Fantasy hoops outlook: Andrea Bargnani finally finding his niche - Sports Illustrated

Fantasy hoops Week 5 outlook

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Andrea Bargnani must be loving the addition of Jermaine O'Neal, and while he doesn't seem too happy about the move, Cuttino Mobley's stats should rise in New York.

The Outlook goes around the league, team by team, and examines which players are hot and cold, and which players you should keep an eye on. The outlook for Week 5 suggests 112 players who are safe starts and 50 players who are borderline, so if your league is much smaller or larger, adjust accordingly. As always, let's Start with a look at the schedules for the coming week. Listed first are the number of games played for each team, followed by five teams with poor and favorable schedules.



1. Toronto Raptors (3 games: Charlotte, Atlanta, @LA Lakers)2. Dallas Mavericks (3 games: Indiana, @LA Lakers, @Sacramento)3. Indiana Pacers (4 games: @Dallas, @Houston, Charlotte, @Orlando)4. Philadelphia 76ers (4 games: @Charlotte, Orlando, @Boston, Chicago)5. Milwaukee Bucks (4 games: @Orlando, @Atlanta, @Detroit, Cleveland)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (4 games: @New York, Oklahoma City, Golden State, @Milwaukee)2. Phoenix Suns (4 games: @Oklahoma City, @Minnesota, Miami, New Jersey)3. Utah Jazz (4 games: Chicago, Memphis, Sacramento, New Jersey)4. Boston Celtics (3 games: Golden State, Philadelphia, @Charlotte)5. Atlanta Hawks (3 games: Milwaukee, @Toronto, @Washington)

1. Andrea Bargnani, Raptors

After a solid rookie campaign, Barganani struggled in his sophomore season. His stats fell in nearly every single category last season and he shot a miserable 38.6 percent from the field. Count me as one of the people who drafted "Il Mago" in 2007 and got burned. Even two-time Executive of the Year Bryan Colangelo must have questioned his decision to pick Bargnani No, 1 overall in '06. However, we should also blame the Raptors for trying to play him as a power forward/center last season.

The arrival of Jermaine O'Neal has done wonders for Bargnani, as he now gets to operate as a small forward/power forward and leave most of the dirty work for Chris Bosh and O'Neal. As a result, he's much more comfortable, and it shows in his stats. Sam Mitchell recently inserted him into the starting lineup, and in the past four games, he's averaging 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1 block, 2.3 threes and just 1 turnover per game on 49 percent FG shooting. Inconsistency has plagued him, but if he can keep it up, he'll be a poor man's Danny Granger. In fantasy terms, that's a very good thing.

2. Cuttino Mobley, Knicks

Mobley was not very happy about being traded, but I think the veteran shooting guard is going to excel in Mike D'Antoni's system. The one-time fantasy force has been a fringe fantasy option in recent years, but the Knicks will need him to play big minutes now that Jamal Crawford is gone. Mobley is currently owned in just 54.5 percent of ESPN leagues, and I'm guessing that some people are hesitant to pick him up after seeing Nate Robinson Start and score 27 points on Saturday.

Those people are making a mistake, because Li'l Nate is best suited as a sparkplug off the bench. Cuttino is also a superior defender, so I'm expecting him to start at shooting guard, where 71 minutes, 40 points, 5.8 assists and 9.2 three-point attempts just opened up thanks to Crawford and Zach Randolph's departure. I'm projecting 32-34 minutes, 16-plus points, 3-plus assists and nearly 2 threes per game from Cutty the rest of the way. I don't know about you, but I could use numbers like that (I just spent $228 of my $1,000 free agent budget to get him).

3. D.J. Augustin, Bobcats

Larry Brown was looking for more energy from his starting lineup, so he recently inserted D.J. Augustin into the lineup. The rookie guard has scored 38 points, made 8 threes and dished out 10 assists to just two turnovers in two games since the move. He's just 12 games into his NBA career, but his 2.4 assist/turnover ratio is pretty solid, and he's proven to be a capable scorer.

In college last season, Augustin averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.9 threes in 37.3 minutes, and the year before (when he played with Kevin Durant), he dished out 6.7 dimes per game. As long as he's getting minutes, the stats potential is there. There is some concern that he'll lose playing time when Jason Richardson returns from injury, but the Bobcats are short on talent, so they could keep the rookie in the lineup and move J-Rich over to small forward. Either way, he's definitely worth owning right now and could be solid all season long.

These are guys who you should consider picking up if you need short-term help in certain categories. Even in deep leagues, most of these players will usually fly under the radar, but they could help in targeted areas quite nicely.

