Tuesday, August 08, 2006

See What Condition My Position Is In

One of the most frustrating things in fantasy basketball is the seemingly arbitrary ways that players are assigned positions. What dictates a SG versus a G versus a SF versus a F versus a GF … well, let’s just say it’s tough to figure out. And while we don’t always agree with Yahoo!’s decisions (Yahoo! is, by the way, the preferred provider of fantasy services for FBB), we have to live with them.

A players position is often a huge deal in terms of his overall value, especially for borderline guys. And rookies can always be borderline guys. So, while things are moving slowly in the NBA right now, I thought it would be a good idea to see which rooks have gained and lost value based on what position Yahoo! has determined that they play:

On Guard!
Apparently, Yahoo! has decided that nobody is just a point guard or just a shooting guard in their rookie season. So, in addition to pure point guards Rajon Rondo, Marcus Williams, and Jordan Farmar, the rookie “Point Guard-Eligible” class includes: Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, Ronnie Brewer, Thabo Sefolosha, Kyle Lowry, Shannon Brown, and Maurice Ager. All of these guys have “G” status, meaning they can be plugged in at PG or SG. With point guards always at a major premium, this means that draftable 2-guards like Roy and Foye become a touch more valuable. And it also means that guys who might possibly be draftable like Brewer or Brown become a little more tempting in the final rounds.

“Big” Losers
Remember how I was all pumped about Shelden Williams going to the Hawks? And I thought he’d have value as a C this year? Well, maybe it’s better that you don’t remember when I say stuff like that. Because not only has Williams sucked so bad in summer league that the Hawks had to sign Lorenzen Wright, but Shelden won’t even qualify at center to start the season. Yahoo! has pegged him as a F. Yeah, we’ll see how much he plays at the 3 this year.

Apparently, qualifying at center is a tough proposition in Yahoo!’s eyes, because Williams isn’t the only lottery pick to be relegated to “F” status. LaMarcus Aldridge has also been kicked out of the list of rookie centers, along with Mouhamed Saer Sene. Not that either of them should have much value this year, but this makes them both completely undraftable.

“Big” Winners
So who does qualify at C among the first-rounders? Two guys that you would expect – Patrick O’Bryant and Hilton Armstrong – as well as two that you wouldn’t. Josh Boone, though injured, as well as Cedric Simmons have both been awarded “FC” status for no apparent reason.

Remember, things can change during the year, and many of these guys could be GFs or FC by December. But things like roster flexibility are really important when looking for that one rookie sleeper. Good luck.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Transaction Review: Jamaal Magloire to Portland

Perhaps the second-worst kept secret in basketball (behind the still-not-completed Al Harrington to Indiana deal), Jamaal Magloire finally got dealt to the Trail Blazers over the weekend. With four guys moving in the deal, and pretty serious PT implications for both teams, let’s look at the winners and losers from a fantasy perspective:

Big Winners:

Jarrett Jack, POR – In just a few short weeks, Jack has seen his competition for minutes in the Portland backcourt turn from lottery pick Sebastian Telfair and super-reliable Steve Blake to rookie Sergio Rodriguez and 13th-man Dan Dickau. Jack had a solid, if unspectacular, rookie campaign, and showed improvement throughout the year. The big question mark for Jack from a fantasy perspective is if he be able to contribute anywhere other than points and assists. His percentages are just average, he doesn’t shoot much from the arc (and only hit 26% from there last year), and he doesn’t show a great penchant for steals, a real downside for a point guard. Still, now that he’s got the keys to the ship, he’s a nice candidate for 30 mpg and could be a nice sleeper as a second or third point guard.

Andrew Bogut, MIL – Bogut is a great candidate for a breakout player this year, and the only question is if he’ll be over-hyped in your league and get drafted too early. Swapping Magloire for Ha Seung Jin and Brian Skinner in the front court means that Bogut will be counted on to play upwards of 35 mpg for the Bucks this year. Combine the uptick in minutes with the extra experience and Bogut is in line to become one of the most solid centers in the league. He doesn’t block a ton of shots, but he is a double-double waiting to happen, steals at a decent rate, and even passes very well for a center (2.3 apg last year). If you can get him as a second center, that’s a great pickup, but most likely he’ll be drafted as a first center by someone in your league. I’m not sure he’s earned that yet, but it’s a good gamble.

Big Losers:

Joel Przybilla/Jamaal Magloire, POR: Ah, nothing like two marginally decent centers on the same team to cancel each other’s value. Magloire showed that he can play next to another center when he did so with Bogut in Milwaukee, but that was because Bogut could, on occasion, move to the four. Przybilla is strictly a center, and so these guys will be in a pretty serious battle for PT in training camp. This is a wait-and-see situation, for now.

Steve Blake/Charlie Bell/Mo Williams, MIL – As always, we need to put in the disclaimer that here at FBB, we love us some Stevie Blake. We’re UMD alums, he was our favorite player while we were there, and if we were running an NBA team he would be our starting PG and get 40 mpg. That said, we are not running an NBA team. More specifically, we are not running the Milwaukee Bucks. So he won’t see 40 mpg. Still, the Bucks supposedly really held out for Blake during negotiations, meaning that they weren’t happy with just Bell and Williams at the point. So Blake will have a role, but likely not enough of one to have value, while he’ll also take away any chance of value from the incumbent guys.

Minor Winners:

Brandon Roy, POR – less people in the backcourt means more time for Roy, who actually could see some time at the point now.

Charlie Villanueva, MIL – Despite the crowd, Magloire saw 30 mpg last year, and now those minutes are for C-Vill to have.

Minor Losers:

LaMarcus Aldridge, POR – Wasn’t likely to have value anyways, but this should seal the deal.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Transaction Review: Mike James to Minnesota

Even before switching teams, Mike James was one of the most difficult players to get a read on for this year’s fantasy draft. Let’s run down the facts, in exciting outline form!

- He had by far the greatest season of his career last year at age 30.

- He absolutely blew up after the All-Star Break, putting up first-round pick numbers (24.6/6.5, with 2.9 3’s and 1.2 steals), seeing 40.9 mpg.

- The only other time in his career that he saw even 30 mpg was 2003, when he played in 55 games for Boston (he also spent some time that year with Detroit). In those 30.6 mpg, he put up a paltry 10.47/4.4 with 1.6 3’s and 1.3 steals.

- He wasn’t the only Raptor to have a career year simply by being on the court all the time. After Jalen Rose got dealt:

-- Morris Peterson also saw career-high numbers. Peterson played 43 mpg after the All-Star Break, scored 20.7 ppg and hit 2.5 threes. Easily the best numbers of his career.

-- Charlie Villanueva got 10 more mpg after the break as well, up from 25 to 35, and saw a nice uptick in stats as a result.

-- Even Matt Bonner had a nice second half for the Raptors, seeing 26.3 mpg, and hitting 1.8 3’s.

Here at FBB, we preach one stat over all others – minutes. And the post-Rose deal Raptors are a perfect example of how court time dictates fantasy value. All of the guys above saw a huge increase in value simply by having minutes open up for them. So even with all the concerns about age and one-hit-wonder possibilities, let try and figure out how many mpg Mike James will see in his new digs.

(Quick aside: this was a moronic choice by James. His other two options? Play in his home town with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, or play for a perennial championship contender in Dallas. The 4th year of the deal was so important that he had to go to Minnesota, the perennial underachievers? Whatever.)

Remember, his big minutes last year were just as much a result of no competition as they were a result of his strong play. Jose Calderon was injured for much of March and April, leaving James and Derrick “Who?” Martin to run the point. At the two, Peterson saw a lot of time, but MoPete also played the 3 some, giving James time to play at shooting guard as well. But the minutes will not be as available in Minnesota.

First, there are two established veterans in the back court, Marko Jaric and Troy Hudson. Then, there’s rookie Randy Foye, who’s been playing very well in the summer league, but is more of a two than a one. Finally, guys like Ricky Davis and Trenton Hassell can play the two on occasion. So it’s pretty likely that James will rarely, if ever, play much at shooting guard, and he’ll be fighting for time at the point.

That said, Marcus Banks walked into a similar situation last year (insert Rashad McCants, now injured, in place of Foye), and saw 30 mpg, and played pretty well while doing so. But 30 mpg isn’t 40 mpg. And James won’t be the floor leader like he was in Toronto, that job is unquestionably KG’s.

So after all that, what do I think?

I think James sees somewhere between 25 and 33 mpg. I think he’ll put up something like 16/4 with 2 threes and 1 or 1.5 steals. He’ll be a nice second PG, and worth taking in the 5th to 7th rounds in your draft. But, I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone take him in the 4th or even the 3rd after his huge second half last year. That person just won’t be me.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Transaction Review: Chandler, Mohammed, Przybilla, Daniels, Fisher

Chicago Bulls trade Tyson Chandler to NOK Hornets for PJ Brown and JR Smith.

This is great news for Chandler, as he moves away from a crowded front court into a wide open one. He has yet to average 30 mpg, despite his massive contract extension, but that could change now. And if it does, you could be looking at your new leading rebounder in the NBA. Tyson was tied with Dwight Howard last year for highest rebounds per 48 minutes with 16.2. If he gets 35 mpg, he’ll be one of the top rebounders in the league – he was close to that last year with just 26.8 mpg. I have already mentioned that I’m not much of a fan of Hilton Armstrong, so 35 mpg is a fairly reasonable estimate for Tyson.

The real question for Chandler is his offense. I really think that his putrid scoring numbers were more a result of the system in Chicago than his inabilities. Remember, his second year in the league he scored 9.2 ppg on 53% shooting. He’s certainly capable of putting the ball in the basket, but he just got on Scott Skiles’ bad side last year (which has happened to others before). Look for his scoring to return to near double digits in NOK. I think Chandler has the potential to be a nice mid-round sleeper this year and could have a breakout year.

As for Brown and Smith, they’ll be nothing more than role players in Chicago. Brown may have been draftable in NOK, but not in Chicago where he’ll be fighting Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas, and others for PT. Smith may eventually be a nice NBA player, but it’s going to take some injuries to the guys in front of him for him to have fantasy value this year.

Detroit Pistons sign Nazr Mohammed

Mohammed has been the model of consistency over the last five years. In Atlanta, New York, and San Antonio, he’s been a guy that teams could count on to eat minutes at center, and do it somewhat productively. He’s been counted on for anywhere from 15-25 mpg depending on the situation, and provides some rebounding and some scoring, but that’s about it. I think that he’ll continue doing that in Detroit. He’s always been a borderline fantasy guy, and unless there’s an injury to one of the Pistons’ other frontcourt guys, that should be the situation here, too.

