Tag Archives: George Hill

DFS Trade Deadline Hidden Gems

When building a DFS lineup, we all know the big stars to consider. Even the novice DFS player knows to target LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Stephen Curry, etc. However, when it comes time to take down a Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournament, the key is to find the hidden gem in that night’s slate of games. In DFS, gems do not stay hidden for long, so it is imperative to be the first one to find that prize. If you are one day late, that could be the difference between infamy and glory.

Let’s focus on the players that may become hidden gems after the all-star break. With the trade deadline looming this Thursday at 3 PM, DFS players should get a shovel and get ready to start digging.

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four

Dwyane Wade

Alright, Wade is hardly a hidden gem, but the way that the media speaks about him it’s as if he hasn’t been an elite player in years.  Truth be told, when Wade had been on the court this year, he’s been stellar with the 3rd highest usage rate at 32.2, 10th in points per 36 mins at 23.9, and he has the 13th highest PER at 22.49. He’s due back from his latest injury Friday, and the Heat will be “all in” trying to make the playoffs.  Look for Wade to play significant minutes and produce at a superstar level (while on the court). Get him in your lineups while his price on DFS sites is still low – this is probably the lowest it’s going to be all season. He may get hurt again, but before he does, he may win you a GPP.

Kelly Olynyk

Only because I love you readers, will I share with you this vital secret. Danny Ainge’s valentine was Kelly Olynyk. Oh, you think I’m kidding. Well, I’m not. Ainge and the Celtics front office are infatuated with pony tailed Kelly. While Olynyk hasn’t been consistent yet in his brief NBA career, he has shown flashes of brilliance. Even after losing his starting job to Tyler Zeller, Kelly erupted for a game of 30 points on 17 shots, three three pointers, nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals. How many centers are capable of a line like that? And a closer look at his stats shows that he averages 16.3 pts per 36 mins. That’s higher than Jrue Holiday, Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal and Michael Carter-Williams. And this guy shoots 50 percent, averages 5.4 rebounds, two blocks, and a three pointer per game in only 24.5 minutes per game. He is one monster game away from winning us all some serious cash. And if he starts getting big minutes…look out.

nik and zach

Nikola Pekovic

It’s hard for the strongest man on plant earth (according to Dwight Howard) and a villain in Super Man II (Google “Superman Villain Non”) to stay hidden. But that’s the case with Pekovic. Everyone assumes the Wolves are tanking and want to play young guys (and this probably is true), but they haven’t gone this route yet. While it’s possible the Wolves may move veterans K-Mart, Thaddeus Young, and even Pekovic by 3pm Thursday – I’m staying bullish on this guy even if he does get traded. True, he doesn’t fill up a stat sheet, but he currently averages 17.9 pts per 36 mins. That’s more than Kevin Love, John Wall, and Tyreke Evans, among others.  If Pekovic stays healthy and gets minutes (he’s still starting for Minnesota ahead of Dieng), he can bully his and your way past Superman and into a high GPP finish. While his price is still low on DFS sites, he makes for an excellent contrarian play.

Cleanthony Early/Lance Thomas

Now that Carmelo has brought an NBA championship to New York…oops, I mean an All-Star appearance to New York, look for him to shut it down in the next couple days. That opens up a lot of minutes and tons of shots for the Knicks. Lance Thomas might be the immediate beneficiary at small forward (and lots of DFS players will flock to Tim Hardaway Jr. as a solid option at SG) but don’t sleep on Early (known for his steals and threes). Derek Fisher loves this kid and is going to find minutes for him on the floor. The Knicks only goal from now on is to see what talent (if any) they have on the roster. 

Isaiah Thomas

The Dragic trade rumors are reaching peak level, and if he gets dealt, get ready to make Thomas a staple in your DFS lineup. He’s been a decent DFS option with only 25.7 mins per game this season, but he has the 21st highest points per 36 minutes at 21.4 and a usage rate of 24.6. Accordingly, if he gets starter minutes on Phoenix, he’ll be an immediate elite fantasy player in the Suns up-tempo offense.

paul-george-george-hill

George Hill

The cruelest words in DFS are “questionable” and “minutes restriction.” And Hill has been the epitome of the latter this year. However, the restrictions are finally going to be lifted. The Pacers have absolutely zero quality playmakers on their team (sorry Rodney Stuckey and others, you don’t count), so Hill is going to dominate the ball and the stat sheet the next few months. His numbers with the minutes restriction were already impressive (14th highest PER at 22.30 and 24th highest points per 36 minutes at 21.2) so the unleashing of Hill should be fun to watch.  Note: the Pacers are shopping for a point guard, so if they land someone like Ty Lawson that will surely hurt, but not kill, Hill’s value.

