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Saturday, January 19, 2008
Fast Break Week 13 Column

By John Cregan
Special to ESPN.com

This is the first column of mine that you've read since my picture was posted on the fantasy basketball front page. I understand if you need a moment to drink that in. I have a certain effect. I think it's the frames, maybe the hair, the eyes or all three. And if you ever heard my voice, you'd also note its ruddy Richard Harris-esque baritone. Anyway, I understand it's pretty hypnotic.

Now that we've gotten the awkwardness out of the way … on with the column.

If you're in a weekly group, you had to have noticed a little anomaly. Milwaukee plays five games this week. As we head into the second-half "reset" of Fast Break Challenge, with all its attendant excitement, there are going to be more scheduling anomalies. Because as the NBA's schedule gets less weighted, there will be more teams with big weeks like the Bucks'.

But for this week, you might be asking yourself "Which Bucks should I play?" In some odd Fast Break way, it's kind of exciting because you'll be considering a couple of names you haven't come close to starting all season.

Let's take a brief fantastic voyage through their lineup in FBC order of appearance.

Mo Williams, PG, Milwaukee Bucks

Williams is a solid second-tier point guard you already might have used in your lineup. He was laid low with the flu this past week, but will be back in the lineup by Monday, I promise. Don't worry about that little "DTD" next to his name. Before he got sick, Williams was having some insane January.

Williams has a perfect statistical game for the Fast Break scoring system. He doesn't turn the ball over (2.8 per game). He's a very accurate shooter, from the line (.857) and the field (.474).

This is going to be five games of real statistical goodness.

Verdict: Definite, definite start.

Michael Redd, SG, Milwaukee Bucks

Redd hasn't quite been the same since coming back from a thigh injury last week. Maybe he needs a couple more games to round into shape. Maybe it's some of the trade rumors I've been reading. Or, maybe the dynamic has shifted on the Bucks in his absence.

If you haven't noticed -- and let's face it, you probably haven't been that on top of this if you're not from Milwaukee -- there's been a real changing of the guard in the Bucks' box scores. Kind of a miniature version of the no-Gilbert Arenas effect in Washington.

Redd's a little less tempting than Williams for two other reasons: his relatively high salary ($19.00) and the fact that some elite shooting guards (Kobe, Iverson) are in line for four-game weeks.

Verdict: Borderline start.

Bobby Simmons, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

With Desmond Mason out until March with a thumb injury, Simmons will get a chance to play himself back into fantasy consideration. But that's a long way from Fast Break consideration.

Basically, all the following players would have to get suspended, injured or worse to make me consider starting Simmons: LeBron James, Caron Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Josh Smith, Josh Howard, Gerald Wallace, Dave Feitl, Paul Pierce, Andre Iguodala, John "Hot Plate" Williams, Mike Miller, Richard Jefferson, Mike Dunleavy, Ledell Eackles, Ron Artest and Kevin Durant. And I believe some of those players have been retired for more than a decade.

Verdict: Be very afraid.

Yi Jianlian, PF, Milwaukee Bucks

The time-share between Yi and Charlie Villanueva has been one of the more frustrating fantasy story lines of the season. I firmly believe that if Yi had forced his way to another team, Villanueva would be a solid fantasy starter. I also firmly believe that by this time next season, Yi will be worthy of Fast Break consideration.

Verdict: Not just yet.

Andrew Bogut, C Milwaukee Bucks

Remember that scoring shift I was talking about a few paragraphs ago? Well, meet the new go-to man in Milwaukee. It seems like a hazy memory at this point, but there was a time Bogut was a No. 1 draft choice. Ever since, he's been somewhere between Kwame Brown and Emeka Okafor: not a stick-your-career-in-the-abyss disaster, but also not worthy of such a highly placed draft choice.

Now, Brown still has these occasional bouts with relevance when he'll be somewhat competent for three games or so before sinking back into fantasy middle distance. But Bogut has been going nuts for a month now, and is easily playing the best basketball of his career.

Bogut still can't shoot free throws, but -- like Dwight Howard -- overcomes it within Fast Break's points system. He also doesn't get to the line enough to do any real damage to your point totals. All in all, Bogut's a real Fast Break Success Story.

Verdict: Start with impunity.

Now, in "Oregon Trail" speak, Milwaukee is a fair to middling Fast Break team. A few years back, I wrote a regular column on schedule strength. As a result, I got really hooked on looking at teamwide fantasy potential. If you identify which teams are the best within your league's scoring system, it helps you figure out who might have sleeper potential should injury strike.

I thought I'd quickly give you a rundown of some of the best Fast Break lineups in the NBA:

1. Phoenix Suns

PG: Steve Nash (23.4 FBPTs per game)
SG: Leandro Barbosa (14.7)
SF: Grant Hill -OUT- (18.0)
PF: Shawn Marion (24.4)
C: Amare Stoudemire (25.7)

Easily the best starting five in Fast Break Challenge. You probably could do all right with an all-Suns lineup.

2. Denver Nuggets

PG: Anthony Carter (13.5)
SG: Allen Iverson (23.6)
SF: Carmelo Anthony (22.1)
PF: Kenyon Martin (12.9)
C: Marcus Camby (24.9)

Any team with three players with Fast Break points in the 20s is an elite team. The fact that even Carter and Martin are in the 13 FBPT range, to boot, lets you know two things: This is a team that can score, and the Nuggets don't have much depth.

3. New Orleans Hornets

PG: Chris Paul (26.6)
SG: Morris Peterson (8.5)
SF: Peja Stojakovic (12.2)
PF: David West (21.4)
C: Tyson Chandler (20.6)

Aside from the obvious talents of Paul, the Hornets feature two other brutally efficient Fast Break players in Chandler and West. Chandler and West don't score a ton of points, but they fill up a Fast Break box score in other ways, don't have a lot of off nights and play with the top point guard (there, I said it) of the 2007-08 season.

4. Golden State Warriors

PG: Baron Davis (23.4)
SG: Monta Ellis (16.8)
SF: Al Harrington (14.5)
PF: Stephen Jackson (16.0)
C: Andris Biedrins (17.8)

The most frustrating team in Fast Break Challenge. The Warriors also are the only team with players you have to start not by looking at box scores but by "feeling vibes." You have to rely on vibes because there's nothing on Tom Jones' Green Earth that is going to help you figure out which synapses are firing in Don Nelson's genius-sized mind.

5. (SLEEPER PICK) Charlotte Bobcats

PG: Raymond Felton (14.1)
SG: Jason Richardson (17.7)
SF: Gerald Wallace (20.4)
PF: SCRATCH
C: Emeka Okafor (18.2)

Yeah, I could have put Boston on this list. But instead, I'm going to put one of my favorite mediocre teams, the Charlotte Bobcats, in fifth. I like Charlotte because it has reached draft overload: The Cats have been bad for so long (their entire existence) that they've stockpiled a nice set of fantasy sleepers. Since they've added Nazr Mohammed to the frontcourt, they seem to have found a nice rotation that has goosed the production of the entire lineup.