Articles By Corby Yarbrough

All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/new-texas-topper
Body:

There are six games between teams in the top 10 of this week's Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings.

Eighth-ranked Miami, winners of its last five, gets another shot at one of the league's top teams when the Heat travel to play No. 4 Utah on Wednesday. Miami collected just its second win of the season against an over-.500 team when it defeated Atlanta 89-77 on Dec. 4. That was followed by an 88-78 win at Milwaukee.

It's going to take more than 89 points to defeat Utah. The Jazz score 100.8 points in 13 games at home this season, and surrender just 95.5. Miami is scoring just 95.7 ppg in nine road games this season.

Assuming No. 5 Orlando is over the stomach bug that has torn through the roster, the Magic will take a healthy team to Utah Friday night. This will be the second time this year the Jazz have played the Florida teams in back-to-back games. Last time it happened — Nov. 9 and 10 — the Jazz won both games.

It's the Jazz in the spotlight again. After two Eastern Conference powers come to Salt Lake City, the Jazz head to Dallas for a Saturday tilt against No. 1 Dallas. The two teams met Dec. 3 in Utah as the Jazz shot .392 from the floor and saw a 43-39 halftime lead turn into a 54-38 second half for Dallas. It was the first halftime lead in nine such occasions that Utah let slip away.

The second-ranked Celtics will try and put the clamps on a Denver Nuggets team that is fifth in scoring (106.2 ppg) when the two meet in Boston Wednesday. The Celtics score 100.9 a game, but surrender just 92.1.

The sixth-ranked Nuggets, like the Celtics, have won seven in a row. Denver travels to Charlotte tonight to try and get coach George Karl his 1,000th career win before heading to Beantown.

No. 9 Oklahoma City, 6-4 in its last 10 games, travels to No. 10 New Orleans, 4-6 in its last 10 for a Friday night game. The Hornets travel to Miami on Monday on the second day of a back to back (Philly the night before).

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 13:24
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/get-point
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

FARM IT OUT

Jordan Farmar did his part in the absence of Devin Harris over the last week. The Nets' PG played 36.5 minutes a game, scoring 19.3 points, with three 3-pointers a game, 3.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals. Harris returned Sunday and scored seven points, dished three assists and grabbed two rebounds in 24 minutes. Farmar, meanwhile, played 27 minutes with 16 points, four 3s and four steals. Harris has a history of injuries (averages 65 games played over the last three seasons). Go ahead and pick up Farmar while he's hot and see if he still gets the minutes despite Harris' presence.

RISING EXPORT

Since coming over in a trade from New Orleans last month, Toronto PG Jerryd Bayless has seen his role increase the last three games. He has played over 21 minutes in each of the last three games, averaged 18.6 ppg on 52-percent shooting with 4.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 turnovers. Ride Bayless this week as the Toronto Raptors play four games, three against teams allowing over 100 points a game.

GO YOUNG

As injuries to other Washington Wizards go, so goes the production of guard-forward Nick Young. In Washington's last 11 contests, Young has played over 21 minutes nine times and averaged 17.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in those games. The other two he played zero minutes and 12 minutes due to a thigh injury of his own. So he can score and rebound for you, but it's just a matter of whether he's in there or not. The Wizards play at the Lakers and Kings and are back home against the Knicks. However, when John Wall is in the lineup, Young's minutes go down. So keep an eye on Young down the road, and use him this week if you absolutely need some scoring.

CELTIC R&R

Another player in the Young mode is Boston backup PG Nate Robinson. He produces like crazy when Rajon Rondo is out, but you really have to be on your toes to know when Rondo is out (see his late scratch Sunday). Robinson is averaging 7.7 points, 2.4 assists and 1.5 rebounds this season. In four starts, he scores 16.5 a game with 5.3 assists, 3.3 boards. His 62.5-percent shooting from the field, 57.9 from 3 and 83.3 from the stripe as a starter aren't bad, either. With Rondo battling hamstring, knee and foot injuries, Boston coach Doc Rivers has no problem resting him for Robinson. So, like Young, keep an eye on Rondo's health to know if you should play Robinson. Boston plays Denver, Philly and Charlotte this week. Robinson could see significant minutes against the Sixers and Bobcats.

X MARKS THE WAIVER WIRE

Last week, I said OJ Mayo would not be worth it to play off the bench. He played 22.3 minutes, scored 6.8 points with 1.8 boards, 1.0 assists and 0.5 steals and blocks per game. Not the greatest line for fantasy. So what about the guy who has him coming off the bench? That goes to Xavier Henry. He had career highs in points (17), assists (3) and minutes (27:29) Sunday. However, his numbers over the last week weren't that much better. He played 23 minutes a game, averaging 10 points with 0.8 boards, 1.5 assists, no steals and a 0.3 blocks. So keep both Memphis SGs on your waiver wire.

THIS IS MARVIN, YOUR FORWARD, MARVIN WILLIAMS

With the news that Joe Johnson is out 4-6 weeks after elbow surgery, Marvin Williams should become the hot pickup in Atlanta. Williams is expected to pick up some of the slack for the Hawks. He shot 13-of-23 from the field and 11-of-12 from the stripe for 37 points to go along with six boards and five steals the first two games Johnson was out. He followed with a dud against Miami — 2-of-9 from the field, no trips to the line, four boards, two assists and one steal. For the season, Williams is a 48-percent shooter from the field, 84 from the stripe and averaging 10.1 points a game with 4.9 boards. Throw out the bad Miami game and give Williams a shot with a four-game week for the Hawks.

TAKE TO THE HILL

George Hill was a sleeper pick during draft season. The thinking was he might be the guy to replace Tony Parker as the Spurs' starting PG at some point during the season. So there would be minutes pre-trade and certainly minutes post-trade. Well, Parker signed an extension early and Hill went to the backburner. Well. with the Spurs averaging 106.7 points per game, there is plenty of love to go around in San Antonio. Hill has a season-high in minutes played two times over the past week and scored in double-digits in his last eight outings. His contributions as a fantasy player are in points scored and percentages (11.0 ppg, 46.9 from the field, 85.5 from the stripe). The Spurs play Golden State, Atlanta and Portland at home this week — three games where Hill should continue to see plenty of minutes.

RETURNING SLEEPER

Speaking of sleepers, SG/SF Nicolas Batum was a sleeper pick for the Portland Trail Blazers this season. It paid off when he was a starter for 12 games — 12.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks. But he has found himself coming off the bench the last four games where his points are down 7.5, his rebounds ticked up 6.0, his assists fell to 0.8, his steals to .0.5 and blocks to 0.3. But these last two outings he is picking up the pace with 24 points, 20 boards, 2 steals and one assist. His shooting percentage from the field as a sub stinks (33.3), but he may be working his way back into a role that gives him minutes. Portland plays four games this week, including two against defensive-lacking Phoenix. Throw him in the lineup, and like most of us who drafted him as a sleeper, pray for a good week.

RUSH IS FINDING HIS WAY

Indiana SG/SF Brandon Rush has worked his way into the starting lineup for the Pacers. He has started three of the last four games. He's started five games altogether (replacing Mike Dunleavy when doing so). In those five starts, Rush averages 35 minutes, scores 16.2 points with 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.8 steals He does this while shooting 53.3 from the field. 43.5 from 3 and 63.6 from the free-throw line. Indiana plays a four-game week, and Rush should be a good play.

VERSATILE CONTRIBUTOR

Need a player who is contributing in multiple categories? Give Oklahoma City SG/SF Thabo Sefolosha a shot. He's owned in just 17 percent of Yahoo leagues and 1.8 of ESPN leagues, but is averaging 5.4 boards, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.4 blocks while shooting .455 from the field, and .744 from the stripe. He's not fantasy gold, but he does start and play 32 minutes a game for the Thunder. It's not just about points scored in fantasy, it's about categories won. So keep an eye on Sefolosha if you're needing a contributor in several categories.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, December 6, 2010 - 16:55
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/history-against-lakers
Body:

The thought of the Los Angeles Lakers rolling into Staples Center on Christmas Day to take on the Miami Heat as an undefeated, maybe a one- or two-loss team went out the door three weeks ago.

It was foolish for me to think the defending champs — always a target for the opposition in any sport — who were without all their parts to begin with could go two months without a few blemishes.

Well, back-to-back losses on Nov. 11 and 14 were answered with a five-game winning streak. OK, the Lakers were back on track. They were averaging 109.6 points a game during the streak. Then they met the Jazz, Pacers, Grizzlies and Rockets. All four ended with losses and a 95.8 points per game average.

And there's this to chew on: No Phil Jackson-coached team that had a four-game losing streak has gone on to win a championship. This is the 11th such streak of his career and eighth with the Lakers.

So we stand here today with a Laker team that is 13-6 when they were 13-2 a week ago. This is the franchise's first four-game skid since April of 2007 and just the second time they've lost three or more in a row since January of 2008. Of Jackson's 11 championship teams, only the 1990-91 Bulls, 2001-02 Lakers and 2009-10 Lakers suffered three-game losing streaks.

Luckily for Los Angeles, 4-12 Sacramento comes to town Friday. The Kings have won just twice since Nov. 1. They also haven't scored over 98 since a 113-106 loss to the Knicks on Nov. 17. However, the last 100-point effort before the Knicks came in a Nov. 3, 112-100 loss to ... dramatic pause ... the Lakers.

However, the four-win Clippers have defeated Western Conference top dogs San Antonio and New Orleans at Staples Center in the last two weeks. So we at least know that building is prone to some crazy things.

Notes from the Teams
DALLAS:
Mavericks C Tyson Chandler collected 14 of his game-high 18 rebounds against Minnesota Wednesday night in the third quarter.  He set the franchise record for rebounds in a quarter — 14 was the record by Popeye Jones (third quarter vs. the Clippers April 4, 1996) and Lorenzo Williams (second quarter vs. the Kings Feb. 21, 1996). Chandler outrebounded the entire Minnesota roster in the third quarter (14-11) and his own team (3).

DENVER: The Nuggets held Milwaukee to 94 points in Wednesday's win, marking 25 straight home victories when holding the opposition to fewer than 100 points. The Nuggets also own a 55-game home win streak when holding a lead entering the fourth quarter. ... Denver also scored its third wire-to-wire victory with a 138-133 home win over Phoenix Nov. 28. The Nuggets had just three such wins last season.

GOLDEN STATE: The Warriors have outrebounded their opponents in seven of their first 18 games, and they hold a 6-1 record in those contests. Last season Golden State outrebounded its opponents 13 times, going 9-4 in those games. Imagine if free-agent acquisition David Lee (elbow) had not missed eight games. In the center's absence the Warriors went 1-7 and were outrebounded in six of the seven losses.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Reverse dunks aside, rookie forward Blake Griffin is on quite a tear. Over the last five games he is averaging 29.6 points on 59-percent shooting from the field and 64.7-percent shooting from the free throw line. He's also pulling down 14.2 rebounds and dishing out 4.8 assists. The Clippers are 3-2 during the five-game stretch, including wins over Western Conference leaders San Antonio and New Orleans. Griffin is one of three players in the NBA this season averaging 20 or more points and 11 or more rebounds (Orlando's Dwight Howard, 21.8 and 12.8, and the Lakers' Pau Gasol, 21.1 and 12.1).

MEMPHIS: The Grizzlies are averaging 33.3 points from their bench over the last six games. Coincidentally that is when former starting SG OJ Mayo was moved to the bench. Before he was moved the team had not scored more than 30 off the bench in 13 games. The Grizzlies got a season-high 45 from the bench against Golden State on Nov. 26, and are 4-2 with Mayo as a reserve. Memphis' bench averaged a league-low 20 ppg last season.

NEW ORLEANS: While the Hornets have lost four of their last six games they have not allowed 100 points in the last seven games; they haven't scored over 100 in that span, either. New Orleans is second in the NBA in fewest points allowed at 91.3 ppg — an improvement on the 102.7 allowed last year. The Hornets held their first 10 opponents under 100 before Cleveland scored 101 Nov. 19.

OKLAHOMA CITY: For the first time in franchise history, Oklahoma City (formerly Seattle) won a triple-overtime game. The Thunder defeated New Jersey 123-120 Wednesday night without help from All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who was out with a sprained knee. The franchise was 0-4 in triple-OT games prior to Wednesday. Strangely enough, the team’s last triple-overtime appearance came exactly 20 years ago to the day — a 124-130 loss to Portland on Dec. 1, 1990.

PHOENIX: The Suns have scored 115 or more points in four straight games for the first time since Dec. 25-30, 2009. The Suns can extend that streak when they play the Warriors Thursday night. It would be the first time Phoenix has scored 115-plus in five straight games since March 15-25, 2009.

SACRAMENTO: Funny what being at the bottom of the standings can get you. For the Kings it is being ranked second in the league in offensive rebounds (13.9 per game) and in second-chance points (17.1 ppg). In both categories they trail Minnesota, also a four-win team. The Timberwolves grab 14.7 offensive boards a game and score 18.3 second-chance points.

SAN ANTONIO: The Spurs are averaging 106.6 points through 18 games this season, their highest scoring average since the 1987-88 season (113.6 ppg). They are shooting .407 from the 3-point line, which is tied for the franchise mark set in 2000-01. The scoring helped San Antonio to its best November (14-1) in franchise history as well.

UTAH: Jazz PG Deron Williams scored 24 points with 16 assists and no turnovers against Indiana Wednesday night. It was only the 23rd time in NBA history that a player has had 20 or more points, 15 or more assists and no turnovers. It's the second time Williams has accomplished the feat (March 31, 2008), and no player has pulled it off three times. ... Williams also became the first player this season to record double-digit points and assists by halftime (12 and 10). It's the ninth first-half double-double in his career.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 18:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/many-angles-lebrons-homecoming
Body:

Duke plays host to Michigan State tonight on the college hardwood, and then welcomes Butler on Saturday in a rematch of last year's NCAA title game.

There's one more week of regular season college football, including four conference championships on Saturday.

The Jets and Patriots are on tap for Monday Night Football — the winner is on pace for the top seed in the AFC while the loser is headed for the fifth seed.

It feels like I am forgetting something in this week packed of high-profile games. Oh, that's right. LeBron James makes his return to Cleveland this week.

In case you have lived under a rock — or are hiding under one so you don't have to read about it — James and the Miami Heat make their first visit to the place James called home for the first seven years of his career.

It is one of just two games on the NBA slate Thursday night. TNT will be sending it's studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith to Cleveland to do their show. No stone has been unturned. There are even 1/50 odds that James does his pregame powder toss at the scorer's table.

So I figured I would present many angles of the story in anticipation of Thursday night.

There is the tampering angle.

There is the too much hype angle.

There is the Cavs fans' angle.

There is the TV angle.

There is the angle from the town he shunned.

There is the angle from the town he took his talents to.

And there is the angle from the company that brought you all the hype.

Feeling overheated? Then there are notes on 11 other Eastern Conference teams below to cool you down.

Notes From the Teams
ATLANTA: The Hawks won their final three games of November, clinching a winning month for the 12th consecutive time (began in February 2009), which matches the longest streak in Atlanta history (January 1996-November 1997).

CHARLOTTE: The Bobcats have topped the 100-point plateau in four of their last seven games, after doing so just twice in the season’s first 10 games. During the stretch, the Bobcats are averaging 104.0 points on .491 shooting from the field (275-560).

CHICAGO: Over their last nine games, the Bulls have limited their opponent to just 95.2 ppg  and are 7-3 over that time. In the five games prior to that, Chicago allowed 105.0 ppg.

DETROIT: With nine rebounds against the Orlando Magic Tuesday, Ben Wallace became the third active player in the NBA to record 10,000-plus rebounds and 2,000-plus blocks in his career.

MIAMI: LeBron James has scored at least 20 points in the last 15 games, becoming just the second player in franchise history (Dwyane Wade) to accomplish the feat.

MILWAUKEE: The Bucks are tied for second with Boston in opponent points in the paint, allowing just 35.3 points per game. Orlando is tops in the league, allowing 34.1 points in the paint. The Bucks are tied for fifth in the league in opponent second-chance points, allowing 11.5 per game.

NEW YORK: The Knicks have won five in a row on the road, the longest streak since winning five straight on the road from Dec. 22, 2000 to Jan. 19, 2001. New York improved to 7-4 away from Madison Square Garden on the season (11-30 in 2009-10), marking the first time since 2000-01 that the Knicks started a season 7-4 or better on the road. Last season, it took New York until Jan. 13 to win its seventh road game. The seven road wins are tied with Utah (7-2) and Atlanta (7-2) for second most in the league behind San Antonio (8-0).

PHILADELPHIA: The 76ers put an end to their 0-3 start against teams from the Western Conference this season with an 88-79 win over Portland. Philly started last season 1-10 against teams from the west, but rebounded with a 13-17 mark by season's end.

TORONTO: Through 17 games the Raptors rank first in the NBA in fast-break points, averaging 19.5 per contest. Toronto has outscored its opponent in 12 of its first 17 games on the fast-break and has scored 20+ points eight times. The Raptors are +46 (322-to-286) in transition points on the season. Raptors’ opponents are averaging 16.8 fast-break points on the year.

WASHINGTON: Nick Young, the Wizards' fourth-year pro has, scored 20 points in a game five times this season all off of the bench which leads the NBA.

Factoids From Elias Sports Bureau
Indiana's Danny Granger has scored 30-plus on three occasions away from home this season and the Pacers are 3-0 in those games. His average of 25 points a game on the road is third best in the league behind Kobe Bryant (29.5) and Derrick Rose (28.6)

Orlando's Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, the team's top two scorers, were held to nine points apiece in a win against the Pistons Wednesday night. It was the Magic's first win in more than three years (Nov. 26, 2007) in a game in which Howard and Nelson both failed to reach double digits in points. The duo has started 165 games together since November 2007, and have both have been held under 10 points in just three of those games — losses to Detroit, Boston and Denver. At least prior to the game, Howard was able to have fun at Arizona Cardinal Derek Anderson's expense.

Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each went to the free-throw line at least 10 times on Monday, and each made at least nine of those free throws. It's the first game in over two seasons that three teammates in the NBA have each made at least nine free throws in one game.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 14:50
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/circus-over-schedule-not-any-easier-bulls
Body:

What is Chicago's reward for finishing with its first winning record on its circus trip since 1997-98?

Three days rest between Saturday's win over Sacramento, giving the Bulls a 4-3 record for a trip on which they had been 10-61 since Michael Jordan's last season with the Bulls seems to be the reward. It's the most rest the team has had after this trip since the 2004-05 season.

And the Bulls will need it.  

Chicago (9-6) is 10th in Athlon Sports Week 6 Power Rankings, but no other team in the top 10 has as many games against top-tier teams over the next week as the Bulls do.

It starts Wednesday with a home game against the fifth-ranked Orlando Magic, followed by a trip to third-ranked Boston, then back home to take on a Houston team Chicago defeated 95-92 to start the circus trip. The Bulls then open next week with a Monday game against No. 9 Oklahoma City at home.

"The big thing for us is our schedule doesn't get easier when we go home," coach Tom Thibodeau said in an ESPNChicago.com report. "Our schedule actually gets, in some cases you could make the case that it's tougher. We have to recognize what's in front of us and when we get to practice we got to get to work."

