Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pow! There Goes Pau

There’s nothing that creates action in fantasy basketball land like when a team’s leading scorer goes down. When Kobe Bryant went down in L.A., it helped jumpstart Lamar Odom (he’s had his two highest scoring games of the season in the five that Kobe’s missed and barely missed a triple double last night), moved Chucky Atkins from marginal fantasy player to almost stud (top 50 on the 15-Day Rater), and made Jumaine Jones worth a roster spot in most leagues. When Tracy McGrady missed a game the other night Bob Sura almost racked up a triple double and John Barry went off for 19-6-5 with three 3s. So now the Memphis Grizzlies are the latest team to lose their main option, with Pau Gasol making his first ever trip to the IL. This is obviously bad news for Gasol owners. Since The Czar came aboard in Memphis, Gasol had clearly become the #1 option and was putting up very strong numbers. Despite a recent slump, he still found himself at #34 on the 30-Day Rater, and was a huge contributor in FG% and blocks. His owners have to help that a few weeks off with cure what ails him (his foot), and that when he comes back he will again be the team’s top scoring option. This isn’t a sure thing. Since a 31-point outburst on Jan. 11, he averaged only 30.5 mpg in his next six contests. Granted, he was fighting the injury then, but the fact that the Grizzlies went 5-1 in that span and won without him last night could lead Fratello to go back to something resembling Hubie’s dreaded rotation. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen; even if you don’t own Gasol, it’s better for all fantasy players if there’s a defined rotation.

But now that Pau’s out of the picture for a little bit, let’s look at what the new picture will look like. The most obvious benefactor is perhaps FBB’s favorite non-superstar, Stromile Swift. He was already mentioned earlier today, and you saw the stat lines when he gets minutes. Basically, if he gets the 35-37 minutes that Gasol had been getting – which is no given – I predict he will put up better numbers than Gasol. In Gasol’s extremely productive December, he averaged 36.3 mpg and put up the following numbers: 19.8/8.8/3.0 with 1.6 blocks, 0.6 steals on 50% and 81%. So let’s take Swift’s numbers this year and put them at 36 mpg: 16.2/8.5/1.2 with 3.0 blocks, 0.8 steals on 44% and 75%. OK, definite drop in points, assists and FG%, with the only increase in blocks (although it is a sizeable one). The thing is, Swift got those numbers when Gasol was still around. When they were on the court together, Gasol would usually be looked to first. That won’t necessarily be the case anymore. I’ll stand by my prediction, and if you Gasol owners were able to snag Swift, I don’t suspect you’ll miss Gasol at all.

OK, so say Swift takes Gasol’s production, does that mean everything else remains the same? Of course not. There’s still Swift’s previous production to take into account. That’s where everyone else comes in. It’s too bad Mike Miller had to come back, because if there had been a situation where he, Bonzi Wells and Gasol were all out, it could have meant some serious, serious value for the remaining Grizzlies. As is, I’ll be the next to jump on the James Posey bandwagon. He’s been a rather big bust so far this year, but for those of you who remember the second half of last year, you know how effective he can be. Remember when I talked about avoiding swingmen for the most part because they are empty points? Posey is the opposite of this. When he’s on, he is a 3s and steals machine, a real impact player in those categories. You have to love that he saw 44 minutes last night, but without Miller and Wells it was sort of a given. Still, as he rounds into shape, and with Fratello’s continued focus on defense (Posey is a top defender), you have to like his chances for a big second half, with these next few games a real chance to take off.

The rest of the situation is still pretty muddled. Shane Battier proved he could be counted on as a starter in Mike Miller’s absence, but if/when Miller comes back, he should probably be cut loose. See, this is one of those tricky scenarios. Even when he’s coming off the bench, Battier gets just enough blocks, steals and 3s to give him some value. And since Miller and Posey have been far from perfectly healthy this year, he could be worth keeping on your bench. But this is one of those situations where you have a guy who’s solid, but if you find the hot hand, someone like Jumaine Jones right now, he’s probably the better bet. No question Battier’s the better player, but his 25 minutes still aren’t as good as Jumaine’s 35 minutes, most likely.

Be sure to follow their game at Cleveland tonight to see how the minutes break down. If Miller and Wells are both back, this should be a pretty good indicator of how things will look for the next couple weeks in Memphis.


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