Monday, December 05, 2005

As the Point Guard Turns

Five Situations to Pay Attention To
Marko Jaric isn’t out of the woods just yet. But he’s getting there, even if the numbers don’t jump out at you. But there is one number that does jump out and that’s 38.6. That’s how many minutes per game Jaric is averaging in the past five, which is surprising because it came after a six game stretch where he averaged just 22.6. The stat line doesn’t jump out, but is quite effective: 13.8/3.2/4.8 with 1.6 3s and 2.2 spg. Jaric has been one of the top pickpockets in the league since his rookie season, and if he can consistently get close to the PT he’s getting right now, he’s a no-brainer starter and someone who will be a difference maker in steals while helping out in 3s and steals and only hurting in FG%. That Minnesota has won 4 of 5 during Jaric’s resurgence, including road wins against the Lakers, Cavs and Kings, is only good news for his value. Him and Troy Hudson have been able to coexist, with both of them seeing crunch time minutes. Jaric always makes a risky player to trade for since he’s so prone to extended cold stretches. But the Wolves committed a big contract to him on the offseason and he seems to be locked into PT for the time being. He might still be available for quite cheap. It’s worth looking into.

I was as skeptical as anyone else about how the Knicks rotation would shake out this year. The uncertainty was enough to make me avoid any player on the Knicks in the draft. Except for Stephon Marbury. Larry Brown would wreak havoc in his own way, but he wasn’t going to mess with Marbury, who was clearly his best player and really only reliable threat. But the early returns weren’t too promising. Things bottomed out on Nov. 16 and 18 when Marbury put together back to back games where he managed 13 total points and was benched in the fourth quarter of a loss to Denver. That dropped the Knicks to 2-7 and Marbury was averaging just 14.6 and 6.1 assists. But one of the most consistent not-quite-top-tier fantasy superstars – just look at those career numbers – seems to be back to his old self. Despite a disappointing loss at home to the Celtics yesterday, the Knicks are playing better, going 3-4 in their last seven. Hey, it’s progress. Marbury has been logging heavy minutes (40.3 per game), topping out at 46 yesterday. He’s averaging 23.4/3.9/8.0 and has hit 59 of 72 free throws, a tidy 82% over that span. That’s a huge relief to owners, as he started the season at 29-for-51, 57%. With Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas running things, it’s hard to say for certain whether Marbury’s in any danger of being dealt. You’d like to think that since the Knicks wouldn’t get nearly as much talent in return they’d hold on to him, but that might be giving everyone involved a little too much credit. Still, Marbury looks to be back to his normal self and if his current low ranking still has an owner scared, he’s as solid a trade target as they come. Some people might have gotten excited about Nate Robinson after his breakout three game stretch that started with a game-winning 3 and ended with his first NBA start. But since then it’s been right back to the bench for the rookie. More fun on the Larry Brown carousel. Robinson certainly isn’t afraid to shoot the ball (.46 FGA per minute, the same rate as Paul Pierce, for example). More playing time should be in Robinson’s future – he’s got the 3rd best +/- differential on the team, and he has been seeing crunch time minutes. But Brown has proven he can’t be trusted yet. Marbury remains the only player on the Knicks that I would start with confidence.

We all knew Jamaal Tinsley would be one of the most frustrating players to own. He hasn’t let us down in that regard, missing three games so far, and even worse, being very limited in three others. If you know in advance that a player will miss a game, that’s one thing. You can make other plans and deal with it. But that hanging in limbo is what really hurts. The first game Tinsley didn’t start, Anthony and the Johnson got the start at the point. This was very disappointing to those hoping to see what Sarunas Jasikevicius could do if given the opportunity. This time around it’s a different story, as the Lithuanian “rookie” has received two starts in a row. Johnson is still hanging around and keeping SJ’s time down – he saw just 29 and 30 minutes in the past two. But the results show that’s plenty of time for SJ (sorry, I’m lazy) to make an impact. I always like to find comparables for players that are sort of unknown quantities; it just helps to know what to expect from them. Brent Barry has career totals of 10.3/3.7/3.4 with 1.6 3s and 1.2 steals on 46% shooting in 28.4 mpg. If we prorate SJ’s stats out to 28.4 mpg, his numbers would be 13.4/3.5/3.4 with 2.2 3s and 1.5 steals on 52% shooting. Not an exact match, but you get the idea. He’s a dead-eye shooter for a guard who might not light it up in any of the “main” categories but will be a huge contributor in the secondary ones. Although the Pacers are 10-6, they can still be considered a disappointment, and you can’t rule out the possibility of a starting lineup shakeup. Even so, Tinsley may officially be day-to-day, but anyone who had him last year remembers that he was day-to-day for more than a month. He could be back within a week, but he’s just as likely to stay on the shelf for an extended period of time. The likelihood of SJ maintaining his playing time is high enough that he can’t be on the waiver wire in any non-shallow league. He’s #49 on the 15 day player rater, and he’s received just the two starts in that time. That’s quite impressive.

