Helping Hand (Part II)
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
April 6 -- Well, moments ago, the Gators jumped chomped the Bruins not unlike the unlucky couple lost at sea in Open Water.
What a letdown.
Once again, the tournament kept the beat rocking from round to round. Unfortunately, the Final Four packed the punch of Mike Tyson ... now. Two boring blowouts in the national semis followed by an absolute annihilation in the championship game.
I haven't seen boring postseason action like that since the NFL playoffs put me to sleep week after lethargic week. The only thing close to a classic from the 2006 NFL playoffs was the Steelers-Colts game, but that tilt was memorable only because the Colts choked just a little more than Jerome Bettis.
Anyway, I spotted a few interesting prospects in the Final Four -- as well as the tournament -- and I'll be seeing some of that talent firsthand later this week when I head to Portsmouth, Va. to cover the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament for NBA TV. In case you're just joining us in the basketball world, the PIT is where invited seniors show NBA types what they can do in the 50x94.
Kindly indulge the following observations from the Final Four before we help you win a Fantasy O'Brien:
If Jaokim Noah doesn't come out this year, in a draft where he would be a top-five lock and contender for No. 1 overall, he may be passing up his chance to be the No. 1 overall pick. If he returns to Gainesville for his junior year (not a bad gig, by the way), there's little chance he would be the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 because Greg Oden, who would be eligible for the NBA draft after playing his freshman season for Ohio State, is widely regarded as the best prospect since LeBron James.
Noah recently said the NBA is "boring."
Joakim, boring is watching you dunk over and over again against the worst full court press in basketball history. Freaks, at what point does UCLA coach Ben Howland say 'Wow, that's like seven dunks in a row off of our makes, we need to fix this'? It reminded me of Mike Dunleavy Sr. forgetting he could call a new play in the Blazers' Game 7 collapse against the Lakers.
The Tar Heels parlayed their 2005 National Championship (and gobs of talent) into four of the first 14 picks in the 2005 draft, and all four have shown signs as rookies that they will be legitimate pros for years to come. I doubt that Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford will reenact the Tar Heels mass exodus to the pros, but if they do, they, too will litter the lottery.
Is it just me, or does Horford strike you as the next Horace Grant, Udonis Haslem, or Tyrone Hill? The son of former NBA player, Tito, has the body (6-9, 245) and rebounding mentality like those double-double dudes, but he may be a better shot-blocker. Horford rejected 1.7 shots per game in his first two years at Florida.
With all those steals against clueless UCLA in the title game, you had to be thinking what I was thinking during the game: Fantasy Gold, baby!
Brewer will be a steal machine from day one in the pros, just like recent draftees Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, and Tony Allen. Plus, he's got a feathery touch from the perimeter and the mid-range game that drives the groupies loopy.
If I had to rank Florida's Big Three (apologies to Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey) in terms of future fantasy greatness, I would start with Noah, because his basketball IQ, size, and quickness will make him a D-freak among D-freaks. Brewer would be second because he could -- I stress, could --develop into an All-Star. At 6-8, with mega handle, range on the J, and the ability to blanket, Brewer is a can't-miss NBA player. Finally, it would be Horford, who will forge a workman-like career that will keep him on the fringe of fantasy relevance.
Like last week, I am here to help prep you for next week's fantasy championship game. But I'm going to change up the format a little bit. (There's no way I don't have ADD.) Instead of breaking it down by difference makers and difference breakers, we're going to split hairs with the fringees who could make or break your title hopes.
Where is Edward Scissorhands--I mean, Bruce Bowen--to help with all this hair splitting?
Fringee No. 9 - Joel Przybilla, Trail Blazers (4 gms): The fantasy world has been waiting impatiently on Przybilla, who is finally healthy enough to finish this contract season with a flourish. Over the past two weeks, he's been good for 9 boards, three blocks, and 50 percent from the floor. Prizz is a perfect fit on a team loaded with scorers, but in need of blocks. As he showed in that recent 9-block game, he can win that category all by himself in the right week. I'm only a little concerned about Theo Ratliff's return on Wednesday, as Prizz has proven that he can contribute in boards and blocks even if his minutes are in the 20s.
Fringee No. 8 - Josh Childress, Hawks (4 gms): Don't fear the fro, freaks. Feel the fro. And feel the 57th ranked 8-cat player over the past two weeks. If you need a glue guy who will pitch in here and chime in there, Childress may be your guy. Over the past month he has a five-cat line of 12-5-2-1-1 with 55/80 in the percentages. He's like a poor man's Andre Iguodala, but even poor men can get the job done with four games. Josh missed a game early in the week due to an ankle injury, but he returned on Wednesday with a five-cat line of 10-8-0-2-1 against my Wolves.