For assists and free-throw shooting: Jarrett Jack, Pacers

Jack is shooting just 41.7 percent from the field, but you're not getting him to score points for you. The backup guard has dished out 14 dimes in his last three games, and is averaging 3.2 assists in his last nine. The career 85 percent FT shooter also gets to the line a fair amount, so he can help you out there as well. Mike Dunleavy isn't returning anytime soon, so Jack is a decent option for the time being.

For boards and field-goal shooting:Carl Landry, Rockets and Chris Wilcox, Thunder

In his last three games, Landry is averaging 26.3 minutes, 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. Whenever he gets minutes, he produces. The athletic big man is also shooting a remarkable 88.6 percent from the line to go along with his 55.6 percent FG shooting. He's a decent short-term option, but be careful of Luis Scola and the imminent return of Shane Battier.

Chris Wilcox has been terrible this season, but brighter days could be ahead. P.J. Carlesimo wasn't giving him many minutes, but now that he's gone, his playing time should increase. In 55 Starts last season, Wilcox averaged 14.1 points, 7.5 boards, .8 steals, and .6 blocks on 52.7 percent FG shooting, so the potential is there. He was dropped in many leagues due to his poor Start, so consider picking him up if you need another big man.

For points and threes:Ricky Davis and Eric Gordon, Clippers

Someone needs to play alongside Baron Davis in the backcourt, and Davis and Gordon are the obvious candiates. Ricky has been absolutely horrendous this season, making just 27 percent of his shots and doing little else to contribute. But he's put up big stats in the past, and if he Starts hitting some shots, he could get on a roll. Gordon isn't shooting much better at just 32.6 percent from the field, but the rookie was a big-time scorer in college and has a polished offensive game. If Ricky continues to falter, Gordon could get a chance to prove himself. At this point, both guys are worth picking up in case they establish themselves.

Atlanta Hawks (3 games)

Joe Johnson finally had a stinker on Saturday (4 points, 1-8 FG), but you're crazy if you even think about benching him. Al Horford returned from his ankle injury and looks like a safe start once again. Marvin Williams has picked up his play recently, averaging 17 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 three in his last four games. His shooting percentages are solid, so don't be afraid to play him. Mo Evans is finally playing well (31 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 threes in his last two games), but he'll likely lose his value once Josh Smith returns.

Start: J. Johnson, Horford, Mike Bibby, M. WilliamsBench: J-SmoovWatch: M. Evans

Boston Celtics (3 games)

Kevin Garnett didn't go to the line at all on Sunday and is now averaging just 2.5 free throw attempts per game. Considering his career average is more than double that, I'm very disturbed by that stat. Ray Allen made 5-of-7 threes on Sunday, which is nice considering he was shooting just 28.4 percent from beyond the arc when the game started. Rajon Rondo is playing great (61 points, 24 assists, 18 rebounds, 10 steals, and 3 treys in his last four games), so make sure he's active.

Start: Garnett, Paul Pierce, R. Allen, RondoBorderline: Kendrick Perkins

Charlotte Bobcats (4 games)

Raymond Felton nabbed 7 steals on Saturday and is now averaging a career-high 1.9 thefts per game, which helps to make up for his poor shoopting and lower than expected assist totals. D.J. Augustin must like that number, as well, as he made 7 treys and dropped 7 dimes on Friday. The rookie is now starting, so activate him until Jason Richardson comes back. After showing signs of life, Adam Morrison reverted back to his old unreliable self.

Start: G. Wallace, Felton, Emeka Okafor, AugustinBench: J-RichDrop: Morrison

Chicago Bulls (3 games)

Ben Gordon made 5-of-7 threes on Sunday and is now averaging more than 2 treys per game. Drew Gooden is still putting up solid numbers, as Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas have yet to do much of anything. Larry Hughes has put up decent stats in Luol Deng's absence, but I don't suggest starting him yet. Deng has missed three straight games, making him a risky start this week.

Start: Derrick Rose, B. Gordon, GoodenBorderline: DengBench: Andres Nocioni, Noah, Ty Thomas, Hughes

Cleveland Cavaliers (4 games)

The Cavs play four times this week and get to face the Knicks, Thunder and Warriors, so if you own any of them, you may as well start 'em. Mo Williams is on fire, averaging 21.6 points and 3.4 threes in his last five games. Delonte West is also shooting a blistering 52.9 percent from the field and 49.1 percent from three-point land, which helps explain why the Cavs' offense is firing on all cylinders. Ben Wallace has grabbed 7 steals and blocked 10 shots in his last four games, showing that he still has some gas left in the tank.