What the Wallace-for-Mohammed also does is opens up more PT (potentially) for Antonio McDyess. McDyess might get his minutes kept to the 20 or so per game that he’s been seeing simply to keep him healthy. But he could also get into the 6th man of the year award discussion if he starts seeing 30 mpg. McDyess could be a decent late-round choice in drafts, or a guy to watch for an early waiver-wire pickup next year.

Portland Trail Blazers resign Joel Przybilla

Przybilla may have stayed in place, but the pieces around him have been moving in a whirlwind. Exit Theo Ratliff, but enter Raef LaFrentz and LaMarcus Aldridge. Nik Tskitishvili came and went. Brian Skinner is still around. So why would his stats change all that much? He’ll continue to be a blocks machine and contribute a bit in rebounding, but as things stand right now he’s not going to see much more in the way of minutes. Portland is probably not done dealing, though, so this is a wait-and-see.

Dallas Mavericks trade Marquis Daniels to Indiana Pacers for Austin Croshere

Marquis Daniels immediately becomes everyone’s favorite sleeper this year with this move away from the Mavericks, but I’m not buying it. Other than steals, Daniels hasn’t shown himself to really be much of a fantasy asset even when getting 28 mpg. Look at last December, when he saw 35 mpg in Dallas. He shined in a few games, but his final stats for the month – 14.4/4.7/3.7 with 1 steal and .4 blocks – weren’t all that much to write home about. Sure he’ll be worth drafting and – probably – worth starting as a utility guy, but he doesn’t excel in any one category. I would hold off until the late rounds before taking him. DM would disagree. We’ll see.

As for Croshere, he’ll fill Keith Van Horn’s role – 20 mpg, not much value. Even with all the injury and suspension issues the Pacers have had over the past few years, Croshere has not managed to hold any real value, and that shouldn’t change here.

Golden State Warriors trade Derek Fisher to Utah for some scrubs.

I’m not going to talk about how terrible the Warriors are. This isn’t the place for that – let’s just look at the fantasy implications. Fisher in Utah, he’ll be a nice role player for them and could have some fantasy value. But it will be stretch for him to get more than the 31 mpg he got last year in Golden State, and odds are he’ll see closer to 25, meaning he’s more likely to be waiver wire fodder.

What this really means in Golden State is that if/when Baron Davis goes down again, Monta Ellis will be given the keys to the ship. I don’t think you can draft him necessarily, but when Davis goes down, he should be picked up immediately. We know he’s quick, and he should be able to contribute in steals, but his percentages and turnovers were pretty bad last year. We’ll have to see how much he improves over the summer before really passing judgement.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Transaction Review: Big Ben and Speedy

Three days into the free agency period, I think we can agree that "very likely to return" doesn't mean a whole lot, as Ben Wallace looks to be the newest member of the Bulls. It's always fun when a signing like this shakes things up, and it's another example of one team you can't really blame for not wanting to overpay and another team who has no reason not to.

The Pistons recent success was built on a well-balanced team, both on the court and in the books. But after a team wins, the players want their share. It was initially reported that Wallace accepted at 4-year, $52 million deal from the Bulls after turning down $48 million from the Pistons, but it now looks like the deal from the Bulls is worth closer to $60 million, which makes a whole lot more sense. It just would have been very odd to see the Pistons pass on Wallace for a difference of just $4 million, especially in a league where guys like Dan Gadzuric and Etan Thomas sign $37 million deals.

Like the Stojakovic situation, it will be more interesting to see what the team losing the star does rather than what the star will do in his new digs. One of the first things that comes to mind with Wallace's departure from Detroit is, "Gee, it really would be nice to have Darko Mlicic around right now." That trade didn't make much sense then -- Kelvin Cato sure helped them out, didn't he? -- and it looks even worse now after Milicic showed flashes of that potential in Orlando. The Pistons will bring another big man into the mix. They really have no choice, as they simply can't go into the season with Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Dale Davis as their only three bigs. Joel Przybilla and Nazr Mohammed are really the only centers out there, unless you count my main man Jackie Butler, who is a restricted free agent. Word is they're already going after Przybilla and I'd be surprised if Joe Dumars didn't get his man. He would be as good a fit as possible at this point, someone who could crash the boards, block some shots and not slow the team down too much on offense. Check out the p40 averages for Wallace and Przybilla last year.

Wallace: 8.3/12.8/2.2 with 2.0 steals, 2.5 blocks, 51% FG on 6.4 attempts
Przybilla: 9.9/11.2/1.2 with .6 steals, 3.7 blocks, 55% FG on 6.9 attempts

Just saying that from a fantasy perspective, if Przybilla replaces Wallace in the middle, the numbers might not be too far off. Przybilla's never averaged even 25 mpg, so his ability to play big minutes is in question. And he's not even on the team yet, so let's deal with that if and when it happens. Antonio McDyess is likely to see a bigger role, but you know that the Pistons would love to keep him coming off the bench in order to keep him as healthy as he's been.

Word out of Chicago was that this was a Reinsdorf deal, not a Paxson deal, and if the 4-year/$60 million are true, that would make sense. Reinsdorf probably figures he has the money to spend, it's his money, his team gave the eventual champions fits in the playoffs, why not go for it now? It would make sense to explore a Tyson Chandler deal now, but it's no sure thing he'll be moved. It's not like Mike Sweetney has earned the trust of Scott Skiles, Othella Harrington is a bench player and Tyrus Thomas will need some time to adjust. Dealing Chandler might be the Bulls only way to add another significant player, though, as it looks like they've spent almost all of their cap space on Wallace.

Wallace in Chicago? It should look a lot like Wallace in Detroit. Maybe they'll give him a few more looks on offense, but it's pretty well established the type of player he is. Is he in a decline? It looks more like he has declined. His 01-03 seasons were when he was an otherwordly force in boards and blocks. Now he's merely dominant. His PER rating has stayed remarkably consistent over the past three seasons (17.39, 17.52, 17.54). His p40 averages over the past three seasons:

03-04: 10.1/13.2/1.8, 1.9 steals, 3.2 blocks
04-05: 10.8/13.5/1.8, 1.6 steals, 2.6 blocks
05-06: 8.3/12.8/2.2, 2.0 steals, 2.5 blocks

Of course, the big question is how will Wallace's minutes be affected by Scott Skiles. Kirk Hinrich has been the only player in Chicago to get 35+ minutes consistently in Chicago the past few seasons. But a lot of Skiles' maneuvering was because he had a young team and liked to shake things up and keep everyone on their toes. Next year's squad will be expected to compete from the beginning, though, and maybe Skiles will have a more defined rotation from the outset. Maybe.

Speedy Claxton finds instant value as the starting PG in Atlanta. It's a great situation he's heading into; after all, this is a team that started Royal Ivey in the backcourt for 66 games last year. He should see considerable minutes, but the Hawks might try to keep him in the 30-35 range since Claxton's never managed to make through a season without missing at least 10 games with injury. If you take his stats over the past two seasons and prorate them out to 33 mpg you get 13.4/3.2/6.1 with 1.8 steals. It seems reasonable to expect that from Claxton in the ATL next season. He should be a solid #2 PG, but his injury history makes him a slight risk.

Claxton's arrival should dent Joe Johnson's value a bit. Johnson spent a lot of time at the point last year and came through with a very strong 6.5 apg, placing him right in between Kirk Hinrich and T.J. Ford, for comparison. It will be very tough to repeat that number with Claxton around. Johnson will still have plenty of value and can likely be considered toward the end of the second round.

Transaction Review: TJ, Villanueva, VladRad and Tim Thomas

Keeping an eye on who’s gaining and losing value as players switch teams …

Milwaukee Bucks trade TJ Ford to Toronto Raptors for Charlie Villanueva

This is a nice move for Ford, who had a mini-breakout year last year. He will be given the keys to the show in Toronto, who will be looking for scoring from Ford as Mike James will likely be elsewhere. I’d expect a slight uptick in points to maybe somewhere in the 15-16 range, and maybe even a few more threes as well.

I’m not sure that this is a great deal for Villanueva. In Toronto he was developing nicely as a sidekick for Chris Bosh, and with James leaving he could easily have been the second-leading scorer for the Raptors. Still, he should see at least 30 mpg in Milwaukee and get his fair share of threes, steals, and blocks, meaning he’ll maintain his calue from last year, if not improve on it slightly.

The big question still out there is whether or not the Bucks are really willing to head into the season with Mo Williams and Charlie Bell as their only options at the point. Look for them to get a point guard back when they inevitably trade Jamaal Magloire.

Los Angeles Lakers sign Vladimir Radmanovic

Radmanovic is going to keep being himself – a stay outside, shoot threes, don’t rebound seven-footer. At this point we know what we can expect, and it’s not worth hoping for a breakout year from VladRad anymore. Still, when he’s on, he can pour in two triples a night, and that makes him worth drafting, particularly now that he’s playing next to Kobe Bryant. Kobe does have a knack for drawing defenders off the perimeter, opening up threes for his teammates – just ask Smush Parker and Brian Cook, two guys who would be virtually useless if they didn't have Kobe dishing them the ball on the perimiter. Vlad might post a career-high in threes, but to ask for any other value from him is just unrealistic at this point.

Los Angeles Clippers sign Tim Thomas

It only takes one sucker team to make Tim Thomas an overpaid, underachieving player. And just when you thought the Clippers were done being suckers, they came through and overpaid for Thomas, giving him $6 Million a year for 4 years. Keep in mind, this is a guy who the Bulls didn’t even want hanging around in the locker room. But after three good months with the Suns (where, honestly, everyone plays great), that was enough for the Clips to throw out some pretty big bucks. Thomas will take over where Vladimir Radmanovic left off, and if he can stay motivated will be a borderline fantasy player. Odds are he will continue his on-again, off-again relationship with your league’s waiver wire, showing potential every so often, but never really establishing himself as a consistent asset.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Transaction Review: Peja Goes to New Orleans, er, Oklahoma City

Peja Stokavoic's signing with New Orleans is a surprise, but in lots of ways it makes sense. The Hornets had some money to spend and when a team like that has the cash ("a team like that" meaning not your typical top free agent destination), they have to use it when the opportunity presents itself. For all the times we heard it was a lock that Stojakovic was returning to Indiana, it never made all that much sense. His total disappearance, due to injury, in the playoffs certainly couldn't have been looked upon too fondly and the team has spent its last two first round picks on SFs. Indiana may have a big hole in their offense next season, but they smartly didn't give a near-max contract to a 29-year old player who has had a single great season in his career and has been rather ordinary the past two seasons. John Holinger's PER stat isn't the end-all, be-all for a player's value but it was good enough to recognize LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony as the top three SFs in the league last year. Stojakovic ranked 15th at the position, right in between Hedo Turkoglu and Ruben Patterson. Just sayin'...

