How to build the perfect fantasy team

If you were picking in a head-to-head league and had a late first round pick, how could you build a perfect fantasy team? It’s pretty simple actually. You need to win 5 categories strongly in fantasy to be successful. So pick Dwight Howard first and then steve nash and rajon rondo with the next picks. Pair them with Blake Griffin or Josh Smith and guys you can take later such as Mike Conley and Jose Calderon and you will dominate some form of FG%, 3s, rebounds, assists and steals while totally punting FT%, points and TOs. Remember it never matters how much you lose a category by but only how many you win in the playoffs when it counts.


Fantasy Focus: Derrick Rose or Stephen Curry?

As usual, this depends on the strength of your team – Rose has had an MVP-type season, but if you focus on FT %, 3s, points and steals, Curry may be the better man to have. Rose has a slight advantage in assists and rebounds and has had better health, but a straight up trade for the probable league MVP may not be a wise move in this case.

Don’t Pick up Luke Walton!

Please don’t tell me you picked up Luke Walton last night after he had a pretty good game against the Clippers. Luke went for 18-5-4 (pt, reb, ast) with a steal and a block, which is a damn good line, but consider the following 3 points:

  1. The Clippers are terrible, he won’t replicate this performance against the likes of New Orleans, San Antonio or Sacramento (the Lakers final 3 opponents).
  2. Luke Walton has been injured recently (just missed two games because of a strained right hamstring)
  3. There are much better free agents out there. Think about players on these teams.

So don’t pick up Luke. But do watch this amazing Nike commercial: did Kobe Bryant really jump over a car (Aston Martin)?

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To hoops,

Three Team Trade Brings Ben Wallace to Cavs

Cleveland GM Danny Ferry finally pulled off a deal to try to appease star Lebron James before the 3 PM deadline, brokering a 3-way deal with Central Division foe Chicago and the Seattle SuperSonics.

Cleveland gets: Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, and Delonte West

Chicago gets: Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, and Shannon Brown

Seattle gets: Donyell Marshall, Ira Newble, and Adrian Griffin

This surprise has come as a shock to many people. Everyone knew Ferry was looking to deal and try to light a fire under an underachieving Cavs team, but it seems that this was the best deal available. Still, I really do not like the deal for any of the teams. But this deal hinges upon many things. Can Ben Wallace find the motivation to be a standout defender again? Can the new pieces in Cleveland and Chicago gain chemistry to make a playoff push?

The fantasy impact seems mostly beneficial for a lot of the players involved. My guess is that Wallace will gain the passion he played with in Detroit now that he is with Lebron James, and will become a rebounding a blocks machine while getting easy baskets due to King James. I think that Szczerbiak is the main winner in the deal. He will get the majority of the open 3-point looks that Lebron causes, especially since Daniel Gibson has had a few injury problems. Pick him up off waivers in your league if he is available! Joe Smith and Drew Gooden should see similar roles and minutes seeing how they really just switched roles. A lot of the Cleveland players may see a bump in fantasy stats, but they lose some perimeter defense in Hughes and Newble and it may actually make them a worse defensive team.

The Bulls had to take in a contract after shipping off the mistake known as Ben Wallace. It turns out to be chronic overachiever Larry Hughes, who will probably see less fantasy value because he becomes congested in the backcourt filled with Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, and Thabo Sefolosha. Each of these players may lose some value due to shared roles. The rest of the players in the deal, except possibly Drew Gooden, who can hopefully become the post presence the Bulls have never had, really have no fantasy value. On Seattle’s end, it really is another white flag, with the shipping off of a few more veterans.

Thus, this might be a big splash that does not really have much real impact, fantasy and actual, for any of the teams involved. It might be the case where the grass looks greener on the other side.

Senior Writer

Lakers Eyeing Ben Wallace?

Apparently they were, before yesterday’s blockbuster trade sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers.

Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times stated that the Lakers could have landed the 6-9 Chicago Bulls center in a deal that would have looked like this:

  • Chicago Bulls
    Ben Wallace (4.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg)
  • Los Angeles Lakers
    Kwame Brown (5.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
    Vladimir Radmanovic (7.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

In his article, Heisler talks about how the Lakers could have improved their team with the addition of Wallace and paid less than they currently are for paying for Pau Gasol, but also states Lakers management realized Ben is “old and diminished” compared to what he has done in the past.

As a Lakers fan, I have to say I’m glad the Big Ben trade didn’t happen. The Lakers are all too familiar with their experimentation with older players (Karl Malone, Gary Payton) and it has never been pretty. Gasol is what Kupchak calls a 27-year old “veteran”, and as Mike pointed out yesterday will lighten the load of Kobe and Lamar Odom (who will be a 3rd scoring for 6 weeks and a 4th scoring option after Andrew Bynum returns).

