Monday, November 21, 2005

As the Point Guard Turns

New format this week. Hopefully it will be more helpful.

Five Situations to Pay Attention To
A few things to keep in mind here. First off is that Brevin Knight is Bernie Bickerstaff’s choice at starting point guard. Knight tends to get banged up and he did miss a game last week against Indiana. In that game, Raymond Felton started, put up 18/5/10 with 5 steals and 3 3s and the Bobcats beat the Pacers by 32. But the next game, Knight was right back in the starting lineup, getting his 33 minutes. Knight is a calming force on the team, always looking to get other players involved ahead of himself. It’s what a young team needs and Bickerstaff knows that. The Bobcats aren’t trying to win it all this year and will take Felton along slowly. But Felton’s game against Indiana illustrates the entire point of this recurring column. When a point guard – basically any point guard – is guaranteed big minutes, you have to do what you can to get him into your lineup. Knight has a tendency to get banged up, and knee tendonitis is something that tends to flare up on occasion. He missed 16 games last year and his rookie season was the only time he’s appeared in at least 70 games. Granted, he was on and off of rosters a lot during some of those years, but the point is that he hasn’t proven to be durable over the course of an entire season. In the small sample size afforded so far, Felton has proven to be one of the top pick pockets in the league. Hopefully next time Knight plans on sitting out a game, he’ll give a little notice. When that happens, grab Felton and don’t think twice about plugging him into your lineup.

The good news is that it simply can’t get any worse for Rafer Alston. After being wholly ineffective over the season’s first eight games, he’s now out with a bruised right leg. But just because it can’t get any worse, it doesn’t mean it’s going to get better any time soon. The Rockets are a complete mess right now, unable to break 80 in their last three games. They are struggling for every point they can get right now. You’d like to think that if Alston could re-enter the lineup with Tracy McGrady out it would be the perfect catalyst to get him going, but it’s not something you can count on at all. I’d still hold on to him if you have at least three bench slots, but the longer he goes without playing well, the smaller the chance he will be an unquestioned 35 mpg player when he comes back. Luther Head got a start tonight and played 33 minutes. They weren’t impressive, but Head isn’t overmatched out there and doesn’t turn the ball over much. He’s not much of an asset – in fantasy or reality. David Wesley and Derek Anderson – neither who likely qualify at point guard – are more interesting, especially with McGrady out. Wesley started the season shooting just 29%, but is 10 of 17 in his last couple of games and has seen 77 minutes. He also has 4 3s, 15 boards, 10 assists and 2 steals in those two contests. Wesley managed marginal value last year as a member of the Rockets, with his main strength being his 1.7 3pg. It was Wesley who technically started at PG, and though he won’t get you typical PG stats, if you are desperate for a temporary fill in for a few games until McGrady gets back – and that could be next game, could be a few weeks – Wesley isn’t a bad option.

It’s almost certainly too late to pick up Deron Williams in your league – if he was even available to begin with – but those that have him are starting to reap the benefits. Utah has been decimated by injuries early on, but it’s one of the minor ones – Keith McLeod’s back spasms – that is allowing Williams to quickly come into his own. The unpredictably Jerry Sloan actually went with a starting backcourt of Milt Palacio and Andre Owens – an undrafted journeyman and a guy who will lucky to be an undrafted journeyman – while bringing Williams off the bench. After the Jazz put up 62 points in that game – or just a few more than the Mavs put up on the Pistons on Saturday night – Sloan relented and put Williams, his second best offensive player at the moment – in the lineup. In three starts so far Williams has been good for 18/3.7/5.7 with 2 3pg and 1 spg. Sloan probably wanted to bring Williams along slowly, but he has no choice now. Deron has seen 36-39-43 minutes in his three starts and that’s a trend that should continue at least until McLeod comes back. Williams hasn’t shown a real ability to get steals, but has shown impressive range. He racked up 10 assists last night, but it will be hard to replicate that with such a sorry supporting cast. He should be a very solid #2 PG for the next couple weeks, but unless he continues to put up 20 and 10s, there’s always the chance that Sloan will go back to some sort of timeshare in the near future.

Marko Jaric cannot be in any starting lineups right now. He’s still starting, but it’s more token than anything. After seeing at least 33 minutes in each of the season’s first four games, he hasn’t topped 27 since then. Watching the Wolves play, the team looks much more lively when Troy Hudson is out there, and he’s been the better player of the two. It seems unlikely he’ll take Jaric’s starting job, and even if he did it’s easy to see the two of them continuing to see around 25 mpg each. It’s tempting to cut Jaric – and in my case I probably wish I did to pick up Mike Sweetney, who I dumped after the season’s first few games – but hold on to him if you can. If you can grab someone like Sweetney or maybe even David West, you can be forgiven, but Jaric still possesses the skill set that could make him a real fantasy asset if given the time. Besides his injury-marred 2003-2004 season Hudson has stayed very healthy throughout his career, and Jaric is much more injury prone of the two. Still, Jaric received a big contract in the offseason and the Wolves don’t seem likely to give up on their investment too fast.

