Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Always Be on the Lookout

It’s always good to be scouring your league’s free agent list. Check it every day. Even if you think your roster is set, that every player you have – even those on your bench – is worthy of being there, you need to keep up on things? Why? Well, for one, if you see a player you like, even if you don’t have room for him now, if you can try to work out a trade that gives you an extra roster spot to play with. This can help you upgrade your team in general and find space on your team for a high upside player off the free agent list. So who are some of the top names that might be available? My league is a pretty standard 12x12 league. Pretty deep, but there are always some people to track.

Ben Gordon
Chances are good that the #3 overall pick from this year’s draft is there if you want him. Think about that. Sure, not all drafts are created equal, and we all know by now that last year’s draft is looking like a once-in-a-generation event. But still, we know who the third pick in last year’s draft was. That’s not to say that Gordon is going to be anything close to Carmelo, but you just can’t ignore the fact that during the summer, he was the consensus pick for rookie of the year. Granted, once he actually set foot on the court in the pre-season, people started jumping off the bandwagon, and they haven’t stopped yet.

But there’s reason to be interested. First off, the Bulls are still winless, and that means that coach Scott Skiles is going to keep trying every different combination until he comes up with something he likes. No one’s ever out of it in the Eastern Conference – the Heat recovered from a similar start last year to make the playoffs easily – but the longer things go without results, the more likely they are going to see if Gordon really can be a franchise centerpiece. He’s shown definite flashes over the last two games, where he has averaged the following: 34.5 mpg, 17.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg, 2 3pg, 1 spg. That’s not great, but it’s something. He has only five steals all year, and not a single block, which you can’t like at all. He’s shooting a disgusting 34%. But at least he’s shown he can score the last few games. At this point it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to help out much in the other categories, but if he can work his way back to getting 30 mpg regularly, he could be a poor man’s version of Rip Hamilton. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on him. The Bulls are bound to turn it around at least a bit, and they really don’t have too many other options.

Jiri Welsch
In an attempt to bolster his bench, Doc Rivers took the interesting step of taking his second leading scorer, Ricky Davis, out of the starting lineup. As a Davis owner, I wasn’t too pleased with this, but then Ricky went and had his best game of the season, even with a few less minutes. So while it looks like Davis should still be able to maintain a good portion of his value, will Jiri Welsch, who gets the starting nod now, be able to have any? Welsch was always on the verge of having value last year, but was basically just a tease. He wasn’t receiving enough PT to even be a tease this year, but that’s probably back to where he’s being.

In his first game as a starter, Welsch played 26 minutes, his most PT since the season opener. He also had his most productive game of the season, shooting 4-of-6 from both the field and the line, giving him 12 points, while he also chipped in 8 boards, 2 assists and a steal. Nice numbers, but nothing spectacular. Where Welsch can help is 3s and steals. He averaged 0.9 3pg and 1.3 spg in 27 mpg last year, numbers that would look very nice with just a few more minutes. But now he’s just back to where he was. He’s worth keeping an eye on now that he’s starting, but if Davis remains effective and Welsch stays below 30 mpg, he won’t be of much use to you.

Marc Jackson
Here’s an intriguing one. While everyone in the world pegged Samuel Dalembert as the sleeper of all sleepers, Jim O’Brien shocked us all by naming Marc Jackson the starting center in Philly. We still figured that Dalembert would get his minutes and would soon take over the starting job, but then Dalembert got dinged up and Jackson has continued his strong play. His numbers aren’t spectacular, but are solid: 13 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 spg on 49% shooting. He has center eligibility, but he does not block shots at all, so he might not be the best person to plug in there, even knowing how thin the center ranks are.

Each time it looks like Dalembert is ready to take over, Jackson will pull out a game like Sunday’s, where he put in 21 and added 8 boards and 2 steals. It’s worth noting that Jackson certainly has talent. His rookie year in Golden State he averaged an impressive 13.2/7.5 on 47% shooting in 29 mpg. Injuries have seriously derailed him since then, as he’s been healthy only one of three years since then and the year he wasn’t hurt he was never able to make much of an impact with Minnesota. He’ll continue to be an injury risk, but right now he’s looking like the player that the 76ers and fantasy players were counting on Kenny Thomas to be. He has only 5 assists, 3 blocks and 0 3s on the season, so he is a black hole in those categories. But if you’re looking for a bench player to use as an injury fill in, he’s not a bad choice.

Greg Buckner
The Clemson product certainly turned heads with his 28-point outburst in Sunday’s blowout of the Mavs. With Voshon Lenard out and the Nuggets preferring to bring Earl Boykins off the bench, Buckner has started the last five games from the 2-spot. In addition to his 28 points, Buckner added 9 boards, 4 steals, 2 assists, 2 3s and hit 10-of-13 shots. That is an all-around great game. It’s hard to see it happening again, though. In the four games before that, Buckner scored a combined 17 points and never saw more than 29 minutes. The Nuggets still like using a Boykins/Miller backcourt in important situations, and Sunday’s game had precious few important situations, as the Nuggets rolled by 28, allowing Bzdelik to stay with Buckner and let him have his moment in the sun.

Buckner is a nice little player, as he is a career 46% shooter and has a 5.4 ppg average in 19 mpg. Not too shabby. On a team like the Bobcats or the post-Brawl Pacers, he might be able to have some value. But it’s just not going to happen on the Nuggets. There’s a reason he was behind Voshon Lenard, and there’s a reason Voshon Lenard probably wasn’t taken until the last round of your draft, if he was taken at all. And Lenard at least is a known 3-point marksman. Sometimes, one big game can be a signal of great things to come, but in this case, it’s not.

Vladimir Radmanovic
Fantasy owners like consistency. We like to check the box scores each night and know that we’ll see good numbers. Yes, we realize it’s not always the case, and that sometimes Kirk Hinrich will have 6 points and 2 assists, like he did last night, but for the most part, I know that he’ll usually give me a solid game. Radmanovic is the complete opposite. Night in and night out, you have no idea what to expect. So while the aggregate numbers might look nice, how he arrives at those will probably drive you too crazy to be worth it.

Radmanovic is fantasy-worthy for one reason and one reason only: three-pointers. He’s tied for 14th in the league in that category, which is obviously pretty good. There have been only two games this year where he hasn’t connected from long distance. But what else does he do? Absolutely nothing. Besides one anomalous 11-rebound game, he hasn’t grabbed more than five in any contest. Three assists is his season high, and that was only on one occasion. He has only 9 steals and 5 blocks on the year. His 11ppg and 40% shooting won’t help you either. So basically, if he’s not hitting 3s, he’s not doing anything for you. A game in which he hits one three-pointer, you’ll look at the box score and you won’t be too happy. About once a month he’ll have a game like he did on 11/16, where he connected from long range 6 times en route to 20 points. But if you have him active all the time, there will be a dozen other times during the month where you’ll check the box score and likely be disappointed.

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