- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
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Everyone talks about offseason changes in fantasy basketball and how they will pertain to the people who moved elsewhere, such as Elton Brand, Baron Davis and Ron Artest. But all too often, the people who welcomed the new, stud player to the fold are overlooked. These players are forced to adjust, and not all of them do, at least not right away.
Each time I watch the 76ers play, it's pretty clear Andre Iguodala isn't sure what he's doing out there on the court. He doesn't look like the same player who was a fantasy stud in recent seasons. He's unsure of his shot and when to use it, and of where he's supposed to be. Simply put, he's kind of a mess, and this is a versatile swingman who welcomed a 20-and-10 post player. I thought he'd score less, but still improve.
Meanwhile, I heard the snickers when I kept drafting Chris Kaman. Sure, I was aware Marcus Camby filled out the "twin" in the new Los Angeles twin towers, and it had to affect Kaman some, but how much? Certainly not enough to let him slip outside the top 75. I wasn't all that concerned, and so far it seems I didn't need to be.
Anyway, I got to thinking about some of the players who were supposed to gain -- or slip -- statistically because someone new came into the fold. It's like last week, when Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups traded places. All of a sudden Denver's J.R. Smith would be a star and became the most added player ever, right? He got dropped in two of my ESPN leagues over the weekend, and nobody seems to be in a great hurry to pick him up.
Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, 76ers: The 76ers are off to a bad start, but we can't blame it all on Brand. Through six games Philly's leading scorer from the past two seasons was sitting at 11 points per game and shooting 37 percent from the field. The other numbers were fine, but top-30 players need to score more, unless they're Camby or Jason Kidd. It's not only Iggy; Andre Miller is getting fewer assists, and the only player exceeding expectations is second-year man Thaddeus Young, a future star. I think Iguodala will eventually get used to having Brand's significant post presence, but he's not a 3-point specialist, either. Iguodala should get more aggressive and get to the free-throw line more. Heck, Brand isn't doing what we all thought, either. Philly's schedule eases soon, and the stats should reflect it. Brand is going to get his 18 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks (let's not get too greedy), Miller should get a safe 13 points and 6 assists, and Iguodala should net 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. We'd gladly take that.
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers: There are only so many rebounds and blocks available, and asking for Kaman to duplicate his 2007-08 season was going to be tough in the first place. You might not be aware, but the guy with the crazy hair averaged 15.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks last season. Those are serious, serious numbers. Adding Camby to the fold made it very difficult to do that again, but it didn't mean Kaman was going to become Antonio McDyess, either. One reason I wasn't worried about Kaman was Camby isn't exactly the Cal Ripken Jr. of NBA players. (Side note: When I call people the A.C. Green of the league, it ends up spawning a different conversation). Camby is brittle. He missed the team's first three games because of a sprained ankle, and his minutes have been kept in check when he has played. The thing is, Kaman has done just fine with Camby next to him; Kaman had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks against the Mavericks, and 23, 11 and 2 against the Yao Ming-led Rockets. Against the Lakers' twin towers, Kaman fouled out but did grab 11 boards. The Clippers are an odd team. Camby doesn't demand shots, Ricky Davis can't make shots, and Baron Davis looks shot. But through it all, I think Kaman was a draft-day bargain who should get 13, 10 and 2 blocks relatively safely.
Andrew Bogut, C, Bucks: With this guy I have to ask, what did you expect? Richard Jefferson is averaging more than 18 points per game, and since Michael Redd and Ramon Sessions take the rest of the shots, it doesn't leave much for Bogut. I wrote the pro-Emeka Okafor One-on-One column -- also known as the anti-Bogut story -- in the preseason, and I took the unpopular side because I didn't believe Bogut's huge second half of scoring would continue, and he's not a defensive monster either. For all we know, maybe he's a second-half player. There's nothing wrong with his current 10.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, except you probably expected more and drafted him that way. The thing is, if it wasn't Jefferson, it would be someone else limiting Bogut's scoring output.
Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies: Not that I thought he would become Chris Paul or anything, but this underachiever is averaging 5.3 points, 4 assists and less than a steal per game, and he's managed to drain one 3-pointer. One. When O.J. Mayo ended up on this team, I figured that was a bad sign for Conley's future in Memphis, but who knew it would make him Eric Snow so quickly? This team has finishers, and Conley should at least be getting more assists. Then on Monday, Conley delivered an 0-for-6 shooting night. Conley is being outplayed by Kyle Lowry as well, just like last season. This would all be rather meaningless in fantasy, except Conley is owned in 5.9 percent of leagues, so someone must care, and he's starting and probably taking assists from Mayo. The Grizzlies have quite a few nice stories for fantasy hoops, with rookie Darrell Arthur playing well and Marc Gasol looking like a legit center. But Conley's run as starter could be ending soon.
Chris Bosh, PF/C, Raptors: More good news here. Jermaine O'Neal was acquired for T.J. Ford, but I doubt too many fantasy owners shied away from Bosh because of it. I mean, O'Neal can't stay healthy, right? On the Lakers, everyone with Pau Gasol is worried that another big fella will hurt him, and those fears appear warranted. In Toronto, however, Bosh has been unstoppable, and after watching a bit of the Raptors over the weekend, I think O'Neal has played a role. On Monday against the Celtics, these guys changed roles, but don't get used to it. O'Neal is not demanding shots, and he's doing the dirty work on defense. Fouls have certainly been an issue for O'Neal, and his stats are so pedestrian that if he wasn't blocking so many shots, he wouldn't be ownable. Bosh and Jose Calderon are taking more than a third of all the Raptors' shots. Actually, having Ford gone and supreme passer Calderon play 37 minutes is helping Bosh even more than O'Neal. Regardless, it's obvious that Bosh is not Pau Gasol.
Irfan (Oxford, Miss.): "Hi, Mr. Karabell. I have a very important question for you. I am worried that despite Derrick Rose's impressive numbers he will lose some valuable points per game when Larry Hughes comes back. Since Hughes has a big contract, I am afraid the coach will be pressured to give Hughes significant playing time when he is back to regular health. Also, Hughes is a decent ball-handler, so maybe Rose could lose some assists."
Karabell: I don't often praise rookies, and I realize it has been only a few weeks, but Rose is legit. There's not much to be afraid of here, except maybe a sub-.450 field goal percentage and a lack of 3-pointers. Kirk Hinrich wasn't hurting him at all, and neither will Hughes. Yes, Hughes will play, but the Bulls have officially become Rose's team. Separate to this argument, I think Ben Gordon heads back to his sixth man role when Hughes is back, but it will likely be short-lived; it's not like Hughes can stay healthy. Making fantasy decisions based on Hughes being healthy is never a good idea.
Eddy (Toronto): "Hi Eric, I have a couple of questions with respect to my head-to-head league. I have given up on points to concentrate on winning other categories. I am thinking of dropping Joakim Noah and his low minutes, and I could pick up Ben Wallace or Jason Thompson. I am looking for rebounds, blocks, field-goal percentage and steals. Who is the better pickup over the long haul? Also, I have an offer in which I give up LaMarcus Aldridge for Samuel Dalembert straight up. Overall, Aldridge is the better fantasy player, but he's not helping me in field-goal percentage and rebounds. What do you think?"
Karabell: I rarely agree with punting a category in any fantasy sport, but I'm far more likely to do this in a head-to-head league considering all that counts is the win. If you win a week 5-4, it's the same as winning it 9-0. Punting points isn't a big deal there, although I can't say I've ever seen anyone actually punt that category and do well. Anyway, the answer is Sacramento's Thompson. The rookie from Rider might not match Wallace in terms of rebounds, steals or blocks, but this guy is going to be a very good player. Just because you're punting points doesn't mean you shouldn't choose the option that scores the most. I just can't imagine owning Wallace.
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.
9mMichael C. Wright