Mostly NBA Notes: Wall So Hard

I’ve always been a fan of John Wall, but he’s typically been a bit overrated in fantasy terms, thanks mainly to his lack of three-point shooting ability. In fact, despite averaging 16.4 ppg, 8.2 apg, 1.6 spg and 0.7 bpg over his first two seasons in the league, he ranked 100th and 87th in fantasy each year, respectively (high turnovers were also a problem). After shooting a paltry 29.6 percent from downtown in his rookie campaign, he finished an almost unfathomable 2-for-42 from behind the arc during his sophomore season. Last year on the surface doesn’t look much better from downtown (12-for-45), but it’s at least worth noting he made 11 of those over the final 22 games. The outside shot is frequently the last thing to develop, especially when it comes to super athletic point guards like Wall. Remember, Derrick Rose went from making just 16 triples in each of his first two years to 128 during his third season. Of course, it would be foolish to expect that kind of jump from Wall, but he’s trending in the right direction and continued to work on his shot over the summer (he even attempted six three-pointers during a recent exhibition game).

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Wall revealed the kind of upside he possesses the further he was removed from his knee injury last season. Over the final 21 games, he averaged 24.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 1.5 steals. Wall could easily lead all point guards in both free throw attempts and blocks, which is a pretty rare combination, and let’s not forget he’s younger than Damian Lillard. Let’s hope last year’s trends of fewer turnovers and more 3-pointers continue moving forward, because the rest of Wall’s potential is scary good.

Here’s Tim Duncan realizing he has arms.

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Mean Tweets – NBA Edition.

Ricky Rubio is another young point guard whose shooting ability is the only thing preventing fantasy stardom. Like Wall, Rubio impressed the further he was removed from his knee injury last season, as he led the NBA in assists and steals after the All-Star break. He also added 5.2 rpg and shot 81.7 percent from the line over that span, and while still not great, he made 0.8 3pt compared to just 0.1 before the ASB. Rubio just turned 23 years old Monday and will be running an offense that could be sneaky good should they stay healthy for once. Man, the league really is loaded with young, exciting point guards right now.

Here’s one-handed Zach Hodskins balling (he recently committed to Florida).

Here’s Kyrie Irving displaying some above average ball-handling skills.

Nikola Vucevic got off to a bit of a slow start during his first month after taking over as Orlando’s starting center with Dwight Howard’s departure, but the young big man was fantastic the rest of the way. Over the final month of 2012/13, Vucevic averaged 18.5 points, 15.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks while shooting 50.8 percent from the floor. He also shot 73.7 percent from the line over that span, which is hardly a problem for a center. We probably shouldn’t expect similar production this season that he put up over that final month, when he ranked as fantasy’s 15th most valuable player, but it’s also safe to say the 23-year-old is already an elite fantasy center. Among those who played in more than 25 games last season, only Howard averaged more rebounds (12.5) than Vucevic (11.9), and that came during the first time he was given significant action in the league. There’s still plenty of room for growth. Vucevic enters 2012/13 as a top-25 fantasy option.

Wait for the surprise ending to this cat video.

Gordon Hayward ranked as the 89th most valuable fantasy player last year, but there are plenty of reasons to expect him to finish much higher this season. Hayward saw a modest 29:11 mpg in 2012/13, starting just 27 games, and his Usage Rate was a lowly 94th in the NBA. But Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams are all gone, and that trio averaged 38.6 shots per game last season, and while Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, who are also both terrific fantasy targets, will shoulder more of the load, it’s clear Hayward is going to be a much bigger part of Utah’s offense. Hayward shot 44.0 percent from behind the arc after the All-Star break last year and looks primed to make a true leap in 2013/14. He looks like a steal where he’s typically being drafted (94.1 ADP).