Fringee No. 7 - Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Warriors (4 gms): Dunleavy is helping in six categories these days, as he's averaging roughly 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, 1.5 threes, and 46/81 from the field and stripe over the past month. By now, it's abundantly obvious that Dunleavy is a totally different player with Baron Davis on the sideline, and it doesn't look like BD will be seen on the NBA hardwood till next season. So no worries there. If you can afford to add a squeaky clean player who's light in the D, Dunleavy will help you in a four-game week.
Fringee No. 6 - Andres Nocioni, Bulls (4 gms): Luol Deng and Chris Duhon are also on the radar as Week 24 fringees, but I want to focus on the Argentinean Animal. After a post-All-Star hangover that lasted for weeks, Noce finally snapped out of it, and his confidence is back in full force. His scoring and rebounding averages of 17 and 8 over the past month attest to that. He isn't banging threes like he did before the break, but he hovers around one three and one steal per game, and his percentages are a solid 48 and 78 from the field and line, respectively, over the past month. Noce is one of the more competitive players in the league, so you know his A-game will arrive on time for all these regular-season playoff games.
Fringee No. 5 - Chris Wilcox, SuperSonics (4 gms): It's been a nice run for Nick Collison as the Sonics' power forward of the future. Um, things have changed a bit, and the team is going in a different direction...with Wilcox, who they liken to Amare Stoudemire. (What a tragedy about the surgery on Amare's OTHER knee. The Suns have to be kidding me.) Over the past couple weeks, Wilcox has been good for basically 16 & 9 with 56/81 on the percentages, ranking 73rd in 8-cat leagues. You might have seen his 26-24 versus the Rockets on Tuesday. As expected, he's real light in the little guy cats, but it's shocking and appalling how infrequently he blocks shots. I'm talking two in the last month. Not per game...total.
Fringee No. 4 - Andre Iguodala, 76ers (4 gms): If you're in a roto-league, quite obviously, Iguodala is not fringee. He's been in your lineup all season. But if you're in a head-to-head, start-six-player league, Iguodala has not been a slam-dunk start this season. Trust me, I own The Other AI and it used to seem like whenever I started him with high hopes, he would give me 9-4-3 with one steal. Sadly, those days have returned, as Iggy Hop averaged a five-cat line of 5-4-2-0-1 in the first two games of this week. Freaks, he came into the week off a near triple-double, and he was the 28th-ranked 8-cat player over the previous two weeks. All of that said, Andre can't smell like Secaucus, NJ on a rainy night for the rest of the season, so bet on the come and start him with four games in Week 24.
Fringee No. 3 - Vladimir Radmanovic, Clippers (4 gms): There's a lot to like about Vlad Rad in Week 24. You have the Clippers' push for the playoffs. You have Vladdy's push for a new contract this summer, which should result in a sweepstakes-sized reward from the Clipps. You have the fact that Vlad Rad's place in the rotation is safe and sound. And you have the fact that he was the 49th ranked 8-cat player over the past two weeks on the strength of a five-cat line of 11-6-2-0.5-1.6 with nearly two threes per game and 94-percent marksmanship from the stripe.
Fringee No. 2 - Hedo Turkoglu, Magic (4 gms): Hedo's wildly erratic stat lines will drive a man to drink, but if you hang in there and let the law of averages take over, you'll be happy with the end result. He's kinda like Jason Terry that way. Over the past two weeks, Hedo has ranked 41st in 8-cat leagues thanks to a three-cat line of 17-4-3, roughly two threes per game, and 55/84 from the field and line, respectively.
Fringee No. 1 - Jamal Crawford, Knicks (4 gms): After all the senseless trading to get Jalen Rose and Steve Francis, the guard minutes are back where they belonged in the first place. It seems like three days ago Isiah Thomas was comparing Jamal Crawford to the likes of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe, and then he spends the 05-06 season on the bench? Jamal was done so wrong by the Knicks, it's almost laughable. But here we are, in the home stretch, and who are we talking about? We're talking about the nasty baller from Seattle who crushes threes and steals. Over the past four games, including his 37 against the Cavs on Wednesday, Crawford is averaging 23 points, 2.5 steals, and 1.5 threes. It doesn't look like Stephon Marbury or Quentin Richardson are going to play another game, so it's free and clear for Crawford.
NBA TV fantasy expert Rick Kamla's Living the Fantasy column appears weekly on NBA.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org