The Hoops Lab
Situations to watch and Quick Hits
The Trade: Jason Richardson was traded to the Suns this week for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell. Fantasywise, this trade could potentially benefit both Richardson and Diaw. Richardson will likely be a primary scoring option for the Suns, and with Steve Nash setting him up for open shots, Richardson should be able to score more efficiently in Phoenix. Diaw presumably moves into the starting power forward slot for the Bobcats, and if so he should have the opportunity to use his perimeter skills in the high-post opposite Emeka Okafor. Also keep an eye on Okafor, who began this season primarily as a defensive/rebounding threat but has scored 19 or more points in five of the last seven games. With former leading scorer Richardson out of town, Okafor could find himself being relied upon for more offense moving forward.
The McHale effect: Earlier this week, the Timberwolves fired head coach Randy Wittman and replaced him with Kevin McHale. Mchale intends the Timberwolves to run more and be more offensive minded as opposed to the conservative/defensive mindset of Wittman. More offense and faster pace means more counting stats, which makes the Timberwolves now a team of interest for the fantasy community. Also, we know that Mchale was the former Vice President of basketball operations for the Timberwolves and that he was the executive in charge of all of the drafts and trades that brought in personnel. This means that Mchale is more likely to give minutes to his primary trade and draft targets, so players like Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, Kevin Love and Craig Smith all potentially have bigger roles in the Mchale regime. Smith and McCants have both moved into the starting line-up, and both Love and Foye have produced strong numbers in the first two games of the Mchale regime.
The re-birth of Shuttlesworth: Ray Allen said this offseason that he had played all of last season on injured ankles, and that he was finally fully recovered. His play of late suggests that he was telling the truth, as he has been on absolute fire. Over the last nine games Allen is averaging 23.6 points on 59 percent shooting from the field with four treys per game. Allen is not the all-around threat that he used to be, but he appears to once again be the man that can win you the 3-ptrs category by himself.
New-look Pistons: In addition to the Iverson effect mentioned above, the Pistons have been a team in transition on the fantasy front. They are now starting Rodney Stuckey at point guard next to Iverson, with Rip Hamilton moved to the SF, Tayshaun Prince to the PF, and Rasheed Wallace at C. These new roles obviously make Stuckey more valuable, as he gets minutes and more assist opportunities. The other starters get dual eligibility, and Prince has more chances to grab boards. But Iverson, in particular, has felt a numbers crunch as he's averaging only 15 ppg over his last five outings.
Camby battling Superman: Dwight Howard is making a bid to lead the NBA in both blocks and rebounds this season, but lately Marcus Camby appears ready to give him a battle. Camby has averaged 14.4 boards and 4.2 blocks per over his last five games, and looks poised to continue that production for as long as Chris Kaman is out. Once Kaman comes back he could eat into Camby's minutes, but in the meantime Camby owners should enjoy the Superman stats without Howard's Kryptonite free throw percentage.
Melo's huge quarter: On Wednesday I had one of those "Oh, snap! I need to call my friends" moments as I watched Carmelo Anthony catch fire and tie an NBA record with 33 points in a single quarter of a game. Anthony did it inside and outside, often just pulling up from wherever he happened to catch the ball to drain a long trey. I expected Anthony's scoring to increase much more with the Iverson-for-Billups swap, and that hasn't happened, but at least for one quarter Anthony revived the scoring instincts that once made him a challenger to lead the league in scoring.
Players in mourning: Shaquille O'Neal and Gerald Wallace have both missed game action this week while mourning deaths in their families. Our hearts go out to them, and both should be back on the floor in the near future.
D.J. Augustin (51% owned): I normally don't include players in this section that are more than 50% owned, but this could be your last chance to get Augustine. He has already been playing well of late, and with the trade that sent Richardson out of town he likely gets even more minutes moving forward.
Anderson Varejao (31% owned): Varejao has been more offensive-minded of late, with games of 15 and 17 points over the last week. Always a solid rebounding option, if Varejao can score consistently in double figures he could be a solid reserve roto center.
Larry Hughes (34% owned): Hughes has been quietly productive of late, averaging almost 16 points and three treys per over his last five games. He is still coming off the bench, but he has been shooting efficiently from downtown and could be playing himself into a larger role if this continues.
Luke Ridnour (30% owned): I have been one of the biggest proponents of moving Ramon Sessions into the starting line-up, but the Bucks keep giving Ridnour minutes and he keeps producing. He is averaging 11 points, seven assists and two steals over the past five games, numbers that could certainly benefit teams in need of a fringe point guard/flex producer.
Bobby Simmons (20% owned): Simmons may not be living up to the expectations the Nets have had for him, but his pedestrian numbers seem to be on an upward trend. Over the past three games, he's averaging 11 points, 1.3 steals, and 1.8 threes on 59% shooting from the field. He's a possible pickup in deeper leagues with potential value in threes, steals, and turnovers if he ever finds consistency.
Juan Dixon (4% owned): Dixon started at point guard Thursday night, and responded with 17 points (6-for-12 FG, 4-for-4 FT), seven assists, four steals, two boards, a block and a trey in 34 minutes of action. Dixon moved into the starting role due to the trade that sent Antonio Daniels out, and if he continues to play well he could lay claim to the position in the short-term over newcomers Javaris Crittenton and Mike James. Gilbert Arenas is not expected back until next month.
Article first appeared 12/12/08