 Mo Williams

Mo was traded to his seventh NBA team last week (the Charlotte Hornets), as the Brian Roberts experiment at point guard was an utter disaster. With the Hornets vying for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference and Kemba Walker out until at least mid-March, Williams will immediately step into a starting gig for the Hornets. He posted consistently solid numbers in his 19 starts this season with the Timberwolves (16 pts, two three pointers, eight assists, three rebounds, and a steal per game), and he should post similar numbers feeding Big Al and the Hornets.

 Jameer Nelson

Yes, he is still in the league currently backing up Ty Lawson.  But several teams actually want to acquire this guy for the second half of the season…especially the Miami Heat who have been dying at point guard. The Heat are going to be in desperation mode the final 30+ games to grab a playoff spot, and if they acquire Nelson, he’ll be locked into heavy minutes ASAP. Last year starting for Orlando he averaged 12 points, seven assists, two three pointers, three rebounds and a steal per game. It’s not crazy to think he could post similar numbers in Miami.

 Rodney Hood

If you know the names Joe Ingles and Elijah Millsap (brother of Paul), you are probably a savvy DFS player. Both of these guys (mostly Ingles) have been sneaky plays in DFS land. However, they were only getting big minutes due to the injury of the rookie Hood. The Jazz are eager to get Hood back on the floor, as they hope he’ll be a vital piece of their future, along with Hayward, Exum and Gobert. Accordingly, he should be in line for consistent minutes and starting for the Jazz at shooting guard after the All-Star break.

 Carl Landry

Jason Thompson is doing everything in his power to get traded out of Sacramento. If he does, someone has to play power forward for them. Enter Carl Landry. New coach George Karl will love this energy guy, and starter or not, should give him ample minutes for the Kings. How soon we forget that Landry was in the running for Sixth Man of the Year while on Golden State a couple years ago. He could easily post similar numbers (11 points and six rebounds) to that season if given the chance.

Hopefully, this will allow you to target key players that you might have overlooked. And hopefully one or more of these players will assist you in winning some cash in a GPP very soon. If you want more information or have any questions, do not hesitate to email me at dagreen35@gmail.com or message me on twitter @DanielAGreen1.

Reverse Engineering an NBA FanDuel Winner

If you’re like me, you spend hours on DFS nearly every day. Truthfully, there are countless ways you can build a winning lineup, and even more countless ways you can spend your time researching and digging through stats to build it. One commonly overlooked aspect of building a winning lineup has nothing to do with the day you’re actually building that lineup. I’m talking about really sitting down and taking 10 minutes to look over the previous day’s winner of the GPP you played in. More so, look at the top 10 on the leaderboard of your GPP and analyze each and every pick and try to reverse engineer what that person was thinking and why. How did this person make sense of the market today, and take advantage of weaknesses and strengths. Let’s take a look at February 11th’s 13 game slate so I can give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

First, I’ll show you what I had…

thor1

I won’t spend much time here because I really had a crappy lineup. Somehow it managed to cash in all three of my 50/50s and I made $12 on the night. James Johnson was dubbed the starter again about an hour before tipoff and his salary was rock bottom so I thought I was getting a lot of value there. That was really my first mistake, as I should’ve spent up more there and gone with a mid-tier option like Middleton, Parsons, or Ariza. Truthfully, I got lucky because Johnson was one of the most owned SFs of the night, so it didn’t sink me. The other mistake I made was going for Tyreke and I suppose Asik. That game should’ve played a lot closer, but the Pelicans just did nothing and the pacers were great. It probably made more sense to go with Oladipo or a Lou Williams/Crawford there and take my 30-35 points and upgrade elsewhere.

