Are You For Real?: Scola, Thomas and Williams

Trades and injuries drive the interest in the three players Mac and I look at today. With Yao Ming (stress fracture) done for the season, other frontline players on the Rockets are going to get more opportunities. We don't think Mt. Mutombo will be big factor in fantasy leagues, but Luis Scola might.

The shakeup in Chicago (dig the alliteration) has changed the prospects of players in the Bulls' frontcourt. We will look at the most talented player left among the Bulls' bigs (zing, I did it again) and determine if Tyrus Thomas (I just can't stop) can deliver the goods.

Marcus Williams was supposed to be the heir apparent Jason Kidd. Well, Kidd may no longer ply the boards in East Rutherford but Devin Harris soon will. Is Williams worth grabbing even if he shares time with Harris?

These questions and others will be answered in this week's Are You For Real?

OK, actually only the above will be answered. For tax information, marriage advice or anything to do with real life and real people, we are not your guys. But for fantasy we are in deep. In fact, Brian managed to catch the flu that has been going around the league despite interacting with NBA players solely through the internet, spreadsheets and many hours of television viewing. That, my friends, is dedication. I had no idea you could catch a real virus from a fake game.

Luis Scola, SF/PF, Rockets

Guy: For Real. I thought Scola was a breakout candidate to start the season, but that prediction was clearly incorrect. He has shown flashes, especially when Tracy McGrady or Yao has been out, but he has not been consistent enough for most owners in mid-sized leagues. When we covered Scola back on Nov. 7, I mentioned that Chuck Hayes was leeching minutes from Scola and this made Scola unreal. Yao's injury changes everything. In Scola's one start at center this season, he put up 18 points, six rebounds, three dimes and a block. He did, however, shoot just 6-of-12 from the line in his start. Don't let the European lineage fool you; this guy is not good from the line, shooting a ghastly 61.4 percent for the season. But for a waiver add, Scola is worthy. He will be the third option on offense, with McGrady being the first and second options. Looking at his per 30 and per 35 minute numbers I think there is a lot to like here:

Per 30 minutes: 12.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals
Per 35 minutes: 14.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steals

I think these projections are a tad low because the per minute numbers were generated with both T-Mac and Yao playing alongside him. Scola will have a bigger role the rest of the season and I think he is assured of 30-plus minutes. Don't sweat last night's 23 minutes. The Rockets buried the Wizards early and could afford to sit Scola. There is a good chance that the Rockets will sign a free agent big man like P.J. Brown. This doesn't worry me. Brown will need to clear it with the league to see if he can post-up using his walker. I hear David Stern is a stickler on this subject, so I wouldn't count on it. One last argument for Scola: position eligibility. In some formats he is center-eligible already. If he is in your league, scoop him up. You won't do much better this late in the season.

Mac: Not Real. So Yao Ming is out for the year, huh? What else is new? I feel for his owners, I really do, but it's not like you weren't properly warned before the season. As Guy mentioned above, we actually tackled this same topic all the way back in November, and I remember giving Scola a "for real" based on this particular scenario. My exact words were as follows: "Scola's averages of 5.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.7 steals are quite good for a guy who is seeing just 19.0 minutes per game. Once those minutes creep up (and they will, given the injury history in Houston) he'll be exactly who we thought he was." Unfortunately, Scola's minutes have crept up a bit, but his production hasn't really followed suit. Most disappointing has been his relative lack of rebounds and steals, two categories I thought he would excel in this season. In 13 games as a starter, Scola has averaged a very pedestrian 11.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.5 steals in 26.2 minutes per game. Granted, Guy makes a good point that his per minute averages should increase, but I'm looking for more that just points and field goal percentage out of a power forward who doesn't hit his free throws or block shots very well. Don't get me wrong, Scola is a fine add in deeper fantasy formats, but other than his ability to put the ball in the basket, he seems to be a much better player in real life than he is in the fantasy game. There's one other factor for Scola that many may not be thinking about, and that is the emergence of Carl Landry. Landry may not be able to create his own shot in the post, but he's a fantastic finisher around the rim, and he's the type of high energy guy who could excel with increased minutes. Don't be surprised if Landry pulls some production away from Scola down the stretch here.