Start: LeBron James Big Z, Mo Williams, D. West, Anderson Varejao, B. Wallace

Dallas Mavericks (3 games)

Josh Howard has missed two straight games, ensuring that he won't play 80-plus games for the sixth year in a row. Jason Terry has been putting up rock solid all-around numbers, and unlike Howard, you don't have to worry about him missing games. Erick Dampier had 11 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks in his last meeting with Bynum and the Lakers, so I double-dog dare you to start him this week.

Start: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, TerryBorderline: J. Howard, Dampier

Denver Nuggets (4 games)

Carmelo Anthony continues to shoot under 40 percent from the field, but he's currently the only player in the NBA averaging more than 8 rebounds (8.7) and 4 assists (4.5) per game. Similarly, Nenê is one of just five players averaging more than 1.5 steals (1.57) and 1.5 blocks (1.79) per game. J.R. Smith is still struggling and likely being dropped left and right. If you need threes, hang onto him a little while longer if you can.

Start: Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, Kenyon MartinBorderline: Linas KleizaBench: J.R. Smith

Detroit Pistons (3 games)

I didn't read this until just now, but Allen Iverson had his knee drained last Tuesday. Hopefully that explains his poor play recently and it will help him in the future. Richard Hamilton is shooting just 38.8 percent thus far, which must feel horrible for a guy who's shot a combined 48.1 percent from the field the past three seasons. Still, I think you should start him in case he gets hot. Detroit has lost three of their last four games (including a 26-point blowout at the hands of Minnesota), so maybe Michael Curry will start to give his youngsters more minutes. Jason Maxiell, in particular, has totaled 52 minutes and gone for 22 points and 14 boards in his last two games.

Start: Iverson, Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed WallaceWatch: Maxiell

Golden St. Warriors (4 games)

I know that Nellie's small-ball lineup is all the rage right now, but Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert schooled the Warriors inside on Sunday, which resulted in Corey Maggette playing just 49 seconds in the fourth quarter and Nelson going with a Zach Randolph-Brandan Wright-Ronny Turiaf frontcourt. With Jamal Crawford's arrival, Maggette, Kelenna Azubuike and Anthony Morrow aren't going to be quite as reliable, and C.J. Watson should be benched until further notice.

Start: Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, Crawford, MaggetteBorderline: Azubuike, MorrowBench: Watson, WrightWatch: Anthony Randolph

Houston Rockets (4 games)

Yao Ming owners would love to see more performances like his game vs. the Magic on Saturday (22 points & 13 boards on 9-for-15 shooting). Surprisingly, Tracy McGrady has yet to miss a game and has made 9 treys in his last three contests. Luis Scola and Carl Landry continue to limit each other's value, making both guys risky plays right now.

Start: Yao, T-Mac, Ron Artest, Rafer AlstonBorderline: Scola, Landry, Aaron BrooksBench: Shane Battier

Indiana Pacers (4 games)

Troy Murphy isn't shooting the ball very well, but he's pulled down 53 rebounds and dished out 15 assists in his last four games, giving him solid value. Kudos if you started Marquis Daniels last week, as he had back-to-back 25-point, 5-rebound, 1-steal games. The Pacers have a tough schedule this week, but their entire Ssarting lineup has been reliable lately.

Start: Danny Granger, T.J. Ford, Murphy, M. Daniels, Rasho NesterovicBorderline: Jeff Foster, JackBench: Dunleavy

L.A. Clippers (3 games)

Are the Clippers going to trade Chris Kaman to Charlotte? If you own Marcus Camby or Zach Randolph, let's hope so, as there aren't enough big-man minutes for all three of them. I'm a little worried about starting Randolph this week, but it depends on your alternatives. Ricky Davis has been starting since the trade, but he still hasn't done anything. Both he and Eric Gordon are worth owning in case either one earns big minutes.

Start: Baron Davis, Kaman, Camby, Al ThorntonBorderline: Z. RandolphBench: R. Davis, E. Gordon

L.A. Lakers (3 games)

Andrew Bynum has posted two straight double-doubles, and you wonder how many he could get if he got more minutes. Trevor Ariza continues to put up rock-solid numbers (30 rebounds, 17 assists and 10 steals in his last five game) in limited minutes off the bench. Vlad Radmanovic is hot again (10 treys in his last three games), so don't forget about him if you need outside shooting help.

