Another season, another reminder: it's early. By all means, you should be scouring the wire, adding and dropping players, exploring trade opportunities, and doing everything that you would a month or two from now. But my only caution is that you don't read too much into the first two and three games that we've seen from players and teams. Your studs are probably still your studs and one solid game doesn't mean that a draft day afterthought shouldn't still be looked at as such. Be sure to be as objective as possible in early transactions – the standings in fantasy leagues don't matter at this point any more than the NBA standings do. It's the April endgame that you should remain focused on.
Weekend Update: Need-to-know info from the past few days
• Technically, the biggest news from the weekend emerged Monday morning, with reports that the Pistons have agreed to trade Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb to the Nuggets in exchange for Allen Iverson. Rumors have been swirling around the Pistons about potential moves for months now and Iverson's unhappiness in Denver has been documented, but the specifics of the deal still have caught many of us off guard. Let's deal with the fallout for each team.
Detroit: This trade screams rebuild from a real-life perspective. Billups was under contract for three more years, while Iverson's $22 million comes off the books after the current season. Rasheed Wallace's contract also expires after this season, leaving the Pistons in an enviable cap situation. Rodney Stuckey is the future, and the future is now-ish. Clearly, he'll be running the team sooner than later, but are the Pistons ready to bench Richard Hamilton and start Stuckey right now? It's not a bad idea to grab Stuckey (40-percent owned) off the wire, but don't be shocked if he's still coming off the bench once the dust settles. If the Pistons do run with Stuckey and Iverson at guard, then obviously Richard Hamilton's fantasy impact is going to tumble. Either way, figure he's going to lose at least a bit of usage in the Billups/Iverson exchange. McDyess' departure frees up even more minutes for Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell and Walter Herrmann, a cult favorite (5-percent owned) who could be a viable roll of the dice if you are looking to add threes. As for Iverson himself, I'm going to call this essentially a wash. He won't approach his career scoring average (27.7) but slowing things down a bit should help him improve from an efficiency standpoint.
Denver: The Iverson/Billups exchange means more shots to go around and an increase in quality for a reasonable sampling of those shots. Carmelo Anthony is once again the scorer for this team and J.R. Smith (75-percent owned) should finally be looking at a consistent starting role, so he should now be universally owned. Anthony Carter was a popular pickup after his performance on Saturday, but it's safe to go ahead and cut him loose again. McDyess provides more depth for the Denver bigs, but shouldn't pose too much of a threat to Nene Hilario or Kenyon Martin as long as they can stay healthy. There's also a chance that McDyess doesn't even show up in Denver. There isn't much to say in regards to Billups other than that he will remain among the elite options at PG in the fantasy-friendly Denver system.
Nutshell: Obviously, the major unknowns are how the starting lineups will shake out. The two players who stand to benefit the most are Stuckey (if he were to start at PG) and Smith (if he were to start at SG). And don't be surprised if the Pistons have one more deal (Rip or Tayshaun?) left in them.
• Could the next major trade involve Al Harrington? In a word, yes. It just appears, at this point, that the Warriors aren't in a hurry to give him up and teams aren't exactly inundating the W's with offers. Apparently, Harrington realized over the past few days that all the drama isn't helping his market value. Stay tuned.
• Is Stephon Marbury's career as a Knick about to come to something of a merciful end? Knicks president Donnie Walsh wants a sit-down with Marbury no later than Tuesday, before he decides to waive him or work out a buyout, with a trade looking like a virtual impossibility. "There aren't a lot of options," Walsh said. The New York Post also mentions that the Nuggets and Heat might be interested in signing him if he were to be waived, although the Billups trade changes things for the Nuggets. Rest assured that something will come of this meeting – what is worth noting is that Walsh added that he "didn't realize" that Marbury wasn't going to be playing at all, and the Post suggests that he may try to talk coach Mike D'Antoni into actually giving him a shot in the rotation before figuring out how the two parties can part ways. For what it's worth, Marbury has made it perfectly clear his intentions of collecting every penny of the $21.9 million he is owed this season.
