Fantasy Notes: Brand New Challenge
So new head coach Tony DiLeo seemed like he had turned the Sixers around after a disappointing start. Hell, the team has won back-to-back games for the first time since late-November! Okay, dude…now try to win without your best player. Elton Brand’s dislocated shoulder will keep him out for a month. Major burn for his owners, but great news if you own Thaddeus Young, who is sure to pick up some extra minutes and could start when Philly wants to go small. If DiLeo wants to get more size in the lineup, look for Marreese Speights or Reggie Evans to get the call; either way, all three of these guys are going to benefit with EB out. The timing sucks as Brand finally exploded for a season-high 27 points on Saturday, and then he goes and gets hurt the next bloody game.
The Sixers are just three games under .500, so the season is hardly a lost cause (especially in the woeful Eastern Conference), but Philly must galvanize itself now with Brand out and start resembling the team that excelled in the second half last year. In fact, this team is just one game out of a playoff spot, so there’s absolutely no need to panic because of this injury. Fortunately, the Sixers get to take on the woeful Wizards Friday for the second time in six days. Of course, on the downside, Philly has lost five straight games in Washington, going winless since April 9, 2005. But these aren’t the same Wizards. Washington has dropped four straight, and can’t even defend its own home court (3-10). The Wizards appear locked in to the Blake Griffin sweepstakes.
The key to Philly’s turnaround has been D. The Sixers were one of the top defensive teams in the association last season, but this year, they got off to an awful start. However, the tide is turning. In the last three games, the team has allowed just 88.3 PPG, and just 92 PPG in the last six. In the four game before this, they were getting burned for 103.5 PPG. This run has allowed Philly to improve to eighth overall with 94.6 PPG allowed – even better than last year (96.2) when it finished seventh.
Washington’s offense has been middling this season, but during its four-game losing streak, the team can’t hit a shot to save its life. The Wizards are shooting under 40 per cent over the last four games, managing just 87.3 PPG, including a season-low 74 points on Wednesday. I guess there’s a reason this team is 4-19.
Antawn Jamison was the man on Monday (26 points, 15 boards, three 3-pointers and a block), but lines like that for him have been rare lately. After a huge November, he’s averaging just 18.4 PPG so far this month. And even with the shot-sucking Gilbert Arenas out all season so far, Jamison’s touches are down. In Wednesday’s loss against the Pistons, he did have 11 rebounds and a block, but sunk just 5-of-18 for only 14 points. Later, it was revealed that he was playing with a sprained thumb, and he’s questionable for Friday’s tilt against Philly. If Jamison is out, Darius Songaila could get a start, while Dominic McGuire and JaVale McGee will each see a boost in PT.
I just dumped Juan Dixon and picked up Mike James in his place after James got the start Wednesday and scored a season-high 16 points with three boards, two treys, two steals and two assists. If you need a boost in scoring, give the old guy a look. His role has really diminished since leaving the Raptors, but if he gets the touches in Washington – and he’s never been shy about hoisting ‘em up – James will score. Coach Ed Tapscott has already said that James will get a few starts at PG to see if he can turn around a flailing Wizard offense. If Jamison is out, I wouldn’t be shocked to see James put up 20 shots or more. And it’s not as if Agent Zero will be showing up any time soon – if at all, this season.
Meanwhile, go ahead and dump Dixon. He had been getting some nice burn lately, but he played just 15 minutes Wednesday, so it looks like his run is over.
Caron Butler turned in a serious stinker Wednesday, managing just five points on 1-for-4 shooting in 36 minutes. We can’t really complain about Butler’s production this season, and his shooting has been even better of late, however, his scoring has dipped slightly in December and his steals have dropped significantly. Butler’s PT is down a wee bit this season, but he’s come pretty close to duplicating his career year from last season.
The rush to pick up Andray Blatche is on again. He’s started the last two games at centre for the Wiz and he’s done well, scoring in double figures in both games and getting a double-double with four assists and a block on Wednesday. Now comes the kicker – will he keep getting 30+ minutes? The dude has teased us for some time, for the most part he has failed to deliver on all that pre-season hype.
Lou Williams is looking like a solid pickup these days, as he’s been lighting it up – especially down the stretch of games. The dude has scored at least 10 points in the fourth quarter of five straight games and he’s reached double figures in six straight. With Brand out, Williams could get a few more touches as the team tries to replace that offense. Either way, with 15.9 PPG in December so far, Williams is proving he belongs on your team.