It's Week 3 of the fantasy basketball season, which means it's decision time on your favorite sleepers, underachievers and faces in new places. But instead of rocking the vote for change like many did last Tuesday, the decisions you may be facing right now might not be as obvious.
Sure, you're inclined to shake things up if your team tripped coming out of the gate, but the best things come to those who wait, isn't that right, you Heinz Ketchup eaters? When it comes down to crunch time, no one wants to be stuck with Hunt's Ketchup or its vastly inferior cousin, Catsup (how Hunt's was labeled east of the Mississippi River back in the '80s).
With all that in mind, The Fantasy Lab is here to help you answer this alliterated question: panic or patience?
Panic and patience often go hand in hand when analyzing certain items, say, the recent stock market downturn or when to holler at the hottie from the bar the other night. Fantasy basketball players are no different. Is your stud not so studly? Are your early season sleepers still snoring? Or is it something worse? Like to the point where you can draw all over them with permanent markers, take pictures and post them to Facebook (only to get fired from your job as a Patriots cheerleader for inappropriate behavior)? If so, you're probably panicking and looking to move these players off your roster, either via trade or straight drop.
But is that the right move?
Step deeper into the Lab as we examine the players causing your rapid heartbeat, cold sweats and visible shaking. Or is Andre Iguodala doing that only to me?
Look to move players on the following Panic list. Hold tight to those who require a little patience.
SF/PF Shawn Marion, Miami -- The Matrix's numbers are down across the board (save for blocks) and they aren't as likely to bounce back to his career averages as you think. For starters, his numbers dropped dramatically once he hit South Beach last year. Playing without Steve Nash and outside of Mike D'Antoni's system will do that to you. The biggest change is the reduction in three-point attempts. Marion is at 1.5 per game, half his career total. Those threes aren't coming back, folks. Factor in the strong rebounders around him -- Beasley, Wade, Haslem -- and his board numbers are in decline, too. The points and FG% will increase as the PG play improves, but they won't ever approach 50% and 18 ppg like in Phoenix. Lastly, injuries are catching up -- groin, foot, back, broken nose -- and take their toll on guys who are 30+, even Matrixes. Plus, Marion wants max money and will be increasingly more frustrated as the season goes on knowing that he won't be getting it.
PG/SG Rodney Stuckey, Detroit -- While the Billups/Iverson deal was made in part to free up more time for Stuckey, it wasn't for this year; it was for after Iverson's contract expires. With Billups under contract until 2011, Stuckey would never get the run he needs. Now, Iverson is a rental and Stuckey can develop. But it's very clear that neither Iverson, Rip, nor Tayshaun can shift up a position to open a starting spot for Stuckey, and it's very clear that those three all need to start. Hence, the sixth starter is just the sixth man -- one battling mysterious dizziness along with the mystery of how much playing time he'll get. Sell on his preseason hype and his upside.
SG/SF Jason Richardson, Charlotte -- If you didn't see this coming, you haven't been paying attention to what Larry Brown has done to his players over the years. He sucks the life force out of them faster than Mega Maid sucked the air out of Druidia in Spaceballs. Why? No one really knows, but we do know that "playing the right way" doesn't involve many three-point attempts. Those league-leading 7.3 three-point attempts per game and 3 3PM? Gone forever. Richardson has halved his attempts and is connecting at just a 33.3 percent clip. Fewer repetitions usually mean fewer makes, and it definitely hurts the old scoring average.
SG/SF Mike Dunleavy, Indiana -- Forget about the "Grand" Marquis Daniels spectacular subbing reminiscent of his infamous April during his rookie year. He'll head back to the bench when Mike D. returns. The problem is: exactly when does Mike D. return? His knee tendonitis sounds worse than the Pacers are letting on, and surgery appears to be in the realm of possibility. Either way, a running team with a losing record and grueling schedule isn't promising. Another example of why you don't overpay for a career year.
F/C Al Harrington, Golden State -- If you haven't panicked already, what are you waiting for? He has officially bottomed out with two DNP's following his tiff with Nellie (his sore back is likely a mirage, but it doesn't matter), and his value is never going to be lower. Conventional fantasy wisdom dictates that this is the perfect time to trade for him, yet the Lab isn't jibing with that vibe. The Warriors' front office is mired in a power-struggle between GM Chris Mullin and team president Bobby Rowell, which makes any move nearly impossible to make. Harrington could be inactive longer than Stephon Marbury by the time this whole thing plays out. And even if he's dealt, no basketball environment will fit him statistically the same way Nellie's did.