Now, let’s take a look at the winner of the Wednesday 150K NBA Shot tournament. On a night like Wednesday where there were 13 games, I wouldn’t worry about making contrarian picks, except in the case of James Harden, so I really won’t include much talk about being contrarian in this article.

thor2

Point Guards

This guy went after a lot of players I really like on Wednesday. Barea was an excellent option, especially as Monta Ellis was a GTD. I used him in my DK lineup, but not on FD. There’s really not much analysis that needs to be done here. That pick made a lot of sense. Barea had been playing really well with Rondo out and had a great matchup against the Jazz. The other PG pick is the more unique pick, which helped propel him up the leaderboards. George Hill was owned in just 7.2% of entries, and was certainly on my radar, but it felt riskier, which is why I went Payton who was supposed to see an uptick in usage with Harris out. Anyway, Hill was coming off bad games against San Antonio and Charlotte. Neither are particularly good defensive teams, but before that he had a small stretch of 30+ FP games. The Pelicans were giving up the most FPPG to opposing PGs over their last five games (thanks Russell), and had played in a number of tough games recently giving Hill a reasonable opportunity for another 30+ FP night. On a night where PG scoring was relatively low, Hill was the greatest value.

Ricky-Rubio-nails-crazy-circus-shot.

The strategy of going cheap at PG on Wednesday was really what you needed to do. There was so much value with guys like Rubio, Hill, Parker, Barea, Clarkson, Chalmers and Payton, that you really didn’t need to spend up for a Steph Curry, Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook although you could have done fine with either Curry or Westbrook (more so for Curry). The main lesson you can take away from Wednesday night here is that on large slates the position with the most viable plays is where you need to save your money, as you can get much more overall value out of cheaper guys than the high priced studs.

Shooting Guard

jklein didn’t blow anyone away at the SG spot, but most importantly he faded Harden, Tyreke, Thompson, and Monta (obviously). The Harden and Monta fades were easy, but the Tyreke and Thompson ones were a little harder to make. DeRozan was a quick lock in my lineup and I bet jklein’s. He just plays too big of a role in the Raptor offense for his price of $6,900, and the Wizards were going to be without Beal in a seemingly close game. I was surprised to see him owned at just 13.3% in this GPP. He made another very safe play with Crawford at his second SG spot. The LA/Houston game was a game that I was planning to go after hard (as you can see by my Paul, Barnes, and Smith plays), and jklein had a similar strategy while nabbing Crawford, Ariza, Smith, and Jordan.

Again, on a big slate it can pay to take certainties over wildcards. Crawford at $5200 was almost a lock for 25 FPs, and facing Houston on a back to back left room for upside if Houston fell behind (which they did in the fourth quarter).

tumblr_mgt6iwvMVQ1rge74zo1_1280

Small Forward

Small Forward was a position where you could’ve gone in a million different directions Wednesday. There were attractive options everywhere and at all tiers of salary. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the position can be somewhat of a crapshoot at times. Going with the “safe” theme, he took KD at home against the Grizzlies. Not an ideal matchup, but you know in all likelihood Durant will get you a minimum of 40 FPs. It worked out well in his favor as Durant was the top scoring SF on the night, and was only owned in 9.1% of entries. If you’re paying up for Durant, it makes sense to go cheap at the other SF spot, especially with aspirations of getting DeAndre Jordan as your Center. Thus, he went for Ariza in a game that had the highest O/U of the night and a close spread. Smart! Personally I liked Barnes more, and he was the better value but hey, he won.

kevin-durant
Power Forward

Josh Smith was another guy I knew I had to have Wednesday as he had a great matchup against the Blake Griffin-less Clippers and had been on a roll without Dwight Howard around. Super easy pick to make. Going with Sullinger was quite a bit ballsier, but the spread was surprisingly small for that game if I remember correctly (maybe 7.5), and he had been playing really well since he was taken out of the starting lineup for being late for a walkthrough a couple weeks back. Anyone who finished in the top ten Wednesday had Sullinger, West, Josh Smith, or Jason Smith. There was really not much else you could do there with the exception of Dirk.

joshsmithrocketsdebut

That being said, PF was definitely one of the weakest positions Wednesday loaded with a lot of iffy matchups and poor punt options. Instead of paying up for picks like Favors, Millsap, Bosh, or Aldridge, he took Sully, who was sure to be a huge part of the Celtics win if they were going to keep the game close, and it held true. Honestly, the Sullinger pick was probably the riskiest pick outside of maybe George Hill this guy made, but more importantly it allowed him to spend money on guys like Durant and Jordan, who were in much better positions to produce solid numbers in weak position groups.

