Thursday, November 11, 2004

Something Ain't Right...

Take a guess who is in the top 5 in team scoring. C'mon, I dare ya. Dallas Mavericks? Sorry, no, they're 6th. The Kings? pfft! Not even in the top half. OK, stop embarassing yourself. Yeah, the Heat, with Dwayne Wade and Shaq, that's not a huge surprise. And the Suns, with Amare, Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, and The Matrix, well that's reasonable. But the other three teams? How about this: Charlotte, Washington, and Seattle. Shazam! Who the heck is putting the ball in the basket for these guys? Let's have a look-see:

Charlotte
OK, so they're also giving up the 3rd-most points in the league, but admit it, you thought these guys would struggle to score 80 points on most nights. Their marquee player, Emeka Okafor, is a defense-first center. Their shooting guard, Gerald Wallace, shoots about 55% from the free-throw line. So what's going on? First of all, Primoz Brezec is scoring 18.3 ppg (beating his career high by 16.3 points), hitting nearly 2/3 of his shots. Jason Hart is dishing the ball to the tune of 9.7 apg, and they're sharing the ball: 6 players are averaging in double figures, and one other is averaging 9.7.
Don't expect this to keep up, though. Brezec is good, sure, but not .595 fg% good. Expect him to settle down to 14 ppg, maintaining his 8 boards, and very little else. Hart will not keep up his torrid assist pace, but he'll be worth having on your team. Look for 12/3/6 with a steal or two and a three here or there. A good utility player.
The gem of this team is Okafor. Definitely. Listen to this, and guess who player X is: "a 6-10 All-America center ... he came out of college with his defensive skills fully developed, but he surprised NBA observers with a sophisticated offensive repertoire." Sounds like Okafor, but really it's an early report on Alonzo Mourning. And I think that's right where Okafor is headed. He's not gonna dominate like Zo from the get-go, but he certainly will get his fair share of looks at the basket - look for 15/12 with 2.5-3 bpg. He's the real deal - and maybe the only one on the team.

Seattle
The biggest surprise in the NBA, the Sonics are 4-1 and blowing away all of the preseason predictions. While Ray Allen's output isn't a surprise, Rashard Lewis has been scoring at about 5-6 ppg higher than his norm. Neither of these guys are really any more or less valuable than they were on draft day, but there are some guys to be scouring for on the waiver wire.
The big shocker is Danny Fortson, who has come out of nowhere to average 9.8 boards - in just 17.5 minutes. That's a ridiculous rate, but not totally unpredictable. Remember, he's the guy who averaged a double-double for the Warriors a couple times. Look for him to get more minutes as he continues to clean up the glass, especially on the offensive side. Also look for him to sucker-push foriegners, like he did to Zarko Cabarkapa last year.
There are two very solid second-year guys on this team who are worth keeping tabs on. Luke Ridnour, the point guard from Oregon, earned the starting job to start the year, and is starting to earn more minutes with his play. He still turns the ball over a little too much, but if he continues to ward of Antonio Daniels for minutes, he'll be a fine util/backup PG, getting about 12 and 7 or so, with a three and a couple steals.
The other second-year man is Nick Collison, who is nowhere near ready to be picked up. But they like this kid a lot, and he's already rebounding well. Look for him to start getting more minutes as the year carries on, especially if Vladimir Radmanovic is traded.

Washington
Another score-all-the-time team, the Wizards are stacked with scorers. The trifecta of Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, and Larry Hughes should all average over 18 points per game. Jarvis Hayes and Juan Dixon should each hit double digits themselves. And that's without Kwame Brown or Etan Thomas in the lineup. Sure there's not much defense going on, but hey, who likes defense? This is fantasy basketball, not real basketball.
The first three players mentioned above should be on a roster in every league. After that, it's hard to tell. There are going to be battles for minutes at a number of positions once Kwame, Etan and Steve Blake return to the court. The obvious losers are going to be Dixon and Brendan Haywood, who has a great chance to show the Wizards they weren't crazy to give him an extension last week. Haywood could be a nice short-term pickup, but they also spent a good deal of money to keep Thomas around, so they'll likely split time - and be useless to your fantasy squad.
Here's an interesting trade. How about the expiring contract of Larry Hughes and Kwame Brown for Ron Artest and Jeff Foster? I'm just saying, is all.

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