I suppose the Grizzlies drafting Hasheem Thabeet had a lot to do with it, but Marc Gasol was seriously overlooked this preseason. However, in the opener versus the Pistons, Gasol issued 21 points, 15 boards and three blocks' worth of wake-up call to fantasy owners (and fantasy analysts).
I know that his outstanding debut on ESPN has everything to do with it, but Ty Lawson is currently neck and neck with Gasol for most-added player honors in ESPN leagues.
Welcome to the Fantasy Forecaster, Week 2. And yes, I too watched Lawson zig-zag his way through the Jazz. It was extremely impressive, and I share your fondness for the lad. I also expect both Lawson and Gasol to extend their early success. Let's break down the week ahead.
Week 2 at a glance
Action picks up this week, as nearly half the league -- 14 teams in all -- face four-game slates. The Spurs are the only team with two games. The Celtics, in particular, have a glorious schedule, despite playing in four cities over a five-day span. In his first two games with the C's, Rasheed Wallace made only seven field goals, but six of them were 3-pointers. He should do ample damage from downtown against the Sixers, who yielded 16 triples in their opener in Orlando, and the Nets, who allowed the fifth-most 3s in 2008-09. Kendrick Perkins had a four-block night versus the Bobcats, the team that sustained a league-high 6.0 rejections per game in 2008-09. In Week 2, Perkins draws the Timberwolves, who had an incredible 10 shots stuffed in their opener versus Brook Lopez and the Nets. Perkins is available in more than 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues.
"O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup), and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's year-to-date and past 10 games' statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The Games T / H column lists the team's total number of games played as well as home games (T / H), and lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's matchups.
The forecast: It's their week
Andray Blatche, PF/C, Wizards (@CLE, MIA, @IND, PHO): Antawn Jamison could be back in two weeks, so enjoy this while you can. In 35 minutes off the bench, Blatche produced 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in the Wizards' opener in Dallas. The 23-year-old should grab plenty of boards in high-possession games against the Pacers and Suns. In addition, Pacers opponents amassed the fifth-most blocks in 2008-09. Though his ownership has quintupled in recent days, Blatche remains available in 90 percent of leagues.
Rasual Butler, SG/SF, Clippers (MIN, GS, MEM): I wanted to believe that Al Thornton had turned a corner, but the Clippers could already be turning to Butler. In the second game of the season, the ex-New Orleans Hornet got 32 minutes off the bench, while a foul-plagued Thornton managed only 24. With his extended run, Butler finished 7-for-10 with three 3-pointers in that contest against the Suns. Butler is available in more than 99 percent of leagues, and he needs to make his 3s have any fantasy value. Still, you have to like his chances here, because you have to like any schedule that includes the Warriors. Beyond that, the Grizzlies allowed the Pistons to shoot 51.4 percent in their opener.
Danilo Gallinari, SF, Knicks (NOR, IND, CLE, @MIL): On the subject of making 3s, there's Gallinari. Incredibly, 13 of the 14 field goals he attempted against the Heat on Oct. 28 came from downtown. Impressively, the second-year player swished seven of them. In light of how Gallinari struggled through the preseason, his opening-night performance comes as a great sign. And on the subject of great signs, there's this schedule. The Hornets, Pacers and Bucks were all below average at defending the 3 in 2008-09. Gallinari is available in more than 95 percent of leagues and, given both his potential and the Knicks' need to see what he can do, I view him as one of fantasy's most undervalued assets.
Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies (@SAC, @GS, @LAL, @LAC): While Gasol's ownership has doubled on ESPN.com this week, he remains available in nearly 70 percent of leagues. I'm guessing, though, that his ownership will top 50 percent by the time Gasol gets done piling up stats against the Kings and Warriors. And yes, that's your cue to get on board.
Ty Lawson, PG, Nuggets (@IND, @NJ, @MIA, @ATL): Getting one chance to actually see Lawson is enough to convince me that George Karl will continue to find minutes for him, even after J.R. Smith returns from suspension. But realistically, with 20-22 minutes of playing time as a high end, Lawson only makes sense in leagues of at least 12 teams. Still, if you're looking for a bunch of steals for this week, you might well find them. The Pacers coughed it up to the Hawks 16 times in their opener, while the Nets saw the Timberwolves take it away from them 15 times in theirs.
Peja Stojakovic, SF, Hornets (@NY, DAL, TOR, @LAL): Now a reserve in New Orleans, the 32-year-old Stojavokic is probably overvalued in fantasy (he's owned in about 15 percent of leagues). Still, if you have him, you may as well play him. The Knicks matchup speaks for itself, but I'll add that the Raptors, a perennially bad team when it comes to 3-point defense, surrendered nine triples in their otherwise impressive opening win over the Cavs. The champs also allowed their share of 3-pointers last season, though Lakers opponents were third-worst in shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
The forecast: They're weak
Aaron Brooks, PG, Rockets (@UTA, LAL, OKC): It's early, but I'm wondering if I missed the boat on Brooks. Even as a starter last season, Brooks averaged just 3.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 40.3 shooting. For some reason, that made me view him as a lousy shooter who wouldn't give me much beyond 3-pointers. Of course, this season the depleted Rockets are a team transformed, and perhaps Brooks will do more simply because he's needed to. The 24-year-old is off to a nice start, averaging 18.5 points, 8.5 assists and 2.0 steals in his first two games. But let's see how he fares this week versus the Jazz, who are always tough in Salt Lake, and the Lakers.
Brandon Jennings, PG, Bucks (@CHI, @MIN, NY): The just-turned 20-year-old goes into this season as the Bucks' starter. Though this is hardly a daunting schedule, my biggest concern for Jennings is his potential to make a ton of turnovers in the early going. To that end, I'll note that the Timberwolves harassed the Nets into 22 turnovers in their opener. I can understand why you might like Jennings and why you might activate him right away, but I'll wait for him to show me something.
Nenad Krstic, C, Thunder (LAL, @HOU, ORL): Krstic is available in 97 percent of leagues, but that will change with more showings like his 20-point, 7-rebound performance in the Thunder's opener versus the Kings. Hopefully he's regained the form that saw him average 16.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 2006-07, but you might want to see how Krstic holds up against Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard before buying in.
Jermaine O'Neal, C, Heat (PHO, @WAS, DEN): O'Neal certainly wasn't ignored like Krstic or Gasol, but the oft-injured center went very late in drafts this year -- and in fact he can still be had in 18 percent of leagues. But J.O., too, quickly reminded fantasy owners what he can do with his opening-night 22-and-12 against the Knicks. O'Neal figures to have a tougher time with this schedule, but of course any Suns game should have lots of rebounds.
Martell Webster, SF, Trail Blazers (ATL, SA, MIN): As a fantasy option, Webster is comparable to the aforementioned Butler. But the schedule says Butler is the better play this week. Spurs opponents managed the third-fewest 3s in 2008-09, while Hawks opponents had the 10th fewest.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.