Just when I thought I had this fantasy basketball thing all figured out, I’m thrown for another Froot Loop on Wednesday night. I hate starting these pieces by whining about my own team, but how can I not as the Unhappy Hairstons continue to get injured like its their job? A lot of this could have been avoided. I’ve had this awkward infatuation with Roy Hibbert since he left Georgetown for the bright lights of Indianapolis. I so desperately wanted him this year and he was staring me in the face in the sixth round. So what did I do? I took Mo Williams, that’s what! Mo’s 2010-11 campaign has thus far been nothing short of a Wes Craven film. Tonight, he strained his groin, no doubt while lunging to strangle Byron Scott who benched him in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s win in New Jersey, and will probably have to wear a truss for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Hibbert and his 15.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.3 blocks are the perfect reward for my jangled nerves.
As Tom and Jeff have said repeatedly, it is still early and ground can be made up. It is in my nature to panic, as my fingernails can attest. It’s in my genes. My father panicked, his father panicked and his father before him was a noted ‘fraidy cat’ in the old country, so what chance did I have, really?
All I can do at this point is help you, my loyal readers, by looking at a few guys to target as well as a few to thank for their contributions before bidding adieu.
5. Francisco Garcia, SG/SF, SAC
The best thing to happen to Garcia was Omri Casspi getting the starting small forward nod in Sacramento. Garcia should now play a set 25-30 off the bench in this wide-open system, while Casspi’s minutes will fluctuate based on how hot he is in a particular game. At this point, Donte Greene appears to be out of the rotation and Luther Head is barely an NBA player, so unless Paul Westphal goes off the deep end (which he does tend to do), Garcia should be good for 14-15 points, a ton of threes and solid defensive stats (1.2 spg, 1.0 bpg).
4. C.J. Miles, SF, UTA
Miles has been around for a while, but he is just 23 and finally coming into his own. Like Garcia, he has settled into a sixth-man role and is consistently getting 25-30 minutes of action per night. There has been talk of him replacing Andrei Kirilenko in the starting lineup, but he is better-suited to being the Jazz’s top scoring option off the bench. He is attempting more than 4.0 3-pointers per game and can benefit his proprietors in a variety of other categories, including blocks, steals and free throw percentage. I would suggest looking at his field goal percentage the way one would look directly into the sun, but he shouldn’t be sitting on any waiver wires.
3. D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA
Unless he is struck by lightning, Augustin is in perfect position to bust out this year. It hasn’t happened yet, but he is getting closer. Tonight, he dropped in 16 points, seven assists, three 3-pointers and three steals and really doesn’t have a major threat behind him ready to steal his minutes. Sure, Shaun Livingston has returned and will serve as the backup, but the once promising point guard’s knees are being held together by a few rubber bands and a Stim-U-Dent. Bobcats head coach and renowned point guard killer Larry Brown actually likes Augustin and recently requested that he look for his shot more. How’s them apples?
2. Kyle Lowry, PG, HOU
In the wake of Aaron Brooks‘ ankle sprain of the high variety, Lowry could be pushed into immediate service as starting point guard in Houston. The rugged Villanova product returned from injury himself on Wednesday, and despite being a little winded, responded with four points and four assists in 21 minutes of work. Ishmael Smith left Captain Ahab on the high seas a few days ago and has acquitted himself nicely as the starter the past two, but this will be Lowry’s job for the next 5-6 weeks until Brooks’ hoof stabilizes. Solid assists and steals await.
1. Amir Johnson, PF, TOR
The timing couldn’t be any more perfect for the coup of a lifetime in Johnson. Nothing against Reggie Evans, but there is no way he will hold up over a full 82 games. He never has in his career, and even during the rare occasions in which he was healthy, his coaches tended to find more athletic and offensive-minded replacements for him as the seasons wore on. In comes Johnson, whose body is filling out while remaining a freak athletically. He’s not yet a consistent scorer, but if given ample court time at either power forward or center he is still capable of big rebounding and blocks numbers, a la Tyrus Thomas. He’s averaged 26 sneaky minutes over his last four, and the Raptors are so pathetic that Jay Triano needs to find out what he has in the 23-year old. Time to pounce.
5. Andrea Bargnani, C, TOR
To say I am not a fan of Bargnani is an understatement. Numbers often lie, but when it comes to his child-like rebounding totals (4.3 rpg in 32.4 min), this is a product of not wanting to mix it up down low. Yes, he can shoot a little bit from three and yes, he can block a shot or two, but after a decent bounceback in 2009-10, he comes back to earth on a team in which he will be exposed. Take tonight’s big line (23 pts, 9 reb) and his overall 19.0 points and 1.3 threes and run, to the nearest owner looking for a center, that is.
4. Mike Conley, PG, MEM
Conley spent the first three years of his career doing nothing in the first half of each season only to explode in the second. This year it looks like we may have a reversal as he has produced 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists and a whopping 3.4 steals through his first eight games. This will turn out to be the best year of his young career, but Newton’s laws of gravity, or something along those lines, will even out his numbers over the long term.
3. Trevor Ariza, SF, NO
Ariza went higher than he should in many drafts for his proclivity to unleash threes at an alarming rate and to steal the basketball. He has done those things to the tune of 1.7 threes and 1.9 steals per game, but he is killing his owners in field goal percentage (.355), free throw percentage (.667) and scoring (10.3 ppg). Once the Hornets go on a losing skid, the luster will wear off on the defensive stopper, and despite Monty Williams’ defense-first attitude, I’m not sure how long he’ll continue to give him big minutes. Ariza is certainly solid enough to not get buried, but I can definitely see the kibosh put on the long-range shooting.
2. Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS
KG has enjoyed quite the resurgence through the first two-and-half weeks of the season as he clearly has something left in his Fiat. But now that he has proven his virility by averaging 15 and 10 and sadistically telling Charlie Villanueva he looks like a cancer patient, it is almost time to start limiting his minutes before his patellas turn to dust. Hey, 1200 games is 1200 games. Save it for the postseason, Kev. Oh, and be a man and apologize to CV.
1. Lamar Odom, PF, LAL
Odom has been a major category monster thus far, producing 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists through his first eight games. The obvious problem with owning Odom is that Andrew Bynum is looming and will probably return to his customary starting role in about a month. Odom’s totals will likely descend, but not dramatically. What has troubled me the most thus far are the 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.8 3-point attempts, numbers that I thought would be considerably higher while playing nearly 35 minutes a night. What’s going to happen with only 25 minutes? Make a low-ball offer for a guy like Augustin and let another owner find out.
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