Monday, January 03, 2005

What the F?

By Anthony Peretore

News Around the Eastern Conference
Week of January 3-9, 2005

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.

1st: New York Knicks (16-14), Last Week: (1-2)
FACTS: On Friday, Stephon Marbury confidently self-proclaimed himself the NBA’s best point guard, only to lose to arguably the game’s top playmaker the very next night. The Knicks dropped a home contest to Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets a day after this boisterous comment, "I already know I'm the best point guard. It's like asking if it's raining outside. You're going to tell them it's raining." Marbury held up his end of the trash talking in dropping 31 points on 10-19 shooting to go along with 8 assists and 3 steals. The problem has been his lack of support from his ‘new’ backcourt mate Allan Houston (starting for the injured Jamal Crawford). In his four starts since JC went down, Houston has averaged just 11.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, and 1.25 SPG compared to Crawford’s 19.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.5 SPG. While the Knicks are 3-1 during this stretch, without more support from Houston and/or those in the frontcourt, the Knicks may begin to struggle with their next three games against teams with a combined winning percentage of .685.

FANTASY: No one on the Knicks’ bench is receiving more than 20 minutes per night, making your options there very thin. If you own Crawford, it is in your best interest to pursue someone other than Houston until NY’s new starting ‘2’ begins putting up better numbers. Players like Bonzi Wells and Jerry Stackhouse may serve as better options right now.

FORECAST: Tuesday: vs. Sacramento (Loss), Wednesday: @Miami (Loss), Saturday: @Cleveland (Win), Sunday: vs. Portland (Win)

2nd: Philadelphia 76ers (13-16), Last Week: (2-2)
FACTS: Can Allen Iverson please get a little support from the other four starters? In their last two games, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala, Kenny Thomas and Samuel Dalembert have averaged a combined 17.5 PPG, or just 20% of the team total output. Iverson had just as many points last night (35) than the other four starters had in the last two games combined! Are you kidding me? Not surprisingly, these were both losses to the struggling Nuggets and Clippers. What makes it even worse is that before this stretch, things seemed to be getting back on track for Philly after impressive road wins over Portland and Seattle on consecutive nights. Back to the starting lineup drawing board for Coach Jim O’Brien.

FANTASY: The one bright spot in the last two contests, besides AI, has been the sharp-shooting SF Kyle Korver. Coming off the pine, Korver averaged 12.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and a gaudy 4.0 SPG in 33.0 min. With the allotment of minutes constantly fluctuating in Philly, keep an eye on Korver for when given 30+ minutes a night, he’s shown the ability to be a steady fantasy contributor.

FORECAST: Monday: @Golden State (Win), Wednesday: @Utah (Loss), Friday: @Minnesota (Loss)

3rd: Boston Celtics (13-17), Last Week: (1-3)
FACTS: If the Celtics played in just the 2nd and 3rd quarters every night, they’d probably be the 1 seed in the East. In their three losses last week, Boston either got smoked in the first or fourth quarters, clearly showing their inexperience and lack of discipline. Against Dallas, the C’s were outscored 41-20 in the first, an ultimately insurmountable deficit. The following night in Memphis, Boston took an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter only to lose 117-109. And finally, last night in Detroit, the Celtics allowed the Pistons a 6-point first quarter cushion that would grow to 14 by halftime. It is impossible to win in this league without the ability to comeback or hold the lead once you get it. I wonder if Coach Doc Rivers realizes this?

