Friday, January 28, 2005

Weekend Preview

Still Hurtin’

While nobody expected Kobe Bryant to come back after only 5 games, it looks like things could be worse than his owners had hoped. Kobe now appears to be out until the All-Star break, missing another 10 games with his bad ankle. The bad news (I mean, other than Kobe’s ankle) is that other than the Big Three (Odom, Butler, and Atkins), no one on the Lakers roster has really stepped it up in Kobe’s absence. It’s extremely unusual for a superstar player to go down and not have at least SOME reserve start and become worth owning (for more, see my fantasy basketblog cohort’s post from yesterday). But here, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Now that Kobe is definitely out another 10 games or so, perhaps some of the marginal players on the team will show a little consistency, especially with another starter, Chris Mihm, also struggling with injuries. Our favorite for fantasy success over the next few weeks is Brian Cook, who if nothing else will give you a three every night, and saw 25 minutes when Mihm sat out most of Wednesday’s game. If he sees 25-30 minutes a night the next few weeks, he could be good for 2 3’s, 15 points, and 5 boards with maybe a block or a steal. A more conservative bet would be Jumaine Jones, who over the last 2 games has seen 39.5 mpg, and responded with 14 points, 8.5 boards and 2.5 3’s, but nothing in the defensive categories. Either way, the Lakers will continue to try and beat up on weak teams this weekend, hosting New Jersey and Charlotte, so be sure to check the box scores to find out who’s getting minutes.

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Now, we could jabber all day about who we think will get minutes, how we think players will do with those minutes, etc. etc. In fact, that’s just about ALL we do. But often, the best projection of how a player is going to produce is by simply asking the coach. Luckily, we’ve gotten just that out of Phoenix Suns’ coach Mike D’Antoni. Speaking of recently acquired Jim Jackson, D’Antoni said, "as he learns the defensive system a little bit, if we have one (ed. note – burn!), and keeps in the flow, he's going to be an important piece … he already is. I expect him to average 15 to 20 points a game." So there you have it.

That said, color us skeptical on his projection. The last time Jackson scored over 15 points a game was in 1999 with the Hawks. And even then, it took him 35 minutes a game and he was on a team who featured Isaiah Rider, Alan Henderson, Dikembe Mutombo and a rookie Jason Terry alongside him in the starting lineup – not exactly an offensive juggernaut. While the Suns are clearly the best offensive team in the league, no starter other than Amare Stoudamire is putting up a career-high in points. We’d temper those expectations to something more like 12 to 14 points, with maybe a little better than 2 three pointers.

Game of the Week(end)

Portland Trail Blazers vs. LA Clippers, tonight, 10pm EST
While this is certainly not a marquee match-up, both teams are seeing some lineups being juggled as players return from injury. For Portland, both Zach Randolph and Darius Miles are working their way back into the rotation and should continue to eat up major minutes from both Ruben Patterson and big men Theo Ratliff and Joel Przybilla. Patterson excelled in his role as starter, averaging 16.8 points, 5.5 boards and 2.3 steals over the last 11 games, but as the regulars have started crawling their way back into the lineup, he’s seen his minutes fall from 45 to 35 to 29 over the last three games – a trend we’d unfortunately expect to continue.

The Clippers, meanwhile, recently welcomed fantasy frustrator extraordinare Marko Jaric back from the injured list. Jaric has so far seen limited action getting only 23.5 minutes in his 2 games back, and while he hasn’t played well enough to start just yet (despite a nice 11 assists against the Lakers), he has cut into Rick Brunson’s playing time. Hopefully you cut bait on Brunson when my fantasy basketblog cohort suggested. This game should be interesting for fantasy players, as it’s a good chance to get a gauge on all the returning players.

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