Q&A: When Will Kobe Be Ready?

Steve Alexander
Kobe Bryant's finish line is approaching, Kawhi Leonard's ascension is just beginning & the Celtics demand respect in Ethan Norof's Thursday Dose

Kobe Bryant's Finish Line

Kobe Bryant's finish line is approaching, Kawhi Leonard's ascension is just beginning & the Celtics demand respect in Ethan Norof's Thursday Dose

I got a nice response from my Twitter followers last week regarding which players they’d like some more offseason analysis on, so here we go. I’m basically going to hit every player that was mentioned to me on Twitter, except for the ones I already got in this column.

Here's a list of who to follow at Rotoworld for NBA coverage. 


Steve Alexander

Aaron Bruski

Ryan Knaus

Mike Gallagher

And with football in full swing, here is who you should be following. 


Evan Silva

Pat Daugherty

Adam Levitan

Mike Clay


Lou Williams – I liked Lou Williams in Philly and drafted him in several leagues last season, his first with the Hawks. When healthy, he’s a nice source of threes and dimes, and would make a great sixth man in Atlanta. But he blew out his knee early last year and there’s still no guarantee of if or when he’ll be healthy, let alone at full speed this year. In fact, the Hawks don’t even know what they’re going to do with their last roster spot because they don’t know when they’re going to have Williams this season. And after watching owner after owner lose their mind when Derrick Rose took the whole year off last season, I wouldn’t touch Lou-Will in any but the deepest fantasy leagues, and even then it will be late. Maybe I’ll target him in my 30-team league, when all the healthy, walking bodies are off the board. 

And on a side note with the Hawks, you have to wonder if Gustavo Ayon’s strong play in the FIBA’s has bumped him up the depth chart. Could be a deep-league sleeper.


Brook Lopez – After making it through just five games the previous season, Lopez had a great year, playing in 74 games and averaging 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Then he had a problem with the screw in his foot, had another foot surgery, and spent much of the summer in a walking boot. Add in the fact that the Nets now boast an offensively strong lineup with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche, and Lopez could struggle to see as many shots this time around. He says he’ll be ready for the start of the season, but that’s not guaranteed, and while I still think he’ll be one of the better fantasy centers in the league, owners shouldn’t expect him to repeat last year’s performance. And if his bum foot flares up again during the season, he could be shut down for a substantial amount of time. He went in Round 5 of our mock draft, and I’d be a little nervous taking him any higher than that, as of right now. 


Derrick Rose – There is no reason that Rose shouldn’t be 100 percent healthy and ready to go this season after sitting out all of the 2012-13 campaign. He went with the 14th overall pick in our mock draft and he could even be a steal that late, if he picks up where he left off and plays like he has a chip on his shoulder. Yes, all of us should have some trust issues with Rose, but I just don’t see much reason to hesitate drafting him late in Round 1, or any time in Round 2. He could easily be the league’s best point guard this season.

Jimmy Butler – Butler looks like a promising sleeper and I’d be surprised if he’s not starting at shooting guard this season. In fact, he’s the only SG we currently have listed on the Bulls’ depth chart, although Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy can also play there. He can score, rebound, steal and hit 3-pointers, and with Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton and Nate Robinson out of the way, he should be ready for a breakout season. He went in Round 7 of our mock, which looks like a perfect place to grab him this October.


Tristan Thompson – He mind-blowingly switched from shooting with his left hand to his right over the summer and shot free throws very well in the FIBAs, although his field goal percentage was still nothing to write home about. The biggest problem I see with Thompson is his competition for big-man minutes in Cleveland. Earl Clark, rookie Anthony Bennett (No. 1 pick), Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao are all going to see heavy minutes, meaning Thompson’s playing time could get squeezed this year. He’s worth drafting, but don’t expect any miracles. He went in Round 10 in our mock draft, which still might be a little high. I like him better as a late-round flier.

Dion Waiters – I’ve got Waiters penciled in as the starting shooting guard for the Cavs, although C.J. Miles could challenge him for the job. Either way, Waiters should get plenty of run in Cleveland this year after averaging nearly 15 points, a steal and a 3-pointer in 61 games last season. But I’m still not sure he’ll do enough to be a must-start, everyday fantasy guy this season, and the 12th round (where he was taken in our mock) sounds about right.


Wilson Chandler & Danilo Gallinari – I didn’t realize I wrote about Chandler and Gallinari in the last column, so here they are again. I’m fully on board with drafting Chandler and expect him to be a steal for most owners on draft night. He averaged nearly 19 points, six boards, 1.4 steals and 2.3 3-pointers in his eight starts last season and should come into this one fully healthy. Gallinari, on the other hand, is far from healthy, and could struggle getting back to 100 percent after ACL surgery on his left knee. We still don’t know when Gallo will be ready to go and I have no plans on drafting him this season. Chandler, who I expect to start at small forward for as long as Gallinari is out, fell to Round 8 in our mock draft, and he looks like an extreme value pick that late. Gallinari could return as early as late December, or he could be out until February or March. Either way, I’m not touching him this year, and will be targeting Chandler in the middle rounds of most of my drafts. And yes, I expect Chandler to still hold some value if and when Gallinari is back.


