Free throws key for Rose
With only two games played last night, both aired nationally, there's not too much to harp about, so let's knock this out in bullet point form.
• Even on a (supposedly) hobbled ankle, Derrick Rose looked great in his 33 minutes, piling up seven assists with only one turnover. He also earned himself five free throws, but converted only three. While he will improve on last season's 3.1 free throw attempts per game -- he could even double them, in fact -- it's not going to do much for his owners if he doesn't convert approximately 80 percent of them. Considering it's his primary area for growth this season, it's something to keep an eye on.
• Outside of Tim Duncan, the Spurs couldn't do much of anything right, but Manu Ginobili's owners found solace even in an off night. Despite going 3-for-11 from the field, Ginobili still chipped in six rebounds, four assists, a 3-pointer and a steal while going 5-for-5 from the line. In his two games, he's averaging six free throw attempts, five and a half 3-point attempts and 11 field goal attempts, so even though he's only shooting 36 percent, his aggressiveness is an indication of his health. And even though the Spurs will undoubtedly rest him at every opportunity, he remains unique in being able to produce like a starter while playing less than 30 minutes a game.
• Luol Deng demonstrated why Reggie Miller labeled him one of the best mid-range shooters in the game, leading the Bulls with 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Although he's fairly one-dimensional (just two free throw attempts, two assists, one steal and zero blocks or 3-pointers), he looks like he's back, and well-worth that end-of-the-draft gambit you took on him.
• For those of you in deep leagues, note DeJuan Blair's four fouls in 13 minutes. While talented, don't look for a fantasy impact this year, as fouls almost always plague rookie big men. But speaking of fouls, it's nice to see that the Bulls' pair of big men, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah (two each) were able to stay out of foul trouble. With Thomas now in his fourth season and Noah in his third, it will be their foul rate more than anything that decides whether or not they break out.
• So far, the "Andre Miller coming off the bench" experiment has been disastrous, as his 3-for-11 performance Thursday has him shooting 27 percent in his first two games. On the bright side, however, he's still attempted 11 shots per game, and has managed to dish out six assists per game in just 26 minutes, so he's definitely forcing the issue when he's in the game. But with Steve Blake (zero points on 0-for-3 shooting) doing woefully little to justify his starting spot, Miller probably won't be on the bench for long.
• While Greg Oden looks ready to contribute from a performance standpoint (21 rebounds and seven blocks in his first two games), he picked up five fouls for the second straight game. Because blocks are so rare, Oden will have his uses, but if he can't temper the foul problems, he's going to be maddening to own all year long.
The season gears into overdrive this weekend, with 20 combined games on the slate. Here's a brief overview of what to keep an eye on:
• Matchups between two teams that employ extreme differences in style, like the run-and-gun Sacramento Kings against the half-court execution of the New Orleans Hornets, are always intriguing. Which style will exert its force on the game? Do teams that rarely push the ball in the open court gain a few extra possessions when they face an up-tempo team, or does the latter lose them? Contests between the Knicks-Bobcats and Kings-Hornets will give some insight.
• Make sure to start your marginal players when two up-tempo teams meet. This weekend give extra consideration to your Warriors, who face the Suns on Saturday; your Grizzlies and Nuggets, who will also meet; and your Wolves, who will travel to Phoenix to play the Suns on Sunday.