Love/Hate for 2008-09
No, the face of ESPN fantasy is not bringing you this version of his patented (and trademarked) Love/Hate column for the 2008-09 fantasy basketball season. If you read his Draft Day Manifesto, you saw that Matthew Berry didn't think you needed to read this column anyhow. Didn't need it, he said. The concentrated brilliance of his manifesto was enough to win you your league as if you were the only person who might put the point guard/power forward strategy (or is it power forward/point guard?) to use in your league after reading it.
Indeed, why should we need any fantasy columns at all when one Celtics-hating, Lakers-fawning manifesto has all the answers? I will tell you: Because the hardworking people of this great land need something to read during their 9-to-5s. No 8-10 hour stretch in cube land is tolerable without the escape provided by fantasy news and analysis. And that is why we dedicated our time to this column: So you have something to keep you sane when you are "conducting online research into marketing and response variables" for the boss.
Clearly, while the Talented Mr. No-Show might not think you need this, we know you do. The player profiles you see in the preseason rankings and projections were written by us, with Mac handling the Eastern Conference and Guy the Western Conference. This time, we are swapping. Guy's Love/Hate will focus on the East and Brian will crack his knuckles on the West. Otherwise, the rules of the game are the same. Summoning the spirit of our fantasy basketball éminence grise, Mr. Matthew Berry, here is how the Love/Hate thing works: We "love" players we think will outperform their average draft position. Likewise, we "hate" those we think will underperform.
Pretty simple, eh? A player who is very good but overvalued -- Guy is talking to you, Chris Bosh -- will end up on the Hate list. Guy doesn't "hate" Chris Bosh in the sense that he plans to funnel a five-pound bag of sugar into Bosh's gas tank. He just refuses to burn a second-round pick on a power forward who doesn't rebound or block shots well for his position and, even worse, is being joined in the frontcourt by Jermaine O'Neal, who will further depress these stats. Guy says if you can get Bosh in the late-third or early-fourth round, do it. He is, after all, very good. Just don't reach on reputation.
It's all about value. Someone Guy loves this season is Devin Harris. Other than Vince Carter, Harris is the most proven member of the Nets and will get a ton of run this season. He has speed to burn and showed a flare for the dime once he moved east to Jersey. He averaged 6.5 assists in 25 games for the Nets, versus 5.3 per game as a Maverick. His scoring, assists, 3-point shooting, rebounds and minutes all jumped after the trade. This statistical improvement is masked by his overall season averages -- the ones you see in the draft engine -- and we typically see Harris going between Nos. 75 and 85 in mocks. In a 10-team standard league, that is a mid-seventh to mid-eighth round pick. This is why Guy loves Harris: You get a player on the verge of becoming a top-10 fantasy point guard at a steep discount. He'll be taking Harris ahead of more highly rated players such as Gilbert Arenas, Jason Terry, Monta Ellis and Andre Miller, to name a few; that's how much he loves Harris. We hope you love him, too. So does his mom, by the way, who may or may not have slipped us a Ben Franklin to help spread the love.
Lastly, understand these lists are personal. Don't take that to mean they are whimsical. We have been doing this for years and, while we will make with the funny, trust that we have looked at the numbers. After all, if we spelled out every statistical reason for our calls, you would never have time to work up that PowerPoint presentation on, er, response variables for that boss of yours. Get back to work, slacker! Or read on:
Guy, I think Will Ferrell said it best: "You're crazy, man. I like you, but you're crazy." Not only were you a little too harsh on Chris Bosh in that intro, but you were also a little tough on the No-Show. I mean, I'm sure there's a legitimate reason for the Talented Mr. Roto to miss out on the Love/Hate festivities. After all, the set of "One Life to Live" is quite a busy place. As for Bosh, he's a "hate" for the purposes of this column because he's going too early in drafts, but I'm not prepared to knock him down into the late-third or early-fourth round just yet.
In any case, I'm not here to hate ... at least not yet. So let's get to the love, shall we?
