Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Weekend Review

The Kobe Fallout

The big news over the weekend, obviously, was taking place in Los Angeles, as the Lakers try to find some team identity while Kobe Bryant is out with a bad ankle. There are some people claiming that this team might be better off without him for a little bit, which is obviously ridiculous. As much as you might dislike Kobe (hey, I’m right at the top of that list), he is unquestionably a top 5 player in the league. So while the Lakers won’t get any better without him, that doesn’t mean that some role players will start seeing some more action. Who’s going to get the biggest bump in stats? Let’s take a look, starting with the Big Three.

Chucky Atkins, PG – While Kobe was certainly in the lineup as a "shooting guard", he was pretty much the de facto point man for this team. Atkins was the catch-and-shoot deep threat for the Lakers, while Kobe ran the show. Now, that could all change. Atkins is already playing by far more minutes than ever before, with 35.8 per game this year. Without Kobe around, he’s playing more minutes (44/game) and is shooting the ball a ton (17 shots/game, up from 9.8 so far this year). On Monday, he jacked up 11 shots from long range, only hitting two, but nonetheless he’s got great short-term value right now and could be one of the top 3-point shooters in the league over the next fortnight.

Lamar Odom, F – Lamar seems like he’d be the most obvious benefactor of Kobe’s injury, but unlike my fantasy basketblog cohort, I’m not so sure. Yes, he looked great against Cleveland and then the Warriors, but then last night against the Jazz, Utah keyed on Odom, making other players step up and hurting Lamar’s numbers. He was only 3-11 from the field, and got off no threes. Odom might see a decent uptick in points, and his rebounds should stay strong, but look for his assists numbers to really take off. As we said above, Atkins is not really a playmaker, so that role will fall to Odom, who averaged 5.9 assists in 2001. Look for close to 5 assists per game from him over the next few weeks, up from a career-low 2.9 so far this year.

Caron Butler, F – Already enjoying a nice comeback year in LA, Butler has a huge chance to shine right now. He’s gotten his numbers back to the level they were at during his rookie year, and now without Kobe, Butler shifts from the #3 man to #2. Now that Odom is filling Kobe’s role, look for Butler to post similar numbers to what Odom’s been doing, albeit with about half the rebounds. 18 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, a steal and two threes would be a reasonable expectation from Butler, without going overboard.

Brian Cook, F – A borderline bench player all year, now might be the time to grab Cook off of waivers. We’ve raved about his 3-point shooting plenty, and now with 21 more shots per game to go around, he should get a lot of looks. He can also be an effective rebounder at times.

Tierre Brown, G – He’s going to get about 20-25 minutes a game, it seems. Over the last 2 months, he’s gotten over 20 mpg only 5 times, and here are his averages over that time: 11/1.8/4.6, .8 3PM, 1 Stl. If those kind of numbers can help your team, by all means grab him.

Sasha Vujacic, G – Sorry, Europhiles, but he’s just not ready yet. Vujacic is only 20 years old, and has racked up more DNP-CD’s than anything else this year.

Other Injuries Fallout

The Injured: Larry Hughes
The Benefactors: Juan Dixon, Jarvis Hayes.
Hughes was undoubtedly the biggest fantasy surprise so far this year, and I even put him in my Top 20 last week, so of course he breaks his thumb over the weekend and is out 4-6 weeks. Juan Dixon is an instant pick-up, as he’s not afraid to shoot and will go after steals like crazy (to the detriment of his team). Jarvis Hayes could also see more playing time and be relied upon for more offense.

The Injured: Rashard Lewis
The Benefactor: Vladimir Radmanovic
You guys remember that time last week when I traded for Rashard Lewis? Yeah, that was sweet. Anyhow, this is a great time for Radmanovic to get a little more involved in the offense and see some more court time. This is probably a short-term injury, though, and shouldn’t warrant any roster moves.

Everybody Do The Bender!

In 1997, the Toronto Raptors drafted a 6-7 high schooler with the 9th pick in the draft. Then, with the 5th pick in the 1999 draft, the Raptors took another high-school swingman, this time a 6-11 big man with ball handling skills. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. While Tracy McGrady has turned into a true superstar, Jonathan Bender has been a major disappointment. While the 5 players drafted immediately after him (Wally Szczerbiak, Rip Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry) have all become quality player, Bender has lagged behind, often injured, and never establishing himself in the NBA.

Well now with Ron Artest out for the year, Bender is coming off the IL and has yet another chance to be at least some sort of factor for the team. He turns 24 at the end of the month so he still has some time to develop, but sooner or later he’s going to have to come out of his shell. He’s definitely one to watch over the coming weeks, because any 6-11 player that shoots from outside and blocks shots has the potential for plenty of fantasy value. Don’t rush out and grab him, but be aware of the kind of minutes he’s getting as the depth chart shuffle continues in Indiana.

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