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Weekend Preview: 12/16-12/18

I’m taking over weekend preview duties from BV for this weekend, so we’ll keep it like last week and give you not one, not two, not four, not five, but THREE games of the weekend, one for each day. I know lots of you have fantasy football playoff matchups to pay attention to (myself included – wish good health for Brady and Tomlinson for me), but don’t ignore basketball. It’s not like you actually need to pay too much attention to football, it’s all just a formality now. There isn’t going to be anyone to pick up or trades to make. But that’s not the case with the NBA. So here are some games we’ll be watching this weekend…

Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Lakers, Friday 10:30 pm EST

We here at FBB always pay close attention to Wizards games, but we’ll be paying extra close attention to this one. One of those reasons is that it will be the first time the Wiz face failed franchise savior Kwame Brown. While Kwame hasn’t at all been responsible for the Lakers impressive play of late, he does find himself on the better team at this juncture, and with the Wizards record standing at 9-11 as they embark on this five-game West Coast swing, it could remain that way for a while. We’ll be watching to see how Gilbert Arenas fares in his return to the lineup for the Wizards. Rest assured, he will be in the lineup and he will certainly be pumped to play in his hometown and to go up against Kwame for the first time since Kwame bashed Gilbert. For those expecting Gilbert to be a bit rusty, don’t count on it. I really think Gilbert is turning into a player quite similar to Allen Iverson, and that will, I suspect, include him missing a few games here and there because of the beating he takes on a nightly basis. This hasn’t been an issue yet for Arenas, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him intermittently miss a few games each season as his career wears on. At the same time, I see him being someone – like AI – who could sit out a game and then go for 38 points in 46 minutes the next night.

On the Lakers side, we’ll be interested to see what starting looks like. Last game Phil Jackson made a switch by putting Sasha Vujajic in for Brian Cook, which shifted Smush Parker to his more natural position of SG, Kobe Bryant to SF and Lamar Odom to PF. I said earlier this week that I thought Vujajic would have fantasy value at some point this season, so let’s see if that time is now. His first start wasn’t all that impressive, but three of the five shots he took in his 33 minutes were from long range and he did notch two steals. He’s never going to be major contributor, but injuries are starting to pile up and you never know when you’ll need to scrounge the waiver wire for a decent fill-in. We’ll also be monitoring the play of Kwame Brown, who hasn’t looked all that terrible since returning from his hamstring injury. He hit 6-of-6 shots against Dallas two games back and had 9 points, 6 boards and 2 steals in 25 minutes against Memphis. He also got to the line 6 times – a season high – showing a new aggressiveness. Will it last? Will he be able to work his way back into the starting lineup? Will he be able to actually help fantasy squads? We shall see. (In other words, no.)

Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs, Saturday 8:30 pm EST

Will the Kings have any new faces when they take the court in San Antonio Saturday? We don’t like to spend too much time talking about trade rumors here on FBB, but with trading season now open, expect at least a little action sometime soon. The Kings have been a major disappointment thus far as lowly Portland is the only team in the West with a worse record. You have to think that Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs will want to shake things up, whether that means something big (shipping out Peja Stojakovic) or something smaller (one of their trio of underused PFs – Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson, Brian Skinner). It would make sense for Sacramento to deal from this depth, since there are plenty of teams seeking big man help and since Rick Adelman has never been one to use his bench all that much.

For the Spurs, we’ll be looking to see if Tim Duncan’s early season run of impressive free throw shooting has indeed come to a screeching halt. After shooting a very impressive 76% from the charity stripe over the season’s first 19 games, Duncan has completely lost his touch over the past three contests to a tune of 29.6% (8-for-27). We all know it can’t stay this bad, but it’s definitely in his head now. And once it’s in there, it probably won’t leave. This is devastating news to his owners, as even if Duncan stays around his current 67% mark, it will be very hard for teams that have him to finish in the top half of FT% in cumulative roto leagues.

Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks, Sunday 2 pm EST

The Nuggets play on Friday, so we’ll see if Marcus Camby is back in the lineup before the end of the weekend, but his owners will surely like to see him make it two straight on Sunday. Camby unexpectedly missed last night’s contest – and says he doesn’t expect to play tonight – with one of the worst maladies that can afflict man : the dreaded sprained pinkie finger. This is why he is called Cotton Camby. Yes, he’s had his share of more serious injuries over the years, but it’s the little ones like this that drive his owners crazy. A sprained pinkie? Please! Perhaps we shouldn’t scoff because his last three games have not been up to the standard that he set over the season’s first few months: 14.0/9.3/0.3 with 1.3 blocks on 40% shooting. Not terrible by any means, but it’s starting to look like those who dealt Camby when his value was sky high might have saved themselves lots of frustration, even if the didn’t get “full value” in return.

For the Hawks, we’ll be tracking the ups and downs of Josh Smith. His latest game on Wednesday night shows why you can’t just ignore him – 8/11/3 with 3 blocks in 36 minutes. But until he shows some consistency, he’s going to continue to be a headache for fantasy owners. What Smith really needs is for one member of the Hawks rotation to be dealt or get traded. He put up that productive line with Zaza Pachulia out, which meant there were some extra minutes to go around. Because Smith is so inconsistent and the Hawks have so many swingmen to choose from, his minutes are especially volatile. Unless you are in the shallowest of leagues, I just can’t endorse dropping Smith. Using my league as an example, the best guys available on the waiver wire are Smush Parker, Damon Jones, Andres Nocioni, Kareem Rush and Jarvis Hayes. Sure, some of those guys might be able to give you more solid short-term production than Smith (although that’s hardly a given), but it’s just not a logical risk/reward.

Have a good weekend … hopefully you’ll see some content on here at some point.

Roar! Checking in on the … Grizzlies

The Grizz were one of the season’s early success stories but have fallen on hard times recently with an ugly three-game losing streak. In consecutive games they have looked quite listless in getting stomped by an imploding team in Indiana and then at home against a suddenly surging Lakers squad. What’s the problem? Well, Mike Fratello has brought a defensiveness toughness to the team, and the Grizzlies are allowing just 85.3 ppg, which is nearly four points better than the Wolves, who are next. That’s quite an impressive feat, right there. But still, if you allow 85 points, that means you have to score at least 86 points to win, and the Grizzlies are having major problems doing that. The team is averaging just 76 points per game in its last three contests, and it’s going to be tough for a team to have many players with fantasy value on a team that’s scoring so little. A lot was made about Fratello settling on a more defined rotation with bigger minutes for his starters, and he’s followed through on that for the most part, but if the team is going to keep struggling to score 80 points, those gains may be offset.