Brandon Bass, PF, Mavericks: There's nothing I love more than a young, athletic power forward with an opportunity for increased minutes, especially one who goes by the moniker "The Animal" for his physical play on the boards and around the rim. Bass flashed glimpses of brilliance in limited action last season, and he looked even better when he saw extended minutes in the postseason. As a late-round gamble, Bass offers more upside than most.
Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets: Better in the fantasy game than you think he is. Just look at his percentages, folks.
J.R. Smith, SG, Nuggets: Because if I didn't list him here, Guy would have my head. Oh, and let's not forget the fact he averaged a brilliant 15.7 points, 2.6 3-pointers and 1.1 steals in just 21.8 minutes per game in the second half last season.
Kenyon Martin/Nene, Nuggets: Somebody has to help compensate for the loss of Marcus Camby in the Denver frontcourt. K-Mart and Nene will pick up the slack for a little while. Until they get hurt, of course. And speaking of which
Linas Kleiza, SF/PF, Nuggets: Kleiza is more of a swing player, but the Nuggets will be forced into playing small ball if (when) either K-Mart or Nene goes down. Enter Kleiza, who averaged 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.5 3-pointers as a starter in 2007-08. Considering the amount of games Kenyon and Nene have missed over the past three seasons (an average of 39 and 55, respectively), it's not hard to see why we're bullish on the Lithuanian.
Stephen Jackson, SG/SF, Warriors: It's not often that you can find 20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.4 3-pointers out there for the taking in the sixth round. But that's exactly where you'll find Jackson in drafts this season. That's far too low for him, even with Corey Maggette in town.
Marcus Williams, PG, Warriors: Count me among those who believe that Williams will impress enough to convince Don Nelson to move Monta Ellis back to his natural position at the 2 upon his return.
Andrew Bynum, C, Lakers: If not for a season-ending knee injury, Bynum would probably be a third-round selection in fantasy drafts. Instead, most folks are scared enough to write him off until the seventh round. Take one look at his per-minute stats -- 13.1 points, 10.2 boards, 2.1 blocks in just 28.8 minutes -- and it's easy to see that the reward outweighs the risk that late in the draft.
Jordan Farmar, PG, Lakers: One of these years, Farmar is going to take the reigns from Derek Fisher. He averaged 1.4 3-pointers and 0.9 steals in just 20.6 minutes per game last season; just imagine what he could do with a full-time gig.
Al Jefferson, PF/C, Timberwolves: I'm proud to say that when you type "McKitish" in ESPN's search engine, Al Jefferson is the first name to appear in the related topics section. Yes, I am obsessed and have been for years.
Mike Miller, SG/SF, Timberwolves: How do you not love this dude? He's a lock for two-plus 3-pointers per game and he's so efficient from downtown that he doesn't have to sacrifice his field goal percentage to do it. I always love guys like that, but I'm even higher on Miller this year because he'll be heavily involved in this offense as the clear No. 2 scoring option. Expect big things from the Steve-O look-alike this season.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Timberwolves: This year he finally stays healthy. You won't be disappointed.
Kevin Love, PF, Timberwolves: As a late-round draft pick only. He's as NBA-ready as any other rookie, and he'll see immediate minutes alongside Al Jefferson in the paint. With Big Al drawing most of the attention, Love should be able to get his.
David West, PF, Hornets: If he isn't already, he'll be a household name by season's end. It's not just the 20 ppg/9 rpg/1.3 bpg that has me salivating; it's also his fantastic percentages, including 85 percent on his free throws. Big men who can hit from the stripe are a rare breed, my friends.
Kevin Durant, SG/SF, Thunder: Takes a big step forward this year.
Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder: Rookie point guards aren't normally my bag, but Westbrook should see the bulk of the playing time in Oklahoma City once the youth movement kicks in. He'll face some competition in Earl Watson early in the season, but the gig will be his sooner rather than later. Scoop him up as a late-round gamble, and watch him pay dividends in the second half of the season.
Brandon Roy, SG, Trail Blazers: Since this is Matthew Berry's patented column, I think I'm bound by some sort of unwritten contract to mention that Brandon Roy has two first names. And of course, two first names is "always a crowd pleaser," as he says. Luckily, I didn't sign anything that said that I had to mention Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears at least five times each throughout the column. Sorry, Matthew -- my daily Internet-surfing routine does not include TMZ.com.
