Under the Radar
By Kevin Payne
RotoWire Staff Writer
As the NBA season draws closer to the All-Star break, an interesting question arises: Who is the NBA's most "fantasy friendly" team?
It should come as no surprise that Don Nelson's Golden State Warriors should be considered the top fantasy friendly team in the league. While the Warriors rank only second to the Lakers in points scored per game (107.8 to 105.8, respectively), they allow a league-high 111.7 per games to opposing teams. Golden State ranked first in the league in blocks per game (6.4) and fifth in the league in steals per game (8.3). In the other typical roto categories (free throw percentage, three-pointers made and field goal percentage) the Warriors fall to the middle of the pack ranking 15th, 16th and 18th in the league, respectively.
The Warrior's team stats only tell half the story. To show they are really the most "fantasy friendly" team, let's look how opposing teams fare against them. In addition to allowing a league high in points, Golden State gives up the most assists (24.6) and rebounds (47.7) per game of any team in the NBA. The Warriors also rank third in blocks allowed (5.8), sixth in field goal percentage (47.1), and eighth in steals (8.1) allowed per game.
So what does all of this mean? Maybe Don Nelson drafted all of his players for his fantasy team. Seriously, it shows why Warriors players have been highlighted in this article throughout the year. At some point, Marco Belinelli, Anthony Morrow, Brendan Wright, C.J. Watson and Kelenna Azubuike have all been mentioned for their contributions to Golden State. Expect more players from the Warriors to be written about during the second half of the season. Now, onto the weekly look at the minutes, categories and eligibility sections.
Here is the list of players who have seen an increase in playing time the last few games.
Mardy Collins, PG, LAC - A slew of injuries to the Clippers has opened the door to big minutes for Collins. The lesser known of the two players received in the Zach Randolph trade, Collins has gotten a second life in Los Angeles after riding the pine in New York. Averaging 16.5 minutes per game this season, Mardy averaged 40.2 minutes in his last four games. He's responded with 15.75 points, 4.75 assists, 4.5 rebounds and two steals per game. Baron Davis is expected to be sidelined for at least another week, so Collins becomes a useful pickup until his return.
Kelenna Azubuike, G, GS - The carousel of players continues in the Bay Area, with Azubuike the latest to see a boost in minutes for the Warriors. With injuries to Stephen Jackson and Marco Belinelli, Azubuike averaged 30.7 minutes over his last three games. During that time, he's scored 19 points, 4.33 rebounds and two three-pointers made per game. Couple that with shooting 67.7 percent from the field, and you've got a viable option at guard for the short term. Jackson is supposed to be out approximately two weeks, and Monta Ellis is close to returning, so temper any long-term expectations. But in the meantime, start the former Kentucky Wildcat while he's hot.
Zaza Pachulia, C, ATL - OK, here's the darkhorse for the week. The man who was 6-foot-8 at the ripe old age of 13 will see plenty of time due to the injury of Al Horford. Zaza started and logged 31 minutes for the Hawks on Sunday, only scoring four points with six rebounds. However, he gets a pass since that was his first game back from battling the flu. In Tuesday night's game in Phoenix, Pachulia fared much better, scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Horford is expected back some time next week, but look for Zaza to put up decent scoring and rebounding numbers until Al is healthy.
This is a list of players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Nick Young, G, WAS - The former USC Trojan has been lighting it up lately for the Wizards. After scoring a career-high 28 points Friday against the Bulls, Young hit for 30 points Monday against the Bucks. Over his last three games he's shot 69.8 percent from the field and hit more than 50 percent of his three-pointers. If he continues to see more than 24 minutes off the bench, expect him to be a good contributor in scoring. Just don't expect him to produce in too many other fantasy categories.
Travis Outlaw, F, POR - Outlaw was returned to power forward, a position he thrived in last season, by coach Nate McMillan last week. He responded with 14 points, including the game-winner with nine seconds left for the Trailblazers. The two following games saw him score 19 and a season-high 33, respectively. Outlaw has the ability to block shots and hit three-pointers also. Keep an eye on his minutes and role with the team as he may be a good long-term play for roto teams.
Will Solomon, PG, TOR - Jose Calderon has been the latest casualty of the dreaded hamstring injury. After missing four games last week, Calderon ended up leaving Sunday's game against the Celtics early after aggravating the injury. Solomon has stepped in over the five games and averaged 6.6 assists and eight points per game. Expect Calderon not to rush back to action as soon this time, and "The King" to grab the majority of minutes at point guard for Toronto.
Rasual Butler, F, NOR - The starting forward for the Hornets has been money from beyond the arc lately. Over his last four games, he's hit 11 three-pointers. For the season, he's averaging 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. With Chris Paul and David West the focal points of opposing defenses, expect Butler to continue to see open looks from downtown for New Orleans.
The following players have received new eligibility regarding positions over the last week.
Stephen Graham obtained small forward status for the Pacers.
Article first appeared on 1/14/09