Tough luck for those who've already had their draft or auction and came away with Kevin Love or Dirk Nowitzki, as both will be sidelined for the foreseeable future with injuries. Nowitzki's was less of a shock as he's been dealing with a knee issue since last year, and it was clear he wasn't feeling right all preseason. Hopefully the arthroscopic surgery means he returns feeling much closer to 100 percent, and it's better to get it taken care of now rather than midseason, but the bet is him likely missing around 20 games. In the meantime, Elton Brand and O.J. Mayo are the main beneficiaries of Nowitzki's absence. Love's hand injury, on the other hand, came out of nowhere and was actually the result of doing knuckle pushups. He should be able to return close to full strength and stay in shape while out due to the nature of the injury, but he could be sidelined anywhere from 5-to-8 weeks, so the previously unquestioned top-five fantasy player needs to be sufficiently dropped down draft boards. Among big men, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge should all go before him now, with possibly the Gasol brothers as well. It also depends on format, as those in H2H leagues should be more aggressive going after players currently injured.
Speaking of health risks, what do we make of Eric Gordon? He was the 34th most valuable fantasy asset in 2010/11 at age 22, contributing across the board. He was drafted aggressively last year with the hope of further growth and eyes toward a monster season after joining a New Orleans team more than willing to hand him over the keys to the offense with Chris Paul leaving town. Instead, a knee injury ruined his season, limiting him to just nine games. Gordon was brought back by the Hornets on a maximum contract, even if he preferred to go to Phoenix, and it's possible a big year is in store. However, he's missed the past five preseason games while dealing with chronic soreness in his knee, the same one that required surgery last year. This has certainly been priced into his current cost, as his ADP is a modest 99. Few players can match Gordon's high risk/high reward combination.
German man tries to jump into frozen pool. It doesn't work out as planned.
Faced with a mid-to-late first round pick, I'm having a hard time deciding between Josh Smith and Al Jefferson. The latter was the more valuable of the two last season (6th vs. 16th) and gets bumped up in value in 9-cat leagues, as he had an NBA-best 5.26% Turnover Rate last season. But Smith actually averaged as many boards (9.7) and blocks (1.7) as Jefferson, while helping a lot more in assists and steals. It's also possible Derrick Favors cuts into some of Jefferson's production, whereas Smith could see increased shots with Joe Johnson gone, and for what it's worth, he'll be in a contract season. While Smith's stated goal of shooting fewer three-pointers will hurt one category, it will likely help another, as a better FG percentage should be in store if he truly follows through with the plan (his eFG% of 38.3 was well below league average (52.5%) last season). So, who would you go with first, Big Al and his gigantic bed, or J-Smoove?
Brandon Jennings really improved his shooting last year, finishing with a career-high 41.8 FG percentage. While that improvement was hardly insignificant (his previous best was 39.0 percent), 41.8 percent is still a drain to be sure. However, further examination may reveal something different. Here are his FG percentages month-by-month: December/January (44.5%), February (33.6%), March (43.4%), April (44.6%). Jennings wasn't noticeably battling an injury during his ice cold February, and it's possible the sequencing of his shooting means absolutely nothing, but it's probably worth pointing out he hit at least 43.4 percent of his shots in three of four months last season, which is a dramatic improvement in the weakest part of his game. He did so while attempting a whopping 5.9 three-pointers per contest — the fifth-highest mark in the league. Jennings just turned 23 years old and set career highs in ppg (19.1), spg (1.6) and 3pt (2.0) last year and is a good FT shooter who keeps his turnovers in check. There were only four players who averaged at least 1.9 3pt and 1.5 spg last season, and Jennings was one of them.
Sticking with the Bucks' backcourt, it should be interesting to see how Monta Ellis meshes with Brandon Jennings over the course of their first full season together. After getting shipped to Milwaukee last year, Ellis saw his FG attempts drop from 19.0 to 16.0 and his three-point tries get cut in half, from 4.2 to 2.1. The big decrease in Usage Rate (it went from 30.73 in Golden State to 25.0 in Milwaukee) actually made him a more efficient player, as his rebounding, assist, steal and block production all remained nearly identical, and he saw his turnovers per game drop from 3.3 to 2.6. Of course, his usage with the Warriors was likely a bit inflated thanks to Stephen Curry being sidelined for a big chunk of last year, but Ellis could also assert himself more in 2012/13 now more acclimated with his Bucks teammates, although he doesn't exactly seem like the type of player who would make coach Scott Skiles happy. Jennings may be the clear leader of this team, but Ellis is the unquestioned No. 2 option on a Milwaukee squad that doesn't have many alternatives, so he should be in store for a nice year.
SDSU student wins a car by sinking half court shot at Midnight Madness event.
Andrei Kirilenko doesn't put up flashy numbers in the main fantasy cats, but he also sneakily doesn't hurt you in any and can be a major contributor to the defensive stats (career numbers of 2.0 bpg and 1.4 spg). He's not going to exactly fly under the radar in most fantasy leagues, but Kirilenko hasn't played in the NBA since 2010/11 and is known as a major health risk, so he's something of a "sleeper." AK47 won league MVP playing in Russia last season and impressed during the Olympics afterward, so it's not like he's been sitting on his couch since leaving the states. He'll be playing for a franchise other than Utah for the first time in his career, joining a Minnesota team in which he could immediately be a major contributor, especially with Kevin Love (hand) out, and Brandon Roy remaining a huge question mark. Even when this team is full strength (including getting Ricky Rubio back), Kirilenko should be a fixture in the starting lineup and is a strong target in the middle rounds of drafts.
Here's a 600 LB marlin jumping into a boat. If only said boat had more cameras aboard.
I get the JaVale McGee hype, as it's easy to understand after he finished second in the NBA in blocks last year despite getting just 25.2 mpg. He also shot 61.2 percent from the field, added 0.5 spg and is an athletically gifted physical freak at 7-0, 252. Visions of him getting starter's minutes leading to Serge Ibaka type block production only with more rebounds and points certainly are enticing. McGee might also currently be the most entertaining player in the NBA. However, for reasons not unrelated to that "highlight" clip, he's not exactly guaranteed a big increase in playing time. In fact, his mpg actually dropped from 27:23 in Washington to 20:30 after getting traded to Denver, and coach George Karl has consistently brought McGee off the bench during the preseason behind both Kosta Koufus and Timofey Mozgov. McGee is obviously the player to own even if he continues to come off the bench throughout the season, and his upside is undeniable, but don't be surprised if Denver's frontcourt minutes remain spread around.