Now back to Roy. This will likely be the last time you'll be able to find him (and Kevin Durant, for that matter) anywhere outside the third round in fantasy drafts. And no, I'm not worried about his preseason knee injury.
Roger Mason, PG/SG, Spurs: Brent Barry is gone and Manu Ginobili is out to start the season, leaving Mason as the odds-on favorite to help pick up the slack. Remember, this guy shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point land for the Wizards in 2007-08. The recent addition of Salim Stoudamire hurts Mason's stock slightly, but Mason looks to be the guy you want as a 3-point specialist at the end of your draft.
Mehmet Okur, C, Jazz: I can't believe how far I'm seeing Memo fall in early drafts this year. I know his overall 2007-08 stats don't look great, but take a deeper look. Okur struggled out of the gate but averaged 17.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.9 3-pointers per game in the second half! Don't let the depressed overall numbers fool you; Okur is legit.
Mike Bibby, PG, Hawks: Bibby's numbers after he joined the Hawks last season: 14.1 points, 2.1 3-pointers, 6.5 assists, 1.1 steals on 41.4 percent from the field and 79.7 percent from the line. If I told you that you could get these numbers in the 10th round of a 10-team draft, would you take them? Of course you would, especially because there is the promise of better numbers should Bibby return to his career field goal shooting of 43.9 percent. I mean, he can't injure his thumbs three preseasons in a row, can he?
Al Horford, PF/C, Hawks: He was the second-best rookie last season and he'll be the second-best sophomore this season. Let's face it: That Kevin Durant kid is pretty good. Horford will average a double-double this season and is a better passer than most people realize; check his 3.6 assists per game in the playoffs against the Celtics.
Paul Pierce, SG/SF, Celtics: I know, I know -- how can the Finals MVP be underrated? Call it the Palin Bounce. Whatever perceived value Pierce gained after the playoffs has fallen back to earth. In five recent mocks I have participated in (including an expert draft), Pierce has gone 33rd, 29th, 27th, 31st and 22nd. Here's the thing: He was rated 15th in our Player Rater for last season. If he gives us exactly what he did last season (a reasonable assumption), you have a second-round value available in the late-third or early-fourth rounds in standard leagues.
Tony Allen, SG/SF, Celtics: Yeah, yeah, yeah -- two first names. More importantly, Allen will slide into the role vacated by James Posey. Allen is two years removed from ACL surgery and is practicing without his knee brace. He is a phenomenal athlete and an absolute ball hawk. Check out his December 2006 splits to see what he can do with sixth-man minutes.
Drew Gooden, PF, Bulls: Two men on islands I love: Robinson Crusoe and Drew Gooden. Gooden is going very late in drafts (ADP of 106), and yet his numbers with the Bulls were more than solid. In 18 games as the solitary post threat in Chicago, he averaged 14.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 81.3 percent from the line. Once again, he will be the only low-post scorer for the Bulls, and Gooden should get close to these numbers (except the blocks) this season.
Joakim Noah, PF/C, Bulls: Meet the Noah with no arc (and with that, I am close to the TMR-mandated quota of bad puns). Crooked jumper aside, Noah will provide owners with rebounds, steals and blocks, and he's going late (ADP of 106.6).
LeBron James, SF, Cavaliers: Just checking to see if you were still with us. If LeBron isn't one of the first two players taken in your league, something is wrong.
J.J. Hickson, PF, Cavaliers: I know it was just Vegas, but this kid put on a dunkfest this summer. He is an animal around the rim and the Cavs have been looking for an effective power forward since Carlos Boozer left the team. Watch for Hickson to come on in the second half; then be ready to duck and cover if you are anywhere near the rim.
Jason Maxiell, PF, Pistons: I am no meteorologist but I feel safe in predicting that the sun will set on Antonio McDyess this season. The Pistons have young big men ready to step into the breach and I think Maxiell gets the first crack at McDyess' minutes.