Granted, Stojakovic looked more like his old self during his time in Indiana, with his FG% returning to a respectable level while showing an increased tenacity on the boards. But even in a league where you have to overpay to get players, paying $13 million per season for a guy like Stojakovic, who isn't going to get any better from here on out, seems a bit much. All that said, it does make the Hornets a pretty intriguing team next season, and has some very serious fantasy implications on both teams.

The Hornets have their superstar in Chris Paul and now have two legitimate complementary near-stars in Stojakovic and David West. The fact that Paul and West are still on their bargain rookie contracts makes Stojakovic's contract more reasonable for the Hornets. When it's time for West and then Paul to receive extenstions, then things might get complicated. Those three should provide a vast majority of the offense for the Hornets next year. Having a reliable (hopefully) outside shooter like Stojakovic should make Paul even more effective. As a second-year player, he's a legitimate second-round pick. Lots of people were waiting for West to slow down as the year went on, but it never happened. West doesn't project as a dominant offensive player -- he topped 25 points just four times last season -- so it's not like Stojakovic's presence should have an adverse affect on his numbers. Instead, he should be able to continue to go about his business and be an especially strong #3 option. I do think he may be a bit overrated on draft day, just because he lacks a dominant secondary skill and you can't count on him to shoot 51% again.

What can we expect from Peja? It would be best if when looking at his career line you could cross out 2003-2004. All it's good for is clouding your judgment. He established career highs that season in points, rebounds, steals, 3PM and minutes. Maybe he'll do it again, but there's no reason to count on it. It would be fair to expect 20/6/2 with 2.5 3s. You might want to project more, and he might be able to pump in a few more points and 3s, but it's probably time to stop expecting another 03-04, or at least drafting that way. Basically, what he did with Indiana last season is a pretty good idea of what to expect next year. And don't forget that it often takes players a bit of time to adjust to a new environment. Joe Johnson was a big disappointment last Novemeber before turning it on in December and maintaining that pace for the rest of the year.

The real fantasy intrigue is back on Indiana. It would be shocking if Jermaine O'Neal went anywhere and he'll remain the top option, although his fragility the past couple years may make you think twice before spending a second round pick on him. Stephen Jackson is the apparent #2 option, but that's just not a role he's best suited for, at least for a team that considers itself a serious playoff contender. He's good, but just not that good. He's still a mid-round pick. I'm excited for Danny Granger's potential, but I won't be the only one. Granger's rookie season didn't look all that special-- he finished an ordinary 115th on the Player Rater -- but he did that while receiving just 22.6 mpg. He reminds me of Shane Battier in his ability to contribute just a bit in 3s, steals and blocks; with more minutes and his expected improvement, he's a threat to be a 1-1-1 guy. (It's worth noting that after taking just 93 3s in 78 regular season games, Granger attempted 16 -- while making 9 -- in just 6 postseason contests.) Prorate Granger's rookie stats out to 34 mpg and you get 11.3/7.4/1.8 with 0.6 3s, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks. And there's no reason why he shouldn't get better. It's never the safest strategy to draft a ton of guys and then need them to post better numbers than they ever have in the past to justify their draft position. And all it takes is one overeager person in your league in love with the upside of youngsters to turn Granger from a bargain into a bust. Reaching rarely works out. But Granger has a real chance to emerge as one of those do-it-all SFs that are becoming more common around the league.

Of course, it remains to be seen what the Pacers are up to over the rest of the summer. Al Harrington could be back in the fold, and that might render all that Granger talk a moot point. The Pacers are definitely in need of someone who can put some points on the board, and it doesn't look like that answer is going to come from within. Fred Jones and Sarunas Jasikevicius are nice players, but haven't really shown they're reliable top offensive options, and Granger's not really a scorer either. Expect the Pacers to make a move, but someone on the squad right now is likely going to have to step it up regardless.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

2006 NBA Draft Fantasy Winners and Losers

While most sites see NBA teams as the ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ in the draft, we think about things in terms of the players drafted. We’re not concerned, for example, with whether or not Cedric Simmons will help New Orleans make the playoffs next season, we’re concerned with whether or not he’s going to see 30 mpg and have any fantasy value. So with that, let’s see which players found themselves in a great situation, and which players might want to invest in a seat warmer:

Winners:

Adam Morrison, CHA – of the 6 or 7 places he could have gone, Charlotte is undoubtedly the best spot for him. This is a team who is dying for a leader on offense, and Morrison is going to be that man sooner rather than later. Remember, their leading scorer last year was Gerald Wallace, who only put up 15.2 per game, the lowest of any team leader, so they have points to share. Heck, even Jumaine Jones averaged double digits last year for the Cats, something he’d never done in his first 7 years in the league. Morrison is a safe bet for 15-20 points, and a good source of threes, and is my odds-on favorite for the Rookie of the Year. The only question will be if he can contribute anything other than points and threes. Look for stats similar to Rip Hamilton this year.

Shelden Williams, ATL – Williams right now reminds me of Charlie Villanueva last year – a guy who is certainly capable of stepping in and contributing right away, but because he got taken two or three picks before where he “should” have gone, he’s gotten a ton a negative press. This leads to a “steal” opportunity in your fantasy draft. There’s no reason he can’t step in and put up numbers similar to Emeka Okafor’s first year – 15/10 with 1.7 blocks. Combine that with his center eligibility, and Williams could be worthy of ‘first rookie taken’ in your fantasy draft.

Hilton Armstrong, NOK – First, a disclaimer – I don’t like Armstrong as a prospect. I mean, he’s a senior who has never really done all that much except block a bunch of shots his senior year. Prior to that he had trouble even cracking the rotation. Still, if he’s going to land anywhere, Oklahoma City is a great spot. Right now, he’s number one on the depth chart, which is tough for any of the mid-round guys to say. Whether he’ll play well enough to hold on to that spot is another question entirely, but the fact that he’s in with the Hornets means he’ll be worth a late flyer on draft day.

Randy Foye, MIN – Another guy that I don’t really like all that much but who landed in a great spot, Foye could easily see 25-30 mpg right off the bat, especially with Rashad McCants going down with an injury. Foye, to me, was really overhyped going into the draft – a big-time scorer who shoots 41% from the field? really? – but that doesn’t mean he won’t be on the court getting open looks from KG. He’ll be worth a risk in the draft this year as well.

Losers:

Tyrus Thomas, CHI – If there’s one thing Scott Skiles likes to do, it’s play with his lineups. And with Tyson Chandler, Michael Sweetney, and Malik Allen already on the roster, plus the likely signing of either Joel Przybilla, Ben Wallace, or Al Harrington, the Bulls have plenty of options up front. Thomas will be a project in Chicago, meaning he’ll see no more than 15-20 mpg his rookie year, and not have any fantasy value for a while.

Patrick O’Bryant, GSW – Two years ago, in the late lottery, the Warriors took a project big in Andris Biedrins. Last year, in the late lottery they took a project big in Ike Diogu. So this year, late in the lottery, they take a project big in O’Bryant. While Biedrins and Diogu have shown flashes, neither is worth drafting this year in fantasy leagues. O’Bryant shouldn’t be any different.

To Be Determined:

Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge, POR – Roy was my favorite player in the draft, and when he got drafted by Minnesota, I was thrilled, and instantly thought he’d be a leading candidate for ROY. In Portland, though, I’m not so sure. I mean, sure he’s still a great player, and I really like a lot of what Portland did on draft day, but the fact is that it’s a crowded rotation with very few veterans who know how to act like veterans. Aldridge is in a slightly better position because with Theo Ratliff gone and Przybilla likely gone, there’s not much in the way of centers. But with Zack Randolph and Darius Miles on the trading block in a major way, it’s a tough call right now. Let’s see how the next few months play out in Portland.

Andrea Bargnani, TOR – Now that Toronto has moved Charlie Villanueva for TJ Ford, things look a lot better for Bargnani in his first year. The fact is, though, we just don’t know enough about Bargnani. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in the summer leagues and in the preseason – that will go a long way towards determining his fantasy draft value.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Draft Recap!

It's been awhile since we've checked in here at FBB, but we just couldn't resist taking a look at the draft from a fantasy standpoint. Here's what we were thinking as it all went down last night ...

DM: Ah, it's that time of year again. The time of year where Chad Ford runs up to strangers on the street babbling incoherently about mockdrafttradeupwingspanworkedoutwellmockdraft!!! Yep, the NBA draft, the sort of kickoff to the nba offseason. Sure, there have been a couple of minor trades, but tonite is the night that teams really start to shape their rosters for next season, so we thought we'd bring FBB out of its hibernation. BV and I will be trading e-mails back and forth throughout the evening giving our thoughts on the proceedings and perhaps whatever else is on our minds. We've never claimed to be draft experts but that means the only thing differentiating us from everyone who does claim to be a draft expert is that we're not lying bastards. Right, BV?

BV: NOT lying bastards ... yeah, that's the ticket. This draft is going to be very dangerous for fantasy basketball players, because it's so weak but that doesn't mean that you haven't heard a TON about these guys who are, at best, going to be moderately OK this year. Remember, back in 2000-2001, Mike Miller was ROY but only put up 11.9/4.0 with 1.8 threes, moderate fantasy value at best.
Still, we're off to a great start, with a trade of Sebastian Telfair to Boston, freeing up time for FBB favorite Steve Blake. He won't have enough time to get fantasy value, but will Jarrett Jack ?

DM: Yeah, that's an interesting trade between the Blazers and the Celtics. I know Telfair is still young and with plenty of upside (there's 1), but he better not eat into any of Delonte West's time. I suppose West can shift over to SG, but he's got his most value at PG. Perhaps it's just stockpiling assets for a possible Allen Iverson trade? Nah...

