NBA Training Camp Stock Watch: Biggest Risers and Fallers in Early Going
Preseason action is underway, which means we're finally getting a look at which players are thriving and which are faltering in the buildup to the 2013-14 NBA season.
Whether they're high-profile rookies, superstars returning from injuries or prominent role players fighting to establish themselves, information regarding their performances is now widely available and ready to be picked apart.
From Derrick Rose's return to Amar'e Stoudemire's chronic knee issues and Anthony Bennett's conditioning woes, stocks are fluctuating at a rapid pace as the season draws near.
Stock Up: Evan Turner
With Jrue Holiday out of the picture, Evan Turner has earned the title of go-to scorer for the Philadelphia 76ers by default.
And while Holiday's departure may spell doom for the Sixers from an offensive standpoint, it will finally give Turner the time and space he needs to create off the dribble, something he did infrequently with Holiday at the controls.
In an impressive showing last Sunday against Spanish opponent Bilbao, Turner led all scorers with 25 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field (1-of-3 from three), grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists.
Turner put up another solid stat line in the Sixers' preseason loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Manchester, England. In 36 minutes, Turner dropped in 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting, pulled down seven rebounds and dished out four assists.
It's safe to say that the touches will be there for Turner this season.
The real focus will be on his aggression, or lack thereof. He's struggled to consistently get to the rim and draw contact since being selected No. 2 overall.
However, a couple of promising numbers emerged from early preseason action. Turner attempted 12 freebies in the exhibition opener and 10 in the team's second game against the Thunder.
Stock Down: C.J. McCollum
In a devastating blow to the Portland Trail Blazers' revamped bench mob, No. 10 overall pick and presumed sixth man C.J. McCollum will be sidelined with a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot, according to Blazers PR.
What's worse is that McCollum dealt with the same injury to the exact same bone during his senior season at Lehigh.
According to Rotoworld, "This is the same injury which sidelined Wizards F Chris Singleton for 6-8 weeks," so that timetable could tentatively be used to assess how much action McCollum will miss.
In McCollum's absence, look for Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and Will Barton to pick up the slack on offense.
Stock Up: Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is back, and he may just be better than ever.
In the Chicago Bulls' preseason opener against the Indiana Pacers, Rose racked up 13 points in 20 minutes of action, showing the same explosiveness and burst that made him such a matchup nightmare before he tore his ACL.
What's even scarier is that Rose, as quoted by Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, said he has added five inches to his vertical leap: "I think coming into the league I was at 37 [inches vertical jump] and they tested my vertical at [a training facility], I'm probably at like a 42 [inches], so I'm jumping a little bit higher."
For a player who banks on his freakish athleticism to hound opponents on the defensive end and finish at the rim, the added inches to his vertical leap will assuredly make opponents cringe in fear over the course of the season.
Rose churned out 13 points again in the Bulls' preseason contest against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, doing so on 3-of-8 shooting from the field and 6-of-10 shooting from the charity stripe. Despite shooting inefficiently, Rose took better care of the ball, compiling three assists while committing just one turnover in the 106-87 win.
Stock Down: Amar'e Stoudemire
Those are the dreaded words that currently haunt Amar'e Stoudemire, whose knees have proven to be rather weak the past few seasons.
According to ESPN New York's Ian Begley, head coach Mike Woodson said there is no timetable available for when Stoudemire will begin running.
That's an ominous sign for the 30-year-old, who had his knee operated on this past summer, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
Considering that Stoudemire was already facing a minutes cap after seeing just 23.5 minutes per game in 29 appearances last season, another knee procedure isn't going to ease concerns over Stoudemire's effectiveness at this point in his career.
And with Stoudemire out for an unknown period of time, Woodson will be forced to lean more heavily upon Andrea Bargnani, who doesn't possess the diverse offensive skill set that makes Stoudemire difficult to defend when he's on the floor.
Stock Up: Nick Young
Perhaps Nick Young has finally found the home he's always longed for.
It's only been three preseason games, but Young has been impressive on the offensive end, where he's never been gun-shy.
The best news is that Mike D'Antoni's patented spread attack isn't known for discouraging trigger-happiness, which could turn out to be a blessing for Young.
Young looked particularly sharp in his Los Angeles Lakers debut, totaling 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting against the Golden State Warriors while notching one nasty crossover of Harrison Barnes.
The good news is that Young is in a system that perfectly matches his offensive skill set. The bad news is that D'Antoni's teams tend to struggle defensively, and Young isn't one to commit the bulk of his energy to locking down opponents on the perimeter.
Young will provide plenty of highlights in the season to come, but be advised that they'll be accompanied by a hefty dose of defensive breakdowns.
Stock Down: Anthony Bennett
No. 1 overall picks are typically greeted with a starting spot and high expectations upon entering the NBA. The opposite may be true for Anthony Bennett.
Slotted behind Tristan Thompson on the Cleveland Cavaliers depth chart, Bennett has yet to carve out a niche for himself in Mike Brown's rotation.
However, to be considered for a larger role, Bennett will need to get in shape—something he's yet to do, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:
Top overall pick Anthony Bennett had six points and four rebounds in the scrimmage, but missed all three of his 3-point attempts and was exhausted less than four minutes into the scrimmage.
Bennett missed most of the summer recovering from shoulder surgery and is clearly behind on his conditioning. The Cavs also held a physical workout prior to the start of the scrimmage, which might have contributed to Bennett’s early fatigue. But he was grabbing at his shorts and gasping after just a couple of trips down the floor.'
Another concern: Bennett recorded just seven points on 2-of-12 shooting in his preseason debut, one in which he played about 23 minutes and pulled down 10 rebounds.
While there remains plenty of time for Bennett to work himself into shape and grasp the pace of the pro game, his career isn't off to a glowing start.
Stock Up: Eric Bledsoe
The Phoenix Suns may be among the worst teams to grace the NBA hardwood this season, but at least fans will have a blast watching Eric Bledsoe.
That much was evident when the Suns took on Maccabi Haifa this past Monday. Bledsoe led all scorers with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
And the statistical goodness didn't stop there.
Bledsoe stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of five steals, four assists and three rebounds, although it must be noted that he did commit three turnovers in the blowout win. With increased ball-handling duties in his first full year as a starter, expect there to be a few growing pains.
While many continue to worry about whether the Suns offense can function with two point guards and no true shooting guard, it's becoming clear that Bledsoe, with his athletic attributes and nose for the basket, won't be fazed by a so-called change of position.
Stock Down: Nene
The Washington Wizards are hurting in the frontcourt in more than one way.
In September, it was announced that center and defensive staple Emeka Okafor would be out indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck.
Now, his frontcourt partner Nene is talking about being cautious when it comes to logging minutes during the preseason due to nagging injuries, according to CSN Washington's J. Michael:
I don't worry about minutes even in Brazil because I'm a pro. I don't want to get sore, get hurt. I still have a couple of issues. Just because I feel better, they think I feel great but they're wrong. We need to reduce (it) a couple minutes.
My knee is still sore. My foot still hurts a little bit. Just trying to push (through), said Nene, who didn't play basketball during the off-season and opted for rehabilitation. The therapy is making me feel better.
Although these statements and injuries seem minor, it's worth nothing that Nene has missed 48 games over the past two seasons due to injury.
The Wizards are extremely dependent on their starting frontcourt to set the tone defensively. The big men helped lead Randy Wittman's bunch to the league's fifth-best defensive rating (103.0) last season.
And with very little depth behind Nene and Okafor, the Wizards simply can't afford to lose the former for an extended period.