Amir Johnson, PF, Pistons: If it's not Maxiell, it's going to be Johnson, who has higher upside anyhow. When you check his stats, don't rub your eyes; those 1.3 blocks in just 12.3 minutes per game are for real.
Rodney Stuckey, PG/SG, Pistons: Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton are one year older and Stuckey is the future in Detroit. If either Billups or Hamilton is injured this season, Stuckey's future will be now. Keeper owners should be making their play this season.
• One: the number of small forwards who will end the season with a higher player rating (that being LeBron James).
• Two: the number of 3-pointers Granger will average per game this season.
• Three: the number of hard-to-fill categories in which he will average more than one per game (3-pointers, steals and blocks).
• Four: the number of letters in the words your league mates will say after you steal him in the second or third round.
T.J. Ford, PG, Pacers: The injury worries are knocking him down, and Jim O'Brien mouthing off about Jarrett Jack as a possible starter isn't helping. Ford is being drafted around the 10th round in standard drafts. With his upside, you can go a few rounds earlier and still get good value with Ford.
Andrew Bogut, C, Bucks: Australian for huge second half. Bogut averaged 16.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals after the break.
Charlie Villanueva, SF/PF, Bucks: You know who has Yi Jianlian on his "Love" list? This guy. You know who averaged 14.9 points, 0.8 3-pointers, 8.0 rebounds and 30.1 minutes per game in 31 starts last season? This guy. You know who has no competition at power forward this year? This guy. You know who loves this guy? This Guy [my thumbs pointing toward me].
Luke Ridnour, PG, Bucks: What, you thought you'd see Ramon Sessions here? Sessions is going well before Ridnour in drafts because, well, Ridnour is going undrafted. Yet Ridnour is the one who will start. Ridnour is not going to light the world on fire, but he has made a career of putting up solid fantasy numbers in time-shares. This platoon hurts Sessions far more than Ridnour, given their relative draft positions.
Devin Harris, PG, Nets: The only thing I have to add to the intro comments is that by season's end, the Player Rater will have Harris listed as the highest rated player on the Nets.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG/SF, Nets: Every year, there are a few second-round guys who emerge on the fantasy scene. It may not be as soon as this season, but my money is on CD-Rob to be one of those guys from the 2008 draft.
Mickael Pietrus, SG/SF, Magic: Because if I didn't list him here, Mac would have my head.
Thaddeus Young, SF, 76ers: As a fantasy writer, I pretty much have to. Lots to like here.
Louis Williams, PG, 76ers: Someone is going to have to make teams pay when defenses double-down on Elton Brand.
Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Raptors: Yes, he gets injured often. Yes, he torpedoed many a fantasy team over the past few seasons. Yes, he will be available late in your draft (ADP of 86.8). And you know what? In 42 games last season, despite a bum knee, O'Neal averaged 2.1 blocks per game. Draft him late, pray for health and watch the scoring improve. Yes, I said scoring. What, you think teams are going to double-team O'Neal instead of Chris Bosh?
Caron Butler, SF, Wizards: It's obvious, but with Gilbert Arenas out, you can expect Butler to fill up the categories once again. Currently sporting an ADP of 34.4, Butler is providing good value for his new owners.
Antonio Daniels, PG, Wizards: With Arenas out until January, Daniels moves from undraftable to nice end-of-draft value pick.
Jason Terry, PG/SG, Mavericks: Sure, he'll put up 15-16 points, 1.5-2.0 3-pointers and a little more than a steal per game, but those look more like the numbers of your average fantasy shooting guard than those of a fifth-rounder. Terry's a big fantasy name because of what he once was, but his assists and steals aren't going to magically reappear at this stage of his career.
Josh Howard, SF, Mavericks: And not just because of his whirlwind, Ron Artest-like offseason. Howard averaged a career-high 19.9 points and 7.0 rebounds last season, but did so at the expense of his steals, blocks and 3-pointers. I'd much rather have the 2006-07 version of Howard, who provided more statistical versatility (and fewer quotes).
Shane Battier, SF, Rockets: Battier is the epitome of a player who's better in real life than in fantasy. He's a nice "glue" guy for fantasy rosters, but he's not an eighth-round selection, and the addition of Ron Artest hurts him no matter which way you slice it.
