November 12, 2009

Fantasy basketball players like bold statements. See, you enjoyed that opening line. The problem with making big statements in a game based mostly on conjecture is that they don't always come true. The Fantasy Lab recognizes this, but likes making grand declarative statements as well, so it's time to play a good old-fashioned game of True and False.

Elton Brand will return to form and average at least 15 points and 8 rebounds.

FALSE. The 15 and 8 isn't even the 20 and 10 people remember and some people expected to see this year, but how could he even reach the former when he's not playing at all in the fourth quarter like in Monday's game against Phoenix? If the Lab had told you before the season that Brand would struggle to reach 15 points and 8 rebounds, would you have listened and avoided him on draft day? Of course you would have, since you trust the Lab. But in all seriousness, the writing was on the wall for a steep decline with Eddie Jordan's up-tempo style and the focus shifting to the team's younger, emerging stars in Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams. Brand was the fourth option on the team before the season started, it just seemed no one got the memo. A couple of major injuries and Father Time have slowed Brand down, eliminated some of the lift and the quick feet that were keys to his game. Now there's the weight of an $80 million contract hanging around his neck like a lead albatross. Current averages of just 10.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 0.9 bpg figure to rise a little, but even 15 and 8 will be an unattainable goal.

Sticking with the Philly theme, Sam Dalembert will be the Sixers' starting center after the New Year.

FALSE. The former Haitian Sensation (nothing sensational is going on here and he switched allegiances to play for Canada -- before they unceremoniously cut him) has never been one to make good basketball decisions or pose much of an offensive threat, so the preseason hype of the offense running through him in the high post seemed laughable at best and downright frightening in reality. Then in the very first game of the season, second-year F/C Mareesse Speights came off the bench and exploded for 26 points in 26 minutes. Dalembert's already dwindling minutes started shrinking faster than a Shrinky Dink in a nuclear-powered microwave. The future of the center spot for Philly is Speights, and while his defense could be exploited by a junior-high player, he'll still get some blocks and will improve over time. Get on board the Speights bandwagon before he claims the starting gig, possibly as soon as the end of the week, but more realistically sometime in December. Check out his line thus far in just 23 mpg: 14.4 ppg (63.5 FG%, 84.0 FT%), 6.9 rpg and 1.1 bpg. Meanwhile Dalembert's numbers in only 22 mpg -- his lowest total since his rookie season -- are a paltry 6.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg and 1.3 bpg. Ouch!

You are happy right now if you selected a rookie PG in your draft or auction.

TRUE. Forget what many of the detractors said before the season started in regards to the rookie class. The fact is, each year a certain few rookies make a fantasy impact, and that number has really grown in the last few years. Forcing players to wait until they are at least one year out of high school has made it easier for rookies to step right in and play since they are a little more seasoned and their teams have more confidence in them. Plus, younger players are simply better than they used to be thanks to the popularity of AAU ball, better technology and players focusing on advanced techniques at an earlier age. Many NBA coaches have been reluctant to turn the keys to their team over to a rookie, but that has been the fashionable trend this season and it's paying off in spades, which I assume has some large monetary value.

If you drafted a rookie PG, you likely selected one of the following since they all projected as starters at some point in the preseason: Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Jonny Flynn or Brandon Jennings. All of these players went in the top 10 in the draft and all are exceeding expectations based on the general public's opinion in the preseason. While Jennings and Flynn are more like a true PGs, especially compared with Evans and Curry who are really shooting guards masquerading as PGs, they are all outperforming their draft position and should continue to do so all year due to their talents.

Diving back into the rookie well (infinitely better than diving into the rookie wall), Blake Griffin will be the runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year award.

FALSE. If you had made this claim in the preseason, you would have been joined by an army of supporters. And with good reason. The fact is that Griffin is a special player and his supreme talent is evidenced by his strong preseason play, however, the stress fracture in his knee has derailed his rookie season before it ever left the station. Now he's playing catch-up to the rest of the fresh faces of the NBA. When he returns, he'll have to contend for minutes with Chris Kaman -- who is playing out of him mind right now, leading all centers in scoring with 21.9 ppg to go along with 9.4 rpg and 1.8 bpg -- and Marcus Camby. The good news is that both of those players also struggle to stay healthy. But the fact remains he'll be behind the curve.

Besides, the Lab has been saying it since draft day, Tyreke Evans is the best rookie in a superb rookie class and should be the front-runner to win by the time Griffin makes his pro debut. With Kevin Martin and his 30-plus points per game out of the lineup, Evans has slid over to his more natural shooting guard spot, allowing Beno Udrih to regain long-term fantasy value, and absolutely dominated with his ability to get to the rim and the line, even as a rookie. In his last three games, Evans is averaging 25 ppg and has hit 32 of 36 FTs. Add in 5.6 apg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 spg and 1 three per night and he should be hoisting the ROY trophy at the end of the year.

The Knicks should have drafted a point guard, or at least anyone other than Jonah Hill.

TRUE. Even forgetting the four rookie PGs mentioned above -- though you can't if you're a Knick fan, especially Brandon Jennings -- it's clear that this team absolutely needed a new floor general. Sure it looked like the team needed to go big as well, but Hill was clearly not the answer, especially when there were PG talents like Jennings, Jrue Holliday and Ty Lawson available. While Holliday barely gets run in Philly, he would be thriving in the wide-open offense that Chris Duhon struggles to run for Mike D'Antoni's Knicks. If the Lab owned Duhon, they'd be looking to sell right now by pushing that he's starting for D'Antoni's high-scoring Knicks and is averaging 6.3 apg. Given how Duhon fell off tremendously at the end of last year and D'Antoni is already looking for another solution, it's time to cut anchor on Duhon.