• Randy Foye's 0-for-10 performance on Sunday night was clearly a tough one for fantasy owners to handle, but be sure to attribute it as much to Earl Watson and Russell Westbrook's defense as anything. In three games against the Thunder thus far, opposing starting point guards (Foye, Rafer Alston and Luke Ridnour) have shot eight percent. That's not a typo – the three players combined to make two of 25 shot attempts. Clearly it's a small sample size, but it's something to watch and note in your matchup planning moving forward.
Injury Updates: Shawn Marion suffered a broken nose on Saturday. He's been fitted with a protective mask that he will debut in Tuesday's practice. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that he will "hopefully" be in the lineup on Wednesday. … Baron Davis is not expected to be in the lineup on Monday, while Marcus Camby is currently considered questionable. … Deron Williams won't play Monday but has been targeting Wednesdays' game since originally injuring his ankle. … Michael Redd is day-to-day with a right ankle sprain. "Right now I don't know what the deal is," Redd said. "We're going to treat it and see what happens." … Kenyon Martin's left hamstring strain has him in basically the same boat as Redd. … Peja Stojakovic was expected to miss anywhere between two and four weeks after his right ankle sprain on Thusday, but he's making good progress and could be back much earlier. … Tyson Chandler could return as early as Wednesday from his right ankle sprain.
Buzz Index: Notables from the weekend's Buzz Index
MoPete had gone 58 games as a starter without scoring at least 20 points (including playoffs) before going for 21 with four threes and two steals against the Suns this past Thursday. Staying true to form, he followed it up with just five points and no threes on Saturday. Don't get fooled by the occasional flash you see from Peterson, particularly if he has another solid game or two while Peja is sidelined. It's pretty clear that even playing with Chris Paul isn't enough to help him be a consistent option at this point, and James Posey's presence should only serve to reinforce that.
When I asked last week if Sessions would emerge as a fantasy X-factor at some point, I certainly wasn't expecting it to become a legitimate issue within a matter of days. He's averaged 15 points on 48 percent shooting, 4.5 boards, 8.5 assists and 2 steals filling in for the injured Luke Ridnour over the past two games. Ridnour averaged 4.5 points on 23 percent shooting, 6.0 boards, 4.5 assists, and 0.5 steals in his two games played. Scott Skiles has said that Sessions has "obviously earned some playing time" with his performance over the past two games, this after not playing in either of the Bucks' first two. But Skiles also added that it'd show "tremendous instability" to suggest that Sessions suddenly is in the mix for starts with a healthy Ridnour (likely to be back in the lineup Wednesday), but Sessions certainly has regained a bit of the mojo that made him a fantasy favorite in the early drafting season.
Thompson has gotten started early on answering that question he kept hearing over and over after the Kings selected him 12th overall in the draft (Who?). He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards in the season opener and has averaged 13.3 points on 61 percent shooting, 7.3 boards and 1 block in 22 minutes through three games. If Thompson keeps it up and Mikki Moore keeps playing at his current level (18 points, 4.0 boards in 59 total minutes), then Reggie Theus will have no choice but to stop deferring consistent minutes to Moore simply because he's a veteran. The wild card in all of this is what happens to the frontcourt when Brad Miller returns – while Thompson will undoubtedly remain in the rotation, a Miller/Hawes pairing in the starting lineup would serve to cap his upside a bit.
Chalmers looked like a world-beater against the Knicks in the opener (17 points, 2 threes, 7 boards, 8 assists in 36 minutes) but has been slightly less effective in two games since (combined 9 points, 2 threes, 4 boards, 10 assists in 65 minutes). A significant number of players are going to have their best statistical performances against the Knicks this season, and Chalmers just got the trend started. I caution you against expecting much here, especially if you are looking for any kind of consistency – the Heat have four players that can run the point at any given point (Chalmers, Marcus Banks, Shaun Livingston and Chris Quinn) and there is even talk that Stephon Marbury could be brought in if he is bought out by the Knicks, so the odds are stacked against Chalmers making a fantasy impact of any consequence.
It's early, but Posey looks like a fantastic fit for the Hornets and vice-versa. In 28 minutes per game so far, he's averaged 13 points, 3.3 threes and 1.3 steals, and I can't imagine that he won't play a consistent 30 minutes per game for this team, given the spark he can provide on both ends of the court. He isn't going to fill it up across the board, but his combination of threes and steals should make him a pretty valuable specialist-type for fantasy owners this season.
