Last week's Fantasy Lab on new NBA starters elicited a variety of responses ranging from love to hate, but regardless of the tone of the reactions, it proved to be a potent topic. Building on that column, the Lab will cover the new starters implemented this week in the NBA and then make some brash predictions about who's destined to join this batch of newbies in the near future. The latter should be on everyone's watch list or scout team or whatever you want to call the list of names that you ponder picking up every night someone on your roster craps the bed. If you're the speculative type -- or in a league with deep rosters or at least 12 teams -- reel in one or two potential golden nuggets now. Otherwise stand pat, but with a watchful eye and a quick trigger finger.
One caveat before we get to the meat and potatoes: the Knicks' two trades produced a few new starters everywhere, but the picture is more muddled than a round of mojitos right now, so the Lab will wait till next week to address those situations. But since everyone is looking for value now, here's our educated prediction at the starting five after the coaches take a few games to work out the kinks in the rotation.
Warriors Near-Future Starting Five
PG: Jamal CrawfordSG: Anthony MorrowSF: Stephen JacksonPF: Corey MaggetteC: Andris Biedrins
Knicks Near-Future Starting Five
PG: Chris DuhonSG: Cuttino Mobley (Sorry, Nate Robinson. Not yet, little fella.)SF: Wilson ChandlerPF: Al HarringtonC: David Lee
Clippers Near-Future Starting Five
PG: Baron DavisSG: Eric GordonSF: Al ThorntonPF: Zack RandolphC: Chris Kaman
That was fun, wasn't it? And don't worry Marcus Camby owners. Mr. Glass will get his minutes, but coming off the bench preserves him and allows the younger Kaman and Randolph to bang with the first unit during those extra few opening minutes.
Now on to the brand new starters:
I see you, Ramon! The move that many astute fantasy players have been begging and pleading for finally happened on Monday night: Sessions started at point guard in place of the perennially underachieving Luke Ridnour. It's too bad the reason he started was soreness in Ridnour's knee, which had him in a suit on the sidelines. Sessions is demonstrating more potential than Ridnour ever had, no matter what the USA Basketball Executive Committee may have thought of Rid back in 2005 when they named him as one of the 33 players on the Senior National Team Program. Ridnour has floundered for years now while Sessions has flourised since bursting onto the scene in late March and April of last year, helping many teams in the fantasy finals as they rode his hot hand. Sessions deserves to stay put in the starting spot since he has a better assist-to-turnover ratio and field goal percentage (must be Luke's cool hand ...), not to mention he scores 5.5 more points a night than Ridnour while playing better D with 1.2 steals to Rid's 0.9.
You had to know his benching was only temporary, right? After struggling out of the gait worse than a wounded horse, Foye was demoted as Sebastian Telfair laid claim to the starting PG spot. That lasted for about as long as the Raptors' hot start did. Foye bounced back like a trampoline with a monstrous 23-point, 14-dime game in his most recent outing. Now that he's regained his confidence, the former lottery pick is locked into the starting spot and will never relinquish it again. If he somehow found his way on to your league's waiver wire, remedy that situation immediately.
Hand-picked by Larry Brown after the coach again got into the owner's ear and persuaded him to avoid the counsel of the rest of his front office, Augustin was the ninth pick in this year's draft. While most of the brass wanted to address the team's glaring hole at power forward with Brook Lopez, Brown trumped them and nabbed Augustin, making him his pet project while seemingly casting former lottery selection Raymond Felton to the side. Just 12 games into the season, Felton's starting job is hanging by a thread as he has shifted over to SG in Jason Richardson's absence while Augustin DJ's the party at the point. When Richardson returns, don't expect to see Felton still out there with the starting crew, though Brown's disdain of rookies could override his admiration for his own pet project. In his first start, Augustin drained 7 triples on his way to 26 points and 7 dimes. In his third start Monday night, Augustin cemented himself into the starting five with 25 points, 11 assists, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 threes. Snatch him off the wire because he was the real deal at Texas and is a deadeye marksman from downtown. Who knows, Larry might even give him the green light from downtown.
He's all arms and legs, and maybe one day he can fill out and become a real player, but for now, it's just another case of Larry Brown sabotaging his own team. Avoid at all costs.
