Tuesday, December 28, 2004

What the F?

By Anthony Peretore

News Around the Eastern Conference
Week of 12/27-01/02
What the F? is a run down of every team in the NBA, facts surrounding them, player(s) to look out for on the fantasy front, and a forecast of their games this week. The intent of this blog is to provide readers with up-to-date information on their favorite teams, help with their fantasy team, and predictions for every NBA game this week. Comments are much appreciated.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1st: New York Knicks (15-13)
FACTS: The Knickerbockers currently lead this dismal pack, but just lost their leading scorer in Jamal Crawford for 3-6 weeks with turf toe. (Shouldn’t we refer to this as wood toe in the NBA?) Now Mr. 18-1-1-0-0 (Allan Houston) will reassume his starting role and create a nice controversy for Coach Lenny Wilkens when Crawford is ready to return.

FANTASY: Much of their early season success (if you can call it that) has to be credited to the play of Center Nazr Mohammed (12.4 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG). Before you jump all over him however, be cautious of his durability. Last year, the 6-10 former Kentucky Wildcat saw 20+ minutes just 7 times for the Hawks and Knicks. This season, he’s seen 30+ minutes of PT 17 times, including five games of 40+. This could land the big fella on the injured list very soon.

FORECAST: Monday: @Orlando (Win), Wednesday: vs. Minnesota (Loss), Saturday: vs. New Jersey (Win).

2nd: Philadelphia 76ers (12-14)
FACTS: The Sixers are 6-2 when Center Samuel Dalembert starts. For some reason however, Coach Jim O’Brien still isn’t sold on the 6-11 Haitian. There has even been speculation that the only reason Dalembert is starting is to showcase him for other teams. The Hawks, Nets, Mavericks and Suns, to name a few, all remain interested in Sammie. Yet another big mistake Obie continues to make is giving Allen Iverson 41+ minutes every night. Sure he put up back-to-back 50+ games last week, but why not cut his minutes down to 37 or so? Can this team really chance losing AI down the stretch again? It really is quite silly in this wide-open Atlantic Division, especially with more than capable players desperate for PT (Willie Green, John Salmons).

FANTASY: Besides Iverson, the only guy really worth your time is Dalembert, but only if he continues to start. He has averaged 28.5 min, 7.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 2.75 BPG in his last 8 games (all starts) and if his confidence (all up to O’Brien) and minutes continue to rise, so will his totals in all three categories. Trade for him now while his numbers aren’t that spectacular (as they were at the end of last season).

FORECAST: Monday: @Portland (Win), Tuesday: @Seattle (Loss), Friday: @Denver (win if Carmelo’s still out), Sunday: @Clippers (Win)

3rd: Boston Celtics (12-14)
FACTS: After their 107-90 loss on Sunday night, the Celtics have now lost 14 straight in San Antonio. Their last win against the Spurs came in 1990 when David Robinson was a rookie. So why can’t the C’s put it together? Their leading scorer Paul Pierce is averaging just 16 FG attempts per game, his lowest average since the ‘99-00 season. Also, his rebounding totals are free-falling on a team that ranks 24th in total boards per game. ‘The Truth’ averaged a solid 6.2 rebounds per contest in November, a total that has slipped down to 4.3 for the current month. PP has to regain his all-around game in order for the Celtics to take control of this up-for-grabs Atlantic.

FANTASY: There are several viable weapons on the Celtics as far as fantasy goes (Pierce, Gary Payton, Ricky Davis, Raef LaFrentz, Mark Blount) but the one guy to keep an eye on is rookie Tony Allen. With Jiri Welsch or Davis inevitably on the trading block, look for Allen’s minutes to steadily increase once one of these guys gets moved. Coach Doc Rivers has been extremely impressed with the 6-4 Allen’s defensive intensity, evident in his boost in minutes (12.1 in Nov. to 15.9 in Dec.). Only grab him now if your looking for someone to nab you a few steals during the week or if you can afford to gamble on a guy that may eventually be getting 25+ minutes per night come February. If not, just keep your eye on Welsch or Davis being moved.

FORECAST: Tuesday: @ Dallas (Loss), Wednesday: @Memphis (Loss), Friday: vs. Washington (Win), Sunday: @Detroit (Loss)

4th: New Jersey Nets (9-17)
FACTS: Newly acquired G/F Vince Carter played in his first game as a Net last night at Detroit. For some odd reason, Coach Lawrence Frank tried to kill him, playing him for 42 minutes after missing his last few games with an Achilles injury. Carter left the game in overtime with severe cramping in his left hamstring, an injury not expected to be serious. In addition to giving New Jersey a lift on the court, Carter provided a morality boost during his news conference announcing the trade last week. The UNC-grad told Nets owner Bruce Ratner and president Rod Thorn: "I thank both of you guys for bringing me here. I won’t let you down. I promise." The Nets hope Carter’s efforts can help in keeping PG Jason Kidd with the team. It has been reported that Kidd is still not convinced New Jersey can be a legitimate contender even with the addition of Carter. It will be a real kick in the groin if Kidd still demands a trade after ownership gave up two first-round picks for Vince.

