We’re nearly a week away from the start of the NBA season. Can you believe it? It seems we’ve been doing preseason prep forever. Since Kobe Bryant hoisted the championship trophy in a motion that could have doubled as the introduction of a tapeworm to my digestive tract, we’ve seen a flurry of activity. The Draft, trades, free agent signings, injuries, preseason games… let’s put it this way: I hope you’ve been doing your cheat sheets in pencil. With most people drafting this week, we’ve said a lot of what needs to be said either on this blog or over at the mothership, RotoExperts.com, where you’ll find the Draft Kit to End All Draft Kits. But there remain plenty of lingering issues to address. So here we are.
Tom, Greg and I will pose one question per day this week to ourselves, and, while looking in the mirror to practice, answer them, then post them here for your perusal. We wish you the best at your draft – it is the best day of the year, after all – but caution you that the draft itself is one small part of a championship season. If you’ve already drafted, we’re here to give you a head start on attacking your waiver wire or making killer trades. Either way, if you have anything at all to add to the discussion, leave us some comments. Good luck!
MONDAY’S QUESTION: Which young big has impressed you the most this preseason to the point where you are going to actively target them in upcoming drafts or the waiver wire?
Tom Lorenzo: Last year I championed for Tyrus Thomas from the moment the season tipped off. This year I’ve been steering the Jason Thompson bandwagon. He’s been a beast this preseason, posting 13.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 blocks, and 0.5 steals on 50 percent shooting from the floor. Sure, his 55.6 percent showing from the free throw line is a bit concerning, but he’s only been getting to the line 2.2 times per game. It’s also a little worrisome that he’s picking up 4.3 fouls per game, but his foul rate continues to improve as the preseason chugs along. Just last Saturday he poured in 20 points, pulled down 20 rebounds, and dished five assists against the Warriors. His game still needs some improvement, but the Kings frontcourt lacks any depth and as skilled as Thompson is, I could see him finishing in the top 5 in rebounding, posting nightly double-doubles and shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Sounds like a steal for a guy with an ADP of 107.23 (per Mock Draft Central).
Greg Fox: He may be a poor fit on the up-tempo Pacers, but I’ve always been impressed with Roy Hibbert’s ability. This 7-3 redwood can be a menace in halfcourt sets, and I think Larry Bird and Jim O’Brien realize they need to be more deliberate at times. In five preseason games and in just less than 25 minutes per, he has registered 11.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, while shooting a shade under 50 percent from the field. Shot-blocking always comes at a premium and Hibbert has the potential to be one of the league’s best as evidenced by his silly 20-point, 11-rebound, 8-reject performance in 33 minutes off the bench against Denver in Taipei. He is in the mix for playing time with Jeff Foster, Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough (insert slow white-man joke here), so big Roy should get serious consideration. Inconsistency is to be expected, but 10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and a minimum 2.0 blocks from a late-round afterthought isn’t awful.
Jeff Andriesse: Perhaps I need to get out more, but I’m making googly eyes at DeJuan Blair these days. Much was made about the Spurs stealing Blair in the second round of the draft, and after their theft of Richard Jefferson from Milwaukee, it really isn’t fair. Now Blair is already serving notice that he could be one of the top rookies in this class, averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 boards while shooting 61.9 percent from the floor in five preseason games. And he played only 10 minutes in one and 11 in the other. Let’s throw those two games out and take his numbers in the other three, when he averaged 24 minutes: 18.3 PTS, 11.7 REB, 59.5 FG%. But forget the damn lies and statistics, I care more about opportunity. And I think there will be some this year for the tenacious rookie. Greg Popovich is going to rest Tim Duncan this year and, probably, Antonio McDyess as well. Blair will see court time, and be particularly effective when Duncan is taking a day off. Blair isn’t a shot blocker, but he’s already showing that he belongs. He’ll make Popovich feel much better about resting his studs. Blair is one of my deep-league targets, for sure.
What’s your answer? Let’s hear it in the Comments section.