Yao Ming, C, Rockets: No one will debate that Yao has top-5 fantasy potential, but at what point does the risk start outweighing the reward? With a current ADP of 24, you'll have to take Yao at the end of the second round in 12-team leagues. Sorry, but over the past three years Yao has missed an average of 28.7 games per season. Given that this seems to be a chronic issue, I'd rather have more security out of a second-round fantasy pick.
Baron Davis, PG, Clippers: Too risky for my liking. He has played a full season just once in the past six years, and that just happened to be in a contract year? Sure, Baron is talented enough to be the fourth point guard taken off the board in fantasy drafts; I just don't normally take huge risks on players like him so early in a draft. I'll pass and take Jose Calderon or Chauncey Billups a round later.
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers: Someone in your league will look at his overall 2007-08 stats and reach way too early for the Kaveman. When it happens, point out that Marcus Camby is in town.
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Lakers: This could blow up in my face if Andrew Bynum goes down again, but I'm betting on Bynum to stay relatively healthy this season. If he does, Pau is going to suffer the effects, particularly in rebounds and blocks. Bynum will own the paint, and Pau will be left with the scraps. Considering that Gasol averaged only 7.9 boards per game for the Lakers last season, even a slight dip in rebounds could affect his fantasy value.
Ryan Gomes, SF/PF, Timberwolves: To be honest, I'm puzzled by all of this Ryan Gomes hype. OK, I get it: He was nice in the second half last season. In fact, he managed 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 0.6 3-pointers after the All-Star break. Solid numbers for sure, but how will he duplicate that sort of production with Mike Miller and Kevin Love in town? In my mind, he needs the Wolves to suffer an injury or two if he's going to pick up where he left off last season.
Tyson Chandler, C, Hornets: Would it kill you to block some more shots, Tyson? The nightly double-doubles are great, but I'm missing the days of 1.8 blocks per game.
James Posey, SG/SF, Hornets: Posey is the man, but there's no love here for anyone that keeps my man Julian Wright on the bench for another year.
Jeff Green, SF, Thunder: There may be some potential here in deeper fantasy formats, but his rather pedestrian per-minute statistics do not indicate a breakout by any stretch of the imagination. Green started 52 games and saw plenty of burn in his rookie season, but he managed just 11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.4 3-pointers during those starts. It is possible that he'll become fantasy worthy if he can pump up those steals and blocks numbers, but I wouldn't count on it. Not this year at least.
Earl Watson, PG, Thunder: see: Westbrook, Russell.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, Trail Blazers: It pains me to list him here because Aldridge is a talented young power forward, but people are drafting him as if the Blazers don't have some guy named Greg Oden coming back this season. With Oden clogging up the middle, LaMarcus will be hard-pressed to improve on his already modest rebounding and shot-blocking numbers. In fact, don't be surprised to see a slight dip in his 7.6 boards and 1.2 blocks from a year ago.
Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs: Gregg Popovich already has a history of limiting Manu's minutes to keep him fresh for the playoffs, so what do you think Pop's going to do once Manu returns from his serious ankle injury? Ginobili is still a fine fantasy player, but he'll miss the first two months of the season and will likely be limited to around 27 minutes per game upon his return. Let someone else take that gamble on draft day.
Josh Smith, SF/PF, Hawks: Call it the Bibby Effect. The Smoove One may have improved his shooting with the addition of Bibby (44.6 percent from the field pre-Bibby to 47.5 percent post-Bibby) and his rebounding (7.5 pre-Bibby, 8.9 per game post-Bibby), but everything else fell off: blocks (3.1 pre-Bibby, 2.3 per game post-Bibby); steals (1.8, 0.9); assists (3.7, 2.7); and scoring (17.3, 16.5). If the drop-off in steals and blocks carries over, Smith's value takes a hit: He drops from end-of-the-first to late-second round value. While this isn't a huge fall, I am guessing a few of you are moving Mike Bibby to your hate lists right about now.
