"Kirk Hinrich is KILLING ME!!!"
That was the title of a thread over the weekend on a fantasy hoops message board that I frequent. Three games into Hinrich's season, the frazzled poster was wondering how he possibly could have used the 51st pick in his draft on a player who was averaging just 9.3 points on 34 percent shooting and 3.3 turnovers. It's amazing how a few bad games can make someone look past Hinrich's steady fantasy line over the past three seasons, including his season-ending Yahoo! rank of 21 last season. It happens every season, so it bears repeating every season – resisting the urge to make rash decisions at this stage of the season is paramount. No matter which player we are talking about, we've only got two or three games worth of data to base anything on. I'm certainly not saying you should pass over that hot free agent because he's "only" been doing it for a few games, but what I am saying is that the standings in April should take far more precedent than the standings in early November. Be smart, think all of your moves through, and always keep your eyes on prize.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
• Dwayne Wade is slated to return to practice on Monday and, according to The Miami Herald, could see his first action of the season by the end of the week if there are no setbacks. Wade will be a full participant in practices, and his teammates aren't planning on shying away from contact. "Well, they're going to do it in games, so we might as well try it in practice," said Alonzo Mourning. "I'm going to contest his shot like I contest anybody else's shot." Wade said that while he won't stop attacking the basket like he usually does, he will focus on his mid-range game at least initially to avoid excessive contact in the early-going. "I'm going to play smarter and use my complete game," said Wade. If all goes very well, there's a chance that Wade could return when the Heat face the Suns on Friday – fantasy owners should avoid setting themselves up for a let-down, however, and assume that there is a better chance that his season debut will come next Sunday against the Knicks. It's never a bad thing when you err on the side of caution and are pleasantly surprised.
• Speaking of erring on the side of caution … Amare Stoudemire held himself out of Sunday's contest against Cleveland because of discomfort in his right knee. You may recall that Amare had minor surgery on the knee on October 2 – a loose body was removed, but nothing about the procedure was considered serious. Stoudemire played back-to-back games to open the season, and had seen some minimal swelling around the knee in recent days. "I think it's just overworked a bit," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. Nobody involved in the Suns wants Amare to push it past the limit at this early stage of the season. "It's a long year," said Suns general manager Steve Kerr. "I think he was so excited about getting there for opening night. It was a little too much in retrospect." Fantasy owners who helped make Stoudemire the top fantasy center (ADP of 10.0) may find all this a bit disconcerting, but a completely healthy stud down the stretch will be much more useful than a few extra points or rebounds in the first weeks of the season. Stoudemire isn't expected to take too long to get back to full strength, as he was quoted as saying that it's going to be "a day-to-day thing."
• Speaking of problematic knees … Gilbert Arenas has so much fluid in his surgically-repaired left knee that he said it feels as if he's "carrying a five-pound weight around." He also said it felt stiff during the team's 94-82 loss against the Magic on Saturday, a game in which Arenas scored 10 points and made just five of 15 shot attempts – Arenas is shooting 33 percent on the season and has made just one of 17 attempts from downtown (six percent) after three games. A four-day break in the schedule for the Wizards could not come at a better time – Arenas is likely to have his knee drained before the team returns to the court on Thursday against the Nets. Arenas isn't expected to need any time off, but he may take a bit longer to get back to 100 percent – fantasy owners should at the very least be prepared for a few more off nights before Agent Zero is all the way back.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Jason Maxiell (F – Detroit)
Maxiell flashed some of his serious potential on Sunday against the Hawks, scoring 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbing eight boards, and blocking four shots in 26 minutes. His minutes and production have increased in each of the season's first three games, and I wouldn't be surprised if he replaced Antonio McDyess as the Pistons' starting PF sooner than later. At worst, he's going to see consistent minutes off of the bench as the third big man for the Pistons.
Tyrus Thomas (F – Chicago)
We're only three games into the season, but Thomas has already put both his serious upside and his maddening inconsistency on display. In the Bulls' second game of the season, Thomas scored 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting, grabbed 12 boards, and had two steals and three blocks in 43 minutes – in the team's other two games, he's totaled six points on 2-of-14 shooting, 12 rebounds, no steals, and two blocks in 50 combined minutes. All things considered, he's worth taking a chance on in most formats, particularly if you are short on defensive stats. He's been given an opportunity to establish himself as the Bulls' starting PF, and if he can rein everything in and start to become an everyday contributor, he's going to be a serious fantasy asset.
Ryan Gomes (F – Minnesota)
Gomes is a versatile player who was a forgotten man on draft day due to the uncertainty of his role with the T-Wolves. Now that he appears to be the team's starting SF, things are looking up and fantasy owners should take note. He scored 19 points, made three treys, and grabbed seven boards in 36 minutes on Sunday, and has averaged 12.8 points on 49 percent shooting and 6.4 rebounds in 95 career starts. The three-point shot could bring a new dimension to his game and boost his fantasy impact – he made 38 percent of his attempts from downtown last season, but only took 42 shots from behind the arc. In two games so far this season, he's already made four of eight attempts.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Richard Jefferson (SF – New Jersey)
Yeah, he's back. Jefferson has averaged 26.0 points on 51 percent shooting, 1.7 threes, 6.3 boards, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in the season's first three games, while making all 25 of his free-throw attempts. There are already plenty of fantasy owners who are regretting passing him over on draft day (ADP of 84.5).
