Friday, February 11, 2005

Weekend Preview

As the NBA season moves to the All-Star break, there are a few teams playing as many as 4 games over the next 6 nights in a final sprint to the just-over-halfway point. With this final flurry of activity, hopefully some cloudy situations will clear up. For example, these two:

Meet the Nets, Greet the Nets
With four games against Western Conference teams before the break, the New Jersey Nets could either end the half on a really high or really low note. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter have been playing out of their minds, and at this point I’ll admit that I have no idea what to expect from either of them over the next few months. But other than their 2 big stars, the Nets have no one who’s really standing out as a strong third option for the offense. Remember, Kidd is the best PG in the league when it comes to sharing the ball and getting teammates involved, so if anyone on this roster wants to step up and score 15 points a game, they’re more than welcome.

Our favorite for being that guy is Billy Thomas, a 29-year old Kansas product who’s never played in the NBA before, but recently got signed to play the rest of the year. He responded by jacking up 15 shots against the Lakers on Wednesday, including 9 three-point attempts. Of course, fantasy players love guys who shoot 3’s all day long. Should Ron Mercer return with any consistency from his knee surgery, he could also have a shot at being third fiddle. Jacque Vaughan, however, is probably not worth your time. He’s gotten the minutes for the past few games and been pretty ineffective, and should see his minutes cut as Thomas and Mercer gain the confidence of J-Kidd. Either way, the next few games for the Nets could be a sneak peak into what could happen post-break.

Marquis de Mavs
In Dallas, the one-two punch of Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley has been performing pretty much as expected all year long. After those two, however, it’s another mess similar to in Jersey, except most of these guys have OK value even if they’re not the clear number 3 option. But you would expect Donn Nelson – or Avery Johnson, whoever the coach of this team really is – to figure out a lineup he can count on for the stretch run. With Nelson/Johnson/Cuban favorite Marquis Daniels out another 2 weeks after an appendectomy, Jason Terry, Erick Dampier, Jerry Stackhouse, and Josh Howard should be seeing more of the ball on offense in an audition for 3rd scorer for the stretch run.

While Dampier has been on fire lately, at least from a rebounding standpoint, Jason Terry has been the most consistent third option for the Mavs over the past month and a half. Now that Stackhouse is hurting and missing a little time, Terry stepped up over the last 2 games with 20 points, 8.5 assists, 3.5 3’s, and 1.5 steals. If Terry can cement himself in that 15-18 points per night role, he should have outstanding value after the break. Daniels, meanwhile, will probably end up taking most of his minutes from Howard and Stackhouse, and will probably end up making all three of them useless.

Game of the Week(end)
Sacramento Kings
at Boston Celtics, Sunday, 6pm EST
Don’t look now. In fact, it’s better if you don’t look at all. Just ignore this whole paragraph, because the person I’m going to mention could single-handedly kill your fantasy team. Ready? OK: There’s been a Mark Blount sighting. Hey, I warned you. But he scored 17 points on Wednesday against the Clippers, and has averaged 11 and 5 so far in February. It might be worth watching this game just to remind yourself that he’s not worth owning.

On the other side of the court, we have the rotating starting lineup of the Kings. Between Webber, Mobley, Miller, and Stojakovic, the only player who hasn’t missed time lately due to injury or suspension is Mike Bibby, who has stepped up big time in the absence of other starters. Even with last night’s hollow 16-point effort, Bibby has rung up 27 points, 7 assists, 5.4 boards, 2 3PM and 1.4 steals over his last five. However, at this point it looks like all 5 starters should be playing this time for the Kings, so you’ll get a feel for how they want to run the offense when they’ve got everyone playing.

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