Rookie coach Vinny Del Negro is throwing all kinds of lineups at the wall and hoping something productive sticks. No luck so far, thanks to the deadly combination of injuries, youth and poor decision-making. So we roll with the punches Del Negro throws. That means this week Noah is back in the starting five. He can help you in the defensive cats like blocks, steals and boards, but he's going to negatively affect your team with bad shooting from the floor and the line. Plus, the sporadic playing time -- just four minutes played in one of his five starts this year -- will mean he's more than likely going to stay on your waiver wire.
Last week we detailed F/C Jason Thompson in this space, expecting him to head back to the bench this week based on Kevin Martin's return and Reggie Theus' stupidity in sticking with a veteran, in this case Mikki Moore. Instead, Martin is out with a new injury (Achilles heel swelling) and Moore is banged up as well. This opened the door for Thompson to stay out there and Hawes to nab a start at PF (Is eligibility forthcoming?). Either way, both players deserve to be breaking a sweat from the get-go. Hawes is fourth in the NBA in blocks and is the rare center-eligible big man who regularly drains three-pointers. That rare combo is fantasy gold, especially since he boards (7.2 in 28 mpg) and shoots exceptionally well at 52.4 percent. At only 20 years old, the future is now for Hawes and the Kings.
The 35-year old still has some life left in those aging legs, but the superior athleticism that Finley relied upon during his heyday has long since left those gams. Fin-Dog is doing his best though, filling in with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker injured. Though Manu returned Monday night, Finley is still doing plugging along starting from the opening tip. Despite the 29 mpg, he's not worth a fantasy roster spot.
One of the best rebounders per minute in the NBA and a three-time former rebounding champ in college -- the NBA isn't the only place where amazing happens -- Millsap is only a temporary fix for the Jazz, but definitely one worth mentioning. The burly 6-8 forward is a quick leaper, helping to account for the gaudy rebound totals, but he also is a vicious shot-blocker and budding thief, with averages of 1.4 bpg and 0.4 spg in only 25 mpg. While Carlos Boozer sits out the next 1-2 weeks, Millsap is going to make someone a very happy owner. Have doubts? In two starts last year, Millsap averaged 20 ppg on over 60 percent shooting, 11 rpg, 1.5 spg and 1.0 bpg.
And the future starting five:
The other choice here was PG/SG Aaron Brooks of the Rockets, but Rafer Alston is the veteran presence on a playoff-bound team, so he's likely to hold his spot over the youngster. The Thunder don't have the same lofty aspirations, and combined with an interim coach, you can bet the transition to Westbrook as the starting PG is imminent. Westbrook is a defensive wiz capable of 5-steal games once a fortnight and he's proven that he'll board as well as dish the rock. In his first game without P.J. Carlesimo at the helm, Westbrook had a career-high 11 assists. That's the kind of pass-first PG you want running the show.
The Allen Iverson trade opened a gaping hole at SG, but Smith has been slow to fill it. Dahntay Jones clearly isn't the answer, so it's only a matter of time before Smith gets hot and claims the job. He's a beast in terms of 3PM.
Phil Jackson might like to keep Ariza on the second unit, but his defense is head, shoulders, knees and toes better than Vlad Radmonovic. Ariza is a master klepto, swiping 2.0 steals per night in fewer than 24 minutes per game. Add to that his 9.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.3 apg and you'll notice his all-around game would look great in the Triangle.
Only a rookie last year, Landry filled in admirably when Yao Ming went down. He's improved his game by leaps and bounds this year. He will fill in even more admirably when Yao goes down again this year.
Speaking of going down to injury, Diaw is the likely replacement when Shaq decides it's time for his mid-season sabbatical. Robin Lopez and his Sideshow Bob hair could be the popular pick, and he's more of a true center than Diaw, but Amaré Stoudemire figures to dominate the low post while Diaw does his jack-of-all-trades thing from the high post. Fantasy owners like jacks-of-all-trades. It's just another way of saying multi-category contributor. Long live his anomalous 2005-06 season! Actually, he's improved and is more aggressive than every this year, so those numbers could be attainable again when the Diesel isn't running on fumes anymore.
That concludes today's lesson. Hope to see you next week back in the Fantasy Lab. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving.