Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Man

Let me steal a tactic from my FBB cohort and give you two stat lines:

20 year old rookie #1 (per 48-minute averages): 17.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 3.6 blocks, 52.4%

20 year old rookie #2 (per 48-minute averages): 19.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.6 steals, 3.5 blocks, 45%

The first player is Atlanta’s new human highlight reel, a Sportscenter anchor’s best friend, and my favorite free agent pickup of the year, none other than Josh Smith. The second player? That’s the 2001-2002 campaign from Andrei Kirilenko. You can see that there are definite similarities, although I admit I didn’t include 3-pointers (Kirilenko hit about 0.6 per 48 in his rookie season, while Smith hasn’t hit one yet this year) and FT% (AK47 has always been around 75-80%, while Smith is hovering in the mid-60s). Still, fantasy players have every reason to be very, very excited about Josh Smith’s arrival on the scene.

Even if you wanted to draft him before the season, first you had to figure out who he was. He wasn’t one of the top high school names (those would be Howard, Livingston and Telfair). He was one of five Hawks draft choices; he was one of two Hawks draft choices with the last name Smith; he was taken one pick before another high schooler also with the last name Smith, and whose first name also started with the letter J. Pretty confusing. Put that together with the fact that the Hawks were an absolute mess, high schoolers rarely contribute in their first year, and one of the two legit NBAers on the Hawks played Smith’s best position, and he had no reason to be anything more than a forgotten man.

But that’s obviously all changed now. He was most likely snatched up in your league after his jaw-dropping 10-block performance on Dec. 18 against the Mavericks. I was lucky enough to grab him the night before, as he had strung together a few decent games since being inserted in the starting lineup, with 9 blocks in those 5 games, and Earl Watson had run out of use by that point. I wasn’t expecting too much from the rookie, but it never hurts to get some potential blocks.

Still, his play of late has been nothing short of revelatory, at least in fantasy circles. In his 14 games as a starter his “main” numbers are nothing special at all: 9.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists. That’s basically Etan Thomas last year, plus an assist. But this is key to understand: forget about those three categories. Ok, maybe that’s a little rash. But (assuming you are in a cumulative, and not head-to-head, league) look your standings. Most teams should be around 5,000 points, 2,000 rebounds and 1,100 assists. But 300 blocks probably has you in first place. It’s simple, really. And that’s why unless I get a legit top-50 player in return, Smith won’t be leaving my roster.

Look at the 15 Day Player Rater. There’s Smith at #33 – and remember, this doesn’t include that 10-block outburst. As long as he keeps shooting only when he’s flying above the rim, it doesn’t matter that he’s only flirting with double figures. Sticking with the 15 Day Rater, his FG% value is 2.55 and his PTS value is –1.38, for a total of 1.17 in those two categories. In that same span Ray Allen has an impressive 1.78 value in PTS, good enough for 15th best in the league. But his FG% value is –1.38 for a net value of 0.4, considerably less than Smith in those two categories. Chris Webber has 1.09 in PTS, good for 20th best, but is at –1.21 in FG%. Nothing too revelatory here, just showing how the numbers work.

So enjoy Josh Smith. Some people might think it’s a good time to sell high, and it’s certainly possible he’ll hit a rookie wall within the next month or two. But over the past month, he’s been a more valuable player than Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Sam Cassell, Emeka Okafor, Rasheed Wallace, Antoine Walker, Grant Hill, Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson and a host of others. Embrace FG%, steals and blocks. Embrace Josh Smith.


Blogger yoni cohen :: said...


Came across your blog today. Good stuff.

Noticed you are college basketball fans. Hoping you could kindly add a blogroll link to my College Basketball Blog, I'd greatly appreciate a permanent link on your site.

And would gladly return the favor, adding a link from my site to yours.


Yoni Cohen, College Basketball Blog

12:09 PM  
Blogger kellydwyer said...

One problem: Smith can't play 48 minutes a game, or 40. He'd foul out or have six turnovers by the 30-minute mark.

5:51 AM  

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