Fantasy Fireworks

Talk about an eventful holiday weekend. I hit the Jersey shore for four days and come home with a lot of catching up to do as a flurry of moves have altered the landscape since last week’s Pistons shopping spree.

Since most of these moves have been covered in detail throughout the weekend, I’ll just give a quick recap with my take:

Rasheed Wallace signs with the Boston Celtics: This news broke late Sunday night and basically makes me physically ill due to my distaste for anything Boston related.

There seems to be a prevailing thought that Wallace is near the end of his usefulness, but his per minute numbers have been nearly identical for the past four seasons. Plus, he actually played more minutes last season that the 2007-08 campaign.

There are a lot of questions to be answered here. Wallace will basically be the fifth offensive option and relied on to shoot open 3-pointers, rebound and play defense – all of which still does well.

But with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo comprising a bulk of the offense, how many shots will be left for Sheed? Will he get more or less minutes as a key veteran role player? Will the secondary role help his usually awful FG% as much as it hurts his scoring average? Will he be starting or coming off the bench?

This one is a wait and see situation, but Wallace is worth a gamble. He’ll still provide 3-pointers, steals and blocks at the center position and any injury to Boston’s aging trio could propel Wallace into a more substantial role on what may be the league’s best team.

Ron Artest signs with the Los Angeles Lakers: Despite Artest’s move to the defending champions, I’m approaching him with caution this season.

Artest is a tremendous defensive player and can shoot 3-pointers, but has really bad shot selection and turns the ball over far too much. Not only does that hurt in fantasy, but it worries me that he may find himself at the receiving end of Phil Jackson’s habit of taking playing time away from sloppy players.

Plus, we know the Lakers won’t be hitching their championship offense to Artest’s shoddy decision making. It will be Kobe Bryant, Paul Gasol, Lamar Odom and possibly the refreshed Andrew Bynum as the team’s most effective and efficient scorers. Artest will get the leftovers and doesn’t shoot well enough to truly maximize those limited opportunities.

The idea of an already valuable fantasy player joining the world champs will cause most owners to see it as an immediate step up. It may get Artest closer to a title, but it won’t do the same for an owner that drafts him too early.

Trevor Ariza signs with the Houston Rockets: Not too long ago, I warned against putting too much faith in players that make names for themselves in the playoffs, because they likely won’t generate the same production the following season.

Ariza is a player I would have considered in that category until this move.

Artest is gone from Houston, Tracy McGrady is perennially injured and Yao Ming may miss the entire season with a foot injury. So it would seem that Ariza is going to be a main weapon for the Rockets, who are shaping up as a running team that will generate high-scoring games. This bodes well for Ariza’s numbers.

We still have yet to see how Ariza will perform with major minutes during the regular season. But time and time again in fantasy basketball it is proven that opportunity is the biggest ingredient for success. Give any player 35 minutes a night and constant access to the ball and that player WILL be fantasy-relevant.

A conservative estimate should have Ariza averaging 15 points, 1.5 3-pointers, 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game. You could gamble on him averaging as many as 19 points per game and it may just pay off. All that stands in your way are McGrady’s brittle bones.

Marcin Gortat signs with Dallas Mavericks: This hasn’t happened yet but all indications are that Gortat is headed West. That means that there is a new viable fantasy center.

Best known as Dwight Howard’s white backup on the Magic, Gortat is a 25-year-old 7-footer who has shown solid rebounding and shot blocking skills in his two-year career. He has played in only 69 games, averaging 11.2 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 56 percent from the floor.

Gortat will be getting consistent major minutes at the NBA level for the first time, which may expose some glaring holes that have previously been overlooked. But any 7-footer getting 30 minutes per game is worth consideration as a second/backup center due to the potential for blocks and boards.

After all, he can’t be worse than Erick Dampier.


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