Chicago PF Carlos Boozer (hand) should make his season debut by at least the weekend.

Not much else is on the slate over the next week between top-tier teams.

Indiana is quickly rising up the rankings. Three weeks ago the Pacers were 23rd, but they are knocking on the top 10's door with their No. 11 ranking. Indiana defeated the Lakers in Los Angeles for just the second time since Feb. 14, 1999 on Sunday night, and will take on No. 4 Utah on Wednesday.

The second-ranked Mavericks, winners of their last six, will travel to Utah on Friday. If Dallas can take care of Minnesota on Wednesday and Utah can do the same to Indiana, the two teams will meet with seven-game win streaks on the line.

On Saturday, the resurgent Atlanta Hawks will travel to Miami for a matchup of what could end up being the two teams that will vie for second place in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.

New Orleans and San Antonio take to the court for the second Sunday in a row, this time in Texas. Each team had 17-point leads the last time they met before San Antonio pulled away for the 14-point win. New Orleans won the first meeting on Oct. 30. Sunday's game will be the second-to-last meeting of the year between the Southwest Division foes — Jan. 22 being the last.

And finally, Atlanta will go for the top dog in the Southeast when it travels to Orlando for a Monday night game. The Magic won the first meeting 93-89 when the two met in Orlando Nov. 8.  

For only the second time this season, a team holds the top spot for consecutive weeks. San Antonio has had it the last two; the Lakers held the top spot for the first three weeks. The Western Conference still dominates the top 10 with seven teams.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 - 15:20
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/take-advantage-opportunities
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Finally there's a light from Darko

PF/C Darko Milicic will certainly be remembered more for being selected in the 2003 NBA Draft second overall — before Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — than for his efforts on the basketball court. However, those efforts are finally starting to shine through eight years later. The Timberwolves are getting 9.1 ppg, 6.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 2.1 assists from Milicic in 27 minutes a game. He had a string of three-straight performances over 20 points snapped Saturday, which has finally made him more than just the guy that contributes in the blocks category.

No go for Bogut

Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut did not travel to Utah for tonight's game due to a back injury. Bogut, who is already battling an arm/hand injury from last season, might not play Wednesday at Denver either. That would mean one game played over the team's three-game schedule at best. Milwaukee kept Bogut at home, and you should keep him on your bench this week.

Opportunity knocks

Bogut is not the only Buck battling injuries. PF/C Drew Gooden and SG/SF Corey Maggette are both dealing with foot injuries. SG/SF Carlos Delfino has missed nine straight games with concussion symptoms. That leaves forward Ersan Ilyasova to pick up some of the slack. He got his first start of the season Saturday — 17 points on 5-of-12 from the field, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, 4-of-4 from the stripe with nine boards, six assists and three steals. This came after a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Detroit the night before. There is risk in playing Ilyasova, but the Bucks just snapped a five-game losing streak and are having trouble getting anything together offensively. So roll with multi-category help that Ilyasova gives you.

More than just jumpers

Orlando's JJ Redick is benefiting from Vince Carter's knee injury that has sidelined him for the last three games. So you should benefit from it, too. Redick scored in double digits on three occasions last week, averaging over four assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in four games. Carter is likely to return this week, but his minutes may be monitored. So feel safe to go with Redick.

Blowout beneficiary

The Lakers are averaging 9.2 points more a game than their opponents, thus giving bench players more court time. Shannon Brown has certainly taken advantage. The SG/SF is playing 18.9 minutes a game, scoring 10.9 points with 1.7 3s, 2.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 steals. You will have to deal with up-and-down percentages, but Brown has scored in double digits in nine of 17 games so far, and has added three or more rebounds six times. The Lakers play Memphis, Houston and Sacramento this week, meaning there should continue to be opportunities.

Long-ball centers

Like 3-pointers from your center-eligble players? Last year it was Channing Frye, Al Harrington, Troy Murphy, Andrea Bargnani and Matt Bonner. All five hit 90 or more 3-pointers. Four of those five are on pace again. Harrington leads the charge with 31, while Frye has 27, Bargnani has 21 and Bonner, who recently returned from injury, has 21 in 10 games. Bonner is still available in 98 percent of ESPN leagues and 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Murphy, who on Sunday saw his first action in seven games, is available in 42 percent of ESPN leagues and 24 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you have your choice between the two, go with Bonner. The Spur is at least getting minutes. His percentages will be lower, but the risk-reward should give you more from Bonner. Murphy has been a healthy scratch, according to the 10-year veteran, and doesn't seem to be meshing well with the New Jersey Nets.

Warrick an iffy play

Hakim Warrick now gets his shot to replace Amar'e Stoudemire. The Phoenix Suns tabbed him as the new starter at power forward. He averaged over 25 minutes off the bench, scoring 13.1 points a game with 4.6 rebounds. His first start left plenty to be desired. In a 138-133 loss to Denver, Warrick played 27 minutes with one foul and scored just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting to go along with nine boards. The Suns play Golden State, Indiana and Washington this week. Golden State and Washington allow over 104 points a contest. So feel OK, not great, about placing Warrick in your lineup.

Hold the Mayo?

OJ Mayo started the first 13 games of the season for Memphis, but has found himself coming off the bench for the last four. Could he find a spark on the second unit? Could he lead the second unit? Could he benefit from playing vs. other second teamers? Through four games off the bench, that doesn't seem to be the case. The guard's scoring is down seven points, and his shooting percentages are worse as are his rebounds, assists and steals. Were the Grizzlies going up against a tougher defensive slate this week I would leave Mayo on the bench, but three of the four teams they face allow over 100 points a game, so feel safe in adding a little Mayo to your lineup.

Find other options

Jonny Flynn still isn't back and might not be for another three weeks or so. Sebastian Telfair isn't tearing up the court. So that leaves Luke Ridnour to run the point in Minnesota. He is back after a hamstring injury sidelined him. In the four games since his return, Ridnour is scoring at 11.8 a game with 5.3 assists and 1.3 3-pointers. The Timberwolves play Dallas, San Antonio and Cleveland this week, all surrendering less than 100 points a game. I would hold off on Ridnour and go find a guy like Washington's Kirk Hinrich or Houston's Kyle Lowry to run the point for you for a week. They both have four-game slates.

Crash says he'll go

Gerald Wallace came crashing down to the floor with 7.1 seconds left in Saturday's game against Milwaukee, hyperextending his left elbow. He looked to be in a lot of pain as he was helped off the court, the kind of pain that means time will be missed. Further evaluation revealed an elbow contusion. He was limited in Monday's practice but says he will play Wednesday in New Orleans. The Bobcats also play New Jersey and Philly this week. It's a risky play, but the guy is playing over 38 minutes a game this season and is a stat stuffer. If he says he is going all you can do is believe him and put him in the lineup.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 29, 2010 - 15:13
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/youth-serving-thunder-just-fine
Body:

Team on the Rise
Oklahoma City —
 The Thunder entered this season as the darlings of the Western Conference. They were the cool pick to make the big jump from the eighth seed that went six games with the Lakers a season ago to possible conference title contenders in 2010-11.

Oklahoma City hit some bumps along the way. After winning their first two games, the Thunder went 3-4 over the next two weeks. The experts started to wonder: Have we predicted the Thunder to rise too quickly? They are still a very young team — average age on opening day was 24 years and 268 days for the third-youngest team in the NBA.

Well that young roster reeled off five straight wins over a seven-day span, finally falling Wednesday night to Dallas, 111-103.  The only recent blemishes have been the late run Dallas went on to win the game Wednesday, and the late run Minneosta put together before falling to OKC on Monday.

But, for the most part, the Thunder are proving they know how to win.

They are 5-1 on the road, have given up a halftime lead just twice and a third-quarter lead once. Otherwise, OKC is 8-2 when leading at the break, 7-1 when leading after three quarters and have even thrown in a win after being tied after the third.

The trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green have scored at least 20 points apiece in the same game on nine occasions this year — the highest total for any three teammates all younger than 25 since Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Kendall Gill did so 11 times in the 1992-93 season for Charlotte.

Perhaps youth will rule the day before it's all said and done.  

Team on the Decline
Golden State —
 Give them a lead and there's a good chance the Warriors are leaving the arena with a win. But jump ahead and they have done nothing this season to show they can score a comeback victory.

The numbers speaks for themselves. Golden State is 6-1 when ahead at the half, 7-1 when leading after three quarters. However, the Warriors are 1-7 when trailing at the half, and 0-7 when behind after the third.

Golden State has dropped its last four games and six of its last seven since center David Lee's exit from the lineup. Lee has not played since his elbow collided with Wilson Chandler's teeth in New York on Nov. 10. The center got an infection from the collision and is not expected to return for at least another week. With games at Memphis, at Minnesota, home against Houston and maybe without Lee at home against Phoenix, this streak could run to eight in a row.

The Warriors are allowing 107.8 points a game, while only scoring 94.4 during the seven-game span without Lee. Three of the seven losses have been by 30, 28 and 17.

Numbers to Know
19 & 21 —
The Jazz made 19 of 19 free throws in a Wednesday victory over New Orleans. It followed a 21-of-21 performance against Portland on Nov. 20. Prior to the Portland perfection, the Jazz had only been perfect in one of its previous 470 games.

5 — Portland's Andre Miller needs five assists to pass Derek Harper (6,577) for 18th on the league's all-time assists list.

-19 — The Kings enter tonight's game against the Clippers on quite a shooting slump. They shot a season-low 35.8 percent on Monday in a loss to Utah. After starting the season 3-1 and scoring 108.8 points a game, Sacramento has lost eight of the last nine and is scoring just 89.8 a game during that stretch.

Beyond the Arc
Double the Love: Kevin Love
scored 32 and had 22 rebounds in an OT loss to San Antonio Wednesday. It marked the second time (31 and 31) that Love had a game this season with more than 30 points and more than 20 rebounds. Only four other active players have accomplished this — Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Zach Randolph.

Rare win ... in more ways than one: When the Clippers, then 1-13, met the Hornets, then 11-1, Monday night it marked the 19th time in league history a team with a winning percentage of .900-plus team met a .100 or lower team at least five games into the season, according to Elias. That oddity was then followed by something even more rare when the Clippers won the game, 99-95. Only one of the other 19 meetings ended with the team that had the losing record coming out on top — Golden State (5-0) lost to Minnesota (0-6) on Nov. 15, 1994.

Perfect Pau: Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol scored 28 points on 10-of-10 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line in a Sunday win over Golden State. It was the highest point total for perfection in over 15 years, according to Elias. Gary Payton scored 32 on 14-of-14 from the field and 3-of-3 from the stripe for Seattle on Jan. 4, 1995.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 25, 2010 - 13:08
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/knicks-rise-fall
Body:

Team on the Rise
New York —
 What a difference seven days can make.

A week ago the Knicks sat in the "Team on the Decline" spot after losing six in a row. Seven days later, they enter another Wednesday contest, but this time as winners of four in a row.

Even during the losing streak, New York was scoring 101.6 points per game, but were surrendering 111.8. Oddly enough, during the winning streak, Mike D'Antoni's team is still giving up exactly 111.8, but the offense kicked it up a notch, averaging 118 a game.

Three of the four wins came on the road — a West Coast trip that resulted in a 3-1 record — and the team returned to Madison Square Garden to hold off Charlotte 110-107 Tuesday. The Knicks complete the home-and-home with the Bobcats tonight before taking on Atlanta, Detroit and New Jersey over the next week.

If New York could ever develop a defensive presence they could be a scary team in the Eastern Conference. But third in scoring against 27th in points allowed is a discrepancy that will eventually catch up with them.

Team on the Decline
Miami — 
Yikes. This is what a team that is third in the East has to endure?

The Miami Heat thought they were putting together the perfect team with the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but apparently didn't account for chemistry, a post presence or injuries.

Back-to-back losses to sub-.500 teams Memphis and Indiana after an eight-point win over a then 4-7 Charlotte has the 8-6 Miami Heat seemingly reeling heading into their second meeting with Orlando tonight.

Within the organization, injuries are compounding what is perceived as poor play.

Superstar guard Dwyane Wade is battling a wrist injury. Center Udonis Haslem may be out for the season with a torn ligament in his foot, leaving the team to scramble and sign Erick Dampier. Mike Miller (thumb) is out until at least the middle of December.

Outside of the organization, Lakers coach Phil Jackson is taking shots that can be heard from LA to Miami when he questioned on Wednesday whether Erik Spoelstra can hold onto the coaching job should the struggles continue.

All of this is while the team is still eighth in the league in scoring and fifth in points allowed. Miami is second in offensive and defensive efficiency. Bosh has finally started to make a difference with three straight double-doubles.

However, inside is where the Heat are still getting killed. That's not the recipe to defeat Orlando, Boston or even Chicago if the trio of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson have anything to say about it. Miami is scoring 33.8 points a game inside while allowing 38.8 and are 19th in rebounding.

The only thing saving the Heat right now is the fact they are in the Eastern Conference. In the West, they would be battling for the seventh or eighth seed right now.

Numbers to Know
16 — Derrick Rose
dropped in his 16th 3-pointer of the season in Chicago's loss to the Lakers Tuesday. That's a significant number for the third-year player because he had only hit 16 3-pointers in each of his first two seasons. He now has 16 in 12 games.

4 — Speaking of the long ball, Indiana's Danny Granger had five in the Pacers' win over Cleveland Tuesday. It's the fifth time Granger has hit at least four 3-pointers this season. That ties him with Charlotte's Stephen Jackson.

44 — New York's Danilo Gallinari has made 43 straight free throws heading into Wednesday's game with Charlotte. One more and he can tie the franchise mark set by Chris Duhon in 2008.

8 — Detroit heads to Memphis tonight to play a Grizzlies franchise it has owned on their own court. The Pistons are 8-1 in Memphis since the franchise moved from Vancouver. The lone victory for the Griz came Dec. 11, 2004. That dominance may end tonight as the Pistons are 2-6 on the road this season.

Beyond the Arc
Going to a fifth quarter without ever leading:
Atlanta never lead in its game against New Jersey Tuesday night, but still took the Nets to overtime. New Jersey went on to win 107-101. According to Elias, it was the first NBA game since Feb. 8, 2006 that went to overtime with one team never having taken the lead. The Spurs defeated a Raptors team that never had the lead in that game.

15 down. No problem: Washington erased a 15-point, fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime against Philadelphia Tuesday, the first time the Wizards had overcome a margin that big in the fourth quarter since Jan. 30, 2004. Washington went on to win the game 116-114, ending a 136-game streak of not being able to come back down 15 in the final quarter.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - 18:23
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/spurs-hornets-set-sunday-showdown
Body:

Too bad there isn't flex scheduling in the NBA.

There's a new No. 1 in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings for Week 5, and the new top team and former top team will meet this weekend.

San Antonio is the hottest team in the Association right now. The Spurs are winners of 11 straight, including a defeat of Orlando Monday night. They moved up from No. 3 in last week's rankings to No. 1.

New Orleans, last week's top team, rebounded from its first loss to post three straight wins before falling to the lowly Clippers last night. I am certainly willing to cut the 11-2 Hornets some slack considering their start and the fact that the Clippers loss was the third game in four days for New Orleans.

Now we have to wait until Sunday to see the last two No. 1s face off. Unfortunately, the game is being played at 3 p.m. Eastern, right in the middle of an NFL Sunday, and certainly won't get much attention. I would love to see that one flexed to the evening to at least lessen the viewing competition against it.

Maybe it's a bit overblown to think that this is the game of games for the NBA, but to this point it is.

Boston, Miami and Orlando rule the East and do so very inconsistently. The Lakers are the Lakers and have not had much competition to deal with. This game comes at a time in the season where we have had enough of a sample size to at least get a glimpse of who is legit and who is not. So when the two hottest teams in the league meet, in what will be for each of them their 16th game of the season, this could be a good preview of what's to come.

San Antonio (12-1) will travel to Minnesota and host Dallas on Wednesday and Friday, while the Hornets (11-2) are at Utah and at Portland on Wednesday and Friday before the Sunday showdown in the Big Easy.

Other key match ups between some of this week's top teams in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings begin tonight.

The ninth-ranked Bulls continue their circus trip with a stop in LA to play the No. 3 Lakers tonight.

Wednesday there are three games on the slate between top-tier teams as No. 10 Miami travels to No. 5 Orlando; No. 6 Dallas travels to No. 7 Oklahoma City; and the Hornets play at No. 8 Utah.

On Friday, Chicago will play No. 11 Denver, the Lakers play host to Utah and the Mavericks travel to the Spurs.

Portland, which sits at No. 12, could take some wind out of the sails for Sunday's matchup between New Orleans and San Antonio. The banged up Blazers have just one game this week and it is playing host to New Orleans on Friday.

The Heat travel to Dallas on Saturday.

New Orleans gets no rest after the Spurs contest, traveling to Oklahoma City on Monday to complete a back-to-back, and what should be its fourth tough game in a six-day stretch.

The Western Conference continues its dominance with six teams in the top eight and nine of the top 15. If you like teams in the 20s, the Eastern Conference is for you. The East has seven of its 15 teams ranked from 20-29.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - 13:35
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/calderons-time-now-toronto
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Jose's Time

Jarrett Jack was part of a five-player trade that sent him from Toronto to New Orleans, and the effects on fantasy are not so good for him but are for the team Jack left.

Jack will now back up his friend Chris Paul at PG for the Hornets, and should see time at SG behind Marco Belinelli. Backing up at two spots is a nice player to have for fantasy. Marcus Thornton is still in New Orleans, but has not made much, if any, noise this season at SG, so keep an eye on Jack's first couple of weeks in the Big Easy before making a move to either pick up or release him.   

The bigger effect should come to Jose Calderon, who was splitting time with Jack as the Raptors' PG. He is averaging 7.9 points on 38-percent shooting with 5.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.9 rebounds in 27 minutes a game off the bench.
Calderon should have been on most rosters that have any kind of depth; if not, go get him.

Big Z to the rescue?

With the Miami Heat center Udonis Haslem suffering torn ligaments in his foot Saturday and expected to be out a considerable length of time, the team must fill the void that wasn't really being filled to begin with.

Miami has certainly struggled inside this season, and perhaps this is where another player who came from Cleveland to Miami can step in. Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Big Z is averaging just 18 minutes a game, but shoots 60 percent from the field with five rebounds and 0.7 blocks a game.

Ilgauskas has started the last four games for the Heat, shooting 14-of-22 (.636) for seven points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks. If you are in a two-center league or just need to take a flier on a center that could spark a team, take a look at the 7-foot-3 Russian this week.

Pacing at the point

Darren Collison is expected to return to the lineup for the Indiana Pacers tonight at PG. He has been out for the last three games with an ankle injury and T.J. Ford got the starts.

When healthy, Collison was playing 29 minutes, scoring at 15.1 on .465 shooting with 4.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game. Ford, in the three starts, averaged nine points, seven boards and five assists.

Collison was close to playing Saturday, and should be a safe play this week with four games. Those four games are against Miami, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and the Lakers, however.

Keep an eye on Dragic

Phoenix PG Steve Nash sat out the last two games with a groin injury that flared up again after the veteran suffered through the problem in the offseason. In his stead was Goran Dragic, who played 27 and 38 minutes in the two games.

