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Hoops Lab: Hoops Lab-Week 3

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

First Impressions

You only get one chance to make a first impression. On a multiple choice test, they tell you to go with your first answer. So, now that we're one week into the NBA season, what are the stories that have made an initial impact on me, made me re-think some things I thought I knew as recently as last week? I'm glad you asked.

  • The Celtics might really be the '85 Bears: This offseason Celtics coach Doc Rivers stated that this year's Celtics team wanted to become THE defensive team in NBA history, the one that you think of in a casual discussion the way people think of the '85 Bears when discussing great defense in football. Well, through the first week the Celtics are absolutely blanking their opponents. Through four games the C's have allowed only two starters to score 20 points or dish more than four assists: LeBron James and Chris Paul. The other 18 starters are averaging 8.0 points on 33 percent shooting with 1.6 assists. As I point out in the defenses section below, until something changes you might avoid starting your fringe starters against the Celtics.

  • Carmelo Anthony wants to be mentioned in the same breath with his classmates: In the last few years LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have distanced themselves from the rest of the great players in their draft class. This season, Melo seems to want to join the party. Through the first week Melo is averaging 37.7 points, 7.0 boards, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 treys and has led his team to an undefeated record. Remember, before the Allen Iverson trade a few years ago Melo was leading the NBA in scoring.

  • So does Chris Bosh: Bosh is also from that 2003 draft class and is making his voice heard. Bosh has the value trifecta: he's approaching his physical prime in his mid-20s, he's on a fantasy friendly offense, and he's in a contract year. So while he likely eases off the 31-point/14.7-rebound pace that he is currently on, it wouldn't be surprising for Bosh to continue to post beast numbers throughout the season.

  • Hibachi!: Gilbert Arenas wants to party like it's 2006. Arenas has averaged 28 points, 6.7 assists and 2.3 treys through the first week of the season. These are the numbers that he routinely produced a few years ago before all of the injuries struck. At that time he was a top-five fantasy producer. For those that got him later than that this year, keep his previous value in mind when the trade offers start rolling in for him.

  • Brandon Jennings may be the most important rookie in fantasy: The story of the rookie class this season was supposed to be Blake Griffin. But with Griffin injured, Jennings has jumped to the front of the class. He was not expected to start so soon, but he won the job in the preseason and has exploded to average 20.5 points, 6.0 assists, 5.5 boards, 2.5 treys, and 1.5 steals in his first two games. He's the future of a poor Milwaukee team, and they have given him the ball from day one. Excellent news for his fantasy fortunes.

  • Pau Gasol's hamstring shapes value for all Lakers: Gasol was supposed to only be out for a short time as he finished nursing his sore hamstring. Instead, a sonogram has revealed a possible tear, and the results of the more extensive MRI are not yet available. In Gasol's absence Andrew Bynum has played like a first-rounder, and Lamar Odom is a nightly triple-double threat. If it turns out Gasol will be down for awhile these two shoot up in value, whereas if Gasol is back within the week expect both to come quickly back to earth.

  • Pau not the most important Gasol? Everyone always talks about Pau, but hardly anyone ever mentions his brother Marc. Even on the Grizzlies, a bad team, all of the attention goes to his teammates and little to Gasol. Well, through four games the forgotten Gasol is averaging 19 points, 12.3 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.5 blocks, and a steal per game. And this does not appear to be a fluke, as Gasol was also very good as a rookie last year. If you can, it would be nice to get try to get him on the cheap before his name catches up to his value.

  • Jermaine O'Neal and Grant Hill fountain of youth? O'Neal and Hill are both playing in hot climates, and maybe that appeals to their old bones. O'Neal is averaging 17.3 points and 10.3 boards while Hill has been 20 and 9.7. Now, I don't expect either of these trends to last to this extent. But Hill has been relatively healthy since getting to Phoenix, and provides decent value for where you probably drafted him. O'Neal has been consistently breaking down for half of a decade now, so you have to consider him fool's gold. But, sometimes you have to take a risk. If this is the one year O'Neal stays healthy, he's in a great situation in Miami where he's an afterthought on offense who only has to grab boards and score on open jumpers and putbacks.

  • Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby are playing for their futures: When Blake Griffin gets healthy he will eventually be the starting power forward for the Clippers. We all know that, and so do Kaman and Camby. Thus, one of them will eventually head to the bench or even out of town. In the meantime, both seem to be giving their all in the audition for the larger role. Kaman is averaging 22.6 points, 10.2 boards and 1.8 blocks while Camby is at 11.4 points, 10.4 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.4 blocks through five games.

  • The foreign invasion? Last week I blogged about three foreign-born players I had targeted late in a draft all of whom had good first games. My bottom line was that I liked Yi Jianlian and Nenad Krstic to keep up the good work, while I was a bit more leery about Danilo Gallinari. Oops. Gallinari has been exploding, and his perimeter game seems to be a great fit on the wide-open/no-defense Knicks. Meanwhile, Krstic is still feeling out his expanded role for the Thunder while Yi was inconsistent even before injuring his knee. So give me a mulligan, and give me Gallinari of that group moving forward (though I still like Krstic to be solid).

