The Hoops Lab
Situations to Watch and Quick Hits
The Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess trade has bigger fantasy implications for their teammates than for themselves. Billups and Iverson will each assume feature roles on their new teams, and at this point in their careers their outputs should not dramatically change. If anything, they each may improve slightly since Billups will be playing at a faster, more fantasy-friendly pace while Iverson no longer has to defer to another elite scorer in Carmelo Anthony.
This trade is great news for Anthony, as he now gets to re-assume the role of unquestioned alpha scorer that he was just growing into when the Nuggets traded for Iverson in 2006. If you recall, at the time Anthony was among the leading scorers in the NBA with an average of around 30 ppg. With Iverson's scoring prowess replaced by Billups' true PG skills, look for Anthony to once again vault to the top of the score sheets. In fact, this trade should be good for most of the Nuggets starters, especially Nene, Kenyon Martin and JR Smith. We saw what playing next to a great point guard did for Martin in New Jersey, and we should see a similar effect for Nene. And having Billups as the starting PG should allow Smith to go back to his natural shooting guard position and likely move into the starting line-up. About the only person on the Nuggets that isn't helped by this trade is Anthony Carter, who is surprisingly ranked No. 14 on the Yahoo! Fantasy player rater. Billups' arrival moves him to the bench, and should take a big chunk out of his production.
For the Pistons, the main beneficiary of this trade may be Jason Maxiell. With McDyess out of town, and young starter Amir Johnson still not-quite-ready for prime time, Maxiell should have an increased role for the Pistons moving forward. With Iverson as the starting "point guard", Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince may have to do a bit more playmaking than before which could mean more assists but a slight decrease in points. Iverson's arrival could also lead to more 3-point attempts from spot-up shooters like Rasheed Wallace and Walter Herrmann, as Iverson is better than Billups at drawing defensive attention with the drive then kicking it out to the open shooter.
Jose Calderon Top-10 Player?
Last season Calderon was one of the better players in fantasy while TJ Ford was out, then faded when he went back into the timeshare with Ford. With Ford now in Indiana, Calderon has picked up right where he left off. Calderon is channeling Steve Nash circa 2004, averaging almost 20 points and 10 assists on excellent shooting percentages (50-plus FG%, 90-plus FT%) to go with a couple of treys and a handful of rebounds per game. It remains to be seen whether he can keep his scoring average so high, but he's shown he can sustain the other numbers which suggests Calderon should be one of the best roto producers in the league this year.
The Ginobili Effect
The Spurs have built a strong winning formula over the past half-decade: a three-headed offensive attack led by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker with veteran role players to defend and hit timely shots. This year, though, Ginobili is out until December after ankle surgery, and the veteran role players have gotten old. The result is that Duncan and Parker are having to carry a heavier load this year to keep the Spurs competitive. I talked about Duncan last week, but Parker has stolen the spotlight with his 55-point/10-assist explosion earlier this week. While he may not maintain his current 33 ppg averages, Parker should remain one of the better scorers in the league while Ginobili is out. Roger Mason is also now a viable fantasy option, as he has assumed a junior version of Ginobili's role as the spark off the bench/third member of the Spurs' offense.
AK47 as Impact 6th Man:
Andrei Kirilenko seems to be adjusting well to his new role as sixth man for the Jazz. He's logging more than 30 mpg off the bench, and is responding by producing his best numbers in the last three seasons. As the sixth man, Kirilenko is able to spend more time at power forward taking advantage of his length and quickness as a help-defender (i.e. more blocks and steals) and rebounder. Also, Kirilenko is the offensive focal point of the second unit, which has seen him return to the 15 ppg average that used to be his norm before 2006. Kirilenko has shown a tendency to run hot and cold through the year, so we're not quite ready to declare him all the way back, but this role seems to suit him. If he keeps it up, he'll have a major impact for your team.
Life After Jermaine O'Neal
Danny Granger and Troy Murphy are both ranked in the top 15 by average on the Yahoo! player rater, and this looks like a trend in the post Jermaine O'Neal era. We projected Granger to be one of the best players in the league this year as the Pacers build a Jim O'Brien offense around him, and so far he has obliged by putting up numbers similar to those of a young Paul Pierce in the same O'Brien offense. Murphy has been a surprise so far, but he's not doing anything that is necessarily unsustainable. Murphy used to be a consistent double-digit rebounder with the Warriors from 2002 – 2006, so his current pace is not without precedent. What is different is that he's hitting 2.7 treys/per early on, when his previous career high (set last year) was 1.3 treys/per. If Murphy can settle down into a consistent double-double guy with long-distance range he could be very valuable at the center position.
Nate Robinson is thriving under new Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, playing the role that Leandro Barbosa used to fill in Phoenix. As the scoring lead guard off the bench, Robinson is free to come into the game and provide a jolt to the offense. His current averages of 15.8 points, 4.3 boards, 4.5 assists, 2.5 treys and 2.5 steals look like the type of numbers Barbosa used to put up in Phoenix, when Barbosa was consistently one of the better roto players in the league. If Robinson can maintain this role he'll be one of the steals of the late draft/free agency. He could be worth trying to buy low in a trade before his new status becomes accepted as the norm.
Sessions Is Back
Last week I put Ramon Sessions in the "trade bait" category because he wasn't starting or even getting minutes, and I thought he wouldn't start to fulfill his sleeper promise until later in the year. Then, this weekend, Luke Ridnour hurt his back and let Sessions get onto the court. Scratch that "trade bait" talk for Sessions, as he's responded by averaging 17.3 points, 8.7 assists, 1.7 steals and shooting 50 percent from the field over his last three games. For some reason he still isn't starting, and when Michael Redd returns from his injury it could once again cut into his minutes, but Sessions is just too good. Bucks coach Scott Skiles has to recognize this and find playing time for him... right?
Roger Mason Jr: Mason is assuming Ginobili's role for the Spurs as the spark off the bench/third scorer next to Duncan and Parker. And he is doing it well, with averages of 15.8 points, 3.0 boards, 2.8 assists and 2.3 treys per in his first four games.
Spencer Hawes: Hawes continues to produce well on a nightly basis, but Brad Miller returns next game after a five-game suspension and could eat into Hawes' minutes. Nevertheless, it's hard to imagine the re-building Kings sitting down a budding young center like Hawes in exchange for a much older vet in Miller who's not likely in their future plans.
Mario Chalmers: Chalmers is in this space for the second week in a row due to his excellent peripheral numbers. Chalmers is averaging six assists, almost four steals, almost four rebounds and a trey per game to go with his eight points.
Mark Gasol: Gasol is producing similar numbers to those of his brother Pau thus far on the year, a scenario that hardly anyone saw coming. Pau was ranked in the top 25 of most preseason lists and was a high-round draft pick, whereas Mark is still available on some free agent wires.
Delonte West: West has been on fire, shooting 60.9 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from behind the arc (10 of 15) over his last three games. He appears to be settling in to his new shooting guard role for the Cavs, and with LeBron creating open shots for him all West has to do is knock them down.
Sebastian Telfair: Telfair came off his three-game suspension with a very solid eight-point/10-assist performance. He's the backup point guard in Minnesota, but starter Randy Foye has a lot of shooting guard in his game which should open up opportunity for a pure PG like Telfair to get playing time.
Rudy Fernandez: If for some reason Fernandez is not picked up in your league, stop reading this sentence and immediately go pick him up. He's a natural scorer with great shooting range, and he looks to be in for a big rookie year.
Marquis Daniels: With Mike Dunleavy Jr. still out, Daniels is quietly picking up the slack with averages of almost 15 points and seven rebounds per game.
Article first appeared 11/7/08