Center

Finally, the pick you almost had to make to finish high on Wednesday was DeAndre Jordan. I toyed with throwing him in my lineups, but decided against it because I thought the value with Asik was too good to pass up while AD was out, and it was contrarian. Well I was wrong about that, and he went for 59 FPs while only being owned in 17% of entries, which was nearly 8% less than Josh Smith. I partly shied away from Jordan because I thought the market would go really hard on him, and there was a chance of getting in foul trouble against the white hot Harden. The important takeaway from that is don’t bother trying to be contrarian on giant slates. Let the market do its crazy things, and take guys you know will perform at or above expectation (Smith, Jordan, Durant, Barea, Hill, Sullinger).

lat-sp-clippers-jordan-20131219

Conclusion

Looking at the top entries from Wednesday tells us a few things. First, on big slates like this it’s important to remember to not try to be overly contrarian. Let the market do its crazy things, and just pick who you like to have a nice game. Josh Smith only being owned in 25% of entries is insane. The odds of him going for 5 or 6x value was likely the highest of any PF.

Another thing that’s important, but difficult to do on a big slate, is make sure you’re spending your big money wisely. It was all too easy to fall into a trap of spending big on Curry or Paul Wednesday who had good scenarios for big production, but that would’ve left you with significant holes elsewhere. The PG market was very strong, and he took advantage of that by playing Barea and Hill who were both criminally undervalued by both the market and salary. SG was also very strong with a lot of good mid-tier plays, so he attacked the strength of that spot as well landing two high usage players in DeRozan and Crawford and avoided spending big on Harden, Thompson or Evans, which were all riskier than DeRozan and Crawford. Nothing crazy, but both would keep him in the running to cash a GPP.

Then, he spent big on Durant and snuck a great value play in Ariza into his lineup. Durant was one of the top scorers of the day, and had a very good floor for production Wednesday, which made sense in the always unpredictable SF group. However, there were a number of solid value plays that day, so you could’ve done fine with two of those and spending on Curry instead, but the top four entries all had Durant.

Josh Smith was then an easy decision for a lot of people, but Sullinger was a sneaky good pick. The Hawks had been struggling against PFs, and had played a lot of tough games recently. I don’t love the pick, and would rather have David West, but Sullinger won him this GPP. More importantly though, he avoided falling into a trap of just spending up at a position when you’re not sure who to pick there, and landed two guys in Smith and Sully who play big roles for their respective teams when they’re in the game.

Finally, he went with another safe, but extremely high upside pick in Jordan, who had scored 60 FPs in his previous game without Griffin. Again, an easy pick to make in retrospect, but this is why we’re reverse engineering this lineup and understanding the strategy. To get back to my main point, on big slates it’s important to not make very unusual picks for players with high upside. The market will do that for you, and you’ll be able to take advantage of knowing that and landing a big number of great value plays. However, on smaller slates it makes more sense to go contrarian as you need picks to differentiate yourself from others if there are only four or five games that day.

I hope this analysis proves useful to you, and please don’t hesitate to contact me on twitter (@thoreosnmilk) or by email at thor.akerley@gmail.com for DFS or fantasy sports related questions!

 

Flawless Predictions for 2014-15 that won’t be wrong at all

Last year’s Big Preview didn’t go so well–probably because I was guzzling #TheReturn kool-aid like a fat guy takes oxygen after a defensive touchdown. But have no fear, readers. This year I’m back, hardened and wise. AKA I won’t be picking the Bulls to win the Finals.

