Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Contract Year Spike?

The contract year can often be a friend to smart fantasy players. The theory isn’t too complicated. A player on the verge of free agency will want to play his best possible ball in the hopes of turning that into as much money as possible in the off season. Makes sense. But does it always work that way? Let’s find out. We’ll take a look at some of the bigger name players heading toward unrestricted free agency (thus ignoring all of the 4th-year guys for now), or guys with player options that they might wish to opt out of (as in, not Shaq, who probably isn’t looking to give up the, what?, $30 million he’s due to make next year?).

Antoine Walker
03-04: 14/8.3/4.5, .8 steals, .8 blocks, 1.0 3s, 42.8%
YTD: 20.1/9.4/3.7, 1.2 steals, .6 blocks, 1.6 3s, 41.5 %
This one’s not so easy because Walker’s obviously receiving much more playing time this year in Atlanta compared to last year in Dallas. But still, lots of people thought before the year that the combination of ’Toine being the #1 (and really only) option in Atlanta in a contract year would lead to almost insane numbers. But the reality is that he’s basically putting up the same numbers he put up in his last year with the Celtics, with a couple more boards, less assists and significantly fewer 3s. People thought he might average 25 shots a game; instead it’s only 18.6 fewer than any of his last three years in Boston. Still, you have to think that as we get into the final two months, Antoine might realize that he wants to beef up those numbers. Remember Atlanta at the end of last season? It was a free for all, with Chris Crawford becoming a fantasy force and Bob Sura going on a triple-double rampage. There are some younger guns around this year to keep things from getting too crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see ’Toine pick it up a gear. Still, his crippling percentages make him a dicey player to target.

Gary Payton
03-04: 14.6/4.2/5.5, 1.2 steals, .7 3s, 47.1%
YTD: 12.3/3.0/6.2, 1.2 steals, .6 3s, 46.6%
Perhaps the numbers aren’t that impressive, but Payton has done a good job of repairing his reputation by being a model citizen in Boston. Don’t expect any statistical surges out of him from here on out.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas
03-04: 15.3/8.1/1.4, 2.5 blocks, 48.3%
YTD: 16.9/8.0/1.4, 1.9 blocks, 45.5%
Besides a modest increase in scoring, Ilgauskas hasn’t seen a contract year spike. The fact that he’s been able to stay healthy has been the best thing working in his favor towards a big pay day. That and the Cavs fine play to date. His solid play will likely continue, but with LeBron running the show, don’t expect anything too crazy.

Jeff McInnis
03-04 (with Cleveland): 11.7/2.7/7.6, 1.2 steals, 1.0 3s, 41.7%
YTD: 15.1/2.1/5.5, .9 steals, 1.6 3s, 42.8%
McInnis might be one to look out for. It seems the Cavs would like to re-sign Big Z, and everything you hear says they’re looking to make a run at Michael Redd, and this would leave McInnis as the odd man out. He’s putting up the most shots since 2001-2002 with the Clippers, and I expect it to continue. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a great target, but he’s more likely to look out for himself than some others.

Michael Redd
03-04: 21.7/5.0/2.3, 1.0 steals, 1.6 3s, 44%
YTD: 22.1/4.2/2.5, .9 steals, 1.5 3s, 44.6%
Here’s another player that some people thought would have a serious breakout in his option year. But it hasn’t quite happened. The big disappointment is that his 3s have actually dropped slightly, after dropping from 2.2 to 1.6 last year, despite receiving 8.6 more mpg. This has to be frustrating for his owners. It just looks like this is the player Redd is. He’s 25, which isn’t old, but isn’t exactly young by today’s NBA standards. It would be silly to give him a max contract.

Latrell Sprewell
03-04:
16.8/3.8/3.5, 1.1 steals, 1.2 3s, 40.9%
YTD: 12.6/2.4/2.2, .7 steals, 1.1 3s, 41.6%
The best example of a contract year not always meaning great production. What can possibly be said about Spree at this point? Maybe he knew what he was doing in asking for an extension before the season, knowing that he was completely washed up. Like his teammate Sam Cassell, his track record is so consistent, that contract-status aside, you have to think that he will pick those numbers up in the second half. He’s played at least 30 minutes in each of the last five, but he’s just not someone to count on. The Wolves are definitely a team to watch in their last five before the break, though. Home games against Denver, Chicago, New Jersey and Cleveland and a road game at Utah. If they can take, say, 4 of those 5 and settle on a rotation, Spree just might be worth your last roster spot. That’s as much as I can endorse him.

Dan Dickau
03-04: Scrub
YTD: 14.1/3.1/4.4, 1.1 steals, 1.4 3s, 42.6%
Not as much a case of a contract year, but just a guy who wanted to show what he could do and he knew he’d probably only get one opportunity, because that’s what happens to 6-foot guards that are deemed as slow and a liability on defense. The thing with Dickau is that he had a reputation to overcome and even thought’s he proven that he can play, people will still be able to reel off reasons it’s a fluke (crappy team, etc.). This is why “when Baron Davis comes back” (that phrase always belongs in quotes), I still expect him to make the most of his minutes whenever he’s out there. Wouldn’t be surprised if he turned into a Juan Dixon-esque chucker.

Damon Stoudamire
03-04: 13.4/3.8/6.1, 2.2 steals, 1.9 3s, 40.1%
YTD: 15.3/3.5/5.6, 1.6 steals, 2.2 3s, 40.3%
The numbers aren’t that much better, if at all, but remember that Damon was a great player last year, finishing in the top 40 on the Player Rater. But still, this was an easy one to see coming. Like Dickau, it helps to have a negative reputation (for completely opposite reasons, of course) to overcome in addition to being a free agent. So much motivation. For all of you who bought “fake high” (which might have a whole different meaning with Damon) after his 54-point outburst, well done. Telfair will eat in NVE’s time, not Damon’s. Just like last year, he’s a top 40 guy from here on out.

Ray Allen
03-04: 23.0/5.1/4.8, 1.3 steals, 2.6 3s, 44%
YTD: 24.0/4.2/4.1, 1.1 steals, 2.6 3s, 43.5%
You know what you’re getting with Ray. He’s got nothing to prove. Still, as Chad Ford has pointed out, some team will likely regret giving max dollars to a 30-year old shooting guard this summer. Eddie Jones, Allan Houston, anyone?

Larry Hughes
03-04: 18.8/5.3/2.4, 1.6 steals, 1.3 3s, 39.7%
YTD: 21.2/6.1/5.3, 2.8 steals, 1.0 3s, 43.5%
This is another one we should have seen coming. He’s always had a chip on his shoulder, feeling he should have had more opportunities, especially considering that the one time he did get the big opportunity, with Golden State after being dealt from Philly in the 99-00 season, he put up numbers basically in line with what he was doing this year. It will be very interesting to see his production when he comes back in two weeks, because in his absence Gilbert Arenas has really taken over the team. I still expect Larry to make sure he gets his numbers.

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