There was a lot of talk about Pau Gasol making the all-star team in November, but he can’t afford any more games like his last few if he wants to make that a reality. It’s not like the West is hurting for quality big men. In fact, you could argue that given the PT he’s received so far, Gasol has been a fantasy disappointment. This isn’t because of his production, though – it’s because of his percentages. His scoring hasn’t gone up as much as one might expect with five extra minutes, but that can be attributed to the Grizzlies’ general lack of scoring. But his rebounds and blocks are exactly where they should be, and he has suddenly become one of the top passing big men in the league. His nearly 4 assists per game are a huge help at the PF slot and give him a unique skill set. Take a look at the rest of the big men with top assist totals – Brad Miller, Lamar Odom, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are the only other bigs to have a positive score in assists on ESPN’s player rater – and none of them are nearly the force in blocked shots that Gasol is. So with those guys you are sacrificing a traditional big man category to get some help in assists, but with Gasol it really is an added bonus. But Gasol is having problems shooting. His 46% from the field represents a career low and he’s at a pathetic 40% so far in December. He’s improving at the line – 71% this month after a 62% month in November – but he’s still been a liability there. A career 72% shooter, you’d like to think that he can shoot at that mark for the rest of the season, but if you’ve seen his one-handed delivery, you know that he will run hot and cold. I’m a Gasol owner – and I’ve been a Gasol owner plenty of times in the past – and I must admit I’m starting to get a little frustrated. But the worst thing you can do in fantasy basketball is make rash decisions based on slumps. Gasol is the main man in Memphis and the Grizzlies need to get him back on his game if they are going to reverse their recent losing ways. He was the only started on the floor for much of the fourth quarter last night and it looked like Fratello just wanted to see him put a few shots in to give him some confidence going forward.

Shane Battier has arguably been Memphis’s best fantasy player this year, which isn’t too much of a surprise. Battier has always been a roto stud waiting to happen, and Fratello is finally giving him that opportunity. He missed last night’s game with a minor injury which hopefully won’t keep him out long or affect his 54% shooting. Because Battier gives you a little bit of everything, he’s a guy that needs consistent PT. Last year’s 0.9 3s, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks are up to 1.0 3s, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks, while his points have shot up to 12.9 from 9.9. Those are minor, almost negligible improvements, but when everything goes up across the board, you can’t deny the value. While Gasol was getting much of the credit for the Grizzlies fast start, you can tell that Battier is really the glue that holds the team together. It’s no coincidence that in his absence last night the team got run out of the arena on its home floor – the 15-point final spread was not much of an indication of how competitive the game was. I’ve found that players like Battier are unlikely to switch teams in your league as the season goes on. Because his actual value is so much higher than most people would expect from someone averaging 13 points, 5 boards and not even 1.5 3s, steals or blocks, it’s doubtful that his owners would ever get equal value for him in a trade.

Back on draft day in our league I took Eddie Jones in the 10th round; BV took Ricky Davis. We had a side bet on who would have a better season. It’s safe to say we both got pretty good value with our picks, but after a first few weeks where Old Eddie was one of the league’s most pleasant surprises, he’s slipped back down to his expected production. Which isn’t all that bad, mind you. A key with Jones is that while he takes just 10.2 shots per game, 5.3 of those are from downtown, and he’s connecting on just over 2 per game. Fantasy owners love guys who consistently gun from deep because it ensures that even in a down game, there’s a good chance he will avoid a complete clunker and help out in at least one category. Jones has also rediscovered his inner thief and is averaging 1.6 spg, his highest total since the 00-01 season. Will it last? Memphis is playing a more aggressive defense, so you never know, but it’s not something you can really count on. A major problem with Jones is that he has a tendency to get in early foul trouble and that Memphis’s best sub, Mike Miller, plays the same position. This has limited Jones’s PT recently, as he hasn’t topped 32 minutes in any of the team’s last six games. I’ve had him parked on my bench for the past week or so until he straightens things out; after hitting double figures in scoring in the season’s first 9 games, he’s been there in just 3 of the last 12. If you need to start Jones, you know that he will be inconsistent, but he makes one of the best bench options around. I’m sure you’ve noticed that dozens of guys across the league are missing games recently – Gilbert Arenas, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Zaza Pachulia, Corey Maggette, Bobby Simmons, etc. – and Jones makes a nice fill-in in these situations.

Mike Miller may actually be playing some of the best ball on the team. Fantasy players may not be noticing because he’s doing it in limited time off the bench, but maybe they noticed after last night’s performance when he put up 21/5/2 with 2 3s on a night when no one else on Memphis had anything working. In his other start – which admittedly came against the Suns, which will inflate anyone’s numbers – Miller was good for 24/8/2 with a 3 and a steal. Remember, he was the fifth overall pick in the draft and it has been his ability to stay healthy more than his actual ability that has most often come into question. That said, Miller needs 35+ mpg to be a legitimate fantasy option. Whereas Battier could sneak by with some value in 28-30 minutes because he offered a little of everything, Miller hits 3s but doesn’t do much in steals or blocks. He’s actually attacking the boards with a vengeance, averaging 5.2 per game in just 28.4 minutes, and a lot of them aren’t cheapies. But he’s an example of why I focus so much on point guards, and now big men. Miller is a scorer with only one real secondary fantasy skill (3s), so he’s never going to offer that much help. Eddie Jones is seeing just 2.5 more mpg than Miller, but because he guns all those 3s and grabs some steals, he finds himself nearly 50 spots higher on the player rater. Still, if you’re looking for a short-term pickup, Miller seems like a decent option. There’s a fair bit of ambiguity around Battier’s injury situation and the Grizz have a game against Phoenix on Saturday, so even if he’s coming off the bench Miller might be a decent starting option for that contest.

When Minutes aren’t Enough

It’s no secret that here at FBB, our favorite stat isn’t points, assists, or even blocks. It’s minutes. The only way your players are going to help you win are when they’re in the game. And usually, the players getting the most minutes are among the most valuable players in fantasy. Case in point: Ricky Davis is seeing the second-most minutes per game in the league, and is responding with his best statistical year since ’02-’03. Even a marginal player like PJ Brown has some value while seeing 34.7 mpg like he is right now.

Still, sometimes players are so bad, that even when they get over 25-30 mpg, they’re still of no use to your fantasy team. So as much as we preach watching the minutes column in the box scores, here are some traps that you shouldn’t fall in to. In fact, we’ll even make a “starting” five out of them:

PG: Eric Snow, CLE – Snow might technically be a point guard, but in Cleveland, it’s tough to handle the ball much with LeBron and Larry Hughes hanging around. So it’s no surprise that Snow has no fantasy value despite getting 27 minutes per game. He’s yet to score in double digits this year, and last Friday against New Jersey he managed to not take a shot in thirty minutes of play. This isn’t really a knock on Snow – he’s just playing the system. But still, he’s got no fantasy value whatsoever.

SG: DeShawn Stevenson, ORL – Stevenson is one of those guys who’s just a letdown in every category. He’s not necessarily BAD anywhere, but he won’t help you anywhere either. His 12.8 points are okay, but the 3.6 boards, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals and zero threes, to go with so-so percentages, are all too low to help your fantasy team.

SF: Bruce Bowen, SA – Bowen might be a defensive stopper, but unless that “stopping” includes a bunch of steals or blocks, that means nothing to your fantasy team. Bowen is extra dangerous because NBA announcers are in love with him – it’s like word got out that he’s a good defender, and now that’s all that the color commentators can talk about. Still, Bruce does his 1.6 threes per game, and manages one steal, but in 35 minutes, you’d expect more than 8.2/3.5/1.7. Unfortunately, you’re not going to get any more from that, as those numbers are right in line with what he’s done the last few years.