Dramatization of me drinking #TheReturn kool-aid
Dramatization of me drinking #TheReturn kool-aid


Eastern Conference

  1. Chicago Bulls
  2. Cleveland Cavs
  3. Toronto Raptors
  4. Washington Wizards
  5. Charlotte Hornets(!)
  6. Atlanta Hawks
  7. Miami Heat
  8. Detroit Pistons
  9. Brooklyn Nets
  10. New York Knicks
  11. Indiana Pacers
  12. Boston Celtics
  13. Orlando Magic
  14. Milwaukee Bucks
  15. Philadelphia 76ers

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavs over Bulls

Western Conference

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Los Angeles Clippers
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder
  4. Golden State Warriors
  5. Dallas Mavericks
  6. Houston Rockets
  7. Memphis Grizzlies
  8. Portland Trailblazers
  9. Phoenix Suns
  10. New Orleans Pelicans
  11. Denver Nuggets
  12. Los Angeles Lakers
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves
  14. Sacramento Kings
  15. Utah Jazz

Western Conference Finals: Spurs over Clippers

via NY Post
via NY Post

NBA Finals

Spurs over Cavs

I’ve learned my lesson picking against the Spurs. Whatever your argument against this team might be has been invalidated over the last few seasons. Despite holding his stars to around 30 minutes per game and routinely sitting them, Coach Popovich has proven that his rosters go 10-12 deep, even in the playoffs. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker should all be able to contribute as they did last year. Kawhi Leonard is a budding star, and the second youngest Finals MVP ever after Magic Johnson. As for Cleveland, it’s just difficult to imagine any other team in the East taking them down. While Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving’s playoff inexperience (zero combined games) could be a huge factor, I can’t forget LeBron single-handedly shutting Derrick Rose down in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. Combine an offense that could be historically great with the defensive potential of LeBron guarding the opponent’s best player, and you get a near unbeatable team. However, if any coach and system can take advantage of the flaws that year one in Cleveland expose, it’ll be the Spurs and Pop.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 12.20.37 PM

MVP

  1. LeBron James
  2. Kevin Durant
  3. Steph Curry
  4. Derrick Rose
  5. Blake Griffin

As my friend Spencer explained so very well, it will be nearly impossible for Kevin Durant to win this season’s MVP because of the broken bone in his foot. That makes LeBron a heavy favorite with the added narrative of the prodigal son returning home. Steph Curry makes the list because he is fantastic and the Warriors look to take a step up. The same goes for Blake and the Clippers; a Chris Paul injury would make Griffin a serious contender. As for Rose, the narrative will be overpowering if he returns to form as part of a #1 seed Bulls team. How could I leave him off?

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Dwight Howard
  2. Serge Ibaka
  3. Joakim Noah
  4. Marc Gasol
  5. Tyson Chandler

I’m stealing my reasoning from last season: “Dwight is the best defensive player on Earth and now that he’s (presumably) healthy again everyone will remember.”

Pumped Taj

Sixth Man of the Year

  1. Taj Gibson
  2. Jamal Crawford
  3. Manu Ginobili
  4. Isaiah Thomas
  5. Draymond Green

Taj deserved to win this award over Crawford last year. But points are usually voted for more than defense, so the same could happen once again.

Coach of the Year

  1. Rick Carlisle
  2. Tom Thibodeau
  3. Mike Budenholzer
  4. Greg Popovich
  5. Doc Rivers

I’m feeling a big season from the Mavericks, and I think Coach Carlisle will (deservedly) get his share of the credit. Thibs, Pops and Doc are perennial candidates while Budenholzer has a chance to make a name for himself with a healthy and talented roster.

Rookie of the Year

  1. Jabari Parker
  2. Nerlens Noel
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Elfrid Payton
  5. Marcus Smart

Last year I didn’t even have Michael Carter-Williams on my roster, but that was a fluky season. Jabari figures to get the most minutes and scoring opportunities, so he’s my favorite. Nerlens should put up big numbers too, but he’s not as much of a scorer so he’s less likely to snag the award. You already know about Andrew Wiggins, and Elfrid Payton is the experts’ dark horse. Normally I would laugh that off, but these are the same people who were whispering about Damian Lillard before his rookie year. Marcus Smart should get plenty of minutes in Boston, especially if (when) Rajon Rondo gets traded.

Stat Champs

  1. Points: Kevin Durant (we’re going by averages)
  2. Assists: Chris Paul
  3. Rebounds: Andre Drummond
  4. Steals: Chris Paul
  5. Blocks: Anthony Davis

PS: this was the category I did the best in last year. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed/were engraged by my predictions and I welcome anyone to sound off in the comments or on Facebook/Twitter. The season begins tomorrow on TNT with Dallas @ San Antonio!

