Before we start the recaps of last night’s 12 NBA games and preview the nine on tonight’s schedule, congratulations to the aptly-named “Lootmeister” for defeating 902 opponents in the Sheridan Hoops Freeroll at DraftStreet to win the $100 first prize.
We devote the vast majority of this segment to the $100,000 Salary Cap game, a very enjoyable and challenging way to play fantasy hoops every day. However, when there’s time, I try to enter a Snake draft or two, because live drafts are always interesting.
Real games are just a week away and the pre-season is starting to wind down. Teams are playing their starters more, making their final roster decisions and being very cautious with the slightest ailments.
The better organizations knew the answers to most questions before the pre-season began whereas the weaker ones are still trying to figure things out. If you take anything away from this week’s meaningless games, it should be which teams look settled and which ones do not. If you want to avoid fantasy frustration stick to players on the settled teams where possible.
Yesterday’s big news was that Dirk Nowitzki hopes to miss 3 weeks instead of the forecast 4 to 6. A small but encouraging reprieve for his owners.
October 22 Games
NYK @ PHI: The Knicks are still an unsettled group, especially on the perimeter. Amar’e Stoudemire‘s ruptured cyst adds to the uncertainty and may lead to bigger issues down the road since Carmelo Anthony is a better 4 than he is a 3. Melo didn’t show it last night though going 7-23 in 35 minutes with only 6 rebounds. As we predicted yesterday, Jason Kidd got the start at SG but did nothing of note. Ronnie Brewer got his first game action of the preseason and looked rusty failing to score in 15 minutes. On the positive side, Chris Copeland followed up his 34 pt performance with a 15 in 26 minutes but was a defensive liability reflected in a by far game worst -14. Don’t put any stock in Raymond Felton‘s 23 pts as it came against a PG-less opponent.
Philly, on the other hand, looks ready to go. In their final pre-season game, they sat half their rotation (Andrew Bynum, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Dorell Wright and Kwame Brown) and lost PG Maalik Wayns to a mild concussion five minutes in but still cruised. Jason Richardson took advantage of the weak Knicks perimeter scoring 23 including 6 3PM, 7 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, and BLK in an all-round monster performance. Thaddeus Young was 10 of 12 in the field but more importantly cemented his place as the starter at PF by holding Carmelo in check.
The decision of Dirk Nowitzki to have knee surgery isn’t a complete surprise. It will cost him all of November, a definite setback to his owners, including Mark Cuban. If there’s any consolation, Dirk should be much better in the second half; the non-surgical option might have ruined his entire season, with the Mavericks and in fantasy leagues.
You cannot replace a Hall-of-Famer. Elton Brand will start at PF. How much he has left, we’ll find out. Brandan Wright is also in line for more minutes, especially if the calf injury to Chris Kaman is anything serious. Shawn Marion will have to focus more on scoring, and O.J. Mayo may be the #1 option.
In deeper leagues, Jae Crowder becomes interesting. I’d completely dismissed him in my rookies & returnees column because he was behind so many veterans. If the Matrix plays more PF, Crowder could get more SF minutes. And there’s always Vince Carter. At 35, he’s no longer half-amazing, but for a month, he can help pick up the scoring slack.
October 19 Games
MIN @ CHI: Our first look at the Timberwolves without Kevin Love wasn’t pretty. Especially with Nikola Pekovic (swollen hand) sitting out. Greg Stiemsma started at C and Dante Cunningham at PF; Andrei Kirilenko played only 18 minutes. It looks like Derrick Williams may continue to come off the bench; he and Chase Budinger will be the focal points of the second unit. Louis Amundson (8 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL in 21:02) might also be playing more in Love’s absence.
It was the Carlos Boozer show for the Bulls (24 PTS, 9 REB) as they led comfortably throughout. Taj Gibson (12 PTS, 11 REB, 3 BLK) had a fine evening off the bench.
NYK @ TOR: NBA.com is completely off my bookmarks because of this game. It’s been advertised incessantly as part of the ridiculous “Canada Series” with their home page and scoreboard automatically redirected for everyone in my home and native land. It’s been absolutely impossible to see a box score on that site for over a week. They have completely ignored my helpful suggestions and later rants; I don’t need them either.
Yesterday I joked about taking the streetcar to watch it live, but that would have been a long ride. Given how the typical Montrealer feels about Toronto, a Raptors “home” game in La Belle Province is ironic, but 22,000 enthusiastic, basketball-starved fans showed up. I did watch on TV, the first half closely. People who saw Andrea Bargnani and “calf” in the same sentence can exhale now; we told you it was just a bruise. He scored 20 points and played 33 minutes. Kyle Lowry (17 PTS, 5 AST) set the tempo and on a night when Jonas Valanciunas got in foul trouble (his only downside) Amir Johnson (14 PTS, 5 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK) filled in very well. Ed Davis sat out with a sore hip; nothing serious, but he keeps losing ground to Amir.
Raymond Felton looks great. That is, he’s obviously fitter, but he still had six turnovers to just four assists. Carmelo Anthony (24) and Amar’e Stoudemire (18) coexisted just fine, but nobody else stepped up. They really need a healthy J.R. Smith, whoses ankle/Achilles could take a while to heal. James White didn’t do much as the starting SG, and my speculation about Pablo Prigioni getting more minutes as the Knicks use their PG off the ball may have been on the money.