Jamal Crawford (SG – New York)
Crawford hasn't had difficulties adjusting to the usage-heavy Knicks' frontcourt. After two games, he's averaging a team-high 24.5 points on 50 percent shooting, 1 three, 6.5 assists, and 2 steals in 40 minutes, while making 15 of 16 free throws.
John Salmons (GF – Sacramento)
Salmons' stock received a serious boost when Mike Bibby was lost for two months with a thumb injury. Through three games, Salmons has averaged 21 points on 53 percent shooting, 5.3 boards, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in 38 minutes per game.
Hedo Turkoglu (GF – Orlando)
Turkoglu is thriving thus far for the Magic. In three games as the team's starting SF, he's averaged 22 points on 48 percent shooting, 2.7 threes, 5.7 boards, 4.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in 36 minutes per game.
Damien Wilkins (GF – Seattle)
Wilkins has emerged from a crowded depth chart as the team's second-leading scorer while also playing the second-most minutes, behind only Kevin Durant in both areas. Through three games, Wilkins has averaged 18.3 points, 2 threes, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.3 steals in 34 minutes per game.
Brendan Haywood (C – Washington)
Haywood has taken advantage of his newly-found excess playing time to the tune of 10.0 points on 52 percent shooting, 13.7 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 31 minutes through the season's first three games.
Ronnie Brewer (GF – Utah)
Brewer has been a spark for both the Jazz and fantasy owners thus far – through four games, the second-year player is averaging 16.3 points on 61 percent shooting and 2.8 steals in 30 minutes per game.
Kelenna Azubuike (GF – Golden State)
Azubuike has started the season strong, averaging 20.3 points on 65 percent shooting and 1.7 threes in 34 minutes over the season's first three games, all as a starter.
Chris Kaman (C – LA Clippers)
Kaman has delivered exactly what fantasy owners were hoping for from the outset, averaging 18.0 points, 16.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the Clippers' first two games.
Tim Thomas (F – LA Clippers)
Thomas has taken full advantage of some very friendly matchups in the early-going, averaging 20.0 points on 54 percent shooting, 3.5 threes, 5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in games versus the Warriors and Sonics.
Mike Dunleavy (GF – Indiana)
Dunleavy has emerged as a key cog in the Pacers' new offense (albeit with Jermaine O'Neal at less than 100 percent), averaging 22.3 points on 49 percent shooting, 1.3 threes, and 9 rebounds in 40 minutes over the season's first three games.
Francisco Garcia (GF – Sacramento)
Garcia is another Kings player who has benefited from the loss of Mike Bibby – in three games so far, he's averaged 16.7 points on 57 percent shooting, 1.3 threes, 4.3 boards, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 steals in 33 minutes per game, including one start.
Monta Ellis (G – Golden State)
Don Nelson holds firmly to the belief that Ellis is too small (6-foot-3, 177 pounds) to play SG on a regular basis (yet somehow Mickael Pietrus, at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, is big enough to get a start at PF?). Kelenna Azubuike's emergence means that Ellis is likely to remain a reserve until either Baron Davis gets hurt or Azubuike suddenly regresses on a major scale.
Corey Brewer (F – Minnesota)
That spike in value that Brewer was supposed to see after the Ricky Davis trade hasn't exactly come to fruition. He's averaged just 11 minutes off of the bench and scored two points through the season's first two games.
Jarrett Jack (PG – Portland)
It's difficult to imagine that Jack could play any worse than he has though the season's first three games – he's averaged 2.3 points on 20 percent shooting and has more turnovers (nine) than assists (eight) in 25 minutes per game. If Jack continues to flounder, Steve Blake is waiting in the wings.
Walter Herrmann (F – Charlotte)
Last season's down-the-stretch stud was a popular sleeper for this season, but he's a nearly non-existent part of the Bobcats' rotation through two games. He's totaled 15 minutes of playing time so far, scoring four points.
Luther Head (G – Houston)
Head has been a forgotten man for the Rockets through three games, averaging 0.7 points in just under eight minutes per game – Mike James and Bonzi Wells have supplanted him as the first guards off of the bench.
Charlie Villanueva (F – Milwaukee)
Charlie V's numbers could really take a hit if the Bucks are content to let Yi Jianlian play through his growing pains. Through three games, Villanueva is averaging 6 points on 30 percent shooting in 19 minutes per game and has not recorded a block or steal.
Mike Conley Jr. (G – Memphis)
The Grizzlies are sticking with a two-man rotation at PG (Damon Stoudamire and Kyle Lowry) for the foreseeable future, meaning that Conley isn't going to play much, if at all, until an injury or trade occurs. Conley did not play in either of the Grizzlies' first two games.
Rafer Alston (PG – Houston)
Alston has been pretty horrific on offense since winning the starting PG gig in camp – through the season's first three games, Alston is averaging 7 points on 38 percent shooting and 0.7 threes on 18 percent shooting in 26 minutes per game. Mike James has been much more effective (15 points on 43 percent shooting, 2.3 threes) in roughly the same amount of playing time (25 minutes per game) and could bump Alston from the starting spot if the trend continues.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League Update
FBC- Justin Phan and pianowski have started the season in strong fashion and lead in the early-going. Phan has three players in the current top 10 in season rank (Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups) and Pianowski has three in the current top 15 (Richard Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant). Transactions since the start of the season have included Reggie Evans, Bobby Simmons, Rashad McCants, Eddy Curry, Ruben Patterson, and DeSagana Diop, among others.