After reading the comments from last week, I decided I may have been a bit overzealous with my Rockets prediction. They went into Los Angeles on Tuesday and appeared to take control of the game before folding in the second half to the defending champions. Then they took another loss Wednesday at the hands of Golden State. I still like them and think they're a virtual lock for the playoffs, but we'll have to see which seed they'll snag. I was excited about under 64.5 wins for the Heat prediction after Tuesday night, which put them on pace to go 0-82. Of course, after Wednesday's win they should now go 41-41. Seriously, I don't think the Heat have shown that they'll be the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, and the Celtic's inside play showed their vulnerability. Blake Griffin had an excellent debut with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and it'll be nice once the team realizes he should be the go-to guy in the paint, not Chris Kaman.
A sleeper pick I think will surprise many this season is the Sacramento Kings. They have an excellent young nucleus built around superstar Tyreke Evans. Beno Udrih has developed into an adequate point guard, and they have two of the faster-rising big men in the game in DeMarcus Cousins and Carl Landry. Throw in a scrappy Francisco Garcia and a solid bench and you've got a sleeper to grab a low seed for the playoffs.
With a whopping three days of games in the books, I'm ready to tell you exactly how the rest of the season will pan out. Good joke, Kevin. The truth is we've got a very small sample size to work with, yet there's some information to gather from the first couple of days. This week once again I'm going to scrap the usual season-long format, which I promise will return next week. Keep in mind, I'm not going to point out the more obvious pickups who aren't available (see Nicolas Batum) but instead will look at some players who could realistically help you next week or at some point this season.
Anyone in Miami – Outside of the “Big Three” no one is worth owning in a Heat uniform. James Jones put on a nice three-point display against the Sixers, but that's all he can do. Mike Miller won't be back until 2011, and the only possible player who could become fantasy relevant in the interim is Carlos Arroyo. Even that's a bit of a stretch.
Rasual Butler, G, LAC – Butler logged 30 minutes of playing time against the Blazers and had 16 points, which included four three-pointers. Butler is one of the more underrated shooters beyond the arc and should get plenty of open looks with a solid point guard and two productive big men.
Landry Fields, G, NYK – It was an interesting opening night for rookie teammates Fields and Timofey Mozgov. Apparently the Russian League is more lenient on fouls than the NBA as Mozgov's four fouls in only seven minutes indicates. He's a project but has excellent athleticism and potential for someone 7-foot-1 if he learns to control the hacking. Fields got the surprise start at shooting guard and hit three three-pointers in 30 minutes of playing time. An excellent scorer in college, Fields averaged more than 22 points and 8.8 rebounds his senior year at Stanford. It'll be tough for him to keep Wilson Chandler out of the starting lineup, but he should still see decent minutes even if he's relegated to the bench.
Jarrett Jack, G, TOR – Jack has not only wrapped up the starting gig for the Canadian team, it looks like he'll get significant minutes after logging 31 on Wednesday. Jack played well last year when given solid minutes in Indiana, so there is some track record of success here. In little more than 27 minutes of playing time for the Pacers he averaged 11.4 points (on 48.1 percent shooting) and 5.0 assists. Now on a team where he has a bigger offensive role, he could be in for a good season if he continues to get 30-plus minutes.
Chuck Hayes, F, HOU – Here's a nice, sneaky pick if you're in a league with daily lineups. For the time being the Rockets will sit Yao Ming in the second of back-to-back games, which will open up playing time for Hayes. While it was a fantasy friendly matchup against the Warriors, Hayes played the most minutes (39) of any Rocket and had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Because Hayes will play less when Yao is in the lineup, the Rockets likely won't limit his minutes when Yao is out.
Donte Greene, F SAC – I'll admit, I'm a tad obsessed with Greene's potential. You have a 6-11 “small” forward who can light it up from downtown almost effortlessly. He's in the starting lineup for the Kings and has the chance to put up numbers across the board. Greene only had six points in the victory over Minnesota but the seven rebounds, two assists and a block are what stand out to me. This is only his third NBA season after leaving Syracuse early, and he's only 22. In the 18 games when he played at least 30 minutes last season, Greene averaged 16.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and more than a block per contest. Keep an eye on his minutes now that Tyreke Evans has served his suspension; Greene will find his shooting touch soon enough. It's unlikely that he's available, but check to see if teammate Francisco Garcia is on the waiver wire. Now healthy and without Kevin Martin in town, Garcia should continue to put up stellar numbers.
Luke Ridnour, G, MIN – This could be an example of overreacting to one game, but Jonny Flynn isn't expected back for a minimum for a couple of more weeks. Ridnour's debut for the Wolves saw him post 20 points, six assists and five rebounds. He's shot a career-high 38.1 percent from three-point land and 90.7 percent from the free-throw line last year, so the scoring ability is there. If you need point guard help, grab him for the next few weeks.
Darrell Arthur, F, MEM – Arthur had a career-high 19 points along with three rebounds on Wednesday night. The 31 minutes of playing time were available since Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were battling their respective injuries. Arthur should continue to get those minutes in the short-term while both deal with their ailments. The Grizzlies had four good matchups on the road next week, and Arthur could make for a nice play depending on the size of your league.