Monday, January 10, 2005

Checking in on the Blazers

I know it’s not always right to assume, but I’m going to do that for a second and take a guess that most people reading this are east coast dwellers. I base that on nothing, but I’ll say it anyway. And as I’ve said before us east coasters sometimes have a habit of ignoring what goes on out west. I guess it’s that East Coast bias thing that the Daily Quickie guy likes to talk about all the time, or maybe not. But the fact is, in my league, a middling player on an Eastern Conference team is more likely to be picked up than a middling player on a Western Conference team. So sometimes we like to check in on the teams that play their ball out west to see if they have anything to offer us.

The Blazers are certainly the hot topic in fantasy basketball these days. With two rotation regulars on the IL, another starter banged up, and a point guard situation that’s up in the air, fantasy players should be keeping a close eye on the situation. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles are out of action for at least a few weeks each, obviously. Theo Ratliff is back in action, though, at least technically. The 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 0 blocks he put up on Sunday don’t prove anything. It’s hard to read too much into two games, but let’s take a look at how the Blazers minutes have been split in the two contests since both ‘Reef and Darius went down.

Minutes per Game
Ruben Patterson: 41
Zack Randolph: 38
Nick Van Exel: 29
Theo Ratliff: 28
Derek Anderson: 26
Damon Stoudamire: 21.5
Sebastian Telfair: 19
Travis Outlaw: 18.5
Joel Przybilla: 11

What’s interesting here is that with two regulars out, there’s only one player that’s seeing a clear benefit, that being this week’s obvious #1 pickup, Ruben Patterson. We told you to grab him on Friday (we weren’t the only ones, we know) and he responded with two-game averages of 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals on an otherworldly 69% shooting. Mo Cheeks wasn’t kidding when he said he was his favorite player, as now that there’s no one to block him, except him to keep getting near 40 mpg. He should obviously be starting in all leagues. That said, get ready for some ’Toine-like numbers from the free throw line. He’s a career 66% shooter, but is at 58% this year, hasn’t been above 63% since 2001, and went 7-for-16 in his last two.

For Zack Randolph owners that are puzzled that he saw less PT than Ruben, don’t worry. He played only 32 minutes against the Heat, but that’s because he was in foul trouble all game and ultimately fouled out with just over 4 minutes to go. The 44 minutes he saw against the Knicks on Sunday should be more like it. Still, it’s hard to see Randolph’s numbers getting too much of a bump. He was already the team’s #1 option, and now defenses will be keyed on him even more. Randolph has never really been one to completely take over a game, so don’t expect too much more than his usual 20/10.

The one player I’d keep an eye on is Theo Ratliff, and I’m not just saying that because he’s on my team and I’m trying to talk him up in an attempt to trade him. Seriously, I’m not. The prevailing notion earlier this year was that Ratliff was more effective on the defensive end with Miles in the lineup instead of Abdur-Rahim, because Miles was more of a true SF. There were six games from Dec. 15 to Dec. 27 where Abdur-Rahim was out and Miles started in the frontcourt. In those six games, Ratliff blocked a total of 16 shots. That was Ratliff’s best six-game stretch in terms of blocks since the first six games of the season. After missing nearly three games due to a shoulder injury, Ratliff has done next to nothing in his three games back, blocking only four shots and scoring 20 points to go with his 10 rebounds. That’d be a very nice game, but won’t cut it for three. Still, Patterson, like Miles, is more of a natural SF, and if Ratliff can work out his health issues, he could be in for a whole bunch of blocks over the next few weeks, even if he doesn’t see much more than 30 mpg. If you need blocks and are feeling lucky, get him in your lineup and hope for the best.

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