Saturday, September 24, 2005

Offseason Overview: Indiana Pacers

Just welcoming Ron Artest back would have made it an excellent offseason for the Pacers, but they were also able to add Sarunas Jasikevicius and rookie Danny Granger. The Pacers may have the strongest 1 through 12 in the league, which is great for them but has the potential to pose some problems to fantasy owners.

The Stud: Jermaine O’Neal, PF
There’s no question O’Neal is a superstar, but he’s simply not first-round material. His shoulder problems surely contributed to his 2.0 blocks last year, his lowest since coming to Indiana. That number is still a big plus, but outside of that he’s a points/rebounds guy. Unless he can get his FG% back to its levels from the 2002-2003 season and before, he’s barely a second rounder given his loss of center eligibility.

The Support: Ron Artest, SF
We’re not psychiatrists, so we can’t tell you how he’ll behave. You’d like to think that it was a wake-up call, but it’s not like he’s earned the benefit of the doubt. We do know that for the first seven games of last season – and admittedly small sample – Artest was one of the most valuable players in the league. And that was while averaging just 1.7 spg, well below what he’s done each season of his career, except his rookie year. Lots of that value was tied up in his 92% FT shooting, 20% higher than his career average, so be wary of that. Give him his career FT% and that would put him down to the 14-16 range. Production-wise, he should be a second rounder. You’re a brave – but not stupid – person to take him there.

The Supporting Support: Stephen Jackson, GF
Jackson is always worthy of a fantasy roster spot, but it’s his FG% that keeps him from being a real asset. His 40% shooting on 16 shots per game can really do damage, but he does his best to make up for it 2 3s and a decent helping of steals. He’s a perfectly fine mid-round selection.

The Sleeper: Sarunjas Jasikevicius, G
We don’t have any numbers to throw out at you, but Chad Ford loves the guy and he’s never wrong about players coming over from Europe. Er, yeah. He’ll start off behind Jamaal Tinsley on the depth chart, but if there’s one thing we know about Tinsley it’s that he refuses to stay healthy. Anthony Johnson is still around and played quite well last year, but Jasikevicius wasn’t brought over to sit if an injury occurs.

The Slacker: Jamaal Tinsley, PG
I was all about Tinsley last pre-season because of his crucial combination of 3s, steals and assists. After the brawl fallout, when he was left as one of the team’s only real offensive options, I looked like a genius. In December he put up an 18.8/3.8/6.8 line with 2.0 steals and 1.4 3s. But he just couldn’t stay healthy, and it was one of those amazingly frustrating injuries where he seemed to constantly be on the verge of coming back, only to remain out. Anthony Johnson filled in admirably, and now Jasikevicius is on board, so even if he does avoid the IL, he might not be able to provide much to fantasy owners.


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