Dragic averaged 13.5 points, four rebounds, seven assists, one steal and three turnovers in the two games. He had played no more that 19 minutes in games in which Nash was in the lineup. But keep an eye on Nash's injury as the Suns have four games this week — no back to backs. Dragic will certainly have value if the groin remains a problem.

Playing to his potential

JaVale McGee finally put up a stat line that owners could say they were proud of. The Washington center, who has loads of potential, became more than just a blocking machine Sunday when he scored 20 points, grabbed 16 boards, blocked two shots and even dished out an assist. He did it in a season-high 42:16 of playing time.

McGee has been absent many times at the end of Wizards games, but hung around for quite a while in the loss to Detroit. Perhaps this will be the spark he needs to play hard every night. Put him in the lineup while the getting is good.

Speaking of blocks

Denver center Chris Andersen is expected to make his season debut against Golden State tonight. The tattooed-blocking machine — 318 the last two years — has been nursing a knee injury.

The Nuggets only play three games this week, and the Birdman might be eased back into the rotation. He does, however, average 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 0.6 assists a game against the three teams Denver plays this week — Golden State, Chicago and Phoenix.

It's Kris with a K

Troy Murphy has fallen out of favor in New Jersey before he seemed to fall into favor. Derrick Favors is still getting worked in. And in the middle of all of it is Kris Humphries as the starting PF for the New Jersey Nets.

If you haven't picked him up in your league go do so ... I'll wait.

OK, you back?

Humphries has started the last six games for the Nets, putting up a double-double in four of them — missing the other two by two rebounds in one and two points in another. He's added nine blocks, shot .583 from the field, .714 from the stripe and only turned the ball over five times in those six games.

The Nets play four games — two sets of back to backs — this week, and Humphries should be in your lineup for all of them.

Toney's touch may be back

After a slump last week, perhaps Toney Douglas is getting back into form. The backup PG in New York, Douglas scored 12 points on 50-percent shooting from the field and .667 from 3-point range — which included four 3s — in a 124-115 win over the Clippers.

New York is a fast-paced offense and Douglas is averaging over 24 minutes a game, while still shooting over 40 from the field with 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and two assists a game.

The Knicks have four games this week — two sets of back to backs like their Jersey counterparts — and Douglas might be a sneaky play for you.

Good from Gooden

In Milwaukee, PF/C Drew Gooden logged a lot of minutes last week. He averaged 37:18 over the last three games — almost eight above his season average — and nearly pulled a double double in each game. Gooden averaged 18 points, 12.3 boards, shot .526 from the field and had a block a game last week. While the team only has three games this week, ride this Buck while he's hot.

Read into Forbes

While the talk of Denver is whether Carmelo Anthony will stay or go — more when, not if — and if Chauncey Billups will join him, there's another story on the SG/SF side of things.

J.R. Smith certainly isn't making a case for NBA Sixth Man votes as Gary Forbes has started cutting into his minutes. The rookie is averaging just under 16 minutes a game and scoring 7.6 points with 2.7 boards, 0.7 assists, 0.6 steals and shooting .508 from the field. Smith is at 8.8 points, 3.0 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting .388 from the field in a little over 20 minutes.

Smith had two DNPs last week, and games of 1:05 and 18:54 in the other two. Forbes meanwhile, went 23, 23, 17 and 11 in the minutes department the last four games. Take a chance on Forbes if you have the room.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 22, 2010 - 15:21
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/spurs-still-kicking-out-west
Body:

Team on the Rise
San Antonio —
The Spurs are tied with Southwest Division foes New Orleans for the best record at 9-1. They have won eight in a row, including a 4-0 mark on the road.

Offensively, San Antonio is cruising at 108.3 points a game, which is only behind the Lakers' 112.2. The defense isn't too shabby, either, allowing 100.4 a game — .03 under the league average.

As expected, Tony Parker (18.6 ppg) and Manu Ginobili (21.2 ppg) are leading the way. But the Spurs are also getting significant help from Richard Jefferson in his second year with the team. The nine-year vet is scoring 17 a game.

Tim Duncan is still getting it done in just 29.9 minutes a game as he is scoring 13.7 and rebounding at 7.9 a game. The return of PF/C Matt Bonner from injury and the emergence of third-year guard George Hill and rookie Gary Neal has helped (13.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg) give San Antonio a blend of old and new in this hot start to the 2010-11 campaign.

Team on the Decline
Portland —
The 7-5 record is irrelevant, really. Six of the seven wins have come against sub-.500 teams.

What is relevant is that the Trail Blazers announced on Wednesday Greg Oden will miss yet another season. The 2007 NBA Draft's first pick will have microfracture surgery on his left knee, thus ending a season that never began.

Oden had not played since December 2009, when he needed surgery on his a fractured left patella, and he missed his rookie season after microfracture surgery on his right knee. Oden has played in just 82 games since 2007.

The team has managed the 7-5 record going in to Thursday's game against Denver without Oden, but there was the hope that he would bring his 7-foot presence into the post to help the team battle the Western Conference's other bigs.

The more worrisome knee injury, however, is that of three-time All-Star guard Brandon Roy. The Blazers' scoring leader (18.1 ppg) had voiced concerns over his knee after logging a number of minutes to begin the season. He last played on Saturday (22 minutes) and will miss at least the next two games.

Roy's knees might not be much better than Oden's, he just doesn't have to carry a 7-foot, 285-pound frame around with him.

The Blazers can compete without Oden — they have for three years basically. Being without Roy is another question, though. And might be too big of a question mark to keep up in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Numbers to Know
22 —
Elias has it all. Michael Beasley's (21 years old) 33 points for Minnesota along with 30 from 21-year-old Clippers Eric Gordon and 26 from Blake Griffin during the team's game Wednesday night marked only the fourth game in NBA history in which three players under the age of 22 each scored at least 25 points.

15 — When Utah had five players score at least 15 points in a win over New Jersey Wednesday it was the first time in franchise history five players scored 15 in a game where the Jazz failed to score 100 points (98-88).

15 again — Tim Duncan went for 16 points and 18 rebounds in the Spurs' win over Chicago Wednesday. It marked the 202nd time Duncan had posted at least 15 points and 15 boards. Only two active players have accomplished the feat more — Shaquille O'Neal (235) and Kevin Garnett (204).

17 — Phoenix guard Steve Nash is 17 points shy of becoming the 16th active NBA player to reach 15,000 points. Nash, who is averaging 19.3 ppg this season, will take on Orlando tonight on TNT.

Beyond the Arc
Ahead of pace:
Through Wednesday's games, the NBA's 30 teams are averaging 100.7 points — up two from this point last season. Seventeen teams are averaging at least 100 points. Last season's average finished at 100.4 with 18 teams scoring at or above 100 a game — the most to average triple digits since 1993-94 when 20 teams managed the feat.

Overlooked: Utah forward Paul Milsap has five double-doubles in 12 games this season, and his 46-point effort sparked the infamous comeback in Miami last week. However, averaging 21.5 points a game — eight above his career best — and leading the Jazz with 9.5 boards a game was not enough to get his name on the Western Conference All-Star ballot.

Instead that honor went to PG Deron Williams, SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF/C Al Jefferson and C Mehmet Okur. Of course Williams' name should be on there, AK47 and Jefferson, sure. But Okur has yet to play this season, sidelined with an Achilles injury, and has no timetable for his return.

Let the write-ins begin.

Artest to the NFL: CBSSports.com is reporting that Lakers forward Ron Artest told the Web site, in an interview to air in its entirety later this week, that he will try out for an NFL team once his contract with L.A. is up after the 2013-14 season.

At 6-7, 260 pounds, Artest will be 34 once the 2014 NFL season begins — he will turn 35 in November 2014.

"God willing, after my NBA career, God willing I'm still athletic enough — which I'm trying to take care of my body as best as possible and be prepared for this day, for this tryout of an NFL team," he said in the interview

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 18, 2010 - 19:36
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/bulls-flying-high-circus-trip-begins
Body:

Team on the Rise
Chicago —
The Bulls began their annual circus trip with a victory in Houston Tuesday for their fourth straight win. Only San Antonio — winners of seven in a row — is a hotter team in the Association right now. The streak will stop for one of them tonight when they face each other.

Since falling to the Knicks at home on Nov. 4 and a road OT loss to Boston, Chicago scored three straight home wins before the circus trip — a seven-game, 12-day event that kicks the Bulls and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks out of the United Center while the circus is in town.

The Bulls also began last season's circus trip with a victory before losing the remaining five games on the long excursion by an average of 15.8 points a contest, while never scoring over 98. Since Michael Jordan's final season with Chicago (1997-98), the Bulls are 11-61 on the circus trip.

"All the stuff about going on the road and the circus, all this stuff, I'm not concerned about that. I'm just worried about the next game," first-year coach Tom Thibodeau said on the team's Web site.

Defense has been the key for Chicago (6-3), which is 6-0 when it holds opponents under 100. The Bulls have allowed just 92.5 a game during the winning streak.

Chicago is doing all this on the shoulders of Derrick Rose (24.7 ppg, 9.2 apg), Joakim Noah (16.0 ppg, 12.8 rpg) and Luol Deng (19.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) while Carlos Boozer recovers from a hand injury and the team tries to settle in at the 2-guard spot.

Team on the Decline
New York — The Knicks defeated Chicago and Washington in back-to-back nights starting Nov. 4 but have failed to win since.

It doesn't seem to be for a lack of trying on the offensive end — a trait coach Mike D'Antoni is well known for. The Knicks are averaging 101.6 points a game — 0.9 above the league average — during the six-game slide.

But defense is not a trait D'Antoni's teams are known for and it is glaring during the losing streak as New York is surrendering 111.8 a game — 11.1 above the league average.

It'd be easy to say this started when the Knicks allowed Kevin Love to put up 31 points and grab 31 boards against them on Nov. 12, but that was in the middle of this losing streak.

It won't get any easier with three more on the road before returning for a back-to-back and home-and-home against Charlotte next Tuesday.

I thought the Knicks would put together a great week after coming off four- and five-point losses to Boston and Portland before the Chicago and Washington wins. I still see wins coming for this squad, but will they already be too rattled for it to matter when they do find the win column with consistency?

Numbers to Know
50 —
LeBron might have left Cleveland, but there's always the bench. The Cavaliers' bench scored 54 points Tuesday against Philly, the third time the team's bench has scored 50. That number equals last year's entire total for the bench, according to Elias.

8 — When Chicago overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Houston on Tuesday it was the first time the Bulls had come back from a margin of at least eight on the road since April 3, 2008. The Bulls had lost 48 straight games in that situation prior to the Houston win, according to Elias.

25 — Washington collected 28 assists in a win over Toronto on Tuesday, marking the fifth straight game the team has had at least 25 assists. That is the team's longest such streak since April 1997, according to Elias.

6 — New Jersey's Anthony Morrow needs just six more 3-pointers to qualify for the NBA's all-time highest 3-point field goal percentage. He is currently shooting .454 (244-of-538). Steve Kerr holds the mark at .454 on 726-of-1,599).

Beyond the Arc
West returns: Delonte West
, suspended by the Association for the first 10 games of the season after pleading guilty to weapons charges, makes his debut tonight against the Washington Wizards.

West, who played for Doc Rivers in Boston from 2004-2007, gives the 8-2 Celtics yet another productive player to help lead the reserves. The guard, who will spell Ray Allen and has been a starter in three of his eight seasons, is a career .446 shooter, scoring 10 a game with 3.7 assists, 3.1 boards and 1.1 steals.

Home is where the wins are?: The 76ers are certainly hoping a return home will produce some wins — or at least some points.

The team went on the road for five straight games and defeated the Knicks on Nov. 7, but have lost the last four in a row.

Standout Andre Iguodala, who had not missed a game in 252 contests prior to the Knicks game, has not played since the last home game — Nov. 5 vs. Cleveland (116-123). Tendinitis in his right Achilles will continue to sideline him.

The 76ers have been limited to 90, 93 and 93 in their last three games. At home this season Philly is 1-4, but at least averaging 101.3 a game. The team is back for two starting tonight before a four-game road stretch.

Miami Heat: There's nothing really to say here. I wouldn't be doing my job if I put together an Eastern Conference notes package and didn't mention the Heat.

Until they do something worthy of them being mentioned outside of just being The Big Three and the Miami Heat, it's just nitpicking at a team we all know will be one of the final four in the East when it's all said and done.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 18:14
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/hornets-take-top-spot-utah-jumps-eight
Body:

From 19 to 11 to 1.

That's the jump the New Orleans Hornets have made in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings over the first three weeks of the season.

New Orleans takes over the top spot this week from the now-No. 4 Los Angeles Lakers, who not only killed my prediction they probably would not lose until a Christmas Day tilt with Miami but went out and lost their last two entering tonight's game at Milwaukee. The Lakers lost to Denver and Phoenix to drop the four spots.

The Hornets got wins over the Clippers and Trail Blazers by 19 and 20 to move to 8-0 going into a home and home with Dallas. The Mavericks ended New Orleans' undefeated run with a 98-95 home win Monday, and the Hornets get a chance to avenge their only defeat Wednesday.

Boston moves up from 3 to 2, while the Spurs go from 6 to 3.

Boston once again dismantled Miami and won a road overtime game against Memphis. It is the third OT win this year for the Celtics, who suit up for a four-game, six-day stretch that begins Wednesday with Washington and has Oklahoma City at home along with Toronto and Atlanta on the road in a back to back.

San Antonio has not necessarily had the toughest slate to get to the No. 3 spot with wins over Charlotte, the Clippers, Sixers and Oklahoma City over the last week. But four wins in seven days is impressive. This next week will be a bit more of a challenge with home games against Chicago, Cleveland and Orlando to go along with a Friday road game at Utah.

Dallas moved from 8 to 5 with wins over Boston, Memphis, Philly and New Orleans over the last week. The Mavs travel to the Big Easy tonight to complete the home and home. It doesn't get any easier with games against Chicago and at Atlanta.

It was said here last week that Utah would either skyrocket up the rankings or remain around the middle of the pack. Needless to say, the Jazz shot up the list.

With five straight double-digit comeback victories, Utah went from 14 to 6. After four games in five days, the Jazz get five in eight days. It started with a 115-108 loss against visiting Oklahoma City Monday night — the first loss for Utah in five games — and continues with games against the Nets, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Kings over the next six days.

No. 7 Miami has also been idle since Saturday when it held off Toronto 109-100. The Heat should be able to get back on track if they can run with Phoenix on Wednesday before games against Charlotte, Memphis and Indiana.

Orlando ended a miserable week by finally defending its home court. The Magic fell from 5 to 8 after losing home games to Utah and Toronto and then escaping New Jersey with a one-point win. The Magic returned home Monday to defeat Memphis 89-73, and get Phoenix, Indiana and San Antonio over the next week.

The Suns moved from 12 to 9 with wins over Sacramento, the Lakers and Denver. Phoenix now has to travel to Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Houston between Wednesday and Monday.

Denver bounced back from a 144-113 drubbing to Indiana — a team that had posted just 30 points in the two quarters before the blowout — to hand the Lakers their first loss. However, the Nuggets followed the Lakers win with their 12th straight loss in Phoenix on Monday to drop from 9 to 10. It should be a good week for Denver, though. It has games against the Knicks, Trail Blazers, Nets and Warriors over the next week.

Chicago begins its annual circus trip — a trip that the Bulls are 10-61 on since 1999-00, which included an 0-32 run at one point — tonight in San Antonio. Wins over Golden State and Washington moved the Bulls from 16 to 11 as they begin the seven-game, 12-day road trip.

The Hawks had the biggest fall of upper echelon teams, going from 6 to 13 after seeing a 6-0 start turn into 6-4 before getting back in the win column with a 111-105 home victory against Minnesota. The Hawks have a light week with games at Indiana tonight and home contests against Dallas and Boston on Saturday and Monday.

Again, the Western Conference dominates the top half of this week's power rankings. They have nine of the top 15 spots and six within the top 10.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 - 13:46
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/week-tim-duncan
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Tim Duncan's minutes took quite a dip last week — going from nearly 34 to 23 — and with that came a major dip in production. His minutes are at a career low and have been in decline over the last five years. He went from 18 points and 11.3 boards two weeks ago to 6.3 and 5.3 last week.

While the Spurs are apparently preserving him for the playoffs, it makes it tough for fantasy players to know what to do with him. Assuming it's an every-other-week deal, this would be the "on week." San Antonio plays three games — home vs. Chicago, at Utah and back home vs. Cleveland. He should see minutes in the first two, but might not be needed vs. the Cavs Saturday night as it's the second game of a back to back that the Spurs should win.

Give Telfair a week

PG Jonny Flynn is expected to make his season debut Wednesday after having been sidelined from hip surgery. Luke Ridnour, who began the season as the starter, has sat out the last week with a hamstring injury. He, too, could return Wednesday vs. the Clippers.

In both their steads, Sebastian Telfair has performed well over the last week. He averaged 11.8 points — including a goose egg against the Knicks — while dishing out 6.5 assists, 1.5 boards and steals and 3.5 turnovers.

Minnesota plays three games this week — at Charlotte tonight then home vs both L.A. teams. Telfair should be a safe play for one more week as Flynn and Ridnour ease back into the lineup. He was averaging 9 points and 3.1 assists in the seven games prior to starting, and his first start came against Lakers when he had his most complete game of the season — 13 points, three 3-pointers, nine assists and five rebounds.

Go with Lowry

Kyle Lowry has assumed the starting PG role over Ishmael Smith in Houston. The move was expected as Lowry had been sidelined with back spasms and was expected to take over for Smith, who took over for the injured Aaron Brooks (3-5 weeks due to an ankle).

Lowry is averaging 35 and 36 as a starter. He is averaging 10 points, 6.5 assists and rebounds and 2.5 steals in the two starts. His minutes make him a good play this week with three games, but be wary as he goes up against Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in back-to-back games starting Tuesday before finishing the week in Toronto.

Cavaliers are in Sessions

Cleveland PG Mo Williams is out for the second time this season due to a groin injury. In steps Ramon Sessions.

He has started five games this season, averaging 12.6 points, 3.6 assists, 3.0 rebounds and shoots .375 from the field. Oddly enough, as a bench player, averaging over eight minutes less a game, Sessions' numbers go to 11 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 boards and .394 from the field.

It's not the easiest road for the Cavs this week, either. They play three games — home vs. Philly on Tuesday and then a back-to-back at New Orleans and San Antonio on Friday and Saturday. If you have to lock a lineup today, leave Sessions out of it.

Gilbert's gone green

It certainly seems Washington guard Gilbert Arenas has been given the green light to launch his shot. He has put up 69 shots in the five games since his return from an ankle injury, connecting on 24 of them, including 16 of 35 from 3 — seven against Chicago Saturday night. The last two games, Arenas has logged exactly 31:33 minutes and should continue to see playing time and opportunities.

John Wall (foot) was in a walking boot and crutches for at least the second time this season and is day-to-day, and Kirk Hinrich is getting minutes but has only attempted 11 shots in the last two games.

The Wizards have four games this week — home vs. Toronto and Memphis with road games at Boston and Detroit — and Arenas should be in the lineup.