This weekend might have marked the official death of Gary Payton, Relevant Fantasy Player. With Jason Williams out, it was the perfect opportunity for The Glove to show he could still play. There is no other true point guard on the roster, the Heat have been using a short rotation, the PT was going to be there. Well, it was there and it would have been tough for Payton to be any less impressive. In Friday’s game he played 42 minutes, shot 3-of-10 and finished with 9 points, 4 boards and 3 assists. No 3s, no steals, no blocks, 8 turnovers. Yikes. Yesterday afternoon he was out there for 30 minutes, shot 2-of-10 and finished with 6 points, 3 boards and 7 assists. He did chip in a steal and didn’t commit any turnovers, but he was also at the helm for a loss against the Raptors. It looks like Payton has descended into Eric Snow territory. If you are desperate for assists, he might help you tread water, but even with a lockdown on minutes, he’s an extremely marginal fantasy play. Jason Williams’s spot in the starting lineup his claim to at least 30 mpg seem to be in little danger.

Comet Gain – Five Players Tearing It Up
Mike James – Maybe folks were a little worried when he followed his 36-point performance with a lackluster 9/2/1 game, but in the three games since then he’s gone for 25/2.7/7.3 with 6 3s, 3 steals and has played at least 41 minutes in each contest. He can run hot and cold, but he’s got the lockdown on major minutes in Toronto.

Luke Ridnour – Everyone was a bit too early in freaking out about both Ridnour and the Sonics. A six-game road trip that early in the season can cause havoc with any team. The team has won 4 of 5, scoring 108.4 ppg in the process. Ridnour still can’t find his shot (33% on the year), but the rest of his numbers are getting there. He’s racked up 13 assists in two of his last three and is averaging a nifty 2 spg on the season. And while his FG% woes hurt, he’s trying to make up for it with 97% free throw shooting on a solid 3.4 attempts per game. That gives him the fifth most value in the league in that category.

Tony Parker – It could be a mirage, but Parker has 11 steals in his past 4 games. He still hasn’t hit a 3 this year, and he’s still shooting just 65% from the line, but if he can keep scoring 20+ per game (quite possible) and keep his shooting percentage above 50% (more possible than you might think), he can maintain his top 50 value since he’s a better bet to play 80 games than anyone else on the Spurs.

Damon Stoudamire – Last night’s performance against Denver was a stinker, but playing in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back is one of the tougher tasks in the NBA. Those two prior games showed that Damon will be a fine #2 PG for fantasy purposes, mainly due to one stat – 3PA. He launched 7 in each of those games, and Damon has never been shy. Bobby Jackson’s presence will keep his minutes down, he’s got an upside of about 33-34 per game, but that will be enough for him to offer plenty of help in 3s, assists and FT%.

Chris Paul – We figured that Paul would be the most reliable rookie but still thought there would be ups and downs. Not so much on the downs so far, though. He just capped an impressive four-game stretch where he averaged 20/5.8/8.3 with just 2 3s, but 9 steals. He’s shooting a very impressive 46% and 88%, and is logging huge minutes. He’s at #16 on the player rater right now and if you drafted him as a #2 PG, you may well have a #1 on your hands.

The Hold Steady – Five Players Giving You the Status Quo
Baron Davis – So far, so good. Owners would be thrilled if he could play 10 of every 11 games. His scoring is down and his FG% is just brutal, but it should end up around 40% (still brutal, just not quite as much). That FG% will keep him from ever being a consistent first round value, but it’s hard to really complain so far.

Mike Bibby – See, just need to relax early in the season. Sure, the 4.9 apg isn’t too hot, but his career average is just 6.5 and he’ll be near that number soon enough. He’s 23-for-43 in his last three, a tidy 53%, and is averaging 22.3 ppg over that span. Expect the 3s to start coming in bunches.

Sam Cassell – Sam is settling into a groove as the Clippers run away with the Pacific Division. Two of my favorite teams to watch this year have been the Clippers and Grizzlies. Both teams brought in backcourt veterans (Cassell/Cuttino Mobley, Stoudamire/Eddie Jones) to bring some experience and stability to otherwise young teams and the early results couldn’t be much better. Cassell is really looking to get others involved, averaging a very nice 8.0 apg, which is to be expected on a team with lots of guys who don’t really like to pass the ball once they get it (basically the entire rest of the starting lineup). So his scoring might stay closer to 15 ppg, but that FG% will rise and he will be a solid player all year.