FANTASY: If he is still available in your league, pick up Center Nenad Krstic. Decent centers are hard to come by in fantasy basketball and if his recent numbers are any indication of what this guy can do on a nightly basis, he’s worth the risk. In his three most recent games since the trade (all starts), Krstic has averaged 35.7 min, 11.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. At 7-0, 240 lbs. he should continue to receive solid playing time in a thin New Jersey frontcourt and make himself worthy of a fantasy gamble. In our league, Matt Brodeur gobbled Krstic up in the pregame before his first start, hoping, if anything, to gain a friend for his best center, Primoz Brezec.

FORECAST: Monday: @Detroit (Loss-OT), Tuesday: @Chicago (Win), Thursday: vs. Indiana (Win), Saturday: @New York (Loss)

5th: Toronto Raptors (10-19)
FACTS: The Raptors are clearly looking towards the future after unloading Vince Carter for role players and future conditional draft picks. With the team continuing to shop F Donyell Marshall and G/F Jalen Rose, the obvious goal is to build around PF Chris Bosh (only 20 years old) and PG Rafer Alston (28). Another possible piece of the future may be G/F Morris Peterson. Since awarded a starting spot on December 10, Mo Pete has averaged a solid 30.5 min, 12.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG, but has yet to show any signs of consistency. His one mainstay is his 3-point shooting, 38.5% for the season, 46.9% in his last eight. Once they scrape rookie Center Rafael Araujo off the bench, the Dinosaurs may have a nice core to build around.

FANTASY: In the coming months, expect Chris Bosh to continue his emergence towards being an elite PF in the East. Thus far (34.1 min, 13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG) he has not been overly impressive, but with his minutes increasing and more trades to come, Bosh should became Toronto’s go-to-guy. Could be 18, 10, 1.5 by the end of the year.

FORECAST: Tuesday: @Lakers (Loss), Wednesday: @Golden State (Loss)

CENTRAL DIVISION

1ST: Cleveland Cavaliers (16-11)
FACTS: LeBron James dished out a career-high 14 assists Sunday night in a 100-91 victory over the visiting Hornets. He missed out on a triple-double by just one rebound, the second time this season he’s had this happen. Cleveland’s early season success has to be attributed mostly to LeBron’s development into an all-around superstar, especially with his passing. James has totaled 7 dimes or more in 10 out of 13 games this month. If he continues his maturing process at such a rapid pace, there is no telling what the Cavs can do this season.

FANTASY: One guy who continues to fly under the radar screen is G Jeff McInnis. He’s averaging a career-high, 15.7 PPG, ranking third on the team and is second to only James in APG (5.5). McInnis is fairly durable as well, missing just 21 games in his last three seasons. If your looking to make any deals with managers owning McInnis, try to get him thrown into the trade. There are very few G’s (those available at both PG and SG) left in fantasy basketball, making them a very valuable asset.

FORECAST: Tuesday: @Atlanta (Win), Wednesday: vs. Houston (Win)

2nd: Detroit Pistons (14-12)
FACTS: On Christmas Day, all the attention in the Pacers-Pistons rematch was centered around the ugly incident that occurred last month in Detroit. However, relatively unnoticed was Antonio McDyess accidentally falling on a fan and going out of his way to relocate her and apologize. As reported in The New York Times on Sunday McDyess was quoted as saying: "I had to go over there and apologize. I hit her pretty hard. I was afraid she was going to fall down and be really hurt. I just told her, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry, is there anything I can do to make you feel better?' It was part of the game, but I didn't want to have anything near what it was like last time." It’s nice to see some gentlemen still playing in this league. Maybe Jermaine O’Neal can learn a thing or two from McDyess.