 

 

Some quick predictions from Bikshorn:

Baller shot caller
Baller shot caller

Steph Curry will win MVP

LeBron is a fine and noble choice, but I get the sense King James is going to let the other young stars on his team get theirs. Everyone and their grandma knows MJ won six rings but not many people can tell you how many MVPs he won (five). LeBron understands this and I predict he lets his game flow naturally on the Cavs rather than take over for big stretches.

Steph is my choice for a couple of reasons:

1. He is The Man. There is no bonafide second superstar on that team. They go as he goes.

2. His style of play. Bombing threes, breaking ankles and dropping beautiful dimes. Voters watch Sportscenter too.

3. His new coach. People who defend Mark Jackson, do you realize the Warriors were 12th in offensive efficiency last year? I think Kerr, despite his inexperience, will unleash Curry, allowing him to reach heights we’ve never seen from a point guard.

The Clippers will represent the West in the Finals

blake

I’m predicting a monster year from Blake. Last season’s injury to Chris Paul was the ultimate blessing in disguise, giving the former top pick the opportunity to develop as a ball handler and distributor. Darren Collison may have been penciled in as point guard on the lineup card, but Blake was running the show.

Griffin is not content with just adding one new facet to his game. Blake spent the summer refining his jump shot, smoothing out what was one of the least asthetically pleasing things in the NBA. Combine that with his rebounding, post game and the aformentioned handling skills, and you’re looking at a force of nature.

Oh btw Chris Paul is on the Clippers too.

The Cavaliers will represent the East in the Finals

It pains me to write this, but it’s true. The concerns in regards to defending the paint are real, but not real enough that I see anyone in the Eastern Conference winning four out of seven against Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are going to be terrifying on offense. They are the perfect blend of modern NBA philosophy, employing superstars who either a) get to the rim b) shoot threes or c) all of the above. If LeBron can add horse whisperer to his resume and convince Dion Waiters that being Jamal Crawford is super cool, there will be no stopping these guys.

The Cavs will win the NBA Finals

Three superstars > two superstars

The Bulls will annihilate the Pacers on 11/15 and I will enjoy every second of it.

bulls pacers

My girlfriend got us tickets for my birthday and I cannot tell you how excited I am. The Pacers are going to be garbage this year, especially early in the season when George Hill will still think he’s a threat driving to the basket.

I despise the Pacers and everything that they stand for. Being able to witness, in person, the carnage that the Bulls will leave behind at the UC is going to bring me so much joy. This might not be a great game to watch on TV, especially on a Saturday night, but I urge you to watch until the end so that you don’t miss my victory dance. I’m going to put Marlins Kid to shame.

2014-15 Predictions: Breakout Players

Earlier this week, I joined my friend Spencer Suk in breaking down some of the players most likely to be busts in this upcoming season. Spencer is a big Clippers fan (since day one!) and one of the best basketball minds I know. He joined me to pick the breakout players for this season. Make sure you check out the rest of the great stuff on his website, The Franchise!

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond

Drummond is just 21 years old and looks poised to become the best true center in the NBA. He had a fantastic sophomore campaign, finishing first in offensive rebounds per game, second in field goal percentage, second in rebounds per game, and tenth in blocks per game. Drummond cleaned up his teammates’ misses with ease, averaging 5.4 offensive rebounds per game (1.4 per game more than second place).

Stan Van Gundy has taken over the reigns in Detroit, which bodes well for Drummond, as Van Gundy helped develop a player quite similar to him: 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard. Van Gundy created a defensive system that accentuated Howard’s skills and strengths, helping him to grow into the player he is today. All signs point towards him doing the same for Drummond.

Spencer Suk

jimmy butler

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy “G” (the G stands for Get Buckets)/”Jordan” Butler has clearly garnered some major hype from fans and Stacey King alike. As long as his preseason thumb strain is not a major issue, I believe Jimmy is primed for a big season. After shooting 47% from the field and a stellar 38% from range in his first full season, Butler rocketed back toward the mean last season, putting up an ugly 40%/28% shooting line. If Jimmy can just bridge the gap between the two Butlers we’ve seen, his value increases significantly. 44% on 33-35% three point shooting would be stellar from a lock-down defender.

