Dear Fantasy Santa
A fantasy basketball wish list
By Adam Hoff
The Holiday season is fast approaching and that means kids everywhere are cobbling together wish lists to send to good old St. Nick. Likewise, fantasy owners are pouring over the teams, wishing and hoping that guys will hit a few more threes, or bump up that field goal percentage, or even just get more playing time (Stromile Swift, anyone?). Here is what a universal wish list might look like.
The Wish: Emeka Okafor raising his field goal percentage. The Taye Diggs look-a-like has come out of the gates a little slow, but owners can deal with 13 and 9 with some blocks, as long as their big man isnít shooting a dreadful .378 from the field. That is Rafer Alston style.
Prognosis: I think this wish will come true. Remember though, Okafor only shot .447 last year, which just isnít very good when you consider where he gets his shots. If you drafted him thinking he would take a big step forward, you are probably out of luck. But I think it is safe to expect rapid improvement from his current mark.
The Wish: Baron Davis making some shots. This one goes beyond percentages (although The Baronís .346 is shockingly bad). Baron Davis is healthy and the Warriors are playing pretty well and running a wide-open offense. So why are his scoring numbers (16.1 ppg, 2.0 threes per night) so pedestrian? The eight dimes a game are nice, but Baron owners are expecting more. I saw him go before Arenas in two different drafts and he never went later than the middle of the second round. He needs to step it up.
Prognosis: I thought Jason Richardson would cede to Baron, but it looks like it might be the other way around. That said, Baron is bound to shoot at least 40-41%, so the numbers will go up accordingly. I think he will boost his scoring Ö and then get injured.
The Wish: Brad Miller starts grabbing a few rebounds. Heís mostly doing typical Brad Miller things Ė dropping dimes, hitting some 18-footers, never blocking any shots despite being 7-feet tall Ė except heís pulling down a horrendous 6.4 rebounds per game. Heís being outrebounded by guards Jason Richardson, Dwayne Wade, and Andre Igoudala. That is embarrassing.
The Prognosis: Miller and the rest of the Kings have been awful, but he will get to at least eight caroms a night. I would go as far to call Miller a buy low candidate.
The Wish: Drew Gooden getting five more minutes a night. Gooden has been solid thus far. Heís consistently throwing up 12 and 9 with some blocks, steals, and good percentages. It wouldnít take much for that to bump up to 14 and 10, all he needs is to stay on the floor when heís going good. Instead, he comes out at set times in Mike Brownís rotation.
The Prognosis: Itís not happening. Gooden gets 24 minutes at power forward and 4-5 minutes spelling Big Z, but thatís it. The Cavs love the way Donyell Marshall stretches the floor and seem pretty set on platooning their diverse power forwards. The answer here is obvious: bench Eric Snow, play LeBron and Hughes in the backcourt and Marshall at the small forward spot for 5-7 minutes a game. That would be a great change-of-pace lineup and get Gooden the extra minutes at Snowís expense.
The Wish: That Scott Skiles would stop benching players. No NBA coach (with the possible exception of Sam Mitchell) frustrates fantasy owners quite like Skiles. Heís obsessed with defense, is enamored with lumbering veterans, and has his doghouse parked right at the end of the bench. He sits down the franchise player Kirk Hinrich in favor of guys like Pargo every couple of weeks or so. Chandler disappears from games. Sweetney is off and on. It would be nice to know whether Luol Deng and Ben Gordon were going to play 35 minutes or 18 minutes on a given night.
The Prognosis: Negative. (Note the built-in Seinfeld joke.) Skiles wonít change. He does things his way and loves the power trip. If you have Bulls players, just ride out the bad times. Either that or avoid them altogether.
The Wish: That Kobe Bryant would hit a few threes. Heís struggled the past few games, but overall heís giving owners the points, boards, and assists that they need from a first round pick. But where are the triples? Shockingly, the guy that holds a share of the NBA record for threes in a game (12, with Donyell Marshall) has ZERO for the season.
