Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Small is the New Big

The Suns were the trendsetters. The Warriors followed suit. And now it looks like the Hawks are the latest. (You could even argue that by playing P.J. Brown at center when Jamaal Magloire went out, the Hornets were the second team to do it.) Yes, we soon might have a small ball craze sweeping the NBA, and I for one, couldn’t be happier. Who needs lumbering 7 footers clogging up the lane and doing nothing for fantasy owners? There are very few teams that offer five legit fantasy starters, but if this small ball craze takes hold, we might see more of it. All five Suns are obviously starters and they are all studs. If the lowly Warriors go with a Speedy Claxton/Derek Fisher/Jason Richardson/Mike Dunleavy/Troy Murphy lineup when Troy gets back, all five of them could be well worth using. And even the Hawks, who make the Warriors look like … well, last year’s Warriors … might have close to give fantasy relevant players if they stay small. Antoine Walker and Al Harrington were obviously usable to begin with, and you know my feelings on dunking/blocking machine Josh Smith. But if small ball means Josh Childress keeps getting PT and gets a chance to work on his well-rounded (at least for fantasy purposes) game, all the better. So who are some other teams that might benefit from going small ball?

Dallas Mavericks
It wouldn’t have made sense a week ago, but now that Erick Dampier’s out, do the Mavs really want to run Alan Henderson out there? Don’t they just want to try and put up 120 points a game and see if their opponents can match them? It’s too bad that Jerry Stackhouse and Marquis Daniels are both banged up right now, because it would have been very tempting to give the idea a go with their full squad. Even so, a lineup of Devin Harris/Jason Terry/Michael Finley/Josh Howard/Dirk Nowitzki would score a whole lot of points. If Shawn Marion (6’7”, 228) can play the 4, why not Howard (6’7”, 210)?

New York Knicks
The Nazr Mohammed era is over. It was fun while it lasted (wasn’t it?), but, just like Mark Blount realized he was Mark Blount this year, Nazr realized he was Nazr. The Knicks have little reason to keep running him out there as long as he’s ineffective an injured. I’d love to see them go with a Stephon Marbury/Jamal Crawford/Trevor Ariza/Mike Sweetney/Kurt Thomas lineup, which isn’t really that bad in terms of size, as that frontline goes 6’8”, 6’8”, 6’9”. Tim Thomas, Penny Hardaway and Jerome Williams could work well in this scheme as reserves. What do the Knicks have to lose by doing this? They’re already as low as they’re going to get in the standings, why not try and do something fun?

Milwaukee Bucks
Both Dan Gadzuric and Zaza Pachulia have shown flashes, but both are terribly inconsistent. Toni Kukoc may be old, but he’s shown lately that he can still play if given the chance. How about running out a lineup of Mo Williams (although you know who I’d have in there)/Michael Redd/Desmond Mason/Keith Van Horn/Toni Kukoc? In Williams and Kukoc you have two great passers, in Redd and Van Horn you have two great shooters, and Mason is the athlete of the bunch. That’s a team that could score some points, and could bring Mike James off the bench along with some muscle (relatively speaking) in the form of Joe Smith and Gadzuric.

San Antonio Spurs
These are Rasho Nesterovic’s January numbers: 4.5/7.7/0.6 with 1.7 blocks, 43% shooting in 24.8 minutes. That’s ugly. Sure, the rebounds and blocks aren’t bad, but otherwise Rasho’s making Mark Blount look like … last year’s Mark Blount. Brent Barry is a deceptively tall 6’7”, while Manu Ginobili is no slouch himself at 6’6”. Fantasy players who know what Barry can offer would love to see a situation where he’s out there with Manu and Tony Parker. If they played those three with Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen it would be an especially small lineup, with Duncan the only one over 6’7”. And it’s unlikely that the NBA’s best team will tinker with what has been working so well so far. But fantasy players can always hope.

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