Thursday, December 30, 2004

Afternoon Delight

For fantasy junkies that are also office lackeys, afternoon baseball is a godsend. There are few things better than a Thursday getaway day that sees five or six daylight games on the schedule. If you can make it through the morning, those games make the afternoon just zoom on by. But once baseball season ends, workday entertainment is relegated to the usual Rotoworld updates, Friendster stalking and perusing random bulletin boards. Oh, and work, too, sometimes. So that’s why today is a very special day. Because at 2 p.m., the Sonics and Hawks will tip-off, and with most offices being closed on New Year’s Eve, that will make a great diversion in terms of getting through those last hours of the week.

Or will it? It’s cool that there’s a game, but if you don’t have any players, it’s hard to be too interested. And there’s a good chance you won’t have any players, because there are only four guys in this game that are likely owned in all fantasy leagues – Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Antoine Walker and Al Harrington. But that means there are plenty of people to keep your eye on, and let’s take a quick look at a few of them.

Vladimir Radmanovic – It looks like in his fourth season the RadMan may finally be putting it together. But looks can be deceiving. His stats across the board are almost exactly the same as they were last year, slightly down in a few categories. He put together an impressive five-game streak earlier in the month where he got 34.8 mpg and used it well to average 14.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 spg and 2.8 3pg. But as is the case with all bench players, the up was followed by a down. His last two have seen him on the court for only 24 mpg, and his numbers have suffered accordingly. He does average 2 3pg and a little over a steal per game, so he does have value, but starting him will always be a risky proposition.

Luke Ridnour – An old FBB favorite, December wasn’t the best month for Ridnour. He kept racking up the assists, averaging nearly 7 per game, but his numbers dropped off everywhere else, and his shooting has been downright horrendous. After a 35% December, he’s down to 38% for the year, and even on 8 shots a game, that will hurt you plenty. His steals also dropped from 1.8 per game in November to 0.9 in December, and that’s the difference between a player with slight value to a player with marginal-at-best value. He’s remained in the starting lineup, which is a good sign, although his minutes have dropped slightly. Still, he could be due for a rebound, and since point guards are always worth keeping your eye, you should definitely do that with Ridnour.

Antonio Daniels – He was another player that experienced a drop off in December. Since he’s a bench player he’ll usually be too inconsistent to use, as he doesn’t do quite enough to have any value. His best asset is his ability to get to the line, as he is 33rd in the league in FTA per 48 minutes. That was great last year when he shot 84% from the line, but his 76% mark this year won’t offer much help. Should either him or Ridnour go down, the one left standing would have considerable value, sort of like the Speedy Claxton/Derek Fisher situation on Oakland.

Ronald Murray – Remember him from last year? Whenever a guy proves he can be a Top-40 fantasy player over the course of a whole month, he merits paying attention to. He hasn’t seen much action since his return from injury, but in 27 minutes on Dec. 22 he put up 15 points, 5 boards, 4 assists and 2 steals. He’s a player who always looks to put up numbers when he’s on the floor, and as we tell you almost every day, it’s all about opportunity. As a Ray Allen owner, I’d hate to see him go down, but I know that if that happened Nate McMillian gave Flip 35 mpg, I wouldn’t see as big a drop off in production as you’d think.

Tyronn Lue – The little man just arrived in Atlanta and hasn’t found his way into the starting lineup yet, but it might just be a matter of time. Then again, you never know with the Hawks. Remember that Lue did manage to have a bit of value while getting around 30 mpg last year in Orlando, as he was good from some 3s and assists. It might not happen on this pathetic team, and he’s never been a big source of assists, but there’s always some desperate owner out there, and Lue might turn out to be a stop-gap for that guy.

Josh Smith – He’s probably been scooped up by now, thanks to his nightly highlights on Sportscenter. He has started 10 straight games, which is very good, but after a four-game stretch that saw him over 30 minutes each night, he’s seen only 22.5 in his last two. Even throwing out his 10-block game, he has averaged nearly 2 per game in his other eight starts, and any player with that kind of a number who isn’t a center or power forward is worth stashing away. Hold off on starting him until he’s consistently seeing 30 mpg, but he could be a godsend for teams struggling in blocks.

Josh Childress – He has shown flashes throughout the year, but has not been able to turn that into consistent production, and that’s likely to continue. But with the Antoine Walker rumors continuing to make the rounds, Childress should be worth keeping an eye on. Even regardless of a ‘Toine departure, the Hawks are likely to want to get a closer look at their lottery pick as the year progresses. Still, he hasn’t shown enough offensive ability to make you think he could have any value. Think Jared Jeffries, but not even that far along. Exactly.

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