Start: Kobe, Pau Gasol, BynumBorderline: Lamar Odom, ArizaBench: Derek Fisher, Radmanovic

Memphis Grizzlies (4 games)

Marc Gasol is scoring more points lately, but he's averaging just 5.4 rebounds in his last five games. Fortunately, his 58.8 percent FG shooting is still excellent. Did someone wake up Mike Conley? He's averaging 12.3 points and five assists in his last three games, but remains a very risky starter. Darrell Arthur and Hakim Warrick continue to limit each other's value, so bench both players until one emerges.

Start: Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo, M. GasolBorderline: ConleyBench: Arthur, Warrick

Miami Heat (4 games)

All-everything Dwyane Wade has blocked 12 shots in his last four games and is now averaging two rejections per game. If he can keep it up, he'll become the first guard and the first player under 6-5 to swat that many shots. Shawn Marion owners must feel a little better after watching the Matrix total 38 points, 23 boards, and 8 steals in his last two games.

Start: Wade, Marion, Udonis Haslem, Michael BeasleyBorderline: Mario Chalmers, CookBench: Chris Quinn

Milwaukee Bucks (4 games)

Michael Redd is not traveling with the team, so don't start him this week. Charlie Villanueva has played well since returning from injury, but he and Luc Mbah a Moute will likely limit each other's value. Luke Ridnour played just 12 minutes on Saturday due to a sore knee, making him a risky start this week.

Start: Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Ramon SessionsBorderline: Mbah a Moute, Villanueva, RidnourBench: Redd

Minnesota Timberwolves (3 games)

After a quiet start, Randy Foye exploded for 23 points, 14 dimes, 3 treys, 2 steals and just 2 turnovers vs. Allen Iverson and the Pistons on Sunday. Start him and hope that he can keep it up. Ryan Gomes was my No. 3 top pickup last week, and he's averaging 32.5 minutes, 13.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 threes in his last four games. Keep an eye on Craig Smith (42 points and 16 boards in his last three games), because he's currently outplaying Kevin Love.

Start: Al Jefferson, Mike Miller, FoyeBorderline: GomesBench: Love, Sebastian TelfairWatch: C. Smith

New Jersey Nets (4 games)

Even if you don't like Vince Carter, you have to give him some props. The Nets have won four of their last five games and are averaging 111.4 points per game in that span. Yi Jianlian continues to be one of the most inconsistent players in the league, but with four games on tap, he should be good for at least one strong game. Brook Lopez is averaging 14.6 points, 9 boards and 1.6 blocks in his last five games, and he may hang onto the starting job since the Nets are playing so well.

Start: V. Carter, Devin Harris, Jianlian, B. LopezBorderline: Bobby SimmonsBench: Josh Boone

New Orleans Hornets (3 games)

It's almost unfair how much Chris Paul is dominating the assists category. He's averaging 45 percenrt more dimes than the No. 3 man (Jason Kidd), and only 11 other players are averaging even HALF of his 11.8 dimes per game. Tyson Chandler totaledjust 8 points, 11 rebounds and 1 block in two games vs. the Thunder last week, a team that most big men dominate. Can someone please tell me what is going on with TC?

Start: Paul, David WestBorderline: Peja StojakovicBench: T. Chandler, James Posey

New York Knicks (3 games)

The Knicks did a little roster shake-up last week that I'm sure you all heard about. With Crawford and Randolph gone, that means that 32.6 shot attempts, 14.0 rebounds, and 5.8 assists just opened up. David Lee (22 points & 12 boards on Saturday) is a big winner here, and Cuttino Mobley will be as well once he gets settled in. Quentin Richardson had a monster game on Saturday (34 points, 12 boards, 7 threes), but Al Harrington and Tim Thomas will likely cut into his production big time.

Start: Chris Duhon, Lee, Nate Robinson, Wilson ChandlerBorderline: Mobley, Harrington, Q-RichWatch: T. Thomas

Oklahoma City Thunder (4 games)

Kevin Durant has coughed the ball up 22 times in his last five games and is now third in turnovers with 3.6 per game. The Thunder fired P.J. Carlesimo last week, which might mean more minutes for Russell Westbrook. If the rookie is still available in your league, you might want to pick him up. Chris Wilcox (14 points and 10 boards in his last game) may also earn more playing time, so keep an eye on him.

Start: Durant, Jeff Green, WestbrookBorderline: Earl Watson, Nick Collison, WilcoxWatch: Wilkins

Orlando Magic (4 games)

Most of Dwight Howard's stats are actually down from last season, except for blocks, where he's nearly doubled last year's average. Jameer Nelson is hot, averaging 20.2 points and 5 assists on 56 percent shooting in his last five games. Mickael Pietrus has been quiet since returning from his rib injury, making him a questionable start this week.