FANTASY: Keeping with our boy McDyess, all signs point to this guy finally being 100% healthy and ready to be the steady contributor the Pistons need off the bench. He has been solid all year (9.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 0.8 BPG) but Detroit needs more. Saturday was his first really good all-around performance (13, 8, 0, 1, 1) since starting for the suspended Ben Wallace at the end of November. Look for McDyess to receive at least 25+ minutes a night as long as he is healthy. Only use him as a 9th or 10th man.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. New Jersey (Win), Wednesday: @Washington (Loss), Thursday: vs. Miami (Win), Sunday: vs. Boston (Win)

3rd: Indiana Pacers (13-13)
FACTS: The big question surrounding the team is whether or not Jermaine O’Neal’s early reinstatement will hold up. The ruling of a federal judge this Thursday will be the determining factor to Indiana’s immediate future. Coach Rick Carlisle knows he has O’Neal for at least the next two games, but may lose his starting PF for 10 more games if the judge rules in favor of the league. This one decision will keep the team as well as the division in limbo for the next week.

FANTASY: If you held on to O’Neal or traded for him (as Paul did) then you obviously lucked out (at least for the meantime) with his suspension being reduced by 10 games. While it may take him a few games to get back to an All-Star caliber of play, O’Neal should eventually shine as the go-to-guy in Indiana’s offense. He will also provide a boost on the defensive end of the floor, evident in his 5 blocks on Saturday. Even if the 10 games are upheld, trading for O’Neal may not be a bad idea.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. New Orleans (Win), Wednesday: @Charlotte (Loss), Thursday: @New Jersey (Loss)

4th: Chicago Bulls (9-16)
FACTS: I know, it seems like a dream the Bulls winning 5 games in a row. But, no worries, they quickly let their streak go to waste Sunday night in a loss on the road against the dismal Bucks. The bright spot during their winning streak had to be their defense. They held their opponents to a staggering 81.0 PPG, including a downright shocking 89-82-victory IN Detroit. Now, let’s not start printing Central Division Champion t-shirts just yet for the Bulls are still extremely young and have a few big decisions to make (Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler). It does appear however, that Chicago may have what it takes to make a run at the 8th seed in the East. Their main competition: Boston (12-14), Philly (12-14), and New Jersey (9-17). Chicago hosts the Nets tonight.

FANTASY: Pretty much every Bull is an "on-the-fence" type of player, meaning some nights he’s great, other nights invisible (excluding Hinrich). One guy that has me guessing is PG Chris Duhon. Coach Scott Skiles has had the Duke-product starting since late-November, but has only granted him 30+ minutes on four separate occasions. In his last 10 games, Duhon has averaged 5.9 APG, but with very fluctuating totals (9 once, 8 twice, 3 twice). Since I’m in need of a quality backup point for assists, I keep looking at Duhon, but until he’s getting 30+ a night, I’d stay away.

FORECAST: Tuesday: vs. New Jersey (Win), Saturday: vs. Orlando (Loss)

5th: Milwaukee Bucks (7-16)
FACTS: The injury to SF Keith Van Horn has really hurt Milwaukee. Sure, Desmond Mason has done a nice job in his absence (17.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG in 10 games) but it’s left the Bucks with relatively no punch off their bench. This is a team that went 41-41 a year ago nabbing the 6th seed in the East. It seems as if the injury to T.J Ford is going to hurt a lot more than Coach Terry Porter and co. expected.

FANTASY: Keep an eye on Center Zaza Pachulia. Yeah, I know, no one in their right mind would pick this guy up and he may even be one of the many running jokes in your league. But, seriously take a look at this guy. When’s the last time the Bucks had a decent center? Kareem? Jack Sikma? Pachulia has to out duel only Dan Gadzuric, who we aren’t even really sure how to pronounce his last name correctly. In 35 minutes the other night Zaza had 11, 9 and 2 blocks. Not too shabby, especially on a Bucks team with only two centers.

FORECAST: Tuesday: vs. Houston (Win), Wednesday: @Orlando (Loss), Friday: @Houston (Loss), Sunday: @Dallas (Loss)

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

1st: Miami Heat (23-7)
FACTS: Miami has won 12 straight games and seem like the early favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals. In my opinion, Shaq has not even looked overly dominating this season, yet the team just keeps on winning. The most noticeable factor has been their solid team chemistry, evidenced on Christmas Day in LA. G Dwayne "Flash" Wade (23.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG), told Shaq on Saturday after he fouled out that he had his back, and delivered, scoring 4 points in OT for a 104-102 victory over the Lakers. While Karl Malone may help, taking a chance on disrupting this chemistry is far too risky. Also, Eddie Jones is starting to get hot (19.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG in his last 5), undoubtedly making the team reconsider its trade talks with Toronto for Jalen Rose.