PF: Austin Croshere, IND – Remember that one time when Austin Croshere was supposed to be really good, so he got that huge contract extension from the Pacers? Yeah, well, that turned out to be a not-so-good idea. After struggling with injuries and a lack of playing time for a few seasons, Croshere has been a fixture in the Pacers rotation for the past year, seeing 25 mpg last year and 27 so far this year. Not that anyone’s noticed. Despite nice FT% (92%) and rebounds (6.9), he’s helpful nowhere else unless you are really desperate for three’s … and I mean REALLY desperate.

C: Jason Collins, NJ – Getting 27 minutes per game and having no fantasy value whatsoever is quite a feat. But having those minutes and having no value despite qualifying at center is downright incredible. Collins is our MVP (LVP?) of minutes-wasters, as this year he’s taken his stink-dom to new levels. Despite being useless last year, this year has been even worse, as his per-48-minute averages for points and boards are down, he free-throw shooting is at 42.9% (I wish I was making that up), and despite being seven feet tall he’s got only 0.2 blocks per game. Granted, he’s been hurt, but that’s no excuse. For shame, Jason Collins.

On a side note, in second place for centers is Jason’s twin brother, Jarron, in Utah. Must be something in the blood.

He’s Baq.

And when I say “he,” apparently I should be saying “they.” Because, shock of the year, the day after Shaquille O’Neal returns from injury, Pat Riley returns from the tailor, and both are ready to make someserious impact on your fantasy team. With all the goings on in Miami, let’s take a look at who stands to gain and who stands to lose.

Welcome Back, Big Guy!

Dwyane Wade
Nobody is going to be smiling more seeing Shaq back on the floor thanWade, who is now the official #1 guy in South Beach. Wade has been absolutely brilliant in Shaq’s absence, putting up 27.3/6.8/6.7 with2.3 steals and 0.8 blocks. He’s been looking more like LeBron thanLeBron has (minus the threes), and his value is sky high. And while Shaq’s return might hurt his overall numbers, in the long run this is great news for Wade. In taking over the team, he’s been attacking the basket like no player this side of Gilbert Arenas, taking the hits and hitting the deck to the tune of 11 FTA per game, second highest in the league behind Allen Iverson. And as much as his ad wants you to believe that every time he falls down, he gets back up, that’s just not the case. Remember, it was just 2 years ago that he missed 16 games over the course of the season due to various injuries. Taking some of the scoring onus off of Wade means that he’ll be more likelyto stay healthy throughout the year.

Jason Williams
One guy who’s really been quiet this year has been Williams, who despite setting a career high in points has seen his assists drop to the lowest point in his career, a paltry 4.7. However, his three point shooting has risen to a new level in terms of percentage, and that’s only going to go up with Shaq roaming the paint. His 2.4 3′s per game are a career high right now, but that number could get higher.

That’s Great, I Guess …

Udonis Haslem
This is a bittersweet adjustment for Haslem. On the one hand, he’s clearly been suffering without the Diesel, have trouble finding his shot, getting blocks, and grabbing rebounds, so he should be more effective when he’s on the floor. On the other hand, there’s the distinct possibility that Shaq might see time on the floor alongside Alonzo Mourning (more on that later), meaning Udonis will spend more time on the bench and less time on the court. Those two things working against each other means Haslem should be just as valuable now as he has been thus far.

Antoine Walker
This is another plus/minus situation. On the plus, the return of Riley means that Walker will get every chance to show his stuff, as Riley will want to prove that he didn’t waste millions of dollars on his in the free agent market. On the minus, just like Haslem, Walker might have some trouble getting the 30 mpg he’s enjoyed so far. Also, as much as Riley the GM will want Walker on the floor, Riley the coach might get real tired of Walker’s playing style. This might be a slight downgrade in the end, but for now, there’s not much of an effect.

There’s Not Enough Room on This Team for the Two of Us.

Alonzo Mourning
Zo has enjoyed a career resurrection this year, at least on the defensive side, where he’s amassed 3.7 bpg in just 28.5 minutes. However, his points (10.7) and boards (7.9) are pretty lame, especially next to his killer 51% FT%. He is, however, one of Riley’s favorite players, so he should find his way on to the court for a good 20 mpg, with some of that time being spent alongside Shaq. Still, 20mpg should knock him out of any potential fantasy value for your squad. Hey, he had a good run, but all good things come to an end.

Shaquille O’Neal
Oh yeah – that guy. The time is now – and I mean right now – to sell high on Shaq. Let me explain: The one reason that Pat Riley came back to coach the Heat is so that he can win an NBA title. And the biggest component (both literally and figuratively) to reaching that goal is a healthy O’Neal in the playoffs. Playing in the East, he’snot going to have to win 60 games to have a decent seed in the playoffs, and what that means is he’s gonna take it easy on the Diesel. Shaq’s 34 mpg last year were a career low, and this year, I’d be surprised to see Shaq top 32 or even 30 mpg. This is a great “sell fake low” candidate, as his perceived value is probably higher than his true value right now.

As the Point Guard Turns

Chicago

Kirk Hinrich’s a tough dude. After leaving the season opener with an ankle injury and being questionable the next night, he came out and went for 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 3 3s. After being knocked out with a concussion against Dallas, he did miss a game, but then came back with averages of 24/4.5/10 in his next two games. You’ve got to like that. I normally leave players on the bench for a game to let them get back into the swing of things after an injury, but after Hinrich’s last performance I made sure to get him back in. Of course, it should be noted that Captain Kirk saw an average of 43 minutes in those two games due to the absence of Ben Gordon.

I should have known better than to give Chris Duhon any credit. He promptly had four absolute nightmare games before exploding for 24 points, 7 assists and 6 3s against, of course, the goddamn Wizards. Duhon’s still worth keeping around because he’s one of the few players you can tell Scott Skiles actually likes. His steals and 3s are still solid, but he’s starting to lose some of his assists to Hinrich. His minutes have remained fairly consistent, but it was a good thing he had that great game before Ben Gordon came back, because then things would have gotten interesting. ESPN’s Player Rater isn’t the gospel, but it’s an effective tool; as of Saturday night, Duhon was right in between Richard Hamilton and T.J. Ford. Numbers don’t lie, right?

Miami

Was I a little too early in proclaiming the death of Gary Payton’s fantasy relevancy? Looks that way. With Jason Williams nursing a bum knee, Payton has played 42 mpg in two starts, averaging 17/3.5/3 with 2.5 3s and 1.5 steals in his last two. His shot looked especially strong last night in a game against the Wizards THAT WAS HANDED TO THE HEAT BY THE OFFICIALS. Sorry, lost my composure there a bit, the last two Wizards games have been especially brutal. But that was a fucking fraud. Anyway, the 3-pointers are the big news here. Payton hadn’t been a serious long distance threat since the 00-01 season when he averaged 1.3 per game. But The Man Formerly Known as The Glove is putting them up at a high rate this season. Against the Wiz he was spotting up in the corner on multiple occasions – these were designed plays. In his four starts Payton – who topped 8 apg in six straight seasons in the prime of his career – has had more than 3 assists just once, so these 3s are huge for his value, especially since he’s nowhere near the pickpocket he used to be. If he’s going be seeing roughly 40 minutes per games there’s no problem with using him. In weekly leagues he makes a possibly excellent play – the Heat play four games, but who knows when Williams will return?