  • Owning Warriors will drive you crazy: The Warriors absolutely have an embarrassment of players capable of producing from the guard and swing positions. And Don Nelson is a mad scientist of an offensive coach likely to do crazy things like, I don't know, making Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette regulars at power forward. Nelson changes the starting lineup on a whim, and everyone's favorite sleeper Anthony Randolph is already seeing his role and minutes jerked around. At the end of the day owning a Warrior will drive you crazy, but because the upside is so large for the ones that eventually get the job, you have no choice but to stick it out and hope your guy wins the Nelson lottery.

  • Value in Philly (other guy's blog): Kyle McKeown wrote an interesting blog on the Sixers last week pointing out the young Sixers are still learning new coach Eddie Jordan's complex Princeton offense, and that they should be more effective once it takes. Since then Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams have already started to shine, with players like Thad Young, Elton Brand and Marreese Speights all showing signs. Take Kyle's advice and buy low on the Sixers, as once they get up to speed they could be one of the better offenses in the league.

  • Sessions vs Flynn: During the fantasy draft season both Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions were popular sleeper/late round point guard picks for their potential to produce in a Timberwolves offense that desperately needed perimeter help. It appeared that Flynn had won the job outright in the preseason, and he had a great first game, but by last weekend Wolves Coach Kurt Rambis was praising Sessions for the way he runs the team. And despite Flynn still starting, Sessions has averaged 29 mpg over the last two vs. Flynn's 21. Right now they're splitting the vote, but if either has been dropped in your league, he's worth keeping an eye on. One of them should take over the majority of minutes eventually.

  • Orlando is ridiculously deep and fantasy friendly: I saw a stat line on Sunday that still boggles my mind and is almost disturbing enough to cause nightmares. J.J. Redick: 27 points (8-for-14 FG, 6-for-7 FT), six rebounds, five treys, five assists, one steal, one turnover. That's right, somehow Redick stole Vince Carter's body and skills while Carter took the day off with an ankle injury. All jokes aside, the Magic are an extremely fantasy friendly offense right now that can seemingly plug-and-replace any of their players without missing a beat. Eventually Carter, Rashard Lewis (suspension) and Mickael Pietrus will return to the court to make their mark. But this is worth keeping in mind in case there are more injuries over this long season: you'll want to pick up the bench players for the Magic as spot starters.

  • Michael Redd still hobbling: Redd is still struggling to come back after his latest knee surgery. He was forced to come out of a game this weekend with soreness, and now it's been announced that he's out for a couple of weeks to let the knee rest and recover. This isn't good news for his long term prospects, as he'll be an injury risk moving forward this season.

    Defenses: Who to avoid and who to seek out

    There are currently six teams holding opponents under 90 ppg, but the only one that I am sold on right now is the Celtics. If the Thunder or Heat are still doing it in a couple of weeks I'll add them to this section, or if the usual suspects like the Cavs or Spurs step it up I'll add them as well. But for now, the team you might want to avoid when making close roster decisions is the Celtics. This week the Celtics play the 76ers, the Timberwolves, the Suns and the Nets. The Phoenix game on Friday is especially interesting, because it pits the irresistible force (Suns O: 117.3 ppg) vs the immovable object (Celtics D: 81.3 ppg allowed).

    At the other end of the spectrum the Knicks (117.3 ppg allowed), Grizzlies (115.8 ppg allowed) and Warriors (115.5 ppg allowed) are all teams that you want to actively seek out as opponents. This week the Knicks play the Pacers, Cavs and Bucks; the Grizz play the Warriors, Lakers and Clippers; and the Warriors play the Grizzlies, Clippers and Kings. This should be a great fantasy week for the Clips, who get to play two of the worst defenses in the league. And the in the Warriors-Grizzlies contest on Wednesday we might just see 150 points scored by one or both teams.

    New Additions

    Brandon Jennings (67% owned in Y! leagues): As mentioned above, Jennings is an early Rookie of the Year candidate. With the numbers he put up in the first week he should not be available in a full third of Yahoo! leagues.

    Andray Blatche (64% owned): With Antawn Jamison out, Blatche has been playing like an impact performer. He teases us with his talent every year, and thus far on the season the 23-year old is averaging 21 points, 6.3 boards and 1.3 blocks per game.

    Larry Hughes (48% owned): Hughes began the year completely out of the Knicks rotation, but he played well when given the chance this weekend, and now he is the starting shooting guard. With Nate Robinson out in the short term, Hughes has a good opportunity to establish himself and take hold of the position.

    Marreese Speights (40% owned): Speights is still coming off the bench for the Sixers, but he's scored 20 or more points in two of the first three games (he was in foul trouble in the one poor game he's had) and is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 boards on the year.

    Ryan Anderson (25% owned): Anderson gets hidden among all the big names on the Magic roster, but he had earned the starting power forward job in the preseason and has taken advantage of all of the injuries/suspensions on the wing to average 17.3 points and 3.7 treys over the first week.

    George Hill (4% owned): Hill is purely a backup in San Antonio, but the second year guard had a productive first week (11.7 points, 3.0 boards, 1.3 treys, 1.3 steals) and is a Tony Parker injury away from real relevance. I picked him up in a deep keeper league, and at the very least he is worth keeping an eye on.

    Article first appeared 11/3/09