PG/SG Mike Conley, Memphis -- Too many ballhandlers -- Kyle Lowry. O.J. Mayo. Javaris Crittenton -- not enough minutes. Especially when you have trouble even drawing iron when you dial up a three. Even so, the tools are all there -- if only Conley could find the instruction manual. And he better pray it's not an IKEA manual. Swedish doesn't seem like his strong suit.
SF/PF Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers -- He's officially the sixth man. With his fragile psyche, even an injury to a frontcourt starter doesn't guarantee that Odom lives up to last year's line, which is the best you could expect from L-Burna at this point.
SG/SFAndre Iguodala and F/C Elton Brand, Philadelphia -- There's no denying that the Sixers are a mess right now. Just all over the wall. But that's what happens when you incorporate a low-post presence into a running team that's never had one before. Thankfully, the Sixers were blessed with an NBA scheduling quirk of four straight off days from last Thursday to Monday, so they've had some time to practice and correct their problems. One week later, they have another three days off.
Both Brand and Iguodala have underachieved (if they've achieved anything) after inking monster deals during the offseason, and both are content for now to let Thaddeus Young display his vastly improved offensive repertoire. Yet both players, and point guard Andre Miller, are very cerebral, meaning they will get their spacing problems figured out soon enough. They are too good to suffer season-long letdowns, especially when they contribute in so many categories across the board. If they still aren't producing near their levels of the past couple of years, then proceed to panic like the sky is falling.
PG/SG Allen Iverson, Detroit -- The numbers are down everywhere you look, but he was disillusioned and uninspired in Denver. Iverson has a chance for a ring in Detroit, so he's going to give it his all. He simply needs to adjust to a new team and not dominate the ball while they adjust to him. Then it's AI back to being AI. Give Iverson two weeks to get acclimated and then hope the honeymoon never ends.
SF/PF Tyrus Thomas, Chicago -- The starting gig probably won't be there like it was to open the season and when Drew Gooden went down with a sprained ankle, but it probably doesn't matter much. It would be wonderful to see Thomas playing 35+ minutes, but his production tends to come in short spurts anyway and is tied mostly to blocks and rebounds. He still is blocking shots at a furious pace and that's something he can do when he's not worried about getting into foul trouble. Hopefully he overcomes this -- and Vinny Del Negro gets his rotation sorted out soon. A wave of injuries have made that hard thus far. Either way, Thomas has proven that he can block five shots or grab a bunch of boards in only 26 minutes per. Let him play this out for another week or two to set his value -- then decide if you want to panic and cut anchor. Just know that he'll be doing some serious damage in April.
SF/PF Rudy Gay, Memphis -- He's trying to be an instant superstar, but it doesn't work that way in the NBA. You've just got to perform night in and night out. When Gay recognizes that and stops trying to score 10 points on every possession, his natural basketball brilliance will begin to shine. It wouldn't hurt to have some improved PG play alongside him. Plus, with O.J. Mayo proving that he can provide an outside scoring threat, teams won't be able to collapse on Gay during his sashays to the hoop.
F/C David Lee, New York -- Primed as a strong breakout candidate thanks to a starting role and D'Antoni's vaunted seven-seconds-or -ess offense, Lee has been unfairly judged as playing with two left feet this season. His supposedly lackluster play has landed him in his warm-ups during the opening tip in favor of Wilson Chandler, last year's first-round pick. Still, no need to panic. First off, Lee demonstrated that he could get it done off the bench last season. D'Antoni is still playing with his starting rotation and it's not like his offense is disappearing, either. Lastly, it was only four games ago (the first two of the season) that Lee dropped back-to-back double-doubles with four total steals. He'll bounce back.
PG Deron Williams, Utah -- His sprained ankle seems to be lingering and it feels like he keeps experiencing setbacks, but if Utah and Williams himself hadn't stubbornly believed that he could be back in under two weeks from a high ankle sprain, you wouldn't be feeling this way. Next time, let's hope the Jazz diagnose the recovery time as it should have been all along: four weeks. Williams will be back next week and you'll be oh-so-happy that you own him. No need to panic here. At all. Ever.