Atlanta

In case you didn’t notice, there’s a new starting PG in the league. You’d be forgiven for not noticing, of course. Royal Ivey has started the last three games for the Hawks and after a somewhat promising debut in which he scored 14 on 7-of-10 shooting, he still hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in any of those starts. Tyronn Lue is still seeing just about the same amount of time even though he’s now coming off the bench. Actually, I should probably just stop now. The title of this section is Five Situations to Pay Attention To, and unless you play in the deepest league in the entire country, this is certainly not a situation worth your attention.

Los Angeles Lakers

Call me crazy, but I think Sasha Vujajic might actually have some fantasy value at some point this season. The triangle offense doesn’t need a traditional point guard to run it, but Parker barely even resembles a point guard. He’s certainly more of a swingman, and his 1.65:1 assist/turnover ratio backs this up. He’s been putting up decent numbers, but the majority of his production has come early in games. On Saturday he had no production at all; no points, no rebounds, 3 assists, missed all 7 of his shots in 24 minutes. Vujacic wasn’t much better, making only 1-of-3 and he didn’t register a single assist in his 24 minutes. The Lakers have been playing better lately, but they still have very little margin for error. Vujacic’s 3.9:1 assist/turnover ranks fourth in the league, behind only Eric Snow, Brevin Knight and Chauncey Billups. It’s not hard to envision Jackson getting fed up with Parker and making a switch. But what kind of value would Vujajic have if he could find regular PT? Marginal, to be sure. He’s not going to be in there for his scoring, and his 31% shooting so far in his career is almost historically bad. I see him similar to Duhon in that he could hit enough 3s and steals to be a marginal play in weeks when he has enough games, or as a guy to keep on your bench and plug in when the inevitable injuries hit.

Denver

Say this about Earl Boykins: his 26 mpg usually means 26 minutes. In 18 of his 21 games the little man has received between 22 and 29 minutes, which makes him a little easier to deal with than guys that fluctuate between 17-33-24, etc. But the last four games show why Boykins just isn’t a reliable player. Through the season’s first 16 games Boykins was averaging 0.8 3s and 1.1 steals – not great numbers, but enough to merit a utility spot in deep leagues. But that’s about as good as it gets for Boykins in those categories, and you know that he’ll never grab any boards or shoot above 42%. Lots of people have been hoping for Earl to sneak into the starting lineup, but this is a guy who has started 10 games in his 379 game career. His role seems pretty defined. With Andre Miller on one of his hot streaks and piling up the assists, there’s no point in shifting him over to SG in favor of Boykins. You can do better.

Comet Gain

Gilbert Arenas – That was a brutal shooting game last night, but he’s starting to rack up the steals and fills up the box score every night. Think of him as the new AI.

Brevin Knight – Owners don’t have him for scoring, but certainly won’t complain about 17.5 ppg to go along with 9 apg and 2.7 spg in his last six.

Sarunas Jasikevicius – A little bit of everything in his five starts: 11.0/4.2/5.4 with 1.6 3s, 1.0 steals on 52% and 94% shooting. Liking my Brent Barry comparison more and more.

Mo Williams – He’s back on the bench now, but those numbers in his four starts – 19.3/1.5/7.0 with 2.5 3s and 1.3 steals – and his consistent 3-point gunning off the bench make him worthy of at least a bench spot.

Baron Davis – Yeah yeah yeah, he can’t shoot. But optimists will look at his 41% career number and think that means he’ll shoot around 43% from here on out. Hey, it’s possible.

The Hold Steady

Chauncey Billups – How nice is it to have a guy like this on your team? Holding strong with that career high assist number.

Derek Fisher – Last two games were especially encouraging – no 3s, but still managed to average 16.5 with 1.5 steals. You know my non-starter policy, but if you’re desperate…

Tony Parker – After no steals in first four games, averaging 1.6 since then. In a bit of a shooting slump, but that was to be expected.

Marko Jaric – Life without Hudson is nice; 15.5/5.5/6.0 with 2 3s and 1 steal in 37.5 minutes in last two. Sell high? If you can…

Delonte West – I’m becoming a believer; eight straight games of 30+ minutes and just enough steals, blocks and 3s to merit that final roster spot in your lineup.

The Fall

Deron Williams – Jerry Sloan can’t take all the blame; 31% shooting and 17/12 assist/turnover in last four just won’t cut it.

Sebastian Telfair – You don’t look for rebounds from PG, but four in his last six games is flat-out pathetic;

Jameer Nelson – Back to the bench with Francis back; he’s crippling in leagues that count TO.

Damon Jones – A forgotten man in most recent game; hard to see him making an impact any time soon.

Luther Head – As expected, he’s slid off to irrelevance with the return of McGrady.

Center of Attention

With all the attention I give to point guards, I figured it was time we gave equal attention to big men. Starting next week it’ll follow the same format as ATPGT, but for now we’ll look at a few teams and then break the big men down into four groups.

Three Situations to Watch
Boston
Most people don’t realize how much the Celtics actually suck – their record stands at just 8-12 despite playing 11 games at home and playing just seven games against teams that currently have a winning record. Things are bound to get ugly as their next 10 games include 6 road contests as well as 7 games against teams with winning records (not to mention road games at Seattle and Sacramento).

There are four guys in the discussion here, and at least three of them probably qualify at center in your league. Doc Rivers threatened lineup changed and followed through, yanking Raef LaFrentz for the first time in two years. Sometimes people can get a little worked up over a slump – everybody has them after all – but what Raef’s going through right now is especially bad. Before last night’s game he was averaging a very ugly 4.4/2.9/0.9 with 0.9 3s and 0.9 blocks on 23% shooting over his last seven games. Save for that miraculous 7-for-7 3-point game, he’s averaging 8.4/4.5/0.9 with 1.3 3s and 0.9 blocks on the season. He was effective last year because his minutes were kept down and he stayed healthy the entire season. He’s never been one to regularly log 35 mpg – he’s reached that number just once this year and has topped 30 just five times. So that keeps his upside rather limited. He’s been a popular fantasy player because of his ability to hit 3s to go along with blocks at the center, but during his time in Boston, which covers 117 games, he’s averaging just 1.1 bpg, which is nothing at all special from a center and is a far cry from the 2.5 per game he averaged from 99-00 to 01-02. Now that he’s been banished to the bench, it’s probably OK to give up on him for the time being. But it’s not like Mark Blount and Kendrick Perkins are going to be productive enough to be mainstays in the lineup. LaFrentz is going to go on a hot streak at some point this year where he will rain a bunch of 3s. Old guys like him who are past their best years can sometimes offer decent value since they aren’t thought of too highly. People often look to the waiver wire for a savior, when they should instead look to it for simply a solid player. LaFrentz might be that guy at some point in the future.