The Prognosis: I think the days of Kobe hitting 100+ threes for the year are over. There is the chance that heís doing one of his weird ďwatch me prove somethingĒ things, like when he tried to prove he could pass and got a triple double the next game; however, I think it is more likely that heís trying to add a little D-Wade to his game by focusing on mid range jumpers and getting to the rim. Overall, this is one of the more bizarre storylines in fantasy.
The Wish: Some playing time for sleeper centers. The problem with sleepers is not just that sometimes they donít pan out right away Ė it is that we hang on to them far too long thinking they are about to turn it around. Right now guys like Stromile Swift and Joel Przybilla are killing me. I need the blocked shots. We all do.
The Prognosis: Swift might be a lost cause since Juwan Howard obviously has incriminating photos of Beetle Juice and is blackmailing his head coach for starterís minutes, but Przybilla is worth holding onto for a while longer. He threw up huge numbers down the stretch last year and if and when Ratliff goes down (for some reason McMillan loves him), JP will be rocking once again.
The Wish: 14 and 9 from Kurt Thomas. When you draft Thomas you arenít expecting a miracle. Itís not about upside. The whole point here is that you get a sure thing: a guy that will plod along and give you decent numbers every night.
The Prognosis: Not happening. The Suns miscalculated when they traded for Thomas and you miscalculated when you drafted him. He was supposed to toughen the Suns up while cleaning the glass and knocking down wide open 15-footers. I think that is what the Suns had in mind. The only problem is that they failed to visualize all of the running up and down the court in between those two tasks. Phoenix pushes the ball up the court and teams push it right back at them. Jurassic Thomas just canít keep up.
The Wish: That someone Ė anyone Ė on the Knicks will do something positive. Stephon Marbury is on pace for his worst season since sixth grade, Quentin Richardson is averaging about 8 points per game, Jamal Crawfordís playing time appears to be determined by a dartboard, and Eddy Curry is among the league leaders in turnovers. Good times all around!
The Prognosis: Stay away from this nightmare. You canít trade these guys because their values are so low. You canít drop them because they have too much talent. I guess you have to keep them if youíve got them, but donít expect rapid improvement. The best case scenario is that Marbury gets traded and that Brown tightens the rotation. Yuck.
The Wish: Tayshaun Princeís great D resulting in some decent defensive stats. The man is a terrific defender (although Wade torching him last year has sort of tempered the hype), yet his stats (0.3 steals, 0.7 blocks) are terrible. Heís scoring some points, but otherwise is turning into Bruce Bowen.
The Prognosis: Itís time to move on and get your hands on Andre Igoudala, if you can.
The Wish: Josh Smith finding the range. People loved Smith during draft season, taking him in the sixth round, on average. The expectation was for big minutes and big blocks. So far, he has delivered neither.
The Prognosis: Things are in flux in Atlanta, so you have to ride this out. However, if you were counting on the 14 and 8 with 3 blocks a game like the dunk champ was throwing up at the end of last season, you can probably forget it.
The Wish: That Damon Stoudemire would remember how to play basketball. Mighty Mouse has been an underrated fantasy player the last few years, providing owners with 15/6/4 and steals, threes, and FT% for cheap. Now? 7/4/2. That is almost unfathomably bad.
Prognosis: The minute you drop Damon, he will start torching you on someone elseís roster. I think he will get it together, and when Eddie Jones cools off, Stoudemire will help pick up the slack.
The Wish: That Manu will start playing like a third round pick. Ginobili was hot property in drafts everywhere based on his flashy play in the playoffs last year, but heís been a severe disappointment in the early going. 13.4 points, 4.4 boards, 3.6 assists, and a .377 shooting percentage isnít what people had in mind.
Prognosis: Donít get your hopes up. Sure, heíll improve, but you never should have taken him before the fifth round. Expect 18/5/5 with threes and steals, but nothing more than that.
Adam Hoff is a columnist for the Webby-winning WhatifSports.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.