Andre Drummond – I love Drummond’s raw talent and he’s probably going to go earlier than he should in most drafts. It happened in our mock, as one owner jumped the gun and grabbed him in Round 2, which is just too early for a guy who couldn’t hit three straight free throws if world peace depended on it. He’ll also have to compete with teammates Josh Smith and Greg Monroe for points, boards and blocks, and while the sky’s the limit on Drummond, I am pumping the brakes on the hype machine. And if you do end up drafting him as your starting center (not really a bad idea), be ready to punt your free throw percentage, as his will be tough to overcome in any format that counts it.


David Lee – I’m not quite sure why Lee was on this list, as we know what we’re going to get from the defenseless big man. He’ll score, board and hand out some assists, but he doesn’t block shots and isn’t exactly an athletic specimen. The Warriors did add Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal to the mix, but I don’t see it having an impact on Lee. He’s coming off hip surgery, but all reports suggest he’ll be ready to go on opening night. He went in Round 5 of our mock, which sounds about right.

Klay Thompson – Thompson is coming off a great season when he played in all 82 games and averaged 16.6 points, a steal and 2.6 3-pointers per game. He’ll be playing with even more confidence this season and should be fairly unchallenged for shooting guard minutes, unless Mark Jackson gets creative and decides to roll with Andre Iguodala there, and Harrison Barnes at small forward. But my guess is that Barnes comes off the bench as sixth man and that Iguodala plays a ton of small forward, meaning that it should be business as usual for Thompson. He went in Round 5 in our mock, but my guess is he’ll go in Round 4 in a lot of drafts this year.


Dwight Howard – I expect Howard to have a very good season in Houston, although he still can’t hide from the fact he can’t shoot free throws. His back should be fully healthy, I expect him to get along much better with Kevin McHale and James Harden than he did with Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant, and he should be ready for a full bounce-back season. He went late in Round 2 in our mock, and as long as you’re cool with dumping free throw percentage, he should be a fun (and dominant) fantasy center to own across the board.


Kobe Bryant – I have been in the “Kobe plays on opening night” camp from the beginning and I haven’t seen anything to change my mind on that prediction thus far. In fact, Will Carroll recently tweeted that he fully expects Bryant to be on the floor on opening night. I’ve got Kobe slated for 73 games, which might be too aggressive, but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if he shocks the world and plays closer to 80 nights this season. Draft him as you normally would, although there is clearly some risk for a guy coming off a ruptured Achilles. But if anyone can do it, Kobe can. He went in the middle of Round 3 in our mock, and should be an absolute steal that late.

As for the rest of the Lakers, Nick Young and Wes Johnson are going to play a lot of small forward, and both are worth taking late in your drafts. And maybe, just maybe, Steve Nash will turn back into the Steve Nash we remember this season.  


Larry Sanders – Surprisingly, the Bucks garnered a lot of interest on Twitter and it’s clear that people are intrigued as to how things will play out in Milwaukee this season. Sanders just signed a big contract and simply loves blocking shots. The young center should continue to show growth offensively, defensively, and gain discipline in order to commit fewer fouls. He’s all upside, returned third-round fantasy value off the waiver wire last season, and won’t be on the board after Round 3 this year. There’s a lot to love about Larry and you can bet that his goal is to lead the league in blocked shots this season.

O.J. Mayo – Mayo got off to a hot start in Dallas when Dirk Nowitzki was out early last season, but tailed off once Dirk got into a groove. He’ll start at shooting guard for the Bucks with Monta Ellis in Dallas and Brandon Jennings in Detroit. Carlos Delfino and Caron Butler could play some shooting guard minutes in Milwaukee this season, but this job is all about Mayo. And if he doesn’t have a career year, I’ll be surprised. He went in Round 7 in our mock and that makes him a very nice value pick in my eyes.

Ersan Ilyasova & John Henson – Ilyasova, as usual, was a roller coaster ride last season and with Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino at small forward, looks like a full-time power forward. This is potentially bad news for young John Henson, as the two are likely to share minutes at power forward all season, with Ilyasova getting the lion’s share of them. And with Ilyasova in the driver’s seat, Henson’s minutes will be enough of a concern that I just don’t see a full breakout coming, making him worth nothing more than a late-round flier for now. But if Ilyasova goes down, Henson will be one of the hottest waiver-wire pickups of the season. As for Ilyasova, he does a little bit of everything and can singlehandedly carry fantasy teams when he heats up, and I like him a lot. But he went in Round 4 in our mock, over guys like Jeff Green, Monta Ellis, Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Favors, Greg Monroe and Dirk Nowitzki, which seems like a reach. See if you can get him in Round 6 or 7 instead.

Caron Butler – No one asked to hear about Butler, but I thought I’d throw him in here since he’s now looking like the starting small forward for the Bucks. He wasn’t looking at a big role in Phoenix, but now that he’s returned home to Milwaukee and will be starting, he’s going to be worth drafting late in all leagues, and hurts Carlos Delfino’s potential value simultaneously.


