Fantasy Hoops Mailbag

We all love basketball and it's probably given us some of the best memories of our lives, but it can be really sad sometimes. Really, really sad. Friday night was one of those nights.
It's a day later and many of us are still queasy as one of the NBA's best players is going to miss the 2014-15 season. Paul George's recovery makes everything else in the NBA world seem insignificant, but I have to say it’s pretty cool watching the NBA come together and support him. It’s an awesome league and commissioner Adam Silver has to be proud the way his guys are showing their class.
I don't want to spend too much time on what the Pacers are going to do because it still doesn't even feel right, but that's our job here.
The Pacers are in serious trouble this upcoming season. They've already lost Lance Stephenson to the Hornets, so now they're going to be missing out on 35.5 points per game from last season with plenty of other stats. In fact, here are the top-five lineups the Pacers used sans George and Lance (per NBA Wowy):

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Yikes. They have basically replaced their best two players with Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, both of whom are expected to start next to George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert. The three returning starters will likely have a larger responsibility on offense, so you can move Hill, Hibbert and West up in your rankings. Considering how the Pacers used West in the playoffs, he should probably be the first guy off the board. He has a chance for a 17-9 guy with great percentages. Hibbert really can’t score and his minutes aren’t likely to increase, so he’s not much of a big winner. Hill should move into the middle rounds.
Both Miles and Stuckey have gone on stretches with high usage rates. so they both have a chance to get double-digit shots per game. The problem is that both guys haven’t seen their games translate to fantasy very well. Stuckey isn’t much of a 3-point shooter while Miles doesn’t do much outside of score. I’d grab Miles first for his 3-point upside.
The bench situation is also interesting. Chris Copeland played majority of his minutes at power forward last season, but he’ll likely see some action at small forward now. C.J. Watson should see more minutes at shooting guard, as well. He played just 19.3 percent of his minutes last season next to George Hill, which should definitely increase. Also, Solomon Hill didn’t do much in his rookie season with averages of 1.7 points, 1.5 boards, 0.2 steals and 0.3 triples in 8.1 minutes per game, but he’s likely to get in the rotation. He has a decent upside since he shot at least 39 percent from beyond the arc in each of his last two seasons at Arizona. The former Wildcat had an eye-catching summer league in 2013, averaging 12.0 points, 5.2 boards, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.0 triples on 48.9 percent from the field. Keep an eye on him. 
The Pacers are likely going to add a player, so we’ll see what happens. Get well soon, 24.
Before Friday’s devastating evening, I took some questions on Twitter about the upcoming season. I got some great questions and it just goes to show how knowledgeable you guys are. So, I just wanted to thank everyone for reading. 
You can follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher and look out for future mailbag tweets.

@ralfsunga @MikeSGallagher Which rookies outside of the lottery will make the most impact? Thanks!