BV: The Raptors have 14 - FOURTEEN - people in their draft room. and that was just on-camera. impressive. and those 14 people produce ...Andrea Bargnani. Fran Fraschella says he'll contribute to the team ... but, i dunno. first year? not likely. I won't be drafting him, that's for sure. And I'm still not sure there's room for both him and Villanueva.
I actually just counted 16 people in that room on the second take.

DM: Yeah, unless he has some sort of monster preseason, I would think that Bargnani would have the lowest ever average draft spot in fantasy leagues for a #1 overall pick in his rookie year. Still, Colangelo has earned a bit of leeway after making over the Suns. So the Bulls draft LaMarcus Aldridge for the Blazers it would seem. Jay Bilas likens him to Chris Bosh, but that might be a bit of a stretch. Channing Frye with more blocks maybe? I dunno. With Theo Ratliff gone, Joel Przybilla maybe gone and Raef Lafrentz fragile, Aldridge might be in for a decent amount of PT in Portland. If he can pass Ha Seung-Jin on the depth chart, that is.

BV: well, first of all, the fact that the blazers traded up to 2 and DIDN'T draft the stache is an absolute embarrasment. That said, Aldridge indeed seems due for a good 25-30 mpg if he can earn it, and assuming he qualifies at center, that means he'll be worth a mid-late round pick.
and speaking of the 'stache, there he goes to charlotte, which is really a great place for him. other than raymond felton, there's not a pure scorer on the bobcats, who i like to make the playoffs this year - yeah, you heard me. he and felton provide scoring, and if emeka okafor and gerald wallace stay healthy, they'll be able to cover for him on defense. but from a fantasy perspective, morrison should be good for at least 12-15 ppg this year ... but will he contribute anything else?

DM: Morrison does have a chance to establish himself as a top option on the Bobcats, but the Bobcats are one of those teams on which minutes can be an issue. There were a whole lot of players in that 20-35 mpg range last year, so consistency might be an issue. It'll probably be trendy to call Morrison an overrated fantasy prospect at this point, but I'm just never sold on drafting rookies with fairly high expectations.
Did Dan Patrick just make a Wilco reference?
As expected, Tyrus Thomas gets picked by the Blazers, for the Bulls. LSU underclassmen, freakish athlete, attack the basket ... too much like Stromile Swift for my liking.

BV: YES Dan Patrick made a Wilco reference!!
Ty Thomas in Chicago ... that's fine. But he will never see consistent minutes enough to play. Skiles can and will be ruthless with minutes. But what i don't understand is, why did they go after Viktor Khryapa? I mean, trade down and get a piece, by all means, but i don't understand how that piece fits.

The Hawks, here's the thing. Shelden WIlliams is a GREAT pick for them, for sure. In fact, he could very well be ROY there. but why not move down a pick or two (or three) and get him then? If i'm Minnesota or Portland or Houston, I'm salivating over Brandon Roy right now.

DM: The Hawks are such a reactionary franchise, which really isn't the way to be in a league that rewards long-term planning. They thought they needed a star, so overpaid for Joe Johnson. Wanted the "most upside" last year and went with Marvin Williams. And this year they clearly wanted the "solid pick" and went with Shelden Williams. His presence might hurt the value of Zaza Pachulia, but that remains to be seen. Williams' fantasy value is tied into his blocks, but remember that in his rookie year, college blocks machine Emeka Okafor averaged only 1.7 bpg. Very good, but not really a difference maker as a center.
Well you can stop your salivating now, BV. The Wolves grab Brandon Roy, who has turned into everyone's favorite pick over the past week or so. But that's some reactionary thinking, too, as Dwyane Wade's emergence as the star of the league will make anyone who at all resembles him more appealing. The Wolves backcourt is a mess. Marcus Banks was a non-factor in Boston and managed 31 mpg once he got to Minnesota. Roy will certainly be one to watch.

BV: Agreed about Roy. Meanwhile, the Blazers make the right choice, finally, with Randy Foye. So they'll have two lottery picks in Aldridge and Foye, got rid of Khryapa, Telfair and Ratliff ... but they STILL haven't moved Miles or Randolph. I don't think we're done dealing this summer with portland.

Here's my quick-fix ranking of the first seven picks in terms of fantasy value right now:
1. Brandon Roy
2. LeMarcus Aldridge
3. Randy Foye
4. Adam Morrison5. Shelden Williams
6. Andrea Bargnani
7. Ty Thomas

DM: It's going to take a lot of work to get rid of Miles or Randolph, that's for sure. And man is that a lot of money they are paying to those two and Raef Lafrentz over the next few years. The Blazers selections this year remind of the Bobcats last year, going for upside and solid college performance at the same time. The volatility of the Blazers might make me put them behind Morrison on that list. Rudy Gay ... sure. He might develop into an all-star, and Jerry West wants someone to eventually emerge as a reliable second option behind Gasol, so it works there. Shane Battier in Houston, I like it a lot. He's always an underrated fantasy contributor and might be able to increase his 3s as Houston players gets lots of open looks with McGrady and Yao often double teamed. Now we move into the portion of the draft where I stop knowing anything about these players.

BV: Shane Battier just vaulted up the fantasy boards going to houston. Remember Jim Jackson in Houston, when every time on offense he would just settle into the corner and chuck threes whenever the ball went to him? He hit 2 treys a game doing that, and he was at that point 34 years old and had never averaged more than 1.5 threes at any point in his career before that. That's what Battier is going to do in houston, but his defensive stats and rebounding will make him a great value. He was a borderline player the last few years, now he's a surefire fantasy starter.
Patrick O'Bryant in Golden State? Whatever. I'm sure they'll like his cheesecake. I'm also sure we'll never hear from him again.

DM: The O'Bryant pick is a classic, "We don't really need anything and there's no one we particularly like, so let's just draft the tallest dude and see if he pans out."
The Wolves trade Roy straight up for Foye? That's confusing on many levels. There obviously has to be something else in that deal or else the teams would have just drafted the players they wanted. Right?
Alahu Akbar, we have our first surprise! Saer Sene to the Sonics. Hard to understand this one. The DeSagana Diop comparison is easy and we saw how that worked out for the team that spent a lottery pick on him. Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Saer Sene. Makes me feel good about the Wizards status in the middle.

BV: Good. get out of my face, JJ Redick. Go to Orlando and go away. and boy, dick vitale is thrilled as expected. did you see the smile on his face?! oh man, quote of the night - "You'd better give me some free tickets JJ, after all the publicity I gave you!" man, NO KIDDING. Really though, Redick could/should put up numbers similar to mike miller when he was a rook in memphis. i won't draft him, though, on principal.
Yeah, Golden State and Seattle both made "eh, i guess so" picks, as expected. we'll see them both in the lottery next year, huh?

DM: I'm definitely going to avoid Redick, not just on principle, but playing in a league with people who are extremely familiar with the ACC, he's bound to be overrated. I just have a hard time believing he'll be able to physically keep up with NBA guards. What's the over/under on what percentage of Redick's shot attempts will be 3s next year? I'll put it at 78.
Hilton Armstrong ... like I was saying before, um, sure? It would be surprising to see anyone drafted from here on out be a contributor to your fantasy team next year, at least early on in the season. Does that sound about right, BV? And back to Battier for a moment, can't you see Van Gundy falling in love with him and giving him close to 40 mpg? I can.

BV: well battier was already seeing 35 mpg in memphis, but yeah, i can see him getting closer to 40 a night in houston.

as for any more contributors being drafted, i think that's right, but right now the concern is the depth chart. remember, the stat we love most is minutes - and right now, minutes are up for grabs all over the place. So for example, Thabo Sefolosha going to Philly, will he cut into the minutes of Andre Iguodala, who was seeing 37 mpg? Will he cut the minutes of Kyle Korver, who was seeing 31 mpg, enough that Korver is no longer a spot starter for a fantasy team?

And with that, apparently Thabo is headed to Chicago. but you get the point - don't consider the player at this point, you consider who his minutes are going to affect.
Who do you see as the biggest 'winner' tonight so far, DM? Either a draftee or a current nba player? my pick is battier.

DM: You could just tell that Stern wasn't going to let Patrick get away with that one. I like how Stern even got Stuart Scott to ask Tyrus Thomas about any advice he got from the chick that was the #1 pick in the WNBA draft.
Ronnie Brewer to Utah ... it seems like the Jazz have drafted tons of players over the past few years but none of them ever get any sort of extended shot, which is no doubt in part due to Jerry Sloan. Wingspan, slasher, basketball IQ ... lot of buzzwords around him, but we'll see what happens. Big winner of the night, I might say Adam Morrison. Not because I think he will necessarily be a stud this year, but because of everyone drafted tonight he seems like the only one who could legitimately turn into his team's #1 scoring option in the near future.

BV: switching roy and foye, i don't like it. I think minnesota had the best player, but apparently they like foye more. looking at how good their scouting is, i don't trust it.
You say that at this point nobody drafted is going to have an impact, but in NO, Cedric Simmons and/or HIlton Armstrong could have an impact on that front line. It's not like NO is going to compete this year, and with PJ Brown in the last year of his contract, why not just play the youngsters? looking at the salaries on hoopshype.com, i can't believe how much the hornets are going to be under the cap next year. so just keep developing the youngsters, right?

DM: Rodney Carney ... I was getting him confused with Ronnie Brewer all week. Swingmen from southern schools and all that.
I think what I said was that nobody would have fantasy value at the beginning of the season. Did I say that? I don't remember. But yeah, there's always a chance someone will emerge as the season goes on, and Simmons and/or Armstrong could be those guys. I just don't see it happening at the beginning of the season. Only a couple more picks until our Wiz are up...

BV: Shawne Williams to the Pacers? Bad move. They needed a point guard and I really thought that they would take the other WIlliams here, as in Marcus. I don't really think that he fills a need for them either, y'know? They've already got Granger at the 3. What this really says is that they don't really expect to re-sign Peja.
As for the Wiz, they had better take Williams. Take the guy that falls to you, that's what I say. He coulda gone top 10 and nobody would have blinked. blunk?

DM: I don't understand the Shawne Williams pick either, but it's clear that a few teams at this point have gone out of their way to not pick Marcus Williams. Shawne won't see too much time this year it would seem, which looks like good news for guys like Sarunas Jasikevicius, Danny Granger and Fred Jones.
Well, Chad Ford was right for once. The Wiz go with Olexsiy Pecherov, a guy who looks even skinnier than me and gets bonus points for crazy ass first name spelling. So now the Wiz have both Petrov and Andray Blatche in the works. We'll see how that goes. I wouldn't have minded Marcus Williams myself, but oh well.

