By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
Hot Starts and Disappointments
The surest formula for winning in any fantasy league: get the production you expect from most of your players, and find a few guys who really out-perform the projections. Here at Barometer HQ, our crack research staff uses a very complicated formula to define who those hidden gems have been, and which top picks aren't living up to the hype.
What's the formula, you ask? Can't say. Very highly secret. Research staff took years to perfect it...
Ah, who am I kidding... my research staff is me, a whole lot of cut-and-paste, and an Excel spreadsheet.
The formula is simple -- take the preseason rank, subtract the current rank. We're using ranks from Yahoo! -- partly because Yahoo's leagues are popular (and free) and partly because their ranks are machine-based and not subjective like RotoWire's very own Value Meter or cheat sheet. There are plusses and minuses to this approach -- the Value Meter, for example, can determine that Dwyane Wade is really good, even though he hasn't played much. Yahoo's rankings are based purely on numbers, so Wade comes up as a big underachiever. Plus, as anyone who's checked the Yahoo rankings has no doubt noticed, their formula gives a significant boost to players who fill up the box score and make contributions in some of the harder-to-get categories.
For the purposes of this discussion we're considering only the top 200 players by preseason rank, and we're excluding anyone who hasn't appeared in a game yet -- no Mike Bibby, Randy Foye or Elton Brand.
With about ten games in the books, we'll take our first look at players who have exceeded expectations so far, and those who have disappointed.
Better Than Expected
|Grant Hill||PHO||168||41||127||As expected: excellent fit in Suns' offense. Unexpected: 35+ mpg.|
|Damien Wilkins||SEA||143||23||120||Do-everything players fare well in Yahoo's rankings. A nice player, but we'd like to see more consistent shooting.|
|John Salmons||SAC||154||53||101||Excellent start -- we hope Reggie Theus can find minutes for him with Artest back from suspension.|
|Brendan Haywood||WAS||178||81||97||Major boost due to Etan Thomas' absence.|
|DeSagana Diop||DAL||164||68||96||Should come back to earth somewhat with Erick Dampier back in the lineup.|
|Chris Kaman||LAC||99||17||82||Big comeback from a disappointing 2006-07 campaign. Absence of Brand means Kaman has a more important role.|
|Francisco Garcia||SAC||175||98||77||Another player taking advantage of teammate's injury -- may be pressed for playing time by Beno Udrih.|
|Jose Calderon||Tor - PG||156||83||73||Raptors - and Calderon - are proving last season wasn't a fluke.|
|Sean Williams||NJ - C||184||112||72||If he can keep his head on straight, may lead the league in blocks very soon.|
|Yi Jianlian||Mil - PF||185||113||72||Most impressive rookie to date? Possibly -- but only because he didn't have nearly as much hype.|
|Kenyon Martin||Den - PF||174||103||71||Healthier than he's been in ages.|
|Chris Wilcox||Sea - PF,C||106||36||70||At 30-plus minutes per night, Wilcox could approach a solid double-double average.|
|Mike Dunleavy||Ind - SG,SF||111||42||69||A very good fit for Jim O'Brien's offense.|
|Hedo Turkoglu||Orl - SG,SF||117||48||69||Similarities to Rashard Lewis' style haven't been a problem.|
|Chuck Hayes||Hou - SF,PF||147||78||69||Tough rebounder should still see minutes even with Luis Scola playing well.|
|Nick Collison||Sea - PF,C||122||54||68||The young guys (like Robert Swift) haven't produced, and Collison is putting up very solid numbers.|
Injuries and opportunism are a common theme here, as a lot of the players who are out-performing expectations have done so by filling the void left by a teammate's injury. It seems reasonable to expect guys like Salmons, Diop and Garcia to come back to earth when the likes of Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Erick Dampier are back in the swing of things. But with other players, we could be seeing the start of a trend. Dunleavy, for example, just seems to fit better in Jim O'Brien's system than anywhere he's been since leaving Duke -- there's no reason to think that won't continue.
