Commentary

Plenty to learn from Week 1

Updated: November 4, 2008, 9:00 PM ET
By Eric Karabell | ESPN.com

You can learn quite a bit in a week's worth of games. Dwight Howard still can't hit free throws, coach Don Nelson still can't trust his bench, and I still can't believe I picked Kirk Hinrich over Derrick Rose in one league. Ridiculous.

I always preach patience with star players who are off to slow starts because, let's face it, you need a bit more than two or three games to call it a decent sample size. You need a month. If Pau Gasol is still being outscored by Daniel Gibson in December, then you worry about Gasol. These players generally come around -- most of them, anyway -- and if someone offers you one of the players he took in the first five rounds for 50 cents on the dollar, you should always be interested. Well, unless it's Greg Oden. I wouldn't be interested in him for preseason market value; then again, I wasn't a month ago, either.

Greg Oden
AP Photo/Kevork DjansezianGreg Oden is hurt again, which might be an ongoing theme.
If you own Tyrus Thomas, maybe you already punted the enticing young player, based on him shooting 2-for-22 combined in Games 2 and 3. You know what? He won't shoot 9 percent from the field all season. But he might keep blocking two shots per game. You don't sell players like this, you buy them. Keep Thomas around. Keep Ricky Davis and Mike Dunleavy around. Keep Oden … nah, don't bother. Look, I don't think the guy can stay healthy. When he returns after Thanksgiving, it's just a matter of time until something else happens. Give me Gasol instead. Marc Gasol, that is.

OK, so we've learned some stuff after a week, but plenty will change. What, you ask? Well, here are five players off to terrific yet unsustainable starts. That doesn't mean all of them are sell-high options, but be careful.

Tony Parker, PG, Spurs: Interesting thing about the Spurs, who built their championships on defense and balanced scoring -- the balance looks gone. Entering Monday, Tim Duncan and Eva's hubby were ranked second and fourth, respectively, in the NBA in scoring. Neither will be scoring 28 points per game for long -- or even more than 22, probably -- but I think Duncan has the better shot to keep up his scoring, being an inside player. Parker has the ball in his hands more now that there's no Manu Ginobili to cut into his touches, but for him to keep putting the ball up an Allen Iverson-like 21.5 times per game is asking a lot. Parker is a driver, and off to a much better start from the line than his career norms, so when he has tough shooting nights that fancy 28 points per game will be more like 14. His assists will also go down because he doesn't have many great shooters to pass to. Be wary of trading for what you think is Chris Paul. Even though the team's third-leading scorer is Roger Mason -- with this crew, that's not a fluke, though he can't continue to shoot 71.4 percent from the field much longer -- Parker's ceiling seems more like 20 and 7.

Stephen Jackson, SF, Warriors: First of all, nobody can maintain a 44.7-minutes-per-game pace, but the nearly four 3-pointers per game are just as crazy. Neither number can be sustained. A season ago, the league leader in minutes per game was Iverson at 41.8. For draining 3s, the leaders were Peja Stojakovic and Jason Richardson at around 3.0 per game. Jackson is going to play, and maybe Don Nelson will burn him out by Christmas and even let him act as the point guard, but all these minutes and hoisted rainbows aren't good for his field goal percentage, or his health. Look for Nellie to realize this, take his foot off the accelerator and be forced to use his bench. Now, Andris Biedrins looking like the newest version of Chris Bosh, that might continue. When I see inside players appear to take that next step early in a season, I'm far more likely to believe what I'm seeing is legit. As for other Warriors, it didn't take me long to give up on Marcus Williams, but it's because he had a horrible preseason, and even when Nellie does go to his bench, I don't think he'll look at Williams.

Spencer Hawes, C, Kings: When he posted 12 points, 14 rebounds and 6 blocks in the opener, it was quite the eye-opener, but Hawes is running out of time to make more impressions like this. Brad Miller is serving a suspension, and Monday's game in Philadelphia was the fourth of five he will miss. Hawes is a legit 7-footer who can get in the way of shots and grab rebounds, but he's not a superstar center. Miller is hardly Mr. Durable, and Hawes did manage to average 12.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in his eight starts as a rookie, but don't expect him to average more than that if the playing time continues. Frankly, I've watched the pride of Rider University, Jason Thompson, develop quickly, and I think he'll soon be a better player than both Miller and Hawes in the middle, for those in keeper formats. Sticking with the Kings, when Francisco Garcia returns from his right calf strain, I expect point guard Beno Udrih to feel the crunch. Udrih is not off to a very good start, with as many turnovers as assists, and the offense runs through John Salmons anyway.

