Czar Star: Michael Beasley

Change is proving good for Michael Beasley. The newest member of the Timberwolves is demonstrating the offensive prowess that on- and off-court issues mitigated in Miami. Over the summer the Heat traded Beasley to the Timberwolves to clear up cap space for the Superfriends, and so far Minnesota is shaping up to be an altogether better situation for Beasley.

A prolific scorer out of Kansas State, Beasley was drafted 2nd overall by the Heat in 2008. But during his stay with Miami, they moved Beasley back and forth between both the small forward and power forward positions in trying to determine where they felt he would be most effective. No doubt local distractions also contributed to inconsistencies in Beasley’s game.

However in Minnesota, Kevin Love is locked in as the power forward and Darko Milicic is starting at center, so Beasley’s role is clear-cut. Beasley will get plenty of playing time so he’ll have the opportunity to grow into his small forward position while he continues to mature. With LeBron and Bosh joining Wade, Beasley would not have gotten the minutes in Miami that he needs to develop and flourish. And now that expectation levels are so high in Miami, it’s probably not the most nurturing environment for a young guy coming up in the league.

As part of an up-and-coming squad, Beasley and his teammates can grow together. Beasley, Love and Flynn form a great core of burgeoning talent. Emerging as the go-to-guy on offense, Beasley scored a career-high 42 points against the Kings earlier this month. And on Wednesday he went for 33 points against the Clippers and hit the winning shot to get Minnesota their fourth win of the season.

A top rebounder and low post scorer capable of putting up 25-30+ points nightly, Beasley can also make medium range shots on a regular basis. He drives and slashes, and he gets to the free throw line. So as long as he remains healthy, Beasley will always be a scorer in the NBA.

Fratello’s Fantasy Picks: Beyond the Draft

The NBA season is a long one and player values fluctuate throughout. Put these guys on your Fantasy watch list and see how their numbers are adding up when it comes time to tweak your roster and bolster your reserves down the line.

Taj Gibson  (Bulls – PF)

Taj Gibson is so important to Chicago right now because of the injury to Boozer, and he will play significant minutes until Boozer comes back.

Whether starting at the four position or coming off the bench, Gibson did a solid job for the Bulls last year and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Gibson put up 18 double doubles and showed he can rebound the ball, averaging 7.5 boards per game. Now the Bulls need him to step up his level of play as his offensive game continues to grow and develop.

Gibson has a toughness about him, and Tom Thibodeau likes tough-minded players. With a new coach to impress I expect Gibson to work hard to make significant contributions in order to keep up his minutes as the season progresses.

Jonny Flynn (Timberwolves – PG)

Last year’s sixth overall draft pick Jonny Flynn will be sidelined for the start of the season due to a hip injury that required him to undergo surgery in July.

The Wolves picked up veteran Luke Ridnour to fill in for Flynn during his absence. And though Ridnour will challenge him for the starting point guard position, Flynn will likely run the show once he returns to full health.

Flynn exhibits a tremendous passion for the game. While undersized, Flynn possesses strength, athleticism and quickness.

An explosive scorer off the dribble, Flynn’s first instinct is to light up the scoreboard. But the above-average passer has two great low posts to dish to in Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. I expect these guys to get results as the Timberwolves look to drastically improve upon last season’s record.

Steve Blake (Lakers – PG)

Steve Blake was an excellent pickup for the Lakers after their reserve guard Jordan Farmar shipped East upon signing a three-year deal with the New Jersey Nets.

Blake can make an open shot, and it is so important for the point guard to be a spot-up shooter to be effective within Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. Rather than relying on speed and quickness, the triangle offense requires getting to certain spots and being able to make a shot after running cuts. Blake can do that – he can hit the open three.

Blake’s minutes will likely fluctuate. But because of his age, Blake can play significant minutes if Phil needs him in order to save Derek Fisher for the back stretch and the playoffs when the Lakers need him most.

J.J. Redick (Orlando – SG)

Entering his fifth year with the Magic, J.J. Redick has gotten better and better each of the last three seasons. A great free throw shooter with unlimited range, Redick went from being a guy who really struggled during his rookie year to someone who appears to be playing with big confidence.

In turn Stan Van Gundy has gained more confidence in Redick and his minutes have increased accordingly. Redick is a terrific shooter; he’s got toughness, and he figured out how he can play and be a contributor on an NBA club.

Stan continues to take stock in Redick, as evidenced by the three-year deal Redick signed prior to the start of the season, reportedly worth $20.19 million. Redick should continue to improve as both a shooter and a defender.

Joel Przybilla (Trail Blazers – C)

Though Joel Przybilla will not rejoin the Trail Blazers’ bench until November when he recovers from the ruptured patella tendon that ended his season last year, he could become valuable soon after his return because center Greg Oden will likely be out until at least  mid-December.

Przybilla is a very serviceable center who will give you good minutes. An effective screener, Przybilla allows Portland to get high percentage shots on offense. He also creates a number of second shot opportunities because of his rebounding skills. Last season Przybilla was a productive rebounder and shot blocker who effectively covered the front of the rim.

These are Przybilla’s strengths, so if you’re looking for a boost in these boxes he could be an asset. Anything he gives you offensively is gravy.

Czar’s 2010-11 Season Preview: Sleepers

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