As for Lawson, he's thriving in Denver's up-tempo offense as Chauncey Billups' backup. In limited minutes off the bench, Lawson has proven he should never have fallen all the way to the 18th pick. In just 21 mpg, Lawson is averaging 11.0 ppg on 54.8 FG% and a whopping 53.3 3PT%, not surprising given his upward trend in three-point shooting throughout his college career but supposedly a weakness of his lauded by unobservant critics. He's a deadeye from the line and has no problem setting up teammates if he's not beating everyone down the floor for a bucket. Knicks fans have to be regretting passing on these guys.

Gerald Wallace leads the league in rebounding.

TRUE. But can it last? Wallace seems to think so saying, "God willing, if I stay healthy, I think I can." Right now, he's averaging 13.1 rpg, which is 5.3 rpg more than last season and 7.6 above his career mark of 5.5 pulls a night. This certainly qualifies as a pleasant early season surprise, but everyone outside of Wallace knows that this won't last. Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw are recovering from ankle injuries and should improve their rebounding as they feel better. Wallace himself is not the picture of health, more like a Jackson Pollack with the way Crash haphazardly throws himself all over the court. At just 6-7, he'd have to devote himself to "crashing" the boards constantly like Dennis Rodman used to (the last guy that small to win a rebounding title), something that he's too talented to do since he'll have to lead the offense at times and be relied upon as a scorer. His minutes are also way too high at 42 per game. They will come down and so will his rebounding totals, like the single-digit 9 boards he posted last night. What can last though is his improved FT shooting. He shut the detractors up last year by canning over 80 percent despite hitting on fewer than 70 percent throughout his career. He's at 76 percent right now and should maintain a percentage between that and 81 percent for the year thanks to improvements in his form and his concentration.

Zach Randolph is all about himself to the point where he's got such a big head that it actually broke rookie Hasheem Thabeet's jaw.

TRUE. Well not so much true as it has some truthiness to it, which doesn't make it quite false according to Stephen Colbert. It's true his head broke Thabeet's jaw last night when they collided after a shot went up, but it's not because Z-Bo's head got too big since he's all out for himself. Though it's hard to argue against the idea that his numbers come at the expense of the team; He's averaging 19.1 ppg and 10.9 rpg but the team has just one win on the year. To be fair, Z-Bo's 3.0 apg are a career high and the first time he's averaged more dimes than turnovers.

Allen Iverson no longer has fantasy value.

Sad, but TRUE. It appears only the Grizzlies' front office didn't see this one coming. Wearing their trademarked blinders (wait, the Grizz don't own a trademark for blinders? Weird.), the Grizzlies were the sole team interested in inking Iverson to a contract despite the fact they had budding stars in O.J. Mayo and RudyGay, and a solid and ever-improving contributor at the point in Mike Conley. Iverson came off the bench in the first few games but now he's in basketball limbo, formerly occupied by Stephon Marbury, as he works out an unspecified "family matter." It's hard to accept this explanation at face value though, and it seems we're headed towards either a buyout from the Grizz or an early, "forced" retirement. Forced is in quotation marks because it's all Allen's own fault for being unwilling to accept that he should be coming off the bench since he's aged and his skills have diminished. If he's bought out, it would be a shock to see him latch on with another club given his unwavering demand to be a starter. Regardless, his days as a valuable or even average fantasy commodity are gone forever.

Joakim Noah will average a double-double this season and make one reporter eat his own column.

TRUE. You can watch the video with the reporter eating his column with some salsa here, but just know he ate his own newsprint because Noah has turned into a "worthwhile" player. Calling him worthwhile is selling him short. Noah is second in the league in rebounding now with 12.1 rpg and Hoovered in 21 boards last night. With Ty Thomas out of action for a couple months, Noah can really establish himself as the defensive force in the middle for Chicago. With eight more minutes per game this year, his hustle is all that he needs to top 10 ppg, up from just 6.7 ppg a year ago. Don't sell high and try to nab him in a trade before anyone notices that he's not going away this year. The man won two national championships at Florida for a reason, folks.

Kevin Durant will lead the league in scoring.

FALSE. Cause Carmelo Anthony is going to wear the scoring crown. This bold statement is one that was echoed by many Durantula supporters heading into the season. While it still sounds like conceivable, especially given the 37 points he dropped last night, Melo has that determined look that screams nothing is going to stop him this year. The Lab and many Durant supporters will have to settle for second or third place this year. Don't forget about Dwyane Wade in Miami, who will have to do even more scoring once Jermaine O'Neal goes down with his annual knee injury. Kobe's scoring is up right now, but it will trend down as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol return to action to ease the load and Phil Jackson begins to ease his minutes.

Eddie House has a reality show.

FALSE. His son does. On the Cartoon Network. House is actually the inspiration for the show, but it's his kid's show because it's called My Dad's a Pro. And it's a "micro-reality" show on the Cartoon Network.

That's all for today, fantasy fiends. Check back next week for the latest edition of the Fantasy Lab and don't forget to hit up for more basketball coverage. Email me at with any questions.

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