Rise of the 3

Fourteen players hit at least five 3-pointers in a game over the last week. Let's see if you should have them in your lineup this week.

Manu Ginobli, 5-of-11 on Monday — Always have him in the lineup.
Gary Neal, 5-of-7 on Monday — It's a reach, but James Anderson is out for two months and that should mean more PT for Neal.
Mike Dunleavy, 6-of-10 on Tuesday — Keep him in there until Brandon Rush knocks him out, but keep in mind the Pacers play Atlanta, the Clippers and Orlando this week
Anthony Morrow, 5-of-8 on Wednesday — The Nets play four road games this week and Morrow has the green light. Play him.
Ray Allen, 7-of-9 on Thursday — Always have him in the lineup.
Mickael Pietrus 8-of-11 on Friday — The 6-6 shooting guard enters a three-game week on a hot streak from beyond the arc, having hit 12-of-17 in his last two games. The Magic take on Memphis tonight then Phoenix and Indiana. He has added 2.5 rebounds during the last two games, but is pretty much a 3-point guy as of now. Play him while he's hot. He did knock down 116 3s last year in 75 games.
Charlie Vllanueva 5-of-7 on Friday — The Pistons are a mess, and particularly at the PF position. They play Golden State, the Clippers and the Wizards this week — three teams not necessarily known for defensive prowess. CV averaged 27 minutes, 16.3 ppg, 3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last week. Play him.
James Posey 5-of-8 on Friday — You know what, why not? The last two seasons, Posey has had nine games in which he hit at least four 3-pointers and in the the three games following each he has posted 19 the first game, 23 the second and four in the third. The Pacers play three games this week, and if you need a streaky 3-point shooter, might as well see if Posey can continue the trend.
Gilbert Arenas 7-of-11 on Saturday — A good play this week.
Danny Granger 5-of-8 on Saturday — Always have him in the lineup.
Stephen Jackson, 5-of-13 on Saturday — Always have him in the lineup.
Jason Richardson, 7-of-10 on Sunday — Is the Suns' scoring leader, but temper expecations against Denver, Miami and Orlando. Also play at Charlotte this week.
• Matt Bonner, 7-of-7 on Sunday — Came back from a two-week hiatus (ankle) and saw an increase from 15 to 25 minutes in second game. Spurs play three this week, and he should be a safe play.
• Hedo Turkoglu, 5-of-7 on Sunday — The Suns play four games this week — at home vs. Denver then hit the road for Miami, Orlando and Charlotte. Hedo may have found his groove Sunday, but I would sit him this week until he can prove more consistent.

Forecast is Sonny

Which Toronto Raptor will be the fantasy player du jour this time? Well, it is Sonny Weems G/F that is attracting attention in a four-game span where he averaged 31:30 mpg, shot 63 percent from the field, scored at 15.3 per game and added 3.0 apg and rpg to go with 1.3 steals and just two turnovers a contest.

Toronto has four games this week, and there is no reason to think Weems will slow down against Washington, Philly and Houston. Boston, yes, but three out of four isn't too bad. The Raptors will take a toll on you, but give Sonny a shot.

Take a seat, Troy

Troy Murphy fell farther in your drafts because of the back injury in the preseason. So you thought to yourself: "I'm getting a steal here in the mid-to-late rounds." Why wouldn't you think it? Murphy has hit 161 and 128 3-pointers over the last two seasons from the PF/C spot. He has also averaged 11.8 and 10.2 in rebounds, 2.4 and 2.1 in assists and nearly a steal a game on average.

You expected him to be worked into the lineup slowly, which he was. He eventually returned to the starting lineup, but now Kris Humphries is getting the start at PF, while Murphy comes off the bench. There is also the Derrick Favors issue — the No. 2 pick in this year's draft needs to get minutes somewhere.

With Murphy having played in five games, adding a foot injury to the equation, getting 20 minutes, hitting .6 3s per game and just 5.2 boards, he is a fantasy liability. If your lineup locks today, keep him out this week.

Beasley does it

If there was any question as to whether Minnesota's Michael Beasley needed to be in the lineup, stop asking. He is apparently playing with a chip on his shoulder after being shipped out of Miami last season. In the last three games, the PF has scored 25, 35 and 42. Those 102 points are the second-highest three-game total by a Timberwolves player, trailing Kevin Garnett's 112 in March 2000. Games against Charlotte and both L.A.s should prove to be good ones for Beasley.

Avoid-a-Bull

Chicago's SG spot leaves plenty to be desired in both the real and fantasy worlds. The Bulls begin their annual Circus Trip this week — seven road games starting Tuesday in Houston and lasting until Nov. 27 while the circus is at the United Center. Starter Keith Bogans (6.4), reserves Ronnie Brewer (4.5) and Kyle Korver (8.1) are lacking in the scoring department and don't offer much, if anything, in any other category. Chicago will probably trade to improve the spot later this season, but the Bulls are winning without it and without Carlos Boozer right now. You should win without any of the Chicago SGs as well.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 15, 2010 - 17:55
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/hornets-rise-thanks-defense
Body:

Team on the Rise
New Orleans —
 The sky is blue. Grass is green. And the Hornets are the team on the rise.

Of course it is the obvious choice for this week, but I did have them ranked as the No. 11 team a week ago, and New Orleans has shot all the way up to No. 2 — and could make an argument as the top team in the league.

The Hornets are 7-0 after Tuesday's win against the Clippers — the only team on the schedule so far that was not a playoff team last year. And they disposed of a non-playoff caliber team like they should have with a 101-82 drubbing. According to Elias, New Orleans is one of four teams in league history to win its first seven games after finishing under .500 the previous season.

Meanwhile, the top-ranked Lakers, also undefeated at 8-0 going into tonight's game at Denver, have seen only two playoff teams from a year ago — Phoenix and Portland.

New Orleans is idle until a Saturday home game against Portland, which kicks off another four-game run against playoff teams from a year ago before a hitting the road for five of six to close out the month.

First-year coach Monty Williams is getting it done with defense. His squad is scoring only 98 a game — 20th in the league — but giving up just 90.1 — tied for tops in the league. If the Hornets defeat Portland it will tie Williams with Larry Brown for the best start to a season by a first-year coach.

Team on the Decline
Denver —
 Houston sat in this spot a week ago, and could be here again. However, it's hard to decline when you are already at the bottom. "Team on the Decline" is reserved for a team that could actually be a factor when the season is in the closing stages — so the likelihood of the Clippers, Timberwolves or Kings being on this list this year is minimal.

Therefore, Denver gets the nod this week. The Nuggets started their three-game road trip with a win at Dallas before falling to Chicago and getting pasted 144-113 by Indiana. Tonight they play host to a Lakers team that was less than impressive against lowly Minnesota, but should be geared up for a rematch of the 2009 Western Conference finals.

Denver blew a six-point lead with seven minutes to go in Chicago and was never in the game against an Indiana team that went from scoring 30 in the second half of its previous game to quarters of 27, 32, 54 and 31 in its blowout of the Nuggets.

A win tonight against the Lakers is needed, but without the presence of Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen and Nene just coming back from a groin injury, chances of the Nuggets' perimeter players defeating the Lakers' perimeter players are slim.

Denver has games at Phoenix and home against the Knicks before a trip to Portland next Thursday, so the coming week will be big to respond from what will probably be a three-game skid this week.

Numbers to Know
3 —
According to Elias, the Utah Jazz are the first team in the shot clock era (1954-55) to win three straight games after trailing by at least 10 points at the half. Utah came back after being down 18 against the Clippers, 22 against the Heat and 18 against the Magic to get the trio of wins.

18 — San Antonio defeated the Clippers Wednesday night, marking the 18th straight win for the Spurs against the L.A. franchise. It's the longest current win streak any team has over another in the NBA. San Antonio's longest streak against one team was a 21-game run against Memphis form 1997-2002.

31 — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 31 apiece against Philadelphia Wednesday night, giving Oklahoma City the first pair of 30-point scorers on the same team this season.

74 — Through six NBA telecasts leading up to Wednesday night's doubleheader, ESPN's ratings were up 74 percent compared to a year earlier.

Beyond the Arc
Some good news:
Not much good has been coming from the Timberwolves in the early part of this NBA season. They are losing. Kevin Love isn't getting the minutes you would expect. They've lost by 25 three times in nine games so far — a feat only two other teams in the past 20 years have attained. But Michael Beasley at least gave Minnesota fans some spark when he scored 18 in the first quarter and 27 in the first half — both one point shy of team records — en route to a career high 42 points in a 98-89 victory at Sacramento Wednesday.

Nash staying put? Earlier this season, Phoenix PG Steve Nash questioned how good this version of the Suns would be. Well, they have very little post presence, but are good on the perimeter — sounds like a majority of the league. But the perimeter play has them at 3-4 and a buzz is being generated about Nash, the best player for Phoenix, being moved. It seems like a noble thing to do. Average team. Aging guard. A ring for Nash. We see it all the time — talks of moving championship ringless superstars as they get up there in years.

But as Arizona Republic writer Paul Coro reported, if the 36-year-old goes, so too does someone else.

"Steve's not going to be traded, that I can tell you," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "If he's getting traded, I'm going along with him, OK? Have you looked at the way he's playing? He's playing at a real high level. Why would we trade him? I don't understand that. That's nothing that's been discussed here."

Gentry added the Nash is the face of the franchise, and the face stays.

Taking a bite in the Big Apple: David Lee made his return to New York Wednesday night as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Knicks 122-117. Lee, who was the Warriors' key free-agent signing in the offseason, scored a season-high 28 in his return — the first former New York player since Walt Frazier in 1977 to score at least that many in his first game against the Knicks.

Lee's former team honored him — strangely enough in the middle of the game — with a video montage saying thank you. He also left with some marks on his elbow after going for a rebound against Wilson Chandler and knocking one of Chandler's teeth out in the process.

"Well, I got the rebound and he (Wilson Chandler) was diving in to get the offensive rebound and his tooth dug in and sliced it open pretty good," Lee said after the game. "I can actually see the bone coming out a little bit. So it probably requires a few stitches and I got to deal with the Knicks medical staff. I just wanted to hang out with them a little bit more I haven’t seen them in a while so I’ll get that chance tonight.”

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 11, 2010 - 16:01
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/cleveland-rising-miami-falling-wait-what
Body:

Team on the Rise
Cleveland —
 Where were the Cavaliers going to go but up after LeBron left? After all, reason said they were obviously going to be at the bottom of the conference upon the King's exit.

No doubt LeBron James' departure is going to take a while to recover from, and an inconsistent Cavs squad will head out there in the early going. That was evident when the team shocked Boston in its opener then got blown out 101-81 by a terrible Toronto team two nights later.

Cleveland dropped two more — a three-pointer to Sacramento and a 12-pointer to Atlanta before reeling off road wins against Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey. The Cavs get the Nets again tonight for the start of a three-game homestand that also includes Indiana and Philly.

What was a 1-3 start could turn into a 7-3 record before Cleveland travels to New Orleans and San Antonio for a back to back beginning Nov. 19.

The return of Mo Williams (16 ppg), pictured left, from a groin injury has certainly sparked the Cavs, as has Daniel Gibson (14.9 ppg) to give the team a solid backcourt. Cleveland should also get help from Antawn Jamison, who missed all of last week with a sore knee but came in to score 15 off the bench in a win over New Jersey Tuesday.

Team on the Decline
Miami —
I know, I know. No need to push the panic button just yet, but the Heat have proven nothing so far.

Offensively, it is the LeBron and Dwyane Wade show while everyone else watches. Outside of the league-leading 24 3-pointers James Jones has knocked down, there's not been much else from the Heat. And even Jones' role is: See spot on floor. Go to spot on floor. Wait for ball. Shoot ball.

Miami blew a 22-point lead against Utah Tuesday in an overtime loss at home. The Heat did so with Jazz post presence Al Jefferson basically being nonexistent and PG Deron Williams fouling out late in the fourth. In the overtime session only Wade performed for Miami — scoring all 10 points.

Defensively, Miami was scorched for 56 points in the paint — almost 20 above its average allowed. The Heat have one signature win so far — a 96-70 dismantling of Orlando in game three of the season — but have lost to the other three playoff teams they have played so far (88-80 to Boston, 96-93 to New Orleans and 116-114 to Utah).

Eddie House was quoted as saying maybe the Heat got "bored" when they were up by so much.

There is no rest for those on the decline as Miami takes on Boston Thursday night. Perhaps the Heat won't be as bored going up against Rajon Rondo and the other Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Numbers to Know
54 —
The Indiana Pacers entered Tuesday night's game against visiting Denver coming off a second half in which they scored just 30 in a loss to Milwaukee. Talk about a turnaround. Indiana exploded for 54 points in the third quarter of its 144-113 win against the Nuggets — the most in a single quarter since Phoenix scored 57 in the second quarter of a Nov. 10, 1990 contest, according to Elias.

9 — Miami's LeBron James recorded his first triple double as a member of the Heat when he put up 20 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists in a loss to Utah. It was James' 29th career triple double, but just the ninth in the 22-year history of the Heat and first since Shaq got one in April 2006.

11 — The Knicks were blown out by 27 against the Bucks Tuesday night, marking the 11th time New York has lost by 25 or more in the 171 games under coach Mike D'Antoni. It happened to D'Antoni just six times in 389 games when he coached Phoenix, according to Elias.

Beyond the Arc
Plenty of time to get better:
The Indiana Pacers were slated to be in the "Team on the Decline" spot before Tuesday night's 144-point eruption. The Pacers' shooting percentages were poor, as was their tempo — scoring 82.5 a game and shooting just 35 percent their last two games. Perhaps Indiana is finally doing something with its time off. The team is in the middle of a five-game stretch that lasts a ridiculous 13 days. Before the 144-point game, the Pacers last played on Friday, and they don't play again this week until a Friday tilt at home against Houston.

Someone has to win: Charlotte is at Toronto tonight in a game in which the two teams have combined to lose their last eight — Toronto five in a row and Charlotte three. The Bobcats have the worst scoring offense at 89.9 points a game, while the Raptors are eighth-worst in the league in allowing 104.1 a game.

Rematch: The Bucks were ousted in last year's playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks and come back to Atlanta with a little momentum tonight. Milwaukee blew out the Knicks Tuesday, fell by six to undefeated New Orleans, defeated Indiana by four and lost to Boston in OT. Meanwhile, Atlanta, which started off 6-0 before losing its last two, has defeated only one playoff team — a LeBron-less Cavaliers squad — this season.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - 14:27
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/lakers-stay-top-hornets-make-big-jump
Body:

There is only one matchup between the top four teams in this week's Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings.

Third-ranked Boston travels to fourth-ranked Miami as two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference face off on TNT Thursday night. This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. Boston won the first game 88-80 in Beantown on Opening Night.

The Celtics lost to Cleveland the following night before reeling off five straight wins — two in OT and a four-point win over the Knicks. Boston enters the game off its second loss, a 92-83 defeat in Dallas.

Miami has lost once more since its first game — 96-93 to the 6-0 Hornets — but has won by an average of 20.6 points in its five victories going into tonight's game against visiting Utah.

Utah, this week's 14th-ranked team, finds itself in a number of games against teams from the top 16 over the next week.

The Jazz play four teams inside the top 16 starting with the game against No. 4 Miami tonight. Utah travels up the Florida Turnpike — the team probably takes a plane though, right? — to go against No. 5 Orlando Wednesday. After taking Thursday off, the Jazz get a seventh-ranked Atlanta team that started the season 6-0 before losing its last two (Phoenix and Orlando). Next Monday ends the gauntlet at home against No. 11 Oklahoma City.

So a week of success will have Utah skyrocketing up this list or probably just holding steady as one of the league's top 16 teams over the first three weeks.

Oklahoma City will take on visiting Portland (No. 10) and San Antonio (No. 6)  on Friday and Sunday before its game against No. 14 Utah Monday. So the Thunder will be in the same boat of finding themselves ascending even higher on this list or failing to live up to the preseason hype and settling back down around 13-15.

No. 15 Memphis sits right behind Utah and also has a weeklong gauntlet.

If the Grizzlies want to prove they can contend, this is quite an early test to either confirm or deny that they can do so. They play host to No. 8 Dallas tonight coming off a 109-99 win against 13th-ranked Phoenix.

Memphis then welcomes No. 3 Boston Saturday and travel to No. 5 Orlando Monday. The Griz start this run with a record of 4-4 and taking two out of three would be a big step forward.

Athlon Sports' top two teams — the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets — are the only two undefeated teams and have a few encounters with our top-tier teams.

The Lakers travel to No. 9 Denver Thursday and play host to No. 12 Phoenix Sunday — both are games L.A. should win. As a matter of fact, looking over the schedule and assuming everyone is healthy, I think the Lakers go into their Christmas Day game with Miami at 29-0.

New Orleans and Western Conference Player of the Week Chris Paul shouldn't be tested until the end of the week with a Saturday game against visiting 10th-ranked Portland and two games in three days against Dallas.

The 2-3 Knicks sit on the fringe of the top 16 in our rankings, and can start making a move up the chart with a win over visiting Golden State Wednesday night as David Lee returns to Madison Square Garden with his No. 12 Warriors.

Golden State then visits No. 16 Chicago Thursday as Stephen Curry goes against Derrick Rose in another battle of middle of the league teams.

With 11 of the top 15 teams the Western Conference dominates the top half of this week's power rankings. Only Boston, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta are within the top 15, and they at least help save face for the Eastern Conference as those four teams make up four of the top seven.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - 14:11
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/ankles-making-mess-rockets-backcourt
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Houston, we have a backcourt problem
Ankle injuries sidelined Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin over the weekend. Brooks, the team's PG, thinks he will be out 4-6 weeks with the injury, while Martin (SG) returned the next night, but has a history of injury problems. PG Kyle Lowry has missed the last two games with back spasms, and has only played in two of six games thus far — shooting 21 percent with six assists.

Ishamel Smith filled in for Brooks on Sunday as the team recorded its first win of the season over the miserable Minnesota Timberwolves. But be wary of picking him up as he is shooting 25 percent for the year and has just 13 assists in nearly 76 minutes of action over the last two games.  

And on the frontcourt end, Luis Scola is carrying the Rockets to what little respectability they have this season. A deal for Erick Dampier fell through when he decided not to sign with the team. Meanwhile, Yao Ming (limited minutes and not playing back to backs) and Brad Miller (ankle in the preseason) are not providing the presence needed to compete in the Western Conference.

So stick with Scola and avoid the rest.

Hornets still stinging foes sans Peja
New Orleans' guard/forward Peja Stojakovic has been a healthy scratch the last four games for the undefeated Hornets. "It's obvious I'm not in the plans," the once prolific scorer told the Times-Picayune.

The 15-year veteran has started no games and is averaging 5 ppg, to go with a steal, assist and 3-pointer a game in a total of 21:26 played. If he was drafted by you as a sleeper or you were hoping he would bounce back after a lackluster 2009-10 campaign, go ahead and cut him loose. It's obvious the Hornets are going younger and are instilling a defensive mindset — two characteristics that are anti-Peja.

