Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Depths of Eastern Conference Point Guards

Everybody needs a point guard. Everybody needs two point guards, actually. And, just to be safe, it’s best to have three point guards. But unless you drafted well, it will be hard to find one. Sure, you can trade for one, but they won’t come cheap, if it all. In my league, I spend my 2nd, 4th and 7th round picks on Baron Davis, Kirk Hinrich and Jamaal Tinsley and really can’t see myself dealing any of them. With the exception of guys like KG and Webber, point guards are the only guys who get assists. They are also among the best in 3s, steals and FT%. That’s half of your categories right there.

Still, there may be some point guards hanging out on the waiver wire. A quick run through the league finds most teams with unquestioned starters at point guards. But the situation for some teams is murky. Let’s try to unmurkify them, starting today with the Eastern Conference.

New Jersey Nets

Jason Kidd is probably still at least a month or so away from returning from his injury, and who knows if he’ll even be back then. He certainly doesn’t want to come back and play for this team, but he knows his best chance of a ticket out of town is to prove he’s healthy. Until then, though, Jacque Vaughn and Zoran Planinic will battle for his time, and Travis Best might even sneak his way in there, though we will forget about him for the moment. Are either Vaughn or Planinic worthy of roster consideration? Vaughn might be soon. Last night was the second time in five games this season that Vaughn has played 40 minutes, and he dished an impressive 12 assists. Granted, that’s more than he totaled in the first four games, but still. Planinic has been getting the starting nods, but Vaughn has been out there when it mattered, as Zoran is averaging only 16.2 mpg. There is no one who can be a fantasy contributor with those minutes. His best game was that eyesore of a victory against the Blazers when he managed 12 points and 8 rebounds, but no assists. If Vaughn can serve as a steadying force on the offense, Lawrence Frank might have to think about putting him in the starting lineup and making sure he gets 30-35 mpg. Even then, don’t expect too much. Vaughn is not a scorer, he won’t even get you any 3s, and he won’t get many steals either. He’s the better bet of the two for now, but add him only if you are truly desperate for assists.

Milwaukee Bucks

Maurice Williams has probably been snagged by now, and with good reason. He has been racking up the assists through the Bucks first three games, averaging 10 per contest. He has yet to break 10 points a game or even attempt a three-pointer, but 10 apg is 10 apg. Of course this won’t last, and his starting gig might not even last. If Mike James has been dumped, consider picking him up if you can stash him in IL. There has been lots of speculation that when James returns from his injury, he won’t have a starting job, and that’s entirely possible. But remember, it’s only been three games. A six-game losing streak and a slump by Williams could put James right back in a starting role where he could do some fantasy damage. The Bucks are a great team for assists thanks to jump shooters like Redd and Van Horn, so whoever has the PG reigns should be solid there. James is also a proven long-distance gunner, averaging 1.6 in just over 30 mpg with Boston last season. Here’s saying that within a month or so, James will be the one being added to many teams while Williams re-acquaints himself with the free agent list.

Miami Heat

OK, this is sort of a trick one. We all know that Dwyane Wade is officially the starting PG and there’s a pretty good chance he’s already taken. Call it a hunch. But Damon Jones is worth consideration for those who really need some PG help. As expected, Jones is seeing significant playing time, at just over 28 mpg through the first four contests. The Heat often employ a lineup with three smalls and two bigs going with Wade, Damon Jones and either Eddie Jones or Rasual Butler to go with Shaq and Haslem/Doleac/Allen up front. Everyone thought Eddie Jones would light it up from outside thanks to Shaq’s presence and some thought that Rasual Butler would benefit, too. But so far it’s Damon Jones who has been the main beneficiary, with 2.3 3pg early on. His 3.3 apg isn’t anything to get too excited about, but you have to think that Wade will drop from his 8pg and a few of those will fall to Jones. Expect Jones to fill the same role as Rafer Alston did for the Heat last year, getting around 30mpg off the bench and getting enough 3s, assists and steals to make him a decent last option for your starting lineup.

Charlotte Bobcats

We might not be able to call this one a murky situation anymore, not after Jason Hart put up a 19-point, 12-assist game immediately following a 14/11 outing. He’s surely been snagged by now, and with good reason. The Bobcats wanted him to take the starting job from the start of training camp, but he wasn’t able to assert himself, so he went into the season in a timeshare situation with Brevin Knight. Brevin lasted only one game before getting hurt and after Hart’s last two games, there’s no question who the main man is in Charlotte now. I wouldn’t put it past Bernie Bickerstaff to continue tinkering with his starting lineup, but at this point it seems like Hart should remain a fixture. And don’t worry if he’s officially a shooting guard, he’ll put up PG numbers. If you think that double doubles will become the norm, you are in for a cruel surprise, but Ben’s prognosis of 12 pts and 6 ast sounds about right.

Atlanta Hawks

It’s possible that this team is even worse than we thought they would be. Four games, and the 14 points is the closest they’ve been when the final horn sounds. They haven’t been able to top 90 points yet, and don’t expect them to hit the century mark too often, even in a division with teams like Washington, Orlando and Charlotte. In what should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, Kenny Anderson has done less than nothing with the starting PG spot, averaging a dismal 4.8 pts and 3 ast on 24% shooting. The guy just has nothing left in the tank and shouldn’t be on any roster unless your league is limited to former Georgia Tech players. The player to keep on eye on here is Tony Delk. He’s on the IL right now, but when he comes back I can’t see any reason that the Hawks won’t yank Anderson from the starting lineup and give Delk a chance to ignite the offense. Delk is no miracle worker, of course, and even his best season in Phoenix in 2000 was nothing to get excited about (12.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2 apg, .7 3pg, .9 spg). Still, given a chance to play over 30 mpg in Atlanta – which he should get – he could help your team. In 28 mpg with Boston in 2002 he averaged 1.8 3pg and 1.1 spg. He’s never been a true point guard, so don’t expect many assists, especially on a team as pitiful as the Hawks. But he’ll be getting significant minutes within the next few weeks and certainly has the ability to do a little damage.

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