I love Rodney Hood. The Jazz have basically just two capable guys on the wings at Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, so his opportunity is definitely there. Besides those two, the Jazz only have Ian Clark, Carrick Felix, Steve Novak and Travis Leslie as competition to Hood.
He looked a lot more NBA ready than I thought and he really keeps his head in the game even when he doesn’t have the ball. The Jazz are dying for a 3-point shooter after ranking just 24th in makes and 25th in percentage in 2013-14. Hood shot 42.0 percent from deep on his 169 attempts at Duke last year, and 38.5 percent from there at summer league. I don’t think he’s quite standard-league ready yet, but the upside is definitely there.
I think second rounders K.J. McDaniels and Jordan McRae have a big opportunity in front of them in Philly. Jason Richardson will be back, but you’d think the 76ers keep his minutes down and they’d obviously love to deal him for literally anything. If Philly plays Thaddeus Young at power forward — I think they have to — that should open up some huge minutes at shooting guard and small forward.
Besides J-Rich, the only potential guys to get minutes on the wings are Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson and Elliot Williams. Wroten really can’t do much with the ball out of his hands and not being able to shoot the ball outside of the restricted area makes for a bad fit once the team gets Joel Embiid back. In other words, I’d think Wroten gets more minutes as the backup point guard, which pushes Orlando Pro Summer League star Casper Ware down to No. 3 on the PG depth chart.
The team seems to be higher on McDaniels, so he’s definitely a guy who can get minutes and actually post a moderate usage rate. Plus, he’s a tremendous shot blocker on the wing and thrives in an up-tempo style — Philly led the NBA in pace.
Even though he was taken beyond the lottery last season and played in Australia last season, James Ennis is another guy I really like. Basically every other wing on the Heat has a lengthy injury history, and really just one of those guys needs to go down in order to launch Ennis to the 20s in minutes. I wouldn't be shocked if he gets 20 minutes even with the team at full strength. He has upside with a decent 3-point shot and should be able to contribute on defense.
@mister42  @MikeSGallagher what do we make of Isaiah Thomas this year? I was excited to keep him in dynasty.. but may have to opt for someone else.
We’re kind of in a holding pattern with Thomas right now. Some reports say Eric Bledsoe and the Suns are not on the best terms, but they’re probably just playing hardball.
If Bledsoe is back with the Suns, things won’t be looking great for IT3 — he’s wearing No. 3 now. Goran Dragic played 35.3 minutes per game while Bledsoe played 32.9 per game. Both certainly seemed capable of playing that workload, so that means there are a combined 27.8 minutes per game available at both guard spots. Although, one interesting thing is that Bledsoe shot 39.6 percent in the fourth quarter, so maybe was a bit tired and could have his minutes drop to around 30. To be clear, I don't think that's going to happen.
The Suns also have Gerald Green, who seems like he’s earned 20-24 minutes per game. Sure, they could play him at small forward. He did only shoot 39.2 percent from the field while with Bledsoe and Dragic, but the 3-pointers put his effective field goal percentage up to a solid 51.0. Plus, their defense wasn’t horrible with a defensive rating 109. That’s bad, but not horrible.
So, I’d say Thomas is looking at around 19-22 minutes per game with a healthy, Bledsoe-active team. That probably would make him just a late-round pick in standards. Of course, that changes big time with Bledsoe on another team.
@seacoaststrazz   @MikeSGallagher Where is a good spot to take Kawhi? Got burned taking him so early last year
I can’t begin to tell you guys how many frustrated people there were about Kawhi even before his metacarpal injury. However, he was still putting up fifth- or sixth-round value even before he went down.
When he did return on Feb. 26, it was on like Donkey Kong. He was the No. 5(!) fantasy player when he did return to the end of the season, and you’ve probably seen us blurb him on our Player News page and pimp him big time. 
On top of that, he completely took over in the postseason. After having just a somewhat low 40.7 percent of his shots come unassisted in the regular season, that number grew to 50.0 percent in the playoffs. Coach Gregg Popovich said he’s going to run more plays for Kawhi this year, which makes all too much sense. That means he has a shot to move his 12.8 points per game from 2013-14 to around 16 while also upping his treys.
Including the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard had a 52.0 effective field goal percentage on his jump shots and pull-ups last season. He just turned 23 about a month ago and has really just counted on his freakish frame and quickness, so adding some more moves makes him extremely dangerous. On top of that, his shot selection is top notch, and he’s a career 80.3 percent free throw shooter. The sky is the limit and he could easily be a top-five guy for the season just like he was in the last two months of 2013-14. If he slips out of the second round, there is something wrong with your league.
@coyle_marshall  @MikeSGallagher What do you think Julius Randle needs to improve on the most next season?
This is going to be a very popular question and it should be. There are a lot of lightning rods involved in this situation, and hey, it’s the Lakers. First and foremost, I think anyone who watched Carlos Boozer play last year knows he’s not an awe-inspiring guy in the Lakers starting lineup. You’d think they’d either want a floor-spacing guy or a player capable of scoring down low. Obviously, Booze is not a 3-point shooter and he was horrible on the block at both ends. I mentioned this stat in an NBA Week in Review a while ago, but here it is again: On defnull
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