Who's King of the Kings' frontcourt?
So last week Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said that things were fine the way they were with DeMarcus Cousins as the starting center and that Samuel Dalembert would come off the bench as he returned from injury. Well, Dalembert returned from injury and was eased into the lineup with games of 16 minutes, 22 minutes and 28 minutes. See a trend?

He went from coming off the bench to replacing Cousins as the starter on Saturday against Memphis. Dalembert played 32 minutes, shot 37.5 percent from the field, grabbed 12 boards and had a set of fives — blocks, steals and turnovers — to go with eight points.

Since Dalembert's 16-minute return, Cousins has played 28, 17, 20 and 23 minutes. The 23 came off the bench against Memphis as the rookie from Kentucky shot 20 percent, 50 from the line, grabbed just three boards, turned the ball over four times, fouled five times and had four points.

This is going to be a tricky situation to deal with until the team gets a good feel for how to work these two centers in. If you have to lock a lineup in today and have to play one of these two, I would go with Dalembert. Westphal's already flip-flopped on who will start, but if it's Dalembert who's in there now, stick with him as the Kings play host to Minnesota, travel to Phoenix and play host to Detroit this week. There's the potential for three OK plays this week.

The veteran Spur you might have forgotten about
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli make up the trio that everyone thinks of one when thinking of the veteran (read: old) San Antonio Spurs. There's another nine-year veteran on that roster not to be forgotten: Richard Jefferson.

The former first-round pick is averaging 20.4 points a game over 32 minutes a night while shooting 65 percent from the field and 60 from beyond the arc with 12 3-pointers made. The forward is pulling down 3.2 boards, dishing out 1.2 assists with seven turnovers. The only negative side thus far is his 69 percent from the stripe.

Get him in your lineup this week as the Spurs have four games against weak defensive teams — Clippers, 76ers, Thunder and Bulls — that allow an average of 103 points a game at an average of 45 percent from the field.

Guarding Washington
Gilbert Arenas has finally returned from his ankle injury to join rookie standout John Wall in the Wizard backcourt. Free agent signing Kirk Hinrich has been starting in place of Arenas in his absence, and doing well in the process. So what do you do with the Washington trio?

Arenas has averaged almost 26 minutes over two games, shooting 38.5 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point land and 80 percent from the free throw line. He is averaging 15.5 ppg, but is not a fantasy contributor in much more than points and 3-pointers made so far.

Hinrich played 33 and 37 minutes in the two games Arenas has played and was averaging over 39 in the first three games. He is scoring 11.2 a game while shooting 43 percent from the field, 34.6 from deep with nine 3-pointers made, 90 percent from the stripe. He also averages 2.8 boards and 4.2 assists.

The Wizards play three games this week — Houston, Charlotte and at Chicago. It's probably a safe bet to play all three this week as Arenas will ease back in, Wall will do what he has done and Hinrich will either get starter minutes for Arenas or spell both guards off the bench.

Lee lost in the Bay
Fantasy players want East Coast David Lee back, because West Coast David Lee isn't performing at the spot in which he was picked in most drafts — he had an ADP of 13.5 in Yahoo and 28 in ESPN.

In a nine-category Yahoo league, Golden State's big free agent signing is ranked 161st, while ESPN has him 133rd in player ratings. All of his numbers are down against his six-year career averages. He is shooting a miserable 40.6 percent from the field for a big man and 69.6 from the stripe against 55.4 and 77.2 career averages. His assist numbers, steals and blocks are all down, and his points are down from 20.3 a game last year in New York to 12.0 in Oakland.

Lee's only saving grace so far this year is his 11.3 rebounds a game, but still down from the 11.7 he's averaged the last two seasons.

Of course you are not going to bail on what was probably your second- or third-round pick. He is learning a new offense as is the whole team going from Don Nelson to Keith Smart. The Warriors head east for four games this week as they travel to Toronto tonight, then New York, Chicago and Milwaukee Saturday. Lee has to be in the lineup, but temper your expectations for a while.

With Baron away, Bledsoe will play
Eric Bledsoe is certainly making the most of Baron Davis being sidelined with a knee injury.

The other, other rookie from Kentucky, Bledsoe has started the last four games after playing just under 22 minutes combined in the first three. He has averaged 13 points and 40 minutes in his four starts, shooting 55 percent from the field, 80 percent from beyond the arc (4 of 5), and averages four rebounds a game in the four starts. The seven assists and 1.8 steals aren't too shabby, either.

The Clippers have three games this week, traveling to New Orleans and San Antonio before returning to play host to Detroit. And don't let the opponent discourage you, as Bledsoe's four starts have been against the Spurs, Thunder, Nuggets and Jazz — four Western Conference playoff teams.

If he's available in your league you first need to pick him up and second, send out a message taunting other team managers for not jumping on him earlier.

Philly's rook for real?
So is it officially about to get congested in the City of Brotherly Love?

No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner got his first start Sunday night, playing 35 minutes, shooting 54.6 percent from the field, grabbing 10 rebounds with three assists, a steal, five turnovers and four fouls. He got the start after Andre Iguodala (Achilles) failed to suit up for the first time in 252 games.  

Iguodala obviously is not going to miss many games and Turner needs to be on the court for a rebuilding 76ers squad. He was already playing over 25 minutes with Iguodala in the lineup, and it will be interesting to see how the Philly staff handles the rotation.

The 76ers play three games this week, all tough road matchups at Oklahoma City, Dallas and San Antonio.

Excelling in limited New York minutes
Toney Douglas is getting around 28 minutes a game for the Knicks as the backup point guard to Raymond Felton, but the 2009 first-round pick of the Lakers is getting the most out of his playing time.

He is averaging 16,5 points a game on 48.7 percent from the field, 33 from beyond the arc (11 of 33) and 84 from the line (16 of 19). The 6-2, 190 Douglas is also adding five steals, 4.2 boards, 2.2 assists and just two turnovers a game.

If you have a deep bench, an injury or are just struggling at the PG/SG spot, scoop up Douglas as the Knicks play four games this week (at Milwaukee, host Golden State, at Minnesota and hosting Houston).

Big Two ... and Chris Bosh
So far the Big Three in Miami have been the Big Two. Or at least it seems that way.

Rarely do you see Chris Bosh in the Miami Heat highlights — kind of hard to when Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are teaming up for coast-to-coast alley-oop plays and dropping in 24.1 and 20.7 a night. Bosh is kind of getting it done in fantasy basketball — albeit certainly not giving you the return for where he was drafted (ADP of 21.2 in Yahoo). He is the 40th-best player in a nine-category Yahoo league and ESPN has him 63rd in its player rater.

It took Bosh until Saturday night to get his first 20-point game, and he has only pulled down double digit rebounds once (10 on Oct. 29 in a 96-70 win against Orlando). He is averaging 5.4 boards a game — down from 10.8 last year and 9.3 for his career. "I get a little lost out there because it's different," the Miami Herald reported of a conversation Bosh had with James.

Since you might have used a second-round pick for the clear "third" of the Big Three you might not get the same value in a trade, but it might be worth it to start shopping him. Granted, the Heat have only played seven games with the Big Three, and it could take a little longer for Bosh to mesh with Wade and James. But Wade and James are doing their part and have the Heat at 5-2, so where will Bosh fit in all this fantasy-wise?

I would say he fits on someone else's roster in your league.

Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 8, 2010 - 17:54
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-fantasy-dime/heat-role-players-taking-advantage-you-should-too
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Miami Heat garbage time
Players such as Eddie House and James Jones are finding a few ways to rack up some numbers. One is by just being on the floor with any of the Big Three in Miami. The other comes when those three are off and they are the go-to guys when the starters have taken care of business and are riding the pine for the rest of the game. House (PG/SG) is averaging 24 minutes with 11 field goals made — six being 3-pointers — and has seven boards, eight assists and five steals. Not a bad play in deeper leagues. Jones (SF) is even better. In 28 minutes a game, he has 14 field goals — 13 of them treys — six boards, three assists, three steals and two blocks. He is shooting 48 percent, while House is at 39.

The “Project” is working early
No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors, considered a project pick, is not doing too badly in the absence of Troy Murphy (back). He is shooting 58 percent from the floor while averaging 21 minutes, 10.3 points and 10 boards in three games. Murphy should return by week’s end, but Favors is a name to keep an eye on before and after Murphy gets back into the lineup. He has a tough week this week, however, with games against Charlotte and then on the road at Orlando and Miami.

It’s all Wright in Golden State
Dorell Wright came on as a late sleeper after he nailed down the starting small forward position. Reggie Williams was expected to be the sleeper name at that spot and on that team, but Wright is getting 35 minutes a game, shooting 52 percent with 19 points a game, and has hit 11 3-pointers with 16 boards. He is a good play this week at home against Memphis, Utah and on the road at Detroit as all three are allowing 99 ppg or more.

Take your time, Bynum
It was strange to see Lamar Odom’s average draft position where it was entering the season. The forward had an ADP of 87 despite finishing as one of the top 60 players in most formats last season. This year, in nine-category formats, he is the 22nd-best player at 16 ppg, 13.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, three 3-pointers made and a 67-percent shooting clip. Andrew Bynum has been cleared to run and can start practicing in a few weeks, and perhaps Odom’s ADP was low due to looking at the long haul and Bynum being there later on. Odom has had inconsistency issues in the past, but he’s there now while Bynum isn’t, and if he can even stay close to this pace he will be a good play even when Bynum returns. He’s an especially good play this week as the Lakers have four games.

For the love of guard
So point guards are fun to figure out, huh? For every Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose there’s a Shaun Livingston, George Hill and Roddy Beaubois. Livingston was supposed to be the man in Charlotte, but D.J. Augustin’s performance coupled with Livingston’s keen injury has slowed that down. Tony Parker just signed a four-year extension, thus ending the hopes of Hill becoming the starter in San Antonio. Beaubois is recovering from a broken foot and won’t return until December. So there’s a better chance that Jason Kidd will hit a 65-foot jumper before Beaubois … oh, wait, Kidd did hit said jumper

Livingston is playing 13 minutes a game and right now is no threat to Augustin, who averages 40 minutes with 17 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 treys a game, shooting 43 percent from the field and 11-of-11 from the line. Hill is still the best option of the three despite Parker’s extension. Parker is at 32 mpg, while Hill is a 27. So he’s still getting minutes to go along with 11 ppg, 5 apg, 2.0 steals and 2.0 boards. Beaubois should be in no other lineup than a deep, keeper league lineup.


T.J. Ford is also cutting into Darren Collison’s time unexpectedly. He’s getting almost 22 mpg with 7.3 ppg, three assists and 1.7 steals. It’s not so much that Ford is waiver-wire worthy as it is the fact that he is taking numbers away from Collison, who is at 27 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.3 rpg and 1.3 spg. Collison is 30th when it comes to guards and minutes played.

Grab these guys
SG Aaron Afflalo has kept his preseason streak going well into the regular season. The Nugget is averaging 14 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 rpg while shooting 64 percent from the field and 82 from the line.

Guard Kirk Hinrich is averaging 37 minutes for the Wizards with 10 ppg off of five 3-pointers made, 3.0 apg and 1.0 spg. He should continue to see playing time with Gilbert Arenas sidelined, and has good matchups with Philly, New York and Cleveland all allowing 98 ppg or more so far.

PG Luke Ridnour is filling in well for the injured Jonny Flynn in Minnesota. He is logging 30 minutes a game with 13.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.0 steals and an added bonus of five boards a contest. He might be a tough play this week, however, with games at Miami, Orlando and Houston and hosting Atlanta in between.

And for a complete flyer if Zach Randolph (tailbone) is out any length of time, Darrell Arthur is a good play in Memphis. The MRI came back negative for Randolph, but he is already banged up early in the season and center Marc Gasol missed the opener with an ankle injury. He returned to play in the second game, but it still is a good opportunity for Arthur to sneak some minutes. He is averaging 17 ppg over 29 minutes, shooting 60 percent from the floor, 100-percent from the stripe and has 14 boards in three games.

Da buona a bad
Translation: Marco Belinelli has gone from good to bad.
The Italian got the starting SG gig in New Orleans, and it looked like it was all going to be roses alongside Chris Paul. He started off great with 18 points, six boards, 40 percent from the field and 100 percent from the stripe in 35 minutes during the season opener. But it has tailed off since then, shooting 25 percent from the field with a total of eight points and two boards in the last two games. His minutes also dropped to 23 a game. Marcus Thornton may re-assume the role he was slated to have before the season began.

Half Gordon
Ben Gordon is probably going to be a tough one to figure out this season. He is part of a crowded backcourt in Detroit, and his consistency could be a question mark. Case in point was Saturday night against Chicago. Gordon, a former Bull himself, scored 21 points in the first half as the Pistons built a 21-point lead. He was 5-of-5 from the field and went to the line for a 10-of-10 performance. Then the second half began. He missed all five of his shots, did not get to the line and coughed up the ball five times. Chicago’s pressure was certainly a factor, but it has to be disturbing to Ben Gordon owners that trapping him on the perimeter like that can cause him to completely disappear from a game. The Pistons went on to lose by nine. He is averaging 21.7 ppg in 27 minutes, but games against Boston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Golden State make him a tricky play this week.

Cousins Cruising … for now
Rookie DeMarcus Cousins has been better than expected in the early part of his career. Through three games he is averaging 13.3 ppg, 7.3 boards and 2.3 apg while shooting 46 percent from the field and 78 percent from the stripe in 25 minutes a game. The Sacramento PF/C is getting this action early due to the injury to Samuel Dalembert. Well, Dalembert returned Friday night with six minutes, got 16 minutes Saturday — starting the second half — and could send Cousins back to the bench. So keep an eye on both players as the week goes on. The Kings only have two games this week, hosting the Lakers and Grizzlies.

Valley of the Bust
So many fantasy players were leery of PF/C Channing Frye this season. There was no way the Phoenix Sun could duplicate the numbers from a year ago, right? After a 2009-10 in which he shot 44 percent off of 172 made 3-pointers, Frye has started off 2010-11 by hitting 3-of-11 3-pointers — 6-of-18 from the field altogether — for a total of 19 points through three games. The 6-11 Frye is averaging 3.6 boards and 1.6 blocks as well. So the label of bust or one-shot wonder that he had attached to him might be justified since he was only shooting 17 percent from beyond the arc in the preseason. Keep this in mind: Frye made 172 treys last year and had made just 20 of 70 attempted in the first four years of his career.

Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 8, 2010 - 17:40
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-western-conference-notes/kings-rockets-going-separate-directions
Body:

Team on the Rise
Sacramento
— Outside of Wednesday night’s 112-100 loss against the Lakers, the league’s highest-scoring team (113.8 ppg), the Kings are learning how to win. All three of their victories have been by three points or less, and they have scored over 100 and allowed over 100 in every game. Sacramento has won three of the five games it trailed at the half and two of the three when leading after the third quarter and one when trailing entering the fourth.

Perhaps most noticeable from the 3-2 start is that the Kings are 2-1 on the road, which has them on pace to easily surpass the seven wins they managed on the road last season, Samuel Dalembert has returned from his leg injury, but rookie DeMarcus Cousins is going to keep the starting center job for the Kings. Coach Paul Westphal told the Sacramento Bee: “I don’t see any big reason to change things right now.” Cousins has been solid thus far, averaging 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, .6 steals and .4 blocks in nearly 23 minutes a game. The only knock would be the 4.8 fouls per game — tied for second most in the league.

Team on the Decline
Houston — The Rockets are off to an 0-4 start despite Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier and Luis Scola returning as starters and Yao Ming getting back into the fold in limited minutes. It’s been a tough start with games against the Lakers on their ring ceremony night and the Warriors when Monta Ellis dropped 46 on them.  Houston returned home to get rocked by Denver and fell to New Orleans 107-99 Wednesday.

The Rockets have no five-player combination that has a +/- over 7 —the 32nd-best combo in the Western Conference. More numbers that are puzzling are that Houston is third in the league in first-quarter scoring at 29.8 a game and drop to 21st in third-quarter scoring at 22 a game before rising back to second in the league at 28.2 in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the Rockets need to stay on the floor during halftime and keep shooting.

Numbers to Know
30 & 22 — Saturday’s Memphis-Minnesota game was one for the ages if you’re a fan of sloppy basketball. Both teams set franchise records as Minnesota coughed up 30 turnovers, while Memphis recorded 22 steals. Grizzlies guard Mike Conley stole seven of those to tie a franchise record. Conley then went on to steal $40 million over five years from Memphis just under the deadline to extend 2007 rookie contracts.

3 — The Warriors are 3-0 at home for the first time since 1990, when Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin helped the team to a 6-0 start.  Fittingly, Golden State, even without stud Stephen Curry (ankle), leads the league in fast break points per game at 23 a contest.

42 — Orlando handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their worst loss in franchise history with a 128-66 trouncing Wednesday. The 42-point deficit came a night after the T’Wolves fell to Miami by 32. The Magic had 78 points at the half — a franchise record.

17 Kobe Bryant posted the 17th triple double of his career in Wednesday’s win over Sacramento. Bryant had a line of 30 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for the 5-0 Lakers.

1 — The Clippers got their first win of the season against an opponent that should have pushed the team to 0-5. However the two Erics — Gordon (27) and Bledsoe (17) held Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City to a 37-percent shooting night from the field in a 107-92 win. Durant was 6-of-24 for 16 points. The Thunder have dropped two in a row — by 15 to the Clippers and 21 against the Jazz.

4-0 — The Hornets matched their best start in franchise history at 4-0, and it’s the first time the team has won its first four games against teams that finished better than .500 the previous season.

11 — In 16 meetings this season, the Western Conference is 11-5 against the Eastern Conference.

Beyond the Arc
Not much back-to-back in pursuit of three-peat: The Lakers only have 15 back-to-back games this season in pursuit of their third straight title. That is the fewest they’ve had since joining the league in 1948. Fellow Western Conference teams Phoenix (16) and Oklahoma City (17) are second and third on that list, while Eastern Conference playoff favorites Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee top the list at 23 back-to-backs apiece.

Where’s the Love? Despite the stink that came up last week with Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis not giving Kevin Love enough minutes — remember Love did say this summer that Team USA treated him better than his own NBA team — the Timberwolves’ F/C is still getting it done. In a paltry 26.4 minutes a game, he is tied for second in the league with three double doubles in five games at 16.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg. He was one rebound shy of his fourth double double on Wednesday night.

Conley extended: So there are varying opinions on the Grizzlies extending relatively unproven PG Mike Conley with a five-year, $40 million contract Monday night. The organization is already considered a participant in the most lopsided trade when in February 2008 it sent Pau Gasol and his salary to the Lakers for his brother Marc, and two first-round picks that turned out to be Darrell Arthur (2008) and Greivis Vasquez (2010) in addition to three players not in the league anymore. Cap space cleared enabled the Grizzlies to get Zach Randolph. Memphis locked up rising superstar Rudy Gay to a max contract in the summer to go along with Conley’s contract, but will there be enough left in the kitty to keep OJ Mayo and Marc Gasol? Maybe Memphis got caught up in the success point guards are having at the outset of the season, including Conley's. He is averaging 15.8 points,, 9.2 assists, 5.8 boards while shooting 44.6 percent from the line, 35 from beyond the arc and 68 from the line. He is also averaging 38 minutes — eight more than his career average. So Conley is either going to blow up or burnout with minutes like that.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter
 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 4, 2010 - 13:07
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-eastern-conference-notes/atlanta-heating-charlotte-struggling
Body:

Team on the Rise
Atlanta — New coach. No problem. Veteran roster. The easy solution. The Hawks enter tonight’s game with 0-4 Detroit at 4-0. The Hawks lead a Southeast Division that houses Miami and Orlando. Larry Drew’s squad has won two of the four by 10 points or more, scored 100 or more in three of the games, led in rebounds and shooting percentage in three of them and committed fewer turnovers in two of them. Atlanta has never trailed at the half. Only the Lakers (4-0) have those types of numbers through the early part of the season.