FANTASY: If Celtic management isn’t going to push either Jiri Welsch or Ricky Davis out the door, then Tony Allen just might. In his last two contests (since his DNP-CD in Dallas), Allen has been red-hot, averaging 14.0 PPG on 12-16 (75%) shooting and 4.5 RPG in just 15.5 min. Meanwhile, over their last five, Welsch is averaging just 12.0 PPG in 27.6 min and Davis, 10.0 PPG on 43.2% shooting in 29.0 min. With their record getting worse and worse, maybe it’s time to switch game plans and let the youth get their run.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. New Orleans (Win), Wednesday: vs. Golden State (Win), Friday: vs. Detroit (Loss), Saturday: @Chicago (Win)

4th: New Jersey Nets (11-18), Last Week: (2-2)
FACTS: It may be too early to declare this as a trend, but since Vince Carter began his playing days in the Jerz, the Nets PPG average is up 6.4 (82.6 to 89.0). In Vinsanity’s first game, the Nets took the defending-champion Pistons to overtime, only to lose Carter (cramps) and eventually the game (100-90). They followed this defeat with a win over the red-hot Bulls (still can’t believe red-hot and Bulls are in the same sentence) in Chicago. Then after dropping a home contest to the resurgent Pacers, the Nets took care of the Knicks (and "the league’s best point-guard) 93-87 at the Garden. It seems as if Coach Lawrence Frank has this team back on track, as they are now just 2.0 games back of Philadelphia for the 8 seed in the East.

FANTASY: As advised last week, if still available, go and grab Center Nenad Krstic. Aside from his performance against Indiana (fouled out in just 15 minutes) the big fella continued his solid play last week. In the Nets’ three games against Detroit, Chicago and New York, Krstic not only lead the team in minutes (42.7) but averaged a solid 14.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 2.0 BPG. He should continue to receive big chunks of PT, which can be very beneficial, but also potentially harmful. Before being inserted into the starting lineup, Nenad had logged only 208 minutes in 18 games all season. Since his promotion, he’s played 204 minutes in just 6 games. If this large increase of minutes is going to ill effect him, it should show in the coming weeks.

FORECAST: Tuesday: @Washington (Loss), Wednesday: @Milwaukee (Win), Friday: vs. Golden State (Win), Saturday: @Orlando (Loss)

5th: Toronto Raptors (10-21), Last Week: (0-2)
FACTS: Since the Vince Carter trade, the Raptors are a respectable 2-4, with home victories over a short-handed New Jersey team and the Utah Jazz. Their team defense has been atrocious since the deal, with the Dinosaurs giving up a staggering 105.5 PPG over their last six. This cannot be very encouraging to Coach Sam Mitchell, seeing that the team already ranks 26th in the league in this category. On a brighter note, Toronto is also scoring more, averaging 101.3 PPG over their last six, compared to 96.2 in their first 25. This is a young team, with the starters’ average age at just 26.2 (factor in Eric Williams is 32), so be patient for it seems as if Mitchell is doing a nice job forming a solid core for the future. Undoubtedly owning a 2005 lottery pick, the Raptors could have a pretty nice team in a few years.

FANTASY: Well, much to our surprise, Center Rafael Araujo appeared on the basketball court the other night! The rookie out of Utah has started his last two games averaging 10.5 PPG, 9 RPG and 2.0 SPG in just 20.5 min. With former starter Loren Woods handed two DNP-CDs in a row, it seems as if the starting center position is Araujo’s to lose. Only pick him up if you’re desperate for help at center or if you’re Steve Miller.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. Orlando (Loss), Wednesday: vs. Sacramento (Loss), Friday: vs. Milwaukee (Loss), Sunday: vs. Golden State (Win)


1ST: Cleveland Cavaliers (17-12), Last Week: (1-1)
FACTS: Finally we get to see the effect of the ‘broken-nose mask’ on a superstar. It did wonders for Rip Hamilton and fellow Cav Lucious Harris, so we can only imagine the impact it will have on LeBron James. #23 took a vicious elbow to the face last Wednesday courtesy of Dikembe Mutombo. Still feeling the effects of a broken cheekbone, LeBron will be a game-time decision on Monday night, "his decision," according to Coach Paul Silas. Keep all bets off Cleveland until we see that Lebron’s game is okay playing with the mask.
FANTASY: Stay away from any Cavs player right now not named James, McInnis, Gooden or Ilgauskas. No one, besides fifth starter Ira Newble (who stinks and looks like Ice-T) is receiving ample enough PT to bring any sort of consistent production to your fantasy squad. PF Anderson Varejao has shown spurts of being a steady contributor, but Silas has kept his minutes in constant fluctuation.

