Lets look at some players that may be flying “under the radar” before the regular season begins.
- Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards: The second-year shooting guard from the University of Florida is ready to break out based on his fantastic showing in the preseason. Beal averaged 20.7 points per game, shot nearly 50 per cent from three-point land and chipped in with over one steal per game. The backcourt pairing of John Wall and Beal could lead the Wizards to an Eastern Conference playoff spot for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
- Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, Utah Jazz: The pride of Butler University is finally coming into his own. After leaving the Bulldogs prematurely, it took him a few seasons to truly adapt, but Hayward is ready to lead the Utah offensive attack. He shot 50 per cent from three-point range and averaged nearly five rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals in the preseason. Hayward’s scoring average of 15.9 led the Jazz and he will be expected to carry the load after the departure of both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the offseason. Just keep Hayward away from Delonte West.
- Eric Bledsoe, PG/SG, Phoenix Suns: The player that several teams coveted at last season’s trade deadline gets a fresh start with the Phoenix Suns after serving an apprenticeship under Chris Paul in LA. Bledsoe looks to be the future cornerstone of a rebuilding Suns team. He displayed his quickness and raw ability in the preseason, averaging 13 points, four rebounds, six assists and an impressive 2.7 steals. Bledsoe is capable of being in the top five in steals this season. It also doesn’t hurt that backcourt mate Goran Dragic is rumoured to be on the trading block, possibly freeing up even more time at the point for this combo guard.
- Victor Oladipo, SG, Orlando Magic: There is no doubt that Oladipo will be the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year. He will get plenty of playing time at both guard positions and we know it’s only a matter of time before injury-prone PG Jameer Nelson misses multiple games. Like several rookies, Oladipo may struggle with his FG percentage, but will be a strong contributor in the counting categories. That was on display during the preseason as he averaged 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
- Spencer Hawes, C, Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t sleep on this big man. While Hawes is not among the elite NBA centres, he will prosper this season on a Sixers team that really lacks depth. With prized rookie Noel Nerlensexpected to miss most (if not all) of the season recuperating from a torn ACL, Hawes will be counted on to play big minutes at the five. The intriguing thing about Hawes is his ability to make threes and block shots – a rare combination for a big man. Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner are going to have to carry the bread in Philly this season.
- James Anderson, SG, Philadelphia 76ers: Speaking of the 76ers, we’re intrigued by the play of Anderson this fall. While he has yet to prove himself at the NBA level in stints with the Spurs and Rockets, he is getting the opportunity of a lifetime this season. With the Sixers being thin in the backcourt, Anderson has made the most of his audition at shooting guard this fall, going 17-for-35 from three-point land while averaging 13.9 points and 1.1 steals. Keep a close eye on him as the season begins as he could be a bargain basement steal for your Fantasy team.
- Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Boston Celtics: With Rajon Rondo likely sidelined until December following ACL surgery, Bradley has an opportunity to post solid numbers. Bradley will help your team in several categories with the only negative being FG percentage. When Rondo returns, Bradley is likely to switch from point to shooting guard and still be a worthy contributor.