Thursday, November 17, 2005

Via Chicago

With a loss last night the Bulls dropped to 3-4, which isn’t terrible but is good enough for last place in the strong Central. But even before the loss last night coach Scott Skiles was talking about shaking up his starting lineup, and he just might follow through with it now. So with the shakeup and the new starting jobs won, there should be some new players with fantasy relevance, right? Not necessarily.

It’s always best for a player’s value if he has a starting job, but you still have to get the minutes. Skiles has shown absolutely no reluctance to start a player and still hold his minutes down. So let’s look at da Bulls. I’ve seen at least a bit of almost all of their games, but perhaps someone in the Windy City … GMTR, looking in your direction … would like to offer some more insight.

The Sure Thing
There’s only one and it’s Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich’s numbers aren’t quite where they should be, but they are close enough to the norm that there’s no reason to expect anything too far off from last year’s. His steals and rebounds are down, his percentages are up, those should all even out. He’s actually averaging less than 33 mpg, but that’s because of three low-minute games, only one of which was due to Skiles. (A sprained ankle and foul trouble – which is a definite problem for Hinrich – caused the other two.) Hinrich is the constant for the Bulls, but Skiles will still bench him for the entire end of a rout, as he did on Monday, for example. Still, his game-to-game performance is consistent enough to leave him in all lineups, no questions asked.

Coming On Strong
Andres Nocioni has started every game so far, but has only come to life in the last three. After seeing less than 25 minutes in each of the first four games, Nocioni has gone 27-31-45 in the last three, and he’s put up a 16.7/5.7/1.3 line. He’s also chipped in five 3s, three blocks and a steal. Nocioni is one of those hustle guys that a coach – especially a guy like Skiles – can get enamored with, and when things are going well it looks like he’s a part of everything. It should be noted that his two best games have come in Bulls losses, but Nocioni should have a lock on his starting job. He seems like he’d make a decent short-term pickup right now, but don’t get too excited. Nocioni played 45 minutes last night and Scott Skiles just doesn’t let that happen too much.

There was probably a run on Mike Sweetney after his 26 and 14 performance last night. Sweetney replacing Darius Songaila would be the most obvious lineup switch, as you could make the argument that Sweetney is one of the Bulls two or three best players. He can be a real fantasy force if given the opportunity, as he is one of the best rebounders in the league on a per minute basis. The knock on him as been his lack of steals and blocks, and while it’s true that he doesn’t offer much there, he’s a career 53% shooter and gets to the foul line a lot and makes a good number. But I’ll believe Skiles gives him that chance when I see it. The problem is that he has to deal with both Songaila and Othella Harrington. Scott Skiles loves to play his whole roster and will routinely give 10 or 11 players at least 10 minutes per game. This makes it tough for anyone to have value, because there’s a huge difference between 29 minutes and 35 minutes. With a few more games like last night Sweetney could force Skiles’ hand, though. I spent my last round pick on Sweetney because I liked his upside and thought it would only be a matter of time before he grabbed a starting job. If you have a roster spot to play with, Sweetney is a nice option. He’s got more upside than Nick Collison, for example, but because Collison is starting, he’s a better short-term option than Sweetney.

Luol Deng is still just 20 years old, so he’s a player that you can expect considerable improvement from. He seems unlikely to crack the starting lineup right now with Nocioni playing so well, but you can’t rule it out at some point in the season. But until Deng shows that he’s capable of a special skill relevant to fantasy players, he won’t be of much value. Sweetney can dominate in boards and FG%; Deng dominates nowhere. He has just three steals, three blocks and two 3s on the season. Deng has shown good scoring ability, but you have to score a whole lot of points to be valuable without other contributions, especially when it’ll be a miracle if you shoot even 44%.

Ben Gordon is the perfect example of a guy who Scott Skiles is keeping down. His minutes this season are up to 29.3 from 24.4 but it’s more of a tease than anything. If he could get to that 33-35 mark, Gordon would be a no-brainer starter. But with fluctuating minutes coming off the bench, it’s a day-to-day guessing game. He went 23/6/4 with three 3s on Nov. 5, but followed that with 13/1/1 on 5-of-17 shooting. He scored 17 with two 3s on 7-of-10 shooting on Nov. 12 and followed that with 6 points on 2-of-12 shooting. This is a perfect example of why bench players are so risky. There’s very little margin for error. The fewer minutes, the fewer chances to rack up stats in all of the categories, so if you don’t come through in your strength, it kills you.

