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I must admit, when the Allen Iverson trade went down, I wondered what the Nuggets were thinking. I understand that they received a top point guard (and Denver-area native) in Chauncey Billups, but given their cap considerations -- the organization had just discarded Marcus Camby in an offseason salary dump -- and the Western Conference's stacked lineup, I wasn't sure what they saw in this deal. However, after winning seven of their first eight games with Billups, I'm starting to see it now.
And now, another admission: This disappoints me a little. Last season (and really in many years since the days of Doug Moe), the Nuggets were a team built for fantasy owners. We loved drafting their big scorers, and we loved it when our players got to run-and-gun with them.
Here's an example: In 2007-08, Denver allowed the second-most points (107.0 per game), the third-most 3-pointers (7.6), the second-most shot attempts (89.1), the most assists (25.7) and the third-most total rebounds (45.4). Nuggets games featured a ton of possessions, and the statistic goodness just flowed from there.
And now? It's Pistons West. With Billups in charge, Denver's allowing just 92.5 points a night. And in six of the past eight games, Nuggets opponents have been held to less than 41 percent from the floor. Actually, forget Pistons West. The Nuggets, at least for now, look more like the Pistons than Detroit does.
We, as fantasy owners, need to get used to it.
Check the grid for Week 5 schedules of each NBA team. Teams with the most games in the upcoming week are listed first.
Denver Nuggets (@LAC, NO, @MIN, HOU): Billups isn't the only story in Denver. He isn't even the best story. How about Nene Hilario? Barely nine months after receiving chemotherapy, he's not only playing well, but paying huge for the savvy owners who spent a mid- to late-round pick on him. The ESPN Player Rater has Nene second only to Amare Stoudemire among center-eligible players. He and Dwyane Wade are the only players averaging more than 1.5 steals and blocks so far. There's nothing obvious here, but this schedule seems favorable enough for him. The Clippers allow the third-most boards, while Timberwolves opponents average almost 6.0 blocks a night. And with the Hornets allowing a whopping 7.8 3s per game, deep-leaguers could take a shot with the inconsistent Linas Kleiza.
Golden State Warriors (@WAS, @BOS, @CLE, @NY): To the naysayers who immediately suggested that he was the new Matt Barnes (OK, it was me), Anthony Morrow just might be for real. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Morrow's presence in the lineup allows coach Don Nelson to go with a small lineup (and we know that small is something Nellie is, um, very big on) featuring Corey Maggette at power forward. That's right, Maggette owners: PF eligibility is on the way. As for Morrow, who's currently the most-added player in ESPN leagues, owners can look forward to matchups with the Knicks and Wizards and tests against the Celtics and Cavs. The Knicks allow the most points, while the struggling Wizards surrender the third-most 3s. Boston and Cleveland are second and fourth, respectively, in scoring defense.
Cleveland Cavaliers (@NY, OKC, GS, @MIL): While LeBron James makes Cleveland worth watching, the Cavs aren't all that interesting from a fantasy standpoint. James, Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are automatic starts when healthy, and after that, there's little else for us. Well, there's Delonte West, who's averaging 2.1 3s a night and shooting 51.0 percent from distance. But the presence of the league's two worst defensive teams in New York and Golden State doesn't bode all that well for him. Knicks opponents are shooting an astonishing 48.7 percent, but I guess due to their frenetic styles, neither New York nor Golden State allows that many 3s. The Knicks in fact yield just 4.8 treys a game, fourth-fewest in the league. And the Bucks are fifth in that category. This is actually a more favorable schedule for Anderson Varejao, with Knicks, Thunder and Wizards opponents first, second and fourth in total rebounds.
New York Knicks (CLE, @DET, GS): Speaking of the Knicks, the track meet with Golden State should make for an engrossing box score, but this looks like a lean week otherwise. The Pistons are second in the league at limiting 3-pointers, while the Cavs and Warriors are both above average in that regard. What is surprising is that Detroit opponents are shooting 46.4 percent from the field. I'll be interested to see how Wilson Chandler progresses. His overall stats are pretty inflated by that 11-of-12 shooting night in Memphis, and with his 28.6 percent success rate from downtown, he might want to tone it down from the outside. Still, the 21-year-old did go 23-and-7 with a 3, steal and block the other night in Boston.
Some quick tips for owners in daily leagues. Recommendations -- start, sit or add -- are made for specific days of the coming week, based on the schedule.
Jameer Nelson, PG, Magic: With Tony Parker out, Nelson is doing a pretty fair impression of the San Antonio standout. The 45.8 percent career shooter is dropping them at a 51.7 percent rate in November, while averaging 14.7 points and 4.9 assists in the process. The field-goal percentage doesn't seem sustainable, especially with the Magic drawing the Pacers (opponents shooting just 42.3 percent) and 76ers (43.4 percent) this week. But also on tap are the Wizards (47.4 percent) and Bucks (45.6 percent).
Brook Lopez, PF/C, Nets: In three starts for Josh Boone, Lopez is averaging 15.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. The rookie seems to be settling in, but the schedule suggests a slight drop-off in rejections is ahead. While Jazz opponents average 6.0 blocks, Suns, Kings and Lakers opponents all get fewer than five blocks per game.
Michael Beasley, PF, Heat: Another rookie, but this one is slowing down. Defense is hurting Beasley, who has played just 16 and 12 minutes (while picking up four and three fouls) in his past two games. Perhaps this schedule will help him stay on the court: Clippers opponents average just 19.6 fouls, fifth-fewest in the league; Rockets opponents are right behind with 20.4 fouls per game.
Rasho Nesterovic, C, Pacers: I'm not sure Nesterovic will keep getting 30-plus minutes, as he has the past two games, but if he does, he'll be a more than acceptable No. 2 fantasy center. Take note, as Rasho is unowned in 98 percent of ESPN leagues. This schedule isn't great for him, but Bobcats opponents are getting the most blocks in the league -- 7.0 a night.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.