Hypothetical Fantasy Impact of Wallace to the Lakers
The Lakers defense would have improved immensely. Lakers management liked to think that if Kwame did anything, it was play solid defense, but that was not apparent to me. Wallace (“The Beast from the East”) would have contributed to an overall sounder defense for the Lakers and alongside Bynum would have been dangerously scary in the middle. Wallace would have accumulated a couple more boards a game in LA as he would’ve played more minutes on a depleted Lakers interior. Kwame would have wilted away in Chicago, showing in LA that he cannot play in a large market and please fans. Radmanovic is a pure shooter and would’ve been a good complement to the Bulls offense, or any team’s for that matter.

Mitch Kupchak discusses the Pau Gasol trade on here.

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To hoops,

Happy Now Kobe? Lakers Trade for Pau Gasol

As reported earlier this afternoon, the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers have worked out a blockbuster to send center Pau Gasol and a second round draft pick in 2010 to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Marc Gasol, and first round draft picks in 2008 and 2010. Gasol has been rumored to be traded out of Memphis for years now, but it seems odd that he would end up in Hollywood. Nonetheless, it gives the Lakers a very potent frontcourt of Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum when he returns from injury. Also, this may be a precursor to another blockbuster that would send Jason Kidd to the Lakers (and would thus increase the fantasy value of his current backup, Marcus Williams).

Fantasy Impact
The fantasy impact for all of the players involved should generally be positive. Gasol will be paired with one of the best superstars in the game, which will help him avoid double-teams and give him open shots in the paint. Although his total shot totals may drop, Kobe Bryant has demonstrated that he is focused on victories and has dropped his shot total in each of the past two years. Therefore, Gasol should continue to provide solid percentages, scoring, and rebounding, while possibly increasing his assist total due to a better surrounding cast. Furthermore, Bryant should be able to garner more assists and better defensive and shooting numbers, since the addition of a prized big-man will only help to deflect some attention from him. Finally, Lamar Odom remains a large beneficiary to the deal. Eventually, he will move to his more natural small forward position, and although his rebounding numbers may decrease in that instance, he will be helped with better looks at the basket.

On the other side, Kwame Brown has gained tremendous value simply by leaving Los Angeles for small-town Memphis. Lakers’ fans turned on Brown awhile ago and have been relentless in booing the oftentimes sensitive center. In a smaller market, Brown may actually be able to see more minutes and much less pressure, which will help in his growth (yes he is still developing even though this is his seventh year in the league). Crittenton, who struggled to find playing time in the Lakers’ rotation, will now back up Mike Conley, who has been a huge injury risk in his rookie season. Keep an eye on Crittenton and pick him up if Conley gets injured and Crittenton is promoted to starting point guard. In general, players such as Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, Darko Milicic, and Mike Conley will all likely take more shots without Gasol in the middle. But the reality is that without a dominating post presence, open looks will decrease and percentages, as well as scoring offense, will suffer for all four of these fantasy players. It is possible that Rudy Gay steps up to become the #1 option for the offense. However, what is more likely is that the Grizzlies falter and pick in the top 5 of next year’s draft.

Bottom Line
I would classify this trade as a big win for Los Angeles, as they did not give up any of their current young core of Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Ronny Turiaf, or Lamar Odom for Gasol. However, Memphis does gain an expiring contract, a rookie with upside, two draft picks, and payroll flexibility. In fantasy terms, it seems that Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom have found a partner to play with on the inside and all three (along with Gasol) will be better off in producing stats. Memphis players may get more opportunity, but without such a dominating force in the middle, players such as Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, and Mike Conley will struggle to keep up their current numbers.

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Mike Yu
Senior Writer

NBA Injury Report (Brand, Arenas, Deng)

With the All-Star break just two weeks away, some key players are set to return to action. What will be the fantasy impact of their returns?

Elton Brand (left Achilles tendon)
OK, so he’s not coming back just yet. But there is some promising news for Clippers fans. EB42 was recently cleared to “begin extensive running and jumping exercises on the court”. The next step would be rejoining the team in drills, followed by his eventual return to full practice. CBS Sports have him returning to action in late-February. If you can withstand a few weeks (or more) of a non-active roster position, I’d say pick up Elton if he’s available in your league. Otherwise, a conservative owner might look to see if he’s available in about a fortnight.