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Returning to the court for the first time in more than a year, Jeff Green managed to play in 81 games last season. His fantasy production was modest, but during Green’s 17 starts at the end of the season, he got 20.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.9 spg, 1.1 bpg and 1.6 3pt while shooting 52.3 percent from the field. Not only will he be a fixture in Boston’s starting five in 2013/14, he’ll be the team’s No. 1 scoring option by far on such a depleted roster with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce now in Brooklyn. Interestingly, Green shot far better (48%) with Rajon Rondo off the court than with him on it (38%) – h/t Matt Buser, so Green’s fantasy owners shouldn’t necessarily be rooting for the point guard’s quick return. Green is going to be given every opportunity to shed any bust label the former No. 5 overall pick has previously been tagged with, and it’d be surprising if he doesn’t respond with career-highs across the board.

Song of the Week: Arcade Fire - “Afterlife.”

Evan Turner has failed to live up to expectations as a former No. 2 overall pick and may still be traded by Philadelphia this year, but he enters 2013/14 with legitimate fantasy upside. The 76ers may struggle to win double digit games as they are clearly more concerned about getting a top draft pick next year than anything else, which will benefit Turner, who’s suddenly the team’s offensive centerpiece (well, him and Thad Young). Turner could see more time at shooting guard this season, where he averaged 7.6 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.5 bpg last year, albeit over just a 12-game sample. Turner has never been much of a fantasy asset, but he’s improved his scoring, rebounding and assists each year he’s been in the league and should easily set a career-high in Usage Rate in 2013/14. At least the opportunity will be there and hopefully he can take advantage of it.

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Kawhi Leonard was the 23rd most valuable fantasy player last year despite seeing only 31:11 mpg and having just the fifth-highest Usage Rate on his own team. Leonard helps across the board while hurting you nowhere, and it’s remarkable just how much the 22-year-old has improved his shooting. During the NBA Finals, Gregg Popovich thrust Leonard into a much larger role, resulting in 14.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg and 2.0 spg to go along with his usual percentage goodness and few turnovers. In fact, Leonard often looked like the second best player on the court during the Finals, and he’s only going to get better from here on out. Not only will his game continue to evolve, that will also coincide with San Antonio giving him much more responsibility, as the team’s corps players are among the oldest in the league (and they have very few options at small forward). Obviously, Leonard is hardly a fantasy secret, but there’s an argument for him to be taken as a top-20 pick.

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Jimmy Butler averaged 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 bpg and 1.1 3pt while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor and committing just 1.5 tpg during his 20 starts last season. Most came at the end of the year, when he ranked as fantasy hoops’ 29th most valuable player over the final month. Butler is locked in a starting role at shooting guard this season, and while there will be plenty of mouths to feed with Derrick Rose back, Butler is clearly one of the bigger breakout candidates of 2013/14. It would be pretty awesome to see what Chicago could do if their starting five somehow stayed healthy this season.

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Quick Hits: I’m hardly the only one expecting big things from Anthony Davis, but I say he goes totally nuts and finishes as a top-five fantasy player this year…After finishing with the highest PACE in the NBA last season, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Rockets offense operates after adding Dwight Howard. Also, free Omer Asik!...Here are some sleepers typically available later in drafts: Kris Humphries (it wouldn’t be surprising if he went back to averaging a double/double with a new opportunity in Boston), Shaun Livingston (he’s looking good this preseason and is a Deron Williams injury away from fantasy relevance. At minimum, DWill owners should stash him), Samuel Dalembert (he’s going to be given all the run he can handle as Dallas’ starting center), DeAndre Jordan (seemingly thriving in Doc Rivers’ system, he’s someone to target late if you need blocks), Mike Miller (he’ll likely get hurt but if you need threes, he’ll be an extremely cheap source of them when he’s playing now back in Memphis), Markieff Morris (averaged 1.4 spg and 1.5 bpg in April and is the favorite to start at PF this year with Luis Scola gone) and Caron Butler (boring old veteran no one will want, but he’s going to have a much increased role now starting in Milwaukee)…Michael Carter-Williams is going to contribute across the board, but he’s going to kill your field goal percentage while doing so (I’ll put the over/under at 36.5%). Victor Oladipo will win Rookie of the Year and will easily be the most valuable fantasy first year player as well.

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