The Hoops Lab
Nailed it (I am the man!)
1. Someone besides Kobe Bryant will lead the NBA in scoring this season (LeBron James)
2. Someone besides Steve Nash will lead the NBA in total assists this season (Chris Paul)
3. Someone besides Kevin Garnett will lead the NBA in rebounding this season (Dwight Howard)
4. Things will not go well in Miami this season ('Nuff said)
5. Reigning rookie of the year Brandon Roy will not have the best fantasy season among second-year players (Rudy Gay)
6. Rashad McCants will be the best perimeter player on the Wolves this season, even ahead of Randy Foye
Wrong (Nobody's perfect)
1. The Grizzlies will be this season's Raptors, using the Suns' blueprint to surprise everyone on their way to becoming contenders in the conference
2. The Bobcats are going to the playoffs this season
3. The Timberwolves will have a better record this season than they had either of the last two seasons (Yeah, I know. Not my brightest prediction)
4. By the end of the season, Nate Robinson will be acknowledged as the best guard in the Knicks back-court (He did jump over Marbury, though)
5. Kevin Garnett is about to have the best statistical year of his career, even better than the 2003-04 season where he led the NBA in total points and rebounds (He had arguably his best season overall, but one of his worst fantasy seasons)
Half-right (Let me explain...)
1. Things will not go well in Phoenix this season
The team is currently sixth out West after finishing top-2 each of the past three years. That may be more due to the competition getting stronger than them getting weaker, but still, I'm claiming half-victory on this one.
2. Either Josh Smith or Gerald Wallace will finish higher than Shawn Marion on the Yahoo! player rater this season
Marion is still currently higher than Smith on the rater, but it's close and Smith could still overtake him. And the fact that Smith is still playing while Marion sat out April (and fantasy playoffs) gives Smith the edge in the tie-breaker.
3. Both Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston will return to the Clippers before the season ends, and at least one will have an impact by the fantasy playoffs
Brand made it back, and is having an impact on the fantasy playoffs.
4. There were two Cinderella teams in the Western Conference playoffs last season: the Warriors and the Jazz. At least one of them will miss the playoffs outright this season
This hasn't played out yet, but currently the Warriors are on the outside looking in so by next week this could be completely right.
5. By the time the playoffs start, Chris Webber and Sam Cassell will be playing for the Celtics.
It was P.J. Brown instead of Webber that joined the Celtics, but I got the Cassell part correct.
Situations to watch and Quick Hits
Free agent Merry-go-Round: For those in daily transaction leagues with no moves limit, the strategy in the playoffs is different from the regular season's. Because in the playoffs, it makes more sense to drop a reasonably solid starter that doesn't have a game in exchange for a good free agent that's playing. I have been in some leagues where this is taken to the extreme, with owners staying up till 4 am to make transactions as soon as the next business day begins. When it gets to this point it's not as much fun, because winning a championship can become just a numbers game instead of a true test of team quality.
That said, if the league is set up to allow this, and there are quality free agents on your wire, it's just intelligent to do whatever it takes to win. So if you're losing in a close game and have anyone that you could drop without it destroying your team, even if it's someone that you wouldn't normally drop, it might be worth it to pull the trigger.
Tracy McGrady's shoulder: McGrady sat out Weneday night against the Sonics with a sore shoulder, but he expects to play against the Suns on Friday. The Rockets' next three games are all against playoff-caliber competition, with the Nuggets and Jazz following the Suns before an easier game in the season finale against the Clippers. With the Rockets still fighting for playoff seeding, McGrady will likely play each of the next three games, but if the situation is settled by next Wednesday he probably will sit out the finale.
LeBron James' back: James missed two practices this week with a sore back, but he was still able to start and put up huge numbers on Wednesday night. If the Cavs are able to lock into the fourth seed before the season ends James could end up sitting out a game or two, but as long as the team is still fighting for position he's likely to keep suiting up.
Ron Artest done?: Artest sat out of Tuesday's game with a sprained thumb, and his status for the remainder of the season is in question. It doesn't make sense for him to risk a return since the team is eliminated from the playoffs, so don't base your championship hopes upon having him over the next week. Also, keep an eye out for Francisco Garcia and John Salmons, who could step up in his absence.
Corey Maggette return?: Maggette missed Tuesday's game against the Nuggets with a strained hamstring, but he has been listed as probable to play Thursday night against the Lakers. The Clippers are long out of the playoffs, but with Elton Brand's return and a rivalry game against the Lakers, perhaps Maggette will be motivated to play. If he doesn't make it back for Thursday, though, I question whether he will come back at all this season.
Gerald Wallace done?: Wallace has missed the last three games due to a groin injury, and he has now reported pain in his abdominal muscles. With the Bobcats out of playoff contention, he's reportedly leaning toward shutting it down for the last few games of the season.
Nick Collison: The Sonics will enter this offseason in stage two of their rebuilding mode, with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green already in place as future cornerstones. Collison needs to work hard to make sure that he is a part of that future plan, and he's playing like it by averaging 13.3 points and 11.3 boards over the last week.
Francisco Garcia/ John Salmons: Just like earlier in the season, Garcia and Salmons have increased their values with Ron Artest on the bench. Artest could be done for the season, in which case Garcia (20.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.5 boards, 2.0 steals over the last week) and Salmons (11.3 points, 4.5 boards, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals) should both finish the season strong.
Jason Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson: The Pistons are locked into the second seed in the Eastern Conference, which means that they're resting their starters more and giving more minutes to their younger players. Maxiell (7.0 points, 7.3 boards, 1.5 blocks, .8 steals over last week), Stuckey (13.8 points, 5.5 assists, 3.3 boards, 1.5 steals), and Johnson (7.3 points, 7.5 boards, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals) have all taken advantage of these extra minutes and should continue to finish the season strong.
Leon Powe: Like the Pistons, the Celtics are also locked into their playoff position and are resting their starters more. Powe is the main player off the bench that has consistently produced fantasy numbers when given minutes, so he's a good candidate for a cheap pick-up that could produce over this last week.
Ramon Sessions: Sessions has taken over as the lead guard for the Bucks with Mo Williams injured, and he's finishing the season with a bang, averaging 9.5 points, 8.5 assists, 4.3 boards and 1.3 steals per game over the last week.
Article first appeared 4/10/08