Tyrus Thomas, SF/PF, Bulls

Mac: For Real. I have always followed the "minutes equals production" mantra in fantasy hoops, especially for a young high-flyer like Thomas. Granted, the kid still has a long way to go in terms of refining his raw skills, but his athleticism is so superior to his competition that he'll be able to get by for now. The big question here is: Are you willing to tolerate the inevitable bouts of inconsistency for lines like this: 18 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and three blocks? I sure am, especially considering that he is likely to become a consistent performer in both steals and blocks. With his long arms and leaping ability, it's almost impossible for this guy not to provide steals and blocks as long as he's getting 25-plus minutes per game. And I don't think 25 minutes per night will be a problem now that both Joe Smith and Ben Wallace are gone. Sure, he'll have to compete with both Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah, but there's definitely 25-30 minutes available for T2 if he can stay out of foul trouble on most nights. That might be a minor problem because Thomas has been a foul machine early in his career, but as I said, his owners are going to have to take the good with the bad. And I promise, during the good times, you'll be glad you took the risk. Consider this, Thomas has played 25-plus minutes in 11 games this season, during those contests, he's averaged a very for real 13.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.1 blocks.

Guy: For Real. Mac nailed it. Thomas is going to be inconsistent. But you cannot let the odd bad game throw you off the scent of what he can deliver to your fantasy squad over the long haul. As with Scola, the minutes are going to be there for Thomas. No longer is he laboring under the long shadow of Scott Skiles, who could not stand Thomas' blown assignments and Mr. Magoo-like perceptiveness on offense. The kid is not likely to evolve into a master of the half-court set play, but let him go in transition or do his work as a help defender and look out. He is an astounding player in these scenarios and deserves the minutes. The stats support this.

Per 30 minutes: 11.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals

The defensive numbers are excellent and any fantasy team could use them. These 30-minute projections are close to what we can expect from Thomas going forward. I don't see him getting much more than 30 minutes most nights. Not with Gooden getting minutes at power forward, as well. If you have a need for the defensive categories and grabbed Thomas last week, good move! That's what I did, and although I expect the occasional stinker, like Monday night (nine points, five rebounds, one steal), I also look forward to many multiblock, multisteal games.

Marcus Williams, PG, Nets

Mac: For Real. There is no doubt that Williams is a tremendous short-term addition for anyone in need of prototypical point guard stats. With averages of 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.8 3-pointers and a steal in four starts, his current value is not debatable. My question? How will Williams fit in once Harris finally suits up for the Nets? It's hard to say for sure, but one thing I'm positive about is that both players are clearly in the Nets' future plans. I might be on my own here, but I have a feeling that Lawrence Frank is going to give Williams plenty of minutes alongside Harris in the backcourt. Granted, Williams is hardly a sure bet for long-term value, but given the way he's producing now, it might not be a bad idea to take a gamble and see how this thing plays out once Harris returns. Williams will undoubtedly see a drop in assists with Harris around, but if Frank gives him the minutes I expect him to, the rest of his stats should stay constant. I'm projecting somewhere around 12-13 points, four rebounds, 4-5 assists, 1.5 3-pointers and a steal per game, which would make him a very solid guard to have hanging around at the end of your bench.

Guy: Not Real. Here's where I run into the whole contradiction thing. Mac will tell you that since last season I have touted Williams as a deep sleeper and someone to watch should Kidd be traded or injured. Well, the former happened, and here I am calling him unreal. What gives? Three things at least. First, as Mac pointed out, Harris is coming back, and Harris will get significant run when he returns. The Kidd trade brought the Nets a number of expiring contracts and Harris, who was the key to the deal. The Nets wouldn't have targeted him if they didn't plan on giving him big minutes. Second, Williams can't shoot a lick. Really. This season his field goal percentage stands at 36.2 percent. That makes Rafer Alston look like Annie Oakley. Last season he shot 39.5 percent, so this isn't an anomaly. Unlike Harris, Williams has an unfortunate affection for the 3-pointer (2-for-7 Tuesday night). As long as he lives behind the arc, his field goal percentage will continue to drag. Third, Vince Carter is running the offense now in Jersey. Over his past five games (all without Jason Kidd), Carter has averaged 6.4 assists. Great news for VC owners, not so much for Williams' owners. And, Mac, I think you are alone. Although Carter is more than capable of playing small forward, I don't see Richard Jefferson sliding to power forward to accommodate a Harris/Williams backcourt. There will be short stretches when it happens. Still, in the end, I think we will be looking at 20-to-25 minutes per game for Williams and that won't be enough to make him for real.

Guy Lake and Brian McKitish are fantasy analysts for ESPN.com. Both were finalists for the FSWA 2007 Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year. Guy can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com while Mac can be found at Littlemac@TalentedMrRoto.com.