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Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Four's a crowd in Utah frontcourt

It's great when an NBA team can succeed while maxing out the stats of its players, but quite often what's best for an NBA squad is not ideal for fantasy production. Case in point: the Utah Jazz frontcourt, which is filled with talented big men like veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap and youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. On Tuesday, Jefferson (4 points, 10 boards) and Favors (8 points, 6 rebounds) started, while Millsap (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Kanter (5 points, 11 boards) came off the pine. Sure, it's great news for the Jazz that they have so many talented young bigs, but none can max out their stats if they all get a slice of the minutes. It's really hard to get a read on how things are going to flesh out with these four players, but if they settle into a situation where they all get a chunk of the action depending on game-to-game matchups, it will be tough for anyone beyond Jefferson to be a reliable fantasy stud this season.

Looking Back

• We know the Miami Heat have only two spots to fill in their starting roster: a center and a point guard. Rookie Norris Cole did his best to stake a claim to the starting point slot on Tuesday. Coming off the bench, he played 29 minutes (10 more than starter Mario Chalmers), scored 20 points (8-for-16 FG) and added four dimes and three steals, playing a critical role down the stretch as the Heat held off the Boston Celtics for their second straight win. With Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on board, it'll be tough for the Heat's point guard to pile up big numbers, but if the rookie Cole can secure the starting job with good play, he could easily ride their coattails to fantasy relevance.

Rajon Rondo continued to score well in his second game this season, piling up 22 points after scoring 31 in the season opener. Someday in the not-so-distant future, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are going to be put out to stud and Rondo will have to score more, but right now he's just taking advantage of Pierce being out with a heel injury. Should one or more of them miss a chunk of the season, Rondo's scoring production should take a big jump. Unfortunately, we may see a big jump in his turnovers, too (he's turned the ball over 12 times in two games). Pierce could be back as soon as Friday, at which point Rondo likely will resume focusing on his diming over scoring.

• Rookie power forward Jon Leuer played for the University of Wisconsin and was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. In his first pro game in Wisconsin, he had 14 points, 8 boards, 2 steals, 2 blocks, was 5-of-7 from the field and hit all four of his free throws. He played just one minute in the road opener and had no stats, so his short-term upside should remain limited. However, if - or when -- center Andrew Bogut gets hurt, keep Leuer in mind.

  • It won't be easy to look past Kevin Love's 31 points, 20 rebounds and 19-of-24 free-throw shooting -- even if he failed to steal a ball or block a shot, as usual -- but let's check out the Minnesota Timberwolves' backcourt action on Tuesday. While Luke Ridnour manned the point for nearly 34 minutes as the starter, Ricky Rubio played 27 minutes, hit two of his three shots, dished out four dimes and swiped three balls, though he had three turnovers. Meanwhile, J.J. Barea was felled by a hamstring injury that may be serious enough to limit his play the rest of the week, according to the StarTribune. Whether Rubio will be able to shine as a rookie comes down to whether he can outplay Barea and Ridnour to earn enough minutes to pile up stats. It's a crowded backcourt in Minny, but if Barea is out for long, the door could be open for Rubio to make a move. Keep your expectations limited, but also keep an eye on Rubio.

    • How ugly was the game between the Atlanta Hawks and the New Jersey Nets Tuesday evening? Ugly enough that the top scorers were reserves Vladimir Radmanovic and Marshon Brooks, each of whom had 17 points. Since many players are out of shape due to the lockout, and with fewer practices to get teams on the same page, you had to figure we would see a lot of bad hoops played early this season. That helps explain a poor outing from the young but veteran Hawks team. We should see much better nights ahead for their starters. However, with Brook Lopez out of the picture, things could get really ugly for the Nets on a regular basis. How many dimes can we expect from Deron Williams when the other four starters combine to score just 13 points? Tuesday night, he had a single dime and six turnovers.

    Looking Ahead

    The Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Michigan to face the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. Surprisingly, it will actually be the third time they've played this month, as the two teams squared off twice in the "preseason." These are two of the youngest teams in the NBA, so there are a lot of very talented and relatively (or completely) unproven players to keep an eye on. To begin with, you'll want to focus on rookie point guards Kyrie Irving of the Cavs and Brandon Knight of the Pistons. Both have tons of fantasy potential but will have to earn their keep. You'll also want to watch second-year Pistons big man Greg Monroe, who should be poised for a bust-out season, and Cavs rookie Tristan Thompson, who could be a double-double machine if he adjusts quickly to the pros.