FORECAST: Monday: @Charlotte (Win, only if LJ plays), Wednesday: vs. Atlanta (Win), Saturday: vs. New York (Loss)

2nd: Detroit Pistons (16-13), Last Week: (3-1)
FACTS: The Pistons are winners of four of their last five, with their only defeat coming at the hands of the hottest team in the NBA, the Miami Heat. Even still, Detroit led that game by a deuce going into the fourth quarter. The Heat however, smothered the Pistons 22-9 in the final period led by a triple-double double (31-10-10) from Dwayne Wade. Detroit is getting back to playing the sound team defense that led them to their championship last season. They have held their opponents to just 93.0 PPG in their last five, but more important are finally getting solid contributions from their bench. The main consistency has been PF Antonio McDyess who has averaged 12.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.2 BPG in just 24.0 min over his last 5.

FANTASY: With Lindsay Hunter and Ronald Dupree as the only other players averaging double-digit minutes besides the starters and McDyess, it’s safe to say one should only dabble in Detroit’s top 6. Also, if you entertained the idea of trading Ben Wallace in recent weeks, stop. The F/C is averaging 9.3 PPG, 13.0 RPG, and 2.8 BPG over his last 4 contests. Detroit’s other F/C, Rasheed Wallace, had arguably his best game of the season last night with 23-12-5-3-2 against Boston. Keep an eye out for the Wallaces’ being dangled in your league.

FORECAST: Monday: @Chicago (Win), Thursday: vs. Memphis (Win), Friday: @Boston (Win)

3rd: Indiana Pacers (15-13), Last Week: (3-0)
FACTS: Jermaine O’Neal is officially back for good after a federal judge upheld the 10 game reduction in his suspension. This puts the Pacers right back in contention for challenging Cleveland and Detroit for the Central crown. Indiana is 3-1 since O’Neal’s return, dropping only a Christmas Day contest to the rival Pistons. In their last three games, the Pacers have been playing stifling D, holding their opponents to a mere 78.7 PPG on just 38.3% shooting. For a team that was desperate for bench players a few weeks ago, it must be a huge relief for Coach Rick Carlisle and co. to have the luxury of going 10-12 deep as they have in recent games.

FANTASY: Since coming off the injured-list on December 7, F/C Jeff Foster has been an absolute beast on the glass. In 32.6 min, Foster has averaged 12.5 RPG, to go along with 11.2 PPG and 0.8 SPG. With Scott Pollard on IR with a sore lower back (not to mention he sucks) the starting center position appears to be in Foster’s hands for good.

FORECAST: Tuesday: vs. Milwaukee (Win), Thursday: @ San Antonio (Loss), Saturday: @Dallas (Win), Sunday: @Phoenix (Loss)

4th: Chicago Bulls (10-17), Last Week: (1-1)
FACTS: The Bulls appeared to come back down to reality last week with back-to-back loses to the Bucks and Nets (combined record of 20-36). Then, screwing up the lives of millions of gamblers once again, Chicago smoked the Magic 105-90 on Saturday. It has recently been reported that Chris Duhon’s starting spot is in jeopardy, due mostly to the fabulous bench play of rookie Ben Gordon (14.3 PPG on 50.9% shooting in December compared to just 10.6 and 35.6% in November). On a side note, the Bulls are on pace right now for 30 wins, 7 more than last season, but still not enough to grant them a playoff berth. And, last month they went 8-7, giving them their first over-.500 month since the Reagan administration.