Fading Fast
I thought Tyson Chandler would be a better player to own than Marcus Camby this year. Oops. Camby could still go down, but Chandler may as well be down for how well he’s played so far. The Bulls don’t have any other real options in the middle, so you’d expect Chandler’s starting job to be safe, but Chandler excelled coming off the bench last year and Skiles may think he’s more comfortable there. Othella Harrington is one of those “reliable vets” and I wouldn’t put it against Skiles to start him at center if the matchup presents itself. Chandler has just four blocks on the season, and those were all in the first two games, meaning he’s gone five straight without one. Owners weren’t expecting many points, but were counting on at least 10 boards and 2 blocks per game. Frustrated Chandler owners might be willing to cut bait after he received just 39 minutes total in the last two games. If you can pick him up on the cheap, go for it. The Bulls have been disappointed in their defensive performance, and even though Chandler has been a part of that, he’s still the key to their success there. He’s also the only player that can man the middle and Skiles seems to have little choice but to play him. Perhaps he’s gotten a little content after signing his offseason contract extension, but seven games is still just seven games.

Nobody in their right minds thought Chris Duhon would keep up his pace from the season’s first two games. Since then he’s averaged 6.3/1.8/4 with 0.5 steals and .8 3s. And it’s not like he’s been hurting for playing time, either. Skiles loves the guy, but if he keeps shooting 33%, he’s not going to have much choice but to keep him on the bench more. The chance to sell high on Duhon is passed and it’s unlikely anyone would have taken the bait then anyway. Except for the deepest of leagues, he just doesn’t merit a roster spot.

In the season opener Darius Songaila hit a big three-pointer to force overtime and finished with a respectable 11/5/5, two steals, one 3 performance. He’s barely matched those totals since then. He’s seen just 11 minutes in each of the past three games, and he was never a fantasy factor, but now he’s a complete afterthought. But as previously stated, those 11 minutes could be put to better use elsewhere. Why oh why can’t you just sit him on the bench all game, Skiles? Are you going to miss the 2/4/3 on 1-of-6 shooting that Songaila has totaled in 33 minutes over the last three games?

Bottom Line
So what have we learned? Well, be skeptical is all I’m saying. Guys like Sweetney and Gordon are very tempting, but can be the ultimate frustration. If there’s one thing to drives you crazy, it’s seeing a guy having a great game on your bench, plugging him into the lineup and then seeing him put up a clunker. And the way Skiles runs his rotation in Chicago, there’s always a decent chance of that happening. Guys like Songaila, Harrington, Eric Piatkowski and Jannero Pargo seem to exist only to frustrate fantasy owners. Coaches patterns can’t be ignored, and I’ll actually have a column up over the weekend talking about some of the most frustrating ones, and how to deal with them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

going on yesterday's comments, would you trade stromile swift for tyson chandler? does chandler have a higher potential than stro? would this be getting chandler "on the cheap?"

2:19 PM  
Blogger bv said...

at this point, it's tough to say who has higher 'potential' - the important thing is that neither of them are reaching theirs. right now, though, i'd say chandler has the better chance to start putting things together, so i'd go with tyson given the choice.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just read somewhere that Deng is actually going to start... from rotowire i think. he has a decent chance to help a fantasy team cuz he does a little bit of everything.

3:48 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Yeah, Deng for Nocioni, with Nocioni shifting to PF seems to be the hot rumor. Because why would Skiles want to put the best player (Sweetney) out there? Ridiculous. I'll stick with saying that even if Deng starts, he still won't see enough PT to merit much consideration. Deng will be better than people think, but his FG% is too bad to make up for his lack of any other real strong suit.

Tyson Chandler over Stromile Swift, no doubt about it.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Nels (GMTR) said...

I don't really pay attention to the rumors... I agree that Sweetney should be starting, but remember, Skiles used Gordon as the 6th man last season. So perhaps he's hoping to have a 1-2 punch of Gordon and Sweetney coming off the bench and then dominating the 4th quarter.

It's hard to say at this point... all we know for sure is that Chandler is sucking it up and Sweetney is tearing it up. Hopefully Chandler can turn it around. Sweetney should continue to put up good numbers.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

I'm starting to think that Mike Sweetney was put on this earth just to frustrate fantasy hoops owners.

Last year, I drafted him in the late rounds believing he was too good to not start for the Knicks. I dropped him several weeks into the season when it became clear that he would never get more than 20 mpg. When Isiah traded away Nazr midseason, I rushed to pick up Sweetney again, figuring he would become a starter for sure. Never happened and I was foiled yet again.

This year, I drafted Sweetney in the late rounds, believing that with Tyson sliding over to center, Sweets would finally become a starting PF for sure. Well... deja vu all over again: I dropped him about a week ago after it became obvious that he was only getting around 20 mpg.

To be sure, not all of this is the coach's fault; some of it falls on Sweetney himself. He tends to get into quick foul trouble and his conditioning aint the greatest, making it unlikely that he'll ever play more than 30 minutes on most nights. Yet, if I could be assured that Skiles would actually give him 30 mpg on most night, I'd pick him yesterday.

12:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great article on the bulls. i live in chicago and see all their games. the article was an accurate depiction of the skiles rotations, which is maddening to any fantasy owner of a chicago bull

3:46 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home