbo out there and everybody else has run out.  Thornton will play tonight but he has been quiet and not in a good way.  It makes me wonder if a trade is cooking and I would try to figure that out if I felt the question had any value to you guys, but otherwise I'm out of the reporting business during fantasy draft season.  I can't see Thornton holding off McLemore with the way they look now, but then again it is preseason and things tend to look a lot different when the games count.  To that end, Jimmer had a big outing the other night but make no mistake there is no space for him on the floor in most nights. The SF position is the empty calorie slot for the Kings, where Salmons and Mbah a Moute will mix it up and Outlaw will probably poke his head in every once in a while.  I don't think Salmons is needed to score enough to where he'll post any reliable value. 

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