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Big Picture: Panic Mode

Matt Buser
Yahoo Sports

Ah, the hustle and bustle of the early fantasy basketball season – "What's wrong with Kurt Thomas?""Smush Parker is going to carry me all season!""Why can't Andrei Kirilenko hit a shot?""Can someone talk to Larry Brown about Quentin Richardson's average draft position?" – Some people are panicking, others are supremely over-confident, while some know that it's simply too early to get excited one way or another about most of the goings-on to this point.

The key is to find out who is panicking and take advantage. They may have Thomas or Stephon Marbury or Larry Hughes and be willing to part with them for what will prove to be a short-term fix for them and a steal for you in the long-term.

The early season sees the most activity on the waiver wire – another situation that a shrewd owner can take advantage of. Make sure to check it out every day, and don't be surprised if players like Josh Smith and Samuel Dalembert have been dropped by owners who think Austin Croshere or James Singleton are better choices. Keep the Big Picture in mind – the standings matter in April, not November.

Some random observations:

In case you haven't noticed, Kobe Bryant is going to score a TON of points this season – even in yesterday's loss to Minnesota, Kobe put up 28 of the Lakers' 74 points. If he maintains his current pace, Bryant will finish the season with 2248 field goal attempts, good for eighth most all-time. What is most unusual about his numbers to this point is that he has attempted exactly one more three-pointer than Marcus Camby (three to Camby's two). Fantasy owners should gladly trade a few three's for a spike in field goal percentage, but how many is a few? Last year he nearly doubled his career average for three-point attempts per game. That said, Kobe is only a career 33 percent shooter from long range, so it's never been a real strong point.
Joe Johnson, point guard, we hardly knew you. Tyronn Lue, point guard, has started the Hawks' past two games, replacing Josh Smith in the starting lineup. Johnson has tallied 19 assists and 17 turnovers so far for the 0-4 Hawks, so his "point guard stats" leave a little to be desired, and Hawks' coach Mike Woodson evidently feels the same way. Atlanta's starting lineup and rotation may be a perpetual work-in-progress, but if Lue plays his typical effective basketball and rookie Salim Stoudamire proves to be a consistent contributor, you have to wonder if Johnson has already found another "new" position. Don't fret if he's on your squad – Johnson's overall fantasy production would be better if he keeps playing shooting guard. The same can't be said for Josh Childress and Josh Smith's, if that were the case, however.
It must be disheartening to Bulls fans and Ben Gordon's fantasy owners that Scott Skiles needed to turn to Eric Piatkowski to take the floor at tip-off last night instead of Gordon. With Chris Duhon out with a knee injury, the 35-year-old Piatkowski should have started the game in his warm-ups. Granted, he only played 13 minutes to Gordon's 29, but while Gordon's role of "instant offense" may be best-case scenario for the Bulls right now, big minutes and consistency are what would be ideal fantasy production. Gordon's minutes are up, and his shot volume is up, but his 33 percent shooting is negating any other statistical improvements to this point.
Antoine Walker has been showing his true colors since his brilliant opening night performance. He did it all in the Heat's 97-78 trouncing of the Grizzlies – 25 points on 10-17 shooting (4-7 three-pointers), 16 boards, four assists, and only one turnover. Let's check the numbers since then: 14.8 points on 41 percent shooting (27 percent from downtown), 5.5 boards, 3.0 assists, and 4.3 turnovers during the Heat's 1-3 stretch since the opener. You have to assume that Stan Van Gundy and the Heat players can't wait for James Posey to return from injury, so Antoine Walker doesn't have to be on the floor as much or in some critical situations – Walker missed a three-point attempt in last night's game with seven seconds to go that would have tied the game against the Pacers. Even when he is playing "well," Walker's positive fantasy contributions are offset by terrible percentages and high turnovers.

Buy/Sell
Dwight Howard (PF, Orlando)– He is in a slump along with the rest of the Orlando offense, but it won't last: BUY

Smush Parker (G, LA Lakers)– His is currently ranked sixteenth in the Yahoo! game; the triangle offense may make him a solid contributor, but, no, that ranking won't last: SELL

Larry Hughes (SG, Cleveland)– Will he match last year's production? Perhaps not. Will he continue at his current pace? Absolutely not: BUY

T.J. Ford (PG, Milwaukee)– His assists only seem like they are making up for his 33 percent shooting because it's early and it's such a "feel good" story: SELL

Josh Smith (GF, Atlanta)– His demotion to a reserve role could make him fairly easy to acquire. He won't be a bit player in Atlanta for long: BUY

Kenyon Martin (PF, Denver)– His knee is giving him a lot of trouble, but he's playing through it at this point. The latter may not be the case for long: SELL

Brad Miller (C, Sacramento)– He's struggled in the early going, and if there will be a chance to steal him, it will be now: BUY

Shaquille O'Neal (C, Miami)– Even when he is "healthy," how careful do you think the Heat are going to be with him, especially down the stretch? Save yourself some grief: SELL

Kurt Thomas (FC, Phoenix)– You won't find a more frustrated bunch than Thomas owners. You should be able to get him on the cheap: BUY

Lineup Changes
Suns' coach Mike D'Antoni has announced the Boris Diaw will start tonight against the Pistons, replacing James Jones. Jones should only be slightly downgraded by this move, but Diaw has real potential to break out. Don't hesitate to pick him up on speculation … Sergei Monia has replaced Charles Smith as Portland's starting shooting guard, but won't be a fantasy factor and won't likely be the starter for long, either. Ruben Patterson should see his minutes steadily increase … Keep your eye on the Atlanta lineup and don't be surprised if Josh Smith is starting over Josh Childress soon … Jarvis Hayes replaced the injured Antonio Daniels in the Wizards' lineup yesterday, scoring 16 and grabbing seven boards. Daniels is day-to-day, so the move won't last … Derek Fisher started the Warrior's second game when Baron Davis' hamstring forced him to miss the game. Fisher is all but guaranteed consistent spot-starts and is getting minutes when the Warriors go with a small lineup.

Stat of the Week
Bonzi Wells' 18 rebounds (11/02 @ Houston) were easily a career high, but Wells is historically an above-average rebounder for his position – his career-high of 6.0 boards looks within reach. His penchant for defense and rebounding already appear to be opening things up for Peja Stojakovic from the outside – Peja has hit 52 percent of his three-point attempts so far, despite a slow start overall.

Stat-Line of the Week
Tim Duncan (11/07 @ Chicago): 24 points (9-15 FG, 6-6 FT), 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 6 blocks, 3 turnovers

Duncan has opened the season with five straight double-doubles, and is even hitting his free-throws (88 percent).