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Hoops Lab: NBA Hoops Lab-Week 4

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.

The Hoops Lab

By Andre' Snellings
RotoWire Staff Writer

Does coaching matter?

A study performed by Dave Berri raised the question of whether the head coach has much effect on the production of NBA players. While I'll leave it to Berri to argue his case with respect to the actual NBA, in the fantasy sports universe the head coach absolutely makes a difference. The head coach controls several important variables, including pace and philosophy, which contribute to players producing good fantasy numbers. Fast-paced, offensive-minded systems like those run by Don Nelson are conducive to fantasy success. That's why these systems tend to make relative unknowns suddenly fantasy relevant - the explosion of Anthony Morrow (more on him below) this week as just the latest example. So if you are scouring your free-agent wire and looking for a potential sleeper with upside, you could do worse than to pick up a young player who is about to get increased minutes on a team coached by Nelson, Mike D'Antoni or George Karl.

Situations to watch and Quick Hits

The Trade: The Warriors traded Al Harrington to the Knicks for Jamal Crawford, a deal that looks to be win-win fantasy-wise. The Knicks and Warriors are first and second in the NBA in scoring, with each running extremely fantasy-friendly offenses. Crawford should fit perfectly into Monta Ellis' intended role as a scoring combo guard to share the primary scoring and distribution duties with Stephen Jackson. Crawford also has more 3-point range than Ellis, which means that he should get plenty of treys playing under Nellie's green-light offense. Crawford's presence is not good news for either Kalenna Azubuike or Anthony Morrow, though, as one of them will lose his starting job and both will likely lose minutes.

Harrington gets a fresh start in New York, and he seems to be a good fit for the combo-forward offenses that Coach D'Antoni used to make Boris Diaw a fantasy mainstay and Shawn Marion a fantasy legend. It will be interesting to see how the Knicks distribute their frontcourt minutes now, since they were already getting production from Zach Randolph, David Lee and Wilson Chandler. Most likely Quentin Richardson shifts to the shooting guard slot, and Harrington replaces him at starting forward, with the remaining minutes staying roughly constant.

Wade challenging the King and CP3: Chris Paul and LeBron James are ranked number one and number three by average in the Y! player rater, but the now-healthy Dwyane Wade has vaulted into the number two slot and is challenging them for roto supremacy. Wade is putting video game numbers on the board regularly, including a ridiculous 40-point, 11-assist, five-block effort on Wednesday. Which leads to a dilemma: can Wade owners feel entirely comfortable that his health will hold up for an entire season? He hasn't finished a healthy season since 2006. While I still have some concerns about Wade holding up, it's just about impossible to get equal value in a trade for someone averaging 28/8/5 with more than two steals and two BLOCKS per game as well. At this point, you have to ride it out and hope he holds up.

Greg Oden Heating up: Oden is becoming a fixture in this space, as every week his status seems to change. This week, his status has gone from "potential defensive stud with upside and injury problems" to "potential fantasy superstar". Oden has been dominant, averaging 14 points with 10 boards and three blocks in only 24 minutes off the bench. While the defense and rebounding are expected, his offensive upside is higher than I anticipated. Once he gets into full game shape and moves into the starting lineup, it appears Oden could average Dwight Howard-like numbers without the crippling free throw percentage. Barring another injury, this might be your last chance to buy somewhat low on Oden.

Thad Young joining best of class: Last season's rookie class was led on the fantasy front by Al Horford and Kevin Durant, but Thaddeus Young is quietly moving into place near the head of it. He's averaging a 76ers-high 16.2 ppg on 53 percent shooting from the field, but in the last week he has ramped that up to 21 ppg on 64 percent. Young also has 3-point range (1.2 treys/game), and if he can get closer to two treys per, he could be this year's breakout small forward in the Danny Granger mold.

The explosion of Anthony Morrow: Morrow has made himself into a fantasy sensation as the number one ranked player on the Y! rater over the last week with averages of 31 points, 7.5 boards, and four treys per game. The arrival of Jamal Crawford could affect Morrow's minutes, but Morrow has shown enough upside in just these two games to be worthy of a rotation spot in fantasy lineups until proven otherwise.

Harris and Vince in NJ: The Nets have been two- and three-man fantasy teams for the last few years with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and sometimes Richard Jefferson. With Kidd and Jefferson gone, Devin Harris is now joining Carter as the only offensive contributors for the team. Harris has averaged 28.7 points, 7.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.7 threes in the three weeks since he's been back from an ankle sprain (good for No. 2 in the Y! player rater over the week). In fact, Harris and Carter are combining for 61 points, 13 assists, and nine boards per over the last week. We expected numbers like this from Carter, but if Harris can continue to channel the Kidd/Jefferson combo he could be a breakout player this season.

New Additions

Brook Lopez (46% owned): Lopez has moved into the starting lineup in the last week and responded with averages of 15 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks over that stretch. The rookie twin is showing enough potential that the big-man deprived Nets are unlikely to send him back to the bench any time soon.

Ben Wallace (46% owned): Wallace is producing decent roto numbers for the Cavs over the last week, with averages of 7.7 boards, 2.7 blocks, and 2.0 steals over that stretch. He hardly scores at all, and his free throw percentage is putrid, but since he only takes about one free throw per game his percentage doesn't really hurt that much. Wallace could be worth a short-term add for teams that need a defensive role-player with center eligibility.

Cuttino Mobley (37% owned): Mobley has been playing well over the last week, including a 23-point/7-steal effort on Wednesday night. But the veteran finds his way onto my list due to the trade rumors that swirled today, suggesting that he could be traded to the Knicks as part of a Zach Randolph deal. I don't often suggest making fantasy moves based on unsubstantiated rumor, but looking at the Knicks' roster it's hard not to notice that they no longer have any real shooting guards now that Crawford is gone. If you have a free roster spot in a deep league, it could be worth taking a flyer on Mobley in the hope he gets transferred to a prominent role in a lucrative Mike D'Antoni offense.

Rasho Nesterovic (18% owned): Nesterovic has played well in the four games since his return from an ankle injury, averaging 14.3 points, 8.3 boards, and 2.0 blocks in the last week. Nesterovic has never been a fantasy star, but he's being asked to do more for the size-depleted Pacers and could be worth a trial add for a team that needs help at center.

D.J. Augustin (9% owned): This is more of a long-term upside recommendation, but Augustin is quietly carving out a larger role in the Bobcats' offense. He scored 21 points with four assists on Tuesday in 36 minutes of action, his most playing time of the year. Meanwhile, starter Raymond Felton has been struggling - that could leave the door open for Augustin to take an even larger role as he continues to adapt to the NBA game.

Article first appeared 11/21/08