Mark Blount is a favorite whipping boy, but he’s actually played some decent ball this year despite falling out of favor with Rivers for a brief stretch. Yes, his rebounding leaves a lot to be desired, but I suppose it’s time we realized that his second half performance in 2004 – when he racked up double digit rebounds in 18 of the season’s final 25 games – was one of the great contract year runs in recent memory. Through that point in his career he averaged 11.0 rebounds p48. Over the last two seasons that number has dropped to 8.5. But he remains a high percentage shooter, is hitting a career best 84% from the line on a career high 3.1 attempts per game, is averaging a solid 11.9 ppg and is chipping in 1.1 bpg. In two center leagues, those are hardly numbers to scoff at. While he was back in the starting lineup last night, it was hardly an impressive performance and there are no guarantees that it will stick. In deep, two center leagues, he’s at least worthy of a bench spot.

Al Jefferson is the one that people are most excited about, and mostly with good reason. He probably doesn’t qualify at center, but we’ll talk about him anyway. He is the Great Unknown in this bunch, so visions of him fulfilling all of that upside can get people giddy. I’ve always been skeptical of Jefferson’s ability to contribute to a fantasy team, if not necessarily his ability. He’s still not quite 21 years old and just last month saw his first ever 30+ minute game. He’s 22nd in the league in rebounds per minute after finishing 24th last year (both for players who average at least 15 mpg), so his rebounding prowess is unquestioned. He’s a career 53% shooter, which would likely take a small hit with more shots, but he is still bound to be a plus there. His career blocked shot rate puts him roughly in the same class as Emeka Okafor and Dwight Howard, who are surely the two guys that people have visions of Jefferson becoming. Foul trouble has been one of Jefferson’s biggest problems so far – he was third in the league in fouls per minute last year and is right near the top again this year. This could be one thing keeping him from getting a starting nod. If Doc Rivers thinks that he will regularly pick up two fouls in the game’s first five minutes, he may as well just bring him off the bench. Jefferson isn’t afraid to shoot the ball, averaging nearly 17 FGAp48 in his career (compared to just 12.7 for Howard, for example), so that bodes well for him should he ever get consistent PT. The best scenario for Jefferson would see the Celtics fall completely out of things – which is going to be tough to do in the pathetic Atlantic – and look towards the future. Last night’s game showed why the salivating over Jefferson is merited. How many players in the league can put up 21 and 12 on 10-of-14 shooting with 2 blocks in just 27 minute? This makes three out of four very good games for Jefferson, putting in him Charlie Villanueva territory. That means he’s a decent start even though he comes off the bench, but you have to recognize that there is a chance he’ll have a complete dud of a game on occasion. His FT% will hurt you, but you’ll deal with it.

Kendrick Perkins should be pretty much off everyone’s radar by now. Yes, he can hit the boards better than almost anyone, but all that does is make him another Reggie Evans. Has Reggie Evans ever helped anyone win a fantasy title? His numbers in nine starts – 5.1/6.8/1.1 in 20.0 mpg looks a lot like Evans’s 4.9/9.3/0.7 in 23.8 mpg line from last year. Nothing to see here.

The main problem I see with all of these guys is that it is going to be hard for any of them to assert themselves with any sort of regularity. Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis are as clear a 1-2 punch as there is in the league, and they will handle a majority of the offense. Delonte West is locked in as the starting point guard, if not necessarily a #3 option all the time. Jefferson obviously has the best chance of establishing himself as a regular part of the offense, but I’ll continue being stubborn in my skepticism and say that it won’t be until around February that he’ll be a consistent option.

Seattle
For a few days there it was looking like Nick Collison (who now qualifies at center at least in Yahoo leagues) was going to be a great pickup. In his first start of the season he went for 20 and 12 on 7-of-9 shooting and two games later followed that up with 19 and 13 on 9-of-12 shooting. But it’s all been downhill from there for Collison. Early foul trouble and the emergence of Vladimir Radmanovic have contributed to Collison’s woes. When Collison is saddled with foul trouble the Sonics turn to Radmanovic and go with a smaller lineup. With Reggie Evans around to provide rebounding muscle, this has been working out pretty well for the Supes, as they have won 4 out of 6. After seeing at least 30 minutes in each of his first six starts, Collison has cracked that number just once in his past eight. He’s a high percentage shooter from the both the field and the line, but because he rarely looks for his shot, he doesn’t make much of an impact in those categories. He also doesn’t get many steals or blocks. Center is a thin position, so he could still have value, but he needs to see roughly 35 mpg for that to happen, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen with any sort for regularity in the near future. I picked him up after that nice first game, but dropped him a week ago. Feel free to do the same.

Milwaukee
When Joe Smith left the lineup a couple of weeks ago, I was among the many who thought that Jamaal Magloire would be in for a nice month or two. But that hasn’t come to pass at all, and Magloire is stuck in neutral. He’s averaging just 30.7 mpg since Smith’s absence, which is just about the same as he was seeing beforehand. He hasn’t been looked to more often on the offensive end, averaging under 7 FGA per game. One problem is that he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the Bucks’ offense. This is a heavily perimeter oriented team, as Michael Redd, Mo Williams, T.J. Ford and Bobby Simmons take the majority of the shots. Andrew Bogut is suffering as well, putting up 8 FGA per game in that same span. This is Magloire’s sixth season in the league and he’s 27 years old. He had that one all-star season, but that was due to the complete lack of non-stiff centers in the East that year. He’s never averaged more than 14 ppg or more than 1.5 bpg. The career 70% free throw shooter is somehow shooting 44% right now, which is reason enough to have him parked on the bench. He still starts, receives decent minutes and is a force on the boards. But it looks like it’s about time to give up on him as a legit #1 center for fantasy purposes. He should still be a solid #2 if he can ever figure out those free throw woes.

As for Bogut, he makes a somewhat risky, low-upside play with Smith out. Even though he’s started each of the last seven, he’s topped 30 minutes in just four of those games. Last night’s 21-point performance is the exception, not the rule. He’s a very active player on the defensive end, as evidenced by his three steals in each of the last two games, and if he can keep that number in the 1.2 range, that’s quite valuable from a big man position and it will help offset his inconsistent offense. Dan Gadzuric, the popular preseason sleeper turned forgotten man, had a solid three games before last night’s scoreless, five foul debacle. He’s still a long ways from having any value, although he’s doing a pretty good job of keeping Bogut and Magloire from fulfilling their potential. There are rumors percolating that the Bucks are looking to deal Magloire, but with Smith on the shelf, don’t expect this to happen any time soon.

