Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Sophomore Slumps/Sizzles

The 2003 draft may very well go down as one of the richest draft classes in NBA history. With a couple of legitimate superstars going early in the first round, a number of quality starters later in the draft, and even a couple of nice surprises in the second round.

However, it's definitely still way to early to tell. Remember, out of the 29 players selected in the first round, 10 of them were under 20 years old when they were drafted. While some players can already be labeled definite successes (LeBron and Dwayne Wade, for example), the jury is still out on a number of these second-year players, and figuring out who is a future stud can certainly help out your fantasy team down the road. Lets take a look at some guys who are showing promise now in their second season, and who might be slipping a little bit.

Movin' On Up

Brian Cook, PF (LAL) - One of the most surprising stats so far this year is Cook's 1.2 3PM per game. He's hitting on 37.7% of his 3 point attempts, which is better than he did even in college. A power forward who can light it up from long range is fantasy gold. His other stats (8.5/3.7, with .4 steals and .5 blocks) are decent considering he still gets under 20 mpg. He's not roster-worthy just yet, but he looks like he could be a Donyell Marshall clone somewhere down the line.

Josh Howard, G/F (DAL) - Yet another 4-year college player showing steady improvement in the pros. Howard has gained the trust of Mavs coach Don Nelson, to the tune of 35 mpg this year. He's an all-around fantasy helper, with 11.6/7.1, with .6 3's, 1.3 steals, and .6 blocks. At this point, he's getting all the minutes he's gonna get, so he's going to have to improve his play to be very valuable, but he's already worth a roster spot, and on a less-crowded team could be worth a mid-round pick next year.

Luke Ridnour, PG (SEA) - Well, it's been a good couple weeks since we've talked up Luke Ridnour. Here's a stat we like to see for a young PG. His assist/turnover ratio of 3.6 is 3rd in the league among those getting over 5 apg, behind Brevin Knight and Damon Stoudamire. Nothing irks coaches more than seeing their PG turn the ball over, so this is a nice sign that Ridnour is going to keep seeing lots of playing time. His steals (1.6) and 3's (0.9) so far this year point to him being a classic fantasy PG down the road in, in the same vein as Rafer Alston.

Settling In

Kirk Hinrich, PG (CHI) - Hinrich was one of the most hyped young players in the league going into this year's fantasy drafts. Hey, we were guilty of it, too. But maybe his first-year numbers are pretty much what he's going to do. True, the Bulls are a classic "team in disarray", so maybe he hasn't found his groove, but his stats are SO similar to last year that you can't help but think that maybe he'll just be a nice PG, but no star. Which is fine, but he's no longer an early pick; look for him to go in the 5th to 7th rounds of your fantasy draft for years to come.

Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Chris Kaman, C (LAC) - If you didn't see this one coming, you've gotta re-evaluate your ability to project NBA success. Every year there's another 7-footer who comes out of nowhere to become a top-10 pick, and then proceeds to be a major bust. You know, Joel Przybilla (can you believe he was the 9th overall pick in 2000?), Desagana Diop, Nik Tskitishvili, someone like that. And every year, the Clippers draft somebody who just flat-out stinks. Enter Kaman. Though he's been fighting injuries this year, Kaman's numbers (2.4/2.9, .4 blocks in 12.1 minutes) are flat-out awful. Don't even think about picking him up any time soon.

Marcus Banks, PG (BOS)
Reece Gaines, PG (HOU)
Troy Bell, PG (N/A)
Dahntay Jones, G (MEM)
All of these guys were taken with between the 13th and 20th picks in the 2003 draft. Banks is buried behind Gary Payton in Boston, but they wouldn't have traded for Payton if they thought they had a starter already in Banks. Gaines is just starting to get a little time in Houston, but 13.2 minutes and 3 ppg is certainly not enough to be on any fantasy roster. Jerry West undoubtedly blew it with his 2 selections, as Bell has already found his way out of the league, which is impressive for a mid-first round pick, and Jones couldn't even get 20 minutes on the Grizzlies, when Hubie Brown gave 20 minutes to anything with a pulse. Now that Mike Fratello is in charge, Jones has been a DNP-CD in 6 of the last nine games, with a total of 8 minutes. Ouch.


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