FANTASY: Now that PG Damon Jones is starting, he should serve as a valuable backup point. His numbers (15.1 PPG, 4.7 APG) are up since Coach Stan Van Gundy inserted him in the first five and the Heat just happen to be 12-0 since he did so. Playing alongside "Flash," Jones’ assist numbers should remain on the low side, but his scoring should remain strong. He’s currently 8th in the league in 3-pt%.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. Atlanta (Win), Thursday: @Detroit (Loss), Saturday: vs. Charlotte (Win)

2nd: Washington Wizards (15-11)

FACTS: The Wizards were looking good on the Western road trip going 2-1 in their first three against the Lakers (W), Suns (L) and Warriors (W). However, the wheels came off in their final two contests losing to the Kings and then most recently getting smoked by Minnesota (109-74) on Sunday. Their main problem has been the dependence on their outside shooting. Washington currently ranks 6th in the league in 3-pt FGA per game, but just 23rd in 3-pt FG%. This has truly been their Achilles’ heal along with their lack of perimeter defense.

FANTASY: It seems as if the most valuable asset on this team fantasy wise has been and will continue to be PG Gilbert Arenas (22.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.7 SPG). He gets as many shots as he wants and has the luxury of playing off his man in order to jump at as many steal attempts as possible. While this will benefit your fantasy team, it’s eventual going to catch up to the Wizards. Injury risks are worrisome, but he seems in perfect health thus far.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. Charlotte (Win), Wednesday: vs. Detroit (Win), Friday: @Boston (Loss), Sunday: vs. Atlanta (Win)

3rd: Orlando Magic (15-11)
FACTS: The Magic were coming off perhaps their biggest win of the year, a 93-87 victory over San Antonio before their debacle last night against the Knicks. The good news is that Center Kelvin Cato should be activated sometime this week, providing much-needed frontcourt help for Tony Battie and rookie Dwight Howard. At 7-8 against teams with winning records this season, the Magic should be thrilled that four of their next five come against teams under .500.

FANTASY: Tough to single out just one guy on this Orlando team. So far, Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Howard and Cato have all been valuable fantasy players. If your really desperate, G/F Hedo Turkoglu (13.2 PPG) could be a decent 10th man, but doesn’t do much else besides score. Besides these five, I’d stay away from any other member of the Magic.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. New York (Loss), Wednesday: vs. Milwaukee (Win), Saturday: @Chicago (Win)

4th: Charlotte Bobcats (7-17)
FACTS: Remember, most people thought the Bobcats would struggle to win 10 games all year, including myself. GM/Coach Bernie Bickerstaff has done a nice job piecing together the personnel that he has and the results have given him 7 wins in just 24 games. His point guard tandem of Brevin Knight and Jason Hart is giving him a combined 17.1 PPG, 15.0 APG, and 3.6 SPG, leading a continually improving Bobcat offense. With the addition of Kareem Rush and the return of Gerald Wallace from a neck injury, don’t be surprised to see the Bobcats with 15 wins by the All-Star Break.

FANTASY: Grab G/F Wallace while you can folks. This guy is filling up the boxscore every night while continually warranting 30+ minutes per night. Since his return from a head injury, Wallace has averaged 33.0 min, 10.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG, and 1.7 BPG. He is finally getting to showcase the talent he never got a chance to in Sacramento.

FORECAST: Monday: @Washington (Loss), Wednesday: vs. Indiana (Win), Friday: vs. Seattle (Loss), Saturday: @Miami (Loss)

5th: Atlanta Hawks (5-21)
FACTS: Want to know why the Hawks stink? They are dead last in the league in point differential (-10.6), opponents’ FG% (47.0), free throw percentage (64.9), and second to last in 3-pt FG% (28.9) and turnovers per game (16.4). The main culprit: F Antoine Walker who is 7th in the NBA in field goal attempts, jacking up 18.9 per game and making them at only 41.7%. To add to that, Walker is 8th in the league in turnovers per game at 3.7 with his partner in slime SF Al Harrington not far behind at 3.0 (18th). The major problem on this Atlanta team is that they have no decent point guard on the roster. Kenny Anderson is the next athlete in line for a Cialis commercial, Tony Delk is a shoot-first, second and third guard and newly acquired Tyronn Lue has never averaged more than 4.2 APG. Lucky for him, Coach Mike Woodson (who?) will be out of his misery in a few weeks.

FANTASY: If your extremely desperate, and I mean there has to be no one out there better than Theron Smith, Mark Pope, or Pape Saw, then snatch up PG Tyronn Lue. The Hawks are desperate for production at this position and soon enough, Lue should be getting 30+ minutes a night. Don’t count on any more than 5 assists, but hey, it’s better than Mark Pope.
FORECAST: Monday: @Miami (Loss), Tuesday: vs. Cleveland (Loss), Thursday: vs. Seattle (Loss), Sunday: @Washington (Wi….nahhh, Loss)


Note: Next week I will have this out on Monday, which will be far more beneficial to those fantasy and gambling enthusiasts.

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