A pair of fantasy junkies talk hoops
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Oct. 21 -- Chris says: Hey, Andy. Let's talk undrafted rookies. Like Judith Miller emerging from her prison cell directly into martyrdom, we're sure to see a few guys who slipped down the draft board back in June take flight during the 2005-06 season. Most leagues saw guys like Ben Gordon, Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor get drafted, but lots of rookies were available on last yearís waiver wires.
Chris Duhon played the point a ton in Chicago, and wound up at over five assists per game. Jameer Nelson was a fantasy help in Orlando, Josh Smith blocked 144 shots in Atlanta and Andres Nocioni (who wasnít even drafted in the real NBA Draft) logged 23 minutes a game and scored over eight per contest for the Bulls.
Clearly, there's fantasy help to be had among the so-called "fringe rookies." Which guys, who were drafted outside, say, the top ten of the 2005 NBA Draft, do you think would make the most valuable fantasy pickups right now, before the season begins?
Andy Says: Wait, who's Judith Miller? Is that Brad Miller's mom? And she's in prison? That stinks. I just spent a fifth-round pick on Brad. There's no way he can repeat last season's 9.3 rebounds per game and .524 field goal percentage if his mom is in the pokey. No way. Guess this means I'll have to add Brian Skinner. Ugh.
So, um...what was your question? Rookies? Oh, excellent topic. Normally we'll be talking about desperation rent-a-players here, but there are always a few first-year guys who go undrafted in fantasy leagues, yet emerge as significant contributors for the long haul. If you plucked Kirk Hinrich or Dwyane Wade off the waiver heap in November of 2003, this isn't something you need to be told.
I think you'll find that Andrew Bogut, Deron Williams and Chris Paul will be universally drafted this season. That gaggle of rookie Tar Heels won't sneak up on anyone, either. But I've got two names who just might....
LUTHER HEAD, G, HOU: Despite being a bit undersized at 6-3 and 185 pounds, this guy is a terrific on-the-ball defender. That should earn him minutes from Jeff Van Gundy. Head's preseason stat-lines have been plenty impressive, highlighted by Monday night's 13 point and five-assist outing against Seattle. He can shoot a little, too. He's hit 8-of-16 three-point attempts during the preseason. And, when he isn't telegraphing passes to Raymond Felton in the final minute of NCAA title games, Luther is a pretty fair distributor.
Okay, so the Mountain West isn't exactly the Central Division. But still, that's pretty good. Granger is a double-double threat every time he takes the floor and, with that freakish seven-foot wingspan, he'll collect a few steals and blocks.
Not bad, Andy. I especially like the Granger pick. Heís not going to score like he did in college, but I like picking up those fringe rebounders and blockers for peanuts. And itís hard to debate Head too much, because the guy is a proven winner. Except in Houston, Iím worried about playing time, since theyíve got Bob Sura, David Wesley, Rafer Alston and Dion Glover in front of him, not to mention Jon Barry, Derek Anderson and Moochie Norris. Itís crowded back there. Anyway, how do you like these guys:
JASON MAXIELL, F, DET: The bad thing about Maxiell, the Pistonsí first-rounder at 26th overall, is that he never even had much of an offensive game, even at the University of Cincinnati. The good thing about Maxiell is that the Pistons knew that when they took him. Maxiell has a snarl to his game and can defend like the dickens, and with Detroit potentially quite thin when it comes to big men off the bench (unless youíre still waiting for the Darko Milicic Era), Maxiell can play right away. Antonio McDyess is the only viable player ahead of him, so Jason will be the fifth big man in Detroitís rotation. He can block shots, and will even rebound pretty well, despite being "only" 6-7. Heís a hard worker and, if Bob Huggins didnít put the Taint of Van Exel on him, should become a Flip Saunders favorite early.
CHARLIE VILLANUEVA, F, TOR: He went seventh in the draft, so he shouldnít be eligible for this list, but he was such a controversial pick (most experts had him going in the second half of the first round), that Iíll bet many leagues have shied away from him. He was something of a head case at UConn, and probably wouldíve been better served waiting out his junior year. Plus he strained his groin and missed the summer league. And yet so far in the preseason, heís looked amazing. No, heís not going to start for Toronto, and you canít expect him to put up 24.0 point or 7.0 rebounds nightly, as he did on Wednesday. But having caught a lot of that game against the Nets, I have to say, itís hard to make the argument he wasnít one of the five best players on that court.
I say heís worth a waiver claim, if only because heís got way more upside than Iíd ever have thought. Donít expect much right away, but by the second half of the year, if heís starting, heíll put up stats that Martell Webster and Channing Frye dream of.
Andy Says: Fool! The age of Darko is upon us! Prepare to repent!
Or something like that.
I actually am still waiting for the Darko Milicic Era. I've got a little shrine and everything, with votive candles, a bobblehead and a game-worn sock from the Serbian national team. Anyway, I'm thinking the dawn of the Darko Era will almost certainly interfere with the emergence of Maxiell as a useful fantasy add. Milicic is actually younger, bigger, and possessing significantly more offensive wherewithal than Maxiell.
But Milicic is really a subject for a later column. And, just to be clear, in that later column I'm not going to advocate drafting Darko, but rather watching his minutes and keeping him on your short-list of potential waiver grabs. If and when the utterly foreseeable injury to McDyess occurs, Darko could find himself playing 20 minutes a night in a Flip Saunders-devised offense that better suits his skills. But again, that's a topic for another day.
I'm completely with you on Villanueva. Too often, when a player is selected earlier than the draft experts project him to go, there's a collective assumption that he's going to flop. But whether or not a player is a good value pick in the draft (does Mel Kiper have a trademark on that phrase?) is an entirely separate issue from whether or not the dude is going to be a good NBA player. And I have no doubt that the 6-11 Villanueva is going to be a good NBA player. He's a talented scorer who, if he takes defending seriously, could get serious minutes, and soon.
Until next week, Chris, keep a good thought for the White Sox. I've gotta go hit the mall. This new Talented Mr. Roto dress code has me flummoxed. I really need a wardrobe stipend....
Andy Behrens and Christoper Harris are fantasy experts for NBA.com. Their column Last Call runs every Friday as part of the NBA.com Premium Scouting Report. Sign up now and get in depth analysis, scouting, stats, advice and rankings straight from the experts closest to the game! You can contact them at Andy@talentedmrroto.com and Harris@talentedmrroto.com.
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