Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Temporary Point Guard Strategy

Now that we can put football in the rearview (nobody actually cares about football once fantasy is done, right?), we can concentrate on the only fantasy game in town. Assuming you aren’t in some ECHL fantasy league, that is. But let’s take a small bit of strategy from football before we kick it to the curb for eight months. In fantasy football, any time a running back becomes a starter, he automatically becomes a hot pick up. It doesn’t matter if it’s some guy who started the season as the fourth-stringer, if he has the ball in his hands, and is the unquestioned #1 guy, there is a good chance of something good happening. We can transfer this bit of strategy to fantasy basketball and point guards. While we often harp on the fact that anyone who sees serious time on the court can have at least a little fantasy value, this is especially true for point guards. Good things happen when the ball is in your hands. And point guards are usually in control of the ball more than anyone else.

This is why when a situation like the one Rick Brunson finds himself in right now pops up, you have to act quickly and decisively. By now you missed your chance to pick up Brunson, and if you haven’t, you play in a league that you should have no problem winning. The second I saw that Marko Jaric’s foot injury proved to be a stress fracture, I picked Brunson up. Why? Well, first off, if you remember last month when we looked at little-known players who put up impressive per-48 minute stats, Brunson was heavily featured, near the top at assists and steals. Combine this with the fact that the Clippers have absolutely no one else on the roster capable of playing more than a handful of minutes at the point, and you’ve got a great situation. Over the past three games Brunson has averaged an astounding 40 minutes per game. I don’t care who you are, it is impossible to consistently play 40 minutes a game and not have value. Over those three games Brunson’s averages look like this: 15 points, 6.3 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 1.7 3s, 47% from the field, 83% from the line. That’s basically Kirk Hinrich right there. Well, Kirk Hinrich has about as much chance at shooting 47% as Patricia Arquette has at winning an Emmy for her new psychic crime solver drama, but you get the point. The Clippers may sign some lifelong scrub (sort of like Brunson) to take a bit of the load off, but for the next month, he should be seeing at least 35 minutes per game, leaving him with plenty of value.

This sort of situation happens more than you might expect, and for owners that can stay on top of things it’s one of the best ways to keep your team sharp. When Derek Fisher went down a few weeks ago leaving Speedy Claxton as the only real point guard on the roster, he should have been scooped up immediately. In the seven games where Fisher was out, Claxton’s averages were as follows: 17.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7 assists, 2.7 steals, .7 3s, 46% from the field, 82% from the line; very much in line with Brunson’s numbers above. When Jason Williams was out for six games last month Earl Watson did the following: 12.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 3s. Remember, these aren’t perennial all-stars. We’re talking about Rick Brunson, Speedy Claxton and Earl Watson – one late-first rounder, one second rounder and one guy who didn’t even get drafted. But because of the opportunity and position they play, they found themselves, as fantasy stars.

When Jaric went down right around the time Fisher came back, it was time to dump Claxton for Brunson. (Jason Richardson’s injury seems to be leaving Claxton with value since Fisher can step in at the 2, but let’s not worry about that for now.) In a month or so when Jaric comes back, find the next similar situation, and don’t be afraid to act quickly. It’s very possible to piece together a whole season of 3rd or 4th-round quality point guard play just by keeping on top of team’s PG situations and acting quickly and decisively. So do it.

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