SleepersJanuary 6, 2007

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Sleeper Watch

By Jamaal Gilbert

Whether you pronounce it “Mickey” or “Mikey,” Nets center Mikki Moore is our Sleeper of the Week and warrants strong consideration for a pickup, based on recent rotation changes and a key front court injury in New Jersey.

When injured starter Nenad Krstic went down with a season-ending knee injury (torn ligament) on December 22, he left the Nets without a legitimate option at the “5.” They responded by allowing also-ran Jason Collins to make a mockery of the position for a little while, and then decided to give Moore a crack at it. The eight-year veteran had been productive in the brief playing time they gave him prior to the experiment, so Head Coach Lawrence Frank went with him against the formidable duo of Kevin Garnett and Mark Blount on Dec. 30.

What ensued that day was unexpected, to say the least. Moore led the Nets to a win, scorching the upstart Minnesota Timberwolves for 20 points (9-9 FG), eight rebounds, and two steals in 39 minutes. After the game, Wolves coach Dwayne Casey commented on the effort, saying, “Mikki Moore came in and pounded us.”

Mikki Moore pounded us? No one expected to hear that this year, but it’s happening, and there are three good reasons to believe it could continue:

1) Increased minutes — After playing an average of 13.6 minutes a game the past four years, Moore has earned the uptick in playing time, logging 18.3 a night this year. In his last five games, he has played 28 mpg and there’s no end in sight.

2) Increased shots — Moore showed the ability to score in a variety of ways during his coming out party on Dec. 30, and you’d better believe Jason Kidd noticed. Moore’s knack for finishing around the basket and hitting mid-range jumpers likely earned him some respect around the locker room, and will lead to his teammates’ increased confidence in him.

3) Someone has to grab those rebounds — In his last six games, Moore has pulled down 5.7 rebounds a game and was good for seven or more caroms in 44 percent of his December contests. Cleaning the glass isn’t unfamiliar to Moore either, as he flashed his talent in 2004-05, rounding up 3.32 per night on just 13.6 minutes per game. That’s 11.71 rebounds per 48 minutes… not too shabby.

Add to this the fact that he is shooting a ridiculous 63 percent from the field, and that his career free throw percentage is 76.8 (73.8 in 2006-07), and you’ve got yourself a sleeper. Be aware of the presence of Josh Boone and the possibility that he’ll get some burn as well.

The good thing about Moore is that the stats he can rack up don’t have a determined cap because he hasn’t seen this type of PT for any decent stretch of time before. You may notice that his blocks and steals have been near non-existent, but he’ll have his share of opportunities as the guards are continually funneled to him down low. Expect an increase in the .57 bpg he’s posted to date.

In CBS Fantasy leagues, Moore only has 19 percent ownership, so he should continue to be available on most web sites until his next big line. Pick him up, look for Mark Blount-esque numbers for the rest of the year (13 points, six rebounds per night, good percentages), and thank me later on the message board.

Jamaal Gilbert is an aspiring sportswriter who contributes regularly and is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jamaal in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of jamastaballa.
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