FANTASY: The guy to go and grab is Gordon. Not only is he scoring almost at will, but he’s also a G in most league’s, giving you the option of playing him at both point and off-guard. While he won’t give you too much else besides points, he still may be worth adding in deeper leagues, especially if given 30+ minutes per night. Should put up comparable numbers to Allan Houston if given the starting nod.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. Detroit (loss), Wednesday: @New Orleans (Win), Friday: vs. Utah (Win), Saturday: vs. Boston (Loss)

5th: Milwaukee Bucks (9-18), Last Week: (2-2)
FACTS: It appears as if the Bucks are somewhat starting to come around. Last week they had their first 3-game winning streak since the first week of the season, shooting a lights-out 50.0% from the field during that span. SG Michael Redd averaged 32.0 PPG on an incredible 58.3% from the floor, including 5-8 from downtown. However, Milwaukee quickly came back down to earth in their next two, dropping games to Houston and Dallas by a combined 34 points. They allowed their opponents to shoot 52.1% in these contests, dropping them down to 28th in league (46.3% for the year). With leading rebounder Keith Van Horn sidelined for at least another two weeks with ankle tendinitis, the Bucks may continue to maintain one of the league’s worst records.

FANTASY: That can’t be Center Dan Gadzuric putting up decent fantasy numbers is it? Over his last three, the 6-11 ex-UCLA Bruin has put up 12.7 RPG to go along with 10.7 PPG and 2.0 BPG in just 27.0 minutes. Gadzuric (pronounced Gad-zur-eek) seems to be splitting time at center with Zaza Pachulia, last week’s Milwaukee pickup. Either pull a Matt Benedict and pick up Pachulia, or maybe you’d rather Gadzuric. Either way there’s very little chance either of these guys will end up on your playoff roster, so you probably shouldn’t even bother.

FORECAST: Tuesday: @Indiana (Loss), Wednesday: vs. New Jersey (Loss), Friday: @Toronto (Win), Saturday: vs. Utah (Loss)


1st: Miami Heat (25-7), Last Week: (3-0)
FACTS: 14 in a row; that’s the current tally for this unstoppable Heat team. Miami went an unprecedented 14-1 in December en route to securing the league’s 3rd best record (tied with the Spurs) overall. On top of it, this team is showing no signs of letting up, winning their last three contests by an average margin of 16.0. G Dwyane Wade (24.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.7 SPG and 1.1 BPG) has to be considered the front-runner for league MVP, yes, M-V-P. There is no all-around better player than Wade right now, in only his second season out of Marquette.
The Heat continue to lead the league in FG% at 48.2% thanks mostly in part to the league leader in that category, Shaquille O’Neal (59.6%). Look for Miami’s streak to come to an end sometime this week with two games against Seattle and one at Phoenix. They still have to be considered the favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals.

FANTASY: Eddie Jones is finally getting his rhythm back over his last 8 games, undoubtedly making management reconsider trading him away. Over this span, the ex-Temple Owl has averaged 16.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.6 SPG in 40.1 minutes. If you held on to Jones through his early season struggle you have most definitely reaped the benefits in recent weeks. This may however be a good time to trade him away while his stock is at its peak for the year. But, if Jones is serving as your 9th or 10th man, hold on to him for he should continue to average 38-40 minutes for the rest of the year.

FORECAST: Monday: vs. Seattle (Win), Wednesday: vs. New York (Win), Friday: @Portland (Win), Sunday: @Seattle (Loss)

2nd: Washington Wizards (16-13), Last Week: (2-2)
FACTS: Last week, the Wizards briefly returned home from their Western road trip to smoke the struggling Bobcats. Two nights later, they led the Pistons by as many as 15 in the third quarter only to succumb to a Chauncey Billups jumper with 0.7 seconds left on the clock. To make matters worse, the Wiz travelled up to Boston without leading scorer Gilbert Arenas (flu) and dropped their second game in a row, this time to the lowly Celtics. Their main problem in both contest has been their defense. They gave up a combined 215 points in these games while letting their opponents shoot 48.4% from the floor including 14-29 from three (48.3%). Arenas and Larry Hughes need to stop playing such cushion defense in looking for steals and put the lock down on opposing perimeter threats. Until these guys starting playing some D, the Wizards should remain caught up in nightly shoot-outs.