BV: Well, on the TV they spelled it with a "k" and not an "x", but i really don't think there's any chance he'll have a fantasy impact year. As for Quincy "Ooby" Douby, remember when Mike Bibby went down and Bobby Jackson was a fantasy stud for like 2 months? I'm just saying, it could happen to ooby douby too ... by.

DM: I will say that it's about damn time the Wizards got a European player. They were among the last holdouts, weren't they? Quincy Douby should always be introduced by Adam Sandler. "AH-QUIN-CAY DOOOOBY-DOOOOBAY-DOOOO!!!"
Who? What? Ronaldo Balkman? Chad Ford had him going at #53. And he goes #20. And the draft is Isiah's strong suit, right? It's going to be a fun year in New York. Congratulations to the Balkman family -- you're millionaires!!!

BV: I have nothing to say about balkman, as for the brian grant trade, addition by subtraction for the suns ... i guess. his contract isn't all that big though, right? i don't really understand that one. I think this though - if you're looking for a guy who could have a major impact right away being drafted this late, it's rondo. He could very easily start over sebastian telfair - who's pretty injury prone - and average 6-8 apg. I'd say that depending on how the preseason shakes out, rondo could be worth a last-round pick.

DM: It's nice that Rondo has a "special" talent, that being his rebounding ability for a PG. Granted, that's sort of negated by his lack of an outside shot, but still, it's something. You always need to look for that sort of competitive advantage.
Marcus Williams finally goes, to the Nets. Free Dells for everyone! Maybe an heir to Jason Kidd? Attitude problems, out of shape, pure point guard -- maybe a little Rod Strickland there? Just throwing ideas out there. Hard not to like the Nets choice here, and he could keep Jason Kidd's minutes down, but of course that could keep him in more games.

BV: The Nets, they scored on one with Williams, but I think they blew the other one with Boone. But you know what? If he can take time away from Jason Collins, that's fine with me. Collins is one of the ultimate minutes wasters in the league, so if Boone can step in and take up 15 mpg or so from the get-go, he might earn himself more minutes fairly quickly with good play.

DM: Boone does seem like a bit of a reach. I'm not convinced he'll be all that much better than Collins, really. But at this point in the draft it's hard to really complain too much. And it'll be an easy story in New Jersey, drafting to two Connecticut guys, yadda yadda.
Lowry's a pretty good pick for Memphis. Stoudamire is coming off of serious surgery, Chucky Atkins is up there in age, so maybe Lowry should be able to at least give them some minutes this year and maybe develop into something bigger. He averaged 2.3 steals in 29 mpg at Villanova last year. Just something to keep in mind.

BV: Here's what I'm talking about when it comes to PT. Shannon Brown is going to get his minutes from Larry Hughes and Flip Murray, and that means both of those guys are going to take a dip in fantasy value. That's going to be an interesting situation to watch.
Agreed about Lowry. I believe Atkins is a FA, so he certainly could see serious minutes. It's no surprise that we love point guards here at FBB, and the ones taken here in the late first are all an injury away from seeing major minutes and having a chance at major value.

DM: Atkins a FA? Well, I think Murray is a FA. So take that!
The Lakers make a hometown pick and go with Jordan Farmar. I was one of those people who picked UCLA to go far in the tourney so I watched most of their games and while I do like Farmar, he seems like a guy that could drive Phil Jackson insane with unnecessarily showy play. Reminds me a bit of Sebastian Telfair, for whatever that's worth. I'm getting sleepy.

BV: just a few more picks ... and maybe another trade!

ok, so the suns took their two picks and traded them away - for cash? really? i guess that means that they're going to try and re-sign Marion after all? I dunno about all that. I mean, they could certainly have used some help SOMEwhere, right?
As for Portland, who the hell knows. In fact, i might write a column in the next few days that will go over their new roster, which certainly is still in major flux. but adding another point guard doesn't seem to make much sense.

DM: It is interesting that the Suns ended up going out of the draft altogether. I mean, this was the team that was using a 7-man rotation in the playoffs. Maybe they have something else planned.
Dallas is a hard team to find value on since they are so deep, but Ager seems like a nice pick. I was pretty bummed the Mavs didn't pull out the championship. And that will have to go down as a pretty big choke. They were just a few possessions away from putting away that Game 3. Seriously two more buckets the game, series and season would have been over. But they couldn't do it and then forgot how to shoot. Funny how Shaq was the fifth or sixth best player on his team in the championship clinching game, too. Knicks up next. After that last one ... maybe it's Nik Caner-Medley time!

BV: I also like the Ager pick. there's been talk that marquis daniels is on the outs in dallas, and this sort of works with that idea.

Here's the role that Mardy Collins is going to play in New York. Isiah's gonna get real mad at some halftime and yell, "FINE! Stephon, Steve, I've had it with you two! you're sitting on the bench for the second half. Who's left ... oh yeah! Mardy! You're in!!"

Ah, the last pick. Portland takes Joel Freeland, the tall Brit. sounds good to me.

I'll have more on portland later this week. I liked Roy the best coming in, but I don't know about him anymore. We'll take a closer look.
Anyhow, the big winners? Foye, Morrison, Shelden Williams, and Battier. DM, any final thoughts?

DM: Chad Ford is reporting that Stromile Swift was part of that Rudy Gay/Shane Battier trade, heading back to Memphis. That might be one of the more interesting aspects of this draft so far. I'm sure there will be more people predicting a breakout for him, but it's just hard to see at this point.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Your Turn … and Thanks.

What a year it’s been here at FBB. We’ve watched in awe as Kobe Bryant poured in 81. We’ve watched in anger as Larry Brown tore apart the New York Knicks and ruined the fantasy value of about 10 players over the course of the season. We’ve watched with disappointment as one stud after another – even model-of-consistency Kevin Garnett - shut it down in the final two weeks of the season. We’ve watched with excitement as Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Boris Diaw and Mehmet Okur made “The Leap.” We’ve watched with confusion as Samuel Dalembert made the leap, and then leapt backward just as quickly.

And as our first full season of blabbing about fantasy basketball winds to a close, we’re already putting an eye towards next year. That’s where you guys come in. Unquestionably, my favorite part of this season has been reading all of the great comments we’ve had on this blog. You all have a bunch of great opinions and insight, and yesterday was a great example, as I decided against doing the Pick n’ Play, and then Jeremy came through with a great comment on guys to pick up for tonight. So now that we’re just about closing down for the year (DM will have a last post tomorrow), my question for you is this:

What do you want from FBB next year?

What’s worked for you this year? What hasn’t worked? What would you like to see more of? What are you seeing too much of?

You can either post a comment about it below, or you can always e-mail us at the address up at the top of our sidebar. But we’d love to know what we can do to make this site a better resource. We’re also considering taking the site off of blogspot, so if there are any other tools or things you’re interested in seeing, let us know – use your imagination!

Tomorrow, DM will have his wrap-up post, and we might throw in a post here or there during the playoffs and around draft time, but this is it as far as a regular post for me this year. So good luck to everyone tonight, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Crawling to the Finish Line.

Is it just me or has the end of this year been worse than most? I mean, my starting lineup just two weeks ago included Jason Richardson, Ricky Davis, David West, Yao Ming, and Brevin Knight – all of whom are unstartable due now due to injury, either fake or real. I also have Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace, who have been playing half-time. So the only two guys on my squad that I can safely start are Andre Iguodala and Jermaine O’Neal – and I picked up O’Neal on waivers just before he came back. That’s two guys that were drafted at the beginning of the year that I can start right now. Yikes.

The point is, teams are in total chaos right now. Both in the NBA and in Fantasy. And with just one more day to make moves and pick-ups, you’re looking at a far different strategy than what you had four months, four weeks, or even four days ago. So with that in mind, here’s what to keep in mind as you’re furiously adding and dropping 11th and 12th men:

1. Who’s got something to play for?
Right now we’re down to eight teams that have something to play for in the last two days of the season: Washington, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indiana, Memphis, both LA teams, and Sacramento. By tomorrow morning, that list could be cut in half. But teams with something to play for will at least be sticking to somewhat-normal rotations, particularly those in the East, where everyone is struggling to play against anyone other than Miami or Detroit. That means guys like Jared Jefferies, David Harrison, and Chris Duhon could be worth playing just because you know that they’ll at least get into games for 20-25 minutes. Still, you should wait until after the games tonight to make sure that these teams are still in the running for something before picking these guys up.

2. Pick your categories.
A player’s value is going to be different for every team. If you desperately need blocks, and up huge in points, you may be better off with Etan Thomas than Kobe Bryant. That’s an extreme example of course, but the point is there. And right now, we’re at the extremes. Don’t hold on to top-round picks if they’re not going to do you any good. And remember, if you drop someone today, it’s not like someone else will be able to pick them up before the season is over – they’ll be on waivers until the end of the year.

3. Know your opponent.
There are going to be teams out there with rosters like mine – filled with emergency fill-ins, sorta-injured studs, and a much depleted talent base. You need to be keeping an eye on the other teams in your league to be able to take advantage of those sitting duck squads. Some of those categories that might seem just out of your reach might actually be much more in play than you thought.

4. You Feelin’ Lucky?
OK, let’s face it. A lot of what happens tonight and tomorrow night is going to be completely at the whim of coaches and players. A guy could play 30 minutes or none at all based on how he feels when he wakes up in the morning. As much as I want to tell you put forth a ton of effort and read all the news sites you can, the fact of the matter is that going with your gut may be the best thing you can do. Got a favorite scrub? Think you have an inkling about a guy? Go for it. It’s just as good a guess as any other.

And good luck.

Oh, and go Wizards.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pick ‘em Today, Play ‘em Tomorrow

Remember how all season long we were telling you to stay on pace with your games played? Well, we hope you did. There are very few teams with anything left to play for as we get to the last week or two, and you see how not only do players call it quits early on, but they also call it quits early on in the games they actually play. Only a few more days left … here are some guys that might be able to put you over that proverbial hump.

