Thursday, May 11, 2006

FANTASY BASKETBALL; NBA PLAYOFF PERFORMERS!

First, allow me to apologize. After re-reading "Fantasy Baseball; 'Wire Help For the Infield" I could do nothing but laugh. I elected to use blogspot.com's Spell-Check system. And, after finding Rafael Furcal's name had been changed to Rafael frugal, "Miggy" Tejada had become "muggy," and Jeter was "Jitter," I do apologize.
Those of you who were unfamiliar with this Blog... well, I trust that you're not reading this anyway since you assumed I was a pinhead. But those of you who have returned... thanks!

Those of you who belong to Post-Season fantasy Hoops leagues, of the teams still standing; Nowitzki, Duncan, Brand, Kidd, Nash, Billups and Shaq are the most obvious playmakers. Who, though, might be a clever buy and play (In salary cap leagues that allow X number of trades per week)?

Nets V. Heat:

The Nets, eager for a split with the Heat, allowed exactly that to happen. Outscored 41-19 in the 1st period, Kidd and Co. were outplayed, out-hustled, and gave something markedly less than 100% effort last night. Now, with the series knotted-up at 1-1 and "Flash" Wade operating at 100% efficiency, Kidd, Carter and Jefferson will have their collective hands full.

Nets' Step-up performer:
C Nenad Krstic: I've consistently made a case for Krstic as a "break-out" performer, and even went so far as to draft him in 2 of my 3 fantasy Basketball leagues. Given the dearth of true Centers in the league today, Nenad didn't disappoint.
Shooting 54+% from the floor (4 and change better than he did over the regular season) and dropping an average of 16+ per playoff game (up from 13+), Krstic's contributions were pivotal to the team sliding past Indiana.

No other Net really can be considered a "sneaky" grab. Carter has been lights-out each post-C' game, and last night's 22 points was his lowest point total of the playoffs. Even so, 5 Assists, a block, a steal, and 11 of 12 from the charity stripe off-set his "humble" point production.

Heat Step-up Performer:
PF Udonis Haslem: Due to Shaq'-Daddy's foot stomping, team emperor Pat Riley brought in O'Neal's longtime chum, Antoine Walker. Walker, though, accustomed to being a 1st or at worst 2nd scoring option, struggled to embrace his role on Miami and has largely been a bad fit. Subsequently, the team has missed the gritty, all-out style of do-everything Forward Udonis Haslem. Dude's notched 2 Double-Doubles in his last 3 games, and last night's critical 11/10/4 performance really demonstrates just how effective he can be against a team that lacks a like counterpart as defending Haslem really isn't Krstic's game.
Look for the Heat Forward to have continued success against New Jersey.

Again, much like the Nets, the Heat players are either performing at a high level ala' Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, or they are nothing more than spare post-season parts such as Gary Payton and 'Twan Walker. Walker will drain a few treys' and grab a handful of Rebounds, but his value over the course of the 2nd season will likely be minimized by Haslem and James Posey.

Mavericks V. Spurs:
Another series tied-up at 1 apiece! Dallas's bread and butter is PF Dirk Nowitzki, but Jerry Stackhouse gives the team a solid spot-up shooter and the Mavs' bench affords them with admirable depth.
The Spurs, though, trot-out Hall of Famer to be Tim Duncan, slash n' gash SG Manu Ginobli, and Basketball's answer to the Swiss Army Knife; PG Tony Parker. But, aside from a ridiculous 22 point, 10 dime' Game 2 against Sacramento, a contest that saw the 2 teams combine for a whopping 247 points, Parker's primary contributions over the 2nd season have been points. Likewise, Ginobli, whose regular season must be looked upon as an injury-marred disappointment, has also been a post-season zero.