Earl Boykins is doing his best to make me reconsider my “no bench players” policy, but he’s also helping to prove my point. Boykins is #93 on the rater overall, and #90 in the past 15 days. He’s always right around that number, which certainly makes him playable in most leagues, but still not an entirely safe play. He’s simply too inconsistent. And you just get the feeling that Boykins is just meant to come off the bench. It’s not that he’s not capable of starting, but that he really is a sparkplug. He’s most effective coming in at a ridiculously high energy level and running circles around opposing players. While he can consistently get 25-30 minutes, he’s received more than 30 just twice, and to me, that’s the magic number.

Smush Parker’s brief resurgence didn’t win over Phil Jackson. After an impressive two games that saw him average 21.5/3.0/2.5 with 3.5 3s and 1 steal on 62% shooting, Parker was back on the bench for much of last night’s game, giving way to Sasha Vujajic late. This shows that it will take more than a few good games for Parker to get back in P-Jax’s good graces and that he still doesn’t completely trust him. After committing just one turnover in those two strong games, Parker committed four last night. If those two strong games made you think that Parker’s job was safe and that talk of him being benched was a thing of the past, don’t get so comfortable. Still, you have to keep him around.

Comet Gain
Jason Terry – The assists aren’t where you want them to be for a PG, but it’s hard to complain with the production lately. Terry has stepped up and asserted himself as the #2 option on the Mavs. He made a game winning shot against the Raptors last week and in the next game missed a game-tying shot against the Bucks. It says a lot that he’s the one with the ball in his hands at the end. He’s averaging 42 mpg in his last four and should be someone to leave in your lineup the entire year.

Brevin Knight – Despite missing two free throws in the last seconds that led to a very tough loss to the Lakers last night, Brevin is proving that last year was no fluke. He’s picking up right where he left off, ranking fourth in the league in assists and tied for first in steals. It seems the presence of Raymond Felton has only served to inspire him, as the rookie is finding it hard to break through with Knight playing so well. He doesn’t shoot well or hit any 3s, but you have to look at the positives sometimes. He’s been more valuable than Vince Carter so far. Not bad for a guy who was drafted at least 7 or 8 rounds later.

Jason Williams – He sort of disappeared in his most recent game, but it should be noted that right now Williams is at career high marks in FG%, 3pg and points. His assists are way down, but with lots of people worried about how he would adjust to life in Miami, which likely bumped his draft status down a bit, he’s proven a nice return on the investment so far. Things will get more interesting when Shaq gets back.

Steve Nash – There’s the sharpshooting we’ve come to expect from Nash. Despite a 3-for-8 performance in last night’s rout of the Hawks, Nash is shooting 56% in his last six games, which is quite encouraging since he was stuck in the low 40s early on. The assists are steady and one game of 7 3s can go a long way to making up for a lackluster performance so far in that category. He’s at #12 overall on the player rater; it doesn’t get much better.

Allen Iverson – This is just getting ridiculous…

The Hold Steady
Damon Stoudamire
– He’s finally found his comfort zone. After reaching double figures in just five of the first 12 games, it’s now five straight for Damon, a stretch that has seen him hit 13 3s. He’s now giving owners exactly what they expected – lots of 3s, solid assists and nearly perfect FT%.

Sam Cassell – Despite a bout with a flu that kept him on the bench for the start of one game, Cassell has been as consistent as ever. His latest performance – a 9 point, 6 turnover stinker – left much to be desired, but Cassell has yet to get in an extended funk this season. If he’s your #2 PG, you should be in good shape.

Chris Paul – It says a lot that we can include Paul in this category and not the one above. In just one month he’s established himself as one of the most reliable PG around. He’s recorded at least two steals in 11 of 16 games and has at least five assists in 12 of 16. That is good stuff.

Luke Ridnour – He’s settled in right where you’d expect. He found himself on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Cavs because Flip Murray was simply too hot to take out, but he responded the next night with a 13/7/3 performance with 2 steals a 3 and a block. He’s very unlikely to ever put up a huge scoring game, which will always keep him under the radar, but he has plenty of value.

Mike Bibby – Well, 14 assists in the last two is a start towards making amends in that category. But man are the Kings disappointing. It’s not that 7-10 is all that terrible, but when you factor in that 11 of their first 17 were at home, it’s easier to be down on their chances this season.