Miami vs. Atlanta
The Heat have nothing left to play for and rested their stars for much of the game yesterday, even though it was an important game for the Bulls. Hey, it’s their right. It was a fantasy disaster, as Antione Walker led the team with 30 minutes and a whopping 10 guys played at least 15 minutes. That’s never good. Michael Doleac might actually be a decent option at center, as it’s hard to see Shaq playing more than 20 minutes again. If you need 3s, Jason Williams returned yesterday and will likely fire up a few. For the Hawks, Marvin Williams put up very nice numbers the past two games (20.5/8.0/2.5) but didn’t really get me any of the blocks I wanted. Oh well. Josh Childress returns tonight and should eat into some of his time and put up some solid numbers.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia
Another game with absolutely no meaning. New Jersey will probably limit their Big Three to no more than 30 minutes, but their supporting cast is just so lame that there’s not too much help to be found. If you need to fill a game at center, Uncle Cliffy Robinson might not be a bad choice. He’s played at least 25 minutes in each of the last three and has averaged 11.0/6.0/1.0 1with a 3. Hey, it’s better than not using a game at all. Philadelphia’s a hard team to get a read on for the last couple games. After crashing out of the playoffs they have to be a dejected bunch, as well they should. If Stephen Hunter is still available he may be of a little value, but that’s it.

Milwaukee vs. Washington
Ah, a game with actual meaning. Both teams will be giving their best efforts as they try to grab the 5th seed in the East. Personally, I don’t think drawing New Jersey in the first round is as much of a death knell as people are making it out to be. Yes, they went on an incredible streak and are clearly the third best team in the conference, but you simply cannot put them in the same class as Detroit and Miami. I’d certainly like my Wiz to face Cleveland in the first round, but I won’t be too upset if they end up with the Nets. Anyway, since both of these teams are playing for real, you aren’t likely to find much help. All of Milwaukee’s starters should be long gone – maybe Jamaal Magloire is available. As for the Wizards, Brendan Haywood has had a couple of nice games with Etan Thomas out, especially in the blocks department. He’s swatted 8 in the past two games, so he could be worth snagging.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis
This game has some meaning, too. Sort of. It’s a weird situation out West. The Grizzlies currently hold a one game lead over the Clippers, but all that does is earn them a first round matchup with one of the three teams everyone thinks can win the whole thing, the Mavs. Meanwhile the Clippers are sitting in sixth with a prospective matchup against the Nuggets. So both teams might actually be playing to lose tonight. We’ll see. Jake Tsakalidis has been getting the starts the past few games, but Lorenzen Wright has been playing more minutes, for those looking for a center. Based on past experiences, I just assume that’s a position that people are scrambling to fill at the end. The Clippers are clearly content to finish sixth, as they barely put up a fight at home against the Sonics the other night. Shaun Livingston is your man if you’re looking for assists. He only had 3 in 29 minutes last game, but he could reach double digits with that time again.

Seattle vs. Sacramento
The Sonics are playing themselves right out of a top draft pick the past month, as they have moved ahead of Boston, Houston, Golden State and Minnesota in the standings. With Robert Swift done, Johan Petro is back as the starting center and maybe he’ll get a few blocks for you. Nick Collison has had some nice games since returning from injury, but even at this point in the season he seems a bit too risky. The Kings accomplished their goal and are in the playoffs for the eighth straight year. They have an outside chance at grabbing the seventh spot, but that involves Kobe losing at home to the Hornets, so that’s not going to happen. Expect lots of people to play 20-25 minutes. Kevin Martin was great for many teams earlier on, but then he got hurt and Bonzi Wells came back and he was rendered obsolete. He’s put up some decent numbers the past couple games and could be a good plug in for last week duties.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Head-to-Head's Up: 2006-'07 Draft Strategy

As the season comes to a close this week some of you may be looking ahead to next season’s draft. For those in Head-to-Head leagues I have prepared a H2H draft strategy that differs from other standard strategies. Emphasis is placed on pursuing players who will help your team win specific categories each and every week, no matter who your opponent, while having a legitimate shot at winning the remaining categories. I wouldn’t recommend punting or forfeiting any category except for maybe points when using this "Head-to-Head Calibrated" Draft Strategy.

Here’s the gist of it: Avoid swingmen at all costs. SGs and SFs simply do not do enough to help your team in weekly H2H matchups. Most G/Fs do not make above average contributions in categories other than points and maybe threes. Resist the temptation to draft the Carmelos, Caron Butlers, and Rip Hamiltons of the league. Instead, aim to dominate four or five out of the eight categories by targeting Point Guards (assists, threes, steals, FT%) and BIG men (rebounds, blocks, FG%). If you end up with 3 or 4 top PGs and 3 or 4 top F/Cs then you will be primed to dominate assists, threes, steals, and blocks every week while remaining competitive in percentages and rebounds (with the conversely strong/weak contributions from your PGs and big men). The only disadvantage you’d probably be facing each week would be in the points department. Barring any serious injuries to your team or terrible luck, you will win your H2H matchup nearly every week by a score of 5-3, 6-2, or 7-1.

Do NOT draft any shooting guards or small forwards until the later rounds. Your first six draft picks should look something like this: PG, PG, PF, C, PG, PF. Swingmen are a dime a dozen with plenty of sleepers available late in drafts anyway. Unlike fantasy baseball where you want to make sure you draft quality players at scarce positions like second base and shortstop; in fantasy hoops you can still find guys at the end of your draft or off the waiver wire who can be everyday starters at the G/F positions.

The only SG/SFs I wouldn’t discourage you from selecting on draft day would be super-studs like LeBron, Kobe, Pierce, Ray Allen, and the Matrix. An argument can also be made for multi-cat contributors like AK-47, Gerald Wallace, Andre Iguodala, and Josh Smith. The following are tentative top 20 lists for point guards and big men according to this "H2H Calibrated" drafting strategy:

Top Point Guards
1. Gilbert Arenas
2. Jason Kidd
3. Steve Nash
4. Chauncey Billups
5. Allen Iverson
6. Dwayne Wade (doesn’t shoot threes, but makes up for it elsewhere)
7. Chris Paul (see above)
8. Raymond Felton
9. Kirk Hinrich
10. Mike James
11. Delonte West
12. Jameer Nelson
13. Jason Terry
14. Tony Parker
15. Baron Davis (he’s lucky to crack the top 15)
16. Sam Cassell
17. Luke Ridnour
18. Rafer Alston
19. Deron Williams
20. Carlos Arroyo

Top BIG Men
1. Elton Brand
2. Dirk Nowitzki (threes are very nice bonus)
3. Yao Ming (fantastic percentages)
4. Pau Gasol
5. Chris Bosh
6. Tim Duncan
7. Jermaine O’Neal
8. Ben Wallace
9. Amare Stoudemire (higher if healthy)
10. Dwight Howard
11. Rasheed Wallace
12. Zydrunas Ilgauskus
13. Marcus Camby
14. Mehmet Okur
15. Brad Miller
16. Chris Kaman
17. Andrew Bogut
18. Chris Wilcox
19. David West
20. Antawn Jamison (hits the glass like a PF, and his recently developed 3-point stroke will make up for lack of blocks)

If you land 7 or 8 of these forty players (while waiting until the late rounds to grab a SG and SF) you should cruise to the top of the standings and an FBA championship. All that said, there are a handful of PGs and big men that don’t contribute enough in the necessary categories and should probably be left for other GMs to fight over. Take a look:

Point Guards to avoid:
Steve Francis / Stephon Marbury
– Aside from the disaster that is the NY Knicks, which may get cleared up next year, neither player hits enough treys for a PG.
Brevin Knight – Allergic to threes and his job security will be in jeopardy next season.
Andre Miller – Can’t shoot from long range.

Power Forwards to avoid:
Emeka Okafor
– Poor percentages and unable to stay healthy.
Chris Webber – Always an injury risk, plus his FG% and blocks have declined over the years.
Troy Murphy – Often considered a value pick, T-Murph is weak on defense and his FG% is a major liability. His three-point range is NOT enough to compensate.
Zach Randolph - Poor FG%, poor defense, poor attitude, poor knee, just downright impoverished.

Centers to avoid:
Shaq – Diesel’s FT% (and FT attempts) is so much of a liability that you will never win the category.
Jam Magloire – Poor percentages, mediocre blocked shots.
Zaza Pachulia – Poor FG%, weak defensive cats.

I’ll be sure to flesh out this H2H draft strategy quite a bit more during the run-up to next season’s draft. Best of luck to those of you still fighting for championships this season!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pick ‘em Today, Play ‘em Tomorrow

One week left – that’s it. Down to the nitty gritty. It’s time to check the standings and break it down – where can you really lose or gain? Keep an eye on the rosters of the guys you’re chasing, too – if the guy has, say, Kevin Garnett and Yao Ming, you’re more likely to catch him in blocks and boards than you thought. With that in mind, here’s who I’ve got my eye on while filling my unused games:

PG: Damon Jones, CLE
If LeBron does indeed miss his first game of the year, that will be 30+ points that will have to be scored with the rest of the Cavs. With Big Z still hurting a bit, and Larry Hughes still spotty, that scoring onus will fall on Jones, Drew Gooden, and Flip Murray. While the latter two are probably owned already, Jones should be on your waiver wire, seeing as how he’s sucked balls this year. What busts he and Donyell Marshall have been, huh? Anyways, if you need threes, here’s you man. He won’t help you anywhere else, even a little bit, but there are plenty of teams that need those 3’s this time of year.

SG: Tony Allen, BOS
Allen has been seeing extra time already with Wally Szczerbiak out for the season, but now that Delonte West is hurting as well, he’s a great option at the point. He’s posted multiple steals in 6 of the last 7 games, same with double-digit points, and he’s shot over 50% in each of those contests. He won’t give you assists unless West doesn’t play, which right now looks about 50/50, but he’s still a nice play.

SF: Justin Reed, MIN
You wanna see an ugly game? How about Minnesota (without Kevin Garnett, Ricky Davis, and Rashad McCants) against Houston (without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady) last night? Yikes. Last night’s game was probably watched by about 8 people, and that’s what it deserved. Still, it looks like Justin Reed has settled in to Dwane Casey’s rotation for the final few games, seeing 21, 26, and 32 minutes in the last three games. He won’t help you anywhere in particular but he’ll contribute a little everywhere except for threes, and is a fine choice to use up some games.

PF: Tim Thomas, PHO
Thomas has been on and off fantasy rosters ever since his move to Phoenix, and now is a great time to pick him up after he started and saw big minutes in his last game. Thomas is a classic “risk” player, but this late in the game your tolerance for risk has to be going up, meaning Thomas should be on a roster in your league by the time he hits the court tomorrow night.