Marvin Williams, SF, Hawks: Lots of folks are saying that with Josh Childress playing overseas Williams will take the next step. I'm not seeing it. He averaged 34.6 minutes per game last season and didn't exactly go nuts. Unless his per-minute production increases significantly, I don't see Williams breaking out. He will score and hit his free throws, but to expect anything more, as some seem to, is a bad idea.
Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics: Second-round production taken in the first round. Remember the ancient and wise fantasy sports maxim: Pay for numbers, not for names (even when a player has two first names).
Kendrick Perkins, C, Celtics: The shine from the Celtics' recent championship should not dispel the shadow over Perkins. He is a shot-blocker (1.5 per game last season) and that is it. He is no better than Erick Dampier, yet is owned in 48 percent of ESPN leagues compared with 8 percent for Dampier.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C, Cavaliers: Hunch time. Despite remaining healthy for the better part of the past six seasons, Big Z will spend more time on the bench this season. He is getting older, and I just think last season was Z's last hurrah. There is nothing scientific here; I am making a gut call.
Ben Wallace, C, Cavaliers: Poindexter from "Revenge of the Nerds" once asked, "Would you rather live in the ascendancy of a civilization or during its decline?" If by "live" you mean own and by "civilization" you mean Ben Wallace, the answer is easy. He has been in decline for years and this isn't the season to jump in. That would be akin to rushing Alpha Beta the year Lambda Lambda Lambda stepped onto the Adams College campus.
Tayshaun Prince, SF, Pistons: Another case of a guy who does so much more in the real game than he does in the fantasy game.
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Heat: This will be the last season in which Marion is a lock to be taken in the first round of fantasy drafts, and his owners will regret taking him there. Marion's numbers were falling off before he left the Suns' up-tempo system. They didn't get better in Miami, and this season he will be sharing the load with Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley. Marion has never been able to create his own shot. Not having a proven point guard to set him up will hurt his efficiency.
Jamaal Magloire, C, Heat: I know he won't be overvalued on draft day, but I had to add his name. It's personal. I can never forgive him for the 2004-05 season. Money was lost, Jamaal, money was lost!
Richard Jefferson, SF, Bucks: Jefferson went from a team with one other big scorer, Vince Carter (who was dinged up all last season), to one with three other players capable of big scoring numbers. No way can RJ equal his numbers from last season. Draft accordingly.
Ramon Sessions, PG, Bucks: April is the cruelest month, especially when owners fixate on one month's splits and assume they have a fantasy star on their hands. Remember, you need to get consistent minutes to become a star and Sessions will be sharing point guard minutes with Luke Ridnour and Tyronn Lue.
Vince Carter, SG/SF, Nets: Let's just say I am a little worried about his motivation this season.
Quentin Richardson, SG/SF, Knicks: Wilson Chandler (see above) is the Knicks small forward you want. Q hasn't played in more than 65 games since 2004-05.
Eddy Curry, C, Knicks: Word out of New York is Curry is out of shape and unlikely to start at center at the beginning of the season. Provided one has Internet access, the word out of Pocatello, Idaho, is the same.
Danilo Gallinari, SF, Knicks: I tend to be rookie-averse. Rookies with bad backs?
Jameer Nelson, PG, Magic: Keeping with the musical theme and quoting The Who, we won't get fooled again.
Samuel Dalembert, C, 76ers: As a reward for a career year in 2007-08, the Haitian Sensation gets paired with Elton Brand in the frontcourt this time around. No center has ever put up strong fantasy numbers playing alongside Brand; Chris Kaman's performance in 2005-06 was the best, and even those numbers were modest. In fact, use that season as your high-water mark for what to expect from Dalembert and don't overpay.
Chris Bosh: See the intro.
Andrea Bargnani, SF/ PF, Raptors: Trust me on this: Bargnani isn't Italian for bargain. I am not seeing the playing time, with superior players in Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon all ahead of him.
Gilbert Arenas, PG, Wizards: You will not find Arenas on any of my teams this season. Three surgeries in a year and a half are three reasons enough to stay away. Even Gilbert is unsure he'll ever be right again.
Guy Lake and Brian McKitish are fantasy basketball analysts for ESPN.com. You can reach Guy via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brian may be reached at email@example.com.
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