bigger stars, Josh Howard quietly fills up the stat sheet
FIRST-ROUND pick in 2003 despite lottery credentials at Wake Forest (ACC Player
of the Year, first-team All-America) and an All-Star snubbee last season
despite top-shelf production (16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds per game at the break),
Mavericks forward Josh Howard has spent the better part of his career in the
shadows of superstar teammates Michael Finley, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki. So
it's easy to see why the 6'7" Howard, whose scoring average has increased
in each of his first three seasons, might be overlooked by fantasy owners as
well. He should be underappreciated no longer. "He gives you a little of
everything," says an Eastern Conference assistant coach. "You don't
really notice until you pick up the stat sheet and say, Wow, he did all
that?" More important, Howard is pain-free after battling ankle and
hamstring injuries that cost him 23 games last year. You don't have to sell the
Mavs on the value of a potent Howard: Last season Dallas was 19--0 when he
scored 20 points or more.
THE PRICE OF
Tempting as it may be to look past Peja Stojakovic's half season in Indiana--he
averaged 19.5 points in 40 games but never really looked comfortable--don't
expect a big turnaround from the 29-year-old swingman. "I understand why
the Hornets gave him all that money," says an Eastern Conference executive
of the five-year, $64 million deal that Stojakovic signed with New Orleans in
July. "But I wouldn't have given him half that much." The 6'10"
Stojakovic thrives alongside strong post players such as Jermaine O'Neal and
Chris Webber, who open up the floor. The Hornets have no such weapon (sorry,
David West), and the results are telling: In his first three games Stojakovic
averaged 11.7 points on 33.3 % shooting.
J.R. GETS HIS
What do Greg Buckner, DerMarr Johnson and Voshon Lenard have in common? Well,
besides not having been selected in any self-respecting fantasy league, the
toothless troika has manned the Nuggets' two guard position over the last three
seasons. Enter sharpshooter J.R. Smith, who will get every chance to shine on a
team desperate for perimeter shooters. So far, so good: In his first two games
with Denver, the product of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, averaged 10.5 points
in a mere 20.5 minutes. Two years ago Smith was a rising star following a
rookie season in which he averaged 10.3 points for the Hornets. But he spent
last year nailed to the bench after clashing with coach Byron Scott.
WHERE THERE'S A
Atlanta's plan to play small ball this season was put on the shelf when
6'9", 230-pound Marvin Williams, a projected starter at forward, broke a
bone in his left hand on Oct. 26. But don't expect to hear Shelden Williams
complaining. The 6'9", 250-pound rookie power forward will get most of
Marvin Williams's minutes in the Hawks' rejiggered starting lineup. Shelden
Williams (no relation to Marvin) will never be much of a scorer--he averaged
13.9 points per game at Duke--but he's a tenacious rebounder and shot blocker
who can also pick up a few buckets around the rim. Any early sign of success
will give Hawks coach Mike Woodson reason to return Marvin Williams to his
customary role off the bench when he returns in four to six weeks.
IF YOU'RE looking
for a quick fix in the middle, take a flyer on Lakers center ANDREW BYNUM. Just
don't expect any off-the-charts results, at least not in 2006--07. The
19-year-old averaged 11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in his first
four starts this season, but with big men Kwame Brown (shoulder) and Chris Mihm
(ankle) expected back next week, those numbers will come back to earth.
knee injury that Sonics center Robert Swift suffered in an Oct. 25 preseason
game against the Kings made 6'9" forward Nick Collison a lot more valuable
in Seattle. The Sonics agreed, locking up Collison with a four-year, $26
million contract extension six days later.
are raving about rookie point guard Rajon Rondo, the 21st pick in the draft out
of Kentucky, who is already a better playmaker than third-year man (and new
Celtic) Sebastian Telfair.