C: Loren Woods, TOR
If he played enough minutes to qualify, Woods’ 3.35 blocks per 48 minutes would put him 10th in the NBA, just in front of Adonal Foyle. Woods has been wearing a suit more often than a jersey this year, but he’s gotten into the last five games and with Matt Bonner out for the year, he should continue to see at least 15-20 mpg and accumulate 1-2 blocks in each of those games, starting Friday against Detroit.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pick ‘em Today, Play ‘em Tomorrow

Only a few games on the schedule tomorrow, and you're running out of chance to use up those games.

Cleveland vs. New York
Anderson Varejao is a great one-category boost guy this last week. In his last four games he's averaging just under 10 boards per game, and it would be surprising to see Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in the lineup, even though Mike Brown says it might happen. The Puffy Haired One won't help you anywhere but boards, but since he qualifies at SF, if you have a game to use there, he should give you more than the norm there. If you're desperate for 3s, there's always huge 05-06 disappointment Donyell Marshall. He simply couldn't shoot this year. His PT was the same, his boards, steals and blocks were all pretty close to last year's totals. But his shooting fell from 44% to 39%, and it fell from 42% to 32% behind the arc. That’ll do it. Still, he’s always capable of hitting up to five 3s in a single game.

On principle, I refuse to recommend anyone from the Knicks.

Orlando vs. San Antonio
I'm going to give it up for the Orlando Magic. This is a team that should make the playoffs next year. OK, so that's really not saying much, but the Magic have won five in a row, with impressive victories against Dallas, Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami ... and, well, Atlanta. They solved the Steve Francis and John Weisbrod problems and have legitimate building blocks in Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, and maybe -- just maybe -- Darko. And maybe even Hedo Turkoglu. It's highly, highly unlikely he's available, but if someone dropped him when it looked like he could miss some time -- hey you never know – grab him. He hasn't been as strong the past couple of games, but it's nice to see someone toughing it out in the final weeks, even without anything on the line. Turkoglu never shot above 42% in his first five seasons so his 45% this year may not last, but he's finally looking like a legit NBA player. Not a star by any means, but a nice complementary piece.

Remember when the Spurs signed Brent Barry last year and everyone was claiming that it was the most astute signing ever and he'd be the secret weapon that would lead them to the championship? Well, the Spurs did win it all, but it certainly wasn't because of Barry, who had the worst season of his career. That is until this year. So even though he's been the one starting in place of Manu Ginobili -- who might be back tomorrow, but we've heard that one before -- I'll suggest Michael Finley instead. Barry came through with 16/3/5 and 4 3s in 28 minutes last night, but that’s on the heels of a scoreless 30 minute performance. Finley has been the more consistent performer, as he put up 17/1/2 with 3 3s and a steal in his 28 minutes last night. Another person to consider is Bruce Bowen. He’s perennially one of those guys who always starts and gets minutes but never has fantasy value, but the last week of the season is a different best entirely. He blocked three shots, nabbed two steals and hit a 3 last night. He’s still playing his usual minutes, so he might be worth looking at.

Dallas vs. Phoenix
Blocks is probably the easiest category to make a late push in, so a forgotten man like DeSagana Diop becomes a wanted man in this final week. He has swatted 10 in his last three games, and has at least one block in 36 of his 42 starts. Marquis Daniels won't really help you in any one category but has been seeing around 25 mpg lately and is good for a bit of everything. He's one of my favorites -- put him in the right situation and he could be a real asset, sort of like Richard Jefferson. Solid percentages, won't really hurt you anywhere.

Mike D’Antoni has followed through with his pledge to reduce Steve Nash’s minutes, but it hasn’t been too drastic. He played 30 last night after getting 31 the previous night. Not as good as the 36 he’s been averaging this season, but still good enough to average 12 assists. This hasn’t really created any extra time for Eddie House, though. The shameless gunner (9.2 FGA in just 17.2 mpg) hasn’t cracked 20 minutes in his last eight games, so he’s not a realistic option, even though he is capable of hitting four 3s in 15 minutes. The musical chairs SF game saw Tim Thomas replace James Jones last night, so he might be worth grabbing for some 3s, but he’s still Tim Thomas. Remember how Jones and Raja Bell were very popular sleepers before the season started? Well things worked out rather well for one, but not the other. Bell’s consistency and good health have him just outside the top 50 on the Player Rater, while Jones is languishing at #137.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pick ‘em Today, Play ‘em Tomorrow

Who wants to vote to just end fantasy basketball one week early next year? I kid, of course. I love you fantasy basketball. But nonetheless, the end of this season has been absolutely murderous for fantasy players – is it just me, or does this year seem worse than years past? Personally, I’m dealing with Ricky Davis being shut down because he’s over 22 years old, Jason Richardson sitting because, well, he can, and Yao Ming legitimately breaking his foot. So who’s to be had?

PG: Tyronn Lue, ATL
Has anyone ever looked more like a Ferengi than Tyronn Lue? I mean, without using makeup? Ridiculous. Still, Lue’s return to the court has been very quiet, and he’s not seeing the minutes that he really needs to be effective, but he’s posted double-digit points for four games in a row, so that should count for something. He won’t help in assists, but for a one-game play tomorrow, you could do much worse. Other option: Keyon Dooling.

SG: Alan Anderson, CHA
Yeah I know, I'm reaching. But first the Bobcats dropped Kareem Rush, then they saw DM-fave Bernard Robinson go down with a sprained finger, and all of a sudden they've essentially got 4 guards on their roster: Raymond Felton, Brevin Knight, Kevin Burleson, and Anderson. Burleson never get any court time, and Knight has no business being anywhere near the 2-guard, so that leaves Anderson to play maybe 20 minutes tomorrow night against the Grizzlies. He put up 11/3/3 in just 17 minutes the other night, and he's not afraid to shot the three, so why not? Other options: Rashad McCants, Tony Allen.

SF: Rasual Butler, NOK
Here's a fun question to keep you up at night (or at your desk during the day): What does the "O" stand for in "NOK": Orleans, or the beginning of Oklahoma? Anyhow, a hurting Desmod Mason and David West means that Butler will be a fine option against Seattle's sieve-like defense. He's probably your best option if you're looking for threes and have games to burn at SF. Also, he’s an impending free agent, so a nice run at the end of the year here could pick him up some nice cash in the offseason. Other options: Chuck Hayes, Marvin Williams.

PF: Stromile Swift, HOU
Yao Ming going down might be killer for some fantasy teams (ding ding ding!), it presents an opportunity for others. Perennial disappointment, ex-FBB fave and current FBB least-fave Stromile Swift has a nice chance of having a decent game here while facing other FBB least-fave Eddie Griffin. Right now it's all about playing the odds, and this is a nice chance to take on Wednesday. Other options: Eddie Griffin, Austin Croshere.

C: Brendan Haywood, WAS
I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with Haywood. This is the first year that he has really shown NO progress, and in fact may have regressed a little bit. He’s big, for sure, and can rebound and block shots when he wants to, but he’s also been a bit of a crybaby this year and has struggled for playing time a bit. But with Etan Thomas still hurting, he’s a nice option at C. Other option: Dikembe Mutombo.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Short and Sweet

It’s getting down the wire in fantasy basketball land, so for the next week we’re going to keep it simple here at FBB and simply give you the goods. The goods being players you can pick up for the next day’s games to give you an advantage in these final days. Best of luck down the stretch.
Toronto vs. Miami
Derek Anderson – If you need a boost in 3s, Anderson could be your man. I watched him drop in a handful (that’d be five) on Saturday night as the Heat continued their dominance over my banged-up Wiz. He played 38 minutes in that game because Dwyane Wade was ill and in foul trouble, and he backed that up with 32 minutes yesterday in a listless home loss against the Magic. The Heat don’t really have much to play for right now – home court in a prospective finals matchup against Phoenix is the closest I can come up with – so Anderson might keep seeing more time as he continues to get into game shape.

Minnesota vs. Memphis
Eddie Griffin and Rashad McCants – All you fools in H2H leagues with championships decided in the final week. You’re titles are being determined by scrubs like Eddie Griffin and Rashad McCants! That’s just wrong. But if that’s how it’s going to be, then grab these guys. The Wolves yesterday were a perfect example of the value of the minute. We always say that even the crappiest collection of players imaginable – and the Wolves without KG and Ricky Davis are just that, although they did manage to beat the Hawks – will find a way to score 80 or so points and someone will have value. McCants was the main man on offense, pouring in 28 and taking nearly twice as many shots as any one else while playing 10 more minutes than anyone else. He’s going to look out for himself, so get him in there. As for Griffin, it’s simple – blocks. He racked up four last night and while KG’s competitive spirit might have him back in the lineup for this game, he might take another one off, giving Griffin a chance to swat some more away.

Seattle vs. San Antonio
Robert Horry – A bit of a reach here, but there aren’t many secondary options to be had. Brent Barry might be an option, but Manu Ginobili should be back and Barry did go scoreless in 30 minutes in his last contest. Horry has basically been mailing it in except for a few games this season, but it’s getting to the point where he needs to turn it on so he can live up to his Big Shot Rob reputation. He sat out the recent Dallas game, but in his last four games he’s averaging 1.3 blocks, .8 steals and 1 3. Nothing too great, but Seattle has this thing about not playing a lick of defense, so Bob might have a chance to put up some bigger numbers.

Chicago vs. New Jersey
Working under the assumption that Chris Duhon isn’t available in your league – and he certainly shouldn’t be since he’s been starting and putting up solid numbers for the past couple of weeks – there isn’t much to offer in this contest. New Jersey has one of the most well-defined rotations for fantasy purposes and the Bulls just don’t have much to offer that will be out there. If you’re feeling especially lucky and have a game to use at center, you can take a flier on Mike Sweetney, hope he gets off to a fast start and see if he can match the 14 and 6 he put up against Boston more than a week ago. But this is a guy who despite starting in eight straight hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in any of those contests and is averaging a meager 2 and 2 over his last two.

Phoenix vs. Sacramento
Leandro Barbosa
– He was going to be suggested even before word came out that Steve Nash will see a decrease in minutes. Honestly, he should be long gone in your league as he’s checking in at an impressive #76 on the 15 Day Rater. Barbosa has proven to be one of the most accurate shooters in the league over the past couple of seasons, shooting over 48%, which is just stunning from a guard. Sacramento, as usual, has no one to offer as everyone on that team has long been scooped up. For those that held on to Bonzi Wells through his injury woes, you’ve been rewarded very well as he has come back as strong as ever, proving his early season numbers – especially those on the boards – were no fluke.