Start: D. Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, NelsonBorderline: Pietrus

Philadelphia 76ers (4 games)

Elton Brand got off to a slow start, but he's averaging 17.6 points, 10.4 boards, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks in his last five games, which is much closer to what his owners were hoping for. After averaging just 4.3 dimes and .7 steals in his first 9 games, Andre Miller has posted a much more solid 7.5 dimes and 1.8 steals in his last four contests. Another fun Thaddeus Young stat: he's shot 60 percent or better from the field in six of Philly's 13 games thus far.

Start: Brand, Andre Iguodala, A. Miller, Dalembert, T. Young

Phoenix Suns (4 games)

While Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash are underachieving somewhat, Shaq is playing great. He's averaging 17.5 points, 8.9 boards and 2.8 assists in his last eight games, so start him with confidence. The Suns have a very favorable schedule this week, making Matt Barnes and Raja Bell solid starts and Grant Hill a decent option as well. Barbosa missed the past five games for his mother's funeral, but he's expected back this week.

Start: Stoudemire, Nash, Shaq, Barnes, BellBorderline: G. Hill, BarbosaBench: Boris Diaw

Portland Trail Blazers (4 games)

Congrats if you started Steve Blake last week. The unheralded point guard amassed 58 points, 17 assists and 13 threes in 4 games, so you may want to start him while he's hot. In his last 3 games, Joel Przybilla has totaled 77 minutes, 27 boards and 10 blocks, while Greg Oden has totaled just 50 minutes, 19 boards and 3 blocks. I almost feel bad for Oden owners, but we all knew that he was a risky pick.

Start: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake, Rudy FernandezBorderline: Oden, Joel PrzybillaBench: Travis Outlaw

Sacramento Kings (4 games)

Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia are still out, making the rest of the Kings solid starts. Jason Thompson has been very solid recently, averaging 13 points, 8.2 boards, 2 steals and 1 block over his last five games. The rookie has a bright future. Also keep an eye on PG Bobby Brown. The undrafted rookie has gotten extra playing time recently, and he's scored 34 points and dished out 14 assists in his last two games.

Start: John Salmons, Brad Miller, Beno Udrih, Spencer Hawes, ThompsonBench: Kev-Mart, GarciaWatch: B. Brown

San Antonio Spurs (4 games)

While he's been consistently solid, Tim Duncan has gone eight straight games without scoring 25-plus points (expect at least one monster game this week). Michael Finley is averaging 16.8 points and 1.8 threes in his last four games, but Manu Ginobili wants to return this week, making Finley a risky start. Manu's minutes will probably be limited for a couple of games, so you should lean towards benching him this week.

Start: Duncan, Roger MasonBorderline: George Hill, Finley, GinobiliBench: Tony ParkerWatch: Bonner

Toronto Raptors (3 games)

Chris Bosh continues to dominate, but Jermaine O'Neal hurt his knee on Friday and did not play well on Sunday. Anthony Parker has made 10 treys in his last three games, and is now averaging a rock solid 1.8 threes and 1.6 steals per game. Bargnani is red hot, so consider starting him before he cools off.

Start: Bosh, Jose Calderon, A. Parker, BargnaniBorderline: J. O'NealBench: Jamario Moon

Utah Jazz (4 games)

Carlos Boozer is out with a quad/knee injury, so make sure you bench him this week. Surprisingly, Paul Millsap hasn't done much in his absence, but that could change. Mehmet Okur finally had a good game on Saturday (22 points, 4 treys), so you can start him with confidence now. Deron Williams plans to play on Wednesday, but he's a risky start once again. I don't think C.J. Miles can keep up his strong play, but he's worth watching.

Start: Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie BrewerBorderline: D. Williams, MillsapBench: BoozerWatch: CJ Miles

Washington Wizards (3 games)

Antawn Jamison is red hot, averaging 22.8 points, 11.2 boards, 1.8 steals, and 1.4 threes on 53.3 percent shooting in his last five games. DeShawn Stevenson has dished out 20 assists and made 7 threes in his last three games, but he's been battling a hamstring problem and remains a field-goal killer. JaVale McGee was rather quiet last week, but the good news is that he's now starting at center. I suggest benching him this week, but don't think about dropping him unless there's a proven alternative available.

Start: Caron Butler, JamisonBorderline: StevensonBench: Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young, McGee