Now a quick rundown of just about every center there is…

Ten Never to Touch (when healthy)
Tim Duncan – Vintage TD, and before last night, it was all good at the line.
Marcus Camby – The obvious fantasy MVP so far; keep holding your breath.
Jermaine O’Neal – One of the most predictably consistent guys out there – that’s a good thing.
Chris Bosh – Now qualifies at C in Yahoo leagues; more blocks would make him a top 15 player.
Brad Miller – Not the blocks or boards you necessarily want, but you still can’t complain at all.
Yao Ming – 19.3 ppg on 58% shooting with McGrady; 19.8 ppg on 41% shooting without McGrady.
Rasheed Wallace – Career highs so far in 3s, FT%, assists and steals, so beware of a drop off.
Shaquille O’Neal – Not the most impressive return, but you’ll probably want him in your lineup sooner rather than later.
Ben Wallace – The downward trend continues; lowest blocks since Orlando, but not someone to bench.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – Numbers down with nearly 4.5 fewer mpg and Hughes and LeBron dominating the ball.

A Little Shaky
Samuel Dalembert – At least two blocks in every game, with five in three of those; sometimes you just need to patient. A few more weeks like the past two and he vaults into the above list.
Mehmet Okur – The Jerry Sloan Factor is the only thing keeping him out of that top group.
Emeka Okafor – It’s been ugly so far, but there’s little question it will get better.
Kurt Thomas – Remember that patience thing; a Big Ben-esque 14.3 boards in his last eight.
Zaza Pachulia – 30+ minutes in 16 of 19 games makes him a solid option, but FG% and blocks are weak for a center.
Channing Frye – Actually encouraged by crappy last game; he started, played 38 minutes and despite not scoring well still grabbed 9 boards, a steal and a block.
Chris Kaman – Clips are winning and he’s seen at least 32 minutes in seven straight; scoring is hit and miss, but blocks and rebounds aren’t.
Joel Przybilla – I’ll guess that Ratliff doesn’t play more than he plays as the season goes on, which makes Przybilla money.
Jamaal Magloire – See above.
Andrew Bogut – See above.

Really Shaky
Brendan Haywood – Terribly inconsistent, but a real force in blocks and FG%.
Tyson Chandler – It’s understandable if you want to give up, but I’d keep him parked on the bench.
Nenad Krstic – Like a poor man’s Pachulia.
Alonzo Mourning – With Shaq back, not much more than a block specialist; always a decent chance of another Diesel injury, though.
Eddy Curry – Explosive scorer and blocking more shots than ever, but consistency is very unlikely.
P.J. Brown – Mr. Consistent seems to be on his last legs.
Mark Blount – Only if he can stay in the starting lineup.
Nick Collison – See above.
Raef LaFrentz – Will still find value at some point.
DeSagana Diop – Blocks only, but slight chance of Big Ben upside if ever got the starting nod.
Stromile Swift – Last game gives us slight hope.

Just Flat Out Sucky
Chris Mihm – He’ll drive you crazy and sometimes offer decent production.
Adonal Foyle – As good a reason as any to make sure you draft an actual good player who can get blocks.
Erick Dampier – Why cause yourself the misery?
Primoz Brezec – A combined 10 steals/blocks in 20 games – ouch.
Michael Olowokandi – Yep, he’s still around.
Theo Ratliff – If he can stay healthy, about the same as Foyle.
Lorenzen Wright – A proven chump.
Chris Andersen – If Brown gets dealt and he got the chance…
Melvin Ely – Yes, we know it’s not Marvin; 13/7/2 with a block in his lone start just a hint of the possibilities.
Kwame Brown – The suckiest suck that ever sucked.

Weekend Preview: 12/9-12/11

With all of the snow and cold making it’s way across the country the past couple days, there’s no better way to spend your weekend holed up at home watching basketball. So for today’s weekend preview we’re gonna give you not one but THREE games of the week, one for each day of the weekend.

New Orleans/OKC Hornets at Portland Trailblazers, Friday, 10 pm EST

How about the Hornets as the most pleasant surprise over the first month of the NBA season? A team led by Chris Paul, PJ Brown and David West was 8-7 with wins over decent teams like Sacramento, Denver and Minnesota before dropping their last three. Now that they’re coming back to earth, you’ve got to wonder if the lineup might shuffle a bit – right now, Desmond Mason, JR Smith, and Speedy Claxton are all just short of playing 30-33 mpg – which is what the all need to have value. See if any of them are staking claim to those minutes.

For the Blazers, we discussed Darius Miles during the mailbag this week, and here’s a good chance to check out that rag-tag bunch of reserves who are going to be clamoring for his minutes. My money is still on Ruben Patterson to stand out above the crowd.

Boston Celtics at Dallas Mavericks, Saturday, 8:30 pm EST

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been loving watching the Celtics this year. The Paul Pierce/Ricky Davis combo is pretty exciting, and the frontcourt jumble has kept things interesting from a fantasy perspective. Right now the hot hand to be seems to be Al Jefferson, at least according to Sports Troopers, but that could always change in a week. Still, for those of you looking for big man help, keeping on top of this situation and guessing correctly could see some nice dividends.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, I’ll personally be looking for Jason Terry to come back to the court after I traded for him the day before he went down with a quad injury (thanks, Jason!). But I’ll also be watching Adonal Foyle part II, DeSagana Diop. 2.1 blocks and 4.8 boards in just 17 mpg? If he manages to start scoring, he’ll have a shot at taking away some time from Erick Dampier, and might actually have fantasy value this year. Repeat, MIGHT.

Detroit Pistons at LA Clippers, Sunday, 9 pm EST

We also talked about the Pistons in this week’s mailbag, and right now they’re playing some great basketball. They’re really a different team under Flip Saunders, much more offensive-minded. Plus, from a fantasy perspective, they’re pure gold – with all 5 starters getting between 33 and 38 mpg. But I’ll be watching the three top reserves – Maurice Evans, Antonio McDyess, and Carlos Arroyo. They’ve all got fantasy potential should any of the big 5 go down for an extended period of time, so it’ll be nice to know what to expect.

As for the Clippers, just enjoy it. Everything is clicking right now for them – Elton Brand is my pick for MVP right now, Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley are doing everything the could have hoped, and Chris Kaman is the ugliest man to play basketball in a long time, and is hilarious to watch.

So there you have it. Enjoy the weekend!

Watching a Game from a Fantasy Perspective

You know, watching an NBA game can be a dangerous thing. For sure, watching an actual game as opposed to just seeing the highlights and checking the box scores can give you a much better idea of how a player is performing. But at the same time, a role player can have a couple nice moves and you can think he’s on his way to stardom. At the same time, a top player can have an off night and you might be convinced he’s going to fall off the fantasy map.

Still, there’s plenty to watch and learn with each and every game, so I’m gonna try a new feature here at FBB. I’m going to watch the New Jersey Nets play the Charlotte Bobcats and keep a game log. I haven’t seen either team play much this year, so let’s see what we can learn about these two teams:

7:39 – Injury Report – Jason Collins could be out for up to a week, so we’ll see Clifford Robinson start for the Nets. Yes, apparently he’s still around. For the Bobcats, with Kareem Rush out with a sprained finger, Keith Bogans will get the nod.

7:44 – Vince Carter is coming out looking for his shot early and often – and he’s 3/3 early. Then the Nets run 2 plays in a row for him out of the first time-out – neither work, but they apparently want him to get comfy.

