- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Well, I'm happy to say the Zaza Pachulia watch is over for me. He's back and while I could be more pleased, at least he's back. When I selected Pachulia at pick No. 115 in my 30-team draft to start at center -- yes, you read that correctly -- I wasn't expecting Wilt Chamberlain stats, but still, I was hoping for something. And by the way, wouldn't it have been great to own Wilt in fantasy the year he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds? I mean, those are serious numbers.
Back to Zaza, who probably isn't going to deliver the 12 and 7 I was hoping for now that rookie Al Horford appears ready to deliver a nightly double-double as Atlanta's starting center. Hey, I knew this was coming, but six games into the season? I thought I'd have some time!
You're probably thinking, what is this guy doing relying on someone named Zaza Pachulia in the first place? Well, in the deepest of leagues, and I'd call any 30-team rather deep, these players don't win leagues, but you need some production from every spot to go with the superstars. The way my draft went, I wasn't too interested in reaching for a center. Plus, did you ever have the feeling that if you were the one to draft Marcus Camby he'd just get hurt? Well, I felt bad for Camby in Round 2, and figured he'd stay healthy if I'd avoid him. I know, it sounds odd.
Today I took a look back at the draft to see if I could have drafted anyone else in that spot to play center. No dice. I did the right thing, then Zaza did the wrong thing and turned an ankle, thus accelerating the progress of a strong rookie. Horford was drafted ahead of Zaza, by the way.
While Kevin Durant hasn't been as good his second week as he was his first, maybe that Rookie of the Year race really is up for grabs. I was able to see a few rooks in the past week, and here are my thoughts.
Kevin Durant, SG/SF, Sonics: Some good shooting nights, and some not so good at all. The 3-for-17 night against Memphis was particularly harmful to fantasy teams. I don't think he'll shoot less than 40 percent from the field this season, he just needs to figure out how to take better percentage shots. Obviously, even at 21 and 5 he should be owned in every fantasy league.
Al Horford, C, Hawks: Saw a little of the Boston game Friday, and Horford had his best offensive night, asserting himself for 12 field goal attempts and eight free throws. In no other game has he taken more than half the field goals or half the freebies, so this is a good sign. I'd love to get Horford in a keeper league. He should be owned in nearly every league at this point, but he's not.
Yi Jianlian, PF, Bucks: Milwaukee's starting power forward got an up-close view of Chinese countryman Yao Ming on Friday, and delivered his best game of the season, with 19 and 9, plus a few steals and threes. Yi isn't as lumbering as Yao, but at 6-11 he'll be able to score in the teens and get the rebounds and blocks we demand. I think I underestimated Yi on draft day. He's one of the most popular free agents during the past week, moving up 35 percent to 82 percent owned, and it's legit.
Jamario Moon, SF, Raptors: Who? Yeah, this one came as a surprise to many fantasy owners, as well as myself, who had to start looking him up when I saw him enter Friday's game against Philadelphia. Then he scored 9 points and grabbed 8 boards, and he became even more interesting. The next night in Chicago Moon replaced Jason Kapono in the starting lineup and scored 12 points, and in one of my deep leagues a feeding frenzy began. By the way, Moon came from the Albany Patroons of the CBA where he put up attractive numbers in points and boards, and averaged more than two blocks and steals per night. Now how many people can do this? Is Moon the next Gerald Wallace? He's owned in 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues, so precious few people have dared to find out. I think he's worth a look, just in case.
Mike Conley Jr., PG, Grizzlies: In the past two games Damon Stoudamire has played 29 total minutes, scoring 4 points and adding 5 assists. My question is, why is Stoudamire starting in the first place? Conley is a major part of their future, much younger and quicker and this is a bad team, so it makes little sense to play a 34-year-old guy. Conley has 13 assists and 3 turnovers the past two games, and this team does have a few finishers. Play the kid at the point!
Jason Smith, PF, 76ers: He's big enough to score and rebound for fantasy owners, but so far Samuel Dalembert has played well, and most importantly, played. A few weeks ago there was concern that the stress fracture in Dalembert's foot would cause him to miss time, but it hasn't happened. Smith doesn't look like he can defend very well, but then again, the 76ers aren't going to win 25 games anyway, so I would like to see if he's the future at power forward. As for fellow rook Thaddeus Young, he's played only 15 minutes so far, but he is quite an athlete.
In the news
• Vince Carter left Saturday's game in Boston after stepping on Paul Pierce's foot, and I would have guessed he'd miss a few games. Now comes word Carter will be out indefinitely, though really, that could be merely a few games. Antoine Wright is New Jersey's third-leading scorer, so he'd appear to be in line for more playing time, as will Bostjan Nachbar. Richard Jefferson and his 26 points per game continue to look like a draft-day steal.
• I drafted Delonte West in a deep league as a backup point guard, and so far that hasn't really worked out. Things might be looking up, though, as starter Earl Watson has been demoted to third string, and Luke Ridnour will start. West will be the primary backup, and should see more minutes than he's been getting. The Sonics aren't very good, but they do have three players scoring 15 or more points per game, and maybe a change at the point will help, though Watson was picking up 7.7 assists per game.
• Yes, you do see the name Penny Hardaway in those Miami box scores, but don't get any ideas. He's been active in the passing lanes, snaring eight steals in three games, but he has nothing left offensively. In 86 minutes during that span he has hit five field goals, and three came from behind the arc. This playing time will pass as well.
• I know Gilbert Arenas has been bad so far, and his knee problems are the big reason, but you can't sell him on the cheap. You just can't. Arenas won't shoot .139 from 3-point range much longer, and few players are as explosive.