Udonis Haslem, PF, Heat: Here's a 12 and 8 guy, someone you can depend on for reserve forward numbers in fantasy, and after a week he's shooting 70 percent from the field and averaging 17.7 points. Haslem really isn't a center since he's 6-foot-8. He won't continue to make shots at this high percentage, although you can expect him to make around half his shots. The problem with buying in on Haslem's sweet start is he does not block shots. He has 126 blocks in five seasons, and nary a one this season. He doesn't collect assists, and I expect Dwyane Wade, Michael Beasley and Shawn Marion to up their scoring output. I also took a shot late in my 30-team draft on point guard Mario Chalmers, and let's just say I'm pleased so far, although I did not have him active in Week 1. Haslem likely will end up fourth on the Heat in scoring, so don't assume he's suddenly emerging.

Quentin Richardson
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesQuentin Richardson has been hot, but don't look for it to continue.
Quentin Richardson, SF, Knicks: I expect he'll be a popular pickup this week, and let's face it, there is an opportunity for him to score a bushel of points for this newfangled running team … but he's still Quentin Richardson. Have we not learned anything over the years? I'm all for coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style, but this is a guy with a career field goal percentage on the wrong side of 40 percent, and he's not very good at the line, either. When I saw Q drop 28 points on some poor team over the weekend, without knowing the opponent, I figured it wasn't Detroit or the Spurs. No, it was Milwaukee. I'm surprised noted sharpshooter Chris Duhon didn't score 20. I don't think Richardson is even one of the top three Knicks for fantasy, to be honest. Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford are better, and David Lee just has to carve out some space where Randolph isn't if he wants to be effective. At 17.3 points, 3 3-pointers per game and a .543 field goal percentage, I would move Richardson before the inevitable occurs.

Mailbag

Francis (Boston): "Hi Eric, I'm in a head-to-head league, and I selected Mo Williams as my No. 2 point guard. Now, I agree with you that I think his scoring average will suffer as a result of playing with LeBron James, but after witnessing the season opener against the Celtics in person, I'm starting to wonder whether or not his assist numbers will suffer as well. The Cavs offense just doesn't look like it generates assists for anybody other than LeBron. Do you think this game was an aberration, due to the Celts' suffocating defense, or will I see Mo getting 6-plus dimes a game as the year goes on? Also, even though he might score less, I think we may see Mo hitting more 3s than expected due to the LBJ drive and dishes."

Karabell: Finally! Someone sees my point! Look, I don't discuss players' values for my own benefit. I have nothing against the Cavs or Mo or anything, but this seems obvious to me, and a lot of people who are Cavs fans or Mo Williams owners disagreed with my assessment last week that, statistically, Williams would get worse than his Milwaukee numbers. He could, however, help LeBron. Different argument. It's only a few games, but I've seen Williams play twice, and I don't see how he can average more than 15 points or as many as five assists over the long haul. I don't think any Cavalier will join LBJ and score more than 15 points per game consistently. Williams is a 2-guard who can pass, and he'll get more open shots now. So is Daniel Gibson, really. The Cavs can't afford an Eric Snow type if Ben Wallace is also starting, but the Cavs needed a true point guard, and they still do. Fantasy owners who took Williams early will get something, but not what was advertised.

Adam (Wellesley, Mass.): "Congratulations on your Phillies winning the World Series. I have a trade question for you. I give away Josh Smith and I receive Kevin Durant and Ben Gordon. The league's categories are the ESPN's standard ones, but subtracting rebounds and adding field goals made, free throws made, turnovers, offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds."

Karabell: Wow, I like it! I enjoy leagues that try different things, and this is certainly a different format. But pretty much no matter how one slices it, the best player in the trade is the Hawks' Smith, and that's whom I would want. I don't think Gordon is special at all, and while Durant is the top player for Oklahoma City, look at that mess. It's not pretty. Durant has no help, and that's why I don't think he's going to take big strides statistically. Can he score maybe 22 points per night? Sure he can, but where else will he gain? He's not a rebounder, doesn't have great range, and won't pass much or shoot well from the field. Give me Smith for the blocks and steals and boards and … you name it. And thanks on the Phillies. What a great ride a sports team can deliver to a city!

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.

Eric Karabell | email

ESPN.com Senior Writer