Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wednesday Preview

Here at Fantasy Basketball Headquarters, the snow is falling, the temperatures are dropping, and nobody wants to leave the house tonight. But don’t worry – with a full slate of NBA action going on, there’s plenty of games to keep you occupied. So heat up your soup, wrap yourself in blankets, and keep close watch on the following games to try and get an edge on your fantasy basketball opponents:

New York Knicks at Toronto Raptors, 7 PM

Here’s a matchup featuring two teams headed in drastically different directions. The Knicks are just 1-7 in 2005, including an embarrassing loss to the New Orleans Hornets and back-to-back losses to the surging Chicago Bulls. They welcomed Jamal Crawford back to the lineup on Monday, and subsequently watched him go 0-7 from long range and 4-14 overall from the field. Regardless, his return kills any fantasy value that Allan Houston had. Stephon Marbury also saw his stats bump up a bit during Crawford’s absence, enjoying 22.1 points and 9.6 assists in January (up from 19.9 and 8.2 in December). As Crawford eases his way back into the lineup, watch to see how much of Marbury’s ball-handling duties are taken away.

Toronto, on the other hand, is thriving after their addition-by-subtraction trade of Vince Carter. Winner of 4 of their last 5 and 6 of their last 8, the Raptors are enjoying their best stretch of the season. Chris Bosh has turned red hot, with 8 straight double-doubles and over 2 blocks a game so far in January. Rafer Alston has quietly turned into a top assist man, averaging 7.2 a game, including 9 per game in 2005. Meanwhile, Donyell Marshall continues to be one of the most frustrating players on the planet, as he is a total stud one night and riding the bench the next. He’s had great games in 2 of the last 3 outings, though, so another strong game tonight could mean he’s convincing coach Sam Mitchell that he belongs out on the floor.

Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns, 9 PM

Injuries have made both of these teams a little unpredictable right now. For Phoenix, Steve Nash has re-injured himself and won’t be running the leagues top offense again for at least another game or two. To make matters worse, backup PG Leandro Barbosa is also hurt (ironically, they ran into each other in practice). So who’s going to handle the ball for Phoenix? Signs point to Joe Johnson, who averaged 4.4 assists for the Suns last year. If he runs the show well he could see extended time at the point even when Nash returns, and that can only mean good things for his owners.

On the other side of the ball, even with Mike Miller on the injured list with a concussion, the Grizzlies’ swingman situation has not really cleared up. On Friday night against Charlotte, James Posey had the hot hand while Shane Battier had unproductive minutes and Bonzi Wells scored only 6 points. Then on Saturday against Milwaukee, Wells had the big game while Battier went 3-12 from the field and Posey contributed next to nothing other than his 4 three pointers. On Monday against Houston, none of the three had over 10 points. This looks like it might be a situation you just want to avoid. Or you can continue to torture yourself and study tonight’s game to look for clues as to who’s the long-term answer.

Minnesota Timberwolves at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM

This nationally televised match-up features two teams shuffling lineups and playing times in response to both injuries and poor results. Minnesota’s Sam Cassell is dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, while Mark Madsen is on the IL with a bad thumb and Michael Olowokandi is still serving his 4-game suspension for tussling with Denver’s Nene. This has led to a resurgence of sorts for Latrell Sprewell, who scored 54 points with 10 three pointers over a 2-game span last weekend, but then promptly laid a 4-point egg against the Raptors on Monday. Also worth watching is Eddie Griffin, a hot pickup early in the year, who cooled off but is seeing much more PT due to the thinned-out front line in Minnesota. He grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked 4 shots against Portland last Saturday.

We discussed the Lakers plenty already this week, so just scroll on down to yesterday’s Weekend Review for more on what to look for from the NoKobes tonight.

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