7:49 – More Vince! He’s taken 6 of the Nets’ 9 shots, plus he’s been fouled and turned it over once – that’s 9 possessions ending with Carter having the ball. Meanwhile, Jason Kidd is giving Brevin Knight about 4 feet of space every time he touches the ball at the arc – he just refuses to shoot the long ball.

7:53 – Despite the lack of threes, Knight is undoubtedly the team leader for the Bobcats right now. Bickerstaff just trusts him – every time the Cats get set in the half court, Knight is running the operation. He’s got the top Assist/TO ratio in the league, and unless he slows down, or gets hurt, Raymond Felton just won’t get the minutes he needs to be a fantasy producer.

7:57 – In comes Sean May for the Bobcats. I’m a big fan – but like Felton, he won’t get the minutes he needs with the crowded Bobcats frontcourt. Marvin Ely is in as well, and if he ever got a starting gig somewhere, you gotta think he’d produce. Every time he sees big minutes, he responds with big numbers.

8:03 – Both teams have been very quick with the subs (Charlotte has all 5 starters on the bench and the Nets have 3, and there are still a couple minutes left in the first). This is what I mean by dangerous. Don’t let the fact that May is in for Emeka Okafor so soon let you think that either will have any change in value anytime soon.

8:10 – I’m telling you, Melvin Ely, he’s good. In just 6 minutes, he’s got 5 points, 3 boards, and a block.

8:11 – Make that 7 minutes, and 2 blocks.

8:13 – A Jacque Vaughn sighting! Clifford Robinson, then Vaughn … what year is this? Seriously, it’s pretty surprising how much of his bench Lawrence Frank is using here in the first half. Still, it’s been the Vince Carter show for the Nets.

8:22 – The starters are back, and while Jason Kidd is having a horrific game (0 pts, 5 TO so far), he’s still got a great passing touch. You’ve gotta believe those assist numbers are going to come up to about 8 or so.

8:30 – Well I think it’s safe to say that Clifford Robinson won’t be getting picked up tomorrow in your fantasy league. 14 minutes, 0 points, 1 boards, 1 assists, 0-3 from the field (all threes).

8:39 – It’s halftime. Remember when Gerald Wallace was setting the world on fire? Well he’s certainly in a nice little slump right now. The last four games he hasn’t topped 12 points or 6 boards, and tonight doesn’t look to be any different. For the Nets, how about Nenad Krstic? The fact that he gets 10 shots a game is quite a feat considering he’s the clear number four option on his team – not many teams have 4 players averaging double digit shots. It would be fun to see what he could do if one of the big three went down now that he’s got a year under his belt.

8:49 – If there’s one guy in this game who’s a great buy-low right now, it’s Emeka Okafor. His shooting has been terrible, but everything else – as in, blocks and boards – has been great for a C. Once his shot comes around (and it should), he’ll have nice value. Plus, his FT% is up 10% from last year, which is great to see.

8:53 – More on Okafor – right now, Bickerstaff is all about seeing his players improve, and that means taking some chances. Just now, Okafor pulled up from about 17 feet – and missed. That’s not his shot now nor has it ever been, but Bickerstaff is allowing him to try it in games because if it becomes a part of his game, he’ll be deadly. Still, these kind of shots are what’s hurting his FG%.

8:58 – The Bobcats have four guys seeing over 30 mpg, and the another NINE seeing between 10 and 25. Of those nine, though, only Ely, May and Felton really appear like they could have any real value this year. Right now, it’s Wallace, Knight, Bogans, May, and Ely, about midway through the third. But every time you turn around, Bickerstaff is sending in another sub.

9:10 – You know, I love a pass-first point guard as much as anyone, but Jason Kidd just had a wide open lay-up in transition and instead tried to lob it to Richard Jefferson, resulting in his eighth – yes, eighth – turnover of the night. Now he’s on the bench.

9:16 – Clifford Robinson update: 25 minutes, 4 points, 2 boards, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 block, 1 steal. But the block was AWESOME. Still, how can a guy like this play 25 minutes in the NBA when there are plenty of guys more worthy? Imagine if new FBB favorite “Starvin’” Melvin Ely (yes, it’s official) got about 30 mpg. Why don’t the Bobcats just trade him to the Nets?

9:22 – Boy, I definitely didn’t realize just how thin the Nets are. Now in the 4th quarter, they’ve got a lineup of Jeff McInnis, Jacque Vaughn, Scott Padgett, Richard Jefferson, and … I think that’s Marc Jackson. Yikes. If they do in fact make a trade to pick up another piece, that piece is going to see starter’s-type minutes.

9:28 – Here come the Bobcats, and they’ve got Felton and Knight in the game at the same time – in crunch time, no less. This happens a couple minutes a night, and it’s looking good right now.

9:38 – Okafor takes a seat and the announcer says that Bickerstaff is throwing in the towel. It sure does look that way. Okafor was rough from the floor again – just 2-7 – but hit all five free throws, grabbed nine boards, had three blocks and a steal.

9:40 – Well the game is winding down – did I learn anything? Sure I did! Some points to take away:

- Jason Kidd’s point problems and Emeka Okafor’s FG% issues might not be going away anytime soon.

- Should someone get traded to the Nets to be their sixth man, they’re going to get enough minutes to be picked up. Then again, why isn’t Jeff McInnis that player? He could be one to watch, seeing 23.5 mpg despite not playing too well.

- For the Bobcats, don’t ever get too excited when a guy does well one night – there are about 11 players on the squad who will have a chance to do well every night. Wait until he plays well for a couple games in a row before even considering him, and if you do pick him up, have a short leash (this rule is obviously not relevant for the big 4 of Okafor, Knight, Wallace, and Rush). I’ve made this mistake once this year with Sean May. Never again!

- Melvin Ely has made it onto my “if he gets a shot, pick him up” list. As in, if he gets traded or if one of the other Bobcat bigs gets hurt, I’ll be sure to pick him up before waiting for a big game from him.

So there it is.

FBB Seeks Your Input

Not a lot of free time over here at FBB headquarters today, so we’ll take a break from the usual fascinating insights with the hope that you can offer some insight of your own. So here it is upfront – what type of league do you play in? We can offer player analysis until we’re blue in the face, but fantasy leagues are won and lost just as much on roster management and knowing the intricacies of your league’s scoring system and roster types.

I’ve always played the same type of league – 8 category (FG%, FT%, PTS, REB, AST, 3PM, STL, BLK), roto scoring, 82 game maximum per position. To me, this is certainly the best way to do things. You always want to have your best players in the lineup, regardless of how many games they play each week (more on that in a bit). There’s a good amount of strategy involved because you have to account for eight categories. I should mention that I hate having turnovers as a category. I just don’t like negative categories in fantasy sports. It’s supposed to be fun. We don’t need turnovers dragging us down. The league leaders in turnovers include Steve Nash, Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade and Baron Davis. Should we punish them just because they are playmakers and happen to have the ball more than others? I don’t think so.