Golden State vs. L.A. Lakers
Monta Ellis
– One of the most impressive of the second tier rookies this year has been the prep to pro guard out in Oakland, Monta Ellis. Thought to be a point guard, the 20 year old rookie has shown he is already capable of being a real scoring option in the NBA, averaging a not-at-all-shabby 14.7 points p40. With Jason Richardson out he saw 31 minutes on Saturday and put up a nice line of 13/5/5 with 2 3s, a steal and a block, offering a little bit of everything. Even if Mickael Pietrus gets another start, I’d probably go with Ellis anyway. Speaking of a little of everything, that’s what Luke Walton gives you, and he made his second start of the season yesterday and put up a line of 13/7/2 with a steal and a 3. In four April contests he’s averaging 9.8/5.5/2.8 with 1.3 steals and 0.8 3s on 51% shooting. If you’re looking for single category help he’s probably not your man, but if you just need some solid production, go for it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Head-to-Head's Up (4/10-4/16)

It’s Spring Break… Time to go WILD! No, no, no, put your shirt back on. This is the last full week of the NBA regular season, and you may want to use some unconventional tactics in your head-to-head matchup this week. Sure, you got your super-studs and regular starters, but there’s always a question as to those last couple guys you decide to plug in your lineup. Be sure to analyze your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and prepare to take advantage. Blocks and threes are probably the best categories to target for the players at the end of your SLU to make a significant difference. Percentages and steals are unpredictable and fluctuate too much to bank on. Let’s take a look at 4/10-4/16.

Four Games: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Golden State, Indiana, LAC, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Utah, Washington.
Three Games: Boston, Charlotte, Denver, Detroit, Houston, LAL, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto.

Plug ‘em in, Plug ‘em in:
Jamal Crawford, SG – "He’s the most improved player I’ve ever coached. He’s as good a kid as I’ve ever been around. He does things for the team to a fault." Larry Brown told the New York Post after Crawford’s 37-point effort in a win over the Cavs on Wednesday. Excuse me coach… um did I hear you correctly? You are praising a six-year vet as the best ‘kid’ and most improved player you’ve EVER coached? A team player? Crawford is posting his worst averages in three years and is known for chucking rainmakers at will. Granted, Crawford is starting to shine with Marbury sidelined, but he has still been a big disappointment in Larry Brown’s circus this season. It isn’t so much an improvement but rather a classic case of opportunity… whenever a proven scorer like Crawford is given big minutes he will be very productive. In April he’s posted 25/4/3, 2 threes, 2.7 steals, 50%FG/92%FT in three starts. Those are the gaudy numbers I was hoping for when I selected Crawford in the fifth round this year. It may be too little too late for me (let’s not talk about my other ill-advised draft picks: Kurt Thomas, Al Jefferson, Eddie Griffin), but if you’ve got him now’s the time to use Jamal.

Hedo Turkoglu, G/F – Wow. 2005-‘06 has been a breakout year of sorts for Hedo even if it took injuries to a number of teammates to get Turk a regular starting gig. We now know that all he needs to be an everyday fantasy baller is consistent minutes. He’s averaging 18/4/3, 2 treys, 1.3 thefts, 53%FG/84%FT since March 15th. Numbers like that could make Turkoglu a 4th or 5th round pick next year. With Grant Hill likely out of the picture, next season may actually be Hedo’s true coming out party. Who else is excited about the 2006-‘07 Orlando Magic? (Arroyo/Nelson/Turkoglu/Howard/Milicic)?

Samuel Dalembert, C – Another volatile season for the injury-prone center, Slammin’ Sam is back in Mo Cheeks’ starting lineup, but still falling short of expectations (9/7/1, 1.3 blocks in four starts). Owners have been frustrated all season with Dalembert, as he can’t seem to stay healthy and remain productive for more than a few weeks at a time. Despite his ups and downs, Dalembert should be a solid contributor with four matchups next week. He’s a better play at center than Jamaal Magloire who hasn’t scored or grabbed double digit rebounds in eight games.

Darko Milicic, F/C – Most of his value comes in the form of blocked shots but Darko has shown some consistency on offense as well lately, scoring double digits in 6 of his last 7 games. 10-12 blocks from Darko in four games this week could be just what you need to edge out your opponent in a close H2H matchup.

Other 3-point shooters: Charlie Bell, Chucky Atkins, Vlad Radmanovic.
Other shot blockers: Joel Pryzbilla/Theo Ratliff, Erick Dampier.
Inexpensive Hybrids: Raef Lafrentz, Matt Bonner.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Knicks Situation

I was all set to take a look at more upcoming free agents to see if they did indeed experience a free agent year push, but after seeing the Knicks “play basketball” at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night, I felt I had to address them. As a Wizards fan (or rather a Bullets fan, since it was retro night) I was happy to see an easy victory, especially one that took the Wiz one step closer to avoiding Detroit or Miami in the first round. But as a basketball fan, I was disgusted. Simply put, the Knicks were a disgrace. Now I know this isn’t some revelatory news, but being there to witness it in person you get a different perspective. I was seated not too far behind the Knicks bench and it was just pathetic watching them. I was honestly offended. Every single player – except for one, who I will get to later – was simply going through the motions. Not even, in some cases. Larry Brown looked disinterested, at best, except when it came time to chew out a player. This quote says it all: "They came in with so much more energy, it was like the varsity against the JV," Brown said. "You've got to keep trying. Somehow you've got to find five guys who care enough to compete. I hate to say that because you take away from (the Wizards players) and what they did, but you've got to hope you have enough pride to compete. I never in my life thought I'd be in a position where you're begging guys to play." Steve Francis went one step further: "It's like a funeral, man," Francis said, his eyes welling up. "That's what it feels like."

So how does this relate to fantasy? Well, coming into the year the Knicks were something of a mystery. Everyone was concerned how the players on the roster would perform under Larry Brown. I had some skepticism myself but thought that the Knicks would actually be a decent place to find some value, at least with their established stars. The Great Larry Brown would identify his team’s strengths and instead of forcing them to conform to his style he would adapt, at least until the roster became more to his liking. Well, not quite. As BV recently said, this year’s Knicks have surpassed the Hubie Brown coached Grizzlies of a couple years ago as the most frustrating fantasy team in recent memory. At least with that Grizzlies team there was some rhyme and reason to what was going on. Brown may not have been giving his best players the minutes they deserved, but he had a plan, stuck with it and it led to victories. Brown and the Knicks have had no clue all season. Players will go from starting to DNP-CD. A great performance is rewarded with a trip out of the starting lineup. During the game the other night Brown didn’t even keep his starting lineup the same in the first half and the second half. Players were yanked for making the smallest of mistakes.

What can we expect next year? Well you know that Isiah Thomas has another trade or two up his sleeve. As it stands now it will be very hard to recommend any player on the Knicks. But let’s take a look anyway.

Eddy Curry seems like the one guy who is assured of not going anywhere. The Knicks were really the only team that wanted him, and with five years and around $50 million left on his contract, the Knicks are going to be stuck with him, for better or worse. Not to mention that Isiah gave up the potential #1 pick in the draft for the guy. Curry’s season has been exactly what we’ve become accustomed to – flashes of brilliance, some injuries and lots of lackluster play. Curry can score, no doubt. And to his credit, he’s missed only one game since the calendar turned. But it’s his fifth season and he still hasn’t shown the ability to stay out of foul trouble and stay on the court. He’s rebounding at his best rate of his career, which is encouraging. But even though he’s the centerpiece of the team (more by default than anything else), he’s still nothing more than a late-round flyer for a team looking to win.

Channing Frye is the guy who should be the centerpiece of the team, or at least something close to it. He’s done nothing but impress when given the chance to play this year, putting up p40 numbers of 20.3/9.1/1.3 with 1.2 blocks and 0.8 steals on excellent shooting. Not bad at all for a rookie. Brown jerked him around a whole lot before he went down with a season-ending knee injury. He’s the team’s most valuable asset, locked into a rookie contract for three more years. So you know that Isiah will deal him for some overpriced veteran in the offseason.

Jackie Butler was the one guy who actually showed up to play against the Wizards. The kid can play. He’s a big body and he knows how to use it, as we was constantly posting up and backing down defenders. He’s also a decent shooter, as evidenced by his 78% shooting from the line. He gave good effort the entire night, even though he was often overlooked by his teammates. He was still able to put up 22 and 8 in just 29 minutes and followed that with 12 and 9 in 21 minutes last night. This kid is an asset. Honestly, I see lots of parallels between him and Al Jefferson. They were born within two months of each other in Mississippi and are 6’10” and a hefty 260+ pounds. Jefferson’s got more offensive talent, but Butler can play. It seems that he’s ineligible to be traded right now, unless RealGM is lying to me, which is probably good news for Knicks fans, as Isiah would likely give him up for Shawn Kemp.

Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury clearly should not be on the same team. Something has got to give. Both were likely second round picks this season and it’s very hard to envision any teams that took them still caring about fantasy basketball right now. Marbury had always been one of the most reliable fantasy options around until this year, and his late-season “injury” might be the end of his time in New York. He and Larry Brown clearly hate each other – I don’t think that’s exaggerating it – and someone needs to go. Perhaps Brown will get so fed up that he’ll quit after the year – perhaps he’ll have more of his convenient “health issues” – but Marbury is more likely. Finding a team to take him will obviously be near impossible, and that’s even more the case with Francis, who is simply not much more than a slightly above average player.

Jamal Crawford is a pretty underappreciated player, I’d say. Sure, he misses tons of shots, but he’s an unquestionably great scorer, as evidenced by his 37 points last night. He’s a durable player and surprisingly reliable for fantasy purposes. Even this year, when he’s started just 19 games, he comes in at a very respectable #84 on the Player Rater, right in between Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon. That makes him the highest ranking member of the Knicks, except for Francis, who has only been with the team for 20 games. There’s something to be said about that, finding some value in a terrible situation.

Nate Robinson and David Lee look like they can be solid rotation guys, but probably not much more. Jalen Rose, Mo Taylor and Malik Rose are nothing more than paycheck cashers. Quentin Richardson – and Raja Bell, I suppose – is the best example of the effect a system can have on a player’s value.