The Fall
Sebastian Telfair – It’s not looking so good for that second year breakthrough. He’s hitting more 3s than expected, but has been held to single digit scoring in half of his games and has topped five assists in just five contests. Averaging less than a steal per game doesn’t help matters.

T. J. Ford – I told you he was a good sell high candidate. In his last five games Ford has just two steals and is averaging just under 6 assists per game, which isn’t going to cut it when you can’t shoot 40% and don’t make 3s. He’s also been turning the ball over a lot. It hasn’t affected Ford’s playing time much, although Michael Redd missing a game then Bobby Simmons missing two has helped. If everyone gets healthy and Mo Williams keeps playing like a man possessed, things might get even worse for Ford.

Jose Calderon – It’s easy to get infatuated with the unknown, to have visions of grandeur “if everything goes right.” Well, Jose Calderon has now had four starts in which he’s seen 35.8 mpg. The results? Eh – 8.0/2.8/7.3 with 0.5 3s and 1.8 steals. Calderon clearly doesn’t look for his shot and isn’t a threat from long range. A poor man’s Carlos Arroyo? Looks like it.

Mike James – If Toronto keeps James and Calderon starting together in the backcourt when James returns from his injury, that’s not good news for James. James was able to rack up 7 assists on Friday, but the 1 and 4-assist games in the other two contests might be more the norm. He’s not going to keep scoring like a madman, so he was going to need those 5 apg to keep his value. We’ll see if that happens.

Steve Francis – Stevie is fighting multiple injuries and it doesn’t sound very good. He’s flying around getting second opinions, which usually means that the first opinion isn’t something you wanted to hear. Again, we’re not doctors and Francis may be back very soon. But it’s not like he was playing all that well before he went down. His value is too low to deal him, so you have no choice but to be patient.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jasikevicius intrigues me. I'm considering picking him up. The categories I need the most help in are FT%,FG%,and TO. I'm solid in the rest, and am 2nd place overall. Who would you drop for him from my roster. (See below). The guys I've been considering are Collison (inconsistent/foul prone/struggling to adapt to playing Center, but getting C eligibility soon would help his value), Diogu (nice upside, but very little playing time in crowded frontcourt), Pachulia (great rebounds,good points, bad TO and FG%) Haywood (great blocks/FG%, bad FT%). I can't decide if Jasikevicius can keep up his great recent play (especially his 95%FT/52%FG) to warrant dropping one of these guys for him. Any thoughts?

My League: 12 team, 9 cat, Roto league, Set lineups daily
PG Gilbert Arenas
SG Paul Pierce
G Luke Ridnour
SF Rashard Lewis
PF Dwight Howard
F Josh Howard
C Sammy Dalembert
C Brendan Haywood
UTIL Zaza Pachulia
UTIL Mike James
BN Nick Collison
BN Ike Diogu
BN Leandro Barbosa

12:20 PM  
Blogger DM said...

I'd definitely drop Diogu for Jasikevicius. I mean, he's played more than 20 minutes once. I don't really understand peoples' fascination with him. I'd consider Collison drop-worthy too, but certainly Diogu first. At least Collison is starting (for now).

12:42 PM  
Anonymous CN said...

Hey guys, I live and die by this website's expert advice. In my league, we set lineups each week. Should I start Pachulia, B. Knight, or bench Mourning to start both of them since Shaq rumors spot a return for Wednesday? Pachulia's playing @Den, @Utah, and hosting SA. Brevin's hosting NJ and Tor and he's @Phi. Most importantly, my league counts 1pt/point, 1.5/reb, 2/assist, 2/steal, 2.5/block and no % categories.

And if you have time, what to do with Kirileinko? Tons of owners are trying to buy low in him but i've stayed strong. Wait until a breakout game then sell high? What should I expect in return?

Thanks guys,

2:20 PM  
Blogger Rook said...

Interesting to see you're not too high on Calderon. For the purposes of an end-of-the-fantasy-bench point guard (who fills in only to keep the game pace right), do you like Calderon's assists and steals over Delonte West's even production and blocks? What do you see Delonte doing the rest of the year?

2:55 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Tough call between Zaza, Zo and Brevin. Knight and Mourning are the best, but Zaza is solid. I never believe a player is coming back until I see him on the court, so that's my feeling on Shaq. I'd go with Brevin and 'Zo unless you didn't need blocks at all.

Stay the course with AK47. Maybe if Harpring is out tonight he can get into the starting lineup and find his groove. But I would think he might not be as valuable in a league with your scoring as he would be in a traditional roto league.

I like Delonte better than Calderon. Who knows what will happen game-to-game in Toronto? I think Delonte has locked himself in as the starting PG in Boston, even though he will have ups and downs. If you are desperate for assists Calderon is the better play. But I like Delonte slightly better.

3:07 PM  

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