I’ve never really understood the appeal of weekly lineup leagues, but it seems they are rather popular. My fundamental problem with weekly lineup leagues, and I’m obviously not the first person to bring this up, is that they reward quantity, not quality. Now some might say that it invites more strategy, trying to find guys that will be playing more games, but I won’t agree with this. If Speedy Claxton is playing four games and Baron Davis is playing two games in a given week, that means there’s a very good chance Claxton will put up better total numbers, theoretically making him the better play. But who wants to play in a league where the “right” move is to bench your best player just because of a scheduling quirk?

Weekly head-to-head leagues are pretty much in the same boat. I don’t really see the appeal of H2H leagues outside of fantasy football. In football it makes sense, because it’s sort of a reflection of actual football. But in basketball, I can’t find the logic. You invariably end up with situations that easyMarksman finds himself in, where he’s 2-2 in his league yet has accrued the second most points. It just doesn’t seem to be the best representation of who actually has the best team. An interesting thing about H2H leagues is that it makes one-category killers a lot easier to deal with. If you punt a category in a traditional roto league it’s nearly impossible to win your league, but that’s not the case at all in H2H.

Then there are points leagues, which are usually some variation on assigning values to the five main categories (points, boards, assists, block, steals) and simply adding it all up. This has always been a little to straightforward and simple for me, and it obviously places a high value on players who score lots of points. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a lot of the strategy seems to be lost, and guys like Boris Diaw, Ben Wallace even Marcus Camby, who are roto monsters and some of most enjoyable players to own, have decreased value. I mean, anyone can look at the points and rebounds leaders and pick good players.

So basically the questions are:

1) What type of league do you play in?
2) If you have played in many types of leagues, which is your favorite and why?
3) What can FBB do with its coverage to best cover all types of leagues?

Thanks in advance for your comments – it’s something I’ve been curious about for a while.

Please Mr. Postman

As promised, today we’ll open up the mailbag to see what you all are talking about …

Q: Hey guys, got a question today regarding the SG position on my team. I’m down to James Posey, who I was going to get rid of after this week. I have a few guys in the FA pool I hope you guys can rank for me.This is a 12 team, H2H league, 12 catagories, FGM, FTM, 3Pt%, and TOs are all counted. These are the guys I think are worth a shot. Sarunas Jasikevicius, Smush Parker, David Wesley, JR Smith, Desmond Mason, Kareem Rush, Devin HarrisThanksMin

A: Well, you’ve got a pretty healthy list of people there on your waiver wire for a 12-team league. First, let’s trim the fat: Kareem Rush, Devin Harris, and David Wesley are all nice players to be sure, but none of them are going to really be effective from a fantasy standpoint right now. That could change with injuries (particularly for Harris, should Jason Terry get injured), but they are a clear step down from the rest of the class.

Of the rest, it really depends on what you need. Parker, Jasikevicius and Smith (I’m assuming you mean the NOK one) are all very similar players whose value really lies in their three pointers. Should Jamaal Tinsley get hurt for an extended period (which he usually does), Jasikevicius could have the most value of the three, but as it is I like JR Smith the best right now.

That said, Desmond Mason – if he’s still available – should be the guy to target. It’s taken him a while to break into the rotation but now that he’s there, he’ll start to put up similar numbers to last year in Milwaukee, with about 17 points and 4-5 boards. He’ll definitely end up being the most consistent of those guys – don’t let the rough start to the season fool you.

Q: Hey guys,
What to do with Kirilenko? Tons of owners are trying to buy low in him but I’ve stayed strong. Wait until a breakout game then sell high? What should I expect in return?

Thanks guys,
Charlie

A: Well, DM talked to this yesterday in the comments section, but I’ve got to say I’m a little concerned about AK47. Sure, right now, he’s coming back from injury, but if you look at how he’s performed after his stellar 2003 season, the numbers aren’t very encouraging. Last year, he saw drops in boards, points and steals, and the trends are continuing this year. He’s also shooting from beyond the arc less often and less accurately. Sure the blocks are as strong as ever, but what makes Kirilenko so great from a fantasy standpoint is his statistical versatility. That seems to be on the way down.

Another concern has to be the injuries. Now, all of the injuries he’s suffered have been one-time deals. Ankles and wrists are much less scary than knees and backs. But at some point, one-time deals turn into trends. Maybe he’s just a reckless player – lots of times you’ve gotta sacrifice your body to get the steals and blocks that he does. Right now, if you can sell him at a second-round value, I think you should do it. But if you can buy him for a third- or fourth-round value, I think that’s worth considering as well.

Q: Hey, what’s up with Rasheed Wallace? He’s way over his career averages in “little guy” categories: 3s, assists, steals, and FT%. And he’s well below his averages in typical center cats like rebounds, points, and FG%. All in all, of course, he’s playing much better than last year for roto purposes. Is his performance so far a fluke, or part of the new coaching style in Detroit? Is it time to trade him?

A: What’s up with Sheed? How about, what’s up with the Pistons? A team that’s scored 91.4, 90.1 and 93.3 points in ’02 – ’04 is racking up 98.9 ppg this year under new coach Flip Saunders, good for 7th in the league. They’re also passing the ball much better than in the past, with 23.9 apg, second only to the Suns, and much higher than the 21.8 apg they had last year.

Sheed is the second-biggest benefactor in the new offense behind Chauncey Billups, and while I think his value this year will be higher than it was in the past, you’ve got to assume that those steals will come down to around 1 per game, and that eventually his 3PT% will drop back to his career level and he’ll land around 1.5 3’s per game. If that sounds good to your team – I’d say keep him. You likely won’t get the value you deserve for a player like Sheed who does so many of the “little guy” things, like you said.

Q: Assuming Darius Miles is out with season ending injury (cartilage damage), who is to be picked up? Pryzbilla and Zach are already picked up, but what do you think about the fantasy values of telfair, dixon, and patterson? (or even webster)Thanks, Patrick

A: Great question. Let’s go through the list (and we’ll even add one).

Telfair: He should already be on a roster in your league, but if not, go grab him. This injury means he’ll be scoring more and that means he moves from marginal value to a decent utility player.

Dixon: No one is dearer to our hearts than Dixon (we’re both UMD grads), but as a fantasy player, he needs to consistently play 35 mpg to really have value because he can be so inconsistent with his shot. And he’s not going to get 35 mpg.

Patterson: Here’s my pick for the biggest benefactor. It’s no secret that Patterson and the Blazers don’t get along. With Miles out, now Portland can play Patterson plenty to boost his trade value. Last night was a great example, as he played 28 minutes and put up 19 points. Not a bad performance. He’s worth picking up if you’ve got an extra bench spot.

Webster: If you like JR Smith (The NOK version), you’ll love Martell Webster. It’s just too soon for this guy right now.

Travis Outlaw: Here’s the guy that we’d love to see get the minutes. His combination of steals and blocks are quite a fantasy commodity – only about 10 players average over 1 steal and 1 block per game. Given 25-30 mpg, he could be one of these players. Unfortunately, I just don’t see him getting the time while they’re showcasing Patterson.

And if you want to know what DM thinks, here’s what he has to say: “The clearest benefactor of miles’ injury is Ha Seung Jin, who should put up a consistent 12/8 with 2 blocks.” Of course, he’s kidding.

Thanks everyone for the great questions!