Friday, December 17, 2004

Weekend Preview (12/17-12/19)

Signs Of Life

No one has ever mentioned parity as being a problem in the NBA, and a number of teams were written off before the season even started, and for good reason. The Hornets, Hawks, and other cellar-dwellars are struggling to find their niche. Recently, though, a couple of the worst teams in the NBA have started actually competing. What's turned it around for these teams, and what does it mean for your fantasy team? Let's take a look.

New Jersey Nets: The most obvious reason the Nets have started to turn it around (they've won 4 of their last 6) is the return of Jason Kidd. But keep in mind, he is only playing about 20 minutes a game. There have been other guys stepping up, like Eric Williams, who has really improved over the last few games. His scoring is up 6 points in December, and he's starting to hit 3's regularly. He's finally becoming a guy you can look at as a possible pickup. Keep a close watch on Williams, and Brian Scalabrine, who got Alonzo Mourning's starting spot, tonight in Memphis and Sunday at Toronto.

Chicago Bulls: How this team has managed to win 4 of it's last 6, including huge upsets over Minnesota and Cleveland, is beyond me. Coach Scott Skiles has finally settled on a lineup, though, going with the crazy idea of actually playing his best players. Even more outrageous is that he's using their strengths! Eddy Curry won't ever average 10 boards or 2 blocks, but he can score 20 with his eyes closed (and his mouth full of food). Tyson Chandler has turned into a great spark off the bench, and is a defensive juggernaut. He's got 10 blocks in his last 2 games (including 7 last night), and is averaging 12.1 boards in December - in just 30 minutes. Finally, Kirk Hinrich is showing signs of life, too. His 28 points last night was the first time he topped 20 points since November 21, though he was still just 2 of 9 from long range. See if these guys can keep it up, Saturday at home against the Pacers.

Cheap-O Blocks

As every fantasy player knows, blocks can be the toughest category to fill up on while not hurting yourself in other areas. Here are some guys who are starting to look like they might fill your need for blocks, while not killing you anywhere else:

Josh Smith, F (ATL) - This high school rookie was handed the starting spot on the lowly Hawks 4 games ago, and he's starting to show some promise. Throwing away an embarrasing 14-minute, zero-point performance against the Pacers on Tuesday, Smith has averaged 12.3/7.3, with 2.3 blocks and 1.6 steals in his other 3 starts, and averaging just over 30 minutes a game. It's hard to know what to expect from a high school rookie, but if he keeps his starting spot and minutes, don't hesitate to grab him off waivers and stick him on your bench.

David Harrison, C (IND) - Harrison is obviously seeing more minutes due to the Pacers being without their top 9 players. But over the last few games, he has really come on. Getting 30 minutes a game, Harrison's biggest asset is his blocks, averaging a fantastic 3.2 per game over his last five, but he's also putting up 11 points, 5.4 boards, and shooting 60% from the field. To stay effective, he needs to stay out of foul trouble 5 or more fouls in 3 of his last 4 games), but his minutes haven't dropped at all since the return of Jeff Foster, so he should stay useful until Jermaine O'Neal comes back.

Game of the Week(end)
Washington at Phoenix (Sat, 9pm EST) - The over/under on this game has to be around 230 points. The Suns are by far the highest-scoring team in the league, with Washington 4th, and each team gives up over 97 points per game. This game doesn't necessarily have a ton of fantasy implications, but we're recommending it just because it's fun to watch a couple of teams shoot the lights out.

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