Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mike’s Mess in Memphis

It’s now been a full month since Mike Fratello took over the reins in Memphis, and his 11-6 record means he must be doing something right (the team was 5-10 in November, leading Hubie Brown to resign). But as fantasy players, we’re not so much concerned with the Grizzlies’ record. We’re more concerned with how Fratello sets his lineup, and if he rids the team of the ridiculous everyone-gets-minutes-even-Dahntay-Jones strategy. So one month in, let’s take a position-by-position look at who’s been helped and who’s been hurt for the Grizz.

Point Guard – Despite missing the first 6 games of Fratello’s tenure, Jason Williams is still clearly the #1 PG on the team. He managed to average over 30 mpg in December and increased his numbers pretty much across the board compared to November, so he’s still the point guard you want to own on this team. Earl Watson filled in nicely while J-Will was out but has slid back into a reserve role now.

Shooting Guard/Small Forward – The swingmen for the Grizzlies are still in a state of flux. They basically have 4 players – James Posey, Shane Battier, Bonzi Wells, and Mike Miller – who can play either position and can do so for 35 minutes a night and be effective for your team. However, the reality of the situation is that Fratello still hasn’t settled on his favorites. Look at the minutes each player has gotten over the last 5 games:

Miller – 42, 24, 25, 19, 29 (5 starts)
Wells – (inj), 24, 18, 33, 19 (0 starts)
Posey – 44, 30, 37, 24, 33 (4 starts)
Battier – 39, 31, 21, 37, 30 (3 starts)

Looking at those numbers, it seems like Posey would be your best bet, but in those 5 games, he averaged just 9 points. Wells has been very effective and Miller has been, well, Miller. 3’s, some boards, and that’s about it. If it was us, we’d start Wells and Posey, give them each 30-35 minutes and use Miller and Battier for 15-20 minutes a game. Alas … it’s not us. So it’s hard to tell where this is headed.

Power Forward – Here’s where the real change has been. Pau Gasol has gotten 5 more minutes per game in the Fratello era, bringing his average up to 36 per game. He was the West’s Player of the Week this past week, and he’s getting his blocks up to a respectable level (1.6 per game in December).

Center – Well apparently Hubie Brown isn’t the only coach who doesn’t want to play Stromile Swift 30 minutes a game. Why, I have no idea, but Lorenzen Wright is still the "starter" here, which makes both him and Swift borderline fantasy players. Even when Wright missed time with an injury, Gasol moved to center (which could send his value skyrocketing if he eventually qualifies at center), and Swift saw limited minutes. Fantasy Basketblog is getting very impatient waiting for Swift to finally get the minutes he deserves.

Ca-barkin’ Up The Right Tree

In the "who sent who to the what now?" category, the Suns sent reserve forward Zarko Cabarkapa to the Golden State Warriors for pretty much nothing (2 conditional second round draft picks). Not a bad pickup for the Warriors. Up until now, Cabarkapa was best known for being unceremoniously shoved to the ground by Danny Fortson and breaking his wrist on the fall. Now, he’s got a chance to get 15-20 minutes a game and show off his shooting, which is supposed to be very strong. Keep an eye on how he fits into the rotation, as he could affect the value of Mike Dunleavy and the red-hot Troy Murphy.

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