Worse Than Expected
|Dwyane Wade||Mia - PG,SG||11||248||-237||Just returning from offseason surgery.|
|Walter Herrmann||Cha - SF,PF||103||331||-228||A hot sleeper pick in the offseason, but hasn't been able to crack Charlotte's rotation.|
|Nene Hilario||Den - PF,C||80||293||-213||Same old Nene -- a variety of nagging injuries have slowed him significantly.|
|Nenad Krstic||NJ - PF,C||105||300||-195||The knee isn't 100% yet -- wonder if he'll be squeezed by the emerging Sean Williams or end up playing alongside the rook.|
|Shareef Abdur-Rahim||Sac - PF,C||141||325||-184||Sore knees and a glut of fours adds up to no production from 'Reef.|
|Zach Randolph||NY - PF||60||222||-162||Has played well, but missed time due to a death in the family.|
|Monta Ellis||GS - PG,SG||67||224||-157||The departure of Richardson hasn't paid the dividends many expected.|
|Ron Artest||Sac - SF||40||188||-148||Just returning from suspension.|
|Andre Miller||Phi - PG||71||218||-147||A player in decline? Getting squeezed by Louis Williams is one thing, but Kevin Ollie?|
|Robert Swift||Sea - C||136||277||-141||Can't seem to step up and win the starting job.|
|Donyell Marshall||Cle - SF,PF||181||321||-140||Limited to two games due to a wrist injury.|
|Zaza Pachulia||Atl - PF,C||161||299||-138||Missed the Hawks' first three games, hasn't topped 22 minutes yet.|
|Erick Dampier||Dal - C||144||281||-137||Returned sooner than expected and should be back to his usual level of production shortly.|
|Luke Ridnour||Sea - PG||139||275||-136||Point guard and center have been black holes for the Sonics.|
|Vince Carter||NJ - SG,SF||22||155||-133||Even before the ankle, Carter's shot wasn't falling.|
Here's the flipside of the "opportunism" theme noted above. A lot of the big names on the disappointments side have missed significant playing time due to injury, ongoing rehab, suspension or personal matters. Guys like Wade, Randolph, Artest and Carter should produce at a high level once they're back in their respective lineups.
But attention should be paid to the players on this list who are generally healthy but haven't met expectations. That could be an indication of a decline in skills (Andre Miller?) or playing-time distribution that isn't quite what we thought it would be (Monta Ellis).
For comparison's sake: through Sunday's games, the top 10 players in Yahoo's system are Chris Paul, Shawn Marion, Kevin Garnett, Rashard Lewis, Manu Ginobili, Andrei Kirilenko, LeBron James, Marcus Camby, Carlos Boozer, and Allen Iverson.
We'll revisit this index a few times over the course of the season.
Around the League:
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks ? all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again ? unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level. Comments and questions are always welcome ? just post 'em on the message board at the bottom of this page.
Dwight Howard (ORL) - As if Howard's stock could get any higher. Orlando's center continues to dominate in the paint. His latest epic performance came Monday against the Hornets -- a 24-point, 15-board special with a side of blocks (2), assists (2) and a steal.
Stromile Swift (MEM) - Looking to replace Darko's production? Look no further... Swift chipped in 24 points with five boards and four dimes in his first game starting in Milicic's place.
Sean Williams (NJ) - We've been telling you about Williams for the last couple of weeks -- here's hoping you didn't miss your chance then. The rookie block-machine has been elevated to the Nets' starting lineup.
Jamaal Magloire (NJ) - Like Williams, Magloire is now starting for the Nets. Unlike Williams, Magloire doesn't have a ton of upside, and may be keeping the spot warm for Nenad Krstic (still recovering from last year's torn ACL).
Andres Nocioni (CHI) - Inserted into the starting lineup at power forward, Nocioni has generated a nice spark for the disappointing Bulls. He averaged 19.5 points in his first two games as a starter.
Jordan Farmar (LAL) - Farmar had an outstanding game in Sunday's blowout win over Chicago. Given extended minutes in the 106-78 beat-down, Farmar scored 14 with eight assists, four rebounds and three steals. Watch his minutes closely, and don't be surprised if he supplants Derek Fisher before too long.
