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Cullen: Big Baby, Kirilenko among those with rising value

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Scott Cullen
10/26/2012 4:20:46 PM
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Going into the NBA season, it's easy enough to place expectations on LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, they are established stars that will play leading roles for their respective teams.

While situations might be different for stars moving to new teams, like Steve Nash, Dwight Howard or Joe Johnson, they have still set a certain performance standard that is expected to continue in their new uniforms.

This article seeks out some of the players that might be looking at new and better opportunities this season; maybe a move into a starting role, or just a regular turn in the rotation for the first time, giving these players an increase in potential value.

Glen Davis, PF, Orlando - Big Baby has been hanging on in a reserve role for five NBA seasons, but started a dozen games down the stretch last season, averaging 16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in April. With the Magic frontcourt gutted (losing Howard and Ryan Anderson), Davis now has an opportunity to be the primary option on the low block and he leads the Magic with 17.7 points per game in the preseason, so he could be the primary scorer on a team lacking an established scoring option.

Andrew Bynum, C, Philadelphia - Unlike others on this list, Bynum has been in a starter's role for the better part of the last six seasons and averaged career-highs in points (18.7), rebounds (11.8) and field-goal attempts (13.3), setting the stage for Bynum to take over as the centrepiece of the 76ers' offence.Unfortunately, a knee problem has kept Bynum on the sidelines for the entire preseason, preventing him from establishing his place as a player who can take a lot of the shots that departed Philadelphia this summer when Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Lou Williams (32.1 field goal attempts per game between them) departed. A healthy Bynum could put up 24-12 as the 76ers' first option, but we'll have to wait and see when that might happen.

Andrei Kirilenko, SF, Minnesota - During his 10 previous NBA seasons, Andrei Kirilenko has never failed to register at least one block and one steal per game, topping out at 1.9 steals (2003-04) and 3.3 blocks (2004-05). After a year playing in Russia, Kirilenko returns to the NBA and even if the 31-year-old isn't a big scorer -- he averaged under a dozen points per game in each of his last five seasons -- he can fill the stat sheet enough to hold fantasy appeal.

Brandon Roy, SG, Minnesota - The sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft quickly became a franchise player in Portland, averaging 21.1 points per game in three seasons from 2007 through 2010, but chronic knee problems forced him to retire, perhaps prematurely as it turns out. Roy may not be the go-to guy for the T-Wolves, but he's easily capable of starting at shooting guard. If his knee holds up and he delivers 15-17 points per game, that would not only be a remarkable comeback story, but a value play for fantasy owners.

J.J. Hickson, C, Portland - Inconsistency has prevented Hickson from earning a steady starting job through his first four years in the league, but he took advantage of an opportunity with the Trail Blazers late last season, putting up 17.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 19 games after he was waived by Sacramento (who obviously had no room a guy averaging 9.2 ppg and 9.9 rpg in 35 games). Hickson, at 6-foot-9, is undersized as centres go, but his quickness gives him an advantage and if he can simply hold the starting job, he's going to be productive enough to provide value.

Omer Asik, C, Houston - After signing an offer sheet with the Rockets, for three years and more than $25-million, Asik goes from playing a dozen minutes per game for the Bulls to Houston's starting lineup. Even if he's not much of an offensive threat, Asik can contribute in other ways. For example, over the last two seasons, he ranks fifth in rebounds per 36 minuts (12.0) and eighth in blocks per 36 minutes (2.3), so Asik can be an effective big man, even if he doesn't have a significant offensive contribution.

Kirk Hinrich, PG, Chicago - For as long as Derrick Rose is sidelined, which could conceivably be all season, Hinrich is slated to be the Bulls' starting point guard, just as he was from from 2003 to 2010. After setting career-lows in points (6.6), assists (2.8) and minutes (25.8) per game with Atlanta last season, Hinrich has an opportunity to play 30 minutes with the Bulls' first team and therefore return to fantasy relevance, at least for those in deep leagues.

Gerald Green, SF, Indiana - A first-round pick in 2005, Green has largely flamed out to this point, bouncing around to five teams and starting a total of 43 games. However, he earned a shot in New Jersey last year and dunked his way onto the highlight reels, earning a three-year, $10.5-million contract with the Pacers. Backing up Danny Granger and Paul George on the wings may not offer prime minutes for Green, but after averaging 12.9 points in 25.2 minutes with the Nets last season and 12.7 points in 26.0 minutes per game in the preseason, 26-year-old Green does look like he's ready to start fulfilling some of that promise that he showed as a teenager.

Patrick Patterson, PF, Houston - Patterson has started a total of seven games through his first two seasons with the Rockets, but appears to be first in line to replace Luis Scola in the starting lineup this year. While his numbers aren't terribly productive (7.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg in 20.3 mpg) through his first two years, moving into the starting lineup should give him more chances to shoot. In the preseason, for example, Patterson has averaged 10.8 field goal attempts in 23.8 minutes per game and if he ends up playing 28-30 minutes as a starter, getting that many touches will mean a legitimate opportunity to produce.

Nikola Vucevic and Gustavo Ayon, C, Orlando - A pair of second-year pivots given the job of filling Dwight Howard's sizeable shoes. Ayon is sidelined for a couple of weeks with a sprained thumb, leaving Vucevic, who has been productive in the preseason. While playing only 20.5 minutes per game, Vucevic has averaged 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, which could translate into double-double numbers if he holds the starter's role.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Glen Davis (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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