In today’s column I am going to take a look at how some of the most interesting camp battles are turning out. It is very early but it’s worth looking at the impressions of people who are watching teams closely, in order to get a sense of who is gaining and who might be losing ground. If you have an early draft (and I’ve already had one and have another coming up on Friday) then it’s well worth passing on some players who don’t have a safe job and who aren’t impressing early.
There are always lots of good reasons for not picking a guy. This is one of the lessons of many years of drafting that you should take on; a wart can turn into an infection pretty quickly. While it’s true that a lot of fantasy work is old-fashioned prospecting (a lot of spadework and sluicing, hoping to turn up one nugget) you need to make sure you’re looking in the right areas. There’s no shame in passing on one opportunity in the hope of finding a better one somewhere else.
Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times is reporting that Harrison Barnes will be part of the regular rotation and remains in the hunt for a starting spot. Thompson reports that Barnes will start tonight, and it’s all part of a desire by Marc Jackson to see how he works with the starters.
This is something you’ll see a lot of during preseason, and something you should be aware of if you’re not used to following preseason games. Players will be shifted up and down the lineup a lot, and it’s not because they are in the doghouse or necessarily even being rewarded; coaches want to see how various players perform together as units.
Barnes, obviously, is a talent. He is up against Brandon Rush at the moment; while Rush improved by miles last season and may have the inside track early as a more experienced player more likely to provide presence on an iffy defensive club, it’s clear that the Warriors view Barnes as an immediate competitor for his minutes.
Not surprisingly, Jacque Vaughn is trying to keep order amidst roster chaos in Orlando. The Associated Press is reporting that amidst injuries, though, E’Twaun Moore made a strong and impressive showing in the preseason contest against the Hornets. Moore, not surprisingly, didn’t get much of a run last year with the Celts and he didn’t play well when he did, struggling to run the offense although that can be hard to do in garbage time. Learning to play the point at the NBA level is tough; Moore was a two-guard at Purdue. If he sticks, though, and if he can learn as fast as a 16/7 game indicates he might, there isn’t any reason he can’t take more time from Jameer Nelson. Nelson is 30 (hard to believe) and there’s mileage on him, as a little man in a big man’s game.
Similarly to the Golden State situation mentioned above, according to the AP Vaughn is assessing all the combinations of starters and so expects his big-man rotation to appear in flux through the preseason. I think Gustavo Ayon is worth keeping an eye on there, by the way. Ayon was very effective for the Hornets last season, passes very well for a guy his size, hits his shots and knows his game.
If you’re thinking of drafting John Wall (or might already have him) you will no doubt be looking for an early-season replacement while Wall rests and rehabs the stress injury to his knee. One potential solution, especially in a deep-league situation, is to grab his replacement in D.C.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post reports that the early indications are that the replacement may be Shelvin Mack, the former Butler Bulldog who backed Wall up for the most part last season, but it may also be A.J. Price or veteran free agent Jannero Pargo.
I like Mack, who shot poorly but not embarrassingly last year but was otherwise competent, and have always been a skeptic of Pargo, who in my view won’t be as good a defender as Mack is (he lacks the size and strength). But a team like the Wizards may decide they want the veteran presence while Wall recuperates, and so both might get forced into some sort of jobshare. If that’s the case, then Mack doesn’t seem like a useful add, and it’s enough reason to be skeptical of the better player for now.
In my view, the most exciting early-season roster battle is shaping up in Boston, where as Scott Souza of the Metrowest Daily News reports, Jared Sullinger has been impressing everyone in training camp and has likely carved himself a roster spot already. The thing with Sullinger is not only that he seems likely to impact the rotation, he may be working himself into major minutes, having hit the ground running and impressing Rajon Rondo as “the smartest rookie we’ve had”.
Sullinger’s competition for minutes seems most likely to be Brandon Bass, who I didn’t think settled too well in Boston last season. Sullinger offers a bit of extra size at the power forward spot, something that might well be coveted as the Celtics try to ease the 82-game pounding that Kevin Garnett will take, and also has considerably more offensive rebounding ability.
Why is that key? Boston finished last in the NBA in offensive rebounds by a country mile last season. It’s an area of extreme weakness that they will be looking to shore up. Not only does Sullinger have the talent and skill as well as the body to be a good offensive rebounder, he obviously relishes it as a look at the last two years’ Ohio State games will tell you.
Whisper it softly… but I think this guy should (might not, but should) become a starter from day one.
$1000 FanDuel Fantasy Contest
Sheridan Hoops readers can face off against me, Kent, and hundreds of other readers and fantasy players, at our partner site FanDuel on Hallowe’en, October 31st. I have registered and selected a lineup (featuring Kobe, Nash, Andrew Bynum, and the majestic power of Landry Fields) although I likely will be changing it obsessively 400 times between now and then. Sometimes, you just can’t wait for the season to begin.
FanDuel is worth a spin even if you don’t like to play for money. I am going to be trying some weekly leagues once the season begins, and I will update you on how those go.
Thanks to the United States Navy for the photo of Harrison Barnes, and for much else besides.