The six players who have registered starts have combined to shoot 49 percent from the field despite a miserable 28 percent from 3-point land. The Hawks’ starters shoot 77 percent from the stripe, average 31.9 of the team’s 44 rebounds and are scoring 86.2 of the team’s 105.5 points a game.

Team on the Decline
Charlotte — We stay within the same division to find the team on the decline. The Bobcats enter tonight’s game at New Jersey 0-3. It is the worst start for the Michael Jordan-owned franchise after entering the season off of its first playoff appearance. They have trailed at the half and at the end of three in two of the losses, while blowing a seven-point third-quarter lead against Indiana and giving up a triple double to Brandon Jennings in a loss to Milwaukee.

The Bobcats now get a New Jersey team that is 2-1 at home. Recent history says Charlotte will fall to 0-4 as it went 13-28 on the road last year, is 0-2 so far this year and has not scored more than 88 in those two losses this season.

Numbers to Know
16.7 — Where do you begin with the assist numbers Boston Celtic PG Rajon Rondo is putting up? His 16.7 per game average is on pace to best John Stockton’s record of 14.5 set in 1989-90. Rondo’s 67 through four games are the most in NBA history.

70 & 30 — Washington Wizards rookie John Wall became the first rookie since Oscar Robertson with at least 70 points and 30 assists through three games. The Big O had 72 and 30 in 1960-61; Wall has 71 and 31. The nine steals he had in the team’s home opener — tying a franchise record along the way — weren’t bad in his debut for the home fans, either.

Beyond the Arc
The best Big Three: With all the hype surrounding LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining with Dwyane Wade in Miami to form the new Big Three you'd think this trio would run roughshod over the rest of the league. Well, Miami has a three-player combo that leads the league in +/- going into tonight’s games, but it’s not those three. It is the combination of PG Carlos Arroyo along with Bosh and Wade who lead the league with a +/- of 66 at 95:38 played. The much-publicized Big Three is actually eighth on that list with a +/- of 45 over 107 minutes played.

Top five combo: The best five-player combination resides in Golden State, although the sample size is pretty small (two games). Andres Biedrins, Dorell Wright, David Lee, Monta Ellis and Steph Curry have a +/- of 41 over 35:41 played. Miami’s five-player combo of Arroyo, James, Bosh, Wade and Joel Anthony is at a 35 +/- over five games and 65:41 played.

Sixth man almost the best man: Wilson Chandler may have lost his starting gig, but you wouldn’t know it as the Knick has been lighting it up through three games. He is the league’s top substitute in regards to points (21 ppg), rebounds (10 rpg) and assists (.7 apg) for a 31.7 average — 6.4 ahead of second-place Ben Gordon. The Knicks’ key signing in the offseason, Amar’e Stoudemire, is averaging 32.0 in the points/rebounds/assists combo.

That didn’t take long: Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings joined Elgin Baylor as the quickest in league history to register a 50-point game and a triple double within their first 100 games (84). He went for 20-10-10 against Charlotte Saturday. As a rookie Jennings scored 55 against Golden State last November, which set a record for the youngest player to score 50. Jennings could have pulled off the feat by that Nov. 14 game against Golden State. In his NBA debut, he had 17-9-9 against Philadelphia. Another rebound and assist and it would have taken seven games instead of 84.

Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 - 14:44
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/nba-power-rankings/lakers-celtics-start-season-where-they-finished
Body:

Week 1 of the NBA season is in the books, the hype is over and now teams begin to develop their chemistry and settle in for the long haul. As week 2 got underway Monday night, the Chicago Bulls were able to record a big home win against the previously undefeated Trail Blazers behind Luol Deng's career-high 40 points in a matchup of Athlon Sports' Nos. 7- and 12-ranked teams.

Games with some of Athlon's top-ranked teams are few and far between at the front end of the week, but the action starts picking up by week's end.

The Nuggets and Mavericks highlight the early part of the week with two games against each other in two key Western Conference tilts of our Nos. 6 and 8 teams.

Dallas is getting solid play from Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood down low, while Aaron Afflalo's hot play from the preseason has carried over to the regular season as the Denver shooting guard is averaging 14 ppg while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the free throw line.

The two teams, both 2-1, face off in Denver Wednesday and in Dallas on Saturday. The Mavericks will be off in between, while the Nuggets play host to the Clippers on Friday night.

Another Western Conference contest has No. 10 San Antonio traveling to No. 15 Phoenix Wednesday night. This should be a high-scoring affair as both teams are scoring over 102 a game and allowing 104.

The Trail Blazers end their Midwest run to Chicago and Milwaukee by returning to the Rose Garden to play host to No. 9 Oklahoma City Thursday. Portland might have as tough a time in Milwaukee on Tuesday as it did in Chicago on Monday and could return home a 3-2 team after leaving 3-0. Oklahoma City was blown out by Utah on Sunday and will try to rebound against the host Clippers before its matchup with the Blazers.

Staying in the Western Conference for two more games, the Suns come out of their game with the Spurs and turn right back around and play an up-and-coming Grizzlies team. No. 14 Memphis has a big game tonight at top-ranked Los Angeles and heads to No. 18 Golden State before taking on the Suns.  

The Warriors, meanwhile, hope to have the services of guard Stephon Curry (ankle) back in a week in which they take on Memphis and No. 13 Utah at home before a road trip to Detroit Sunday night.  

No. 11 New Orleans has a three-game stretch this week that begins at No. 17 Houston Wednesday, returns home Friday to play host to No. 3 Miami and finishes at No. 16 Milwaukee. The Hornets are off to a great start at 3-0 and take on a winless but dangerous Rockets team first, and matchups with the Heat and up-and-down Bucks should give us a pretty good idea where the Hornets stand after two weeks.

Milwaukee also needs to establish itself as one of the teams in that second tier in East. There are really only three competitive tiers in the East as it stands — Boston, Miami and Orlando in tier 1, Atlanta in tier 2, Chicago and Milwaukee in tier 3 and then two of the remaining nine teams that will fight for the right to get ousted in the first round by the top tier.

The Bucks have a busy week with games against Portland tonight, at No. 2 Boston on Wednesday, at Indiana on Friday before coming back to play host to the Hornets Saturday. This will be the second and last time the Bucks and Hornets play this year; New Orleans won 95-91 last Oct. 27 in the season opener for both squads.

Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 - 12:22
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-fantasy-dime-week-2
Body:

There are many ways to play fantasy basketball — rotisserie, head to head, lineups that can be changed any time and lineups that lock just prior to Monday night’s tip. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will give you the Fantasy Dime each week. These are 10 things to assist you before you have to lock in that lineup for the week.

Miami Heat garbage time
Players such as Eddie House and James Jones are finding a few ways to rack up some numbers. One is by just being on the floor with any of the Big Three in Miami. The other comes when those three are off and they are the go-to guys when the starters have taken care of business and are riding the pine for the rest of the game. House (PG/SG) is averaging 24 minutes with 11 field goals made — six being 3-pointers — and has seven boards, eight assists and five steals. Not a bad play in deeper leagues. Jones (SF) is even better. In 28 minutes a game, he has 14 field goals — 13 of them treys — six boards, three assists, three steals and two blocks. He is shooting 48 percent, while House is at 39.

The “Project” is working early
No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors, considered a project pick, is not doing too badly in the absence of Troy Murphy (back). He is shooting 58 percent from the floor while averaging 21 minutes, 10.3 points and 10 boards in three games. Murphy should return by week’s end, but Favors is a name to keep an eye on before and after Murphy gets back into the lineup. He has a tough week this week, however, with games against Charlotte and then on the road at Orlando and Miami.

It’s all Wright in Golden State
Dorell Wright came on as a late sleeper after he nailed down the starting small forward position. Reggie Williams was expected to be the sleeper name at that spot and on that team, but Wright is getting 35 minutes a game, shooting 52 percent with 19 points a game, and has hit 11 3-pointers with 16 boards. He is a good play this week at home against Memphis, Utah and on the road at Detroit as all three are allowing 99 ppg or more.

Take your time, Bynum
It was strange to see Lamar Odom’s average draft position where it was entering the season. The forward had an ADP of 87 despite finishing as one of the top 60 players in most formats last season. This year, in nine-category formats, he is the 22nd-best player at 16 ppg, 13.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, three 3-pointers made and a 67-percent shooting clip. Andrew Bynum has been cleared to run and can start practicing in a few weeks, and perhaps Odom’s ADP was low due to looking at the long haul and Bynum being there later on. Odom has had inconsistency issues in the past, but he’s there now while Bynum isn’t, and if he can even stay close to this pace he will be a good play even when Bynum returns. He’s an especially good play this week as the Lakers have four games.

For the love of guard
So point guards are fun to figure out, huh? For every Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose there’s a Shaun Livingston, George Hill and Roddy Beaubois. Livingston was supposed to be the man in Charlotte, but D.J. Augustin’s performance coupled with Livingston’s keen injury has slowed that down. Tony Parker just signed a four-year extension, thus ending the hopes of Hill becoming the starter in San Antonio. Beaubois is recovering from a broken foot and won’t return until December. So there’s a better chance that Jason Kidd will hit a 65-foot jumper before Beaubois … oh, wait, Kidd did hit said jumper

Livingston is playing 13 minutes a game and right now is no threat to Augustin, who averages 40 minutes with 17 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.0 rpg, 2.7 treys a game, shooting 43 percent from the field and 11-of-11 from the line. Hill is still the best option of the three despite Parker’s extension. Parker is at 32 mpg, while Hill is a 27. So he’s still getting minutes to go along with 11 ppg, 5 apg, 2.0 steals and 2.0 boards. Beaubois should be in no other lineup than a deep, keeper league lineup.


T.J. Ford is also cutting into Darren Collison’s time unexpectedly. He’s getting almost 22 mpg with 7.3 ppg, three assists and 1.7 steals. It’s not so much that Ford is waiver-wire worthy as it is the fact that he is taking numbers away from Collison, who is at 27 mpg, 13.7 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.3 rpg and 1.3 spg. Collison is 30th when it comes to guards and minutes played.

Grab these guys
SG Aaron Afflalo has kept his preseason streak going well into the regular season. The Nugget is averaging 14 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 rpg while shooting 64 percent from the field and 82 from the line.

Guard Kirk Hinrich is averaging 37 minutes for the Wizards with 10 ppg off of five 3-pointers made, 3.0 apg and 1.0 spg. He should continue to see playing time with Gilbert Arenas sidelined, and has good matchups with Philly, New York and Cleveland all allowing 98 ppg or more so far.

PG Luke Ridnour is filling in well for the injured Jonny Flynn in Minnesota. He is logging 30 minutes a game with 13.3 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.0 steals and an added bonus of five boards a contest. He might be a tough play this week, however, with games at Miami, Orlando and Houston and hosting Atlanta in between.

And for a complete flyer if Zach Randolph (tailbone) is out any length of time, Darrell Arthur is a good play in Memphis. The MRI came back negative for Randolph, but he is already banged up early in the season and center Marc Gasol missed the opener with an ankle injury. He returned to play in the second game, but it still is a good opportunity for Arthur to sneak some minutes. He is averaging 17 ppg over 29 minutes, shooting 60 percent from the floor, 100-percent from the stripe and has 14 boards in three games.

Da buona a bad
Translation: Marco Belinelli has gone from good to bad.
The Italian got the starting SG gig in New Orleans, and it looked like it was all going to be roses alongside Chris Paul. He started off great with 18 points, six boards, 40 percent from the field and 100 percent from the stripe in 35 minutes during the season opener. But it has tailed off since then, shooting 25 percent from the field with a total of eight points and two boards in the last two games. His minutes also dropped to 23 a game. Marcus Thornton may re-assume the role he was slated to have before the season began.

Half Gordon
Ben Gordon is probably going to be a tough one to figure out this season. He is part of a crowded backcourt in Detroit, and his consistency could be a question mark. Case in point was Saturday night against Chicago. Gordon, a former Bull himself, scored 21 points in the first half as the Pistons built a 21-point lead. He was 5-of-5 from the field and went to the line for a 10-of-10 performance. Then the second half began. He missed all five of his shots, did not get to the line and coughed up the ball five times. Chicago’s pressure was certainly a factor, but it has to be disturbing to Ben Gordon owners that trapping him on the perimeter like that can cause him to completely disappear from a game. The Pistons went on to lose by nine. He is averaging 21.7 ppg in 27 minutes, but games against Boston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Golden State make him a tricky play this week.

Cousins Cruising … for now
Rookie DeMarcus Cousins has been better than expected in the early part of his career. Through three games he is averaging 13.3 ppg, 7.3 boards and 2.3 apg while shooting 46 percent from the field and 78 percent from the stripe in 25 minutes a game. The Sacramento PF/C is getting this action early due to the injury to Samuel Dalembert. Well, Dalembert returned Friday night with six minutes, got 16 minutes Saturday — starting the second half — and could send Cousins back to the bench. So keep an eye on both players as the week goes on. The Kings only have two games this week, hosting the Lakers and Grizzlies.

Valley of the Bust
So many fantasy players were leery of PF/C Channing Frye this season. There was no way the Phoenix Sun could duplicate the numbers from a year ago, right? After a 2009-10 in which he shot 44 percent off of 172 made 3-pointers, Frye has started off 2010-11 by hitting 3-of-11 3-pointers — 6-of-18 from the field altogether — for a total of 19 points through three games. The 6-11 Frye is averaging 3.6 boards and 1.6 blocks as well. So the label of bust or one-shot wonder that he had attached to him might be justified since he was only shooting 17 percent from beyond the arc in the preseason. Keep this in mind: Frye made 172 treys last year and had made just 20 of 70 attempted in the first four years of his career.

Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 1, 2010 - 17:53
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/hoops-madness/heat-magic-lead-nbas-first-weekend
Body:

We are only four days into the season, and by night’s end we will probably have already seen a possible preview of the Eastern Conference finals — twice.

The Miami Heat and their big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh looked like they had only played three minutes together in the preseason. Oh, that’s right — that is all they played. They were a turnover, poor-shooting machine yet were still a possession away from walking out of Boston with a win Tuesday night.

So, conference finals preview No. 1 was a little lackluster. The two teams get another crack at it Nov. 11 in Miami. Now we get possible conference finals preview No. 2 tonight as the Heat make their home debut against and Orlando Magic team that cruised past a (insert any disparaging adjective here) Washington Wizards team Thursday night.

It’s James, Wade and Bosh vs. Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. This will be the 1-1 Heat’s third game in four days, while the 1-0 Magic played none of their starters — who shot 69 percent for the game — in the fourth quarter.

“(The Magic) to me have the best chance to beat the Miami Heat in the East (Conference),” said TNT analyst Charles Barkley. “I don’t know how the Celtics are going to hold up over the long haul.  To me, this is the most clear and present danger to the Miami Heat.”

Orlando does not see Boston until a Christmas Day tilt in Orlando.

On tap this weekend
The Heat-Magic matchup is the clear-cut favorite for game of the weekend, but there are a few others to take a look at.
• The Knicks travel to Boston tonight as Amar’e Stoudemire and New York try to make the Celtics a 1-2 team in this early Atlantic Division tilt.
• Sacramento is at New Jersey tonight, and both teams are 1-0. Savor that for a second.
• The general consensus is that it is the Lakers out West, with seeds 2-8 up for grabs. With that said, the Denver at New Orleans game tonight could be a 2-7 preview or a 4-5 preview, and hey, you still get to see Carmelo Anthony in a Nuggets uni for a little while longer.  And the same can be said for Saturday night’s game between Denver and host Houston and the Hornets' trip to San Antonio.
• Charlotte travels to Milwaukee as both will be playing the second of back-to-back games in an early-season matchup of Eastern Conference teams that will probably battle for the fifth and sixth seeds way down the road.
• An 0-2 Utah will be on two days rest as it tries to get off the mat by playing host to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night on NBATV.

Rookie Debuts
Blake Griffin
Last year’s No. 1 overall pick finally made his debut and showcased his spectacular athleticism with 20 points, 14 boards, four assists and a steal in 38 minutes of action for the Clippers.

John Wall
Barkley offered up his take of Wall during the network’s pregame coverage of the rookie’s debut against the Orlando Magic Thursday night.

“(Tonight) is going to be the first time in (Wall’s) life he’s going to play against someone as good as him,” he said.

This year’s No. 1 overall pick was the only highlight of a lackluster performance from the Wizards. He scored 14, dished out nine, stole three and grabbed one board in 35 minutes of work. Wall shot 6-of-19 from the field.

Evan Turner
The third overall pick this June played 31 minutes and scored 16 with six assists, seven rebounds and a block for the 76ers.

Derrick Favors
The third overall pick, considered a project for the Nets, played 20 minutes and grabbed a board a minute as well as eight points.

Wesley Johnson
A hamstring has slowed the fourth overall pick as he was limited to 18 minutes for the Timberwolves. He registered a steal, assist, four boards and 13 points in those 18 minutes, however.

DeMarcus Cousins
The fifth overall pick by the Kings played 26 minutes and got eight boards, five assists and 14 points. Cousins and Favors will face off tonight as the Kings travel to New Jersey, and Cousins will get a chance to show the Nets he should have been the first big man taken instead of Favors.

Gordon Hayward
The ninth overall pick for the Utah Jazz is averaging 22 minutes for the 0-2 Jazz with 7.5 ppg, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.  

The Heat are the best ever
At least through one game the Miami Heat are part of something that’s officially the best ever.

TNT’s coverage of the Miami-Boston game was the most watched regular season game ever on cable — earning a 4.6 share with 7.4 million viewers and 5.3 million households seeing the game. It topped a Bulls-Lakers game from February 1996.

The Lakers-Rockets game that followed drew a 2.4 share, giving TNT the most watched opening night doubleheader in its 27 years of covering the Association.

Close out that tab
A bar in Hollywood, Fla., offered to cover the tab of every patron there should the Miami Heat lose to Boston. Well, the Heat did, and the bar coughed up more than $4,000. Whiskey Tango All American Bar & Grill covered the bill — up to $25 — of anyone who signed up 30 minutes before the season opener.

Confident the team would go 82-0, the bar made the offer before the season began. And their confidence remains with the 1-1 Heat heading into tonight’s Sunshine State clash with Orlando, as the establishment’s offer stands for the entire regular season.

NBA is king of social media
The reports are in, and according to sportsfangraph.com the NBA is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to social media. The Association has 2,126,337 Twitter followers and 5,686,593 Facebook fans for a total of 7,812,930 — outpacing second-place soccer team Barcelona by 1,898,400.  