The Trading Block’s fantasy outlook for Brand upon return
16 points, 7 rebounds a game on +50% shooting, 32 minutes a game

Gilbert Arenas (left knee)
Expect Arenas to be back at some point shortly after the all-star break (Feb.14-18). He’s been rehabing for some time now and expects to log a “significant” amount of practice time before he’s finally slotted into the starting lineup, saying Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan. Apparently both Jordan and Arenas himself are taking Gilbert’s return slowly, cognizant of the fact that coming back “too fast” last time caused the current injury. Arenas is owned in nearly all leagues at this point, but if by some chance your league is in the minority, pick him up immediately. Another reason Washington isn’t rushing Arenas’ return is the fact that Butler and Jamison (both All-Stars) have led the Wizards to a 19-12 record in his absence. Random: Check out Gilbert stoked he made the NBA Live 08 Cover.

The Trading Block’s fantasy outlook for Arenas upon return
18 points, 5 assists, 3.5 rebounds a game on 40% shooting, 33 minutes a game

Luol Deng (Achilles Tendinitis)
Deng’s timetable for return could be anything from 3-4 days to up to 2 weeks. The Chicago Bulls Forward has stated on his blog that a premature return would reaggravate the injury, thus he has not set a specific date for return. He may log minutes on Chicago’s upcoming West Coast road trip, so be ready to reinsert him into your lineup if he does.

The Trading Block’s fantasy outlook for Deng upon return
17 points, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 32 minutes a game

Chris Mihm may bring some fantasy value to deeper leagues as he looks to return to a depleted Lakers frontcourt in the next couple of weeks. Don’t expect Anderson Varejao back until the end of the month at the earliest. Carmelo Anthony is still day-to-day. Shaq’s out till mid-February.

To hoops,

LeBron Defeats Heckling Fan AGAIN

Courtside fans in Toronto and Portland are biting their tongues now.

Apparently all LeBron James needs to be successful in the 4th quarter of a tight game is some motivation from some heckling courtside fans. In the first crazy instance in Toronto on January 6th LeBron scored 24 points in the 4th quarter after the girlfriend and cousin of Toronto Raptors Center Chris Bosh began heckling LeBron because of his poor first half shooting. Apparently the memo didn’t reach Portland, where last night a rowdy fan was apparently the reason for LeBron’s explosion in the 4th quarter as well. The heckling prompted LeBron to drop 17 points in the final 12 minutes, including 3 critical three’s in the final minutes and the eventual game winning shot.

News like this can only tell us one thing.
LeBron has gotten much better in the clutch and is starting to be more relied upon as a player that can actually finish. Not only that, but he is taking over games, he is taking over quarters and he is demanding the ball in crucial situations. This is not the same LeBron that passed up potential game winning shot attempts in the playoffs last year. LeBron’s offensive aggressiveness has increased and he is averaging nearly 3 more points per game than he did last year. The ability to produce in the final minutes of a game is the element of LeBron’s game that has been lacking in recent years and that has prevented him from reaching the level of Kobe Bryant (who God knows will be yelling in the huddle if the final play isn’t drawn up for him).

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To hoops,

Fantasy Impact of Chris Webber to the Warriors

The Scoop
By now, you’ve probably heard that C-Webb is heading back to Golden State. But the 16 year NBA veteran and 5-time NBA All-Star isn’t just coming back to teach the youngins how to box out, he’s hungry to win and there’s a good chance he will be productive in Don Nelson’s high-tempo transition offense (an offensive style C-Webb has called “fun“).

Historical Fantasy Breakdown

  • Rebounding: Historically, Chris Webber has been a beast on the boards. Averaging just under 10 rebounds for his career, Webber was the NBA rebounding champion at 13 boards a contest in his first season with the Kings in the strike-shortened 1998-1999 season.
  • Passing: Heralded as one of the best passing big men of the 1990s, Webber averaged around 5 assists a game during his prime in Sacramento. He has soft hands and is a very intelligent high post player.
  • Shooting: Webber has always shot the ball at a very high percentage. Although his FG% has declined since his days in Sacramento, Webber showed in Detroit that he can knock down the open shot with finesse when needed. His FT% has always left something to be desired, however. Hovering around 65% for his career, this is one of Webber’s liabilities.
  • Defense: Webber has always been very active on the defense side of the ball. Knee injuries have definitely hampered his production in steals and blocks over the years, but there’s no debating that when healthy he should be producing at least a steal and a block a game on average.

Webber’s Fantasy Potential in 2008
If Nellie preaches anything, it’s offense. Ranked #2 in the NBA in total offense at 109.2 ppg and worst in the NBA in total defense at 107.3 ppg, Chris Webber definitely has the potential to score a lot of points at a high percentage and probably pull down quite a few boards as well. In fact, if Chris Webber is as healthy as he claims to be, he figures to get pretty decent minutes as the only big men (if you can call them that) ahead of him on the depth chart at the 4 and the 5 are Andris Biedrens (10 pts, 10 rbs), Al Harrington (15 pts, 5 rbs) and Matt Barnes (8 pts, 5 rbs). Currently the Warriors are conceding 5 more boards to their opponents each night (due to their rapid fire offense) and a strong, experienced front-court player such as Webber would do well to control the interior. Also, C-Webb isn’t that old–at 34 years of age Hakeem Olajuwon was still averaging 19 ppg for the Rockets, Michael Jordan 30 for the Bulls and Karl Malone 27 for the Jazz.