What Butler really does impressively, though, is get to the charity stripe with ease. Jimmy excels at drawing fouls, reaching the free throw line five times per game last season. This is doubly impressive because Butler had a below average usage rate of 17% (average would be 20%, hence each player uses one fifth of the possessions). On a team that struggled to score without Derrick Rose, Butler’s offense was much needed. The free throws helped a lot when the jumpers weren’t falling.

With Rose back, added shooting and depth, and another offseason of work, it’s fair to expect another step forward from Butler. If he can start knocking down his jumper consistently, the rest of the league better watch out.

Jake Weiner

via Fansided
via Fansided

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson has truly earned his reputation as one half of the duo known as the Splash Brothers. While he is widely known for his three-point shooting, the development throughout the rest of his game is what can make him elite this year. The most exciting of which may be his added mid-range post game.

Standing at 6’ 7”, Thompson often created size mismatches last year, and it seemed like Mark Jackson would force it into Klay play after play. The problem with this approach was that Thompson was not consistent enough to bank on consecutive buckets (they also never really ran set plays for Klay to get him going early in the game). However, he showed consistency with his mid-range game this summer in Spain with Team USA. In a few years, once he gets going, don’t be surprised to see Thompson torching people in the mid-post a la Kobe.

But what truly makes Thompson special is the fact that he plays both sides of the ball. He has consistently gotten better at defense every year and can legitimately be one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league this year. Thompson’s experience playing with Team USA was invaluable and has helped prepare him for a breakout year.

Spencer Suk

Charlotte Hornets  vs Philadelphia 76ers

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Oh, MKG. We all want you to be great! A humble kid who’s overcome a ton, MKG burst onto the scene as a two-way star at Kentucky. The second pick after Anthony Davis, he’s been mostly an afterthought in his time in the NBA. While MKG quickly proved he’s a legitimate perimeter defender, his insane jumper mechanics were never going to produce anything resembling an average jumper.

But wait, you ask, isn’t this a breakout players article? Yes, yes it is! And MKG has been working overtime on that jumper and now it looks…pretty?! Judge for yourself.

Yeah, that’s smooth. If this is something Kidd-Gilchrist can keep up, the only massive hole in his game has just been filled up. MKG is never gonna be a Paul George-level shooter…but if he can work his way up to just average, his other skills are deadly.

Jake Weiner

paul-george-george-hill

George Hill

Look… Someone has to do something for the Indiana Pacers. Lance Stephenson is gone, Paul George is recovering from a horrific injury, Davis West is struggling with his ankle, and Roy Hibbert is going to be a bust this year according to Mr. Weiner.

Enter George Hill. George Hill had a down year in the 2013-14 season, but I attribute that to the rise of Lance Stephenson, not the decline of Hill. Stephenson became the primary ball handler last year, which made sense considering he is a gifted passer and Hill is the better spot-up shooter between the two. As you can see, the effect of this scheme caused Hill’s usage rate to drastically fall:

George Hill Averages
Season Minutes Points Assists FG Attempts FT Attempts
2012-13 34.5 14.2 4.7 11.5 2.8
2013-14 32 10.3 3.5 8.1 2.3

Now that the Pacers are in desperate need of ball-handling and scoring, expect a lot of the workload to be dumped on Hill’s shoulders. And I expect good things from him. I mean, there’s a reason he used to be Coach Pop’s favorite player.

Spencer Suk

JonasV

Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas was the fifth overall pick in 2011 and is still just 22 years old. He had a pretty quiet rookie year, but last season he emerged as a budding center. The Lithuanian finished the season averaging 11.3 PPG and 8.8 RPG on stellar 53% FG shooting. However, he really turned it up late in the season and in the playoffs. In April, he averaged 16.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG and he put up 9.7 RPG against Brooklyn in a classic seven game defeat.

Given that he’s younger than most of the writers for this blog, Jonas is a safe bet to pick up right where he left off. He’s a prototypical center that can run the floor, grab a ton of boards, and block shots. And he’s not afraid of DeMarcus Cousins either:

I’m betting on Jonas and the Raptors to keep improving. With a young talented core that clearly doesn’t lack in confidence, the future is bright in Toronto. It never hurts to have Drizzy Drake as your brand ambassador/tamperer.

Jake Weiner