The first week is in the books, and the requests for reality checks are piling up. Rather than go with the standard three-player format, we are going to do this week's "Are You For Real?" speed-dating style. Eight players. Quick takes. If we like a player, we'll take a name and a number. If not, no hard feelings, and it's on to the next.
This time of year, you have to be ready to make quick and sometimes impetuous decisions. We will try to guide you toward making the choices that help your squad, not just for this week but the weeks beyond. We all know speed dating is about finding something now, but who doesn't like the girl (or player) who has a lot to offer? Apologies to those skeeved out by the interplay of romance and obsession in our takes, but if you can't handle the man-crush, get out of the love seat and tear the Fathead off the wall.
Guy: For Real. Let's get this out of the way first. Love him, cherish him, and I hope you already have him. He is great for Week 2, and despite Ron Artest's return, he will be a solid 15/5/5 guy with good percentages, at least until Mike Bibby is back in January. After then, who knows? My guess is the minutes will be there after two-plus months of excellent offense.
Mac: For Real ... for a little while, at least. Listen, I'm with Guy on Salmons' short-term value. He's going to be a big item for the next few months, that much is clear. What is unclear is his role when Bibby returns to the lineup. Actually, I'm more worried about Francisco Garcia's emergence than Bibby's return. If Garcia continues to play well (and I suspect he will), it's going to be hard to keep him off the court, and that will mean fewer minutes for our boy Salmons. Of course, we won't have to worry about that until a little further down the road, so feel free to run with Salmons for now.
Mac: For Real. Guy, is there any question about which way I'm going on this one? I've always liked Webster (maybe too much), and I've always wondered what he might be able to do with extended minutes. Well, we're finally getting a good look at the youngster, and it's hard not to be impressed with his 16.3 points and 2.0 3-pointers through three games. Granted, Webster is a fairly limited fantasy asset, since he's not an across-the-board contributor, but he's still a valuable commodity. Given that he's one of the few in Portland who actually is getting it done on the offensive end, we should expect him to continue to earn 30-35 minutes per night, during which he likely will average 15 points, 1.7 3-pointers and a steal per game this season.
Guy: For Real. Mac has loved this kid ever since he came into the league. The old lech was like a high school senior spying a young freshman and projecting the beauty she would become. Feeling dirty? You should. While the attraction was inappropriate then, it's fully legal now. Webster is the outside shooter the Blazers need, and he is going to be raining 3's all season.
Guy: Not Real. Ooof. I admit to pimping this guy pretty hard in my profiles. I thought the two-time Spanish League MVP would excel in Rick Adelman's offense, which traditionally has been great for skilled post players like Scola. So far, the numbers have not been there. In shallow leagues (10 teams or fewer), you have to cut bait and move on. Chuck Hayes has been his usual pesky self on the boards and on defense, and he is leeching minutes off Scola.
Mac: For Real. Ouch, Guy, that hurts. But why are you changing your tune so early? We liked this guy in the preseason for a reason, and that doesn't just disappear after a few games. Hayes worries me, for sure, but Scola's averages of 5.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.7 steals are quite good for a guy who is seeing just 19.0 minutes per game. Once those minutes creep up (and they will, given the injury history in Houston) he'll be exactly who we thought he was. Of course, that might take a little while, so it's perfectly fine to drop him in standard formats.
Mac: Not Real. I still own Frye in more leagues than I care to admit, and it really pains me to say this, but I'm not liking what I've seen out of him thus far this season. It would be different if he were putting up solid per-minute stats (see Scola, Luis), but he's not, and I'm giving him only a few more days to break out of this funk before I kick him to the curb.
Guy: For Real. You'd be wise to hold on, Brian. It's hard to have any fantasy relevance when you clock just 15 minutes per game. However, it looks like this is going to change. Frye has been practicing with the Blazers' first team this week, and I expect him to start in tonight's game. With 25-30 minutes, Frye is ownable in two-center leagues with 12 or more teams. He can score, and his percentages are much better when he plays both inside and out, as he will alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. In two-center leagues, center is too thin to drop a player like Frye just yet.
Guy: Not Real. Azubuike is a good player who fits Don Nelson's system well. He shoots, can handle the ball and plays hard. The problem is that with the return of Stephen Jackson and the Warriors struggling out of the gate, I simply cannot trust Nelson to leave his minutes as is. Nellie was born to tinker, and there are enough similar players on the roster for Azubuike to lose minutes as the season goes on. I am not saying he won't be good, just that I can't trust Nellie to leave him alone.
Mac: Not Real. Right on, Guy. Azubuike looks like a legit pickup right now, but what's going to happen once Jackson returns next week? Jackson will pull minutes and production from both Azubuike and Mickael Pietrus, so we can't realistically expect him to continue his production over the long haul. That said, take note of what Azubuike is doing now -– 20.3 points, 1.7 3-pointers and 1.0 steals per game –- because that's what we'll be seeing whenever there's an injury in this lineup.
Mac: For Real. Only if you're willing to deal with his inconsistencies, that is. It's going to be an up-and-down season for sure, but T2 always will have a spot on my roster due to his defensive abilities. After all, the kid did average 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks in just 13.4 minutes per game last season. Now that he's seeing around 30 minutes per game in the Chicago frontcourt, I'm expecting to see more games like his 21-point, 12-rebound, 2-steal, 3-block explosion last Friday night.
Guy: For Real. For roto leagues, in particular. The vicissitudes of Thomas' production might be too much for head-to-head owners to handle on a weekly basis. I think his numbers will come out in the wash, and I can see end-of-season averages along the line of 11.0 points, 7.5 boards, 1.7 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. My biggest fear is that his inconsistency will get him more bench time. Scott Skiles is a stickler.
Guy: For Real. He is not going to be a great contributor across the board, but I really like this kid. His value will be as a long-distance gunner for your squads. He was a deadly scorer in college, and his first few games this season indicate he is getting some of that groove back. He could join the company of one-cat shooters like Kyle Korver, Mo Peterson and Raja Bell. The difference is that McCants is a better natural scorer than any of these three and could end the season with more value.
Mac: For Real. Guy, I agree 100 percent. There are so few scorers in this Timberwolves lineup, and McCants certainly will have an opportunity to assert himself on the offensive end. With his athleticism and pure shooting ability, he should be able to get loose for 15-16 points with 1.8-2.0 3-pointers per game. I wish he would hit more of his free throws (71.4 percent for his career), but I won't complain, so long as he continues to score and drill 3's from downtown. Although McCants went down with a sprained ankle last night, before the injury, he was 4-of-4 with eight points in just 10 minutes.
Next week, we return to our regular format and look at three players more in depth. We are planning on looking at players who are underperforming. Let us know who you think needs a reality check.
Guy Lake and Brian McKitish are fantasy analysts for ESPN.com.