Chris Webber will play 34 games for the Warriors this season if he begins playing against Chicago on February 7th. Here’s what I see him averaging:

Minutes: 17-22 // Will be coming off the bench
Points: 13.2 // A scorer on a team that averages 107 ppg
FG%/FT%: 48%, 64% // Should be about same as Detroit stats
Rebounds: 6.2 // Will definitely help the Warriors in this category
Assists: 2.8 // With the sheer # points GS scores, assists will be there
Steals: 1.0 // Good hands
Blocks: 0.6 // Conservative, but probably correct because of knee problems
Turnovers: 2.8 // Will need time to adjust to Nellie’s style

What a Fantasy Manager Should Do
If C-Webb can do what I’ve predicted above, he should just be sneaking onto the list of the Top 100 Fantasy Players (and into the Top 25 Fantasy PF’s as well). In the ideal situation, a manager will patiently wait and see if Webber performs and then pick him up. But because many managers will use Webber’s name as reason alone for picking him up, I’d recommend picking him up when he’s activated if your team is desperate for PF production. Otherwise, wait it out if you can.

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To hoops,

Midseason Gems: Top 5 Free Agent Pickups

Since most teams have moved past the halfway point in their season and All-Star starters have just been selected, it seems appropriate to figure out which pickups could provide the most dividends in the second half. Generally, these are young players on losing teams who will gain playing time when management decides to see what they have for next season. It may be wise to keep your eye on these guys for the time being.

Here’s are the top five:

  1. Randy Foye, Minnesota Timberwolves – He has fought an injury to his left knee all season, but all signs are that he should be ready to practice and will return around the time of the All-Star Break. A quick, slashing scorer (traded for Brandon Roy on Draft Day 2006), Foye has all of the talent to take the starting point guard job in Minnesota and provide help in points, 3-pointers, FT%, and assists.
    He is currently owned in 63.6% of leagues.

  2. Marcus Williams, New Jersey Nets – I have a gut feeling this is the year that the New Jersey Nets finally blow up this team and trade Jason Kidd for an array of young players and draft picks. In that case, Williams would rise up to be the starting point guard for the Nets and, judging from the talent and leadership he showed at UConn, provide assistance in points, assists, 3-pointers, and FT%. And with increased playing time, Williams may just answer the bell and become a top 15 point guard in the league, ultimately paying off for owners who read this advice.
    He is currently owned in 0.0% of leagues.

  3. Charlie Villanueva, Milwaukee Bucks – With talent that is hard to ignore, Villanueva entered this season as a sleeper pick, but has failed to produce. Although I find it stupid to keep backing a player who fails to blossom, Villanueva has shown spurts this season, and, with the Bucks again dwelling in the cellar of their division, should gain playing time alongside with star Michael Redd and former first-round picks Yi Jianlian and Andrew Bogut. He can offer a boost in points, rebounds, and even 3-pointers and FT%.
    He is currently owned in 10.6% of leagues.

  4. Thabo Sefolosha, Chicago Bulls – With a season-long injury nagging star Luol Deng, the inconsistency of Kirk Hinrich (before his recent outbursts), and the desire of management to play a big shooting guard for better match-ups, Sefolosha has garnered much more playing time recently, a trend that should continue. Although not a refined shooter, Sefolosha will help with points, rebounds, and both defensive categories.
    He is currently owned in 10.9% of leagues.

  5. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers – Although he just recently sustained an ankle injury, Varejao has returned from his contract dispute and quietly emerged as the force of energy that helped propel the Cavs to the NBA Finals last year. He is an excellent source of rebounds (currently leads the team) and FG% and does not turn the ball over. Furthermore, with a lackluster Cleveland frontline of the oft-injured Zydrunas Ilgauskas and inconsistent Drew Gooden, Varejao should see increased minutes and production.
    He is currently owned in 32.1% of leagues.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Aaron Afflalo, Detroit Pistons (owned in 0% of leagues)
  • Kareem Rush, Indiana Pacers (owned in 71.8% of leagues)
  • Mark Blount, Miami Heat (owned in 20.2% of leagues)
  • Brandon Bass, Dallas Mavericks (owned in 0.5% of leagues)
  • Luis Scola, Houston Rockets (owned in 4.4% of leagues)
  • Al Thornton, Los Angeles Clippers (owned in 12.6% of leagues)

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Senior Writer