Mavericks' Step-up Performer:
SF Josh Howard: This one's a no-brainer. While Howard's 59 regular season games were the fewest of his 3 year career, and the injuries that had him benched both stymied his play (when he was able to take the court) and frustrated his owners, the athletic Maverick seems to be 100%, at long last. A trio of consecutive, solid performances (including the game in which the Mavs closed-out the Grizz') attest to Howard's fantasy value. Tuesday's 27/9/2 1 steal and 1 block game indicate that Howard is poised to assume #2 scoring duties and that much more is yet to come!

Spurs' Step-up Performer:
SG Manu Ginobli: It's too obvious a choice, but Ginobli's regular season struggles cast doubt upon his ability to be a difference-making playoff performer. Manu had 2 excellent and 1 solid game against the Kings, but he has yet to find his groove against the Mavericks. Should he continue to flounder, it could well cost San Antonio the entire 2nd series.

Clippers V. Suns:
The hands-down most exciting contest of the entire '05-'06 post-season to date, if the Suns can't get their run n' gun game going... Tuesday night's horror-show of a performance will be repeated 3 more times and the Suns will again be cleaning out their lockers prematurely. Clip' PF Elton Brand is a beast, and as Laker Fs Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown so easily demonstrated, big men can impose their physical will upon the slight Suns with impunity. The primary reason Phoenix got past the Lakers is because Brown and Odom lack Brand and Clipper Center Chris Kaman's ball skills. Brand's "baby-hook" and short Jumper are money, and both players can clean the glass like Windex. In fact, L.A out-Rebounded the Suns 56 to 26 last night; no team can endure that kind of pressure.

Suns' Step-up Performer:
The Suns are like a moving target... and as Peter Falk once said in the classic film "The In-Laws," "...and a moving target is hard to hit."
The Lakers lacked the athleticism to maintain the frantic pace Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, Shawn Marion, and Boris Diaw set. The Clippers, however, have no dearth of players capable of running with Phoenix; Center Chris Kaman, PF Elton Brand, PGs Sam Cassell and Shaun Livingston, and SG Corey Maggette are all able to cut to the lane, dish the ball to the outside shooter, and run, run, run. Further, the distinct size advantage L.A has over the Suns, coupled with the Clippers deep bench, will quite arguably make this series the toughest of the entire post-season for Nash and friends.

PG Leandro Barbosa: Barbosa has really begun to emerge as a playah' during this post-season, and his ability to weave to and through the lane is uncanny. Darting and slashing, the 3rd year Guard possesses incredible quickness. After scoring just 30 total points through games 4 of the Laker series, Barbosa blew-UP for 59 over the final 3. Against the Clippers, Leandro is showing greater faith in his 3-point shot and coach Mike D'Antoni seems to prefer his energy as opposed to that of the emotional Bell.

*** PF Tim Thomas is a close 2nd in this category, for the Suns won't get past Los Angeles unless he's able to continue sinking clutch 3's and coming down with big 'boards!

Clippers' Step-up Performer:
If Tim Thomas is the Suns' unsung hero then Center Chris Kaman fills that role for L.A. If he got a haircut, Kaman would really resemble the faithful yet terrifying "Yooouuu Rang?" butler named "Lurch" from "The Adams Family." Kaman isn't the swiftest Center in the league nor is he the most nimble, but he's a true 7-footer and he's just... consistently consistent.

PG Shaun Livingston: Although Kaman needs to work in tandem with Brand and out-muscle their smaller adversaries while forcing the Suns to slow down their uptempo style, Livingtson, a player who I stated in a previous article would be a 2nd season break-out candidate, has a slightly lower profile but is no less crucial to the Clippers' success.
Long, lean, and awfully athletic, Livvy's court vision is unreal. Able to toss a no-look pass through the legs of an unwary defender, Livingston is also a solid defender and can dash to the hoop in an eye-blink.
Enjoy his "coming-out party," because next season aging veteran Sam Cassell will most likely be relegated to mere memory. Expect the 21 year old Livingston to grasp Los Angeles' reins.

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