Monday, December 27, 2004

Weekend Review (12/24-12/26)

Other than the dramatic Lakers-Heat game on Saturday, this weekend was pretty slow in the NBA, with only 11 games being played. So this round of WR will take a chance to look back on the first 2 months of the season and reflect on some things that might not have caught your attention.

The Elite Matrix.

It happens every year. The big names – KG, Dirk, Kobe – go first in every fantasy draft, and somewhere around the middle of the first round, someone shrugs, sighs with disappointment, and selects Shawn Marion. Ho-hum. A nice all-around guy, but nothing special. I mean, he doesn’t even lead his own team in points, or assists, or 3’s, or FG% or FT% for that matter. He does everything OK, but nothing great. A nice pick, but kind of a boring player. Right?

Wrong. Look at just about any fantasy player rater (you’ve seen us rave about ESPN’s before in this space), and Marion will land in the Top 3. In fact, Yahoo! has him at #1. This, too, happens every year. Very quietly, Marion is perhaps the 2nd most consistent fantasy player in the land behind KG. He’s scored in double digits every game this year, gotten 9+ rebounds in 22 of 27 games, gets 2 blocks and nearly 2 steals a game, and – unlike KG – he hits a couple 3’s a game and knocks down his free throws.

Marion is a unique talent in the league. The list of players who average over 1.5 blocks and 1 3 pointer per game starts – and ends – with Marion. His versatility and box-score-filling ability means that he can be the centerpiece of just about any team, whether it’s guard-heavy or filled with bigs.

So, mark us down as being proponents of drafting Shawn Marion next year in front of big names like Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant. He is possibly worth the 2nd pick in the draft, although LeBron may take that spot, and he’s deserving of it as well. He might be the 3rd-most recognized player on his team, but that doesn’t mean he should be far from the top of your draft boards.

Passing: Good. Shooting: Also Good.

One of the long-standing ideas in fantasy basketball was that your FG% helpers were going to be centers. It made sense, because they usually shoot high-percentage shots, and thus they would offset your crazy, jump-shot taking guards who shot the ball at a 40% clip. And usually, this is still the case. Looking at the Player Rater, 11 of the top 12 in FG% are big men, with Steve Nash at #4 being the only PG to put the ball in the basket over half the time he shoots.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some quality shooters from the PG pool, and more so this year than usually. Like centers who shoot 3’s, or power forwards who grab steals, a marksman PG has a little extra value because he helps you in a category that most players in his position hurt you. Nash is obviously the most effective at this, although his 53.3% is a career high by far, and his career average is a more pedestrian 46.9%. If he’s able to keep it up, though, Nash has tremendous value and might be the best traditional PG on the market right now.

Some other PGs are also shooting the ball better than ever before. Dewayne Wade, for example, when he’s not busy outplaying Kobe, is shooting 49% from the field. Andre Miller is shooting a career best 48.6%, and Gary Payton’s 48.5% from the field is his best since 1994. If you need help in the FG% category, a strong-shooting point guard might come a little cheaper than that center you’ve got your eye on.

What's "Average"?

What’s an "average" player? Taking away factors like position, injuries, what does an average fantasy player produce for his team? Well, it depends on how many players are in starting lineups in your league. So what I’ve done is taken two leagues that I’m in – one a 12-team league with 10 players in the starting lineup, and one an 8-team league, also with a 10-player starting lineup – and found what the "average" player is doing in each by dividing the totals accumulated in points, etc and dividing them by the total games played. So:

12-team league (120 starting players):

15.12 points, 6.07 rebounds, 3.26 assists, 0.80 3’s, 1.07 steals, 0.74 blocks, 45.1 FG%, 76.9 FT%.

8-team league (80 starting players):

16.46 points, 6.21 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.91 3’s, 1.09 steals, 0.75 blocks, 45.2 FG%, 77.2 FT%.

I was a little surprised to see how small the differences were between the two leagues. With 50% more players in the 12-team league, you’d figure the numbers would be weighed down pretty significantly. What this tells me is that while there are a limited number of superstars, there are plenty of decent players in the league. So don’t be afraid to trade a few decent guys for that big star – there’s always another decent player you can pick up on the waiver wires.

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