Azubuike turned some heads in the season opener, logging 43 minutes (17 points, 3 steals) in the 108-103 loss to the Hornets, as Don Nelson essentially played only seven players in the game. Good luck taking the reactive approach to Nellie's whims – with C.J. Watson back in the mix at point guard, Stephen Jackson should see less time there, meaning fewer minutes for Azubuike. With that said, a best-case scenario for him includes some scoring and not much else, so be sure to look at him as low risk and marginal reward.
Arthur followed up a strong camp with a very strong showing in the season opener (11 points, 15 boards, 1 steal, 2 blocks in 27 minutes), and he was rewarded with the starting power forward spot in the team's past two games. He certainly slowed his roll, totaling four points and 13 boards in 41 minutes of his two starts. Given the Grizzlies' struggles on offense to this point (league-low 81 points per game), Arthur needs to pick things up or he's going to give way to Hakim Warrick (18 points in 35 minutes on Saturday) in fairly short order. But given Warrick's dearth of defensive contributions, Arthur is the player with more fantasy upside.
Q-Rich was on fire on Sunday, scoring 28 and hitting five treys for the otherwise anemic Knicks in their 94-86 loss to the Bucks. Enjoy his season percentages now (54% FG, 43% 3PT, 83% FT) because you'll never see them this collectively high again – his career numbers in 532 games (40% FG, 35% 3PT, 71% FT) didn’t happen by accident. Let's assume a best-case scenario in which Q-Rich stays relatively healthy – he'll be a great source of threes, a decent source of points, no help in defensive numbers and a serious drag on percentages. If that's what you need, then have at it. Otherwise, his teammate Wilson Chandler (who has struggled in the early going) remains the better long-term roster addition.
Robinson is a clear fit for what D'Antoni wants to do in New York, and it's directly translating to the stat sheet (13 points, 1.7 threes, 4.7 boards, 4.3 assists, 2.7 steals in 27 minutes). He's shooting just 37 percent thus far, but that's a team-wide phenomenon right now, in part because of PG play. If Chris Duhon continues to play exceptionally uninspiring basketball, it's inevitable that Robinson's minutes will go up and Duhon's (36 minutes per game) will come down.
Mason is the Spurs' third-leading scorer after two games (13 points) and it's very unlikely that changes before Manu Ginobili comes back. The Spurs have played a two-man game on offense (involving Tony Parker and Tim Duncan) roughly 97 percent of the time through two games, but they are also 0-2, so something's got to give. Look for Mason to be more involved in the offense moving forward, meaning he should emerge as a solid source of threes over the next few weeks. Side note: it takes a special player to avoid scoring even a single point in 43 minutes of playing time, as Bruce Bowen has managed to do.
This isn't exactly the start the Grizz were hoping for: 7 points, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals in 25 minutes per game. It's no coincidence that the team is currently last in the league in scoring average (81.0) and assists per game (11.7). Despite entering camp this season with a supposedly-renewed focus, it hasn't transferred to the court in the early going. Until he shows more assertiveness on the court, at best he'll be looking at a strict timeshare with Kyle Lowry.
Blatche is in danger of efforting himself right out of steady minutes for the Wizards, despite a golden opportunity to become a major cog in the rotation. He allowed two Kwame Brown layups in four early minutes of action in the team's 117-109 loss on Saturday, was pulled, and did not return to the game. Needless to say, Eddie Jordan was not impressed. The ball is in Blatche's court at this point and the next few games should prove to be pivotal – if he doesn't find a way to respond, then there's little reason for any of us to stay on the bandwagon.
Davis has averaged just 2.3 points in 20 minutes in the season's first three games, thanks in large part to 19 percent shooting. What is of major concern is that he's been marginalized in the rotation despite Marcus Camby and Baron Davis missing games, so he's likely to be all but invisible once Davis and Camby are back. Davis may have a role at some point, but it's not looking like it's going to happen any time soon.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
My own much-maligned squad actually had the best performance of the first week, beating Funston's squad 6-2-1. Transactions over the past few days have included Earl Watson, Jason Maxiell, Chris Wilcox, Marquis Daniels, Travis Outlaw, Josh Boone, Cuttino Mobley and Marcus Williams, among others.