Jeff Green (SEA) - Seattle's other lottery pick is starting to earn enough minutes to be worthy of fantasy consideration. He played a career-high 30 minutes in Seattle's win over Memphis on Monday, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 boards.
Raymond Felton (CHA) - Felton's shooting touch really seems to be improving this season. Felton shot 7-of-12 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe on Monday, on his way to a 24-point 10-assist night and his second consecutive double-double.
Gerald Wallace (CHA) - Wallace seems to be heating up after a disappointing first few games -- he's now scored 27 points in three straight.
Jannero Pargo (NOR) - Pargo has filled in nicely for the injured Chris Paul -- Monday's impressive tally: 18 points and seven dimes.
Ira Newble (CLE) - Newble seems to have found a very productive niche and is getting heavy minutes at power forward for the Cavaliers. He's undersized for the spot at 6-7, 220 lbs, but has always been a solid rebounder.
Beno Udrih (SAC) - The Kings grabbed Udrih as a reclamation project, but so far he looks like a steal. Sacramento's new starting point had 23 points (9-of-13 FG, 5-of-5 FT), six assists and one turnover in the Kings' win over Detroit Sunday. If he can keep producing, look for the Mike Bibby trade rumors to heat up once again soon.
Ron Artest (SAC) - The early returns on Artest's offseason work with Chuck "The Rifleman" Person have been impressive -- Artest is shooting 57.5 percent from the floor through three games while providing his usual stifling defense (2.3 steals per game.)
Marcus Camby (DEN) - Camby pulled down 20 boards in the Nuggets' win over New York on Saturday night... the third time he's reached that number this season. And he needed just 26 minutes of playing time to do it, as Denver coach George Karl pulled his starters in the third quarter of the 115-83 win.
Tracy McGrady (HOU) - McGrady is expected back from elbow injury for Wednesday's game against Dallas.
Kevin Durant (SEA) - Durant is still adjusting to the NBA game and has struggled with his shot of late. This might be a good time to see if his owner is getting impatient.
Tyson Chandler (NOR) - Chandler left Monday's game with an apparent knee injury and did not return. No word yet on the severity of the problem.
Jermaine O'Neal (IND) - O'Neal's surgically-repaired knee really isn't at full strength yet, which is costing the forward lift on his jumper and power in his post moves. He's trying to play through the recovery and strengthening process, but this will likely impact his production in the short term.
Darko Milicic (MEM) - A thumb injury kept Milicic out of Monday's game -- he's day-to-day.
Mike Conley Jr. (MEM) - Just as Grizzlies' coach Marc Iavaroni was working Conley into the rotation, the rookie suffered a shoulder injury. No word yet on how much this will hold him back in the short term.
Randy Foye (MIN) - Tests on Foye's kneecap revealed the stress reaction isn't healing as quickly as hoped; he'll miss another three weeks at a minimum.
Tyrus Thomas (CHI) - Fairly or not, Thomas appears to be one of the scapegoats for Chicago's disappointing start. The second-year forward appears to be out of the rotation for now -- he didn't get into Sunday's game against the Lakers until garbage time.
Luol Deng (CHI) - The first problem -- Deng is apparently suffering from back trouble; never a good sign. The second, and potentially bigger problem -- Bulls coach Scott Skiles reportedly didn't know Deng had declared himself doubtful for Tuesday's game -- which may indicate a growing rift between Skiles and his best player.
Mehmet Okur (UTA) - Okur's production is down across-the-board... but the problem seems to lie with his teammates. Carlos Boozer has shown no signs of slowing down, Deron Williams is an emerging superstar, Andrei Kirilenko has bounced back from a disappointing season, and Ronnie Brewer looks like a real find at the two -- that simply leaves fewer shots for the big guy in the middle.
Sergio Rodriguez (POR) - In case you've been holding on to the promising Spaniard in the hopes that he'll get more run... doesn't look that way. Rodriguez has been demoted to the third string, with Taurean Green expected to run the point for Portland's second unit.
Rasho Nesterovic (TOR) - Expected to miss two weeks with a sprained ankle.
Thanks to all the Rotowire beat writers whose updates found their way into this week's Barometer.
Article first appeared on 11/19/07