Fantasy Lab

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An NBA player doesn't have to start to be effective in fantasy basketball -- but it sure helps. Just being on the floor for the game's first six minutes opens up a world of fantasy scoring possibilities that reserves never have a chance to experience. A hot start can cause a coach to play a starter more minutes, too, further limiting the chance for the sixth and seventh men of this world to make a positive impact in the game. The point is, starting players are better options than bench players. The Fantasy Lab is here to analyze a few players who were anointed as starters sometime in the past week. Feel free to thank us later.

You have to love Don Nelson. Sure, his whimsical decisions and headstrong ways can drive you batty, but then he unearths gems like Morrow and lets them run wild. The undrafted rookie out of Georgia Tech is classified on Yahoo! as a PG/SG, but passing was an afterthought in his first start for the Warriors. With former starter DeMarcus Nelson demoted to the D-League hours earlier, Morrow came out with his guns a blazing and never stopped firing. When the elusive Saturday matinee was over, Morrow had posted a mind-boggling 37 points on 15-20 FG, 4-5 3PT and 3-3 FT. The 6-foot-5 sharpshooter added 11 rebounds for good measure. The hot shooting didn't come out of nowhere -- Morrow knocked back over 41 percent of his 3-point attempts and 84 percent of his free throws in every one of his three years of college. If you want to gamble, a player with a starting gig and a green light in Nellie's up-tempo system isn't a bad idea.

The former No. 1 overall pick has a new home in Detroit this year, and as of this week, another chance to prove that he can a serviceable NBA starter. Perhaps the only player in the league with broader shoulders than Dwight Howard, Brown, still just 26 years old, is a dominant pick-setter, and his muscular presence in the lane is something that the Pistons were sorely lacking with a wiry frontcourt of Amir Johnson, Tayshaun Prince and rasheed Wallace. He will help immediately in the rebounds category, block some shots and nab more steals than most centers. When he last had a legit starting gig in Los Angeles, Kwame averaged 8.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.2 spg and 1.4 bpg while shooting a tasty 60.3 percent -- a useful total for a fourth fantasy center with possible C-3 upside.

Defense earns you playing time when Scott Skiles is your coach, so it shouldn't be that much of a surprise that Charlie Villanueva has fumbled his starting gig away to the rookie from UCLA. The Cameroon native instantly emerged as a rebounding and scoring force in his first three starts, racking up averages of 14.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg, and 1.3 spg in a hair under 40 minutes a night. He's also drilling six of his seven free-throw attempts a night. Pounce on him ASAP while singing the modified K.C. and the Sunshine Band lyrics: Shake, shake, shake, Mbah a Moute!

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell was disappointed in the play of starting SF Jamario Moon, choosing to insert our second No. 1 overall pick of this article into the starting lineup Sunday. His presence at SF makes Toronto's starting frontcourt the tallest in the league, but it's his rare ability to drain threes with ease that will help spread the floor. In his first start this year, Bargnani responded with a strong first half before his production tailed off near the end of the game. Even so, the blocks and threes combo out of a player who might earn three-position eligibility (SF/PF/C) after a couple more starts is an intriguing option to round out your roster.

The Spurs first-round pick from palindromic basketball powerhouse IUPUI was thrust into the starting five after Tony Parker sprained his ankle, an injury that is expected to keep Parker out another three weeks. Hill is actually the third-string PG, but backup PG Roger Mason is already starting out of position at SG in place of the injured Manu Ginobili. Hill has a smooth demeanor and a sweet shooting stroke, demonstrated by his 50 percent mark in his three starts thus far. But it's too bad he doesn't do much dishing for a PG. There's obviously room for growth in Hill's game, but he's shown that he can hang with a 17-point, 6-board, 5-assist effort in his most recent outing. If you're looking for a temporary solution for your whole at PG, Hill will fill it.

As rookie coach Vinny Del Negro continues to shuffle his lineup while trying to find a combination that jells, the Bulls sophomore has shifted into the starting five in place of Tyrus Thomas. Noah is extremely active on defense, resulting in bunches of steals, blocks and rebounds, but also too many fouls. While he's still young and mistake-prone, Noah will always give maximum effort, and that will pay off for your fantasy team in those hustle categories. Don't expect much scoring and hide your eyes when he gets to the free throw line -- unless you enjoy torturing yourself by watching that sideways English due to his awkward release. Thomas has a chance to creep back into the starting lineup, but Noah appears to be the better fit alongside Drew Gooden for the immediate future

The brash youngster was suspended the first couple games of the season because of an offseason weapons charge and found himself on the pine when he returned. Undaunted, Telfair worked hard, and as incumbent PG Randy Foye's struggles increased, Telfair slowly moved into the starting five for Minnesota. The first game he paid immediate dividends but it's been diminishing marginal returns ever since. When he's playing well, Bassy can touch double-digit assist totals, but those occasions are proving to be rare occurrences. Signs, like getting just 14 mpg in his last two outings, are pointing to a shift back to a reserve role soon, so avoid making a move for Telfair or make a preemptive cut to find a more useful fantasy asset.

Like Telfair, Thomas appears to be nothing more than a nominal starter at best. His best years are behind him and he's really only being used to warm up the PF spot for Marcus Camby off the bench. It's hard to imagine Camby staying in a reserve role for long, so just ignore Thomas' starting presence and random good game every other week.

The rookie from Rider has looked very impressive on the offensive end with his ability to handle the rock at nearly 7-feet tall and polished jump-shooting to 18 feet. However, his hold on his newfound starting gig is tenuous at best. Kevin Martin is due back sometime this week, sliding John Salmons back over to SF and keeping PF Mikki Moore in the lineup. While Moore is in a fierce competition for worst starter in the league, coach Reggie Theus will stick with his veteran even though both Thompson and C Spencer Hawes clearly deserve the chance to start. If you need scoring and rebounding from the center spot, Thompson has value and upside, even though he might not have a starting spot by next week's Fantasy Lab.

Carroll's presence in the starting lineup is only temporary, but if you need threes for the week ahead, he could be of service to you. Doubtful, but he could be. He's only out there with the starting unit thanks to exploratory surgery on Jason Richardson's knee, which will sideline him for another week or so. While Carroll is a deadeye deep-range specialist, he's not worth rostering except for the deepest of leagues.

Another injury has opened the door for a rookie to contribute, and Lopez is doing his damnedest to hold the starting spot. The question is, did he beat out Josh Boone with his inaugural starting performance on Friday against Atlanta, with 25 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals? Possibly. Boone provides solid rebounding and blocked shots, too, so a time-share is the likely option. When scoring becomes a priority, Lopez clearly had more offensive potential than Boone, so expect to see him getting more of the minutes. Gambling on a center with upside is always a good idea if he happens to be sitting on your waiver wire. Just don't accidentally grab his twin, Robin Lopez (at least not until Shaq gets injured).

That's all for this week, fantasy fiends.