Of the “big four” leagues, the NFL is ninth with over three million, the NHL is 17th with a shade over 1.4 million and Major League Baseball is 19th with a little over 1.2 million fans and followers.

And the NBA has teams that are more connected than entire leagues as the Lakers ranked third, the Celtics 14th, the magic 18th, the Cavaliers 37th, the Bulls 40th and the Heat 50th.

Tip-ins
Monta Ellis’ 46 points on Wednesday marked the highest-scoring opening night in the NBA since Michael Jordan scored 54 in 1989.

The “other” Russian in the New York-New Jersey area, Knicks center Timofey Mozgov, had a less than stellar debut when he collected four fouls in seven minutes of play. He did pull down three boards.

Opening-night Twitters
Bucks rookie forward Larry Sanders @LarryLuv_8
"Who ever said reach for the clouds is kinda dumb, cuz I'm 21 and I'm moon walkin on the sun"

Kings rookie center DeMarcus Cousins @boogiecousins
"Shoutout to our pilot for making that amazing landing ...thank you lord!"
After terrible weather swept across the Midwest and southeast Tuesday with wind gusts as high as 81 mph. Through all of this, the Sacramento team plane was flying into Minnesota for its Wednesday-night opener.

Bobcats center Nazr Mohammed @NazrMohammed
"Damn! Since when did everyone get to speak at the ring ceremony?!?! When I won it I had something to say lol"
Tweeted while watching the Lakers get their championship rings before their opener against Houston.

Magic forward Rashard Lewis @Rashard_Lewis
"Pure motivation watching the lakers get that ring"
Also tweeted while watching the Lakers get their championship rings before their opener against Houston.

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 29, 2010 - 17:24
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/athlon-sports-nba-fantasy-draft
Body:

Rotisserie NBA leagues can be a funny thing when trying to evaluate how a fantasy draft went. Add keeper status to that league and it becomes a real crapshoot.

Preference becomes the word of the day in these situations. If you really have your eye on a player in a keeper league — a rookie, a guy coming back from an injury or a major breakout candidate who just has not risen up the ADP charts yet — then it is your call as to when you go get him. But ADP can be a useful tool to gauge just how early you should make that call.

Preference also rules the day in rotisserie when it comes to particular categories you may need to address earlier than one would expect. If you feel solid at every category or know you had better jump on a player who excels in a particular category, you may have to sidestep the ADP chart and go get the guy to help in that category.

With that said, Athlon Sports conducted its annual NBA keeper draft with 168 players being selected over 12 rounds.

This is a 14-team league that operates in a head-to-head format, but rotisserie is still key as the manager who wins the most categories each week wins the game. It is a nine-category league with one keeper from the previous year held over in the round in which he was selected. Keepers can only be kept for one year before re-entering the draft pool. The league starts eight (PG, SG, G, SF, PF, F, C, C) and benches four. The keepers are denoted with an asterisk. Yahoo determines the position eligibility.

In a two-center league, and without an abundance of solid centers, managers find themselves going for centers early either to make sure they don't miss out on the position or to go ahead and hoard the spot with the strategy of making up for missing at other positions down the line.

It is somewhat akin to drafting in two-quarterback football leagues; do you get one QB early, get both early or take the other talent that will fall to you because quarterbacks will be scooped up? The high number of players with power forward/center eligibility certainly helps when going for the center spot during the draft.

1st Round (Picks 1-14)


  • Team 1 - Kevin Durant, SF, OKC

  • Team 2 - Chris Paul, PG, NO

  • Team 3 - Dirk Nowitzki, PF, DAL

  • Team 4 - Danny Granger, SF/PF, IND

  • Team 5 - Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C, NYK

  • Team 6 - Pau Gasol, PF/C, LAL

  • Team 7 - LeBron James, SF, MIA*
  • 
Team 8 - Brook Lopez, C, NJ

  • Team 9 - Josh Smith, PF, ATL
  • 
Team 10 - Dwyane Wade, PG/SG, MIA*

  • Team 11 - Dwight Howard, C, ORL*

  • Team 12 - Kobe Bryant, SG, LAL*

  • Team 13 - Chris Bosh, PF/C, MIA
  • 
Team 14 - Carmelo Anthony, SF, DEN*

The first round was pretty much a no-brainer when you have those who kept first-round picks from a year ago electing to draft from the back half of the league.

Kevin Durant, the No. 1 fantasy player in many leagues, was able to go first in this league as he was thrown back in the pool after his one year as a keeper. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony being kept as first rounders and Stephen Curry as a sixth rounder there were few debates. Chris Paul, who can be debated as the No. 2 against James, was the easy choice with the King being kept. It's the same for Dirk Nowitzki and Danny Granger.

The first debate came between Pau Gasol or Amar'e Stoudemire, and the second between Brook Lopez, Josh Smith or Chris Bosh. Gasol and Stoudemire are going around 13th overall in most normal drafts and it is a preference pick since both have PF/C eligibility. Lopez went first in this league due to the two-center rule, leaving the last debate of the first round between PF Josh Smith or PF/C Chris Bosh. The better player went ahead of the chance at getting dual eligibility as Smith went ahead of Bosh.

2nd Round (Picks 15-28)


  • Team 14 - Brandon Roy, SG/SF, POR

  • Team 13 - Al Horford, PF/C, ATL

  • Team 12 - Al Jefferson, PF/C, UTA

  • Team 11 - Jason Kidd, PG, DAL

  • Team 10 - Gerald Wallace, SF/PF, CHA

  • Team 9 - Andrew Bogut, C, MIL

  • Team 8 - Rajon Rondo, PG, BOS
  • 
Team 7 - David West, PF, NO

  • Team 6 - Deron Williams, PG, UTA*

  • Team 5 - Steve Nash, PG, PHX*

  • Team 4 - Derrick Rose, PG, CHI
  • 
Team 3 - Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, PHI

  • Team 2 - Joe Johnson, SG/SF, ATL
  • 
Team 1 - Tim Duncan, PF/C, SAN*

The draft starts to settle down a little more with just three keepers skewing the 14 picks. PGs Deron Williams and Steve Nash were kept along with PF/C Tim Duncan.

Preferences might have superseded logic all across the second round.

The round starts with a bang as players like Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace, Jason Kidd, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis and Chauncey Billups, all normally being drafted ahead of Brandon Roy, were bypassed for the Portland triple threat. Roy played in 65 games last year after a bone bruise sidetracked his season until a return in the playoffs. He is obviously proven, but in a two-center league and with other SG/SFs like Iguodala or Ellis out there, this was the first reach of the draft.

Preference for centers lead to the two Als going back to back as PF/Cs Horford and Jefferson were selected — Horford going first despite most ADPs having him behind Jefferson.

Rondo, a top 16 pick on average, slid back to the middle of the second. The Boston PG went 21st overall, being picked two spots past Jason Kidd. It should be noted that Gerald Wallace and Andrew Bogut both went ahead of Rondo due to both managers having kept PGs (Wade and Curry).

Wallace was taken ahead of Iguodala for two reasons: 1. He was the eighth-ranked player vs. the 26th-ranked player in this format last year. 2. Wallace stayed mostly healthy, and his role and place on the team seems more settled than that of the 76ers' roster.
 
Bogut was the second-biggest reach after Roy. Injuries to his hand and arm kept him out of the preseason, and he will have to deal with the pain from the injury for the foreseeable future. With Andrea Bargnani, Nene, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby all out there and having PF/C eligibility vs. just center status, or even Marc Gasol or Nene, who have just center eligibility as well, they were probably the better choices there.

PF David West, averaging out at about 35th overall, was taken as the 22nd overall pick. The Hornet ranked 9th last year in this format, but was the only option the team had once Paul went down. He did rank 23rd the year prior with a healthy Paul, but there are more options in New Orleans now just as there were more options on the board at 22.

Rose, who is much better as a "real" basketball player, Iguodala and Joe Johnson closed out the round. Iguodala and Johnson went right around where most ADPs have them, while Rose was picked about eight spots too soon. If his shooting percentages can rise and he can hit from beyond the arc, Rose could be a steal at the spot, however.

3rd Round (Picks 29-42)


  • Team 1 - Tyreke Evans, PG/SG, SAC
  • 
Team 2 - Andrea Bargnani, PF/C, TOR

  • Team 3 - Chauncey Billups, PG, DEN
  • 
Team 4 - Carlos Boozer, PF/C, CHI

  • Team 5 - Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC
  • 
Team 6 - Monta Ellis, PG/SG, GS
  • Team 7 - Zach Randolph, PF/C, MEM

  • Team 8 - David Lee, PF/C, GS*

  • Team 9 - Chris Kaman, C, LAC

  • Team 10 - Darren Collison, PG, IND

  • Team 11 - Antawn Jamison, SF/PF, CLE
  • 
Team 12 - Rudy Gay, SF, MEM
  • 
Team 13 - Lamarcus Aldridge, PF/C, POR
  • 
Team 14 - Nene, PF/C, DEN


The third round was relatively uneventful as most managers found gifts in their lap due to the premature selections of other players. Bargnani, Boozer and Randolph all went about where they were slotted and, again, in a two-center league, their value shoots up. However, the ADPs say Kaman and Aldridge went about 30 and 20 spots ahead of where they could have been had. In a 12-team league consider them late fifth rounders.

Jamison, with an ADP in the low 50s, was selected at the 39th spot. It's too early, says the ADP, but who knows what to expect in Cleveland this year with LeBron's departure. Someone is going to have to pick up the pieces, and it's as good a chance as any that it's Jamison, but you might want to hold off until the fourth round to get him.

Billups jumped on the Rondo slide as he fell past West, Rose and Tyreke Evans, becoming the sixth point guard re-drafted. It gave Team 3's manager — new to the league and with no keeper — Nowitzki, Iguodala and Billups to start his franchise with. Not too shabby.

Westbrook and Collison should both thrive and are solid values in the third round. Gay was selected almost exactly where his ADP has him — 40th.

NOTE: Stoudemire and Westbrook were traded to Team 13 for Bosh and Horford.

4th Round (Picks 43-56)


  • Team 14 - Brandon Jennings, PG, MIL

  • Team 13 - John Wall, PG, WAS

  • Team 12 - Devin Harris, PG, NJ

  • Team 11 - Aaron Brooks, PG, HOU
  • 
Team 10 - Marc Gasol, C, MEM

  • Team 9 - Gilbert Arenas, PG/SG, WAS

  • Team 8 - Manu Ginobili, SG, SA

  • Team 7 - Marcus Camby, PF/C, POR
  • 
Team 6 - Blake Griffin, PF, LAC

  • Team 5 - DeMarcus Cousins, PF/C, SAC
  • 
Team 4 - Paul Pierce, SG/SF, BOS

  • Team 3 - Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, CHA

  • Team 2 - Jason Richardson, SG/SF, PHX
  • 
Team 1 - Andrew Bynum, C, LAL


This is a keeper league, so some of the ADPs are thrown out the window when you think it's time to take a shot at a guy. The fourth round is clearly where that started this year. This is also the round where you begin the debate of: Do I start forming a complete roster or do I take best available and figure it out in the end?

This June's No. 1 overall pick John Wall was also the first rookie selected in this league. Everyone expects his shooting percentage to be low and his turnovers to be high, but the keeper value wins the day. In a normal league, Wall's ADP is around 50 so it's not that big of a reach when Team 13 wasn't going to pick again for 24 picks. And if Wall's his guy then he's his guy.

Wall's Kentucky teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, was on the other end of when NOT to reach for a keeper. With an ADP of about 102, the PF/C from Sacramento went 54 picks too soon. He averages out at around a ninth-round pick, and you might want to bump that in a keeper format, but more than four full rounds of a jump is a bit much. If you like a guy, you like a guy, but just know the value. Cousins might be able to jump up from his projected 102 spot as Samuel Dalembert is currently injured, and the rookie might be able to sneak in a few more minutes and even hold down the spot for a Kings team projected to finish last in the Pacific Division.

Paul Pierce, Stephen Jackson and Jason Richardson were all great value picks — each going past their ADP.

Team 11 got a gift, according to the ADP, when Devin Harris went right before Aaron Brooks — Brooks is eight spots ahead of Harris on average. The dual-eligible Gilbert Arenas was the last point guard taken in the round.

5th Round (Picks 57-70)


  • Team 1 - Mo Williams, PG, CLE

  • Team 2 - Andray Blatche, PF/C, WAS
  • 
Team 3 - Jeff Green, SF/PF, OKC
  • 
Team 4 - Baron Davis, PG, LAC
  • 
Team 5 - Ray Allen, SG, BOS

  • Team 6 - Paul Millsap, PF, UTA

  • Team 7- Raymond Felton, PG/SG, NYK
  • 
Team 8 - O.J. Mayo, SG, MEM
  • 
Team 9 - Eric Gordon, SG, LAC

  • Team 10 - Troy Murphy, PF/C, NJ
  • 
Team 11 - Vince Carter, SG/SF, ORL

  • Team 12 - Luis Scola, PF/C, HOU
  • 
Team 13 - Emeka Okafor, C, NO

  • Team 14 - Kevin Garnett, PF, BOS

The ADP says centers Andrew Bynum and Andray Blatche should have gone at the end of this round, but Team 1 and 2 would not pick again for 30 picks, and the two-center league left them to make a choice. Bynum and Blatche were the best available (Team 2 kept PF/C Joakim Noah as a 7th rounder) so their hands were forced.

Troy Murphy had to be selected at some point. His ADP is 40 and he went off the board at 66 due to the word "indefinite" being associated with his name after a back strain has him sidelined. There was no timetable for his return during the draft, but with 20 weeks of fantasy basketball ahead before the playoffs start, the risk of waiting two rounds later than the New Jersey Net PF/C should have gone is worth it.

Outside of Murphy there are a few other question marks in this round.

Reports have Raymond Felton struggling to operate in Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense. He was selected right where his ADP says to, but keep an eye on him and his progress in grasping the offense. His struggles will affect the production of both himself and Stoudemire.

The Luis Scola issue is an interesting one. His production skyrocketed with the absence of Yao Ming last year to injury. If Yao is back and logging significant minutes, what does that mean for Scola? He doubles as a PF/C and could keep the production going when Yao gets doubled. Keep this in mind: When Yao was healthy in 2008-09, Scola played 30 mpg and was the 62nd ranked player in this format. So history says he's a good value with the 68th selection.

Okafor has an average ADP of 94, so he could have been had over the next two rounds instead of at 69th. Again, this is where you need to know your league and know your roster requirements and what other managers already have. Okafor could have been had at 72nd by Team 13, but there was no guarantee he would've still been there at 97th — his next pick after 72.

In hindsight, five centers were selected between Okafor and pick 97; however, only Roy Hibbert (88) and Yao Ming (90) had a higher ADP of the five chosen than Okafor.

6th Round (Picks 71-84)


  • 
Team 14 - Serge Ibaka, C, OKC
  • 
Team 13 - Caron Butler, SG/SF, DAL

  • Team 12 - Jrue Holiday, PG, PHI

  • Team 11 - Luol Deng, SF, CHI

  • Team 10 - Trevor Ariza, SG/SF, NO
  • 
Team 9 - Stephen Curry, PG/SG, GS*

  • Team 8 - Roy Hibbert, C, IND

  • Team 7 - Kevin Martin, SG, HOU
  • 
Team 6 - Rashard Lewis, SF/PF, ORL

  • Team 5 - Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, UTA

  • Team 4 - Yao Ming, C, HOU
  • 
Team 3 - Anthony Randolph, PF/C, NYK
  • 
Team 2 - Tony Parker, PG, SA

  • Team 1 - Carl Landry, SF/PF, SAC

First thing to remember when you look at this round is that Stephen Curry was a keeper — selected in the eighth round (96th overall), dropped and picked up on waivers, and waiver pickups in this league become sixth-round keepers. In normal drafts this year Curry has an ADP around 9th overall.

Curry is a good jumping-off point for this round when you see that Serge Ibaka was the first player taken in the round. The Thunder center has an ADP of around 129 and was picked 71st here — 58 spots ahead of where he was "supposed" to be. Curry had an ADP of around 93 as a rookie, was taken 96th in this league last year and has since moved to the 9th overall spot.

Can Ibaka make an 87-spot jump this year? Well, no, because he was drafted 71st. It's highly unlikely, even in a two-center league, that the shot-blocking, rebounding machine that is Ibaka becomes the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011-12 drafts. Team 14 did have 26 picks in between this one and his next, and only one center on his team, but it's too early for a two-trick pony that is still very raw to be taken here.

Roy Hibbert was still available, and was able to be scooped up six picks later by a team that already had Brook Lopez and PF/C David Lee. In a two-center league, Team 8 just became pretty dominant at the C spot.

Taking a shot at Yao Ming with the 81st pick is worth it. If his feet can support his frame, he could return to being a standout fantasy center. His ADP is around 90, so Team 4 might have had a shot at him with the fourth pick in the next round, but you need to make a move in a two-center league and you can never anticipate what other managers might do. See Team 8 taking his third center earlier in the round. Another owner might follow the same strategy.

Caron Butler (72), Jrue Holiday (73) and Luol Deng (74) were all taken before their ADPs of 77, 82 and 87 said to. Whereas Kevin Martin (78), Rashard Lewis (79), Anthony Randolph (82) were all value picks compared to their ADPs of 58, 67 and 75. Trevor Ariza went 75th with an ADP of 76.

Andrei Kirilenko has an ADP of 92 in the mess that is Utah in regards of who can you count on to produce outside of Deron Williams and Al Jefferson. AK-47 was picked 80th with an ADP of 92, so Team 5 might have had a shot with the 90th overall pick.

Things are not busy now on the Kings' front line, but once Dalembert returns, and if Cousins has emerged, where will Carl Landry get his numbers? His ADP is around 100 and he was selected 84th here. Team 1 had only one SF and one PF, so to get an SF/PF here was probably the right move. Lamar Odom, with the same eligibility and a ADP of 87, would have been the wiser choice, however.

7th Round (Picks 85-98)


  • 
Team 1 - Jason Terry, PG/SG, DAL

  • Team 2 - Joakim Noah, PF/C, CHI*

  • Team 3 - Elton Brand, PF/C, PHI

  • Team 4 - Evan Turner, SG/SF, PHI

  • Team 5 - Tiago Splitter, SF/PF/C, SA

  • Team 6 - Jamal Crawford, PG/SG, ATL

  • Team 7 - John Salmons, SG/SF, MIL

  • Team 8 - Hedo Turkoglu, SG/SF, PHX
  • 
Team 9 - J.J. Hickson PF/C, CLE

  • Team 10 - Lamar Odom, SF/PF, LAL
  • 
Team 11 - Al Harrington, PF/C, DEN

  • Team 12 - Michael Beasley, PF, MIN
  • 
Team 13 - Ben Gordon, SG, DET

  • Team 14 - Andre Miller, PG, POR


Value, rookies, upside and one reach highlighted the seventh round.

Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, John Salmons, Hedo Tukoglu, Lamar Odom, Michael Beasley and Andre Miller all went later than their ADPs said they should and made the seventh round a shooting guard-dominated affair.

