Ryan Knaus

NBA Fantasy Trends

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Big Trouble in Little Portland

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Gilbert Arenas drama, the looming return of Elton Brand and Jermaine O'Neal, the interminable guessing game over Shawn Marion's ongoing back pain, Chris Kaman's ongoing back pain, Ben Wallace's ongoing back pain…this list could be ongoing for a while. Unfortunately, I don't have the space to address every injury and happening (subscribe to the Daily Dose if you want to not only be in the loop, but have the loop delivered to your email inbox every morning). Some of the guys I just mentioned appear in this week's NBA Fantasy Trends, but I also make time for Knicks coach/president/innovative popcorn salesman Isiah Thomas…read on to see what the hell I'm talking about.

Trailblazers reach a fork in the…trail

Brandon Roy left Tuesday's game with a groin injury. Actually he left the game twice with the same injury, after unsuccessfully trying to return. Roy will be re-evaluated on Wednesday, but as coach Nate McMillan pointed out, "[Groin injuries] can sit you down for a month."

So far there is no official word that last season's Rookie of the Year will be out for a long time—but if he gets a bleak diagnosis, owners should be ready to pounce on two guys…Jarrett Jack and Martell Webster (with James Jones as a deep-league bonus).

Jarrett Jack is averaging 35 minutes in his 11 starts this season, compared to just 25 minutes in his 61 games as a substitute. As a starter he has averaged 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.7 turnovers. He is shooting 42% from the field this season, but balances it out with 87% free throw shooting. If Roy is out for a while, look no further for a mid-level utility guard.

Martell Webster was already starting to heat up and could be a top-notch source of threes and points for as long as Roy is out. Before this week, he hadn't scored 20+ points since January 5th and had done it only four times all season…now suddenly it's happened twice in a row. In the past two games he's averaging 22.5 points on 50% shooting, 4.5 three-pointers, four rebounds and two assists.

Webster almost never steals the ball, he hands out dimes like his first name is Ebenezer and he is averaging just 42% from the field and 73% from the line. Still, when you consider that 48% of his shots are from downtown, it's kind of an inevitable trade-off. LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained ankle) should return soon, but Webster will still carry more of the offensive burden, which suits his skill-set just fine.

James Jones could be a decent pick-up in deeper leagues, as he's likely to absorb a few more minutes for however long Roy is out. He's a 3-point specialist, but certainly of use to some owners.

Doubting Thomas

The Knicks are torturing the fantasy landscape, offering up insufficient minutes (David Lee), random DNPs (Zach Randolph), sketchy injuries (Nate Robinson), awful "project players" (Randolph Morris) and other shiftless dreck (Quentin Richardson, Fred Jones). It cannot be overstated—this lineup is 100% hand-crafted by Isiah Thomas.

The Knicks official website has a truly hilarious biography about Isiah. There's too much great stuff and I can only scratch the surface, but they speak glowingly about his "singular style" and his "singular philosophy" (you can't deny it, can you?). Upon resuming coaching duties, Isiah was quoted as saying, ""The first thing I'll do is restore the discipline and from that discipline we should be able to regain the trust of our players. And from the discipline and trust, we'll try to restore their confidence and build their confidence back to the level where it should be for a professional athlete." I'm not sure if the discipline/trust speech was before or after the sexual harassment lawsuit. Discipline, trust, and confidence (Marbury refusing to play, Randolph throwing water on a teammate, Curry questioning his role, Q-Rich exploding, etc.) Hmm…I wonder when Isiah is going to get started on that.

Sorry…back to the court. As my colleague Scott Morrow correctly noted, Mardy Collins had a torrid April last season, averaging 44 minutes, 14.8 points, 0.9 three-pointers, 6.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals in the last nine games of the season.

It wasn't all terrific, as he also shot 39% from the field, 66% from the free throw line and turned the ball over 4.0 times per game. The Knicks season has been over for a long time and we're never quite sure who's in and who's out, or who will end up with consistent minutes going forward. But if last year is any indication, Collins is a prime breakout candidate as we near the season's final stages.

Two facts you definitely did not know about Isiah Thomas:

1) He was named "Father of the Year" in 2004, though the bio failed to specify "best" or "worst".

2) He is a financial partner in an innovative chain of retail popcorn stores. Don't laugh—there's big money in innovative popcorn.

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Despite residing in Portland, Maine, Ryan Knaus remains a heartbroken Sonics fan who longs for the days of Shawn Kemp and Xavier McDaniel. He has written for Rotoworld.com since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter.
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