T.J. Ford – This year’s version of Brevin Knight? Quite possibly. That’s not meant as an insult – Knight was plenty valuable last year, leading many teams to the top in assists and steals. Ford’s 9.3 apg and 2.0 spg right now almost exactly mirror Knight’s stats last year in those categories, but Ford is getting 13.6 ppg compared to Knight’s 10.1. But Ford just doesn’t hit many 3s and as the season wears on and that FG% stays below 40, it’s going to hurt. Still, considering that you probably drafted him in the last round or two or picked him up as a free agent, you can’t complain.

Steve Nash – It would be nice to finally see a bump in that FG%, but all of those assists and 36 consecutive free throws to start the season keep him as a first round value so far.

The Fall – Five Players on the Way Down
Smush Parker – Is the end nigh for Smush? Perhaps not quite, but any illusions that he’d regularly put up 20 have been dashed by now. He’s still seeing decent PT (although he sat out much of the 4th quarter last night) and has still launched at least 3 3s in every game except one this year. But he’s never been a big assist man, his steals have dropped significantly from the first few games and he can’t really shoot. Sasha Vujacic actually looked decent last night (I know, I can’t believe it either) and might steal just enough time to make Smush an even shakier play.

Delonte West – Right now, West is basically last year’s version of Chris Duhon, with blocks instead of 3s. Make of that what you will.

Jason Kidd – There seems to be something just a bit off with Kidd. He’s got a long enough track record that you shouldn’t worry too much, but the shooting is as bad as ever and the assists are lower than ever. He’ll turn it around, but if you drafted him as a late-first/early-second rounder, you might be disappointed this season.

Jamaal Tinsley – Certainly one of the most frustrating players in the league. A six-minute tease of a game. Then a DNP. Then a decent enough 8/3/7 with 2 3s in 19 minutes performance. Then a great 12/5/11 with 3 steals that got him back into lineups. Followed by a 4/4/8. At least he got 3 steals, but 2-of-10 hurts. This is how it is. Always up and down.

Tyronn Lue – Not that you ever should have been using him in the first place, but if he’s not starting, he’s got absolutely no business being anywhere near a roster.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

very nice article, nice change of format too. I recently changed up my lineup, got rid of Smush and Jalen rose, and picked up mighty mouse and J Will. How close do you guys think Damon will come to last year's averages of 16 pts a game with over 2 threes?

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article, as always.
I recently dropped Smush for Telfair. After a slow start Telfair's been great the last 5 games: 15pts,1.5 3pt, 4 asts, 2.5 rbs, 1 stl, 52%fg, 79%ft.I'm not expecting him to keep up that pace, but I do think he'll improve throughout the year. How long before he gets consistent? He's on a roller-coaster team, and will have Jack competing for minutes. Luckily Nate likes to play the both at the same time. Is he a better pickup than Jalen Rose,Raja Bell, or Deshawn Stevenson. He has more upside, that's for sure.

12:44 PM  
Blogger DM said...

J-Will + Damon instead of Smush + Jalen. Yeah, I like that. I still think Rose will put up pretty decent numbers this year, especially once those 3s start falling, but Mitchell yanks him around enough that it can be frustrating. It'll be tough for Damon to get 16 ppg, but I think he'll be pretty close on the 2 3pg. Look back to his 03-04 numbers (last year was a contract push, remember) and I think that's where he'll end up this season.

Telfair has had a great couple games, and I'd rather have him than Smush. He's the man in PDX, but he needs to keep hitting those 3s to be valuable. He just isn't getting enough steals or assists, and that 46% shooting is bound to come down. He's certainly a better bet than Bell or Stevenson, and probably Rose as well. He'll at least be more interesting to own.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Rook said...

Here's another non-PG comment. You mentioned Sweetney and David West in passing, and made it sound like you'd definitely prefer Sweetney over West, when I assumed you'd have said the opposite. What are your thoughts more generally on those two, along with the other PFs who have had unexpectedly great starts, like Collison and Haslem? Any predictions on who will have the best seasons?

2:25 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

If Sweetney keeps getting 35+ minutes a night, I like him the best of all the PFs you listed. I see him as a probable 20-10 guy.

West's recent rebound and scoring numbers have been inflated by the absence of Brown and Claxton. He should settle in around 15-8.

Collison is solid but a cut below Sweetney, IMHO. I also see him in the 15-8 range. And I don't like Haslem at all, particularly after Shaq returns.