The rookies reappeared in the seventh round and were still considered reaches against where their ADPs said they should go. However, by the seventh round — with Kevin Love already in tow as a keeper, which also meant no Round 8 pick — Team 4 was able to take a risk on Evan Turner to fill out the eighth spot in his starting lineup. His ADP says he should go 107 and he went 88th here.

Tiago Splitter went right after Turner and was a bigger reach — taken 89th against his ADP of 137. But he has three-spot eligibility as a SF, PF and C. The 2007 first-round pick of the Spurs is coming off an MVP season in the Spanish League who can be a benefit in multiple categories. Upside, keeper league and multi-eligibility made this a must for Team 8, which wouldn't pick again until the 108th pick. Team 8 did however reach for both of the top two center-eligilble rookies this year by 54 and 48 spots ahead of what their ADPs are. So here's hoping for two major debut seasons.

J.J. Hickson is considered one of the key sleepers this year for the LeBron-less Cavs.

Ben Gordon, who battled injuries last season, was the only reach without much upside. He has an ADP of 111 and only SG eligibility in a crowded Pistons backcourt. There was a run on SGs in the seventh and five with dual eligibility. Gordon's teammate PG/SG Rodney Stuckey has an ADP of 99, and New Orleans' 2-guard Marcus Thornton's ADP of 84 might have worked better at this spot.

Keep an eye on Thornton, however, as his minutes are limited in preseason and his contributions early this season might be as well. He has been beaten out by Marco Belinelli — after Thornton was selected — for the starting 2-guard spot.

8th Round (Picks 99-112)


  • Team 14 - Greg Oden, C, POR
  • Team 13 - Wesley Johnson, SF, MIN
  • Team 12 - Terrence Williams, SG/SF, NJ
  • Team 11 - Jason Thompson, PF/C, SAC
  • Team 10 - JaVale McGee, PF/C, WAS
  • Team 9 - Anthony Morrow, SG/SF, NJ
  • Team 8 - Channing Frye, PF/C, PHX
  • Team 7 - Mike Conley, PG, MEM
  • Team 6 - Robin Lopez, C, PHX
  • Team 5 - Leandro Barbosa, PG/SG, TOR
  • Team 4 - Kevin Love, PF/C, MIN*
  • Team 3 - Samuel Dalembert, C, SAC
  • Team 2 - Tyrus Thomas, PF, CHA
  • Team 1 - Shawn Marion, SF/PF, DAL

Greg Oden has an ADP of 109, so being picked on the front end of this round is the right spot as Team 14 secured his third center and will get great value for the pick if Oden can just stay healthy one year.

That set off a run on sleeper picks.

Another reach for a rookie comparatively speaking to his ADP of 125 was that of Wesley Johnson. The Syracuse product, who should be able to score in multiple categories for the T'Wolves, was selected 100th by Team 13, who oddly enough would not have picked again until pick 125. Could he have made it back? It's hard to say with the number of rookies that had already gone before pick 100, so a move probably needed to be made here.

Terrence Williams has an ADP of 122, so the do-it-all Net might not be a big reach at 101st considering Team 11's next pick was not until 123rd. It is kind of funny that the ADPs work out in back-to-back picks that both team owners could have had their selections at their exact spots in the next round, but the chance of that working out are right around slim and none.

Jason Thompson goes 102nd with an ADP of 140 and might find life as a King a little tough with the drafting of Cousins and the trade of Dalembert to go along with the acquisition of Carl Landry last season. Thompson, a former starter, will need an injury — which has already happened to Dalembert — or for Cousins to underperform to find many minutes this season.

JaVale McGee has sleeper attached to his name going into this season, but with an ADP of 108 it's not really that sleepy. The 7-footer who narrowly missed the cut for the U.S. National Team this summer is a blocking and rebounding machine. Now if he and Flip Saunders can get on the same page in Washington he will be able to live up to his potential in a pretty barren frontcourt.

Channing Frye joined Troy Murphy as the PF/Cs that fell the most according to their ADP. Murphy went 66th with an ADP of 40, while Frye went 105th with an ADP of 93. Murphy fell because of his back strain injury, while Frye fell because he is considered a one-trick pony — a center-eligible player who can knock down 3-pointers. And his fall might be justified as he shot 17 percent from beyond the arc this preseason.

Anthony Morrow, Mike Conley, Robin Lopez, Dalembert and Shawn Marion were all selected right around where they should have been. Tyrus Thomas was a value by about 11 spots when he was picked 111th.

Kevin Love was a great value keeper pick. The T'Wolves center has an ADP of 49 and was kept at the 109th spot.

9th Round (Picks 113-126)


  • Team 1 - Corey Maggette, SG/SF, DAL
  • 
Team 2 - Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, DET
  • 
Team 3 - Beno Udrih, PG, SAC
  • Team 4 - Mike Dunleavy SG/SF, IND
  • Team 5 - Dorrell Wright, SG/SF, GS
  • Team 6 - Marcus Thornton, SG, NO
  • Team 7 - Anderson Varejao, PF/C, CLE
  • Team 8 - Jameer Nelson, PG, ORL
  • Team 9 - Travis Outlaw, SF/PF, NJ
  • Team 10 - Nicolas Batum, SG/SF, POR
  • Team 11 - Boris Diaw, SF/PF, CHA
  • Team 12 - Andris Biedrins, C, GS
  • Team 13 - Wilson Chandler, SF/PF, NYK
  • Team 14 - Mike Miller, SG/SF, MIA

Value was the key word for round 9.

So Stuckey and Thornton were brought up earlier as potentially better picks than Gordon at 97th overall. Well, not only did they not go in the eighth, they were held over to the 9th and became spectacular values. Stuckey (ADP of 99) went 114th and Thornton (ADP of 84) went 118th. Again, keep an eye on Thornton to see if his preseason performance — or lack thereof — warrants the high ADP.

Jameer Nelson was another good value with an ADP of 99 to be selected at 120.

Corey Maggette, Anderson Varejao, Jameer Nelson, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Andris Biedrins, Wilson Chandler and Mike Miller all went past their ADPs to be solid ninth-round selections. (Miller was selected prior to his injury).

Beno Udrih just missed going two spots ahead of his 117 ADP, but that's just being too picky.

Dorrell Wright is considered a reach at 117 with his ADP of 140. However, he beat out Reggie Williams for a starting spot, and being a starter for Golden State should equate to good fantasy numbers — particularly this late.

The only reach of the round was Travis Outlaw. His ADP is 140 and his contract is five years, $35 million that he signed this year. He has the potential to be in the 3-spot for the Nets, but potential has been attached to Outlaw quite often. If he delivers, he's a good pick at 121, but could probably have been had at the 132nd selection by Team 9 in the next round.

10th Round (Picks 127-140)


  • Team 14 - Jose Calderon, PG, TOR
  • Team 13 - Danilo Gallinari, SF, NYK*
  • Team 12 - James Harden, SG, OKC
  • Team 11 - Gordon Hayward, SG/SF, UTA
  • Team 10 - J.R. Smith, SG/SF, DEN
  • Team 9 - Corey Brewer, SG/SF, MIN
  • Team 8 - Greg Monroe, PF/C, DET
  • Team 7 - Mehmet Okur, C, UTA
  • Team 6 - DeJuan Blair, PF/C, SA
  • Team 5 - J.J. Redick, SG, ORL
  • Team 4 - Hakim Warrick, SF/PF, PHX
  • Team 3 - Linas Kleiza, SG/SF, TOR
  • Team 2 - Richard Hamilton, SG/SF, DET
  • Team 1 - Louis Williams, PG/SG, PHI

What do you want? What do you need? What do you got?

League managers start tidying up in this round and from here on out. Some go for spots to secure depth. Some go for fliers, sleepers, bounce-back players or just simply prefer particular players.

Jose Calderon, with an ADP of 110, was great value as a third PG at the 127th selection. J.R. Smith and his 3-point prowess is a good steal at 131 with his ADP of 101.

James Harden went about eight picks ahead of his ADP but at this point if you are in the vicinity of the ADP you're doing alright.

Need a barrage of 3-pointers and a player who spells the oft-injured Vince Carter? Then J.J. Redick is your man. A solid pick here at 133 overall.

Butler hero Gordon Hayward is a solid shooter, but is he strong enough for the NBA? At pick 130 and with all of his other spots solidified this is the definition of "taking a flier."

The same can be said for Corey Brewer. If he could find some consistent play on the offensive end to go along with his strong defensive play he would shoot up the ADP charts. So the upside is there.

Mehmet Okur, this late in a two-center league, went 26 spots past his ADP of 108 due to his Achilles injury late last season. If he can rebound from that then he becomes a great value here.

Danilo Gallinari, with an ADP of 53, was the keeper of the draft at 128th overall — a 75-spot coupon.

Team 8 now has every type of center in the league. He got stud Brook Lopez in the first, used David Lee as his keeper, a boatload of potential in Roy Hibbert in the sixth and potential bust Channing Frye in the eighth. So to complete the run, he took rookie center Greg Monroe, who could develop into a solid post for the rebuilding Pistons.

DeJuan Blair slipped in the 2009 draft when he came out of Pittsburgh and got his revenge in 18 mpg by collecting more than six boards, seven points, .6 steals and .5 blocks a game. If his minutes are not infringed upon, and with center eligibility to go along with PF, he's a solid pick here.

There's no one in particular to turn to in Toronto to find some offense, so Linas Kleiza is just as good as any to do so. He returns from a year in Greece after four years with the Nuggets and can get the boards and the 3s to be a key contributor this late in a draft.

A deep bench, age and injuries might make it a tough road for Richard Hamilton. But when Rip is healthy he contributes in multiple categories.

Hakim Warrick is an up-tempo player and his move to up-tempo Phoenix should be a good one. Someone in the Valley of the Sun has to replace Amar'e Stoudemire and it would seem more likely to be Warrick than it would be Hedo Turkoglu.

Lou Williams, the former starting PG in Philadelphia before a broken jaw and a guy named Jrue Holiday stepped in, closes out the 10th round. He brings dual eligibility and could fill the sixth man role pretty well in Doug Collins' offense.

11th Round (Picks 141-154)


  • 
Team 1 - Reggie Williams, SG/SF, GS
  • Team 2 - Amir Johnson, PF, TOR
  • Team 3 - George Hill, PG/SG, SA
  • Team 4 - Yi Jianlian, PF/C, WAS
  • Team 5 - Shaquille O'Neal, C, BOS
  • Team 6 - Taj Gibson, PF, CHI
  • Team 7 - Roddy Beaubois, PG/SG, DAL
  • Team 8 - D.J. Augustin, PG, CHA
  • Team 9 - Mike Bibby, PG, ATL
  • Team 10 - Jeff Teague, PG/SG, ATL
  • Team 11 - Rasual Butler, SG/SF, LAC
  • Team 12 - DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, TOR
  • Team 13 - Chase Budinger, SG/SF, HOU
  • Team 14 - Chuck Hayes, PF/C, HOU

Sleepers of the world unite!

Nearly the entire 11th round is filled with them as most teams are content with their lineup and looking for a diamond in the rough here and there.

Reggie Williams struggled through the preseason with a groin injury, but should thrive as the sixth man for Golden State.

Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan continued the late run of Raptors. Johnson was given over $34 million this year to try and become the new Chris Bosh at power forward, while DeRozan should get the nod at the shooting guard spot ahead of Barbosa — taken 41 picks earlier.

George Hill is considered the future PG in San Antonio, and it could come later this year if he continues to play well and force Tony Parker out of town. Either way, Hill will see plenty of minutes. Roddy Beaubois and his broken foot are in the same, well, shoes, as Hill is. Once healthy, he should be able to push Jason Kidd for minutes, perhaps pushing him out of Big D.

In other who will replace whom news, the Atlanta point guard situation was addressed in back-to-back picks. Mike Bibby has the spot now, but it is only a matter of time — particularly the time it takes for Jeff Teague's ankle to heal — before Teague  takes over the spot and should flourish with the talent the Hawks have around him.

Taj Gibson did a solid job as a rookie for the Bulls last year and will get another opportunity while Carlos Boozer is sidelined with his hand injury.

Shaun Livingston's knee is still not healthy, so D.J. Augustin still has his shot at holding down the point in Charlotte. He has the likes of Steven Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw around him, so he should be able to do a lot more than he did in the 18 minutes a game he played last season.

Rasual Butler? He's still in the league? Well, yes, and he ranked 95th in this format last season in 33 minutes of action per game. Check out this stat line: 84 percent from the stripe, 145 treys, 979 points, 240 boards, 16 assists, 36 steals, 68 blocks and just 79 turnovers. Not a bad multi-category find with the 151st pick.

Yi Jianlian joins the unproven frontcourt of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche in Washington. He is 7-feet, 250 pounds in a two-center league, but with Marreese Speights, Brendan Haywood, Drew Gooden and Spencer Hawes out there, and also PF/C eligible, they might have been a better call.

Shaquille O'Neal might have been a nostalgia pick as he is old, not the starting center and on a team that is not consistent enough with its centers to be considered solid fantasy plays.

Rockets closed out the 11th round in back-to-back picks. Chase Budinger became a sleeper pick after an impressive preseason. The second-year player averaged 12.1 ppg during the preseason and might find more minutes with the aging Shane Battier in front of him and Trevor Ariza's move to New Orleans creating more opportunities.

Hayes might find the minutes hard to come by. He plays behind Luis Scola and Yao Ming as a PF/C eligible player. Hayes manages to hang in there despite his disadvantage being 6-6, but his game does not translate well to the fantasy world.


12th Round (Picks 155-168)


  • 
Team 14 - Marreese Speights, PF/C, PHI
  • Team 13 - Donte Greene, SG/SF, SAC
  • Team 12 - Austin Daye, SG/SF, DET
  • Team 11 - Brendan Haywood, C, DAL
  • Team 10 - Drew Gooden, PF/C, MIL
  • Team 9 - Omri Casspi, SG/SF, SAC
  • Team 8 - Richard Jefferson, SF, SA
  • Team 7 - Marco Belinelli, SG, NO
  • Team 6 - Timofey Mozgov, C, NYK
  • Team 5 - Jarrett Jack, PG/SG, TOR
  • Team 4 - Carlos Delfino, SG/SF, MIL
  • Team 3 - Rudy Fernandez, SG, POR
  • Team 2 - Derrick Favors, PF, NJ
  • Team 1 - Tayshaun Prince, SF/PF, DET

And then there was one ... final round.

Wait long enough and you can get starters later than their backups were selected. Of course at the time the "backups" were selected they weren't backups, but these are the breaks.

Marco Belinelli is a prime example. He beat out Marcus Thornton for the starting SG spot in New Orleans, and playing alongside Chris Paul is a good thing, especially as a 12th-round pick.

Donte Greene and Omri Casspi are Sacramento SG/SF that are part of a three-man timeshare with Francisco Garcia. Greene has the starting nod at the the 3 right now, but there is too much uncertainty with the Kings to know which one to take. If any good came of this problem it is at least the fact that it was not addressed until the 12th round. Just watch the depth charts, the playing time and the waiver wire to figure out what to do with the Kings.

Austin Daye grabbed the starting PF spot for the Pistons and is already listed as a SG/SF. Since you can't lose eligibility, the second-year player from Gonzaga should be a three-spot player. He posted 15.9 ppg over 28 minutes a game this preseason.

Jarrett Jack gets the point guard job in Toronto over Jose Calderon (taken 37 picks earlier)

Carlos Delfino and Corey Maggette are in a battle at the small forward spot to start the season. Delfino was the Bucks' starter last season and in the 30 minutes he got per game he collected 134 3-pointers, 80 steals, 202 assists and 394 boards.

Rudy Fernandez is a backup shooting guard for Portland. He would like to be nothing for Portland as he badly wants the team to release him so he can return to his homeland of Spain. Since he doesn't want to be in the NBA there is probably no reason to draft him in fantasy NBA.

Marresse Speights has potential in a crowded Philly frontcourt that includes Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. Speights' PF/C eligibility gives him the nod over an unproven Young and an injured Hawes. Need proof there are question marks in the 76ers' frontcourt? Brand wasn't selected until the 7th, Speights — a non-starter — was picked in the 12th, while Young and Hawes went undrafted.

Haywood is a blocking machine who finished 85th overall in this format last year. He has to rotate with Tyson Chandler and doesn't contribute much more than blocks, but to get one of the league's leading blockers this late in a roto league is a good pick.

Drew Gooden can be a double-double guy on a consistent basis, and playing with a healthy Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings should make this PF/C-eligible player a good value at pick 159.

Richard Jefferson's selection by Team 8 with the 161st pick was preceded by this comment: "If LaDanian Tomlinson can do it, why not Richard Jefferson?" And it's a valid point. Once he was one of the league's top scoring threats before falling off in every category last year. Sound familiar? Jefferson might be able to return to his old form — his minutes will not, however — and he could either be a sneaky sleeper or Team 8's first drop of the year. There were better options out there, but it's worth the risk.

So one of the Knicks' centers should not have gone but did go. And it was Timofey Mozgov, who gets the starting nod. The "other" Russian in the New York-New Jersey area, with all the headlines going to new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Mozgov signed with the Knicks in July and gets the job over Rony Turiaf and Eddy Curry. So it's not the greatest of accomplishments that he won the job, but the rookie could benefit playing alongside Stoudemire, Gallinari, Chandler and Felton.

It is a keeper league, meaning there is some value in taking a shot at the top rookies drafted into the NBA this season.

Wall went first in the NBA draft and was the first rookie taken in this league — 44th overall. Evan Turner was taken second in June and 88th overall here. So that left the third overall pick, Derrick Favors. The Nets' power forward, a 19-year-old project for the rebuilding New Jersey squad, has been inconsistent at best this preseason. But in a keeper league and as a team's last pick, Favors is worth a look with the 167th overall pick.

And the Mr. Irrelevant of the Athlon Sports fantasy draft is... Tayshaun Prince. He was Mr. Consistent up until last year in his eight-year career. He had never missed a game before back and knee injuries sidelined him for 33 last season. If healthy, he gives you high percentages, a decent amount of boards, assists and steals. Not too bad for pick 168 of 168.

So there you have it. The Athlon Sports fantasy draft has concluded just in time for the tip off of the 2010-11 season.

Now get to that waiver wire.

And here are some names we at Athlon Sports are surprised still sit on the waiver wire.

Guards
Aaron Afflalo, SG, DEN
Carlos Arroyo, PG, MIA
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, WAS
Ty Lawson, PG, DEN
Luke Ridnour, PG, MIN
Brandon Rush, SG/SF, IND
Ramon Sessions, PG/SG, CLE
C.J. Watson, PG/SG, CHI

Forwards
Shane Battier, SF, HOU
Ed Davis, PF, TOR
Jamario Moon, SF, CLE
Charlie Villanueva, PF, DET
Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, PHI

Guards/Forwards
Ron Artest, SG/SF, LAL
Josh Childress, SG/SF PHX
Grant Hill, SG/SF, PHX
Quentin Richardson, SG/SF, ORL
Thabo Sefalosha, SG/SF, OKC

Centers
Spencer Hawes, C, PHI
Jermaine O'Neal, C, BOS

Forwards/Centers
Darko Milicic, PF/C, MIN

Corby A. Yarbrough

@AthlonCorby on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 21, 2010 - 14:51

Pages