Tyreke Evans – We simply don’t know if Evans will start at SF, come off the bench, or slide over to SG when the inevitable Eric Gordon injury occurs, but there’s little doubt he will have a big role for the Pelicans. While there is some concern there aren’t enough balls to go around for Jrue Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Ryan Anderson, Evans and Anthony Davis, getting out of Sacramento should be just what the doctor ordered for Tyreke. I’m thinking he’ll have a return to form and play more like he did as a rookie, when he was one of the most promising young stars in the game. He went in Round 7 in our mock draft, making him look like a real potential value.


Andrea Bargnani – Long time readers know my past love for Bargnani, mainly due to his potential, scoring, 3-pointers and blocks, but he never really stayed healthy enough to live up to the hype. And the fact he’s always dealing with calf injuries means I’m not too excited about the future. He’s also a big man who can’t rebound, and his fading threes and blocks are disturbing trends. I’m fine with taking Bargnani late and hoping he stays healthy. The risk should be minimized if you can get him in Round 10, where he went in our mock.


Nikola Vucevic & Glen Davis – Vucevic struggled in the FIBAs, reportedly dealing with an illness, so I’m not too worried about him. He played well enough last season that he should be locked into the starting center job. Vuc went in Round 5 in our mock, but I’d rather get him in 6 or 7 if possible. Davis still hasn’t been cleared after shoulder surgery, but could be ready for the start of the season. I see him starting at power forward, but it remains to be seen how healthy and effective he’ll be this season. If he is ready to go, he should be a nice source of rebounds this season, if nothing more. However, he doesn’t look like the appealing sleeper he was a year ago, before the injury. Don’t spend more than a late-round flier on Davis.

Victor Oladipo & Arron Afflalo – I love Oladipo and would not be surprised to see Afflalo moved during the season, clearing the way for Oladipo to play shooting guard full time. I’m not sure the point guard experiment will work, and would prefer they just put him at shooting guard and let him roll. He went in Round 6 in our mock draft, and that’s where I’ll be targeting him in 12-team leagues. As for Afflalo, he’ll hit some threes and score, but he’s not a guy I’m going to be looking for on draft night. And while I’m hopeful that he doesn’t end up starting all year and limiting Oladipo, it is a possibility.

Tobias Harris & Moe Harkless – I see these two splitting time at small forward, but Harris is the guy I want to own. He blew up once he got to Orlando last season and while he has some hype to live up to, he should be able to return value if you can get him late enough in your draft. He went early in our mock (Round 7) and I’d rather see him go closer to Rounds 9 or 10. I’m not targeting Harkless as long as Harris is able to walk and play.

Andrew Nicholson – Nicholson is an intriguing sleeper, but if Davis is healthy, I just don’t see him getting enough minutes to make a difference. I’m not targeting him on draft night.


Goran Dragic – Dragic was seen as a disappointment last season, but still averaged 16 points, nine dimes, a steal and 3-pointer in March and April, providing plenty of things to look forward to this season. I look for him to offer more consistency this time around and have no problem drafting him in Rounds 6-8 this season. He went at the end of Round 6 in our mock. 

P.J. Tucker – With Michael Beasley (cut) and Caron Butler (Bucks) out of the way, the starting small forward job looks like Tucker’s to lose, and I’m expecting him to have a nice season. He got some opportunities last year and never came through, but I expect that to change this time around. Target him late if he’s starting, but be aware that he’s not a 3-point shooter and doesn’t steal the ball much. He looks like a late-round target in deeper leagues for now.


Nicolas Batum – Batum had wrist and shoulder problems last season, but still made it through 73 games and returned second-round value. He was the only player to average two 3-pointers, a steal and a block, and also came through with career highs of 14 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists. He shoots it pretty well from everywhere and the sky’s the limit on Batum. He’s still probably not a first-round pick, but any time after the first 12 picks, Batum looks like a can’t-miss fantasy player. 


Rudy Gay – We know what Rudy Gay does and that is score, rebound, assist, steal and hit 3-pointers, while also providing enough blocked shots to be relevant in that category. He still finished with just sixth-round value last season, but I took him early in Round 5 in our mock draft. He knows the Toronto system now and worked on his post game with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, and I’d be surprised if he’s not worth at least a fourth- or fifth-round pick this year.

Kyle Lowry – Lowry was a disaster last season but Jose Calderon is out of the way and I think he’ll return to being one of the most dominant fantasy point guards in the league. His ability to rebound is underrated and if he can keep his head on straight (and stay healthy), he should have a fine bounce-back season. He went in Round 6 of our mock.

Dwight Buycks – Buycks is intriguing and turned some heads by leading Summer League in scoring, but as long as Lowry is healthy, I just don’t see a point in drafting him.


Enes Kanter – Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are gone and this is the year Kanter fully breaks out. He should provide plenty of scoring, rebounding and shot blocking, and is a good free throw shooter for a center. He averaged just seven points, four boards and 0.5 blocks last season, but those numbers are going to change in a big way. In fact, in his two starts last season, he averaged 20.5 points, 15 boards and a block. He’s not going to do that, obviously, but should be a rock-solid fantasy center, and was taken in Round 7 of our mock draft. 

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