Above all else, remember this: you should ignore the preseason. There are myriad reasons to ignore it. It’s inaccurate for one. For two, it’s not representational of what the regular season team rotations will be. For hirds, many of the starters (i.e the guys that will end up on your fantasy team come draft day) are going at 60 percent. And for fourths … no. I’m gonna tell you my fourth. A man’s got to have secrets. By now, you’ve run the first six or seven draft rounds in your head dozens of times, your early decisions are being honed to a deadly point. But this isn’t about the early rounds, this is about those middle and late rounds, where everything is a toss-up, your eyes go cross, and you start tasting colors. That’s where preseason performance can help you. As precarious as preseason information can be, it is the most current barometer for a player’s performance. What’s happening now may serve as a final tie-breaker between two late rounds picks or a deal-breaker on that player you were iffy on even including in your draft cheat sheets. Look, telling owners to ignore NBA exhibitions while preparing for the upcoming season is as useless an exercise as doing jumping jacks in a Dunkin’ Donuts. Don’t act like you’re just there for a croissandwich and a water. You’re there because the special donut switched to orange and black sprinkles for the holidays. If you insist on the donut, might as well get the special sprinkles. And if you insist on worrying about dozens of sprained ankles every morning, might as well take a look at some of the biggest surprises so far in the 2010 preseason:
Arron Afflalo -Not a lot of chatter about Spellcheck this preseason, but in five games, dude’s averaged .493 from the floor, sinking the third-most points (20.6) and the second-most treys (3.2) for a team on which he will most likely be starting.
Kevin Love -17.7/11.5 and almost two treys a game. If you were considering waiting until the fifth round to grab Love, you better hope we’re not in the same league.
Ryan Anderson – Don’t look now but the NBA player with a name that sounds most like the kid who got into fights on the playground because his parents were divorcing is averaging 7.2 reebs, 3.6 3pt+stl and .929 from the stripe.
Vince Carter – .558/.923/2.5 3pt/17.5 pts. Now I know he won’t be available when I’m prepared to draft him.
Blake Griffin – Technically, he’s made it farther into the NBA season than he did last year. So he’s got that goin’ for him. People wondered how Blake Superior was going to react to a season of recovery and the jitters that go with it. How ’bout 17.3/12.3/1.8 stl/1.2 blk in six preseason games? Oh, and he shot 10-for-12 from the free throw line over the weekend to show a little more grace at the stripe than usual. Blake’s! Got a new grace / Blaaake’s got a new grace!
John Wall – He’s leading everyone in preseason assists (8) and second only to James Harden in steals (2.2) while still averaging 16+ points per game. Remember back in 2003 when you passed on drafting LeBron in the fourth round because you just weren’t sure how he’d respond to the high caliber of competition? Fool you twice, shame on you.
James Harden – Harden’s per36 average last season for free throw attempts was five. So far this preseason in fewer than 30 mpg, he’s averaging 7.5 trips to the line per game. And when he’s at the line he’s made 90 percent of his shots as compared to 81 percent last season. This is – how they say in France – bananas.
Linas Kleiza – Kleiza’s shooting .600 from the floor, averaging 1.8 treys a game and over 14 points. If he holds that line past November 10, I’ll let you come into my house and steal one item of your choosing from my kitchen.
Rudy Fernandez – I’m in a 14-team league with 18 players to a team, and Fernandez went undrafted. Largely, I feel, because he could disappear like Keyser Soze at any minute. Still, perhaps the guy with the 252nd pick ought to burn it on the guy averaging 2 steals, 3.6 treys and a .488 FG% over five games.
Roy Hibbert – Doc is averaging 15.5/8/2.5 blocks in under 31 minutes per game. If I hadn’t already covered my entire back with a tattoo of the Ninja Turtles riding their own separate dinosaurs, I’d most certainly ink Hibbert there.