FANTASY: Hughes can finally be considered a top 20-fantasy player. The guy is having by far his best all-around season as a pro, averaging 20.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.0 APG, and a league-leading 2.8 SPG. Playing alongside Arenas, these two form arguably the best backcourt in the NBA. If someone is willing to deal Hughes for a reasonable price, look into it. The only problem is that he has been injury-prone. The former St. Louis star missed 20 games last season and 15 the year before, but is still probably worth the risk.

FORECAST: Tuesday: vs. New Jersey, Thursday: vs. Seattle (Loss—take the over), Saturday: vs. Minnesota (Win)

3rd: Orlando Magic (15-13), Last Week: (0-3)
FACTS: So, the Magic had one bad week, big deal. Orlando still holds the 6 seed in the East and have only 6 less wins then they totaled all of last season. During their current three-game slide, the Magic have turned the ball over at an average of 19.0, dropping them down to 28th in the league at 16.1 per game. PG Steve Francis ranks 6th in the NBA in this category at 3.7 per contest and further, does not even rank in the top 50 in assist-to-turnover ratio. The return of starting center Kelvin Cato from IR should spark their inside game on both ends of the floor. Look for the Magic to start to bounce back this week with four of their five games against sub-.500 ball clubs.

FANTASY: Before hitting the IR, Cato was quietly putting together a solid season for Orlando. In his first game back on Saturday, the 6-11 center had 13 points, 6 boards, a steal and a block. In his four contests prior to his injury, Cato averaged 10.8 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and 1.75 BPG. If he struggles in his next few try and get him for cheap from his manager. This should benefit you in the long run with Cato playing alongside rookie phenom Dwight Howard.

FORECAST: Monday: @Toronto (Win), Wednesday: vs. Seattle (Loss), Friday: vs. Charlotte (Win), Saturday: vs. New Jersey (Win)

4th: Charlotte Bobcats (7-20), Last Week: (0-4)
FACTS: In dropping their last five games, it appears as if the wheels may be starting to come off this Charlotte train. The problem may lie in the fact that Coach Bernie Bickerstaff is granting an abundance of minutes to too many players. So far, 11 players (some not on the team any longer) have averaged 18 or more minutes this season, second only to the injury-riddled New Orleans Hornets. In their last five, 10 players have received 10 or more minutes, which to a degree, is taking away from seeing what some of these guys can do. The only consistency has been rookie F/C Emeka Okafor (36.7 MPG) the only Bobcat to average 30+. Bickerstaff needs to determine a more steady rotation and go with 7 or 8 guys for a stretch and see how the team can compete. Until then, he’s going to leave a handful of players in the dark as to what they can accomplish on a nightly basis.

FANTASY: A perfect example of how these substitution patterns are holding back some players from breaking out, is G/F Gerald Wallace. On Friday, GW had 15 points, 5 boards, 4 steals and 3 blocks in 34 minutes. The following night he was granted just 21 minutes (not in foul trouble) and put up a lowly 4 points and 3 boards. Must be very frustrating for Wallace owners (Paul).

FORECAST: Monday: vs. Cleveland (Win, if LeBron is out), Wednesday: vs. Minnesota (Loss), Friday: @Orlando (Loss)

5th: Atlanta Hawks (5-24), Last Week: (0-4)
FACTS: I’m not going to even bother.

FANTASY: Eh, maybe Tyronn Lue is worth it after all. The 4’1" PG put up 16 points and 6 assists yesterday in his best attempt thus far in convincing whoever their head coach is that he should remain their starter. Grab him if you’re desperate (I may).

FORECAST: Wednesday: @Cleveland (Loss), Friday: vs. Sacramento (Loss)
Western Wednesday in two days....


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