Bear in mind that all of these guys are pretty two dimensional, giving you scoring and rebounds but little else. Although Sweets did block 3 and steal 2 in his last game against the Lakers.

3:14 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Well, Sweetney's definitely my favorite player of those four. The dude is just a beast. He's always produced when given the chance -- with decent minutes you can be positive he will be above average in points and be a serious force in boards and FG%. I've written a lot about how frustrating Skiles can be, but the way Sweetney's playing now he doesn't have a choice but to run him out there. He's their only interior scoring threat, and while 35 mpg might be asking a bit much, I think he can average at least 30 from here on out.

West just needs to prove himself a bit more for me. He's been very solid so far, but has just had that one breakout game. And it's worth noting that P.J. Brown, J.R. Smith and Speedy Claxton were all out when it happened, and those are three guys who score a bunch of points for the Hornets.

I picked up Collison recently and have been watching lots of Sonics games as a result. He's a smart player, but I think they run an average of maybe one play a game for him. But he's great at positioning himself for rebounds, and with the Sonics apparently giving up on defense and running up and down the floor, there will be plenty of shots fired up. I see him with little upside, but little downside if he can remain in the lineup, which seems likely at this point. Think along the lines of P.J. Brown -- a solid guy to have at the end of your lineup.

Haslem's another P.J. Brown-ish type player. He's putting up basically the same numbers as last year -- around 11/9 with great percentages -- and he never really has a big game that makes you take notice. He's certainly not exciting, but he usually gets the job done. That said, he has the least upside and most downside to any of the players mentioned.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Rook said...

Great stuff. Thanks.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

Count me among the ranks of still-worried Bibby owners.

What concerns me the most are his paltry assist totals. Since I am an owner of LeBron and Kirilenko - two solid assist guys who obviously have underproduced in that category so far - I absolutely need my point guard to average more than four lousy assists a game.

What I find troubling about Bibby's situation is that he seems to have taken on more of a scorer's role this year. There have already been several games where Brad Miller and Abdur-Rahim have gotten more assists than him. Hell, there were even a couiple of games where Bonzi freakin' Wells dropped more dimes than Bibby.

Given all the new faces in the Sacramento starting five, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I'll wait a few more weeks, but if the assist totals don't start creeping up into the 6.5-7 range, I may have to do the unthinkable and try and package him up for a more pass-oriented PG.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Alston vs. Mighty Mouse

I'm one of those guys who picked up Alston at the beginning of the season (off waivers nonetheless) hoping that he'd be getting numbers somewhere between the last two years, with about 2 3's, 1.5 steals, 6 dimes, and ~ 12 points.

It seems that both Alston and Damon Stoudamire could be looking to put up similar numbers based on career averages and numbers over the last few years.

Right now Damon is sitting in free agency and has been doing so for quite some time, but it seems like the people I'm looking at (Villanueva..etc,) always get snapped up before I make the plunge.

Any advice as to who will have the better season? My league is deep and competitive and counts minutes and 11 other standard categories.

It seems like both teams have some secondary options at PG (Head and Bobby Jax), but neither or them will unseed these guys as the starters.

Also, I'm concerned with how Houston only scores 80 points a game...if that even...when limits Alston's ability to get points and assists...


5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just picked up Nash so I have PG's:

nash, terry, mighty mouse, and telfair

I need to drop one to pick up Bonzi Wells off waivers.

Who would you drop? Or Channing Frye?

thanks! The website is awesome.

6:23 AM  
Blogger DM said...

Y'know, I thought Bibby would get a few more assists w/Webber gone, but that doesn't seem to be the case yet. Probably should have just gone w/the track record. Four years w/the Kings and he never averaged more than 5.4 apg before last year's 6.8. Maybe we should have seen it as an anamoly instead of the beginning of a trend. But either way, if you drafted him you knew you'd need another top assist guy. He still brings so much value to the table, especially because he's had exactly one injury his entire career.

I can't see how you can not go w/Damon over Rafer at this point. And yeah, Houston without McGrady is just disgusting. They spend 10-12 seconds trying to get the ball into Yao, who can't get position, then he has to come out to the 3-point line to set a pick then someone has to improvise at the end of the shot clock. Ugly stuff.

As for picking up Bonzi and dropping one of those guys, I think I'd have to go with Steve Nash. I have a feeling the past six years have been a mirage and he's about to collapse. No, I'd definitely drop Channing Frye, I still don't trust Larry Brown. You can consider Telfair or Damon, but I'll almost always go with the starting point guard over an off-the-bench rookie big man.

10:19 AM  

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